April 10/17

Compiled & Prepared by: Elias Bejjani

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Bible Quotations For Today
Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive
Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 21/17-27/:"Jesus left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there. In the morning, when he returned to the city, he was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it, ‘May no fruit ever come from you again!’ And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it, they were amazed, saying, ‘How did the fig tree wither at once?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, "Be lifted up and thrown into the sea", it will be done. Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.’ When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’ Jesus said to them, ‘I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?’ And they argued with one another, ‘If we say, "From heaven", he will say to us, "Why then did you not believe him?" But if we say, "Of human origin", we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.’ So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And he said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things."

Those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt.
Letter to the Hebrews 06/01-09/:"Let us go on towards perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith towards God, instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgement. And we will do this, if God permits.For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt. Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over. Even though we speak in this way, beloved, we are confident of better things in your case, things that belong to salvation."

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 09-10/17
Once again Egyptian peaceful Christians are brutally targeted and murdered inside their Churches/Elias Bejjani/April 09/17
Who are Egypt's Coptic Christians/Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 09/17/
Why Does the West Keep Colluding with Terrorists/Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/April 09/17
It’ll Take More Than a Missile Strike to Clean Up Obama’s Mess in Syria/Robert Kagan/The Washington Post/April 09/17
Counter-Propaganda against US Strike on Syria/Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Al Sharq Al Awsat/April 09/17
Shayrat Attack… Significant but Insufficient/Salman Al-dossary/Al Sharq Al Awsat/April 09/17
Continued bombing by Assad shows limits of single U.S. attack/David Nakamura/The Washington Post/April 09/17

Titles For Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 09-10/17
Once again Egyptian peaceful Christians are brutally targeted and murdered inside their Churches
Church bombings in Egypt kill 37, wound dozens
43 Dead, 118 Hurt as IS Blasts Hit Two Egypt Churches
Al-Rahi Urges Politicians to 'Reconcile with People' with New Electoral Law
5 Dead, 32 Hurt as Heavy Ain el-Hilweh Clashes Continue for 3rd Day
Berri Warns of 'Plots to Bury Palestine Cause' after Ain el-Hilweh Clashes
Christian Parties to Boycott Any Session Aimed at Extending Parliament Term
Qaouq: Electoral Law Course from Bad to Worse, U.S. Tomahawks Overflew Lebanon
Lebanon Registered Ship Hijacked Off Somalia Freed
Aoun to Sisi: We condemn the bombings of the two churches and stand in solidarity with you in face of terrorism
Riachy calls on Egyptians to ring bells, raise prayer calls against terrorism
Hezbollah denounces bombings in Egypt: Aim at Christian displacement from Sinai and the region, open the door for sedition and sectarian division
Jumblatt cables Sisi, Twadros II offering condolences in wake of recent terrorist bombings
Derian denounces Egypt deadly blasts

Titles For Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 09-10/17
Who are Egypt's Coptic Christians?
Egypt’s Sisi declares three-month state of emergency
Coptic Christians rage at Tanta security chief over shortfalls
Pope on Palm Sunday decries suffering from war, terrorism
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sends letter of condolence to Egypt’s Sisi
Muslim Egyptians donate blood to deadly church blast victims
Assad allies: US attack on Syria air base crosses 'red lines'
U.S. Envoy Says Assad Must Go after 'Chemical Attack'
Norway Police Destroy Suspect Device in Oslo
Iraq Forces Foil Double Car Bomb Attack at Syria Border
Election Campaigning Makes Muted Start in Algeria
First Palm Sunday since IS in Iraq's Main Christian Town
Iran: Remarks by Chair of Foreign Affairs Committee of NCRI, on Rouhani's Position on Assad's Chemical Attack on the Syrian People
Iran: Raisi's Candidacy Intensifies Crisis Within the Regime
Iran: Ascending Trend of Population Living in City Outskirts
Bereaved Syrian father: US missile strike not enough
Al Shabaab car bomb outside Mogadishu army base kills at least 15
France expels Swiss Islamist grandson of Brotherhood founder
Joint naval maneuvers between Oman and Iran begin
Rex Tillerson on Syria: Our ‘first priority’ is to eliminate the ISIS threat
Iraq’s Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr urges Syria’s Assad to step down
Erdogan holds giant Istanbul rally week ahead of referendum

Links From Jihad Watch Site for April 09-10/17
Egypt: Second Palm Sunday church bombing, killing at least one at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria
Islamic State claims responsibility for the two church bombings in Egypt
Video: Inside the church in Tanta, Egypt right after the jihad bombing
Egypt: Muslims bomb church north of Cairo on Palm Sunday, murdering at least 21 and injuring 38
Video: The moment a jihad-martyrdom suicide bomber blows himself up at Alexandria’s St. Mark’s Cathedral
Tillerson: “The first priority is the defeat of ISIS”
Stockholm truck jihad attacker was known to have “extremist sympathies” and was ordered deported, but wasn’t
Stockholm police: Truck jihad attack suspect was asylum-seeker whose application was rejected
Sweden: Muslims throw stones at police officers arresting Stockholm jihad attack suspects
Tunisia: British DJ sentenced to a year in jail for Muslim prayer remix

Links From Christian Today Site on April 09-10/17
ISIS claims responsibility for Egypt church bombings killing 36, injuring 100; Church leaders condemn attacks
UK backs Trump missile strike on Syrian airbase, Russia condemns move against 'sovereign nation'
WATCH: Archbishop of Canterbury speaks to Christian Today about life, prayer and the hope of the resurrection
North Korea calls US strikes on Syria 'unforgivable act of aggression'
Mike Pence pledges US support for Iraq's war on ISIS
World's Catholic population grows to 1.3 billion: Church surges in Africa amid priest shortage in Europe

Latest Lebanese Related News published on April 09-10/17
Once again Egyptian peaceful Christians are brutally targeted and murdered inside their Churches
اغصان الزيتون امتزجت بالدم في كنائس مصر
Elias Bejjani/April 09/17
“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (John 16-33)
The least ethical and human obligation that any peace loving person would do today, is to strongly condemn the barbaric, savage and fundamentalist assault that targeted two Coptic churches in Egypt, as the peaceful Egyptian Coptic Christian parishioners were observing and celebrating Palm Sunday, one of the most important days on the Christian Church calendar. The vicious attack killed more than 36 innocent parishioners and injured at least sixty others, many of them are in critical condition.The coward assailants attacked the Christian civil and peaceful parishioners while they were worshiping and praying. This vicious assault reaches the realm of a series of similar previous and ongoing fanatic attacks against Egyptian Christians and their churches in several Egyptian provinces and territories.
It is worth mentioning that the Egyptian Christian human rights’ status is extremely traumatizing and worrisome as well as their physical safety.
The same humiliating and persecutory status is inflicted on all minorities in the majority of the Middle East countries in general and in particular in Egypt, Iraq, Sudan, Algeria, Libya.
The persecution against Christians and other minorities in these counties is an official and formal practice legitimized by biased laws and regulations.
At the same time, this phenomenon of anti-human rights practices is widely encouraged, nurtured and cultivated through education of hatred, fundamentalism, rejection of the other and ignorance.
What is unfortunate, pitiful and sad is that the governments of many middle east countries adopt such practices while the free world keeps a blind eye or in the best scenario limits its condemnation to mere rhetoric levels.
The horrible and barbaric crime of today is strongly denounced. The Free World has an obligation to protect Egypt’s Christians & the Middle East minorities. We, call on the free world countries, the United Nations, the Vatican and on all the Human Rights organizations to be loud in their public stances of condemnation and to develop a world wide plan and strategy to protect the Middle East Christians as well as all other minorities.
Our deepest sympathies are extended to the families and friends of those killed today, and all wishes for a speedy recovery to all the injured. May the souls of all those innocent victims that were killed today rest in peace.

Church bombings in Egypt kill 37, wound dozens
Associated Press/April 09/17/TANTA, Egypt — Bombs tore through two Egyptian churches in different cities as worshippers were marking Palm Sunday, killing at least 37 people and wounding around 100 in an assault claimed by the Islamic State group.
In the first, attack, a bomb exploded at Saint George church in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, killing at least 26 people and wounding over 70, officials said.
Later, an explosion hit Saint Mark's Cathedral in the coastal city of Alexandria, the historic seat of Christendom in Egypt, killing at least 11 people and wounding 35 just after Pope Tawadros II finished services. His aides later told local media that he had escaped unharmed.
IS claimed the attacks via its Aamaq news agency, after having recently warned that it would step up attacks on Egypt's Christians.
The blasts came at the start of Holy Week leading up to Easter, and just weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit the Arab world's most populous country.
CBC TV showed footage from inside the church in Tanta, where a large number of people gathered around what appeared to be lifeless, bloody bodies covered with papers. Regional Deputy Health Minister Mohammed Sharshar confirmed the toll.
Across the street, neighbour Susan Mikhail, whose apartment has a clear balcony view of the church and its front yard, said the explosion violently shook her building midmorning, at a time when the church was packed.
"Deacons were the first to run out of the church. Many of them had blood on their white robes," she told The Associated Press. Later, the more seriously wounded started to come out, carried in the arms of survivors and ferried to hospitals in private cars, she said.
Pope Francis decried the bombings, expressing "deep condolences to my brother, Pope Tawadros II, the Coptic church and all of the dear Egyptian nation." Word of the attacks came as Francis himself was marking Palm Sunday in St. Peter's Square.
Grand Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, head of Egypt's Al-Azhar — the leading centre of learning in Sunni Islam — likewise condemned the attacks, calling them a "despicable terrorist bombing that targeted the lives of innocents."
Both Israel and the Islamic Hamas movement ruling neighbouring Gaza also condemned the bombings.
The bombings add to fears that Islamic extremists who have long been battling security forces in the Sinai Peninsula are shifting their focus to civilians.
An Islamic State affiliate claimed a suicide bombing at a Cairo church in December that killed around 30 people, mostly women, as well as a string of killings in the restive northern Sinai that caused hundreds of Christians to flee to safer areas of the country.
The group recently released a video vowing to step up attacks against Christians, who it describes as "infidels" empowering the West against Muslims.
Egypt has struggled to combat a wave of Islamic militancy since the 2013 military overthrow of an elected Islamist president.
The Sinai-based IS affiliate has mainly attacked police and soldiers, but has also claimed bombings that killed civilians, including the downing of a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai in 2015, which killed all 224 people on board and devastated Egypt's tourism industry.
Egypt's Copts are one of the oldest Christian communities in the Middle East. They have long complained of discrimination and that the government does not do enough to protect them.
Egyptian media had previously reported that the church in Tanta had been targeted in the past, with a bomb defused there in late March.
The Copts were largely supportive of the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, and incurred the wrath of many Islamists, who attacked churches and other Christian institutions after his ouster.
**Associated Press writers Maamoun Youssef and Maggie Michael in Cairo and Bassem Mroue in Beirut contributed to this report.
Hamza Hendawi, The Associated Press

