Tag Archives: AFP

Massive Al-Aqsa prayers on second Friday of Ramadan

Some 155,000 Muslims attended prayers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound on the second Friday of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, Israeli police said.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri told AFP the prayers passed “without incident”.

Last Friday’s prayers at the site were participated by some 80,000 worshippers.

After the prayers on Friday, hundreds of Hamas supporters took part in a rally in favour of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and against army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Demonstrators held posters with Morsi’s picture and chanted “Morsi is the Egyptian president, Sisi is an American collaborator”.

A similar demonstration took place last Friday at the site.

Morsi was ousted by the Egyptian army on July 3.

More than 3,000 Israeli police were deployed in the walled Old City, where the compound is located, and elsewhere in occupied east Jerusalem, police said.

Israeli authorities relaxed usual restrictions on entry to Jerusalem by West Bankers for the second week, enabling access to women of all ages and men over 40 years of age.

Palestinians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are usually barred from Israel and from east Jerusalem, which the Jewish state occupied in the 1967 Six-Day war and then unilaterally annexed.

The Al-Aqsa compound, which lies in Jerusalem’s Old City, houses the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam.

Known to Jews as the Temple Mount, the compound is a deeply sensitive location where clashes frequently break out between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli forces.

Jews are not allowed to pray inside the Al-Aqsa mosque compound.

…read more

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Israel deploys Iron Dome near Red Sea resort of Eilat

Israel deployed its Iron Dome missile defence system near the Red Sea resort of Eilat, which is close to the border with Egypt, an army spokeswoman said.

“An Iron Dome battery was deployed this morning in Eilat,” the spokeswoman told AFP.

“The batteries are deployed in several areas of the country and moved around according to changes in the (security) situation,” she added without elaborating.

But Israeli media said the deployment was related to unrest in Egypt, where the army is waging a campaign to drive militants out of the Sinai Peninsula, which borders Eilat.

Ynet news website also pointed out that the deployment came at the height of the tourist season in southern Israel.

Eilat has been the target of attacks in the past. In April the town was struck by rocket fire from the Sinai and debris of a rocket that hit northern Eilat on July 4 were found days later.

Egypt’s official news agency MENA on Thursday reported that 10 jihadists had been killed in the Sinai Peninsula in the past two days during the army offensive launched to curtail a surge in violence since Islamist president Mohamed Morsi was ousted on July 3 in a military-led coup.

The Iron Dome deployment also comes hours after two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip hit southern Israel late on Thursday night, causing no casualties or damage, police said.

…read more

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Israel meets ambassadors over EU settlements ban

Israel met the ambassadors of Britain and France, and Germany’s deputy envoy over plans by the EU to ban its 28 members from having any dealings with Jewish settlements, an official said on Friday.

The Jewish state warned the envoys of a serious crisis between it and the European Union over the move, the high-ranking foreign ministry official told AFP.

“The British and French ambassadors and German number two were invited yesterday to the ministry… for discussions on the EU guidelines,” he said.

“We asked the ambassadors to tell their capitals that no Israeli government would accept these conditions, and they could provoke a serious crisis with Israel,” he warned.

The guidelines, published in the EU’s Official Journal Friday morning, forbid EU member states from funding or dealing with entities in territories occupied by the Jewish state in 1967.

Germany and France confirmed the Thursday meetings but the British embassy did not immediately comment.

Christophe Bigot, France’s ambassador in Tel Aviv, said the Israeli foreign ministry’s director, Rafi Barak, had called the meetings.

“The Israelis informed us of their concerns” over the EU plan, he said. “I reminded them that the new guidelines were a continuation of European policy on settlements.”

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton also said in a Friday statement that the guidelines simply “reiterates the long-held position that bilateral agreements with Israel do not cover the territory that came under Israel’s administration in June 1967.”

The preamble to the guidelines says that “the EU does not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over… the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including east Jerusalem… and does not consider them to be part of Israel’s territory, irrespective of their legal status under domestic law”.

