Philippines warns Islamist militants to surrender or die

Government troops watch as fellow soldiers cross a bridge as they arrive to secure a village on the outskirts of Marawi city, Tuesday, May 30, 2017, in the southern Philippines. Philippine forces pressed their offensive to drive out militants linked to the Islamic State group after days of fighting left corpses in the streets and hundreds of civilians begging for rescue from a besieged southern city of Marawi. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
Updated 30 May 2017

Philippines warns Islamist militants to surrender or die

Marawi, Philippines: Philippine authorities on Tuesday warned Islamist militants occupying parts of a southern city to surrender or die, as attack helicopters pounded the gunmen’s strongholds where up to 2,000 residents were feared trapped.
More than 100 people have been confirmed killed in the conflict, which began last week when gunmen waving black flags of the Islamic State (IS) group rampaged through the mostly Muslim-populated city of Marawi.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across the entire southern region of Mindanao, home to roughly 20 million people, in response to the crisis as he warned that local militant groups were uniting behind IS and becoming a major security threat.
But the militants, initially estimated by the nation’s defense chief to number just 100, have withstood eight days of intense air assaults and street-to-street combat, prompting the government’s threats on Tuesday.
“We call on the remaining terrorists to surrender while there is an opportunity,” military spokesman Brig.-General Restituto Padilla said in a statement.
“For the terrorists, not surrendering will mean their sure death.”
Padilla also told AFP the surrender call warning was aimed at limiting the loss of more lives and property.
Up to 2,000 residents were trapped in areas held by the militants, according to the local government, and the International Committee of the Red Cross had voiced alarm they would be caught in the bombing raids or crossfire.
The militants also took a priest and up to 14 other people hostage at the start of the crisis, and their fate remains unknown.
The militants released a video in which they threatened to kill the hostages, according to a report by the SITE Intelligence Group on Monday that could not be verified.
And clashes on Tuesday appeared to be as intense as previous days, according to an AFP reporter who followed security forces who had to run from militants’ sniper fire coming from nearby buildings.
Military helicopters fired rockets repeatedly on that part of the city on Tuesday morning, and black smoke rose from the buildings that were apparently hit.
The gunmen were being backed by foreign fighters, including Malaysians, Indonesians and Singaporeans, authorities said.

The militants had killed at least 19 civilians, while 20 security forces and 65 gunmen had died, according to the military.
The death toll looked likely to climb, with soldiers reporting the smell of corpses in a public market still being held by the militants.
Martin Thalmann, deputy head of the ICRC’s Philippine delegation who is in Marawi, also told AFP on Monday his staff had received reports from people trapped inside the militants’ areas that residents had died from stray bullets and sickness.
The violence began when dozens of gunmen went on a rampage in response to an attempt by security forces to arrest Isnilon Hapilon, a veteran Filipino militant regarded as the local leader of IS.
Hapilon, a senior member of the Abu Sayyaf kidnap-for-ransom gang, is on the US government’s list of most-wanted terrorists.
He was being protected in Marawi by the local Maute group, which has pledged allegiance to IS.
Hapilon, the Maute and other militants had been planning a major attack on Marawi, one of the few Islamic cities in the mainly Catholic Philippines with a population of 200,000 people, armed forces chief General Eduardo Ano said.
He said they were planning to launch the assault to coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on the weekend, but the raid on Hapilon triggered them to attack earlier, according to Ano.
Muslim separatist rebellion in the southern Philippines has claimed more than 120,000 lives since the 1970s.
The main Muslim rebel groups have signed accords with the government aimed at forging a final peace, giving up their separatist ambitions in return for autonomy.
The Maute, the Abu Sayyaf and other hard-line groups are not interested in negotiating and have in recent years looked to IS to help them.
The Marawi violence was intended to highlight their credentials to IS, security analysts have said.
Duterte said Saturday he was prepared to enforce martial law for as long as was necessary to end the terrorist threat.

Hajj pilgrims reach Jamarat Bridge

Updated 1 min 38 sec ago

Hajj pilgrims reach Jamarat Bridge

  • It is here that Muslims believe the devil tried to talk the Prophet Ibrahim out of submitting to God’s will

RIYADH: Hajj pilgrims on Sunday reached Jamarat Bridge as they advanced through Mina for the final rite, the stoning of the devil, on the first day of Tashreeq.

It is here that Muslims believe the devil tried to talk the Prophet Ibrahim out of submitting to God’s will. On the 10th day of Dul Hijjah, Hajj pilgrims collect small stones that they throw at three pillars in the Jamarat Al-Aqaba, representing the devil.

Huge crowds lined up to perform the rite, many holding umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun. The pilgrims say “Allah-u Akbar” (“God is the greatest”) each time they cast a pebble.

Pilgtims can stone the pillars any time from midday to midnight on the day of the ritual.

After finishing the ritual, male pilgrims traditionally shave or cut their hair and change out of their ihram. Women cut a lock of their hair.