43 Dead, 118 Hurt as IS Blasts Hit Two Egypt Churches
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 09/17/The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for bombing two Egyptian churches as worshipers gathered to mark Palm Sunday, killing at least 43 people in the deadliest attacks on the Coptic Christian minority in recent memory. The attacks followed a Cairo church bombing in December and came weeks before a planned visit by Catholic Pope Francis intended to show support for Egypt's Christian minority. The first bombing at the Mar Girgis church in Tanta city north of Cairo killed 27 people, the health ministry said. "I just felt fire grabbing my face. I pushed my brother who was sitting next to me and then I heard people saying: 'explosion'," a wounded witness in hospital told state television. Emergency services had scrambled to the scene when another blast rocked Saint Mark's church in Alexandria where Coptic Pope Tawadros II had been leading a Palm Sunday service. Sixteen people including three police officers were killed in that attack, which the interior ministry said was caused by a suicide bomber who blew himself up when prevented from entering the church. The ministry said Tawadros was unharmed, and a church official said he left before the explosion. The private CBC Extra channel aired footage of the Alexandria blast, with CCTV showing what appeared to be the church entrance engulfed in a ball of flame and flying concrete moments after a security guard turned away a man.
Eyewitnesses said a police officer detected the bomber before he blew himself up.
At least 78 people were wounded in Tanta and 40 in Alexandria, the health ministry said.
Officials denounced the violence as an attempt to sow divisions in Egypt, and Francis sent his "deep condolences" to Tawadros. IS claimed its "squads" carried out both attacks, in a statement by its self-styled Amaq news agency published on social media. After the bombings, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered military deployments to guard "vital and important infrastructure", his office said. State television reported that the interior minister sacked the provincial head of security and replaced him after the attack. There were bloodstains on the floor of the church in Tanta, next to shredded wooden benches. On March 29, the Mar Girgis church's Facebook page said a "suspicious" device had been found outside the building that security services removed. "I heard the blast and came running. I found people torn up... some people, only half of their bodies remained," said Nabil Nader, who lives in front of the Tanta church. Worshipers had been celebrating Palm Sunday, one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, marking Jesus' triumphant entrance to Jerusalem.
Pope prays for victims
Francis, who is due to visit Cairo on April 28-29, offered prayers for the victims.
"Let us pray for the victims of the attack unfortunately carried out today," he said in an Angelus prayer. "May the Lord convert the heart of those who sow terror, violence and death and also the heart of those who make weapons and trade in them."
Copts, who make up about one tenth of Egypt's population of more than 92 million and who celebrate Easter next weekend, have been targeted by several attacks in recent months. Jihadists and Islamists accuse Copts of supporting the military overthrow of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, which ushered in a deadly crackdown on his supporters. In December, a suicide bombing claimed by IS killed 29 worshipers in a Cairo church adjacent to the papal seat.  The group later released a video threatening Egypt's Christians with more attacks. A spate of jihadist-linked attacks in Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsula, including the murder of a Copt in the city of El Arish whose house was also burned, led some Coptic families to flee. About 250 Christians took refuge in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya after IS released a video in February calling for attacks on the minority.
U.S. President Donald Trump led international condemnation of Sunday's attacks. "So sad to hear of the terrorist attack in Egypt. U.S. strongly condemns. I have great confidence that President Al Sisi will handle situation properly," he tweeted.
String of attacks
Prime Minister Sherif Ismail condemned the attack, stressing Egypt's determination to "eliminate terrorism."The Cairo-based al-Azhar, an influential Sunni Muslim authority, said it aimed to "destabilize security and... the unity of Egyptians."Egypt's Copts have endured successive attacks since Morsi's ouster in July 2013. More than 40 churches were attacked nationwide in the two weeks after the deadly dispersal by security forces of two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo on August 14 that year, Human Rights Watch said. Sisi, who as then army chief helped remove Morsi, has defended his security forces and accused jihadists of attacking Copts in order to divide the country. In October 2011, almost 30 people -- mostly Coptic Christians -- were killed after the army charged at a protest outside the state television building in Cairo to denounce the torching of a church in southern Egypt. A few months earlier, the unclaimed New Year's Day bombing of a Coptic church killed more than 20 people in second city Alexandria.

Al-Rahi Urges Politicians to 'Reconcile with People' with New Electoral Law
Naharnet/April 09/17/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi on Sunday called on politicians to “reconcile with people” through a new electoral law that gives them the right to hold their representatives accountable. “This reconciliation requires them to pull the people out of the state of poverty which has started to affect one third of the population... and to respect their dignity through granting value to their votes in the elections and giving them the right to accountability,” said al-Rahi in his Palm Sunday sermon.He said the new electoral law should be tailored to fit the interests of the people and the country, “not the interests of political feudalism and influential parties.”The politicians' “reconciliation” with people also requires them to “protect the funds of the treasury, which are the funds of the people,” al-Rahi added, urging the political forces to put an end to “the theft and waste of public money, bribery and tax evasion.”

5 Dead, 32 Hurt as Heavy Ain el-Hilweh Clashes Continue for 3rd Day
Associated Press/Agence France Presse/Naharnet/April 09/17/At least five people have been killed and 32 others wounded in three days of fierce clashes at the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain el-Hilweh in the southern city of Sidon, state-run National News Agency said. NNA identified the fifth victim killed in the fighting between the Joint Palestinian Security Forces and hardline Islamists led by Bilal Badr as Firas Balous. Ambulances were rushing the wounded to hospitals near Ain el-Hilweh as the sounds of rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire echo from inside. On Saturday, local Palestinian commander Subhi Abu Arab vowed to crush the followers of radical preacher Bilal Badr. The clashes erupted in the camp on Friday as the Joint Palestinian Security Force started deploying throughout the camp. It came under fire from Badr's Islamist group in part of the camp, which sparked fierce clashes.Among the dead were two civilians, two members of the Joint Force and one member of the extremist group, medical sources said. The fighting has prompted security measures outside the camp, which Lebanese security forces do not enter by long-standing agreement. An adjacent highway has been cut and patients moved from the Sidon governmental hospital next to the camp. Palestinian officials in the camp called Sunday on remaining members of Badr's group to surrender with their weapons. Salah al-Ali, a resident of the camp, said there was damage from shelling inside the camp. "We ask from God that the situation calms down so that we can return to our homes," he said at Sidon's Musally mosque, where he was taking shelter. The spokesman for the Council of Palestinian Scholars in Lebanon said the radical groups were issuing fatwas authorizing the killing of people they disagreed with. "This has led to chaos in Ain el-Hilweh," said Sheikh Mohammed al-Muwad, in his office in Sidon. "These groups do not abide by any oaths or promises."Ain el-Hilweh is home to multiple armed factions, and has been plagued by intermittent clashes between them as well as against smaller extremist groups. Lebanon's army does not enter Palestinian refugee camps, where security is managed by joint committees of Palestinian factions.
Ain el-Hilweh is home to some 61,000 Palestinians, including 6,000 who have fled the war in Syria.

Berri Warns of 'Plots to Bury Palestine Cause' after Ain el-Hilweh Clashes
Naharnet/April 09/17/Speaker Nabih Berri on Sunday raised the alarm over the ongoing deadly clashes at the Ain el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp, in a rare comment over the recurrent violence there. “Who benefits from preventing the Joint Palestinian Security Force from deploying in the Ain el-Hilweh camp after all national and Islamist Palestinian factions and forces agreed on its role in consolidating security and stability in the camp?” Berri asked in a statement. “Is there an attempt to keep the biggest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon a bleeding wound in order to cover up for the schemes and plots that are being orchestrated in black rooms with the aim of burying the Palestinian cause and usurping the last of the Palestinian people's rights, which is the right to return to their homeland?” the speaker added. “Our bet has always been and will always be on the awareness of the Palestinian leaders and people and their ability to thwart all attempts aimed at plunging the Palestinian camps, topped by the Ain el-Hilweh camp, into the inferno of internal and continuous strife, which only benefits Israel,” Berri went on to say. The toll in three days of clashes in Ain el-Hilweh rose to five dead and 32 injured on Sunday, as local factions worked to implement a security plan. Clashes erupted in the camp on Friday as Palestinian factions participating in a joint security force begun deploying throughout the camp. They came under fire from a local Islamic extremist group in part of the camp. The fighting has prompted security measures outside the camp, which Lebanese security forces do not enter by long-standing agreement. An adjacent highway has been cut and patients moved from the Sidon governmental hospital next to the camp. Palestinian officials in the camp called Sunday on remaining members of a group led by local extremist Bilal Badr to surrender with their weapons. Ain el-Hilweh is home to multiple armed factions, and has been plagued by intermittent clashes between them as well as against smaller extremist groups.
The camp is home to some 61,000 Palestinians, including 6,000 who have fled the war in Syria.

Christian Parties to Boycott Any Session Aimed at Extending Parliament Term
Naharnet/April 09/17/The Free Patriotic Movement, the Lebanese Forces and the Kataeb Party intend to boycott any parliamentary session aimed at extending the legislature's term in the absence of a new electoral law, a senior FPM official told al-Hayat daily in remarks published Sunday. The Cabinet is scheduled to convene on Monday to discuss the latest proposed electoral law formats. Reports have said that Speaker Nabih Berri might call for a parliament session aimed at extending the legislature's term should the parties fail to agree on a new electoral law.
But the FPM and the LF have rejected even a so-called “technical extension” of the parliament's term, which prompted Berri to accuse them of seeking parliamentary “vacuum.”The country has not organized parliamentary elections since 2009 and the parliament has since extended its own mandate twice.

Qaouq: Electoral Law Course from Bad to Worse, U.S. Tomahawks Overflew Lebanon
Naharnet/April 09/17/Hizbullah central council member Sheikh Nabil Qaouq warned Sunday that “the course of the electoral law is going from bad to worse,” noting that the Tomahawk missiles that U.S. warships fired at a Syrian airbase at dawn Friday had “violated Lebanon's airspace.”“Our eyes today are on the course of the Lebanese parliamentary elections, because the course of the electoral law is going from bad to worse and the crisis over it is becoming more difficult and complicated, especially that some political forces are still making adventures, procrastinating and maneuvering without caring about the country's fate,” Qaouq cautioned. “Meanwhile, we are keen on rescuing the country, which will head quickly towards certain dangers unless the Lebanese agree on a new electoral law. That's why we are exerting efforts to agree on a law that ensures correct and fair representation,” Qaouq added, noting that “the efforts will be intensified in the next few days, which represent the last chance.”Separately, Qaouq announced that “the U.S. aggression against Syria posed a direct threat to Lebanon and violated the Lebanese sovereignty.”“What would have happened if any of the 59 missiles that crossed Lebanon's airspace fell on any Lebanese city or village? Didn't that pose a threat to Lebanon? Doesn't Lebanon have sanctity and sovereignty that prevent the U.S. from violating the Lebanese sovereignty without any accountability?” Qaouq added. The missile strike against a Syrian airbase marks the first time the United States has directly attacked the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Hizbullah has sent thousands of fighters across the border to bolster Assad's forces against an Islamist-led uprising. At around 3:40 am Syria time on Friday the U.S. military fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at the Shayrat airfield near Homs in central Syria. According to the Pentagon, as well as hosting Syrian aircraft the facility was used to store chemical weapons. The Tomahawks targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems and radars, the Pentagon said. Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said the strike lasted "a couple of minutes."U.S. intelligence agents believe aircraft from Shayrat conducted a suspected chemical weapons attack on April 4 in the rebel-held Idlib town of Khan Sheikhun. The strike was launched from the destroyers USS Porter and USS Ross in the eastern Mediterranean. A Russian air unit was based at the airfield, a US military official said, with anywhere from 12-100 personnel. The Pentagon warned these forces ahead of the strike using a special military-to-military hotline. A U.S. official said the strike was designed to avoid casualties. "Every precaution was taken to execute this strike with minimal risk to personnel at the airfield," he said.The Syrian army in a statement said six people were killed at the base and that the attack caused "significant damage." The SANA state news agency said four children were among nine civilians killed in surrounding villages. U.S. officials stressed the strike was a direct reaction to the chemical attack, and not the beginning of a broader military campaign against Assad. Damascus government ally Russia said the strike constituted an "aggression against a sovereign state" and suspended a bilateral agreement to help avoid clashes in the skies over Syria.

