Pakistanis protest against increasing power cuts during Ramadan

People cool off with water from water lines after they punctured them in protest against the power outages in their area in Karachi, Pakistan May 30, 2017. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

By Syed Raza Hassan and Jibran Ahmad

KARACHI/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – Protesters in Pakistan’s largest city set tires ablaze on Tuesday after power cuts disrupted a traditional pre-dawn meal during the holy month of Ramadan, police said, a day after two protesters in another city were shot dead.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to power four years ago promising to end scheduled blackouts – known as “load shedding” – that have plagued daily life for years, hobbling the economy and deterring foreign investment.

Higher power generation has helped ease load shedding in many areas in recent months, but technical breakdowns in the past week have boosted the frequency and length of blackouts, sparking anger during the blistering late summer months.

Protests erupted on Tuesday in the southern port city of Karachi after electricity was cut during the pre-dawn feast Muslims hold before they begin fasting from daybreak to sunset.

Some protesters tried to attack and set fire to an office of the city’s main power provider, K-Electric, said police officer Khadim Ali.

A transmission line had tripped due to high humidity, K-Electric said on social network Twitter, adding that the load shedding would persist for two to three weeks more. It is now back to eight to 10 hours a day in some parts of Karachi.

Murad Ali Shah, chief minister of the southeastern province of Sindh and a member of the opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), blamed Sharif’s government.

“This is the atrocity the federal government is doing with us,” Shah told reporters in Karachi, the provincial capital.

Sharif called an emergency meeting of a cabinet energy panel on Tuesday to discuss the power outages.

In a statement, the prime minister’s office said the meeting focused on “urgent measures” to reduce power cuts during Ramadan, which coincides this year with summer temperatures forecast in some regions at around 40 degrees Celsius (104°F).

On Monday, two demonstrators were killed in another protest against electricity shortages in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, reportedly when police fired to disperse crowds.

One of those killed was shot by police and later died in hospital in the Malakand district, said Humayun Khan, the provincial representative of the PPP.

Both deaths were being investigated, said the district’s deputy commissioner, Zafa Ali Shah.

(Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

U.N. calls bombing near Saudi holy Mosque an attack on Islam

Muslim worshippers gather after a suicide bomber detonated a device near the security headquarters of the Prophet's Mosque in Medina

GENEVA/DUBAI (Reuters) – The U.N. human rights chief on Tuesday called a suicide bombing outside the Prophet Mohammad’s Mosque in the Saudi city of Medina an attack on Islam itself and many Muslims expressed shock that their second-holiest site had been targeted.

Three apparently coordinated suicide attacks on Monday targeted Medina, the U.S. consulate in Jeddah and the largely Shi’ite Muslim city of Qatif on Monday. At least four security officers were killed.

No group has claimed responsibility but Islamic State has carried out similar bombings in the U.S.-allied kingdom in the past year, targeting Shi’ites and Saudi security forces.

Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and a member of the Jordanian royal family, delivered his remarks via a spokesman in Geneva.

“This is one of the holiest sites in Islam, and for such an attack to take place there, during Ramadan, can be considered a direct attack on Muslims all across the world,” he said, referring to the Islamic holy month.

“It is an attack on the religion itself.”

Militant attacks on Medina are unprecedented. The city is home to the second-holiest site in Islam, a mosque built by the Prophet Mohammed, the founder of Islam, which also houses his tomb.

Attacks on Mecca, the most sacred place in Islam, have also been extremely rare. The Al Saud ruling family considers itself the protectors of both sites. Islamic State says the Saudi rulers are apostates and has declared its intention to topple them.

Saudis were rattled by the rare, high-profile attack.

“I apologize to everyone if I don’t congratulate you this Eid,” Khaled bin Saleh al-Shathri, a Saudi businessman, wrote on Twitter.

“I am shocked by the deaths of five of my brothers and the wounding of four others as they guarded the holiest places.”

Iran also condemned the attacks.

Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and anti-terror tsar, Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, sought on Tuesday to reassure Saudis of the country’s security.

“The security of the homeland is good, it is at its highest levels and thanks be to God it gets stronger every day,” the state news agency SPA quoted him as saying during a visit to some of the wounded in the Jeddah attack.

Prince Mohammed has been credited for successfully ending a bombing campaign by al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia between 2003-2006.

Monday’s bombings came days before the end of the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims fast from dawn until dusk.

Saudi security officials say the Islamic State’s supporters inside the kingdom mainly act independently from the group in Iraq and Syria.

Salah al-Budair, the imam of the Prophet’s Mosque, warned young people about being lured by the “malignant” ideology of Islamic State.

“(The bomber) is an infidel who has sold himself to the enemies of his religion and his country.”

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Sami Aboudi and Tom Finn; Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

French police couple killed in attack claimed by Islamic State

Police at the scene where a French police commander was stabbed to death in front of his home in the Paris

By Chine Labbé and Simon Carraud

PARIS/LES MUREAUX (Reuters) – A Frenchman who pledged allegiance to Islamic State stabbed a police commander to death outside his home and killed his partner, who also worked for the police, in an attack the government denounced as “an abject act of terrorism”.

Larossi Abballa, 25, also took the couple’s three-year-old son hostage in Monday night’s attack. The boy was found unharmed but in a state of shock after police commandos stormed the house and killed the attacker.

Born in France of Moroccan origin, Abballa was jailed in 2013 for helping Islamist militants go to Pakistan and had been under security service surveillance, including wiretaps, at the time of the attack, Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said.

The attacker told police negotiators during the siege he had answered an appeal by Iraq-based Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi “to kill infidels at home with their families”, Molins told a news conference.

“The killer said he was a practicing Muslim, was observing Ramadan and, that three weeks ago, he had pledged allegiance to … Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” Molins said.

Police found a bloodied knife at the scene along with a list of other potential targets including rap musicians, journalists and police officers, the prosecutor said.

The killings came as France, which has been under a state of emergency since Islamic State gunmen and bombers killed 130 people in Paris last November, was on high security alert for the Euro 2016 soccer tournament, which began last Friday.

In a video posted on social networks, Abballa linked the attack to the soccer championship, saying: “The Euros will be a graveyard.”

The video had been removed from Facebook on Tuesday. Michelle Gilbert, a Paris-based spokeswoman for Facebook, said the company’s guidelines forbade hate messages and aimed to remove such content swiftly from the website once alerted.

“ABJECT ACT OF TERRORISM”

The attacker knifed 42-year-old police commander Jean-Baptiste Salvaing repeatedly in the stomach on Monday evening.

He then barricaded himself inside the house in Magnanville, a suburb 60 km (40 miles) west of Paris, taking the policeman’s partner Jessica Schneider, 36, and their boy hostage. Schneider, a secretary at a police station in a nearby suburb, was killed with a knife, Molins said without giving details.

Islamic State claimed the attack. “God has enabled one of the caliphate’s soldiers in city of Les Mureaux near Paris to stab to death the deputy police chief and his wife,” a broadcast on its Albayan Radio said.

It was the first militant strike on French soil since the multiple attacks on bars, restaurants, a concert hall and the national soccer stadium in Paris in November.

“An abject act of terrorism was carried out yesterday in Magnanville,” Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said after an emergency government meeting, before visiting Les Mureaux, where the police commander worked.

President Francois Hollande said the killings were “undeniably a terrorist act” and that the terrorist threat in France was very high.

Police searched Abballa’s home and other locations on Tuesday and detained three people close to him for questioning.

Details started to emerge on the profile of the attacker. Abballa was born in the nearby town of Meulan and lived in Mantes-la-Jolie, where he had set up a fast food outlet in April, documents from the Versailles court showed.

He was given a three-year prison sentence in 2013 for helping Islamist militants go to Pakistan. His name appeared in a separate ongoing investigation into a man who went to Syria, but he was not considered a threat, a source close to the investigation said.