The ihram symbolizes equality, religious unity and the pursuit of spiritual renewal.

Security guards sprayed the pilgrims with water as they braved searing heat to reach the Jamarat complex. Temperatures as high as 45 degrees Celsius have been recorded at the Hajj this year.

The pilgrims will then return to Makkah to do Tawaf, the circumambulation of the Kaaba.

Junaid Nizami, a pilgrim from Pakistan, told Arab News that he was impressed by the arrangements in place to ensure the safety of pilgrims.

“My experience in Jamarat was good and they prepared very well for the pilgrims. Also, the system (is created) in a way where no one can clash with each other. There are police, medical staff and helpers who are supporting the people.”

After dawn prayers, when pilgrims leave Muzdalifah and proceed to Jamarat to take part in the stoning rite, women and older pilgrims can delegate this responsibility to a male in their spiritual journey.

Swedish diplomat in ‘seventh heaven’ following release from Iran

Updated 16 June 2024

Swedish diplomat in ‘seventh heaven’ following release from Iran

  • “I have been waiting for this for almost 800 days,” Floderus said

STOCKHOLM: Swedish citizen Johan Floderus said he was in seventh heaven following his release from an Iranian prison on Saturday, in a recording published on the Swedish government’s website on Sunday.
Sweden and Iran carried out a prisoner exchange on Saturday with Sweden freeing a former Iranian official convicted for his role in the mass execution and torture of political prisoners in Iran in 1988, while Iran released two Swedes being held there.
“I’m in the sky but emotionally I’m in seventh heaven. I have been waiting for this for almost 800 days,” Floderus said in a recording of a telephone call between him and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson while he was on the flight back to Sweden.
Floderus, a European Union employee, was arrested in Iran in 2022 and charged with spying for Israel and “corruption on earth,” a crime that carries the death penalty.
He said he had dreamt of the day of his release endless times. “Only to later wake up on that damn concrete floor,” he said. “Now it is starting to sink in that I have left Iranian airspace and I am on my way back home again.”
In a radio interview earlier on Sunday, Kristersson dismissed criticism from the wife of Swedish-Iranian dual national, Ahmadreza Djalali, who remains in an Iranian jail after Tehran refused to include him in the exchange.
“I have a lot of respect for her disappointment, but don’t really understand the criticism. The alternative would have been to leave the two Swedes who could now come home,” he told Swedish radio.

Pakistan’s Sindh government teams up with local NGO to provide artificial limb to camel after leg amputation

Updated 16 June 2024

Pakistan’s Sindh government teams up with local NGO to provide artificial limb to camel after leg amputation

  • A landlord in Sindh’s Sanghar district allegedly chopped off the camel’s leg after it trespassed on his field
  • Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon confirms five people have been arrested for involvement in crime

ISLAMABAD: The government in Pakistan’s Sindh province has been working closely with a local non-government organization (NGO) for the treatment and rehabilitation of a camel, whose leg was chopped off by a local landlord this week, an official of the NGO taking care of the animal said on Sunday.
The development came after local media widely reported that a landlord in Mund Jamrao village in Sindh’s Sanghar district had allegedly chopped off the camel’s leg for trespassing on his field seeking fodder.
The owner of the camel, a poor peasant named Soomar Behan, was contacted by police after the episode went viral on social media, but he refused to file a complaint against the landlord following which police took action.
Five people have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the crime, with Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon confirming that a case had been registered against the suspects for amputating the camel on the state’s behalf.
On Saturday, CDRS Benji, a non-profit working for stray and injured animals in Pakistan, provided treatment to the camel at one of its shelters in the provincial capital of Karachi.
“The Sindh government has been working closely with the CDRS Benji project for the treatment and rehabilitation of the camel,” Sarah Jahangir, a CDRS Benji director, told Arab News.
“They [Sindh government] have brought in a team from BIONIKS Pakistan to prepare an artificial limb.”
She said the 8-month-old female camel was in acute pain and everyone was coming together to help the camel because the prosthetic would take time as it needed around two months for the wound to heal before proper measurements could be taken.
“We are trying to heal her infection and soothe her pain with heavy painkillers, antibiotics and other medications,” Jahangir added.
Anas Niaz, cofounder of Pakistan’s BIONIKS biotechnology startup, said his organization was trying to make the limb for the camel.
“We are working on the limb for the camel as right now it needed to heal, which will take around 1-2 months time and after that rehabilitation of the camel will start,” he told Arab News.
“As the camel will need replacement from time to time, this will be an ongoing process that we are actively managing.”
Niaz said all costs for the treatment and rehabilitation of the animal would be covered by donors.
Section 429 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) states that anyone who kills, poisons, maims, or renders useless any animal of the value of ten rupees or upwards, shall be punished with imprisonment of either a term of up to two years or be fined for the offense, or both.
Sindh Information Minister Memon earlier confirmed the registration of a case against the suspects, describing the amputation as a “humanely unacceptable” act.
“While the police is still doing its work, proper medical treatment is being provided to the poor animal,” Shazia Ata Marri, a Pakistani lawmaker from Sanghar, wrote on X.
CDRS Benji said its staff had cleaned the camel’s wound to make sure it was not infected.
“Cammie the camel is settling into her new home,” the NGO wrote on Facebook with a video showing the camel feeding, a white bandage wrapped around her leg.
“She is in pain, and it was traumatizing for her to be carried into the shelter. But she is eating now and taking in everything around her with those beautiful, intelligent eyes.”

