Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/11/2017

Rakhmat Akilov, the failed Uzbek asylum seeker who allegedly drove the beer truck in the Stockholm jihad attack, has confessed to the deed, according to his lawyer. Four people were killed in the attack, after which the truck crashed into a department store.

In other news, the three explosions that damaged the bus for the Borussia Dortmund football team and injured a team player are said to have been the result of a targeted attack. No Mohammed Coefficient or other indications of cultural enrichment have been adduced thus far in connection with the attack.

To see the headlines and the articles, click “Continue reading” below.

Thanks to C. Cantoni, Insubria, Reader from Chicago, RR, and all the other tipsters who sent these in.

Notice to tipsters: Please don’t submit extensive excerpts from articles that have been posted behind a subscription firewall, or are otherwise under copyright protection.

Caveat: Articles in the news feed are posted “as is”. Gates of Vienna cannot vouch for the authenticity or accuracy of the contents of any individual item posted here. We check each entry to make sure it is relatively interesting, not patently offensive, and at least superficially plausible. The link to the original is included with each item’s title. Further research and verification are left to the reader.

Europe and the EU
» Germany: Police Believe Explosions Near Dortmund Bus Were ‘Targeted Attack’
» ‘He’s Destroying the EU From Within’ Orban Accused of Wrecking Bloc
» Hungary: President Signs Law Against Soros-Founded College
» Hungary President Janos Ader Moves to Force George Soros-Funded University Out of the Country
» Italy: Man Arrested for Hitting Girl Who Wouldn’t Wear Veil
» Nigel Farage Rails Against Proposed EU Army and Brussels-Led Bombing
» No G7 Consensus on Fresh Syria Sanctions: Italy’s Alfano
» Red Bull Boss Slams Mass Migration, Forced Multiculturalism in Europe
» Sidelined on Syria, UK’s Johnson Struggles for Status
» Spain: Malaga Semana Santa Revellers Flee in Panic After Shooting Rumours Grip Crowd
» Suspect in Stockholm Truck Attack Admits Terrorist Crime
North Africa
» Egypt Under Emergency Rule After Church Attacks
Middle East
» Apparent Calm Follows Armed Clashes in Lebanon’s Largest Palestinian Refugee Camp
» Assange: CIA Has ‘No Credibility’ on Chemical Weapons
» Iran’s Tourism Plans to Boost the Economy After Years of Sanctions
» Jordan Strengthens Military Presence on Border With Syria and Iraq
» Kuwait: IS Cell Planned Attacks Against Gis, Husseiniya
» Putin Warns of ‘Fake’ Gas Attacks to Frame Syria’s Assad
» Migrant Communities Hotbed of Terrorism in Russia —FSB Chief
South Asia
» Jailed Christians Forced to Convert to Islam, A Disgrace on the Justice System Says Pakistani Church
» Masses Interrupted, Pastors Arrested, Allegations of Forced Conversions: Easter Plight of India’s Christians
Latin America
» Brazil’s Submarines Program Navigates Turbulent Waters
» Venezuela’s Unrest Turning Deadly, With 3 Deaths Reported in New Wave of Protests
» Fire Destroys Much of France’s Grande-Synthe Refugee Camp
» Syrian Teen Convicted for ISIS Terrorist Plot in Germany

Germany: Police Believe Explosions Near Dortmund Bus Were ‘Targeted Attack’

Three explosions left one Borussia Dortmund player injured in what police believe to be a targeted attack on Tuesday, resulting in a planned Champions League match being postponed.

Police are still investigating what they believe to be a targeted attack against the Borussia Dortmund team on Tuesday after three explosions went off near the team’s bus on the way to a match.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]

‘He’s Destroying the EU From Within’ Orban Accused of Wrecking Bloc

HUNGARY’S hardman prime minister Viktor Orban could destroy the European Union from within, according to a leading academic.

Jan-Werner Müller, a professor of politics at Princeton University, described Mr Orban as an “anti-liberal” who campaigns against the EU while his country benefits financially from membership of the bloc.

Mr Orban is a member of the European People’s Party (EPP), the EU’s centre-right group which represents mostly Christian Democrats — the original architects of European integration in the 1950s.

Writing in the Financial Times, Prof Müller said: “Not only are the EPP now tolerating a far-right populist such as Mr Orban in their midst, they are also blind to the fact that the Hungarian leader is making a bid for European leadership that could destroy Christian Democracy, and the EU, from the inside.

[Comment: Orban is trying to save Europe from the EU.]

