Indonesia's Masked Sharia Law Enforcers Administer Agonising Lashings

From Daily-Mail:
Terrified locals have been violently lashed by Sharia law 'enforcers' for spending time with people who are not their wives or husbands in Indonesia.

The public caning, which took place in Banda Aceh province, saw several citizens whipped in front of a huge crowd.

Masked enforcers carried out the punishments as part of their duties as algojo, which translated from Indonesian means 'the executioner' and the person responsible for carrying out the death penalty.

Some of the masked men are paid professional executioners, and all adhere to an intimidating dress code of a black robe with a gold trim, beige or light-coloured eye mask and white gloves.

Previously, the enforcers have been seen to wear a pink trim to their black robes, but their footwear appears to be their own choice.

They have been seen to wear black boots, running shoes and in the most recent lashings which occurred on Monday, one enforcer was spotted wearing what looked like hotel-issue white slippers.

Punishments were handed out to women and men having sex outside of marriage for which they received 25 lashings.

One man was caned for gambling and both men and women were lashed for spending time with somebody who is not their husband or wife.

The punishments are not consistent with previous cases, with women caned 100 time for having sex outside of marriage just 10 days ago.

The beatings occurred in Aceh, which is the only province in the country which implements Sharia law in full.

The province began implementing Sharia law after being granted autonomy in 2001 – an attempt by the government in Jakarta to quell a long-running separatist insurgency.

Islamic laws have been strengthened since Aceh struck a peace deal with Jakarta in 2005.

People are flogged for a range of offences including gambling, drinking alcohol, gay sex or any sexual relationship outside marriage.

More than 90 per cent of the 255million people who live in Indonesia describe themselves as Muslim, but the vast majority practice a moderate form of the faith.

The brutal and public beatings have become more prevalent this year with a number of reported incidents of those being punished collapsing in pain on stage.

Back in September 2014, Aceh approved an anti-homosexuality law that can punish anyone caught having gay sex with 100 lashes.

After a three-decade-old separatist movement, a peace agreement signed in 2005 granted special autonomy to Aceh, at the northern tip of Sumatra, on condition that it remained part of the sprawling archipelago.

As part of that deal, Aceh won the right to be the only Indonesian province to use Islamic sharia law as its legal code.

Anybody caught engaging in consensual gay sex is punished with 100 lashes, 100 months in jail or a fine of 1,000 grams of gold.

The law also set out punishment for sex crimes, unmarried people engaging in displays of affection, people caught found guilty of adultery and underage sex.

Religious police in Aceh have been known to target Muslim women without head scarves or those wearing tight clothes, and people drinking alcohol or gambling.

Over the past decade, the central government has devolved more power to regional authorities to increase autonomy and speed up development.

Engaging in homosexual acts is not a crime under Indonesia's national criminal code but remains taboo in many conservative parts of the country with the world's largest Muslim population.

Previous lashings have resulted in men and women collapsing in a heap due to the pain of caused by the whipping.

Although there were no signs that any of those caned on Monday collapsed, the punishments handed out appeared to be more lenient than in the past.

Just 10 days ago, men and women received 100 lashes for having sex outside marriage.

In the same public humiliation, a child molester was whipped 120 times for his crime.

Cleric Held For Rape

From Indian-Express:
A Muslim cleric was arrested in an alleged rape case on Saturday in Deoband area of Saharanpur district. The woman — in her twenties and a resident of Jind district in Haryana — in her complaint against Maulana Masood Madni, who is in his forties, said that he raped her on the pretext of performing a “ritual” which could help her bear children. Police have sent the woman for medical examination to confirm rape. The accused, meanwhile, was produced before court and sent to jail.

Senior Superintenent of Police (SSP) of the area, Luv Kumar, said Madni is the brother of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind general secretary Maulana Mehmood Madni.

Security has been tightened in Deoband to maintain law and order following the arrest of Masood Madni. “The woman has alleged that she had been to a mazar (a place of worship) in Deoband seeking divine help
for a child. She said she has been married for six years. She allegedly met a person at the mazar who suggested that she meet with Maulana Masood Madni, and referred to him as a “spiritual doctor” who may help her conceive. The woman and her husband approached Madni and shared their numbers too,” said the SSP.

On Friday, according to the complaint, Madni called the woman for some ritual to his house in Deoband and asked her to come alone. “The woman alleged that she was administered a sedative and then raped. We have lodged an FIR under IPC Section 376 (rape) against the accused,” added the SSP.

