Huge crowds pray at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa for first Ramadan Friday

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Palestinians pray on the first Friday of the holy fasting month of Ramadan. (Reuters)
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Palestinians pray on the first Friday of the holy fasting month of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. (Reuters)
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Palestinian youths climb a section of Israel's separation wall to reach at the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. (AFP)Palestinian Muslim worshippers pray in the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem
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Palestinian Muslim worshippers pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. (AFP)
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Palestinian women pray on the first Friday of the holy month of Ramadan inside the Dome of the Rock. (Reuters)
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Palestinian worshippers pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. (AFP)
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Palestinian worshippers pray in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem. (AFP)
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Palestinians pray on the first Friday of the holy fasting month of Ramadan at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. (Reuters)
Updated 10 May 2019

Huge crowds pray at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa for first Ramadan Friday

  • The crowds reached the site 'despite checkpoints and a large Israeli security presence'

JERUSALEM: Around 180,000 Muslims prayed at east Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound Friday, the first in the holy month of Ramadan, a body responsible for the site said.
The figure from the Waqf organization is 50 percent higher than last year, when around 120,000 people attended the first Friday prayers.


Azzam Al-Khatib, director general of Waqf, said the crowds reached the site “despite checkpoints and a large security presence.”
The prayers ended without any major incident, he told AFP.
The site in Israeli-controlled east Jerusalem is the third holiest in Islam and has proved a flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


At the Qalandia checkpoint between Jerusalem and the West Bank thousands of Palestinians — including elderly people in wheelchairs — queued to enter the city early Friday morning.
Coordination between Palestinian and Israeli authorities had improved at the checkpoint this year, making access to Jerusalem easier.
Israeli restrictions on Palestinians from the occupied West Bank are eased during the month of Ramadan, which began on Monday.


Men over the age of 40 and children under 12 will be allowed to enter the city on Fridays during Ramadan, while there are no restrictions on women, the Israeli army announced.
“Police units and border police are mobilized in different areas of the Old City to allow thousands of people to enter the area easily and at the same time prevent any incidents throughout the day,” Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said in a statement.
Israel views the whole of Jerusalem as its capital while the Palestinians see the eastern part as the capital of their future state.


New Daesh leader was informant for US, says counter terrorism report

Updated 2 min 51 sec ago

New Daesh leader was informant for US, says counter terrorism report

  • CTC said it is “highly confident” Al-Mawla became the new leader of Daesh after the previous leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was killed

NEW YORK: The man widely believed to be the new leader of Daesh was once an informant for the US, according to a new report from the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), a research body at the US military academy of West Point in New York.

“Stepping Out from the Shadows: The Interrogation of the Islamic State’s Future Caliph” is based on Tactical Interrogation Reports (TIRs) — the paper trail the US military creates when enemy fighters are detained and interrogated — from Al-Mawla’s time in captivity in the late 2000s.

Before his release in 2009, Al-Mawla named 88 extremists involved in terrorist activities, and the information he divulged during his interrogations led US forces in the region to successfully capture or kill dozens of Al-Qaeda fighters, the report claims.

The CTC said it is “highly confident” Al-Mawla became the new leader of Daesh after the previous leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was killed in a US air raid in Syria in October 2019.

Although Daesh announced that a man called Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Qurashi was Baghdadi’s successor, US officials have also stated that Al-Qurashi’s true identity is actually Al-Mawla — also known as Hajj Abdullah.

Before joining Daesh, Al-Mawla is believed to have been the deputy leader of Al-Qaeda.

While details about the operation resulting in his capture are scarce, the TRIs reveal that he was captured on January 6, 2008.

The following day, US Central Command announced the capture of a wanted individual who “previously served as a judge of an illegal court system involved in ordering and approving abductions and executions.”

In his interrogations, Al-Mawla offered up details of terrorist plots to his interrogators, while minimizing his own involvement. He identified many jihadists by name and offered descriptions of their roles in the terrorist organization and details of their involvement in attacks on US-led coalition forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Al-Mawla — a former officer in Saddam Hussein’s army and once Baghdadi’s speechwriter — emerges from the TIRs as a mysterious personality with a vague past, whose ethnicity could not be determined with certainty. The statements in the reports are rife with contradictory elements and open to a wide range of interpretations. As the authors point out in their introduction: “It is incredibly difficult to ascertain whether what Al-Mawla divulges regarding himself or ISI (the forerunner of Daesh) as an organization is true.”

Details of the specific demographics of Al Mawla’s birthplace of Al-Muhalabiyyah in Iraq’s Tal Afar district are sketchy, but it is generally accepted to have a predominantly Turkmen population. The authors of the report point out that some sources have suggested “this could pose legitimacy problems for him because (Daesh) mostly has Arabs in its senior leadership echelons,” but add that at least two other senior members of the group were reported to have been Turkmen.

Al-Mawla also claimed to have avoided pledging allegiance to ISI because he was a Sufi. The report’s authors cast doubt on that claim, given his quick rise to prominence in the terrorist group and the fact that ISI and Daesh branded Sufism as heresy.

But the authors do believe the TRIs give some valuable insights into Al-Mawla’s personality.

“The fact that he detailed activities and gave testimony against (fellow jihadists) suggests a willingness to offer up fellow members of the group to suit his own ends,” they wrote. “The amount of detail and seeming willingness to share information about fellow organization members suggests either a degree of nonchalance, strategic calculation, or resignation on the part of Al-Mawla regarding operational security.

“He appears to have named individuals in some capacity across all levels of the organization, while describing some individuals in some detail,” they continued.

The US Department of Justice has offered a $10million reward for information about Al-Mawla’s identification or location.