Philippines: Indonesians carried out Jolo cathedral suicide attack

Philippines: Indonesians carried out Jolo cathedral suicide attack
The ASG wants to “raise their terror war to a religious level; that’s why they chose the church,” Eduardo Ano said. (AFP)
Updated 02 February 2019

Philippines: Indonesians carried out Jolo cathedral suicide attack

Philippines: Indonesians carried out Jolo cathedral suicide attack
  • The bombers were an Indonesian couple
  • Reports cited witnesses as saying they saw a woman with a backpack sitting on the fourth row of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral. 

MANILA: Two Indonesian suicide bombers, helped by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), carried out the Jan. 27 Jolo cathedral attack that killed 22 people and wounded more than 100, Philippine Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano said on Friday. 

Mangled body parts recovered from the site of the explosion indicated a suicide attack, he added.

The ASG “acted as a guide and probably conducted preliminary surveillance prior to the bombing,” he said.

The bombers were an Indonesian couple, with the male’s alias identified as Abu Huda, Ano added. “I’m certain that they’re Indonesians,” he told CNN Philippines.

The two reportedly worked with ASG Commander Hatib (Hajjan) Sawadjaan, who has pledged allegiance to Daesh.

Reports cited witnesses as saying they saw a woman with a backpack sitting on the fourth row of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral. 

That woman is believed to have been the first bomber, while her male companion, who was at the entrance, is believed to have carried out the second blast.

Ano said Abu Huda had been in Sulu province for a long time, while his wife had come just before the bombing.

Ano added that both the Jolo cathedral attack and last year’s suicide bombing in the city of Lamitan, perpetrated by a Moroccan, were projects of the ASG under Sawadjaan.

The ASG wants to “raise their terror war to a religious level; that’s why they chose the church,” Ano said, adding that there are still foreign militants in the area and working with Sawadjaan. One of them was described as an Arab-looking man.

“That’s very alarming. That’s why we have to watch out. The military and the police are doing everything (they can). In fact, they’re conducting massive military operations,” Ano said.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told Arab News that according to intelligence information, there are about 40 suspected foreign terrorists spread all over the island of Mindanao. 

They are mostly Asian, but there are also a few Arab-looking militants, he added.


UK joins Israel saying Iran attacked tanker; Tehran continues to deny involvement

Calling it a “unlawful and callous attack,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said his country and its allies planned a coordinated response over the strike on the tanker. (AFP/File Photo)
Calling it a “unlawful and callous attack,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said his country and its allies planned a coordinated response over the strike on the tanker. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 12 min 36 sec ago

UK joins Israel saying Iran attacked tanker; Tehran continues to deny involvement

Calling it a “unlawful and callous attack,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said his country and its allies planned a coordinated response over the strike on the tanker. (AFP/File Photo)
  • The blast killed two crew members, one British and another from Romania
  • FM Raab said it was “highly likely” Iran attacked the tanker with one or more drones

LONDON: The UK joined Israel on Sunday in alleging Iran carried out a fatal drone strike on an oil tanker off the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea, putting further pressure on Tehran as it denied being involved in the assault.

Calling it a “unlawful and callous attack,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said his country and its allies planned a coordinated response over the strike Thursday night on the oil tanker Mercer Street. It marked the first-known fatal attack after years of assaults on commercial shipping in the region linked to tensions with Iran over its tattered nuclear deal.

While no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, Iran and its militia allies have used so-called “suicide” drones in attacks previously, which crash into targets and detonate their explosive payloads. However, Israel, the UK and the responding US Navy have yet to show physical evidence from the strike or offer intelligence information on why they blame Tehran.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett went further than Raab in remarks Sunday at a Cabinet meeting, making a point to stare directly into the camera and slowly warn: “We know, at any rate, know how to convey the message to Iran in our own way.”

READ MORE

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Sunday Israel had “evidence” Iran was behind the deadly tanker attack off Oman despite its denials, and warned his country could “send a message” in retaliation. More here.

The drone attack blasted a hole through the top of the oil tanker’s bridge, where the captain and crew command the vessel, a US official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as an investigation into the attack still was ongoing. The blast killed two crew members from the United Kingdom and Romania.

The Navy said the American nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the guided missile destroyer USS Mitscher escorted the Mercer Street as it headed to a safe port. On Sunday, satellite-tracking information from MarineTraffic.com showed the tanker stopped off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE.

In his statement, Raab said it was “highly likely” Iran attacked the tanker with one or more drones.

“We believe this attack was deliberate, targeted and a clear violation of international law by Iran,” he said. “Iran must end such attacks, and vessels must be allowed to navigate freely in accordance with international law.”

From Jerusalem, Bennett offered condolences to both the United Kingdom and Romania for the killing of their citizens. He said Israeli intelligence had evidence linking Iran to the attack, but did not offer it.

“Iran is the one who carried out the attack against the ship,” he said. “Iran’s aggressive behavior is dangerous not only for Israel, but harms global interests in the freedom of navigation and international trade.”