Teen Islamists Given Six Years Jail For Sikh Temple Bomb Attack

From The-Local:
Three teenagers were found guilty on Tuesday for a bomb attack at a Sikh Temple in Essen last year that injured three people. 
Prosecutors had argued that the three 17-year-olds - who were 16 at the time of the act - had attacked the temple out of radical Islamist motivations to kill “non-believers”. The youth court on Tuesday agreed that their motive had been hate for other religions.

The trial uncovered no evidence of the three having direct contact with terror group Isis.

Two of the three adolescents had set off the bomb in front of the entrance to the temple in April of last year, and were thus found guilty of attempted murder. One of the two was sentenced to seven years in youth detention, while the other received a sentence of six years and nine months.

The third was found guilty of conspiring to murder for participating in the planning and preparation of the attack, and was sentenced to six years in youth detention.

The trio’s homemade bomb exploded last April at a temple belonging to the Sikh Gurdwara Nanaksar congregation, injuring three people, including one Sikh priest seriously.

Hundreds of worshippers regularly visit the temple at weekends to pray and meet other members of the community, and a wedding with dozens of guests had taken place earlier that same day.

Fortunately, only a few people were in the hall at the time of the explosion. Windowpanes shattered with the force of the blast and the door was ripped from its hinges, while parts of the slate facade were also torn away.

News of the attack caused uproar among Sikhs all over the world as new reports, photos and videos were shared online.

The Indian consul-general based in Frankfurt made a special trip to Essen to meet with city authorities.

Most Sikhs live in northern India, but there is a population of more than 13,000 in Germany, many of them based in Cologne.

Religious Leader Caught Abusing Children Avoids Jail

From Coventry-Updates:
An imam at the Noorul Islam Jamia Mosque on Eagle Street, Mohammed Karamat, was caught on CCTV abusing 4 children within a week’s period, one as young as 9 years old.

The footage showed Mohammed Karamat on separate accounts slapping children, twisting one’s arm, grappling them by the neck, and stabbing them with a pen.

Mr. Karamat pleaded guilty and was sentenced a community order including 100 hours of unpaid work as well as a restraining order that bans him from contacting three of the victims or their family.

The 45-year-old comes from Station Street East, Foleshill.

The bench of magistrates did not feel it was “appropriate” for Mr. Karamat to pay compensation, but he has been ordered to pay £135 worth of court costs and a £85 victim surcharge.

Prosecutor John Bartlett described the injuries: “The first video shows a twisting of the arm and there is a back-handed motion on one of the children, and there is also signs of a pen used to stab a nine-year-old a number of times.

“It appears the child is in pain and pulls back to prevent being stabbed.

“One clip shows him grabbing a child round the back of the neck, pushing the neck towards the table.

“He is also seen slapping a child to the back of the head.”

Car Bomb Kills Six Near Somalia

From ABC-News:
A car bomb exploded Tuesday at a military checkpoint near Somalia's presidential palace in the capital, killing at least six people, the spokesman for Mogadishu's mayor said.

The dead included a soldier and five civilians, Abdifitah Halane said. Another dozen people were injured.

The blast was detonated after soldiers tried to stop the car and the bomber tried to speed through the checkpoint, police Capt. Mohamed Hussein said.

The checkpoint is one of several that motorists must go through before reaching the heavily guarded presidential palace, which has seen previous attacks by the al-Qaida-linked extremist group al-Shabab.

The group later claimed responsibility for the blast via its radio arm, Andalus.

The blast came a few hours after Somalia's new prime minister unveiled a 26-member cabinet, the latest step as the fragile central government tries to further assert itself beyond the capital.

The threat of al-Shabab attacks is a major challenge for the country's new Somali-American president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who has vowed to make security a priority in this Horn of Africa nation.

But the extremist group, which was kicked out of Mogadishu under Mohamed's brief term as prime minister in 2010-2011, has denounced the new president as an "apostate" and warned Somalis against supporting him.

Al-Shabab has lost most of its key strongholds across south and central Somalia to a multi-pronged offensive by allied Somali and African Union forces. But despite being ousted from most cities and towns, the group continues to carry out deadly attacks, many by suicide bombers, including in Mogadishu.

The Winds Of War Are Blowing On Israel’s Borders

From Y-Net:
The two military incidents over the weekend, both on the Syrian front and on the Gazan front—although unrelated—point to the fact that the relative calm along the borders in the past few years, which has become a symbol of security stability and Israel's deterrence abilities, is gradually wearing out.

So far, the logic behind IDF operations along the borders was that Israel must do everything in its power to avoid a military conflict. This led to the creation of an equation: On the one hand, Israel acted over the weekend to curb the transfer of long-range and accurate weapons from Syria to Hezbollah and to damage Hamas's infrastructure and capabilities in the Gaza Strip; on the other hand, Israel made sure not to push the enemy into a corner that would force it to respond in a way that could lead to an all-out conflict.