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]

Hungary: President Signs Law Against Soros-Founded College

Orban after rallies: “We don’t close down any universities”

(ANSA) — TRIESTE — Hungary’s president Janos Ader signed new legislation onforeign universities that could force out the Central European University,a top international school founded by Us financier George Soros. Tens of thousands rallied in one of the biggest demonstrations against Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s, denouncing the law. More than 500 leading international academics, including 17 Nobel Laureates, have also come out in support of Ceu.

President Janos Ader said he believed the legislation did not infringe academic freedom or international laws. Orban told parliament that there was a “disinformation campaign” against Hungary. “The government does not close down any universities and does not close down Ceu either. The aim of the government is to ensure that all universities are governed by the same rules”,he said.

Another protest rally is scheduled for Wednesday.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Hungary President Janos Ader Moves to Force George Soros-Funded University Out of the Country

HUNGARY’S president late yesterday signed legislation on foreign universities that could force a top international school founded by U.S. financier George Soros out of the country, triggering a fresh protest in Budapest against the move.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]

Italy: Man Arrested for Hitting Girl Who Wouldn’t Wear Veil

Marks on girl spotted at school near Siena

(ANSA) — Siena, April 11 — Italian police on Tuesday arrested a 38-year-oldKosovar for allegedly beating his underage daughter because she refused towear the Muslim veil, read the Koran or learn Arabic. The marks of the father’s violence were spotted by classmates and teachers at her school near Siena, police said.

The case follows that of a Bangledeshi-born 14-year-old girl, who was taken away from her parents in Bologna after they punished her for refusing to wear the Muslim veil by shaving her head.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Nigel Farage Rails Against Proposed EU Army and Brussels-Led Bombing

NIGEL FARAGE passionately slammed European Union leaders who want to launch destructive bombing campaigns in the name of the ailing political project.

The Brexiteer, a figurehead in Britain’s EU exit, insisted Brussels were chasing the dream of a “militarised” and “expanded” bloc for its bosses to rule over.

On Monday, Mr Farage’s Ukip colleague Bill Etheridge, who is the party’s defence spokesman, criticised Martin Schulz after he said he would not commit to meeting Nato spending targets if he takes over Angela Merkel as German Chancellor.

Mr Etheridge indicated this was a sign the former European Parliament president was using his influence in Germany to push forward plans for an EU-led military force.

Speaking on LBC, Mr Farage said: “At the time of the Libya conflict, I sat in the European Parliament and I listened to the leader of the Greens and Guy Verhofstadt frothing at the mouth, they were desperate for the EU to launch bombing missions on Gaddafi, but to do it in the name of the European Union.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]

No G7 Consensus on Fresh Syria Sanctions: Italy’s Alfano

LUCCA (ITALY) (AFP) — G7 foreign ministers have failed to agree on whether fresh sanctions shouldbe imposed on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or his ally Russia, Italy’sForeign Minister Angelino Alfano said Tuesday.

“At the moment there is no consensus on new sanctions as an effective instrument,” he said at the close of a two-day meeting in Italy, after his British counterpart Boris Johnson raised the issue with the Group of Seven.

“There are clearly different opinions,” Alfano said, adding that the G7 hadreaffirmed its support for those sanctions already in place…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Red Bull Boss Slams Mass Migration, Forced Multiculturalism in Europe

In a rare interview, Red Bull boss and Austria’s richest man Dietrich Mateschitz has slammed mass migration and political correctness, warning they threaten to destroy Europe’s true cultural diversity.

Speaking to Kleine Zeitung, the Formula 1 investor called the decision of key politicians to open the borders — which resulted in Europe’s migration crisis — “unpardonable”, noting that “if a company were to make mistakes on the same scale, it would have gone broke”.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]

Sidelined on Syria, UK’s Johnson Struggles for Status

LONDON (AFP) — The rejection Tuesday of British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s proposalfor extra sanctions on Russia and Syria is the latest setback for a formerBrexit campaigner struggling for political relevance.

The decision by the G7 meeting of foreign ministers in Italy came after Johnson on Saturday cancelled a scheduled trip to Russia in apparent deferenceto US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s upcoming visit.

“Boris Johnson is largely toothless,” columnist Martin Kettle wrote of the Conservative politician in the left-leaning Guardian newspaper.

He argued there was “no strong evidence” that Prime Minister Theresa May “relies on him on big things”…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Spain: Malaga Semana Santa Revellers Flee in Panic After Shooting Rumours Grip Crowd

RUMOURS of a shooting caused a stampede of terrified Semana Santa revellers in Malaga early on Tuesday morning.

Two people were injured as hundreds spilled along Calle Carreteria and Tribuna de los Pobres around two am after rumours spread of gunshots and a car being driven at high speed towards the crowd.

Around 100 people took refuge in a police headquarters on La Rosaleda avenue as hysteria gripped the crowd.

A fight is believed to have triggered the crowd’s panic.