Earlier, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh described the allegation Iran carried out the attack as “baseless.”

“It’s not the first time that the Zionist regime occupying Jerusalem has made such empty accusations against the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Khatibzadeh said. “Wherever this regime has gone, it has taken instability, terror and violence with it.”

He added: “Whoever sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind.”

Other Israel-linked ships have been targeted in recent months as well amid a shadow war between the two nations, with Israeli officials blaming the Islamic Republic for the assaults. Shipping in the region began being targeted in the summer of 2019, about a year after then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.

The Mercer Street, owned by Japan’s Taihei Kaiun Co., is managed by London-based Zodiac Maritime, part of Israeli billionaire Eyal Ofer’s Zodiac Group. In early July, the Liberian-flagged container ship CSAV Tyndall, once tied to Zodiac Maritime, suffered an unexplained explosion on board while in the northern Indian Ocean, according to the US Maritime Administration.

The attack marks the first major confrontation with Iran for Bennett, who took over as premier in June after a coalition deal unseated Israel’s long-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu is suspected of launching a series of attacks targeting Iran, including explosions at the country’s main enrichment site and the killing of a prominent military nuclear scientist.

However, Bennett as well has made hawkish comments in the past about needing to attack “the head of the octopus” in Tehran as opposed to Iran’s regional militias like Hezbollah in Lebanon. The attack on the Mercer Street marks the first during his time as prime minister and analysts suggest he could seek a major attack in retaliation.

“Israel may wish to deliver a resounding blow; that’s the spirit of political sources’ comments in Jerusalem,” wrote Amos Harel, a longtime military analyst for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “This blow will be aimed at ending things without a tit-for-tat that could escalate. But as usual, events also depend on the other side.”


Arab Parliament speaker begins first visit to Pakistan to boost ties

Arab Parliament speaker begins first visit to Pakistan to boost ties
Updated 01 August 2021

Arab Parliament speaker begins first visit to Pakistan to boost ties

Arab Parliament speaker begins first visit to Pakistan to boost ties
  • Several agreements expected to be signed
  • Visit first of its kind, says parliament in tweet

ISLAMABAD: Arab Parliament Speaker Adel Abdulrahman Al-Asoumi arrived in Pakistan on Sunday for a five-day visit to boost bilateral cooperation.
The parliament is the Arab League’s legislative body, with Al-Asoumi leading a high-profile delegation that will meet President Arif Ali, Prime Minister Imran Khan, Senate Chairman Muhammed Sadiq Sanjrani and other senior political leaders.
“Several memorandum of understanding and agreements will be signed between the Arab Parliament and the Upper House of Pakistan (senate) to promote institutional cooperation,” the Senate said.
Senator Sana Jamali welcomed the delegation on its arrival and described the Arab Parliament as a “very important forum.”
“The common goal is to pave the way for the development of bilateral cooperation and mutual relations,” Jamali told Arab News, saying that the delegation’s main activities would start from Monday.
“Their first engagement is at the House of Federation (Senate), where the chairman will welcome them. After meeting with (the) chairman, MOUs and agreements will be signed there.” 
Jamali added that the group would hold talks with Alvi and Khan later in the day.
“The agreements will focus on strengthening (the) bonding between Pakistani and Arab parliaments. The main areas are bilateral parliamentarian exchanges, economic and cultural cooperation between member countries,” she said.
The parliament tweeted that the visit would be the “first of its kind.”
“This visit aims to strengthen Arab parliamentary relations with the Pakistani side, especially in light of positive developments and remarkable growth in relations between the two sides in the political, economic, security and military fields,” it said.


UK court ruling raises concerns over return of terror suspects

UK court ruling raises concerns over return of terror suspects
Updated 01 August 2021

UK court ruling raises concerns over return of terror suspects

UK court ruling raises concerns over return of terror suspects
  • High Court ruled in favor of suspected Daesh member stripped of British citizenship
  • Govt decision deemed unlawful as she had not been informed

LONDON: An English court decision on Friday could pave the way for dozens of terror suspects to return to the UK.
The High Court ruled in favor of a grandmother who was stripped of her British citizenship after being suspected of belonging to Daesh, together with her daughters.
The woman, known as D4, was a suspected national security threat and had her citizenship revoked in 2019. She now resides in a detention camp in northeast Syria.
The court ruled that the UK government’s decision to revoke her citizenship was unlawful as she had not been informed of the move.
The ruling has raised concerns that other terror suspects could return to the UK. A government source told The Times: “It will open up the prospect of people judged to be a national security risk being sent back here.”
Former Conservative Cabinet member David Davis warned: “This chaotic outcome demonstrates that we need to revisit this policy so these people are treated with justice, but people liable for crimes are dealt with under British law.”
Sources said at least 28 terror suspects could use the ruling to stage their own legal cases in a bid to return to the UK.


