Paris attacks suspect given conditional release

A soldier stands guard in front of the Brussels Palace of Justice ahead of the trial of Salah Abdeslam, one of the suspects of the 2015 Daesh attacks in Paris that killed more than 130 people. (Reuters)
Updated 19 June 2018
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Paris attacks suspect given conditional release

  • Ali Oulkadi, who was imprisoned in France, drove Abdeslam across Brussels on November 14, the day after the attacks that killed 130 people
  • Another man suspected of accompanying Abdeslam back to Brussels from Paris — Hamza Attou — has already been released, with a third, Mohamed Amri, still behind bars in France

BRUSSELS: A man suspected of briefly helping top suspect Salah Abdeslam in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks of 2015 has been released and placed under judicial supervision in Belgium, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Ali Oulkadi, who was imprisoned in France, drove Abdeslam across Brussels on November 14, the day after the attacks that killed 130 people, Belgian and French prosecutors told AFP.
That was the last trace of Abdeslam who then disappeared to become the world’s most wanted fugitive before his spectacular capture in the Belgian capital four months later.
Abdeslam exonerated Oulkadi to investigators earlier this year, claiming his old friend knew nothing of the terror attacks.
French courts on Monday allowed Oulkadi to return to the Belgian capital where he resided before his arrest at the end of 2015.
Another man suspected of accompanying Abdeslam back to Brussels from Paris — Hamza Attou — has already been released, with a third, Mohamed Amri, still behind bars in France.
Amri and Attou are suspected of accompanying Abdeslam back to Brussels, getting him past three police checks in France before crossing the border into Belgium.


Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

Updated 21 May 2019
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Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

  • The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims

DHAKA: As the clock strikes 6 p.m., Shudhhanondo Mohathero hurries to the kitchen to alert his army of 15 monks that they have less than 40 minutes until iftar. 

Soon, people will begin queuing outside the Dharmarajika Bouddha Bihar, a Buddhist monastery in Dhaka, where Mohathero hands out free food packs to fasting Muslims who are too poor to buy a meal to end their fast.

It is a tradition that 89-year-old Mohathero started 10 years ago when he assumed responsibility for the temple’s upkeep.

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return,” Mohathero told Arab News.

Built in 1951, the monastery, which is located in Basabo in the eastern part of Dhaka, has been involved in various social welfare activities. Since the start of Ramadan this year, almost 200 food packs have been doled out every day, with plans to double the number by the end of the month. The 15 monks who live in the monastery prepare the food boxes for iftar.

At a cost of around 80 cents, which is funded by the temple, each box contains traditional Bangladeshi iftar items such as puffed rice, boiled and seasoned chickpeas, jilapi (a deep-fried sweet pastry), beguni (deep-fried eggplant) and dal bora (a fried item with smashed lentils and dates).

“In previous years, our junior monks used to prepare iftar at the monastery. This year, however, we are starting to outsource the items due to the sheer volume,” Mohathero said. 

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return.”

Shudhhanondo Mohathero, Chief monk of Dhaka’s Buddhist Monastery

The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims.

“I have been receiving iftar from the monastery for three years. Since my husband works as a daily-wage laborer, this iftar has made our lives very comfortable,” Asma Khatun, a local resident, said.

Another devotee, Sharif Hossain, said that iftar from the monastery “is like a divine blessing.”

“After losing all my properties in a river erosion, I moved to Dhaka just a few months ago and started living in a slum. I can finally feed my family with the iftar provided by the monks,” he said. 

Talking about his experience being part of a project that builds communal harmony, Prantar Borua, an apprentice monk at the temple, said: “We feel proud and happy to be doing such an extraordinary thing. It’s a small contribution to the community, but it’s the best we can do at this moment.”

The monastery’s generosity has won praise from the Bangladesh authorities, too.

“It’s a nice initiative from the Buddhist community, especially at a time when the world is experiencing many hate crimes and interreligious conflicts. It upholds the spirit of religious harmony,” Abdul Hamid Jomaddar, joint secretary of the Religious Affairs Ministry, said.

“Our government believes in the coexistence of different religions, which is the beauty of this secular land,” he added.