‘Is this Eid?’ angry Kashmiris ask amid festival lockdown

‘Is this Eid?’ angry Kashmiris ask amid festival lockdown
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Syed Yaqoob Shah mosque, one of the main mosques in the Sonwar area of central Srinagar, has been shut down and out of bound for people on the first day of Eid Al-Adha. (AN photo by Majurl Al-Hasan)
‘Is this Eid?’ angry Kashmiris ask amid festival lockdown
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One of the main mosques in Srinagar was shut down and out of bounds for people on the first day of Eid Al-Adha. (AN photo by Majurl Al-Hasan)
‘Is this Eid?’ angry Kashmiris ask amid festival lockdown
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One of the main mosques in Srinagar was shut down and out of bounds for people on the first day of Eid Al-Adha. (AN photo by Majurl Al-Hasan)
Updated 12 August 2019

‘Is this Eid?’ angry Kashmiris ask amid festival lockdown

‘Is this Eid?’ angry Kashmiris ask amid festival lockdown
  • Tight security fuels resentment as muted celebrations give way to rumors of violence

SRINAGAR: Sixteen-year-old Nysan Ashraf is alone with her friend Afreen near Dal Lake, the popular urban lagoon known as “Srinagar’s Jewel,” where people gather at festival time.

Dressed in new clothes bought especially to celebrate Eid Al-Adha on Monday, Ashraf and her classmate said they are feeling lost and downcast.

“This is the worst Eid of my life. There is no program, no celebration, no festive atmosphere. We are feeling sorry for dressing nicely today,” said Ashraf, a Grade 10 student.

“Before we used to go to the mosque, then qurbani (animal sacrifice), and then we would greet each other on the phone, but everything is missing this year,” she told Arab News.

“I am not sure what is in store for us in future. I hope Allah has something good for us,” she added.

“People are angry. Look around, there are only military people sitting and watching. Do you think this is the democracy India claims to be? I want the government to restore our rights and let us decide our fate.”

Her friend Afreen said that “she feels really scared to see so many security people. Can we really say that it’s the day of Eid in Kashmir today?”

Altaf Ahmad, 43, a cleric in a mosque in central Srinagar, is also upset. “This is a day of deep sorrow for us. I have never seen this kind of Eid in my whole life. There is no sacrifice, no celebration,” he said.

“Eid is such an auspicious day for us. It’s a day when we offer a sacrifice to Allah. But we did not offer any sacrifice today as a mark of mourning.” he said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Tight security restrictions were in place in Srinagar on Monday, with restrictions on people visiting mosques outside their neighborhood.

• Larger mosques, such as Hazratbal and Jama Masjid, remain closed, according to some reports.

• The local administration advised people to offer Eid prayer at mosques in their area.

Ahmad told Arab News that “my mosque has three floors and can accommodate at least 500 people. During Eid normally 2,000 people gather in the mosque and nearby area to offer prayer. But you can see there are only 20 people today. Is this Eid?

“I have been called at least four times since Saturday by the Indian security personnel. They harassed me for offering my namaz (prayer). They were coaxing me not to lead the Eid prayer in the mosque on Monday. They also came this morning. We defied their order and offered our prayer. But attendance was very low,” he said.

“We are all immersed in deep sorrow. What crime have we committed that we have to see this day in our life? Why was I born to see this day?

“We are angry, but we are forced to be silent. We don’t know what will happen to us if we talk freely. We want to tell the world through you that whatever atrocities are taking place in Kashmir, it should stop immediately,” he said.

Haleema Shah, a schoolteacher, said: “We are not celebrating Eid today. We are in a state of mourning over the people of Kashmir being put in an open jail. We are mourning the scrapping of Article 370 of the constitution.”

Ashraf Wani, a sheep seller, said: “This Eid has brought huge loss for me. I spent at least $15,000 buying a herd of sheep. But I have not sold even one-third of the sacrificial animals that I brought to the market this time. I face a huge loss.”

Wani said that “generally on the day of Eid I do not come to sell sacrificial lambs, but this year I am on the road, hoping against hope to recover some loss.”