UK govt under fire for not retaliating against tanker attack 

UK govt under fire for not retaliating against tanker attack 
Updated 01 August 2021

UK govt under fire for not retaliating against tanker attack 

UK govt under fire for not retaliating against tanker attack 
  • Tehran blamed for drone strike off Omani coast that killed Briton, Romanian
  • British silence means ‘we have let Iran get away with murder,’ expert tells Arab News

LONDON: The UK government has been criticized for failing to retaliate after a British Army veteran was killed in an alleged Iranian drone attack on an oil tanker off Oman’s coast.
The unidentified Briton was killed on Saturday after a so-called kamikaze drone struck the oil tanker he was serving on as a security officer. 
Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid blamed Tehran for the attack on the Mercer Street vessel, and urged Britain to retaliate. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, however, has remained silent on the incident.
Lapid said: “I noted (to Raab) the need to respond severely to the attack. Iran is not just an Israeli problem, but an exporter of terror, destruction and instability that hurt us all. The world must not be silent in the face of Iranian terror.” 
Sam Armstrong, director of communications at the London-based Henry Jackson Society think tank, told Arab News: “Despite Iran’s regular offenses, Britain has continued to look the other way. From the kidnapping of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to drone attacks on Saudi oilfields, the hijacking of British-flagged boats and the support of terror activities that have killed Britons around the Middle East, we have let Iran get away with murder.”
He added: “Weakly ignoring these violations and attacks only inspires Tehran to commit worse atrocities. This policy will cost more British lives. Not only is this a naive approach, hoping blindly that this terroristic regime will go away, but it’s also a stupid one that threatens the security of our nation.”
Israel is expected to launch a diplomatic assault on Iran via the UN, but it remains unclear if London will react to the drone strike, which also claimed the life of a Romanian worker. 
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the incident with Lapid and other regional partners “to investigate the facts, provide support, and consider the appropriate next steps.”
On Saturday, Israeli media carried a quote from a military officer saying a response to the attack on the Mercer Street would be forthcoming, adding: “The only question is how and when we’ll respond.”
Armstrong said: “While the US and Israel are holding discussions to determine what happened and plan a response, London is staying silent despite the loss of a Briton’s life. This cowardly silence demeans Britain on the world stage.”
He added: “We’re leaving the important work of defending our citizens and countering Iranian aggression to other countries.”
The UK Foreign Office said in a statement on Friday: “We are deeply concerned by today’s incident off the coast of Oman. Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the British and Romanian nationals killed in the incident. Vessels must be allowed to navigate freely in accordance with international law.”
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the allegations are “baseless,” but state TV channel Al-Alam said the drone strike was a “response to a recent Israeli attack” on a Syrian military airport.
The Syrian regime has been supported by Iranian forces, with Tehran viewing its survival as crucial to its own security.
The strike on the Mercer Street shared similar tactics and procedures to kamikaze drones operated by the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen, where unmanned aircraft packed with explosives detonate on or near the intended target.

The Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s internationally recognized government regularly intercepts Iranian-made drones in Yemen and the surrounding region.
The tanker was in the northern Indian Ocean — beyond Iran’s usual area of activity — when it was hit.

Zodiac Maritime, which operated the Japanese-owned tanker, said it is being directed to a “safe location” with a US naval escort.
Meir Javedanfar, an Iran and security researcher at Israel’s IDC Herzliya university, said the attack was “most probably” carried out by Iran.
The strike is a sign of rising tensions and the increasing severity of assaults on tankers. The deaths are the first fatalities following years of tanker attacks.


Thai protesters demand PM resign amid surge in COVID-19 cases

Thai protesters demand PM resign amid surge in COVID-19 cases
Updated 01 August 2021

Thai protesters demand PM resign amid surge in COVID-19 cases

Thai protesters demand PM resign amid surge in COVID-19 cases
  • ‘The government failed to provide vaccines on time and many of us haven’t had any vaccine yet’
  • On Sunday, Thailand reported 18,027 new infections and 133 new deaths from COVID-19

BANGKOK: Anti-government protesters in Thailand took to the streets in cars and motorcycles on Sunday, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha over his handling of the spread of COVID-19, as the country struggles with its biggest outbreak to date.
In Bangkok, drivers honked horns and motorcyclists raised three-finger salutes — a gesture of resistance inspired by “The Hunger Games” movie — as they headed along a 20 km (12 miles) route stretching from the Democracy Monument in the center of the capital out to Don Muang International Airport.
“We can barely make a living now, all of my family members have been affected,” said a 47-year-old protester speaking from his car who only gave his first name “Chai,” for fear of government repercussions.
“The government failed to provide vaccines on time and many of us haven’t had any vaccine yet,” he said. “If we don’t come out to make our calls, the government will simply ignore us.”
There were also similar protests in other provinces.
The Southeast Asian country aims to inoculate 50 million people by the end of 2021, but so far, only 5.8 percent of its more than 66 million population are fully vaccinated, while about 21 percent have received at least one dose.
On Sunday, Thailand reported 18,027 new infections and 133 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing total accumulated cases to 615,314 and 4,990 fatalities.