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Islamic Terrorism Again? 22-year-old Salman Abedi behind Manchester Attack that killed 22 and injured 64

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Armed police officers patrol a police cordon near the Manchester Arena in Manchester, May 24, 2017. VOA

Manchester, May 24, 2017: Explosion surrounded by a flash of fire is what eyewitnesses saw in the foyer area of the arena. It is suspected by police that 22-year-old Salman Abedi detonated a home-made bomb in the area as crowds were leaving an Ariana Grande concert on Monday evening.

Among the 22 people who were killed in the bomb blast, there was also an 8-year-old girl. The figures say 64 were injured.

Who is behind the Attack?

Salman Abedi has been named by police as the suspected suicide bomber. He was born in Manchester on New Year’s Eve 1994, the BBC understands.

It is said that he has at least three siblings: an elder brother who was born in London, and a younger brother and sister who were born in Manchester.

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Abedi’s family is believed to be of Libyan origin and has lived at several addresses in Manchester, including at a property at Elsmore Road in the Fallowfield area which was raided by police on Tuesday, mentioned BBC.

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Further, Salford University said Abedi had been a student there but refused to give any further details.

Apart from that, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said it was believed that Abedi had recently returned from Libya.

What Happened?

Police officials say that the attacker died at the scene. A witness said, apart from metal nuts and bolts being scattered on the floor amid bodies, the smell of explosives was in the air. The area where the bomb exploded was the busiest exit of the arena.

There was panic all around and the concert-goers were seen fleeing down the stairs into Victoria station.

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According to the BBC report, more than 240 emergency calls were made, 60 ambulances and 400 police officers attended.

Soon after the attack, many people in Manchester took help of the social media to offer spare beds and rooms to the needy people in the city.

The Islamic State terrorist group has claimed responsibility of the attack, but this has not been proved or verified yet.

– prepared by Staff Writer of NewsGram 

 

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Mahalaya: Beginning of “Devipaksha” in Bengali Celebration of ‘Durga Puja’

“Mahalaya” is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha” and heralds the celebration of Durga Puja

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Mahalaya morning in Kolkata. Flickr
  • Mahalaya 2017 Date: 19th september.
  • On Mahalaya, people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers; which is called ‘Torpon’
  • Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted in All India Radio
  • The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent

Sept 19, 2017: Autumn is the season of the year that sees the Hindus, all geared up to celebrate some of the biggest festivals of India. The festive spirit in the Bengalis all enthused to prepare for the greatest of the festivals, the ‘Durga Puja’.

About Mahalaya:

Mahalaya is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha,” and this year it is celebrated on September 19.

Observed exactly a week before the ‘Durga Puja’, Mahalaya is the harbinger of the arrival of Goddess Durga. It is celebrated to invoke the goddess possessing supreme power! The goddess is invited to descend on earth and she is welcomed with devotional songs and holy chants of mantras. On this day, the eye is drawn in the idols of the Goddess by the artisans marking the initiation of “Devipaksha”. Mahalaya arrives and the countdown to the Durga Puja begins!

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The day of Mahalaya bears supreme significance to the Bengalis. The day is immensely important because on this day people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers. Clad in white dhotis, people offer prayers and take dips in the river while praying for their demised dear ones. The ritual is popular as “Torpon”.

Mahalaya
An idol-maker in progress of drawing the eye in the idol of the Goddess. Wikipedia

As per Hindu myth, on “Devipaksha”, the Gods and the Goddesses began their preparations to celebrate “Mahamaya” or Goddess Durga, who was brought upon by the trinity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara; to annihilate the fierce demon king named Mahishasura. The captivating story of the Goddess defeating the demon got popularized with the goddess being revered as “Durgatinashini” or the one who banishes all the evils and miseries of the world. The victory of the Goddess is celebrated as ‘Durga Puja’.

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Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted at dawn in All India Radio in the form of a marvelous audio montage enthralling the souls of the Bengalis. Presented with wonderful devotional music, acoustic drama, and classical songs- the program is also translated to Hindi and played for the whole pan-Indian listeners.