Tight security restrictions were in place in Srinagar on Monday, with restrictions on people visiting mosques outside their neighborhood.

Larger mosques, such as Hazratbal and Jama Masjid, remain closed, according to some reports.

The local administration advised people to offer Eid prayer at mosques in their area.

“We wanted to avoid any untoward incidents, so we asked people to offer prayers at a mosque in their locality,” said Rohit Kansal, principal secretary of the Jammu and Kashmir government.

He refused to say how many mosques in Srinagar were allowed to conduct prayers on Eid.

Unconfirmed reports of violence in parts of the city could not be confirmed because of a large-scale communication shutdown.

“There was no untoward incident on the day of Eid. Whatever rumors are being spread are fabricated,” said SP Pani, Jammu and Kashmir’s police chief.

Manzoor Al-Hasan, a Srinagar-based journalist, said that “Eid restrictions have further angered the people. The government is managing the situation in the valley through a huge deployment of security personnel. How long it can contain the anger of the people remains to be seen.”


After months of delays, Somalia postpones election amid threats of violence

Somalia’s leaders agreed last month on a voting timetable after months of stalemate. The country is facing violence by Al-Shabab militants. (AFP/File)
Somalia’s leaders agreed last month on a voting timetable after months of stalemate. The country is facing violence by Al-Shabab militants. (AFP/File)
Updated 26 July 2021

After months of delays, Somalia postpones election amid threats of violence

Somalia’s leaders agreed last month on a voting timetable after months of stalemate. The country is facing violence by Al-Shabab militants. (AFP/File)
  • The country’s Al-Shabab militants warned politicians last week against taking part in the vote

MOGADISHU: Somalia has postponed elections that were due to start on Sunday after months of delays in the deeply unstable Horn of Africa country, officials told AFP.

Indirect parliamentary and presidential polls were due to open on July 25 with four days of voting for the upper house by state delegates. The election cycle was due to end with a presidential poll on Oct. 10.
“Even though the plan was the upper house election to start around the various states today, there is a delay, the election may not take place as planned,” a member of the electoral commission said.
The delay was due to the fact that federal regions were neither able to submit candidates’ lists in time, nor to form local committees to cast the ballots, the source added.
A spokesman for the federal government, Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimu, told AFP that the elections were “postponed,” without providing details.
Last week, the country’s Al-Shabab militants warned politicians against taking part in the elections, which were due to kick off after months of deadlock and delays.
The threat, in an audio message purportedly recorded by Al-Shabab leader Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah, underscores the security challenges facing the election process in the country.
The Al-Qaeda-linked group has been fighting to overthrow the federal government since 2007 and frequently attacks government, security and civilian targets.
Somalia was plunged into an unprecedented constitutional crisis early this year, when President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and the leaders of Somalia’s five states were unable to agree on the terms of a vote before his term lapsed in February.

SPEEDREAD

Somalia was plunged into an unprecedented constitutional crisis early this year, when the country’s leadership was unable to agree on the terms of a vote before his term lapsed in February.

After months of stalemate that at times turned violent, the political leaders finally agreed last month on a voting timetable.
According to the agreed plan, delegates from the five federal states, chosen by various clans in that state, elect parliamentarians, who then elect a president. The process was due to kick off on Sunday.
But according to several sources, the sole state that was capable of carrying out a vote “during the week” was Jubaland. The state has already chosen its delegate committee and could publish a list of candidates “during the week.”
“We are expecting the election to take place soon,” said Mohamed Adan, a senior government official in Jubaland. Another source said the electoral process could kick off in the state later on Sunday.
In Puntland state, sources said the elections were delayed because of “technical reasons.”
In Galmudug state, the local parliament is on a break and will reconvene in early August.
In South-West state, the process is blocked because the regional president is out of the country.
Somalia’s political impasse exploded into violence in April when negotiations collapsed and the lower house extended the president’s mandate by two years, sparking gunbattles on the streets of Mogadishu. Under pressure the president, commonly known as Farmajo, reversed the extension and ordered his prime minister to reconvene with the state leaders to chart a fresh roadmap toward elections.
The ballots follow a complex indirect model whereby special delegates chosen by the country’s myriad clan elders pick lawmakers, who in turn choose the president.
Successive leaders have promised a direct vote but political infighting, logistical problems and the Al-Shabab insurgency has prevented such an exercise. The upper house vote will be followed by elections for the lower house from Sept. 12-Oct. 2, according to an updated timetable issued last week.
According to a statement issued in June, both assemblies were due to convene to vote for the president on October 10, but no date for this election was given in the updated timeline.
Somalia has not held a direct one-person, one-vote election since 1969, the year dictator Siad Barre led a coup and went on to rule for two decades.
Barre’s military regime collapsed in 1991 and Somalia sank into anarchy.