In recent weeks, however, Israel itself has been putting this equation to the test. It seems as if there is someone on our side who won’t be too sorry to see the security issue reclaim the headlines.

The weekend events in the north indicate that Israel is striking in Syria not only to curb the Iranian arms convoys to Hezbollah, but also to demonstrate its presence in Syria and make it clear, especially to the Russians, that there will be no agreement in Syria without Israel's input.

According to the Syrian army’s announcement, the Israel Air Force attacked the T4 airport, between Homs and Palmyra, a particularly sensitive area as far as the Russians are concerned, as the Syrian military recently completed a successful attack in the area with massive Russian aid. The airstrike and the interception of the Syrian anti-aircraft projectile raised the stakes for Israel on the Syrian poker table. We are one step closer to a military escalation on the Syrian front. Both sides have climbed up a high tree and are unwilling to budge.

Israel can’t climb down that tree because, according to its military policy, every show of weakness will harm its interests and give the Iranians a foothold in the Golan Heights and a pier at the port of Latakia. Such a pier will turn the supply of arms to Hezbollah from a drizzle into a deluge.

If the Syrians fail to climb down the tree and continue threatening Israel’s freedom of action against the weapon convoys to Hezbollah, a clash with the Syrian army—not just in the Golan Heights, but also deep within Syria—will be inevitable.

There is no wonder there is a nervous silence coming out of Moscow. Such incidents could have far-reaching ramifications on the agreement the Russians are trying to establish in Syria.

The Israeli ambassador in Moscow does not usually get summoned right before Shabbat unless there is unusual concern and anger on the Russian side. It’s quite possible that the Russians feel there is a gap between what they heard from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in his meetings with President Vladimir Putin and Israeli actions on the ground. This isn’t another operational misunderstanding discussed as part of the coordination between the two armies, the Israeli and the Russian, or between the two defense ministries. This is a diplomatic crisis.

In general, Syria's decision to launch the improved S-200 model, which the Russians recently sold them, is surprising. The S-200 is a heavy, immobile anti-aircraft missile, which can reach a range of 300 kilometers, and is not meant for intercepting fighter jets. Furthermore, Russian military experts said recently that Israel was using electronic warfare systems that completely “blind” the Syrian batteries and disrupt their communication systems.

As far as we know, the Russians did not provide the Syrians with any information on the Israeli strike, which adds to the ambiguity of the decision to launch the Syrian interceptor. It’s also unclear who gave the order in Syria. It’s possible that the decision to launch the missile was not made in the presidential office, and that the Syrian military echelon claimed responsibility for the launch in hindsight.

The working assumption in Israel is that the Syrian missile was directed at some target—but not at the Air Force fighter aircraft, as they were no longer there. The Israeli Air Force is now investigating what was actually shot down by the Arrow missile. It might have been a large fragment of the S-200 that exploded in the air after missing its original target.

The IDF had no early warning about the Syrian missile launch. For years, the teams operating the Arrow 2 interceptor have been waiting for a real-time test—and they passed it successfully. This is also an impressive achievement for the Israeli defense industry. The Arrow 2 intercepted a ballistic object at a range of more than 100 kilometers, beyond Israel’s borders. This is a clear message to the Iranians for the day they decide to fire Shahab missile at Israel.

In Gaza, there has been a significant spike in the number of rockets launched at Israel by Salafist groups. Israel is using this as an excuse to increase its aerial activity against critical military infrastructures in the strip. But this back-and-forth game of ping-pong is taking place during a dramatic change of leadership in Gaza. Yahya Sanwar, who will become the Hamas leader in Gaza in April, is a former student of Abdullah Azzam, al-Qaeda’s spiritual teacher. Granted, he is giving up the prison and underground manners for political visits to civil institutions in the strip, dressed in a suit, but he is not committed to the alleged signs of moderation conveyed by the Hamas leadership in the Gulf states.

Israeli officials estimate that Hamas’ failure to respond to the airstrikes should not be taken as a sign of political moderation, but rather as a sign the organization has simply not yet completed its preparations for another round of fighting. This doesn’t guarantee that Israeli pressure, which will humiliate the leadership in Gaza or lead to casualties, won’t drag Hamas into an armed conflict with the weapons it has accumulated so far.

Alarming Rise In Acid Attacks Against Women

From Jihad-Watch:
After almost a year of calm, spraying people with burning acid has returned in Iran where a family of four has been attacked on Saturday in Sharada, within Isfahan province, Iran’s top tourist destination.