Lebanon Registered Ship Hijacked Off Somalia Freed
Associated Press/Naharnet/April 09/17/A Lebanese registered ship hijacked off the coast of war-torn Somalia has been freed, says a shipping expert. The pirates who boarded the ship Saturday abandoned it Sunday before naval forces rescued the ship, Mohamed Abdirahman, former director of Puntland's marine forces, told The Associated Press. The pirates were unable to take the crew hostage because they locked themselves in a safe room said Abdirahman. No pirates were arrested and international naval forces are now escorting the ship, he said. The ship hijacked off the coast of war-torn Yemen is a cargo vessel owned by a Lebanon-registered company, a United Nations agency confirmed Sunday. The hijacking was the latest in a resurgence of piracy in the waters off Somalia and Yemen, one of the world's crucial sea trade routes. The OS 35, which can carry non-liquid cargoes like grain or iron ore, is registered by Oldstone Cargo Ltd, which lists its business address in Tripoli, Lebanon, said the International Maritime Organization. The OS 35 is Oldstone's only ship registered with the U.N. Oldstone could not be immediately reached for comment. The pirates managed to board the ship Saturday evening near Yemen's Socotra Island despite resistance from the crew, said Somali pirate, Bile Hussein. Somali pirates in recent weeks have hijacked at least two vessels with foreign crews in the waters off Somalia and Yemen, marking a return of the threat after five years. In March, Somali pirates hijacked a Comoros-flagged oil tanker, marking the first such seizure of a large commercial vessel since 2012. They later released the vessel and its Sri Lankan crew without conditions.Pirates later seized a fishing trawler, which Somali authorities warned could be used for further piracy. Earlier this month, Somali pirates seized a small boat and its 11 Indian crew members as the vessel passed through the narrow channel between Socotra Island and Somalia's coast. Piracy off Somalia's coast was once a serious threat to the global shipping industry. It has lessened in recent years after an international effort to patrol near the country, whose weak central government has been trying to assert itself after a quarter-century of conflict. In December, NATO ended its anti-piracy mission off Somalia's waters. But frustrations have been rising among Somali fishermen, including former pirates, at what they say are foreign fishermen illegally fishing in local waters.

Aoun to Sisi: We condemn the bombings of the two churches and stand in solidarity with you in face of terrorism
Sun 09 Apr 201/NNA - President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, condemned on Sunday the two terrorist crimes which targeted St. George Church in the Egyptian City of Tanta and St. Mark Church in Alexandria. In a cable to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, Aoun expressed deepest condolences to the Egyptian State and people and to the families of the fallen victims as a result of said bombings. "Lebanon stands in solidarity with you in the face of terrorism and all that aims to destabilize the security of your brotherly country," asserted Aoun. The President also cabled Coptic Pope Twadros II of Alexandria, denouncing the two bombings and offering sincerest condolences to the victims' families while wishing fast healing to the wounded.

Riachy calls on Egyptians to ring bells, raise prayer calls against terrorism
Sun 09 Apr 2017/NNA - Minister of Information Melhem Riachy called, on Sunday, upon "Muslim and Christian brethrens in Egypt to ring church bells and raise prayer calls against terrorism, in order to affirm the will of peace and reveal it as a message to the West.""What happened in Egypt today is part of the bloody and ignorant violence in the region," said Riachy, pointing to "a positive aspect to this violence evident in the closeness of Muslims and Christians, because both Islamic and Christian religions renounce violence."Speaking in an interview to "New TV" Channel Station, Riachy stressed on "insistence not to demonize Muslims in Egypt or any other region, as well as Christians," adding that "this needs more dialogue," and that "the role of Lebanon is undertaking such dialogue." Regarding the situation in Ain el-Hilweh refugee camp, Riachy deemed that it was "not out of control," praising the Army's awareness while referring to what is going on in the camp as "rearranging the Palestinian situation." Over Monday's cabinet session, Riachy said: "This is a meeting to discuss the election law, to remove Lebanon from the bottle neck." He reiterated his rejection of the "60's Law" while stressing on "the need to finalize a new law" and highlighting "the importance of representation, especially for Christians."Riachy referred to Minister Gibran Bassil's recent election law, considering that it "emphasizes the Christian vote without neglecting the Muslim vote." He added that "sectarianism exists, without being necessarily abhorrent," and called for "dealing with this sectarianism as a matter of fact, but within the context of correcting the imbalance in Christian representation, which has suffered injustice ever since 1992." Riachy expressed respect for MP Boutros Harb's criticism of Gibran Bassil's recent law, adding that "Bassil did not take into account certain calculations, but wished to accord consideration to Christian representation."Responding to a question about the reasons for postponement of elections without finding a solution, Riachy said he supported "the principle of voting for an election law." He voiced rejection of relativity "because it ensures numbers but eliminates pluralism.""We want the proper representation of Christians, and this is provided by the Bassil law, which leads to the election of about 55 Christian deputies," said Riachy. He also refused to "accept the extension of the Parliament Council's mandate without the completion of a new electoral law."Riachy expressed confidence in the President of the Republic with regards to reaching a new electoral law, noting that he would agree to a technical extension draft of the Parliament's mandate till next September on condition of reaching a new electoral law.

Hezbollah denounces bombings in Egypt: Aim at Christian displacement from Sinai and the region, open the door for sedition and sectarian division
Sun 09 Apr 2017/NNA - In an issued statement in wake of the two church bombings in the Egyptian cities of Tanta and Alexandria on Sunday, Hezbollah Political Party condemned the "heinous crimes committed by Daesh organization, which led to the wounding and killing of dozens of innocent civilians.""These atrocious acts aim at causing Christian displacement from Sinai and the whole region, as well as opening the doorway for sedition and sectarian and ethic divisions which serve the Zionist enemy," Hezbollah's statement indicated. The Party expressed deepest condolences to the families of the fallen victims while wishing the wounded speedy recovery. "Targeting the faithful in their churches in the morning of the Eid is the embodiment of barbarism in all its meanings, and evidence of said terrorist groups' loss of humanity," the statement added. "These continuous and escalating killings by criminal gangs, in the name of religion, are among the huge calamities that have plagued our nation, plotted for by major powers and regional groups that support such terrorists and provide them with political, financial and media back up," the statement went on. "We, at Hezbollah, stand at this painful moment by Egypt and its people, and urge all sides to realize the huge conspiracy against our nation and to remain united against terrorists and their regional and international sponsors," the Party statement concluded.

Jumblatt cables Sisi, Twadros II offering condolences in wake of recent terrorist bombings
Sun 09 Apr 2017/NNA - "Democratic Gathering" Head, MP Walid Jumblatt, cabled on Sunday Egyptian President, Abdel-Fattah Sisi, and Pope Twadros II of Alexandria, condemning the two church bombings in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria. Jumblatt considered that "the repeated acts of terrorism fall within the context of a conspiracy aimed at striking stability and national unity in Egypt and nurturing the spirit of sectarian strife and division, in a bid to weaken the historic role of Egypt at the Arab and regional levels.""However, despite the size and magnitude of the challenges, we are confident that the Egyptian institutions and people can overcome this difficult and sensitive period, thwarting the aims of such criminal attacks," asserted Jumblatt. He concluded by expressing his sincere condolences to the Egyptian people and the families of the fallen victims.

Derian denounces Egypt deadly blasts
Sun 09 Apr 2017/NNA - Mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian, condemned on Sunday the two bomb attacks targeting two Egyptian churches. Mufti Derian said that what happened today was a proof of an attempt to hit the Egyptian national unity and ignite confessional strife between Muslims and Christians in Egypt. He also offered his condolences to Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Theodore II, wishing the wounded a quick recovery.

Latest LCCC Bulletin For Miscellaneous Reports And News published on April 09-10/17
Who are Egypt's Coptic Christians?
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 09/17/
Egypt's Copts, targets of an apparent church bombing north of Cairo on Sunday, are the Middle East's largest Christian minority and one of the oldest. Making up about 10 percent of Egypt's population of 90 million, the Coptic Orthodox form the largest Christian denomination in the Muslim-majority country.
Here is a recap of their history, their status today and recent attacks against them.
'Dawn of Christianity'
The Copts trace their history to the dawn of Christianity, when Egypt was integrated into the Roman and later the Byzantine empire. The word "Copt" comes from the same root as the word for "Egyptian" in ancient Greek. The community's decline started with the Arab invasions of the 7th century and the progressive Islamization of the country, which today is largely Sunni Muslim. Several churches and monasteries in Egypt are built on sites Copts believe were visited by the Holy Family. The Bible says Joseph, Mary and Jesus sought refuge in Egypt after Christ's birth to escape a massacre of newborns ordered by King Harod.
Copts today
Copts, represented in all social classes, are present across the whole country, with the strongest concentration in central and southern Egypt.Most adhere to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, headed since 2012 by Pope Tawadros II. A minority is divided between Coptic Catholics and various Coptic Protestant branches. Tawadros, who succeeded pope Shenuda III, was chosen by a blindfolded altar boy picking his name from a chalice, according to tradition. The Catholic Copts, who form part of the Church's eastern rite, have been headed by patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak since 2013. The Vatican says some 165,000 Catholic Copts lived in Egypt in 2010.Poorly represented in government, Copts complain that they are sidelined from many posts in the justice system, universities and the police.Authorities often refuse to issue building permits for churches, arguing it would disturb the peace with their Muslim neighbors.
Deadly violence
Egypt's Copts have been the target of several deadly attacks since the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime president Hosni Mubarak. On January 1, 2011, more than 20 people died in the unclaimed bombing of a Coptic church in Egypt's second city, Alexandria. In March the same year, 13 people were killed in clashes between Muslims and Copts in Cairo's working class neighborhood of Moqattam, where around 1,000 Christians had gathered to protest over the torching of a church. In May 2011, clashes between Muslims and Copts left 15 dead in the Cairo neighborhood of Imbaba, where two churches were attacked. That October, almost 30 people -- mostly Coptic Christians -- were killed after the army charged at a protest in Cairo to denounce the torching of a church in southern Egypt. The 2013 ouster of Mubarak's elected Islamist successor Mohamed Morsi after just one year in power sparked further attacks against Christians. Pro-Morsi Islamists accused the Christian community of supporting his overthrow. They pointed to the appearance of Tawadros alongside President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on television in July 2013 as the then army chief, also surrounded by Muslim and opposition figures, announced Morsi's removal. The next month, security forces used deadly force to break up two pro-Morsi protest camps in Cairo. The following two weeks saw attacks against more than 40 churches across the country, according to Human Rights Watch. Amnesty International later said more than 200 Christian-owned properties were attacked and 43 churches seriously damaged, with at least four people killed. In December last year, a suicide bombing claimed by the Islamic State group killed 29 worshipers during a Sunday mass in Cairo. A spate of deadly jihadist-linked attacks in Egypt's restive Sinai Peninsula in February prompted some Coptic families to flee their homes. About 250 Christians took refuge in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiya after IS released a video calling for attacks against the minority. Pope Francis is set to visit Cairo late this month for talks with the grand imam of the capital's famed Al-Azhar mosque and to show solidarity with Coptic Christians.

