Pakistan seeks extradition of Daesh leader from Afghanistan

Pakistani national Aslam Farooqi is accused of involvement in last month’s attack in Kabul on a Sikh house of worship, above, that killed 25 worshipers. (AP)
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Updated 10 April 2020

Pakistan seeks extradition of Daesh leader from Afghanistan

  • Aslam Farooqi is a Pakistani national wanted in connection with attacks claimed by Daesh in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has asked neighbor Afghanistan to extradite a leader in the local Daesh group affiliate who was arrested in an Afghan intelligence operation in southern Afghanistan earlier this month.
Aslam Farooqi is a Pakistani national wanted in connection with attacks claimed by Daesh in Pakistan. The Afghan government accuses Farooqi of involvement in last month’s attack in the Afghan capital of Kabul on a Sikh house of worship that killed 25 worshipers.
The Daesh group, on its affiliated Amaq website, took credit for the attack saying it was carried out by Indian national Abu Khalid Al-Hindi in revenge for Indian military action in its violence-wracked portion of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
A single gunman rampaged through the Gurdwara, a Sikh place of worship, exploding grenades and firing at worshipers.
There was no immediate response from Afghanistan.
In a statement late Thursday, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said the Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan, Atif Mashal, had been summoned and told of Pakistan’s worries about the activities of the Daesh affiliate, known as the Daesh -Khorazan, headquartered in eastern Afghanistan.
“Since Aslam Farooqi was involved in anti-Pakistan activities in Afghanistan, he should be handed-over to Pakistan for further investigations,” the ministry statement said
Farooqi, whose real name is Abdullah Orakzai, was arrested last weekend along with 19 other Daesh operatives, according to Afghanistan’s intelligence agency.
The upstart Daesh affiliate has taken credit for attacks in Pakistan, including one in January in the southwestern Baluchistan provincial capital of Quetta that killed 15 worshipers.
In recent months, Afghan and American officials claim the Daesh has been weakened as a result of relentless US bombing raids in eastern Afghanistan as well as military operations by the Afghan National Security Forces and attacks by their rivals, Taliban insurgents.
In the months leading up to Washington’s peace deal with the Taliban signed in February, US officials said a key component of the agreement was a promise by the Taliban to aid in the fight against Daesh, seen as the greatest threat to US national security emanating from Afghanistan.
Still, the US-Taliban peace deal has had a rocky beginning. Political wrangling in Kabul between President Ashraf Ghani and his rival in last year’s disputed presidential polls, Abdullah Abdullah, has frustrated Washington, which has threatened to withdraw $1 billion in aid if they don’t find a power-sharing deal. Their bickering has delayed the next critical step in the deal, which calls for intra-Afghan negotiations between Kabul leaders, many of whom are linked to warlords and the Taliban.
Delays in completing a prisoner release as laid out in the US-Taliban deal have further frustrated efforts to start the intra-Afghan negotiations.
However, the US and NATO began withdrawing forces and if the Taliban keep their promise to fight terrorism the US will withdraw all its forces over 14 months from the signing of the deal.


Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

Updated 26 May 2020

Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

  • Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures

ROME: Italy’s Muslims gathered in parks and public squares to celebrate the end of Ramadan, as many of the country’s mosques remained shut because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Islamic places of worship have been going slow on welcoming back congregations, despite an easing of a months-long lockdown, in order to guarantee social distancing and other preventive steps required under an agreement between Muslim communities and the government.

Mosques and prayer rooms will have to respect the same strict rules which have been imposed on Catholic churches. Halls will have to be sanitized before and after every prayer and a maximum of 200 people will be allowed, even in the biggest places of worship. For outdoor prayers a limit of 1,000 people has been set and each worshipper must be spaced at least one meter apart from the next. Those with a temperature above 37.5 degrees cannot enter.

Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures.

“Happy Eid Al-Fitr to all Muslims in Italy as they have two reasons to celebrate,” Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), said in a message. 

“This is not the only festivity closing the holy month of Ramadan, it matters even more to us all this year in Italy as it finally marks the return of our faithful to the mosque after several months of lockdown due to coronavirus. The Muslim faithful all over Italy now pray to God to accept the fasts, prayers and every good deed carried out during this holy  month and bring peace and blessing to our homes, so that phase two in the fight against COVID-19 in Italy will start in the best way possible.”

Many Muslims celebrated Eid at home with immediate family members. Those who decided to meet and pray together outside their households did it while “strictly respecting” health protocols and social distancing to avoid risk of infection, UCOII said. The organization asked people to display the same “utmost prudence and responsibility” when entering every place of worship from now on.

At Milan’s Al-Wahid Mosque Imam Yahya Sergio Pallavicini set up spacing for 140 new prayer mats. There are different entry and exit points for men and women, along with dedicated courtyards. 

Sanitization is carried out regularly while detergents, disinfecting gel and personal protective equipment are being offered by city authorities. “We pray for the inner and outer health of believers and Italian people,” Pallavicini said at the start of Eid prayers.

Almost 200 people gathered to pray in Rome’s Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Muslims arranged their prayer mats and moved about in line with social distancing rules. Posters in Italian and Arabic told people that hugging was not allowed. 

“Even if we are in an outside space, nobody has to get too close,” the imam told his flock before prayers commenced. “It is mandatory and for the sake of everyone’s health.” There were children in the congregation too, and everyone wore face masks.

“I am so happy that I am finally meeting my friends for this prayer, but we have to stay apart,” 13-year-old Samir told Arab News. “We will have time to embrace, to play together in the future, when the virus will be gone.” He said he had missed going to his mosque, near Furio Camillo station, during the lockdown. 

“I prayed with my father, of course we were following prayers on YouTube and on Facebook. But it was not the same. Here I really feel part of a group sharing a faith. And it is great to be together again,” he added.

In Piazza Re di Roma, in the southern part of the city center, 250 Muslims gathered to pray. “We just prayed together, and stayed in the square for an hour only,” 31-year-old Latif told Arab News. “The celebration will be with our families later on.”

An outdoor celebration took place in the Sicilian capital Palermo with Mayor Leoluca Orlando also joining in. “We are happy for this celebration which marks another sign of the return to normality of our communities,” he told Arab News. “Being able to pray together is one of the most important needs for a religion as that improves the sense of community. Now we can do it again together: and that’s a great sign not only for the Muslim community but for the entire population of Palermo.”