Salman Abedi: Student dropout turned suicide bomber

Wed, 2017-05-24 03:33

MANCHESTER: Salman Abedi, the suicide bomber who killed 22 people in an attack on a pop concert in Manchester, was a business student who dropped out of university.
Born to a devoutly Islamic Libyan family in Britain’s third biggest city, newspapers said he was known to the security services and the Financial Times said he had turned to radical Islam in recent years.
Abedi, 22, worshipped at a suburban mosque, where his father was a well-known face who sometimes performed the call to prayer.
He was named by police and Prime Minister Theresa May the day after the deadly attack, which also left dozens wounded, on the concert by US pop star Ariana Grande, who has a large teenage girl following.
“The perpetrator was Salman Ramadan Abedi, who was born and brought up in Britain,” May said, condemning his actions as “callous and cowardly.”
Abedi’s family have lived in the Fallowfield area of south Manchester for at least 10 years, according to The Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Armed police raided an address in the modestly well-to-do area on Tuesday, carrying out a controlled explosion to gain entry.
A 23-year-old man was also arrested in the south of the city in connection with the attack.
Fallowfield resident Peter Jones, 53, described the area as “quiet and safe.”
Jones told AFP that he was “shocked” and “surprised” when he heard that the suspect was from there.
Media reports said Abedi’s parents fled Libya to escape the regime of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi.
Around 16,000 Libyans live in Britain and Manchester is home to the largest community, according to the BBC. It was a focus of celebrations when the Qaddafi regime fell in 2011.
Reports said the suicide bomber was the second youngest of four children, including another son and one daughter.
One member of Manchester’s Libyan community told The Guardian newspaper: “He was such a quiet boy, always very respectful toward me.
“His brother Ismael is outgoing, but Salman was very quiet. He is such an unlikely person to have done this.”
Abedi had recently returned from Libya, according to The Times newspaper’s front page Wednesday, which cited a school friend as saying he left three weeks ago and returned in the last few days.
Police said they were urgently seeking to establish whether Abedi worked alone, or acted as part of a larger network.
Abedi’s family were closely linked to the Didsbury Mosque, a Victorian former Methodist chapel in a leafy suburb that was bought in 1967 by donors from the Syrian Arab community.
His father Ramadan had sometimes performed the call to prayer and his brother Ismael had been a volunteer.
One senior figure from the mosque however, Mohammed Saeed, told The Guardian that when he once gave a sermon denouncing terror, Abedi stared him down.
“Salman showed me a face of hate after that sermon,” Mohammed Saeed said of the 2015 encounter.
“He was showing me hatred.”
Abedi began studying business and management at Salford University in Manchester in 2014, a source told the Press Association news agency, but he dropped out after two years and did not complete his degree.
He did not live in university accommodation, had not been in any trouble at the university, was not on any radar for pastoral or social care and was not known to have participated in any university societies.
It is understood Abedi never met with the university’s resident imam.
Abedi used an improvised explosive device, apparently packed with metal, to massacre concertgoers and end his own life.
Citing CCTV footage recovered by detectives, The Times reported Abedi had placed the device in a suitcase which he set on the ground before it detonated.

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Did Trump’s Islam Speech In Saudi Arabia Pave The Way For America’s Next Big War

Authored by Darius Shahtahmasebi via,

The American public is most likely unaware of the giant stranglehold Saudi Arabia has on the U.S. government. Saudi Arabia uses its vast riches to manipulate the U.N., which explains how a country that brutally oppresses its female population was recently gifted a seat on the organization’s women’s rights commission. The Islamic Kingdom also wields incredible control over international media and has arguably had an increasingly unwelcome position of power in America’s foreign policy decision-making. As such, Donald Trump’s political career, in part, rests on appeasing his Saudi Arabian counterparts.

And appeasing the Saudis is exactly what Trump has done. Trump’s speech regarding Islam was delivered to the leaders of 55 Muslim-majority nations, including Saudi Arabia. However, he conveniently ignored the troves of evidence that show Saudi Arabia directly sponsors the terror groups al-Qaeda and ISIS – two groups the U.S. claims to be at war with — as well as the fact that Saudi Arabia has been directly implicated in the 9/11 terror attacks. Instead, Donald Trump framed the entire issue of radicalization as a problem that rests with Iran. As he stated in Riyadh:

“But no discussion of stamping out this threat would be complete without mentioning the government that gives terrorists all three—safe harbor, financial backing, and the social standing needed for recruitment. It is a regime that is responsible for so much instability in the region. I am speaking of course of Iran. From Lebanon to Iraq to Yemen, Iran funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos across the region. For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror.


