UK police arrest man over ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ letters

Islamophobic hate crimes in the UK have risen by more than 30 percent annually, police reports show. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2018
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UK police arrest man over ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ letters

LONDON: British counter-terrorism police have arrested a man on suspicion of sending letters entitled “Punish a Muslim Day” that urged people around the country to commit violent acts.
The unnamed 35-year-old from Lincoln in northeast England was arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of sending letters conveying a threatening message and of sending a hoax noxious substance. He was taken to a police station for questioning.
“These letters seek to cause fear and offense among our Muslim communities. They also seek to divide us,” said Martin Snowden, head of Counter Terrorism Policing North East, in an earlier statement on the investigation.
“Yet in spite of this our communities have shown strength in their response to such hatred and in their support for each other.”
The letters, which designated April 3 as “Punish a Muslim Day” and proposed ranking acts of violence according to a points system, started arriving in some people’s post in March. Among others, four members of parliament with South Asian backgrounds received copies.
Media reports about the letters caused widespread outrage, with tens of thousands of people taking to social media to show support for Muslims with hashtags such as #LoveAMuslimDay and #WeStandTogether.
In the event, April 3 passed without any reported surge in anti-Muslim violence.
Hate crimes in Britain surged in 2016/17, according to official figures.
Significant factors included the June 2016 vote to leave the European Union, a goal linked to curbing immigration in the eyes of some Brexit supporters, as well as a spate of attacks by Islamic extremists in the first half of 2017.
Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism police officer said in February this year that Britain faced a new and significant threat from far-right terrorism.
In an unrelated case, an alleged member of a white supremacist group pleaded guilty earlier this week to planning to murder a female member of parliament with a 19-inch machete. The court heard he considered her a target because he perceived her to be pro-immigration.


US Secretary of State Pompeo makes unannounced visit to Kabul

Updated 25 June 2019
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US Secretary of State Pompeo makes unannounced visit to Kabul

  • Pompeo met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during an unannounced visit to Kabul to discuss ongoing peace talks with the Taliban
  • Pompeo stopped over on his way to New Delhi for meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other officials

KABUL: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani during an unannounced visit to Kabul on Tuesday to discuss ongoing peace talks with the Taliban and the security situation ahead of Afghan presidential polls in September.
Pompeo stopped over on his way to New Delhi for meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other officials.
“With so much going on in the world right now it’s sometimes easy to forget about America’s commitment here to Afghanistan, but the world should know that the Trump administration has not forgotten, the American people have not forgotten,” Pompeo said in Kabul.
His visit to Afghanistan comes ahead of a seventh round of peace talks between Taliban leaders and US officials aimed at finding a political settlement to end the 18-year-old war in Afghanistan. The next round of peace talks is scheduled to begin on June 29 in Doha.
The talks between the United States and the Taliban will focus on working out a timeline for the withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan and on a Taliban guarantee that militants will not plot attacks from Afghan soil.
“While we’ve made clear to the Taliban that were prepared to remove our forces, I want to be clear, we’ve not yet agreed on a timeline to do so,” said Pompeo.
“We agree that peace is our highest priority and that Afghanistan must never again serve as a platform for international terrorism.”
He said the two sides are nearly ready to conclude a draft text outlining the Taliban’s commitment to join fellow Afghans in ensuring that Afghan soil never again becomes a safe haven for “terrorists.”
Momentum for talks with the Taliban is steadily building, with a special US peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, pushing the peace process and insurgent leaders showing serious interest in negotiating for the first time. Ghani has also offered repeatedly to talk with the Taliban but they have insisted that they will not deal directly with the Ghani government.
“All sides agree that finalizing a US-Taliban understanding on terrorism and foreign troop presence will open the door to intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiation,” Pompeo said, adding that next step is at the heart of the US effort.
“We are not and will not negotiate with the Taliban on behalf of the government or people of Afghanistan.”