One witness reported seeing people running ‘in all directions’ with petrified Semana Santa musicians dropping their instruments.

Malaga Town Hall’s councillor for Security Mario Cortes said: “We shouldn’t draw conclusions from what people say, but follow the reports of the security forces.”

He added: “Becase of the collective hysteria of the times we live in people jumped to the wrong conclusion.”

One witness Daniel Lopez told Diario Sur: “At the start there was a fight between two or three youths, but in a matter of seconds more and more people joined in.

“This created panic that extended so quickly, we have hardly been able to work out what happened.”…

[Return to headlines]

Suspect in Stockholm Truck Attack Admits Terrorist Crime

A failed asylum-seeker accused of ramming a truck into a Stockholm crowd last week, killing four people, has confessed to committing a terrorist crime, his lawyer said on Tuesday.

Uzbekistan man Rakhmat Akilov, wanted for deportation at the time of Friday’s attack, made his first court appearance, entering the heavily guarded courtroom with a green sweater over his head and flanked by his lawyer and a translator.

Police say they believe the 39-year-old hijacked a beer truck and drove it into a busy pedestrian street in the Swedish capital before crashing into a department store.

Two Swedes, a British man and a Belgian woman were killed in the attack. Fifteen were injured. Eight people remain in hospital, including two in intensive care.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]

Egypt Under Emergency Rule After Church Attacks

One suicide bomber had worked in Kuwait: Al-Arabiya

ALEXANDRIA: Hundreds gathered yesterday to mourn 45 Egyptian Christians killed in twin bombings just a week before Easter, after Cairo declared a state of emergency following the attacks on two churches. The Islamic State group said it was behind the bombings that targeted Palm Sunday services at churches in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria, and threatened further attacks against Egypt’s Christian minority.

Sunday’s first bombing at the Mar Girgis church in Tanta city north of Cairo killed 28 people, the health ministry said. The second struck outside Saint Mark’s church in Alexandria, killing 17 people after a suicide bomber was prevented from entering the building. The violence comes ahead of Catholic Pope Francis’s first trip to Egypt later this month, which a Vatican official said will proceed as planned on April 28 and 29 despite the attacks.

Initial reports about the Alexandria suicide bomber said he was known as Abu Ishaq Al-Masri. He was born in Sept 1990 in Menia Al-Qamah and held a degree in commerce, according to an Al-Arabiya report. The report added that the suspect worked as an accountant in Kuwait for four months before he travelled to Turkey on Dec 26, 2013 and onwards to Syria, before he returned to Sinai. The report said the Tanta bomber in was born in Dec 1974 in Kafr Al-Shaikh and held a technical diploma. He was married with three children and travelled to Syria on Aug 15, 2013.

Mourners filled the Saint Mina monastery west of Alexandria yesterday as they bade farewell to the victims of the deadliest attacks in recent memory on Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority. The victims’ wooden coffins were placed near the altar amid applause as mourners saluted their “martyrs”. During the funerals, angry crowds denounced the security services and Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar. “Leave, leave, Abdel Ghaffar!” mourners chanted. “I am a Christian till judgment day,” they shouted.

In Alexandria yesterday, investigators combed for clues and took pictures of the debris produced by the blast. A handful of black-clad women showed their identification papers to guards before being allowed to enter the church. “I’m so sad, I cannot speak,” said one mourner, a woman in her 40s. In addition to the death toll of 45 from the two explosions, scores more people were wounded and 35 remained in hospital yesterday…

           — Hat tip: RR [Return to headlines]

Apparent Calm Follows Armed Clashes in Lebanon’s Largest Palestinian Refugee Camp

Ain al-Hilweh saw two days of violence between Fatah and Bilal Badr’s fundamentalist Islamic group. What triggered clashes remains unknown. Camp residents are against the presence of the extremist movements. For some, terrorism hides a power struggle between Fatah, Dahlan and Hamas.

Sidon (AsiaNews) — A relative calm has returned to the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp after two days of armed clashes. Fear of sniper fire limited traffic around Hattin, in the south of the camp. Today schools remained closed in and around the camp because of recent shelling. Local sourcesreport a cease-fire deal that includes the departure without fear of arrest of members of the takfiri (fundamentalist) militia led by Bilal Badr.

Following the violent week-end, the Lebanese army boosted security measures around Ain al-Hilweh, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in the diaspora, which is located near Saida (Sidon), capital of Lebanon’s South Governorate.

Fighting between Fatah and Bilal Badr’s forces broke out overnight on Saturday in the al-Fokani market, in Badr’s stronghold of al-Tayra. It intensified yesterday with mortar fire and machine guns.