Putin warns of ‘lethal’ strikes at Russian warship parade

Putin warns of ‘lethal’ strikes at Russian warship parade
Updated 26 July 2021

Putin warns of ‘lethal’ strikes at Russian warship parade

Putin warns of ‘lethal’ strikes at Russian warship parade
  • The Russian leader’s boast comes days after military officials announced tests of advanced new weapons

PETERSBURG: President Vladimir Putin said on Sunday that Russia’s navy was capable of delivering lethal strikes against underwater and aerial enemy targets during a parade of warships in the port city of Saint Petersburg.

The Russian leader’s boast comes days after military officials announced tests of advanced new weapons, some of which come from an arsenal Putin has described as “invincible.”

“The Russian navy today has everything it needs to guarantee the protection of our country and our national interests,” he said.

“We can detect underwater, surface or aerial enemies and target them if a lethal strike is necessary,” Putin said according to a broadcast on state television.

The Russian leader was speaking on the sidelines of an annual parade of military vessels, flanked by naval officers in white, and also Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Putin said Russia had secured its place among the world’s leading naval powers, including by developing “the latest hypersonic precision weapons still unrivaled in the world.”

The US, China, France and other major powers have announced plans to develop their own hypersonic weapons and are expected to soon catch up.

With the second-largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world and a huge cache of ballistic missiles, Russia already has more than enough military capacity to deter its enemies.


America to continue air strikes supporting Afghan troops: US general

America to continue air strikes supporting Afghan troops: US general
Updated 25 July 2021

America to continue air strikes supporting Afghan troops: US general

America to continue air strikes supporting Afghan troops: US general
  • Since early May, violence has surged after the insurgents launched a sweeping assault
  • Taliban's assault has seen the insurgents capture scores of districts and border crossings

KABUL: The United States will continue air strikes in support of Afghan forces fighting the Taliban, a top US general said Sunday, as the insurgents press on with offensives across the country.
Since early May, violence has surged after the insurgents launched a sweeping assault just days after the US-led foreign forces began their final withdrawal.
The Taliban's deadly assault has seen the insurgents capture scores of districts, border crossings and encircle several provincial capitals.
"The United States has increased air strikes in the support of Afghan forces over the last several days, and we are prepared to continue this heightened level of support in the coming weeks if the Taliban continue their attacks," General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Army Central Command, told reporters in Kabul.
McKenzie acknowledged that there were tough days ahead for the Afghan government, but insisted that the Taliban were nowhere close to victory.
"The Taliban are attempting to create a sense of inevitability about their campaign. They are wrong," he said.
"Taliban victory is not inevitable."
McKenzie's remarks came as Afghan officials in the southern province of Kandahar said fighting in the region had displaced about 22,000 families in the past month.
"They have all moved from the volatile districts of the city to safer areas," Dost Mohammad Daryab, head of the provincial refugee department, told AFP.
On Sunday, fighting continued on the outskirts of Kandahar city.
"The negligence of some security forces, especially the police, has made way for the Taliban to come that close," Lalai Dastageeri, deputy governor of Kandahar province, told AFP.
"We are now trying to organise our security forces."
Local authorities had set up four camps for the displaced people who are estimated to be about 154,000.
Kandahar resident Hafiz Mohammad Akbar said his house had been taken over by the Taliban after he fled.
"They forced us to leave... I am now living with my 20-member family in a compound with no toilet," said Akbar.