Egypt’s Sisi declares three-month state of emergency
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Sunday, 9 April 2017/President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a three-month state of emergency in Egypt following twin church bombings that killed dozens of people in two cities on Sunday. Under the country's constitution, Sisi will have to put the measure before parliament, which is stacked with his supporters, for approval within a week. Sisi announced the "state of emergency for three months" in a defiant speech at the presidential palace after a meeting of the national defense council. He also announced the formation of a supreme council tasked with confronting terrorism and extremism in Egypt. During the speech after Sunday's aftermath in Alexandria and Tanta, Sisi also called on the international community to hold to account states that have supported terrorists during the past few years. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the church bombings in the Nile Delta cities of Alexandria and Tanta in which at least 44 people were killed.

Coptic Christians rage at Tanta security chief over shortfalls
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Monday, 10 April 2017/Coptic Christians in Tanta attacked the city’s security chief amid claims he failed to provide adequate protection after a deadly bombing attack that saw 27 people killed at Mar Girgis church earlier on Sunday. In the wake of the attacks, the Tanta area security chief Hossam El-Din Khalifa was relieved of duty, according to state-owned Al Ahram news. The attack on Khalifa, which was caught on video, reportedly took place at ‎St. George's Cathedral. The explosion killed at least 27 people, and was followed hours later by a second bombing at a church in Alexandria, which killed 17. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi declared a state of emergency for three months after the attacks. Under the country's constitution, Sisi will have to put the measure before parliament, which is stacked with his supporters, for approval within a week.

Pope on Palm Sunday decries suffering from war, terrorism
The Associated Press, Vatican City Sunday, 9 April 2017/Pope Francis on Sunday decried a deadly attack on a Coptic church in Egypt during Palm Sunday celebrations, just weeks before his planned visit to Cairo. The pontiff expressed his “deep condolences” to the Coptic patriarch, Tawadros II, calling him “my brother,” to the Coptic church and “all of the dear Egyptian nation,” and said he was praying for the dead and injured in the attack that occurred just hours earlier as Francis himself was marking Palm Sunday in St. Peter’s Square. The pontiff asked God “to convert the hearts of those who spread terror, violence and death, and also the hearts of those who make, and traffic in, weapons.”The pope’s remarks on the church attack were handed to him on a piece of paper after he remembered the victims of the Stockholm attack Friday night.
Tight security
The Palm Sunday celebrations in St. Peter’s Square were held under tight security, with streets surrounding St. Peter’s Square blocked to traffic and security search of the faithful entering the square. The pope and cardinals in red robes led a solemn process clutching elaborately braided palm fronds as they walked through the throngs, followed by the papal blessing of palm fronds and olive branches. The processions recalls the bittersweet nature of Holy Week, with the faithful clutching simple palm fronds and olive branches to commemorate Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem only to be followed later by his death on a wooden cross. In his homily, the pope remembered the suffering in the world today, citing those who “suffer from slave labor, from family tragedies, from diseases ... They suffer from wars and terrorism, from interests that are armed and ready to strike.”

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sends letter of condolence to Egypt’s Sisi
Staff writer, Al Arabiya English Sunday, 9 April 2017/Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has sent a letter of condolences to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi regarding the two terror bombing attacks in Alexandria and Tanta that claimed the lives of at least 27 people. King Salman expressed sorrow regarding the news of the “terrorist bombings that took place in the cities of Tanta and Alexandria, and the resulting deaths and injuries. We express our deep condemnation and condemnation of these two criminal acts.”“We affirm Saudi Arabia's stand with the Arab Republic of Egypt and its brotherly people against anyone who tries to undermine its security. And to the families of the brotherly Arab Republic of Egypt and to the families of the victims on behalf of the people and the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and on our behalf, our sincere condolences and sincere condolences. We wish their families patience and solace and wish the injured a speedy recovery,” his letter to Sisi read. On their parts, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman also sent separate letters of condolences. An official source of the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said Saudi Arabia strongly condemns Sunday’s two deadly bombings of Coptic churches. The blasts were in Margarges Church in the Egyptian city of Tanta and close to St Mark’s Church in Alexandria, northern Egypt leaving dozens dead even more wounded. The source confirmed said the ‘cowardly acts of terrorism were contrary to all religious principles and moral and humanitarian values’.And he said the kingdom offered its condolences to the families of the victims and the Arab Republic of Egypt's government and people, wishing a speedy recovery for the wounded.

Muslim Egyptians donate blood to deadly church blast victims
By Ashraf Abdelhamid Al Arabiya Net Sunday, 9 April 2017/Egyptian men and women rushed to mosques in Tanta to donate blood for people injured in Sunday’s deadly blast, which struck the Coptic Christian Church earlier in the day. Mohammed Ahmad Hassan, a Tanta resident, said loudspeakers were used to call on people in the city to head to mosques and donate blood to help those injured by the attack. The call came bloods stocks at the hospitals were beginning to run out. And he added said that it seemed a large proportion of those responding were mostly Muslim. Hassan added that hundreds of blood bags were being delivered to blood banks and the General Hospital where the injured were being treated.

Assad allies: US attack on Syria air base crosses 'red lines'
Ynetnews/Associated Press/April 09/17
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran's Hassan Rouhani said in a phone call that aggressive US actions against Syria were not permissible and violated international law.
A joint command centre made up of the forces of Russia, Iran and militias supporting Syrian President Bashar al Assad said the US strike on a Syrian air base on Friday crossed "red lines" and it would respond to any new aggression and increase its support for its ally.
The United States fired dozens of cruise missiles at a Syrian air base on Friday from which it said a deadly chemical weapons attack had been launched earlier in the week, escalating the US role in Syria and drawing criticism from Assad's allies including Russia and Iran.
"What America waged in aggression against Syria is a crossing of red lines. From now on we will respond with force to any aggressor or any breach of red lines from whoever it is and America knows our ability to respond well," read the statement.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meanwhile, blamed Russian inaction for helping fuel the chemical weapons attack it had reacted to, saying Moscow had failed to carry out a 2013 agreement to secure and destroy chemical weapons in Syria.
He said the United States expected Russia to take a tougher stance against Syria by rethinking its alliance with Assad because "every time one of these horrific attacks occurs, it draws Russia closer into some level of responsibility."
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran's Hassan Rouhani said in a phone call that aggressive US actions against Syria were not permissible and violated international law, the Kremlin said on Sunday.
The two leaders also called for an objective investigation into an incident involving chemical weapons in Syria's Idlib and said they were ready to deepen cooperation to fight terrorism, the Kremlin said in a statement on its website.
Syrian army forces had been losing ground across the country until Russia intervened militarily in September 2015, propping up Assad and protecting its own interests in the region.
Assad has also drawn heavily on foreign Shi'ite militias sponsored by Iran, led by Lebanon's Hezbollah group, for his most important gains since the Russian intervention.
The joint command centre also said the presence of US troops in northern Syria where Washington has hundreds of special forces soldiers helping the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to oust ISIS was "illegal" and that Washington had a long-term plan to occupy the area.
The regional alliance said the US cruise missile strikes on a Syrian base which Washington said was involved in a chemical attack that killed dozens of civilians would not deter their forces from "liberating" all of Syrian territory.
Many Syrians opposed to Assad's rule consider Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iranian-backed troops as occupiers seeking to drive out mainly Sunni Syrians from the areas they live in. They hold Iran and its allies responsible for the displacement of millions outside the country.
They also see Russia as a foreign occupier whose relentless aerial bombardment of rebel-held areas has led to thousands of civilian casualties. Some accuse Moscow of applying a "scorched-earth policy" that targets hospitals, schools and residential areas more than frontlines to break the resolve of the anti-Assad insurgency. In Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the U.S. missile strike was a "a strategic error, and a repeat of the mistakes of the past," the state news agency IRNA reported. "The Islamic Republic has shown that.. it does not back off and its people and officials ... do not retreat in the face of threats," said Khamenei. Many Syrians opposed to Assad's rule consider Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iranian-backed troops as occupiers seeking to drive out mainly Sunni Syrians from the areas they live in. They hold Iran and its allies responsible for the displacement of millions outside the country.
They also see Russia as a foreign occupier whose relentless aerial bombardment of rebel-held areas has led to thousands of civilian casualties. Some accuse Moscow of applying a "scorched-earth policy" that targets hospitals, schools and residential areas more than frontlines to break the resolve of the anti-Assad insurgency.

U.S. Envoy Says Assad Must Go after 'Chemical Attack'
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 09/17/Washington's U.N. ambassador said that Syria's President Bashar al-Assad cannot stay in power after a suspected chemical attack that prompted the first direct U.S. military action against his government. Nikki Haley's comments in an interview airing Sunday came as part of an apparent shift in U.S. policy towards Assad's government after the alleged chemical attack last week on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun that killed 87 people, including many children. Images of civilians suffering the apparent effects of a gas attack, including convulsions, vomiting and foaming at the mouth, provoked international outrage and prompted U.S. President Donald Trump to order a strike on a Syrian airbase. In the interview with CNN, Haley said peace in Syria was impossible with Assad in power. "There's not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime," she told the "State of the Union" program. "If you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it's going to be hard to see a government that's peaceful and stable with Assad." "Regime change is something that we think is going to happen," she said, adding that Washington was also focused on fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and ending Iranian influence.
Tillerson: IS fight top priority
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson insisted however that defeating IS in Syria remained Washington's top priority. "It's important that we keep our priorities straight. And we believe that the first priority is the defeat of ISIS," Tillerson said in an interview with CBS television's "Face the Nation" being broadcast later Sunday. "Once the ISIS threat has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilizing the situation in Syria," he said, using an alternative acronym for IS. After years of calling for Assad's removal during former president Barack Obama's tenure, Washington appeared to be stepping back from seeking regime change in Syria in recent weeks. Prior to the attack in Khan Sheikhun, Tillerson said Assad's fate should be decided by the Syrian people, suggesting Washington would not oppose him standing for reelection. And Haley too said Washington's priority was "no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out." But in the aftermath of the attack, Trump ordered the strike targeting the Shayrat air base in central Syria's Homs province with 59 Tomahawk missiles.
And his administration informed Congress that it could "take additional action, as necessary and appropriate, to further its important national interests."
Iran's Rouhani calls Assad
Syria's government has denied any involvement in Tuesday's attack on Khan Sheikhun, suspected to be the second-deadliest chemical weapons attack since the country's war began in March 2011. It killed at least 87 civilians, including 31 children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor. Hundreds more suffered symptoms that the World Health Organization said were in some cases consistent with exposure to chemicals that include nerve gas. The exact nature of the substance used in the attack has not been confirmed, and Syria has insisted it would not and has not used chemical weapons. Assad's government signed the Chemical Weapons Convention and agreed to turn over its chemical armaments in 2013, after being accused of a sarin attack outside Damascus that killed hundreds of people. But there have been repeated allegations of chemical weapons use by the government since then. Syria's closest allies Russia and Iran have defended Damascus against the allegations of chemical weapons use, with Moscow saying a conventional strike hit a rebel depot containing "toxic substances."Iran's President Hassan Rouhani called Assad to reaffirm his support for the Syrian leader in the wake of the U.S. strike, Rouhani's office said on Sunday. "The nation of Iran will remain alongside the Syrian nation in fighting terrorism and safeguarding Syria's territorial integrity," Rouhani said in the call on Saturday evening, according to a statement on the presidency website. He said allegations that Assad's regime was behind a chemical weapons attack were "baseless" and suggested it was carried out by rebel groups to influence global public opinion. Moscow on Sunday also slammed Britain after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson cancelled a trip over Russian support for Assad. The British have "no real influence," Russia's foreign ministry said. More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began, and strikes have continued since the suspected chemical attack. On Saturday, one woman was killed in a suspected Russian air strike on Khan Sheikhun, the Observatory said. New strikes hit outside the town on Sunday, with no immediate reports of casualties, the monitor added.