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Mahalaya
Birendra Krishna Bhadra (1905-1991). Wikipedia

The program is inseparable from Mahalaya and has been going on for over six decades till date. The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent! He has been a legend and the dawn of Mahalaya turns insipid without the reverberating and enchanting voice of the legendary man.

Mahalaya will keep spreading the magic and setting the vigor of the greatest festival of the Bengalis- the Durga Puja, to worship the supreme Goddess, eternally.

                 “Yaa Devi Sarbabhuteshu, Shakti Rupena Sanhsthita,

                     Namastaswai Namastaswai Namastaswai Namo Namaha.”

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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Islamic State loses territory in Iraq and Syria, Al-Qaida seizes the Opportunity

Islamic State militants lose territory in Iraq and Syria, after being eclipsed for 15 years Al-Qaida seizes the opportunity by leveraging ISIS loses into their gains

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Islamic State Terrorism
Islamic State. Pixabay

August 04, 2017: As Islamic State militants continue to lose territory in their declared caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, officials and analysts are expressing concern that al-Qaida is making efforts to turn those losses into gains by itself.

Al-Qaida had been largely eclipsed by IS in recent years, with IS militants grabbing headlines by seizing territory in Iraq and Syria and carrying out attacks in the West. But there are signs that al-Qaida may be reemerging as a regional power.

“Al-Qaida in Syria is using opportunities to seize additional safe havens, to integrate itself into parts of the local population, parts of other forces, and bumping into other forces as well,” said Joshua Geltzer, a former senior director for counterterrorism at the U.S National Security Council.

Tahrir al-Sham, an offshoot al-Qaida group originally known as the al-Nusra Front, has recently emerged as the most powerful Sunni insurgent faction in Syria after consolidating its control over most of the northwestern province of Idlib.

“Idlib now is a huge problem. It is an al-Qaida safe haven right on the border of Turkey,” Brett McGurk, special presidential envoy for the U.S.-led global coalition to counter IS, said at the Middle East Institute in Washington on Thursday.

McGurk blamed the flow of weapons and foreign fighters into Syria for al-Qaida’s gradual strengthening in Syria.

Measures under way

McGurk added that the U.S.-led coalition intended to work with Turkey to seal the northern Syrian border to prevent more recruits from joining al-Qaida affiliates in the region.

Hailing the progress of the Iraqi forces and the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, McGurk said the coalition’s priority was defeating IS. But now that priority also includes ensuring that foreign fighters do not leave the region to cause trouble elsewhere.

“We do not want any foreign fighters getting out of Iraq and Syria,” he said during a panel discussion at the Middle East Institute on the Trump administration’s counterterrorism policy.

Experts warn that as IS-controlled territory shrinks, the terror group’s foreign fighters will inevitably be drawn to al-Qaida.

“You may see on a local level al-Qaida affiliates being opportunistic and pulling in ISIS units who kind of feel lost,” Charles Lister, a Syria analyst at the Middle East Institute said, using another acronym for IS. “They [IS militants] don’t have the same kind of grandeur, they don’t have the same powerful leadership, and they don’t have the same powerful brand that they had before.”

Also Read: Al-Qaida Confirms Death of Senior Leader in Syria due to U.S.-led coalition drone strike

IS-al-Qaida alliance?

Led by Jordanian jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, IS was founded as an offshoot of al-Qaida in Iraq in 2004. But as IS gained influence in Iraq and Syria in 2014, the terror group split from al-Qaida, and the two groups engaged in acrimonious and at times bloody competition over the leadership of the jihadist cause. For years, IS has been siphoning off followers of al-Qaida. That trend seems to have begun to reverse.

Iraq’s Vice President Ayad Allawi told Reuters in April that he had information from Iraqi and regional contacts that “the discussion has started now” concerning a “possible alliance” between the two terror groups.

Referring to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Allawi said, “There are discussions and dialogues between messengers representing Baghdadi and representing Zawahiri.”

While some analysts raise concerns about the possibility of IS and al-Qaida joining hands, others like Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute downplay it, arguing that an ultimate rapprochement between the two groups is unlikely, given the history of animosity and their fundamental differences on “global jihad.”