Abballa had also been convicted three times on charges of aggravated theft and driving without a license, another source close to the investigation said.

David Thomson, an RFI radio journalist specialized in Islamic radicalism, wrote on his Twitter page that Abballa had filmed himself at the site of the attack and posted the message on Facebook.

With the couple’s boy behind him, Abballa said: “I don’t know yet what I’m going to do with him,” Thomson wrote.

Islamic State’s claim of responsibility came after the Islamist militant group also claimed responsibility for the killing of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

“In Orlando after the terrible homophobic terrorist attacks and Magnanville in a different way, the same ideology of death with the same beliefs (has been at work): kill and spread terror, contest who we are and prevent us from living freely,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told parliament.

(Additional reporting by Leigh Thomas, Marc Joanny, Matthieu Rosemain, Richard Lough in Paris and Muhammad Yamany in Cairo; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Paul Taylor and Janet Lawrence)

Boko Haram Suspected of Bombs That Killed 64 During Muslim Celebration

Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram is believed to have continued to follow the call of ISIS leadership to conduct attacks during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan by killing 64 people in multiple bomb attacks.

Two female suicide bombers killed 12 people at two prayer grounds in Damaturu.  People were in the area preparing for the end of Ramadan at the site of the attack.

Nigerian Army Col. Sani Usman said one of the bombers was a 10-year-old girl.

“The first blast went off around 07:15 local time (06:15 GMT) while security volunteers who had come earlier than worshippers were waiting for the worshippers so they could assist in crowd control,” added eye witness Ahmad Adamu, a security volunteer.

A few hours earlier two other bombers killed 50 people who were buying groceries for the end of the holiday at a market in Gombe.

Officials confirmed at least other 75 people were wounded and were in two separate hospitals for treatment.

The group has killed over 300 people this month.

Indonesian Volcanoes Strand Travelers Returning Home

With the Muslim holy month of Ramadan coming to an end, thousands of Muslims who were trying to travel home for the Muslim Eid festival are stranded in Indonesia because of a series of volcanic eruptions.

Officials concerned about safety for aircraft shut down four small airports on Java, the nation’s most populous island after the latest eruption by Mount Raung.  The same volcano last week shut down airports in the region including Bali’s Denpasar International. Volcanic ash is a concern for aircraft not because of visibility but because the ash turned into a form of molten glass when sucked into a jet engine.

The government has raised the alert level for Mount Raung to the second-highest level because of the hot ash and lava shooting from the mountain.

Then Mount Gamalama erupted on the nation’s North Maluku island shutting down Sultan Babullah International airport in Ternate.

Indonesia lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Security Measures Increased Ahead of July 4th

Federal officials say that security measures across the country will be increase ahead of the July 4th holiday weekend.

Police say that they are concerned about ISIS sympathizers in the country who might heed the group’s call for major terror attacks during the month of Ramadan.

New York Congressman Peter King told ABC there was “great concern” about terror attacks and that it was unusual for officials to put out warnings so far in advance of a holiday unless they had major reason for concern.

“ISIS is incomparable as far as terrorist organizations as far as being able to reach,” King said on “This Week.” “They can reach the disaffected, they can reach the deranged, they can also reach the ideologically committed.”

King is not alone in his concern.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re sitting here a week from today talking about an attack over the weekend in the United States. That’s how serious this is,” Former CIA deputy director Michael Morrell told CBS News.

The warnings come on the heels of three coordinated terrorist attacks in Europe that were claimed by ISIS.

ISIS Threatens “Mass Slaughter of Christians” in Israel

Islamic militants claiming connection to ISIS are warning that they will “cleanse” Israel of all Christians and “non-believers” by the end of Ramadan unless they leave the country.

“Those who work with the Zionists also encourage Muslims to leave their religion and become more secular and open, and they spread evil,” Arabic-language leaflets warns, according to The Jerusalem Post. “They take these Muslims away from us. … We know where they are, but we need help to find them all — all those Christian collaborators.”

