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Concerns over Sri Lanka’s move to ban burqas, madrassas

Colombo: A Pakistani diplomat and a UN expert have expressed concerns over Sri Lanka’s proposed move to ban the wearing of burqas.

Sri Lanka announced plans over the weekend to ban the wearing of burqas — garments worn by some Muslim women that cover the body and face — and also said it would close more than 1,000 Islamic schools known as madrassas, citing national security.

Pakistan’s ambassador to Sri Lanka, Saad Khattak, tweeted that the ban would “only serve as injury to the feelings of ordinary Sri Lankan Muslims and Muslims across the globe.”

Sri Lanka’s minister of public security, Sarath Weerasekara, called the burqa a sign of religious extremism and said it has a direct impact on national security. Weerasekara signed a paper seeking Cabinet approval to ban burqas.

The wearing of burqas in Sri Lanka was temporarily banned in 2019 soon after the Easter Sunday bomb attacks on churches and hotels that killed more than 260 people in the Indian Ocean island nation. Two local Muslim groups that had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group have been blamed for the attacks at six locations — two Roman Catholic churches, one Protestant church and three top hotels.

Sri Lanka also plans to ban more than 1,000 Madrassas, saying they are not registered with the authorities and do not follow the national education policy.

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IS claims responsibility for deadly attack in Austria

Vienna: Austrian investigators were piecing together the Nov 2 rampage through central Vienna by a lone gunman and later claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group.

Four people were killed when Kujtim Fejzulai, described as a 20-year-old IS sympathizer who had spent time in prison, opened fire with a Kalashnikov in a busy area of the Austrian capital the day before the country went into a new coronavirus lockdown.

IS — which has claimed numerous attacks in Europe — said a “soldier of the caliphate” was responsible for the carnage, according to its propaganda agency.

Police shot the gunman dead and later swooped on 18 different addresses and made 14 arrests as they looked for possible accomplices and sought to determine if he had acted alone.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz condemned the shooting as a “repulsive terror attack”.

He called on the European Union to fight against “political Islam” saying it was an ideology that represented a “danger” to the model of the European way of life, in an interview published in Germany’s Die Welt newspaper.

The attack came after several Islamist atrocities in France, including an assault on churchgoers in the Mediterranean city of Nice and the beheading of a schoolteacher near Paris.

The recent re-publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in France has caused new tensions worldwide, sparking protests in some Muslim-majority countries and calls from several terror groups for their followers to take revenge.

We will not give in: Macron after Vienna attack

Paris: French President Emmanuel Macron has said his country and its citizens share the shock and sorrow of the Austrian people following the shootings in Vienna, pledging that “our enemies must know who they are dealing with. We will not give in.”

“After France, it is a friendly country that is attacked. This is our Europe. Our enemies must know who they are dealing with. We will not give in,” Macron wrote on Twitter.

France has been placed on its highest level of terrorism alert since three people were killed by a knife attack at the Notre-Dame basilica in the southern city of Nice.

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UNSC to focus on counter-terrorism issues in August

United Nations: UN Security Council (UNSC) is expected to have focus on counter-terrorism issues in August, it was reported.

The Council will hold a ministerial-level open debate on “the linkages between terrorism and transnational organized crime”, Dian Triansyah Djani, permanent representative of Indonesia to the UN and president of the Council for the month of August, said at a virtual press conference on the Council’s program of work.

There will also be a briefing on Secretary-General’s biannual strategic-level report on the threat posed by the Islamic State terror group on August 24, reports Xinhua news agency.

The Council’s other open debate is “pandemics and the challenges to peace building and sustaining peace”.

The likely briefers include Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Sarah Cliffe, director of New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, according to the program of work.

There will be the three monthly Syria meetings: open and closed video-conferences on the political and humanitarian situation and a closed VTC on the use of chemical weapons.

The monthly meetings on developments in Yemen and on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question, are also planned in both open and closed format.

The Council will be watching developments in Burundi, Iran, Libya, Myanmar and Sudan, as well as those related to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, and additional meetings may be added as necessary, the SCR said.

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MSF withdraws from Kabul hospital over security concerns

Kabul: Global medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said that it was withdrawing from a maternity hospital in the Afghan capital that came under a brutal attack in May in which 25 people were killed.

“The decision comes with the understanding that while no information has emerged about the perpetrators or motive of the assault, mothers, babies, and health staff were the deliberate targets of the attack and that similar attacks may occur in the future,” Efe news quoted MSF as saying in a statement.

“A month after the horrifying event, we know very little. The attack remains unclaimed,” the statement said.

Three gunmen detonated a bomb and opened fire near the MSF-supported maternity facility located in Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, mainly inhabited by the Hazaras, a minority Shia Muslim community.

Afghan authorities blamed the Taliban for the attack but the militant group refuted the claim.

The US special envoy for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad alleged that the Islamic State terror group was behind the attack since the global militant network was “a threat” to the Afghan people and the world.

The global humanitarian group said it was aware that the presence of its workers in Dasht-e-Barchi carried risks.

“But we just couldn’t believe that someone would take advantage of the absolute vulnerability of women about to give birth to murder them and their babies,” Thierry Allafort-Duverger, MSF Director-General said in the statement.

With almost 16,000 deliveries in 2019, the Dasht-e-Barchi maternity wing was one of MSF’s biggest such projects worldwide.

More than 70 MSF staff and patients in MSF healthcare programs have been killed in Afghanistan over the past 16 years, said the statement.

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