Norway Police Destroy Suspect Device in Oslo
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 09/17/Norwegian police said Sunday they had destroyed a suspect "bomb-like" device in the capital Oslo and made one arrest, on the heels of a deadly truck attack in neighboring Sweden killed four people. "Bomb disposal officers carried out a controlled explosion overnight Saturday," a Norwegian police statement said. Police cordoned off part of the busy Gronland district and evacuated local bars and restaurants after the crude device -- described as having the capacity to cause only limited damage -- was discovered Saturday evening. Norway's PST police security agency is investigating. There were no immediate further details. The device was discovered a day after four people were killed and 15 injured after a truck rammed into shoppers in Stockholm. Swedish police have detained a 39-year-old Uzbek man in connection with that incident.

Iraq Forces Foil Double Car Bomb Attack at Syria Border
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 09/17/Iraqi forces on Sunday foiled a double suicide car bomb attack by the Islamic State group on a remote border crossing with Syria, officers and local officials said. "The attack was launched from the desert on the Iraqi side of the border," said a senior military officer with an army division stationed in Rutba, the nearest town. The Al-Walid crossing, which lies 515 kilometers (320 miles) west of Baghdad, was attacked shortly after midnight. "The attack was repelled by the tribal forces manning the crossing, with the aerial support of the international coalition," the officer told AFP. The officer and a local official from Anbar - the vast western province which has borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia -- said the tribal fighters neutralized the two vehicles before they could reach the border position. The Iraqi border guard has a presence at the Trebil border crossing with Jordan further south but the Al-Walid post is guarded by a local tribal force known as the Desert Hawks. It is comprised of around 100 men from Anbar clans and their commander is Shaker al-Rishawi. Iraqi forces have over the past 18 months retaken most of the major towns and cities in Anbar but IS retains some fixed positions near the Syria border and some desert hideouts that allow it to continue harassing government troops across the province.

Election Campaigning Makes Muted Start in Algeria
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 09/17/Campaigning for Algeria's May 4 elections got off to a muted start Sunday, with the public showing little interest in the poll despite government efforts to persuade disillusioned voters to participate. Over the coming three weeks, 12,000 candidates will compete for 462 seats in the People's National Assembly, with 23 million Algerians registered to vote. But in Algiers, few parties posted candidate lists on the boards reserved for them. Many people walked past hoardings without a glance. "Every time, we are promised wonders and marvels, then: nothing," said Fatma Zohra, a widow who said she is struggling to provide for her three children. The cleaner in her fifties said she is unlikely to vote. "I don't have time for that. I work at a company in the morning and in private homes in the afternoon," she said. Analyst Rachid Tlemcani predicted a "morose" election campaign and the lowest turnout in the country's electoral history, blaming "the economic and political situation and the fact that the public is fed up." Government-sponsored advertisements play in a continuous loop on television in a bid to attract a larger turnout than about 43 percent for the last legislative poll in 2012.
But Tlemcani says the public is tired of quarrels between political parties. "Once elected, candidates disappear completely," he said. "Voters are not idiots." Algeria's parliament has been dominated since independence in 1962 by the National Liberation Front (FLN), which ruled in a single party system until the early 1990s. Today, with its coalition ally the Rally for National Democracy (RND), the FLN has a majority of seats in the house. Observers say they are likely to keep their majority after other parties said they would boycott the polls. In the last election, Islamist parties hoped to ride to victory on top of their movement's achievements during the Arab Spring uprisings. But they registered their worst score since Algeria's first multi-party poll in the early 1990s. This year, they have merged or formed alliances in order to increase their chances. Between them, Algeria's political parties have scheduled no fewer than 1,826 rallies across the country by the last day of campaigning on April 30. Whether that brings out the vote is yet to be seen. "Supporters of the ruling parties will vote," said Mohamed, a trade unionist. "So if we want to turn things around, we must vote."

First Palm Sunday since IS in Iraq's Main Christian Town
Naharnet/Agence France Presse/April 09/17/Members of Iraq's Christian minority celebrated Palm Sunday in the country's main Christian town of Qaraqosh for the first time since it was retaken from the Islamic State group. Hundreds of faithful gathered in the town's Tahira al-Kubra church for mass before starting the traditional Palm Sunday march, a procession during which palms are carried to commemorate Jesus' entry to Jerusalem. "Thank God, we are returning to our towns and churches after two years," said Abu Naimat Anay, an Iraqi priest. Qaraqosh, with an overwhelmingly Christian population of around 50,000 before the jihadists took over the area in August 2014, was the largest Christian town in Iraq. It was retaken by Iraqi forces late last year as part of a massive offensive to wrest back the nearby city of Mosul from IS but it remains almost completely deserted. The area is now considered safe and the Palm Sunday mass and march were secured by the Nineveh Plain Protection Units, an Assyrian militia. The archbishop of Mosul, Yohanna Petros Mouche, moved back to the town last week but it needs to be extensively rebuilt and basic services restored before displaced Christians can return en masse. "Honestly, this makes the heart happy and sad at the same time, because we were torn away from our birthplace and this kind of devastation we didn't even see during the wars of the '80s and '90s," Aby Naymat Anay said. Many of the more 120,000 Christians believed to have fled their homes when IS swept across the region less than three years ago moved in with relatives or into camps in the nearby autonomous region of Kurdistan. "There is a mixed feeling but sadness dominates. We fled to Arbil and we are not back yet," 62-year-old Yusef Nisan Hadaya said, referring to the Iraqi Kurdish capital.

Iran: Remarks by Chair of Foreign Affairs Committee of NCRI, on Rouhani's Position on Assad's Chemical Attack on the Syrian People
NCRI/ Sunday, 09 April 2017 /- Mohammad Mohaddessin said: The Iranian regime’s President Hassan Rouhani’s phone call to the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and reaffirming his full-fledged support for this war criminal is indicative of two facts: First - The Iranian regime is fully participating in the crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide that are perpetrated in Syria. Second - It proves that both factions of the clerical regime, which has acted as the main obstacle to the overthrow of Assad in the past six years, have total unanimity in supporting Assad and the massacre of the Syrian people. So far as it pertains to suppression and export of terrorism and extremism, there is no difference between the Iranian regime’s factions. Bashar al-Assad, his regime’s officials as well as Khamenei, Rouhani, and the IRGC commanders who are responsible for the murder of 500,000 Syrians and displacing more than half of the population of that country, should be brought to justice. In fact they are more criminal than many of the individuals who were tried in Nuremberg. Rouhani, who blatantly attributes the mass killing of the innocent people of Khan Sheikhoun, in particular women and children, with chemical weapons to the opposition, is the same individual who for the past 38 years has been attributing the suppression and massacre of the Iranian people to the regime’s opposition and has boasted about duping the international community over the regime’s nuclear projects.
In his phone call, Rouhani reiterated that the clerical regime will stand alongside the Assad regime. This is the only true part in the conversation of this criminal mullah, since Assad’s downfall would tremble the very foundation of the religious fascism ruling Iran.
This is exactly what Rouhani’s master, Khamenei, specified a while ago when he indicated: ‘If we do not fight in Syria, we will be forced to fight in Fars, Isfahan, and Tehran.’

Iran: Raisi's Candidacy Intensifies Crisis Within the Regime
NCRI/ Sunday, 09 April 2017 /Ebrahim Raisi is officially announced the Iranian regime’s presidential candidate, with his candidacy revealing more than ever the Iranian regime’s critical conditions. As one of the executioners and a member of the death committee that executed 30,000 political prisoners in 1988, and also for his running the empire of plundering ‘Astan Quds’ foundation, Raisi by himself is a true symbol of a regime that has been built on the foundations of blood and plundering. With such a figure entering regime’s presidential show, it more than ever reveals the deadlock the regime is faced with while confronting the crises surrounding it from every side. The main crisis, however, is the imminent confrontation of the Iranian people with the entire regime. With Raisi’s candidacy, the 1988 massacre of MEK members and other political prisoners will inevitably be more than ever exposed to people, an unavoidable consequence that even state media are referring to with disapproval. State-run Bultannews website writes in this regard on April 5 “with the release of Montazeri’s audio file and particularly the possibility of Ayatollah Raisi’s candidacy, it’s quite a while that the anti-revolutionary media are putting the spotlight on execution of MEK members in 1988, using it as an excuse to attack the regime, Khomeini, and recently Raisi.”This is a concern for regime’s both rival bands, with Rouhani’s, which in the power struggle within the regime is standing against Raisi, being involved in the massacre as much as its rivals, so that Rouhani’s Justice Minister ‘Mostafa Pour-Mohammadi’ , for instance, is another executioner involved in 1988 massacre. Thus, in the clash of regime’s two rival bands, the Resistance of Iran has inevitably entered the equation as a decisive parameter, turning the election show into a unique opportunity for people and the movement seeking justice for the victims of 1988 massacre. Kayhan newspaper writes in this regard “today, similar to the 2009 sedition in which they revealed that ‘elections is just an excuse, the entire regime is targeted’, speaking of this or that candidate is just an excuse… Raisi, Jalili, and the likes of them are excuses. This is Khomeini’s decisiveness against the MEK in 1988 that’s being hated by the invaders.” Thus, Raisi’s candidacy by itself approves the point that the entire regime is based and formed on the basis of massacre, a fact that regime leaders from both rival bands are struggling to hide by preventing the names of the murderers from being revealed. State-run Rooydad website writes in this regard on April 4 “Raisi was one of the trio whose names were mentioned in Montazeri’s audio file, so that young people not familiar with Raisi’s past created an (unrealistic) image of him in their minds, an image that needs to be corrected through efforts that are underway.” And by efforts to correct the revealed image of a murderer, they mean launching propaganda campaigns, like the one called “Raisi, come” in which young girls and women have been employed whose makeup and dresses by itself is considered an offense by regime’s standards, or giving free food with a daily cost of 9600 million tomans coming from Astan Quds’ immense wealth, or arranging dramatic meetings with poor people, etc. But the fact is that such efforts to improve the image of executioners could only fuel the fury and hatred of the Iranian people. Raisi is also considered a candidate for Khamenei’s successor, with his win or loss in the election significantly impacting this issue as well. If Raisi loses the race, he’ll also miss the chance to achieve succession. The result of this battle is also as much vital for Rouhani and his band, since if they lose the race, Rouhani will be doomed to a fate similar to Khatami’s, with his band forced to leave the scene or at least being sidelined for quite some time.