Labour steps up efforts to win Muslim votes ahead of election

Updated 16 June 2024

Labour steps up efforts to win Muslim votes ahead of election

  • Party is targeting 13 typically pro-Labour seats with Muslim populations greater than a fifth of the total
  • Labour is concerned its record on Gaza might cost it support ahead of polling day, despite 63% planning to back it on July 4

LONDON: The Labour Party is increasing its campaigning in areas where it fears losing votes over its stance on the war in Gaza ahead of the upcoming UK general election on July 4.

The party has identified 13 typically pro-Labour constituencies in areas with large Muslim populations where it is directing activists to focus their activities.

Labour is set to win a vast majority at the election, but losing such seats could prove an embarrassment for leader Sir Keir Starmer.

The Labour website identifies the 13 target constituencies with Muslim populations greater than 20 percent of the total on a larger list of 28 seats for people registering to canvass for the party ahead of the election. They include seats in the typical Labour strongholds of Birmingham, Luton and Bradford.

The party has already suffered at the hands of voters disgruntled by Sir Keir’s approach to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, losing the Rochdale by-election to former Labour MP George Galloway.

Nationwide local elections in May also saw a lower-than-expected turnout in some areas, with Muslim voters in particular avoiding voting for the party where they might once have been expected to after Sir Keir proved reluctant to back calls for a ceasefire in Gaza and even suggested Israel “has the right” to cut off electricity and water supplies to the enclave.

Sir Keir later clarified he meant Israel had a “right to self-defense” and Labour has subsequently backed calls for a ceasefire, but some within the party fear significant damage has been done to its reputation with British Muslim voters.

The party is still expected to perform well overall with the Muslim community, with recent polling by Savanta suggesting 63 percent plan to vote Labour on July 4, many citing healthcare and the economy as more pressing concerns than Gaza. Around 20 percent of Muslim voters cited the war as their main electoral concern.

However, over 40 percent placed Gaza in their top five ranking of issues most important to them, with 86 percent of those also saying they would consider voting for an independent candidate running on a pro-Palestine platform.

The organization Muslim Vote has published a list of alternative candidates running on similar platforms, including calling for a ceasefire, sanctions on Israel and demanding more action on Islamophobia.

The director of the British Future think tank, Sunder Katwala, told the Observer: “I think it makes sense for (Labour) to worry, and to be seen to worry, and to be putting energy into (Muslim communities). Across the whole of British society, this is the demographic group where it’s most likely that Labour might slip backwards in support, not gain in support.

“The evidence in the local elections was of a surprisingly big impact. And the evidence in the national polling is of a surprisingly small impact. And that might be because voters are thinking strategically about the use of different elections.”

He added: “The Labour party is losing votes among Muslims and not any other group but is probably more popular among Muslims than any other section of the electorate.

“I think the (Muslim) student (activist) group is deserting Labour, and their mums and dads and grandparents are probably sticking with Labour much more.”

Young British royals say ‘We love you, Papa’ in Father’s Day message

Updated 16 June 2024

Young British royals say ‘We love you, Papa’ in Father’s Day message

  • The photograph was released a day after Kate, Britain’s Princess of Wales, was seen in public for the first time

LONDON: The three young children of British heir-to-the-throne Prince William and his wife Kate released a Father’s Day message and photograph on Sunday, saying “We love you, Papa.”
The photo shows the three children, Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 9, and Prince Louis, 6, hugging William on a beach, with the photograph taken from behind as they all look out to sea.

The caption says the photo was taken by Kate and reads: “We love you, Papa. Happy Father’s Day,” followed by two red hearts and G, C & L.
The photograph was released a day after Kate, Britain’s Princess of Wales, was seen in public for the first time since she revealed she was undergoing treatment for cancer.
Kate, William and the children joined King Charles and other members of the royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after watching a military parade to celebrate the monarch’s official birthday.
The princess, 42, spent two weeks in hospital in January after she underwent major abdominal surgery. Two months later she announced in a video message that tests had revealed the presence of cancer and she was receiving preventative chemotherapy.
She is still undergoing treatment, but she said in a statement on Friday that she was able to attend the “Trooping the Color” event because she was making good progress, although she noted that she was “not out of the woods” yet.
In a separate post on Sunday, the couple shared a photograph of William as a child playing football with his father, Charles.