The guidelines apply to “grants, prizes and financial instruments,” it adds.

“Only Israeli entities having their place of establishment within Israel’s pre-1967 borders will be considered eligible as final recipients” of this kind of funding.

Of particular concern to officials was a scientific cooperation deal with the EU, “Horizon 2020”, which would generate investments worth hundreds of millions of euros (dollars) in Israeli technology companies, Haaretz newspaper quoted a foreign ministry official as saying.

More than 80 percent of Israelis are opposed to the new EU guidelines, according to a survey published Friday by pro-government newspaper Israel Hayom.

Settlement building in the territories occupied by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War is considered illegal under international law.

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Bollywood films keep up gangster fascination

A string of Bollywood releases this year show the Indian film industry’s ongoing fascination with Mumbai’s underworld, following a murky history of links between the mafia and the movie business.

Spy thriller “D-Day”, which opened in Indian cinemas on Friday, is one of three new Hindi films that appear to draw inspiration from the lives of Mumbai’s notorious gangsters.

Directed by Nikhil Advani, “D-Day” tells the story of Indian intelligence agents trying to capture “India’s most wanted man” from Pakistan, known in the film as “Iqbal” or “Goldman.

The character, played by veteran star Rishi Kapoor, bears a striking resemblance to former Mumbai mafia don Dawood Ibrahim, one of India’s real-life most-wanted men.

Like the film’s antihero, Ibrahim is known for donning a thick moustache and sunglasses, is thought to be in Pakistan and is the alleged mastermind behind the 1993 bomb blasts in Mumbai, which killed 257 people.

“We have used real life events as triggers to create a public enemy and tell a story with fictionalised situations, without going into the main character’s back story,” the director told AFP.

When asked about the likenesses to Ibrahim, he said “a hint is enough for the intelligent”.

Any real-life basis to gangster films is rarely openly stated by filmmakers to avoid any legal or personal backlash.

The upcoming thriller “Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai Dobara (Again)” looks at a love triangle involving a gangster called Shoaib Khan, who is also widely thought to be inspired by Ibrahim.

“The characters are based on research and references. But unlike real world dons, our cinematic dons sing on rooftops and are flamboyant. Ours is a work of fiction,” said the film’s director Milan Luthria.

Its 2010 prequel “Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai” told the story of Sultan, rumoured to be based on late gangster Haji Mastan, but the filmmakers released a statement denying this after Mastan’s family took the matter to court.

It is a scenario Sanjay Gupta was keen to avoid in his film “Shootout at Wadala”, released in May, about the rise of a gangster called Manya Surve who was killed in 1982 by the Mumbai police.

While Surve’s name stays the same in the film, those of several other principal characters were changed just before the release.

Gupta said there were grey areas in the law and that it was difficult to know exactly who would be angered by any perceived likenesses.

“My wife was most relieved when we decided to change the names,” he said.

“Shootout at Wadala” is based on a chapter from the book “Dongri to Dubai: Six Decades of the Mumbai Mafia” by crime reporter S. Hussain Zaidi, who has written about the underworld’s links to the Hindi-language movie business.

The connections ran deep in the 1980s and 1990s, when the film industry depended on the underworld for funding. Extortion, kidnapping, threats and shootings were signs of how the two worlds appeared to collide.

Before he fled India in the early 1990s, Ibrahim himself was photographed alongside various Bollywood stars at social events, underlining the once-extensive connection between the worlds of …read more

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Indian Kashmir shuts down over killing of protesters

Indian Kashmir largely shut down amid heavy security on Friday after troops shot dead four people during a protest over a paramilitary raid on an Islamic school.

Shops, banks, schools and most government offices were closed in towns across the region, after a separatist leader called a three-day strike to protest Thursday’s killings.

Srinagar, the main city in the region, was largely deserted after hundreds of police and paramilitary troops were deployed on the streets to halt any demonstrations over the deaths, an AFP reporter on the scene said.