Iran: Ascending Trend of Population Living in City Outskirts
NCRI/ Sunday, 09 April 2017 /20 million people are living in Iran’s city outskirts, according to the regime’s parliamentary Social Commission chair. In a recent interview with state TV, Salman Khodadadi said 35% of the country’s population is living in such conditions, adding this is not an issue that can be resolved in a short period. This phenomenon is the result of the Iranian regime plundering the people’s wealth and destroying the country’s production lines. Furthermore, entities such as the Revolutionary Guards are in control of a large swathe of Iran’s economy. The relationship between poverty and people living in city outskirts are directly related. A large percentage of Iran’s population are forced to find refuge in city outskirts. In an interview with the parliament news agency Iranian MP Homayoun Hashemi said this trend has been increasing. “11 provinces across the country are faced with the outskirt city crisis,” said Reza Mahboubi, an advisor to the Interior Minister and Deputy Interior Minister in social affairs, said in an interview with state TV. “The work of the Road and Construction Ministry and the Health Ministry, aimed at rendering developments in people’s health, confirm these numbers,” he added.
Unofficial residential areas and people living in city outskirts in Khuzestan Province, southwest Iran, has increased, according to the province governor. Alireza A’rafi, a mullah in charge of religious schools, described people living in city outskirts as a sign of social damages. One of the reasons behind this escalating crisis is the annihilation of agricultural production, leading to villagers migrating to city outskirts. “Around 33,000 villages across the country are empty of any residents,” according to the semi-official Quds Online website citing remarks made by the Iranian vice president in charge of village development.
“Studies indicate decreasing incomes amongst villagers resulting from a lowering amount of cultivation, shortage in water resources and grounds being sold, migration from villages to cities are continuing, strengthening the phenomenon of more people living in city outskirts and Iran’s villages being annihilated,” this website added. After four decades of the Iranian regime being in power, the number of people living in city outskirts, especially outside large cities, has grown to an unprecedented scale.

Bereaved Syrian father: US missile strike not enough
The Associated Press, Istanbul Sunday, 9 April 2017/Abdel Hameed al-Yousef woke to the sound of an early morning bombardment in the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun and told his wife Dalal to take their twins Aya and Ahmed to safety outside.
He emerged to find the home covered in dust, and then a new strike exploded about 300 meters away. Within minutes, he said, his eyes started to water, and he soon lost consciousness. “I estimate I came to about five hours later, he said. “And I had lost 19 of my close relatives. They were all on the ground.”Eventually, “They found Ahmed, Aya and my wife and four other people near my house,” the 29-year-old shopkeeper recalled. They were among the nearly 90 people who died from what US and other experts have determined was a Syrian government attack using sarin, an outlawed nerve toxin. While the Syrian government denied the attack and its Russian ally suggested the toxic agents were released when a bomb hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal, the US government responded with a barrage of 59 cruise missiles against Shayrat air base in central Syria that apparently had been used in the gas attack.
For the bereaved al-Yousef, speaking to The Associated Press after fleeing across the border to the southern Turkish province of Hatay, the retaliation wasn’t enough. “We thought he (US President Donald Trump) would strike all the air bases,” al-Yousef said. “Striking one is not enough.”
Still operational
Even the one may still be operational. Opposition activists said on Saturday that Syrian warplanes took off from Shayrat air base, despite the US missile strike. The Syrian civil war, now in its sixth year, has left an estimated 400,000 people dead. Al-Yousef wants the bloodshed to end. “What I want is for this waterfall of blood to end, for my people to live a good life, like humans, free and with justice. I want this cruelty to end and to go back to living how we used to,” he said. He frequently glanced at the photographs of his lost wife and children saved on his cellphone. “My goal from now on,” he said, “will be to tell everybody what I have lived through.”

Al Shabaab car bomb outside Mogadishu army base kills at least 15
Reuters, Mogadishu Sunday, 9 April 2017/A car bomb targeting senior officials leaving a military base in Mogadishu killed at least 15 people and destroyed a minibus carrying civilians, the Somali military said on Sunday, an attack claim by Islamist al Shabaab militants. It occurred a week after President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed replaced his security chiefs and called on al Shabaab fighters to surrender within 60 days in return for education and jobs. “At least 15 people, mostly civilians, died in (Sunday’s) the blast,” Somali Major Hussein Nur told Reuters. “We do not know the exact figure of casualties. All the people on board the ruined minibus perished. Soldiers and other private security guards also died.” A Reuters witness at the scene of the explosion saw a wrecked minibus, human flesh and damage to the tarmac road. Roads were sealed off even to private ambulances.
A government official said given the state of the dead bodies, it would be difficult to give an exact death toll. “Many people died but we cannot know the exact figure of casualties. We cannot count human flesh,” Abdifatah Omar Halane, spokesman for Mogadishu’s mayor, told reporters. Al Shabaab, waging an increasingly deadly campaign of bombings despite losing most of its territory to African Union peacekeepers supporting the Somali government, was behind the attack, according to Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Qaeda-affiliated group’s spokesman for military operations. Nur said the car bomber appeared intent on hitting a convoy carrying Somali military commander Ahmed Mohamed Jimale and other senior officers, but was not close enough to cause any casualties among his entourage.Al Shabaab confirmed Jimale was their intended target, and that they had killed seven of his bodyguards in the attack.

France expels Swiss Islamist grandson of Brotherhood founder
AFP, Paris Sunday, 9 April 2017/France on Saturday expelled controversial Swiss Islamist preacher Hani Ramadan who posed "a serious threat to public order", the interior ministry said. Ramadan, whose brother is the intellectual Tariq Ramadan and whose grandfather founded Egypt's radical Muslim Brotherhood, was arrested in Colmar, eastern France, while attending a conference. He was "known in the past to have adopted behavior and made remarks which pose a serious threat on French soil," the ministry said in a statement. "The interior ministry and the forces of law and order are fully mobilized and will continue to fight ceaselessly against extremism and radicalization," Interior Minister Matthias Fekl said in the statement. In 2002 Hani Ramadan was sacked from his teaching post in Switzerland after writing an article in French newspaper Le Monde in support of the stoning of adulterers and suggesting that AIDS was a divine punishment. Six years later he won 345,000 Swiss francs (just over 200,000 euros) compensation over the sacking. Ramadan's brother Tariq is banned from entering the United States.

Joint naval maneuvers between Oman and Iran begin
By Staff writer Al Arabiya News English Sunday, 9 April 2017/An Iranian Navy flotilla departed for Oman on Saturday to attend a joint “maritime rescue drill” in the South Sea and north of the Indian Ocean, the official Iranian news agency IRNA reported. The agency quoted the commander of Iran's First Naval Zone Admiral Hossein Azad as saying: “Providing security of the ships and preparing their rescue is necessary.” However, last year, there were 527 interactions between US naval forces and Iranian naval forces, 35 of which the US deemed to be unsafe or unprofessional on Iran’s part. There had been seven such interactions so far this year, according to US statistics. (ANALYSIS Maritime implications of Trump’s threats against Iran). The Washington Times said last month that Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen are using a new weapon that raises fears of seaborne attacks on both military and commercial shipping in the region. The weapon is an Iranian-designed remotely piloted small boat filled with explosives, a defense official told the news site, The exact number of explosive drone boats is not known, but the rebels are believed to have enough to threaten ships that pass through strategic routes off the Yemeni coast. The newspaper added that the navy has intelligence photos of the deadly boats but declined a request to release them. The boats were first detected after one was used in an attack Jan. 30 on a Saudi frigate in the Red Sea. IRNA said, this year, Oman hosts one-week long joint maritime rescue drill in the South Sea and the Indian Ocean, aimed at providing security of the region. The official said that the Iranian flotilla, attending the drill, consists of Iran's Sabalan destroyer, Lavan logistic warship, SH3D helicopter and Falakhen navy ship with the capacity of 1000 crew members.

Rex Tillerson on Syria: Our ‘first priority’ is to eliminate the ISIS threat

AFP, Washington Sunday, 9 April 2017/The top priority for the United States in Syria is to defeat ISIS even before stabilizing the country, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says. Defeating the group and its self-proclaimed caliphate would eliminate not only a threat to the US but to "the whole stability in the region," Tillerson told CBS television's "Face the Nation" program in an excerpt released Saturday. "It's important that we keep our priorities straight. And we believe that the first priority is the defeat of ISIS," Tillerson said in a clip made public on the eve of the Sunday talkshow's air time. "Once the ISIS threat has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilizing the situation in Syria," he said. "We're hopeful that we can prevent a continuation of the civil war and that we can bring the parties to the table to begin the process of political discussions."The former ExxonMobil chief executive noted that holding such talks would require the participation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime along with its allies. He narrowed his focus on key Damascus ally Moscow, with whom Washington has particularly frosty relations. "We're hopeful that Russia will choose to play a constructive role in supporting ceasefires through their own Astana talks, but also, ultimately, through Geneva," Tillerson said. "If we can achieve ceasefires in zones of stabilization in Syria, then I believe -- we hope we will have the conditions to begin a useful political process." The top US diplomat insisted he had no concerns about possible Russian retaliation following an unprecedented US strike on a Syrian airfield this week. "The Russians were never targeted in this particular strike," Tillerson said. "It was a very deliberate, very proportional, and very targeted strike undertaken in

Iraq’s Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr urges Syria’s Assad to step down
AFP, Najaf Saturday, 8 April 2017/Influential Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Saturday called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, also calling on Washington and Moscow to stop intervening in the conflict. The Najaf-based Shiite cleric condemned the killing of 87 people, including 31 children, in a suspected chemical attack last week in a rebel-held Syrian town that has been widely blamed on Damascus. “I would consider it fair for President Bashar al-Assad to resign and leave power, allowing the dear people of Syria to avoid the scourge of war and terrorist oppression,” he said in a statement. The United States fired a barrage of 59 cruise missiles at Shayrat airbase in Syria early on Friday to push Damascus, despite its denials of responsibility. Sadr, who led a militia that fought the US occupation of Iraq, also condemned the American missile strike, urging all foreign parties involved in the Syria conflict to pull out. “I call on all sides to withdraw their military assets from Syria so that the Syrian people take things into their own hands. They are the only ones with the right to decide their fate -- the alternative will turn Syria to rubble,” he said. Several Iraqi Shiite militias, some of them directly supported by Iran, are helping Assad’s camp in the Syria conflict by sending fighting units across the border. Sadr’s forces have focused on protecting the holy sites and his drive against corruption and nepotism has drawn support from beyond his traditional base.The Iraqi government on Friday condemned the suspected chemical attack and said it supported any initiative aimed at punishing those responsible.

Erdogan holds giant Istanbul rally week ahead of referendum

AFP, Istanbul Sunday, 9 April 2017/Tens of thousands packed one of the biggest public spaces in Istanbul as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hosted a giant rally seeking votes in Turkey’s largest city just over a week ahead of a nation-wide referendum. Lambasting Turkey’s enemies and taking pot shots at his opponents, Erdogan said a ‘Yes’ vote in the April 16 referendum would give Turkey more stability and power.“On April 16, do you want to say ‘Yes’ to a strong Turkey?” Erdogan asked the crowd, who waved a sea of red and white crescent moon Turkish flags.“Do you want a great Turkey? Do you want to say ‘Yes’ to stability? Will you be there Istanbul?” he added, as the crowd roared back ‘Yes!”.This handout picture taken and released on April 8, 2017 by the Turkish Presidential Press Service shows supporters waving the Turkish national flag and 'YES' banners as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a campaign rally for the 'yes' vote in a constitutional referendum at the Yenikapi Square in Istanbul. (AFP) Erdogan arrived by helicopter to cheers at the vast open ground space in the Istanbul district of Yenikapi on the shores of the sea of Marmara. It was here on August 7, 2016 that he held a mass rally to promote national solidarity in the wake of the failed July 15 coup blamed on the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen and clearly wanted to capture the spirit of that day. Erdogan said that the likes of Gulen, who denies being behind the coup, and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), wanted to see a ‘No’. He said that ‘No’ vote backers also were also against his projects to transform Turkey through modern infrastructure projects such as bridges and tunnels. Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan cheer during a rally for the upcoming referendum in Istanbul. (Reuters) “They said ‘No’ to the bridges. They say ‘No’ to a modern Turkey,” he roared, prowling around a walkway that extended from the stage like at a rock concert. If approved, the new system will see the scrapping of the post of prime minister, the creation of vice presidents and the empowering of the president to appoint ministers. The changes will also allow the president to be affiliated with a party, allowing Erdogan to restore his ties with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) that he co-founded and helped sweep to power in 2002. Supporters say that the new system will create an efficient US-style structure but critics argue the lack of checks-and-balances risk handing Erdogan one man-rule.