“ISIS soldiers will work to kill these people so this country is clean of them and … will clean this country and the Muslim Quarter from these Christians during this holy Ramadan.”

The Jerusalem Post said that no Arabic Christians who received the note would talk to them but their neighbors said the messages have rattled the community.

“They’re fearful for their lives and don’t want to go to the police because they feel that the police won’t be responsive,” an Israeli man told the Post, requesting anonymity.

“What’s most problematic is that in this case individuals aren’t being targeted but an entire group, which is pretty darn serious.  If leaflets with swastikas and similar threats were sent to Jewish neighborhoods, people would be outraged. I hope and pray it amounts to nothing at all.”

ISIS has called for terror attacks during Ramadan and has taken responsibility for attacks last week in France, Tunisia and Kuwait.

Three Islamic Terror Attacks Kill Dozens

Three Islamic terror attacks were carried out almost simultaneously today after call for “Ramadan calamity.”

In Lyon, France, a terrorist named Yassin Salih rammed a car through the gate of an American-owned chemical factory.  He attempted to blow up the complex but failed.  He then decapitated the manager of the complex and posted his head on a fence by the factory.  Salih also posted Islamist flags to the fence.

Salih, which French officials confirmed they had under surveillance as a possible terrorist sympathizer, was wounded in the explosion and taken into custody.  His wife and one other accomplice have also been taken into custody.

French President Francois Hollande confirmed it was an Islamist terror attack.

In Tunisia, at least two terrorists stormed a beach popular with tourists and gunned down 27 people.  An attack on a Shiite mosque in Kuwait has left at least 25 dead.  Hundreds were wounded in both attacks.

On Tuesday, the spokesman for the terrorist group ISIS issued a call for “calamity” for “infidels, crusaders, Shiites and apostates”.

“Be keen to conquer in this holy month and to become exposed to martyrdom,” Abu Mohamed al-Adnani said.

ISIS Crucifies Two Children For Eating During Ramadan

Islamic terrorist group ISIS has crucified two children because they ate food before sunset during Ramadan.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported the murders Monday.  Muslims are prohibited from taking food or water between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan.

It is the latest in a long string of abuses against children by the Islamic extremists.

“We have had reports of children, especially children who are mentally challenged, who have been used as suicide bombers, most probably without them even understanding,” United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child expert Renate Winter said in February about ISIS. “There was a video placed [online] that showed children at a very young age, approximately 8 years of age and younger, being trained to become child soldiers.”

ISIS has also been reported to have kidnapped over a thousand children to be forced into jihadi training camps.

Iraq’s al-Sumaria TV network aired a Kurdish Democratic Party spokesman in Mosul that said ISIS kidnapped 1,227 from various Mosul neighborhoods.  The children have been labeled “Cubs of the Caliphate” and are being educated in the extremist ISIS ideology.

Heat Wave Kills 224 in Karachi

A record-shattering heat wave in Pakistan has left at least 224 people dead.

Officials in Karachi, the country’s largest city with 20 million residents, say that 224 people have been confirmed dead from heat related causes.  Hundreds more are being treated for heat stroke or other heat related illnesses.

“Hospitals across the city are overcrowded due to record numbers of patients suffering from heat stroke,” Jam Mehtab Hussain Dahar, the health minister for Sindh province, said. “The numbers are unprecedented but the situation is under control.”

Temperatures in the city on Saturday reached close to 113 degrees fahrenheit, the highest recorded temperature in the country in 15 years.  Sunday’s high was around 108.5 fahrenheit.  The city’s all time record is 117 degrees fahrenheit set in 1979.

Local media reported that 150 bodies were taken to the Edhi morgue in Sohrab Goth.  The morgue usually receives 20 bodies a day.

Many of the country’s residents are Muslim, meaning they are observing Ramadan and not partaking of food and water during the daylight hours.  The city is also dealing with frequent power outages that cut off air conditioning and fans.

The heat wave comes after a wave last month in India left over 2,000 people dead.