Although authorities have not officially declared a curfew in the troubled Himalayan region, residents said they were not being allowed to go about their business.

“Early in the morning, troops appeared all around my neighbourhood disallowing people from coming out onto the streets,” a resident of the old part of Srinagar, Farhan Ahmed, said by phone.

“It is undeclared curfew,” he said.

Troops fired on protesters on Thursday, after residents of the district of Gool gathered to demonstrate against what they said was a desecration of the Koran by troops during their search of a madrassa.

They gathered outside a base of the Border Security Forces (BSF) in Gool region, 230 kilometres (143 miles) south of Srinagar.

Residents accused BSF troopers of beating up a caretaker and desecrating a Koran, during a search for militants inside the madrassa in Gool late on Wednesday.

Police officers initially said six protesters were killed in the firing. But inspector-general of police, Rajesh Kumar, clarified on Friday that only four had died.

“The fact is that the number of dead is four. The confusion was because we were busy in dealing with law and order and also due to the spotty nature of telecommunications in the mountainous area,” Kumar told AFP.

He said 37 protesters were also injured in the incident.

The region’s chief minister, Omar Abdullah, condemned the shootings while India’s Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde ordered an investigation, saying the deaths were regrettable.

A top separatist leader, Syed Ali Geelani, called for a shutdown to protest the killings.

Most separatist leaders have been detained or put under house arrest to prevent them from leading protest rallies, sources said.

Chairman of the pro-independence Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) called for a protest before he was detained by police on Thursday.

The main university in the region postponed examinations scheduled for Friday without announcing any fresh dates.

Elsewhere, in Pakistani Kashmir’s main city Muzaffarabad around 500 protesters took to the streets, chanting slogans and burning the Indian flag, to condemn the forces’ actions.

A revolt against Indian rule has going on for decades in Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority state.

The insurgency has been a regular source of tensions between residents and security forces, which often spill over into violence.

About a dozen rebel groups have been fighting Indian forces in Kashmir since 1989, either for independence or for a merger with Pakistan. The fighting has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.

Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan have each administered part of Kashmir since the partition of the subcontinent after the end of British rule …read more

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Bomb kills Afghan woman, five children in Taliban home

A bomb killed five young children and a woman when it exploded after being made at the home of a Taliban commander in eastern Afghanistan, a government official said Friday.

The device detonated on Thursday while children were playing with it after the Taliban commander, identified only as Abdullah, left the house, a spokesman for the local government in Paktika province said.

“Yesterday morning a Taliban commander, Abdullah, was making a bomb in his home to plant along the road and kill Afghan forces,” spokesman Mokhlis Afghan told AFP.

“After a while, Abdullah left home, and the children came and played with the mine, and it detonated inside the house.”

He said a woman and five children, aged three to seven, were killed.

Roadside bombs are the weapon of choice for Taliban insurgents fighting against Afghan government troops and their NATO military allies.

But civilians and children are also often killed and wounded by the attacks.

According to the United Nations, civilian deaths rose by 24 percent in the first half of 2013.

It registered 2,499 civilian casualties between January and June, attributing 74 percent to anti-government forces and nine percent to pro-government forces.

Children accounted for 21 per cent of all civilians killed and wounded, and casualties caused by roadside bombs had risen 41 per cent, it said.

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Russian court releases Navalny pending appeal

A court in Russia’s northern Kirov region on Friday ordered the release of protest leader Alexei Navalny pending an appeal against his five year sentence on embezzlement charges.

The court ruled that keeping Navalny in custody would deprive him of his right to stand in mayoral elections in Moscow on September 8. Navalny had been accepted as a registered candidate for the polls earlier this week.

Navalny and his co-accused Pyotr Ofitserov were immediately released in court and Navalny embraced his wife Yulia, an AFP correspondent reported.

“This is a major surprise,” a jubilant Navalny said after being released from the glass-fronted defendant’s cage. “What happened now is a completely unique phenomenon in the system of Russian justice,” he added.