Last month, unidentified people also attacked two women in Maashour, within the Ahwaz province, according to Iranian news agencies.

Isfahan’s Investigative Police Chief Sitar Khasraoui said in press statement that the families were taken to the hospital to treat the burns. The family consists of the father, 53, the mother, 48, the son, 23, and the daughter, 20. Both parents are said to be in critical condition….

Reports on social networks have claimed that the victims were doused on the face and body because they were not properly veiled. They were targeted by assailants on motorcycles.

Fifty Jihad Terror Linked Groups Operating In Muslim Neighborhood

From Jihad-Watch:
Police in the Brussels neighborhood of Molenbeek have uncovered 51 groups with alleged ties to terror organizations, according to a confidential report released Monday on anti-terror measures in the country.

More than 8,600 houses and 22,668 residents in the area have been checked by authorities over the past year, according to Belgian newspaper De Morgen. Out of more than 1,600 organizations and businesses in Molenbeek, 102 are suspected of having ties to crime and another 51 are linked to terrorism.

Authorities have compiled a list of 72  individuals who need to be monitored for their suspected terror connections. The vast majority, 46, still reside in Belgium while 26 are believed to be in Syria. Twenty people on the list are currently in prison.

A positive finding in the report is that no known cases of Belgians leaving the country to fight in Syria have been reported over the past year.

Molenbeek rose to fame after the terror attacks in Paris in 2015 and Brussels last year. Both attacks were planned in Molenbeek and several suspects grew up in the neighborhood. The area is known to be the “jihadi capital” of Europe and nearly every attack on the west since the turn of the century has a link to Molenbeek.

Police in the area collectively called in sick Jan. 6 in protest of long working hours and a shortage of 40 officers. The strike was part of an ongoing dispute since anti-terror measures were increased in 2015.

“They are talking about an overload of work, which I can understand. Things have not been easy neither in 2015 nor in 2016,” Johan De Becker, the head of the Brussels West police area that includes Molenbeek, told Reuters in a January interview.

Iran Arrests Christian Mother And Son

From Mohabat-News:
A Christian mother and her son were arrested on February 20, 2017 in Urmia by the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence officers. They were both immediately transferred to an unknown location.

The two arrested were identified as “Anousheh Reza-bakhsh” (Veronika) and her son Soheil Zagarzadeh Sani (Augustine). They were both arrested in their home in Urmia, in the Western Azerbaijan province in northwestern Iran.

There has been no further update on their whereabouts and well-being since the day of their arrest.

Soheil Zargarzadeh Sani is a psychology university student in his senior year. Eye-witnesses told Mohabat News that a group of intelligence officers raided their home and confiscated their books, including their Bibles and some books on Christian theology.

The mother and son who were arrested were converts to the Catholic church and had never been arrested before for their faith or any other reason.

It is believed that those arrested in Urmia for faith related charges are normally detained in the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence building.

The last reported Christian arrest in Urmia dates back to September 2008, when the Revolutionary Guards raided the residence of Schroeder Yadegar, one of the ministers at the official Assyrian Evangelical Church in Urmia. The Revolutionary Guards thoroughly searched his house and detained him without any explanation as to why he was being arrested. Along with him, another believer who was visiting him from Tehran, was arrested as well.

They were both charged with spying for, and contact with foreign countries. Just two days after their arrest, another Iranian Christian convert named Sobhan was arrested as well for his conversion from Islam to Christianity.

One of the campaign promises of the supposedly more moderate president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, was equal rights for religious and ethnic minorities. However, since he took power, reports indicate a more aggressive crackdown on religious and ethnic minorities has occurred.

Another Iranian official, Alavi Boroujerdi, a prominent Islamic cleric in Iran, emphasized in one of his recent remarks that people of all faith should co-exist peacefully. He claimed religious minorities have absolute freedom in Iran.

These seemingly positive remarks do not seem to have any effect on the way Iranian religious minorities, including Christians, are treated.

Twenty Killed In Car Bomb In Baghdad

 From MEM:
A car bomb blast killed at least 23 people and wounded more than 45 others in a mainly Shia district in southern Baghdad today, police and medical sources said.

First Lieutenant Hatem Al-Jabri said: “A car bomb parked on the side of the road exploded in 84th Street.” “Security services and ambulances rushed to the scene of the bombing, where they transferred the bodies of those killed and injured to nearby hospitals.”

The explosion occurred on a busy commercial street in the Amil neighbourhood, sources said.

No one has claimed responsibility of the attack.

Baghdad has been rocked by a number of car bombing today with at least three people killed and five injured in two separate attacks.