Latest LCCC Bulletin analysis & editorials from miscellaneous sources published on April 09-10/17
Why Does the West Keep Colluding with Terrorists?
Douglas Murray/Gatestone Institute/April 09/17
Like other criticisms of Hirsi Ali, the effort was to portray her as the problem itself rather than as the response to a problem.
That this type of campaign can succeed -- that speakers can be stopped from speaking in Western democracies because of the implicit or explicit threat of violence -- is a problem our societies need to face.
There is a whole pile of reasons why Islamists want to stop her explanations from being aired. But why -- when the attacks keep on happening -- do our own societies collude with such sinister people to keep ourselves the dark?
Only a fortnight after a vehicular terrorist attack in Westminster, London, another similar attack took place in Stockholm, Sweden. On one of the city's main shopping streets, a vehicle was once again used as a battering-ram against the bodies of members of the public. As in Nice, France. As in Berlin. As so many times in Israel.
Amid this regular news there is an air of defeatism -- a terrible lack of policy and lack of solutions. How can governments stop people driving trucks into pedestrians? Is it something we must simply get used to, as France's former Prime Minister Manuel Valls and London's Mayor Sadiq Khan have both suggested? Must we come to recognise acts of terror as something like the weather? Or is there anything we can do to limit, if not stop, them? If so, where would we start? One place would be to have a frank public discussion about these matters. Yet, even that is easier said than done.
There is a terrible symmetry to this past week in the West. The week began with the news that the Somali-born author and human-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali had been forced to cancel a speaking tour in Australia. "Security concerns" were among the given reasons. A notable aspect of this issue, which has been made public, is that one of the venues at which Hirsi Ali was due to speak was contacted last month by something calling itself "'The Council for the Prevention of Islamophobia Incorporated". Nobody appears to know where this "incorporated" organisation comes from, but its purported founder -- Syed Murtaza Hussain -- claimed that the group would bring 5000 protestors to the hall at which Hirsi Ali was scheduled to talk. This threat is reminiscent of the occasion in 2009 when the British peer, Lord Ahmed, threatened to mobilise 10,000 British Muslims to protest at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster if the Dutch politician Geert Wilders were allowed to speak. On that occasion -- as on this one -- the event was cancelled. Promises to mobilise thousands of angry Muslims can have such an effect. But the long-term implications often get lost in the short-term outrage.
Other attacks on Hirsi Ali began, in fact, weeks before her now-cancelled tour had been due to start. On the web, for instance, a widely-watched video was disseminated showing a group of headscarf-covered Australian Muslim women. All were attacking Hirsi Ali and protesting her appearance in the country. Addressing her directly, they complained that, "Your narrative doesn't support our struggles. It erases them."
Like other criticisms of Hirsi Ali, the effort was to portray her as the problem itself rather than the response to a problem. Once again, mixing up (deliberately or otherwise) the arsonist and the firefighter, such groups present a homogenous, agreed-upon opinion -- or "narrative" -- as the only necessary answer to any problems that may or may not exist. Hirsi Ali, according to them, thinks the "wrong" things and says the wrong things. Therefore she must be stopped.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author and human-rights activist. (Image source: The Aspen Institute)
That this type of campaign can succeed -- that speakers can be stopped from speaking in Western democracies because of the implicit or explicit threat of violence -- is a problem our societies need to face. But in the meantime, we also have to face the reality that a shut-down of opinion has on our public policy as well as our public discourse.
What, after all, is the acceptable discourse -- or "narrative" -- on which we can agree to speak about the attacks in Stockholm, Berlin, Nice and elsewhere? Can the discussion be allowed to include the Islamic portion? Can anyone be allowed to say that the attackers act in the name of Islam, or must we continue to present all jihadist terrorists as people suffering from any affliction apart from that one?
In the middle of the week, at a memorial service in Westminster Abbey, the Very Reverend John Hall, Dean of Westminster, said that the UK was "bewildered" after the terrorist attacks of a fortnight earlier. He went on in his sermon to ask:
"What could possibly motivate a man to hire a car and take it from Birmingham to Brighton to London, and then drive it fast at people he had never met, couldn't possibly know, against whom he had no personal grudge, no reason to hate them and then run at the gates of the Palace of Westminster to cause another death? It seems likely that we shall never know."
If it is true that our societies are "bewildered", as the Dean says, might it be because we have not heard a wide-enough range of possible explanations for such outrages -- because we have deliberately cut ourselves off, by choice,- from the warnings of ex-Muslims such as Hirsi Ali? Amid the "narratives" that are acceptable and to be tolerated, perhaps we have failed to listen to the explanations that outline the sheer scale of the religious and societal problem now in front of us?
Of course, for many Muslims, such as those critics of Hirsi Ali in Australia, there is a clear reason why they want to stop her speaking. Were people to hear her, they would realise the vast enormity of the challenge ahead of us and the depth and breadth of its nature. Her audiences would discover the defensive play around the world in which many Muslim organisations are engaged -- a campaign to limit speech precisely in order to protect their own interpretation of their religion and keep out any other.
It is, however, the dissenting, silenced voices such as Hirsi Ali's that are precisely the voices the world needs to hear at present. How tragic that a week that began with a silencing, should end with yet another all-too-predictable terrorist attack -- one which Sweden will do as much to fail at comprehending as Britain did two weeks before her.
Hearing from voices such as that of Hirsi Ali could lift the fog of our "bewilderment" and explain, for instance, what does motivate some people to drive a car or truck into crowds of people going about their lives. There is a whole pile of reasons why Islamists want to stop her explanations from being aired. But why -- when the attacks keep on happening -- do our own societies collude with such sinister people to keep ourselves in the dark?
**Douglas Murray, British author, commentator and public affairs analyst, is based in London, England.
© 2017 Gatestone Institute. All rights reserved. The articles printed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Editors or of Gatestone Institute. No part of the Gatestone website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied or modified, without the prior written consent of Gatestone Institute.

It’ll Take More Than a Missile Strike to Clean Up Obama’s Mess in Syria
Robert Kagan/The Washington Post/April 09/17
American missile strikes against Syria are a critical first step toward protecting civilians from the threat of chemical weapons, and President Trump deserves credit for doing what the Obama administration refused to do. But Thursday’s action needs to be just the opening salvo in a broader campaign not only to protect the Syrian people from the brutality of the Bashar al-Assad regime but also to reverse the downward spiral of US power and influence in the Middle East and throughout the world. A single missile strike unfortunately cannot undo the damage done by the Obama administration’s policies over the past six years. Trump was not wrong to blame the dire situation in Syria on President Barack Obama. The world would be a different place today if Obama had carried out his threat to attack Syria when Assad crossed the famous “red line” in the summer of 2013. The bad agreement that then-Secretary of State John F. Kerry struck with Russia not only failed to get rid of Syria’s stock of chemical weapons and allowed the Assad regime to drop barrel bombs and employ widespread torture against civilian men, women and children. It also invited a full-scale Russian intervention in the fall of 2015, which saved the Assad regime from possible collapse.
Today, thousands of Russian forces operate throughout Syria, and not chiefly against ISIS but against the civilian population and the US-backed moderate opposition. Russia has also greatly expanded its military presence in the eastern Mediterranean. The extensive air-defense and anti-ship systems Russia has deployed have nothing to do with counterterrorism — because neither the ISIS group nor al-Qaeda has planes or ships — and everything to do with threatening US and NATO assets. Obama and Kerry spent four years panting after this partnership, but Russia has been a partner the way the mafia is when it presses in on your sporting goods business. Thanks to Obama’s policies, Russia has increasingly supplanted the United States as a major power broker in the region. Even US allies such as Turkey, Egypt and Israel look increasingly to Moscow as a significant regional player.
Obama’s policies also made possible an unprecedented expansion of Iran’s power and influence. Iran has at least 7,000 of its own fighters in Syria, and it leads a coalition of 20,000 foreign fighters, including Iraqis, Afghans and 8,000 Lebanese Hezbollah.
If you add the devastating impact of massive Syrian refugee flows on European democracies, Obama’s policies have not only allowed the deaths of almost a half-million Syrians but also have significantly weakened America’s global position and the health and coherence of the West. Future historians will have to determine whether Vladi­mir Putin was emboldened to move in Ukraine by Obama’s failure to carry through on his threat in Syria, or whether China felt free to act more aggressively in the South China Sea. But at the very least US friends and allies in the Middle East and in Eastern and Central Europe have questioned how serious the United States is about countering aggression. Even in East Asia, American allies such as Japan and South Korea were left wondering whether the United States could still be counted on to keep its military commitments.
Trump, of course, greatly exacerbated these problems during his campaign, with all the strong rhetoric aimed at allies. Now he has taken an important first step in repairing the damage, but this will not be the end of the story. America’s adversaries are not going to be convinced by one missile strike that the United States is back in the business of projecting power to defend its interests and the world order. The Russians, by suspending an agreement with the United States to coordinate air operations over Syria, are already implicitly threatening to escalate in Syria. The Iranians are likely to step up their activities and could strike at Americans in Syria and Iraq. The testing of Trump’s resolve actually begins now. If the United States backs down in the face of these challenges, the missile strike, though a worthy action in itself, may end up reinforcing the world’s impression that the United States does not have the stomach for confrontation.
Instead of being a one-time event, the missile strike needs to be the opening move in a comprehensive political, diplomatic and military strategy to rebalance the situation in Syria in America’s favor. That means reviving some of those proposals that Obama rejected over the past four years: a no-fly zone to protect Syrian civilians, the grounding of the Syrian air force, and the effective arming and training of the moderate opposition, all aimed at an eventual political settlement that can bring the Syrian civil war, and therefore the Assad regime, to an end. The United States’ commitment to such a course will have to be clear enough to deter the Russians from attempting to disrupt it. This in turn will require moving sufficient military assets to the region so that neither Russia nor Iran will be tempted to escalate the conflict to a crisis, and to be sure that American forces will be ready if they do.
It was precisely because Obama and his White House advisers were unwilling to go down that path that they resisted military action of any kind, regardless of the provocation. Let’s hope that the Trump administration is prepared for the next move. If it is, then there is a real chance of reversing the course of global retreat that Obama began. A strong US response in Syria would make it clear to the likes of Putin, Xi Jinping, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Kim Jong Un that the days of American passivity are over.