The court ruling came after prosecutors, in a surprise move, asked the court to release Navalny from custody until the appeals process is over, at which time his sentence would come into full force if his conviction is upheld.

It was not entirely clear what had motivated the prosecutors to make the appeal, which came as thousands of people rallied on the streets of Moscow in support of Navalny.

Navalny’s aides had said on Thursday that he would pull out of the mayoral race after his conviction and jailing, but the charismatic protest leader said he would now consider is options after returning to Moscow.

He said he could still stand as a candidate or urge supporters to boycott the race.

His release from custody on Friday is conditional on him staying in Moscow, his city of residence, pending his appeal.

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Britain's mothers' army feeling for mum-to-be Kate

The Duchess of Cambridge lives a very different life to most mums-to-be, but Britain’s army of mothers has been captivated by her pregnancy — and is ready to rally around to help her bring up the new heir.

Social media has been abuzz with every detail of Prince William and his wife Catherine’s journey towards parenthood, none more so than Mumsnet, a web forum used by 4.4 million people in Britain.

Rumours on the site last week that Kate had gone into labour flew across the world, sending Twitter into overdrive and sparking panic in newsrooms across the globe.

It was a false alarm — Britain’s technology-savvy mothers had no more information than anyone else.

But the online community, a lifeline for many parents struggling with new babies, toddler tantrums, illness, work, money troubles and much more, is ready to embrace Catherine as one of their own.

“When you become pregnant, you have this universal bond with all the other women that are pregnant around the world: you know what they’re going through,” said spokeswoman Jane Gentle.

At 27 weeks pregnant with her second child, she knows something of what Catherine might be feeling right now. “I sympathise with Kate in this very hot weather!” she told AFP.

As would be expected of a website with so many users, Mumsnet has not been universally kind to the duchess.

A quick Internet search brings up discussion threads criticising her weight, her looks and why she doesn’t have a “real” job.

But many are sympathetic to how Catherine has managed under the global media spotlight since she was forced to prematurely announce her pregnancy in December after being admitted to hospital with severe morning sickness.

“There was a lot of support on the site from mothers who’ve been through hyperemesis (gravidarum) because it’s far more than morning sickness and a lot of people don’t understand that. It’s a horrible thing to go through,” Gentle said.

“To have someone so famous suffering from exactly the same condition as people from every kind of walk of life is helpful because it gets the word out there.”

Catherine was given the best treatment available and will give birth to the third in line to the throne in a plush private hospital wing costing thousands of pounds a night.

It is a far cry from the average British woman’s experience in the state-run National Health Service (NHS), let alone the difficulties faced by women in poorer parts of the world.

“For every new mother, it’s a life-changing experience. Everything’s shaken upside-down, everything that you knew yesterday has changed,” Gentle says.

“For Kate, it will be an even bigger impending day because she’s got the world scrutinising her.

“Hopefully the Duchess of Cambridge will be able to retreat a little bit, look after herself and not worry about what everyone else is saying about her.”

When she gives birth, organisers will be asking members for tips for the royal first-time mum.

“We’re going to compile all of those brilliant pieces of advice into a book and we’re going to hand it over to Kate after …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Mum's army feeling for mum-to-be Kate

The Duchess of Cambridge lives a very different life to most mums-to-be, but Britain’s army of mothers has been captivated by her pregnancy — and is ready to rally around to help her bring up the new heir.

Social media has been abuzz with every detail of Prince William and his wife Catherine’s journey towards parenthood, none more so than Mumsnet, a web forum used by 4.4 million people in Britain.

Rumours on the site last week that Kate had gone into labour flew across the world, sending Twitter into overdrive and sparking panic in newsrooms across the globe.

It was a false alarm — Britain’s technology-savvy mothers had no more information than anyone else.

But the online community, a lifeline for many parents struggling with new babies, toddler tantrums, illness, work, money troubles and much more, is ready to embrace Catherine as one of their own.