In the early hours of today, Fatah forces occupied much of the area under Bilal Badr’s control, including his headquarters, but were unable to find him and his 50 diehard loyalists. Since the fighting broke out,a Fatah fighter died whilst ten others were wounded. Thick plumes of smokecould be seen rising into the sky from several damaged houses.

Well-informed sources in Saida report that Bilal Badr had repeatedly asked for a ceasefire, which was rejected by Fatah. The latter is bent on eliminating the extremist group, and ending the climate of lawlessness and violence that gripped Ain al-Hilweh for months.

The latest incident began when a ‘Joint Forces’ patrol close to Al Fatah came under fire from Bilal Badr’s forces Saturday afternoon during a security check. However, clashes had already begun on1 March. No one knows why. Some initially though it was a settlement of scores between Mahmud Abbas and Muhamad Dahlan or between Mahmud Abbas and Fatah over who represents the Palestinian people in the Diaspora.

For their part, Lebanese media blamed an agreement between Lebanese and Palestinian security forces to force extremist groups, like Osbat Al-Ansar, to leave the camp and hand over those involved in recent terrorist attacks.

What is certain is that Lebanese media are saying that most camp residents are opposed to the presence of extremist groups in the camp. The moreso since the Lebanese army warned camp leaders that they were running out of patience towards groups causing unrest within in.

Sources told AsiaNews that Fatah promised Lebanon’s intelligence services that it would hand over wanted Islamists hiding in the camp. The confidential information was confirmed by statements made by a former Fatah leader, Mohamed Issa, aka ‘Lino’.

Camp “Security authorities have not taken any action, nor done their duty in the face of numerous attacks and murders,” he said. The killers “were well known to everyone but no one has done anything and they continue to walk free.”

For some in the camp, the issue of fighting terrorism is just an excuse to cover up a power struggle between Fatah, Dahlan and Hamas over who represents the Palestinian people. It coincides with the visit of Palestinianpresident Mahmud Abbas to Lebanon.

According to some reports, Abbas wants Lebanon to police and handle security arrangements in Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps.

As of yesterday, the death toll stood at six following the death at the al-Rahi Hospital of Mohamed Ezzat Mussa, one of the more seriously wounded victims.

Meanwhile, Bilal Badr is still on the run, and more armed clashes have been reported around his old house in Ain al-Hilweh.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Assange: CIA Has ‘No Credibility’ on Chemical Weapons

WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Julian Assange urged news outlets to use the word “alleged” regarding the origin of the chemical attack that killed more than 80 Syrian civilians last week until conclusive evidence is presented by the U.S. government, during an interview Tuesday on “The Laura Ingraham Show.”

After the chemical attack wreaked havoc upon Syrian civilians, U.S. officials quickly pinned the horrific incident on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before retaliating with a limited missile strike Thursday evening. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose own government backs the Syrian government, told reporters Tuesday that he’d received intelligence indicating that planned “provocations” were attempting to pin the blame on Assad.

“We don’t know exactly what the evidence is, and that is part of the problem,” Assange said Tuesday. “What it doesn’t demand is going into Syria and overthrowing a government without any plan.”

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]

Iran’s Tourism Plans to Boost the Economy After Years of Sanctions

Since the nuclear deal came into effect, foreign tourist arrivals more thandoubled. The goal is increase them from 4.8 million in 2014 to 20 million in 2025. Tehran alone saw a 13 per cent jump in foreign arrivals. The government plans tax breaks to bolster the sector.

Tehran (AsiaNews) — Iran is turning to tourism to bolster itseconomy after years of sanctions imposed because of its nuclear programme.

The 2015 landmark nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Planof Action (JCPOA) gives Tehran access to western business opportunities.

According to Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organisation (CHTHO), foreign tourist arrivals in Iran have been more than doubled compared to the global average since the implementation of the deal.

CHTHO Director Zahra Ahmadipour has said that her country needs to breathe fresh air into the sector in order to achieve sustainable growth and profit from the boom in the number of foreign arrivals.

In order improve the sector, the CHTHO plans to bring a variety of Iranian hotels, accommodation and other services under a single umbrella brand to provide travellers with guaranteed standards.

This comes after years of embargo. Western economic sanctions were eased in 2015 in exchange for a deal on the country’s controversial nuclear programme.

Largely welcomed by the international community, the deal has been a boost for the economy and investments, stimulating urban renewal and reforms in the energy sector.

The government’s 2025 Tourism Vision Plan expects to increasethe number of tourism arrivals from 4.8 million in 2014 to 20 million in 2025.

Before international sanctions, Iran was one of the most popular tourist destinations. Now Forbes Magazine is promoting Iran as one of “The 10 Coolest Places to Go in 2017”.