It is a government that speaks openly of mass murder, vowing the destruction of Israel, death to America, and ruin for many leaders and nations in this room.”

Iran’s prime enemies are actually Sunni-dominated terror groups such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. The Islamic Republic and its proxies have been heavily engaged in fighting these terror groups in Syria. If eradicating terrorism was a priority for the United States and Saudi Arabia, Iran would be a natural ally considering Iran almost all but defeated ISIS in Iraq.

Yet, Trump continued:

“Among Iran’s most tragic and destabilizing interventions have been in Syria. Bolstered by Iran, Assad has committed unspeakable crimes, and the United States has taken firm action in response to the use of banned chemical weapons by the Assad regime—launching 59 tomahawk missiles at the Syrian air base from where that murderous attack originated.”

While many analysts may focus on how Trump has gone from the most Islamophobic president ever elected to now omitting the words “radical Islamic terrorism” from his speech on Islam, these analysts continue to gloss over the fact that the entire speech appears to have been a geopolitical gesture to please Saudi Arabia and its allies. As the Iranian Foreign Ministry noted, Trump is no longer concerned with Islamophobia but what Iran has coined as “Iranophobia.”

Iran is Saudi Arabia’s regional archrival. The two countries are fighting an enormous proxy war in Syria because Saudi Arabia views an Iranian-aligned government as a threat to its economic interests. Saudi Arabia is also currently bombing Yemen into oblivion as fears of a Shi’a led government capable of aligning itself with Tehran became a probable reality in 2015.

Most hypocritical, however, was the following statement:

Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism, and pray for the day when the Iranian people have the just and righteous government they deserve.

Even establishment outlets such as the BBC could not allow this statement to go unchecked. The BBC stated:

“And amongst several cynical reactions to the speech from around the region on social media, some have pointed out that here in Saudi Arabia women are forbidden to drive and there are no parliamentary elections. In Iran, the country accused by Mr Trump of being behind much of the current terrorism across the Middle East, they have just had a free election and women are free to drive. [emphasis added]

Iran’s recent elections saw one of the heaviest turnouts in the country’s history, much higher than that of the United States. It is technically one of the most democratic countries in the region. While Iran would not be considered greatly democratic by Western standards, this is a testament to how undemocratic Iran’s rivals in the region are, including Saudi Arabia. Even prisoners were allowed to vote in Iran, something so-called democratic countries such as New Zealand disallow.

Despite all of this “Iranophobic” sentiment, it is also worth noting that Iran’s alleged nuclear program is rarely discussed in the international arena anymore. This is because the Trump administration is well aware that the Iranian nuclear deal reached in 2015 is working – and there is no current nuclear threat from Iran. In this context, the U.S. government has to look for alternative modes of hyping up an Iranian threat to justify a massive arms deal.

And yet, spearheaded by Trump, the Arab world has just announced a new military pact that will directly confront Iran. Called the “Riyadh Declaration,” the pact was signed by representatives from 55 Islamic nations that have vowed “to combat terrorism in all its forms, address its intellectual roots, dry up its sources of funding and to take all necessary measures to prevent and combat terrorist crimes in close cooperation among their states.”

How can a coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, combat terrorism and extremism when Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist philosophy is responsible for most of today’s terrorism-related problems? As noted by the Independent:

“The state systematically transmits its sick form of Islam across the globe, instigates and funds hatreds, while crushing human freedoms and aspiration…The jaw simply drops. Saudi Arabia executes one person every two daysRaif Badawi, a blogger who dared to call for democracy, was sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes. Last week, 769 faithful Muslim believers were killed in Mecca where they had gone on the Hajj. Initially, the rulers said it was ‘God’s will’ and then they blamed the dead.”

The military pact will also include an “Islamic Military Coalition,” which will “provide a reserve force of 34,000 troops to support operations against terrorist organizations when needed.”

The original text of the document was heavily infatuated with Iran but has since been amended. The original text also said these troops would be deployed to Syria and Iraq “when needed,” which is — again — clearly aimed at countering Iranian influence as Iran is heavily tied to both countries. Saudi Arabia has already expressed its intention to send troops into Syria multiple times before, with the exclusive goal of ensuring that “liberated areas [do] not fall under the control of Hizballah, Iran or the regime.”