Counter-Propaganda against US Strike on Syria
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed/Al Sharq Al Awsat/April 09/17
Reactions from Iran, Russia and Syria following the US attack on Shayrat military airbase were exactly as expected. Condemnation statements were issued. The US strike came in response to the Syrian regime’s mass murder chemical attack on civilians on Friday morning, the day everyone in the region suddenly woke up to the new US stance. Later that day, the tripartite media outlets- Russian, Iranian and Syrian- and social networking pages shared their fake news that questioned whether the Syrian regime was really behind the toxic gas attack in Idlib. The media outlets promoted news that the Syrian opposition had shelled Khan Sheikhoun. Then they marketed another story claiming that the Syrian air force did indeed shell areas of the “armed terrorist opposition-held” and the strikes hit a terrorist storage containing chemical gases similar to that previously used by ISIS in Iraq.
By claiming that, the opposition is the party that committed the crime of possessing internationally prohibited chemical weapons. However, this story was only believable to Damascus camp supporters.
The propaganda was altered the next day in light of the new development represented in Arab reactions welcoming the US strike on Syria.
The Arab popular stance had turned and welcomed the move after it had been angry with Trump’s administration due to reports accusing it of taking restrictive measures against Muslim refugees and travelers. In response to the sense of joy and victory, fake news surfaced claiming that the US strike was a mere charade carried out in agreement with Russia. Media outlets published forged photos showing some burnt airplanes inside concrete bunkers that weren’t shelled, trying to debunk the US strike narrative. Other news reports admitted that the strike happened but said it was a failure without achieving any goals.
It’s true that influencing the Syrian and regional public opinion is an important part of the psychological war, but it’s not definitive. Military operations are usually a result of political actions. The US strike sent political messages to the Syrian, Iranian and Russian governments, followed by messages to the Syrian public. The strike, which destroyed a few jets and killed six military personnel from the Syrian regime, will shake the conviction of those who support the regime so they don’t bet on it anymore. It will also provide the opposition with a dose of hope following political disappointments and military defeats they witnessed recently.
Shelling Shayrat airbase will not stop the aggression of the military alliance in support of Damascus regime, especially that it resumed bombarding civilians on Friday further defying everyone.
The US strike will not alter the balance of power on ground. It’s also unlikely that there will be any new US military strikes. The United States Ambassador to the United Nations said the possibility of US’s military intervention depends on whether the Syrian regime reuses chemical weapons or not which is unlikely at the time being. The new and important thing now is political positioning as it seems that Trump administration changed its stance and decided to be a party in the Syrian crisis. Previous statements, said that the administration was only concerned in fighting ISIS in Syria. Therefore, the victory announced by Damascus and its allies has become far-off. Until a week ago, most regional and international powers announced or conveyed their approval to the Syrian solution as per Moscow’s desire thus leaving Assad in power and ending the armed opposition.
However, the chemical attack and other attacks on civilian areas occurred, in addition to the arrogant statements of Syrian government officials against other countries in the region, which prompted all countries to reconsider the whole situation.
Once again, the Assad regime proved it cannot change its behavior and that it’s responsible for the major relapse in Syria, regardless whether Iran and Russia agree to its crimes or not.

Shayrat Attack… Significant but Insufficient
Salman Al-dossary/Al Sharq Al Awsat/April 09/17
Last week’s morning was a turning point in the US dealing with the Syrian crisis. When 59 missiles Tomahawk were launched towards Shayrat airport, this was the first direct attack by the |United States on Bashar Al-Assad regime since the beginning of the revolution six years ago.
The attack has stopped a US clinical sleep towards complications of a war that has resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis in recent history. Surely, speaking about whether the US has started practically correcting its stance is early. This might be a sole step and reaction for a massacre that was one among many committed by Assad’s regime – but it is at least a sign that the world is facing a new US administration that has done in less than four months what has not been done by the former administration in eight years.
The attack on Shayrat airbase, although it was surprising and important, is a small step in changing the field condition and ending the Syrian tragedy. Maybe, if the attack happened when Barack Obama threatened with the “red line” in 2013 and before the Russian military intervention then its influence might have been bigger – it might have contributed to supporting the opposition and putting huge pressure on Assad’s regime.
One strike will not change the horrible way Assad treats civilians and will not affect his power, even if it prevents him from using chemical weapons soon. Nonetheless, Washington believes that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapon in Khan Sheikhoun massacre and, thus, it should be punished.
During the Iranian-Iraqi war, the US supported Iraq against Iran, but soon after that it turned against Saddam Hussein regime after it used chemical weapons in Kurdistan. Also, Shayrat attack might be viewed as a warning to Moscow that their might be consequences for the acts of its ally, Assad.
Russians deceived the international community in 2013 agreement that admitted Assad has submitted his ammunition of chemical weapons, although Moscow knew that Assad kept some storage that was used later on without facing any real consequences by the international community.
Throughout the past years, the regime has carried out airstrikes that killed hundred thousands of innocent Syrians – it used the tactics of starving and bombing hospitals as well as chemical attacks. Despite that, Assad did not face any real consequences, not even once, for his barbarism. However, this time, the Trump administration saw that it has to destroy one of Assad’s airbases to prevent warplanes from striking innocent people and dropping Sarin gas on them.
It is true that the US attack is a huge symbolic step but it will be considered a limited tactic if compared to the facts on ground. If Trump’s slogan was “America first” then this does not necessarily mean acting indifferently towards the world matters but means that America stays strong and leads the world.
The US is not Switzerland to act impartially towards international conflicts and 50 Tomahawk missiles alone will not trigger a huge change. If the US chooses the relatively low-cost option represented in limited military response such as Cruise missiles, then it can also take an international efficient step against Assad’s regime through exerting pressure to implement the international resolutions – establishing safe zones.
As much as striking Shayrat airbase has achieved several goals, its influence will be limited with time if it remained a sole step and not a new strategy. Six years of war have proven that only Russia, Iran and “Hezbollah” are messing in the Syrian territories to support a practically collapsed regime.
The military strike at Assad’s regime might be a first step towards regaining respect to the international resolutions and pushing the international community, US in the lead, to play its role in putting an end to the Syrian tragedy.

Continued bombing by Assad shows limits of single U.S. attack
David Nakamura/The Washington Post/April 09/17
PALM BEACH, Fla. — President Trump on Saturday praised the U.S. military for carrying out the missile attack on a Syrian airfield and struck back at mounting questions over whether it would help achieve a momentum shift in Syria’s bloody civil war.
In an afternoon tweet, Trump defended the operation against criticism from some members of Congress and military analysts that the nighttime volley of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles two days earlier did not target the runways at the Shayrat air base in eastern Syria.
Administration officials have said the attack successfully destroyed refueling stations, hangars and some planes, effectively making the base inoperable.
“The reason you don’t generally hit runways is that they are easy and inexpensive to quickly fix (fill in and top)!” Trump wrote on Twitter from Mar-a-Lago after playing a round at the nearby Trump International Golf Club. The president is spending the weekend here after completing a two-day summit at his winter estate with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In an earlier message, Trump offered: “Congratulations to our great military men and women for representing the United States, and the world, so well in the Syria attack.”
The White House has sought to cast the mission — which came in response to evidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime had carried out an attack on civilians with the nerve agent sarin — as a major success in putting Assad on notice that he can no longer use such weapons without consequences. Officials announced Saturday that Trump had spoken with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, who offered support for his decision.
But Saturday brought fresh reminders that a single U.S. attack would hardly dissuade Assad from his brutal campaign to crush a six-year rebellion that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. Residents in the northwestern town of Khan Sheikhoun, where at least 86 people had been killed in the sarin attack, reported that Syrian warplanes had returned and dropped new conventional bombs.
Since a U.S. Navy destroyer launched the missiles early Friday in Syria, the Trump administration has struggled to explain how the attack — which came four years after President Barack Obama chose not to strike Assad unilaterally after a similar use of chemical weapons — fits into its broader policy on Syria and the Middle East.
Trump aides said that they could not unequivocally rule out future strikes against Assad’s forces, but they cautioned that the president’s decision did not signal a broader ramping up of U.S. military engagement on the ground.
In a letter to Congress on Saturday, Trump said his aim was to “degrade the Syrian military’s ability to conduct further chemical weapons attacks and to dissuade the Syrian regime from using or proliferating chemical weapons, thereby promoting the stability of the region and averting a worsening of the region’s current humanitarian catastrophe.”
Senior administration officials have acknowledged that the targeted operation did not eliminate Assad’s ability to carry out chemical attacks. And Trump, who has attempted to enact a ban on Syrians and those in five other majority-Muslim nations from entering the United States, has not indicated that he is willing to accept more Syrians who are fleeing violence.
Meanwhile, the administration is nearing completion of a review of long-term strategy to combat the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, which remains the priority over removing Assad from power. A fully developed proposal is expected to be delivered to Trump’s desk in the near future, a senior administration official said.
Among the questions being considered is what level of military support to give Syrian rebel forces, potential military cooperation with Russia against the Islamic State, how to deal with meddling in the region by Iran and what to do about fighting between Turkish government forces and autonomous Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.
Of the U.S. missile strike on Assad, the senior official said: “We don’t yet know if this is a one-time effort or not. We can’t predict what may or may not happen.”
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, added: “Certainly, it’s the hope of the administration that this action will influence [Assad’s] behavior in a positive direction, and we will not see further chemical attacks.”
Foreign-policy analysts cautioned that ordering a military strike before developing a strategic policy carried significant risks for the White House.
The U.S. assault on the airfield drew sharp condemnation from Assad as well as his patrons in Moscow, where President Vladi­mir Putin has offered him political backing and military support. U.S. analysts said that despite his show of force, Trump has offered no broader strategy to achieve a cease fire between the Assad regime and rebel groups to help broker a diplomatic solution.
In recent days, the administration has offered conflicting statements on key questions, including whether Assad can remain in power under any sort of negotiated peace settlement.
“They seem to be celebrating the strike almost as accomplishment in itself rather than as a tool to achieve any particular strategy,” said Jeffrey Prescott, who served as director for Iran, Iraq, Syria and the Gulf States at the National Security Council under Obama from 2015 to 2017. “Even days later, they are basking in the glow, but we do not have a clear sense of why this strike and to what particular end.”
In an interview on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” set to air Sunday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the administration’s top priority is defeating the Islamic State.
“Once the ISIS threat has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilizing the situation in Syria,” he said, using an acronym for the militant group. “We’re hopeful that we can prevent a continuation of the civil war and that we can bring the parties to the table to begin the process of political discussions.”
Tillerson added that he does not expect the Russians to retaliate for what he characterized as a targeted and proportional U.S. attack on Syrian targets.
White House aides said that Trump, who had campaigned generally on a noninterventionist platform, was moved to act after aides on Tuesday delivered a detailed assessment of the chemical attack and the president viewed television images of dead and suffering children. Over 2 1/2 days of intensive deliberations with aides, including at the Pentagon, State Department and National Security Council, Trump authorized the strikes.
But the White House did not ask Congress for permission and it offered no public explanation until after the mission had been completed, when administration officials, including Vice President Pence and Cabinet officials, placed calls to U.S. lawmakers and foreign capitals, and briefed reporters.
After considering a unilateral strike in 2013, Obama ultimately asked Congress for permission to strike after evidence was found that the Assad regime had crossed Obama’s “red line” against using chemical weapons. Obama aides said at the time that the president wanted broad political and public support before acting after years of U.S. military conflicts in the Middle East and Central Asia. But lawmakers voted against the authorization.
On Capitol Hill, reaction to Trump’s action has been mixed, with Republican leaders endorsing the president’s belief he did not need congressional approval to act.
But some rank-and-file GOP members, along with many Democrats, have criticized Trump for acting impulsively and betraying his own past opposition to U.S. intervention in Syria.
Analysts questioned whether the Trump administration, in its rapid deliberations over less than three days, had fully considered how to deal with the unknown consequences of the missile attack.
“I do not see any grounds for optimism and worry that expectations be disappointed,” said Tamara Cofman Wittes, a former deputy assistant secretary for Near East affairs at the State Department under Obama. “I worry that Assad could escalate. One possibility is that Assad could hasten his use of conventional weapons to end the war on his terms.“In this lightning process,” Wittes said, “the idea that [the White House] worked through the second- and third-order effects — I find that questionable.”