In September 2016, Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index released its annual report, placing Tehran in ninth place of the top-ten fastest growing destination cities based on the 132 most visited cities in the world. The report notes that Tehran saw a 13 per cent growth in terms of international overnight visitor arrivals.

Massive efforts made by the government with the private sector have stimulated growth. However, in comparison to established international norms, tourism is pretty young in Iran resulting in quite poor accommodation andtransport infrastructure in many parts of the country.

However, French multinational hotel group AccorHotels has massive plans to build 100 hotels across Iran within a decade.

To make it easier and more profitable for investors, Iranian authorities are offering to grant years of tax exemption to both domestic and foreign businesses and individuals as an incentive to invest in the sector.

This should favour growth in a country that offers natural beauties, major historical and cultural sites (21 on the UNESCO World Heritage list),and original destinations, from the ski slopes of the Alborz mountains to the beaches of the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea.

Of course visitors will have to comply with local laws and customs, such as no alcohol and compulsory head covering for women in public, in accordance with Sharia (Islamic law).

However, for Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder of the travel website Indagare, this is more than offset by Iranians’ natural hospitality.

“I have never felt more genuinely welcomed by the local people in any of the more than 100 countries I have visited,” Biggs Bradley wrote.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Jordan Strengthens Military Presence on Border With Syria and Iraq

The presence of a US military transport ship suggests delivery of vehicles for the “Free Syrian Army” with news of an imminent opening of a front in the south of Syria on the border with Jordan.

Amman (AsiaNews) — The US military ship Liberty Passion left from Livorno on March 26 carrying 250 military vehicles and has reached — after a stop in Romania on April 6 — the Suez Canal at the very moment when King Abdallah of Jordan was meeting with US President Trump. The Passion Liberty went through the Suez Canal Friday, April 7 and dropped anchor in the Jordanian port of Aqaba 9.49 pm the same day.

The ship, capable of carrying hundreds of military vehicles, is part of the US Sixth Fleet based in the Mediterranean and has never run maneuvers, moving only to perform very specific missions. Large-scale (58107 tonnes) it arrived at the same time that American plane jets unleashed their missiles on Syria and remained for 40 hours before sailing on to Jordan on Sunday in the direction of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.

The Pentagon has not given any indication as to the military vessels mission in Jordan, but social media of the opposition to Syrian President Assad speak of a consignment of many military vehicles for the “Free Syrian Army” with news of an impending opening of a front in the south of Syria onthe border with Jordan, under the supervision of American troops, in something similar to what happened in northern Syria with the operation “ Euphrates shield “ launched by Turkey.

All specialized military analysts on the Middle East argue that US would only intervene militarily in Syria if Jordan were threatened directly or indirectly. In fact, the Jordanian monarch expressed fears during his last visit to the US by releasing statements of concern on the “geographical continuity between Iran, Iraq, Syria and Heizbollah” to the Washington Post emphasizing the presence of the “Revolutionary Guards (Iran) now stationed 70 kilometers away from the borders with Jordan. “ These two statements areenough to perceive the nature of the talks that took place in the White House between the Jordanian monarch and the American President that was certainly not a mere courtesy visit.

Eyewitnesses speak of strengthening the Jordanian military presence in the triangular border separating Jordan from Syria and Iraq. While all the changes that have occurred recently in the country, such as the removal of the Jordanian Chief of Military Intelligence Faisal Al Shawbaki few hoursafter the end of the summit of Arab countries members of the Arab League and the meeting with the Saudi king , replaced by Adnan Al Gindi demonstratea change of course and a Jordanian willingness to play a more active role in the ongoing war in neighboring Syria. The approach of Jordan to Russia had allowed the border a period of relative peace, Daesh had disappeared from Badiya Al Hammad and large areas of the eastern Sueida in southern Syria,replaced by forces loyal to Jordan even if this policy had created tensions with Saudi Arabia. The reconciliation between Amman and Riyadh indicates that something is going to change even among the relations with Russia and above all Jordan regarding the Syrian issue.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Kuwait: IS Cell Planned Attacks Against Gis, Husseiniya

Suspected Islamic State militants arrested in Kuwait and the Philippines were planning to carry out bombings against US military forces in Kuwait, Al-Rai newspaper reported yesterday. The suspects were also plotting a suicide attack on a husseiniya (Shiite meeting hall) in Sulaibikhat, said Al-Rai, which has close ties to security services.

Philippine security forces arrested a Kuwaiti and a Syrian for suspected links to Islamic State on March 25, three months after they arrived in Manila. Al-Rai said Kuwaiti security forces also arrested a Syrian chemistry teacher suspected of involvement with the plots. He was coordinating between those involved in the plot, especially with his repeated visits to northern Syria. A pressure cooker bomb was found at a farm, while another was found in Saad Al-Abdullah, the daily said, adding the devices were similar to those used at the Boston Marathon bombing four years ago.