“When you become pregnant, you have this universal bond with all the other women that are pregnant around the world: you know what they’re going through,” said spokeswoman Jane Gentle.

At 27 weeks pregnant with her second child, she knows something of what Catherine might be feeling right now. “I sympathise with Kate in this very hot weather!” she told AFP.

As would be expected of a website with so many users, Mumsnet has not been universally kind to the duchess.

A quick Internet search brings up discussion threads criticising her weight, her looks and why she doesn’t have a “real” job.

But many are sympathetic to how Catherine has managed under the global media spotlight since she was forced to prematurely announce her pregnancy in December after being admitted to hospital with severe morning sickness.

“There was a lot of support on the site from mothers who’ve been through hyperemesis (gravidarum) because it’s far more than morning sickness and a lot of people don’t understand that. It’s a horrible thing to go through,” Gentle said.

“To have someone so famous suffering from exactly the same condition as people from every kind of walk of life is helpful because it gets the word out there.”

Catherine was given the best treatment available and will give birth to the third in line to the throne in a plush private hospital wing costing thousands of pounds a night.

It is a far cry from the average woman’s experience in the National Health Service (NHS), let alone the difficulties faced by women in poorer parts of the world.

“For every new mother, it’s a life-changing experience. Everything’s shaken upside-down, everything that you knew yesterday has changed,” Gentle says.

“For Kate, it will be an even bigger impending day because she’s got the world scrutinising her.

“Hopefully the Duchess of Cambridge will be able to retreat a little bit, look after herself and not worry about what everyone else is saying about her.”

When she gives birth, organisers will be asking members for tips for the royal first-time mum.

“We’re going to compile all of those brilliant pieces of advice into a book and we’re going to hand it over to Kate after the birth …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Afghan customs fines hike cost of US military pullout

A customs dispute between the Afghan and US governments has disrupted the withdrawal of American military equipment, dramatically inflating the cost of the drawdown, defense officials said.

With Afghan authorities insisting the United States owes millions of dollars in customs fines and trucks carrying hardware being blocked at border crossings, the Americans have started flying out most equipment by air at great cost.

“The cost is five to seven times more” by aircraft than over land through neighboring Pakistan, a defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

The Afghan government is insisting that US forces pay $1,000 for each shipping container leaving the country that lacks what it calls a valid customs form.

And authorities now claim the Americans owe $70 million in fines, even though the United States contends that Kabul’s stance contradicts previous agreements, said US officials, confirming a report that first appeared in the Washington Post.

The US Congress was warned in May by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction that Kabul was exacting exorbitant customs fees and taxes in violation of previous agreements regulating imported goods and the status of US forces.

In some cases, Afghan officials were blocking commercial trucks from delivering food and fuel to US forces due to the customs dispute, the inspector general said.

Afghan authorities, however, claim that US contractors transporting equipment failed to file proper documents for large amounts of gear shipped into the country since 2010.

To collect fines that Washington allegedly owes Kabul, “the only way is to stop all trucks from crossing the border,” Najibullah Wardak, the director general of the Afghan Customs Department, told the Washington Post.

“What else can we do?”

The Pentagon in a statement acknowledged “challenges” with the withdrawal at Afghan border crossings.

The disputes are “typically centered on the interpretation of Afghan customs processes,” spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bill Speaks said in the statement.

NATO-led force commanders are talking with Afghan officials and “we are confident that the situation will be resolved soon,” he said.

With a massive drawdown of military equipment due between now and the end of 2014, US officers had counted on moving most of the equipment by land routes through Pakistan.

Recent tensions with Pakistan have previously forced the US and its NATO allies to transport large amounts of cargo by air and by a longer, more expensive route through Central Asia.

Over the past month, only 36 percent of US equipment has been driven out by land routes, the Post wrote, citing a Pentagon official.

The disagreement over customs fines threatens to undermine difficult negotiations over a possible future US military presence after 2014. ddl/adm

…read more

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