UK health minister sparks fury by urging people not to ‘cower from’ COVID

UK health minister sparks fury by urging people not to ‘cower from’ COVID
Updated 25 July 2021

UK health minister sparks fury by urging people not to ‘cower from’ COVID

UK health minister sparks fury by urging people not to ‘cower from’ COVID
  • “Please — if you haven’t yet — get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus,” Javid tweeted
  • Britain has one of the highest official COVID death tolls

LONDON: British health minister Sajid Javid was accused of insulting coronavirus victims on Sunday after urging people to take a COVID-19 vaccine and “learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus.”
Javid, who replaced Matt Hancock as health minister last month after his predecessor stepped down for breaking COVID rules by kissing an aide in his office, began his job by urging people to learn to live with the virus.
Britain, which has one of the highest official COVID death tolls, has shifted its strategy to fight coronavirus from using restrictions to limit its spread to opening up society in the hope vaccines will protect most people from serious illness.
Cases are high, but so is uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, and officials argue the shift is needed to help businesses in sectors such as hospitality and the night-time economy.
Writing on Twitter, Javid said on Saturday he had recovered after testing positive for COVID. “Symptoms were very mild, thanks to amazing vaccines,” he said.
“Please — if you haven’t yet — get your jab, as we learn to live with, rather than cower from, this virus.”
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the Labour Party, was one of several lawmakers from opposition parties and people who have lost family members to the pandemic to criticize his use of the phrase “cower from.”
“127,000 people have died from this virus, tens of thousands of whom would still be here if it wasn’t for the catastrophic failures of your government,” she said on Twitter.
“So how dare you denigrate people for trying to keep themselves and their families safe.”


Briton held in Somalia alleges torture by CIA-linked officials

David Taylor’s son has begged foreign secretary Dominic Raab, above, to intervene in his father’s case. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
David Taylor’s son has begged foreign secretary Dominic Raab, above, to intervene in his father’s case. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 25 July 2021

Briton held in Somalia alleges torture by CIA-linked officials

David Taylor’s son has begged foreign secretary Dominic Raab, above, to intervene in his father’s case. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • War on Terror practices including sensory deprivation, waterboarding still used, document claims

LONDON: A British citizen has raised concerns that highly controversial forms of torture and interrogation practices used during the War on Terror are still being employed by US-linked officials.

David Taylor, whose identity was made anonymous following a family request, claimed he was tortured in Somalia and interrogated by US intelligence officers.

The torture practices, Taylor alleges, were used by Somalian authorities to force him into CIA cooperation, and involved hooding, sensory deprivation and waterboarding.

His London-based family have warned that UK intervention in his case is essential to ending his two-year detention in the African country.

A document relating to the legal case also shows that Taylor was questioned by two US FBI agents in Mogadishu on June 30.

It says: “They asked the claimant whether he wished to live in the US. They also showed him pictures of various individuals asking him whether he knew them.”

One of the people Taylor was shown an image of was a man imprisoned for supporting the terror group Al-Shabaab. It suggests that the alleged CIA involvement is aimed at targeting the Somalian-based militant group, which has launched dozens of deadly attacks around east Africa.

Taylor moved to Somalia in 2009 and was arrested a decade later in 2019 after visiting Yemen to organize his return to London.

He was transferred to Mogadishu, arrested and driven to a location near Mogadishu by anonymous individuals, who Taylor alleges were CIA agents.

The legal document stated: “He found himself in a room with a white lady and a white man. The lady spoke in an American accent and identified herself as ‘Roxanne.’ Taylor asked her to confirm the agency or organization she represented but she refused to do so.”

It added that Taylor subsequently faced daily interrogation, including having a gun pointed at his head after refusing to cooperate.

Later that year, he was transferred to a Mogadishu prison, where he currently lives in a cell with about 60 other prisoners. Taylor said that he has received death threats from other prisoners and has been accused of operating as a British spy.

His son said: “My dad has been left to languish in a foreign prison, in dangerous conditions, without charge or any proper reason. He is a UK citizen and he has had no support from his country. To know that my dad has faced torture, interrogation and violent threats to his life is terrifying and extremely distressing.

“I am heartbroken and afraid of what might happen to him if he stays there any longer. How can this still be allowed to happen?”