A spokesman for the US Embassy in Kuwait referred queries to Kuwaiti authorities. Kuwaiti security officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Kuwait, home to several US military bases, suffered its deadliest militant attack in decades when a Saudi suicide bomber blew himself up inside a packed Shiite mosque in June 2015, killing 27 people. Islamic State claimed responsibility. — Agencies

           — Hat tip: RR [Return to headlines]

Putin Warns of ‘Fake’ Gas Attacks to Frame Syria’s Assad

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday warned of future chemical weapons “provocations” in Syria to frame President Bashar al-Assad, just as Washington’s top diplomat arrived for talks in Moscow.

“We have information from various sources that such provocations — I cannot call them otherwise — are being prepared in other regions of Syria, including in the southern outskirts of Damascus, where they are again planning to throw some kind of substance and accuse Syrian official authorities of using it,” Putin said at a televised press conference.

He said Russia was set to appeal to the Organisation for the Prohibition ofChemical Weapons and “call on the international community to thoroughly investigate such incidents”…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Migrant Communities Hotbed of Terrorism in Russia —FSB Chief

Russia’s domestic fight against terrorism should focus on better border control and countering terrorist propaganda aimed at migrants living in the country, the head of the Federal Security Service (FSB) said.

“The analysis of our operative information shows that the core of the terrorist groups operating in Russia comprises citizens of former Soviet republics, who arrive amidst the flows of guest workers,” FSB chief Aleksandr Bortnikov reported Tuesday at a session of the National Antiterrorism Committee.

“The terrorists are actively recruiting from among the people of our neighboring countries, drawing them into joining militant forces in Syria and Iraq and then using them as executors for terrorist attacks in Russia,” he said.

“Last year alone 16 terrorist attacks were thwarted in Moscow, St, Petersburg, Krasnoyarsk, Ekaterinburg, Tula, Ufa, Sochi, Novosibirsk and Nizhny Novgorod,” he added.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]

Jailed Christians Forced to Convert to Islam, A Disgrace on the Justice System Says Pakistani Church

The accused are asked to change religion in exchange for their release. Thelatest case sparks protest among Christians. Girls are converted by force to marry Muslims whilst Christians men who marry Muslim are beaten and their homes torched. Even Asia Bibi was offered to convert to Islam.

Lahore (AsiaNews) — Religious leaders and Christian activistsare calling for action against a prosecutor who confessed to pushing Christian prisoners to give up their faith to embrace Islam.

This comes after Pakistani media reported that Deputy District PublicProsecutor Syed Anees Shah told 42 Christian prisoners before an anti-terrorism court in Lahore, Punjab, that he could “guarantee their acquittal” if they converted to Islam.

Contacted by a British newspaper, Shah first denied the allegation then conceded that he had offered them a choice.

The Christians involved in the case are all from Youhanabad, Lahore. They were arrested in connection with the lynching of two suspected Muslim terrorists shortly after the Taliban attacked two churches on 15 March 2015.

“It is really bad to lead people astray,” said Rev Arshad Ashknaz of Christ Church, from one of the churches attacked in Youhanabad, speaking to AsiaNews. “This,” he added, “will give a bad image to the court and the whole legal fraternity.

In his view, “The public prosecutor can be sued for this prejudiced action. We plan to meet him soon. The government should reject this.Fear of death can force anyone to change religion”.

This has not happened in isolation. Forced conversions are a hot topic in the country. Pakistani human rights organisations note that each year about a thousand Hindu and Christian women are forced to convert to marry Muslim men.

According to the latest Report on religious minorities in Pakistan bythe National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, five Christians converted to Islam in 2014, including three teenager girls who were abducted and forced into marriage.

Against the backdrop, Sindh last year became the first Pakistani province to pass a law against forced religious conversions. However, the provincial government was forced to go back on its decision to protect minorities after opposition from some religious scholars.

For Rev Ashknaz, “There is no religious freedom. The whole system supports Christian women who marry their Muslim spouses, but it is a torment for Christian men who do the same. Their families suffer and their houses are burnt”.

According to Nadeem Anthony, a Christian lawyer, Asia Bibi, the Christian mother on death row for the past seven years charged with blaspheming the Prophet Mohammad, was made a similar offer.

However, “My faith is alive and I will never convert”, she told him when they met at the Sheikhupura District Jail in 2010.

“This is a common practice. Even my Muslim friends asked me to do the same. Such impositions are expected in cases of religious persecution”, said the lawyer, who is also a human rights activist.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Masses Interrupted, Pastors Arrested, Allegations of Forced Conversions: Easter Plight of India’s Christians

Bishops, activists and ordinary people complain about incidents of violence and intimidation across the country. Despite constitutional guarantees, the Christian minority is being persecuted. The threat on Palm Sunday: “If you want to pray, you must have official permission.”