Lister, however, highlighted that al-Qaida could take an opportunistic approach to draw IS members into its ranks as the terror group faces defeats on several fronts in Iraq and Syria.

Lister said Hamza bin Laden, son of Osama bin Laden, who has recently appeared as a new face of al-Qaida leadership, has been trying to ease tensions with IS in an effort to encourage the merger of IS fighters into al-Qaida.

“Hamza has very purposely, I think, not spoken out against ISIS in all of his recent statements,” Lister said.

Al-Qaida in a blind spot

Experts warn that as the U.S-led coalition is cracking down on IS-controlled territory in Iraq and Syria, it should not allow al-Qaida to move to other areas and operate at ease. They say the group is trying to gain the sympathy of the local Syrian population by showing itself as a moderate alternative to Islamic State.

“We continue to underestimate al-Qaida,” said Jennifer Cafarella, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank. “While al-Qaida in Syria is currently not actively attacking abroad, they have built an army. It has consolidated control in Idlib, and is preparing to do the same underneath the U.S.-Russian cease-fire deal in Daraa to expand that model of first destroying the moderate opposition and then begin installation of al-Qaida governance to transform population over time.”

She said the strategy of the U.S.-led coalition after removing IS from Iraq and Syria needs to shift to the reconstruction of infrastructure destroyed because of war, and that should be coupled with addressing the grievances of Sunni residents who feel marginalized by Iran-backed Shi’ite militias.

“This is a very long war and we haven’t won it yet. These tactical successes are important but can be temporary if we do not set adequate conditions, which is much more than a military requirement,” Cafarella said. (VOA)

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Kurdish Female Commander Klara Reqa Fights against ISIS in Raqqa: Syria

Klara Reqa is a top-ranking Kurdish female commander of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces leading the assault on the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa.

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Klara Reqa
Klara Reqa from Raqqa is a braveheart fighting for justice. VOA
  • Klara Reqa is a top-ranking Kurdish female commander of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces
  • Her land, where she grew up, where she smiled and cried, is today standing in ruins

June 18, 2017: ISIS terrorist group is bent on destroying this world in the name of power. Terrorism is eating this planet, taking many innocent lives. Humanity is dying a slow death. But in all this negativity around, there are still the positive streaks trying to paint this world with humanitarian colors. One of them is the unfortunate victim of this terrorism who lost her closed ones in the wake of this power struggle.

Klara Reqa is a top-ranking Kurdish female commander of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces leading the assault on the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa.

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She is the epitome of bravery, love, and beauty. She stands strong in the face of adversity, trying to inspire many others to save their land from the merciless vultures. She is an unsung hero in this fight against those who have lost humanity. Her land, where she grew up, where she smiled and cried, is today standing in ruins. But the love for that land stands strong, the emotions attached to that land holds her heart strong, giving her the courage to protect it from the enemies of the world.

In an interview with VOI’s Mahmoud Bali, she said, “As I look at Raqqa here, I remember my childhood when I was going to school and playing in the streets.” One can realize her pain as her entire childhood would always flash in front of her eyes whenever she looks at the ruins of her motherland.

I want to salute this brave heart woman who not only aspires to rebuild her land by taking it away from the clutches of ISIS but also dreams to empower the women.

She said,” IS oppressed women. My goal is not to only help Yazidi women, but also Arab and Kurdish women.”

ALSO READ: ‘We Hope for Battle’: Kurdish Women Fighters Strike Fear into Islamic State (ISIS) Terrorist Group in Iraq

This is the beauty of a woman who can stand tall against all odds and thinks of empowering other women instead of pulling them down. She has proved that in the patriarchal world of ours, a woman is not less than anyone and empowering others is the only way of climbing the ladder of success because humanity teaches us to be one, to stay united and to help each other.

But in the race of power, man has lost his identity of a human being. He seized to be one, the day he started pulling down others and killing people in the name of religion. By God’s grace, still, some noble beings are there who enforce our trust in humanity, brotherhood, and unity.

– by Supreet Aneja of NewsGram. Twitter: @supreet_aneja