New Delhi (AsiaNews) — Incidents of violence, intimidation and harassment against Christians in India, a discriminated minority oppressed by themajority Hindus. Even on Palm Sunday and Holy Week before Easter. As reflected in the stories of what happened throughout the national territory, pastors and believers arrested, prayer meetings suppressed, masses interrupted, arrests on false accusations of proselytism, tribals forced to “return home”, that is to Hinduism. Bishops, activists and ordinary people speak to AsiaNews pointing out that India is a secular and democratic country only onpaper (constitutional), and over the years has become increasingly prey tothe Hindu nationalists, led by the central government (BJP Bharatiya Janata Party) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On April 7, the radical nationalist youth brigade Hindu Yuva Vahini, created in 2002 by Yogi Adityanath, the current chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, raided a Dadhauli church in Maharajganj district (Uttar Pradesh), andinterrupted the church service. There were about 150 faithful in the church at that time, including 10 American tourists. All Christians, including the pastor Yuhanna Adam, were arrested by police on charges of forced conversions to Christianity. Msgr. Thomas Thuruthimattam, bishop of Gorakhpur, complains: “It was a real indirect attack on religious freedom. These indirect threats are against the principles established in the Constitution, against people who are represented in the Constitution itself. “

Witnesses say that the nationalists insulted, intimidated and provoked Christians, although police established the falsity of the disputed charges. The pastor Adam also reports that young people entered the church with an excuse: “They arrived early in the morning, asking to visit the facilityfor its historical value. How could we stop them? The church is open to all and everyone is welcome at any time. Later, as soon as the Mass began, the group with saffron bandanas [typical of nationalists headgear, ed] came back with police. The police immediately blocked the function and asked everyone to leave the building. “

Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), criticizes the behavior of the police: “India is a Secular Democratic Republic with Constitutional Guarantees, no illegalities were being done at the Church event, yet the police stopped Worship services underthe baseless charges of conversion activities. GCIC fears the increasing insecurity and targeting of the vulnerable Christian minority.”

The Christian leaders also condemned the “shameful act of targeting the tourists for attending worship is denounced and condemned by GCIC. Moreover, it repeats the same old stereotype, of missionaries being out to ‘convert’ the gullible masses.It is a very common sight to see western tourists in saffron robes attend all hues of Hindu festivalsin India, very often they are also seen distributing copies of Hindu textsand books at various places, but the police neither stop them or arrest them, But when the western tourists attend Worship, they are detained and harassed. This is a grave human right violation”.

Since last month in Jharkhand radicals of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) have “brought home to the Hindu family” 53 tribal families, including the last seven in early April. The campaign of tribal conversion willlast throughout the month. Sajan K George denounces “the tribal Hindus have never been Hindu, therefore, an attempt to bring them back to the Hindu fold is just a way to harass them.” Then he poses a technical question: “To what caste they would like to include them, since the tribals are not Hindus?”.

On April 8 in Bangalore, Karnataka, a Christian event scheduled for the next day was canceled at the last moment. The authorities withdrew permission to carry out the event, which had more than 1,000 people registered who were supposed to attend a conference of two American evangelical pastors. The event was canceled after Girish Bhardwaj, radical Hindus, filed a complaint with the Immigration Service against the hypothetical attempt to convert by the two foreigners holding a visa that allowed them only to participate in the rally , and not to speak in public. The GCIC president expresses a strong condemnation of the incident and asked the Prime Minister of India to “invite the state governments to ensure the safety of Christians during Holy Week.”

Indeed, preparations for Easter have also been marred in India, as well as the attacks against Coptic churches in Egypt. On Palm Sunday many episodes of intolerance occurred across the territory. In Madhya Pradesh, in the village of Sitabedi, members of the RSS — accompanied by police — have interrupted the celebrations and arrested the pastors Amar Singh Solanki, Kishore Solanki Barela and Prabhakar, their wives and other Christians on charges of forced conversions . The same charges have been laid against pastorYashpal, whilst celebrating mass in Kaithal, Haryana. In the village of Jahanpur, in Uttar Pradesh, other Hindu extremists beat Pastor Paul Krishna, the Believer’s Church, and dragged him to the police station. The same fatehas befallen the pastor Saji Mathew of the Church of God in Sri Ganganagar, Rajasthan, who was arrested along with seven other Christians. Finally Taluka in Palani, Tamil Nadu, some administration officials privately broke into the pastor Gunasekaran’s residence while he was leading prayer.The authorities took photographs and filmed the people attending the function. They have also warned that if Christians want to pray in the future, they will have to obtain an official permit.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Brazil’s Submarines Program Navigates Turbulent Waters

ITAGUAÍ (BRAZIL) (AFP) — In a vast hangar, Brazilian technicians work on the enormous cylindrical hulls of two submarines, but in a country buffeted by economic crisis and corruption the vessels already face stormy waters.

The hangar at a naval facility in Itaguai, south of Rio de Janeiro, is 125 feet (38 meters) tall, an impressive structure where the future submarines,lying in separate sections, are being equipped before eventual assembly.

In all, five submarines are planned, one of them nuclear-powered, with the first scheduled for launching in July 2018…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Venezuela’s Unrest Turning Deadly, With 3 Deaths Reported in New Wave of Protests

A Venezuelan university student died of his wounds Tuesday after being shot in the neck during a protest near Caracas the day before, allegedly by the Bolivarian National Guard.

Twenty-year-old Daniel Queliz is the second young man to die in the latest wave of protests that erupted on April 1 after the Supreme Court’s rulings to take over the duties of Parliament.

Jairo Ortiz, 19, was killed during a Thursday night protest in the city of Carrizal, just outside Caracas.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]

Fire Destroys Much of France’s Grande-Synthe Refugee Camp

Five injured prior to fire in Afghan-Kurd clashes in Dunkirk

(ANSAmed) — GRANDE-SYNTHE (FRANCE), APRIL 11 — Over half of the Grande-Synthe refugee camp in Dunkirk in northern France was destroyed by a large firethat broke out following a fight between Afghans and Kurds.

Officials who said the fire was linked to the clashes.

The flames broke out a few hours after the fights between about 150 migrants, in which five were injured, some of whom were taken to hospital.

Last year, Doctors Without Borders evacuated hundreds of migrants from the open camp, which hosts up to 1,500 people.

Police in riot gear intervened to put down the clashes, which a migrant on the scene said involved Afghans and Kurds.

No injuries due to the fire have been reported thus far.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Syrian Teen Convicted for ISIS Terrorist Plot in Germany

A regional court in Cologne found a 16-year-old Syrian migrant guilty of planning a “serious act of violence threatening state security” on behalf of Islamic State. The teen was sentenced to two years and three months in a juvenile prison.

The teenager, whose identity has not been disclosed due to privacy laws, was arrested at an asylum center in September last year and went on trial in February. During the arrest, police found a battery carrier with wires, sewing needles, and a small butane gas canister at his place, Deutsche Welle reports.

           — Hat tip: Reader from Chicago [Return to headlines]

17 thoughts on “Gates of Vienna News Feed 4/11/2017

    • It means the same thing it always means:

      Passover starts on the 15th day of the Jewish month of Nissan. This varies by year since the Jewish year is a lunisolar year and thus differs from the Gregorian calendar. It always falls in the springtime, though (in the Northern Hemisphere).

      Also: Jewish holidays always begin at sundown.
      Christianity has chosen a similar lunar dating for Easter. At least Western Christianity does so. Easter always occurs on the first Sunday following that first “full Moon” following the vernal equinox. And much time/energy/enmity was spent arriving at the precise date for Easter. The rest of Christianity’s dates are fixed feasts or observances. The period of Lent, Easter, Pentecost all flow from a lunar event.

      Despite the foofaraw over Christmas, the cornerstone of Christianity is the period of Easter to Pentecost.

  1. “A regional court in Cologne found a 16-year-old Syrian migrant guilty of planning a “serious act of violence threatening state security” on behalf of Islamic State. The teen was sentenced to two years and three months in a juvenile prison.”

    I couldn’t believe what I just read. Who exactly was the presiding judge? Can they do ANYTHING and just receive a slap on the wrist?

    • There is an old adage Joe, that in time of revolution the lawyers and the judges should be the first killed.

      I’ll leave you to think about that one.

      • Lawfare is just warfare by another means. The end goal is to compel your adversaries to bend to your will. And a judge with a pen can do far more lasting damage to society than a jihadi with a stolen truck.

        I will not mourn for such quislings.

    • The judge simply wants the kid to grow up and then try again once he is eighteen. If you fail, try again. In any case, by then Germany will be even more open to enrichment.

  2. Wholesale Christianity and Judaism, is now under attack from all corners of the Globe. It doesn’t matter if you live in Somalia, San-Antonio, Sydney, Southampton or on Saturn, if you value and uphold God’s moral values and commandments then you will be classified as as either a Jew or a Christian, and those who are coming after you could care less for that religious distinction, so long as they rid the Earth of you.

    • Must have never learned how to swim since she would have had to wear one of those revealing swimsuits… One would think a judge would have better sense than to go for a dip not knowing how to swim…

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