The United States, Britain, and associated forces are creeping into Syria as we speak, directly paving the way for an all-out confrontation with Syrian troops in al-Tanf. Just last week, the U.S. military bombed these troops, even though they are directly backed by Iran (and most likely Russia, too).

This is no secret to the mainstream media. The Washington Post just released an article hours ago entitled “How Trump could deal a blow to Iran — and help save Syria,” with the conclusion that the battle for al-Tanf  is “a fight that the United States cannot and should not avoid.” Dealing a strategic blow to Iran and Syria will only empower ISIS given that they are the most heavily engaged entities fighting the terror groups in Syria.

The Trump administration’s seeds are being sown in tandem with the corporate media. Trump’s speech had nothing to do with radical Islam. It was written by Stephen Miller, the “architect” of Donald Trump’s travel ban (a policy that also vehemently targeted Iran, among other countries).

Selling a war with Iran to the American public may be difficult considering the Islamic nation twice elected a reformist who is open to making diplomatic deals with the United States. However, selling a war that will take place inside Syria is somewhat less problematic, even if that war is against the Syrian government, as the American public is easily manipulated by Assad’s alleged war crimes. As Iran is Syria’s closest ally, it will be easily drawn into a confrontation.

If Saudi Arabia’s coalition of anti-Iranian Muslim nations illegally joins this battle arena, the resulting war will be catastrophic.

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Philippines’ Duterte warns terrorists: “I’ll be harsh“

Wed, 2017-05-24 05:34

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday he will deal harshly with terrorism and that martial law on the island of Mindanao would remain in place for a year if necessary.
Duterte cut short a visit to Russia and placed the southern island of Mindanao under martial rule on Tuesday after a fierce bout of fighting erupted during a raid by security forces at a hideout of Islamic State-linked militants.
“To my countrymen who have experienced martial law. It would not be any different from what President Marcos did. I’d be harsh,” Duterte said in an interview with his assistant communications secretary while onboard a flight back to Manila.
“If it would take a year to do it then we’ll do it. If it’s over with a month, then I’d be happy. To my countrymen, do not be too scared. I’m going home. I will deal with the problem once I arrive,” said Duterte, a native of Mindano.
Two soldiers and a policeman were killed and 12 people wounded amid chaos in Marawi, a predominantly Muslim city of about 200,000 people, where members of the Maute militant group took control of buildings and set fire to a school, a church and a detention facility.
The Philippines endured a decade of martial law under the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos from the early 1970s and memories of campaigns to restore democracy and protect human rights are fresh in the minds of many people.
The military said it was optimistic they could end the conflict sooner rather than later.
“The intent of these security forces, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is to conclude this rapidly so that we can restore normalcy in that area,” military spokesperson Edgar Arevalo said in an interview with news channel ANC.
The purpose of Tuesday’s raid was to capture Isnilon Hapilon, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf group which is notorious for piracy and for kidnapping and beheading Westerners. The US State Department has offered a bounty of up to $5 million for Hapilon’s arrest.
The Maute and Abu Sayyaf militant groups have pledged allegiance to Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and have proved fierce opponents for the military as Duterte seeks to crush extremists and prevent radical Islamist ideology from spreading in the Philippines.
Duterte has warned repeatedly that Mindanao, an impoverished, restive region the size of South Korea, was at risk of “contamination” by Islamic State fighters driven out of Iraq and Syria.
Arevalo insisted there is no ISIS in the Philippines.
“This so-called group who are posing to be ISIS, they are merely courting the acclamation of ISIS which until now they haven’t received, that’s why they continue with their atrocities,” Arevalo said.

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‘Favorite’ malls in Jeddah, Riyadh revealed

Saffiya Ansari
Wed, 2017-05-24 11:36

DUBAI: The most popular shopping malls in Riyadh and Jeddah were revealed Tuesday at the Arab Luxury World forum in Dubai.
The data was gathered by GCC Mall Mapping, a syndicated research initiative designed by consultant Nadine Touma Gammage, managed and executed by Sapience Consultancy and endorsed by the Arab Luxury World forum.
Gammage revealed the Q1 2017 findings during a presentation at the forum and explained to the audience that the results were based on interviews with 600 people in each city from a mix of nationalities and age groups.
She stressed that the results were based on interviews with residents, rather than tourists, and persons from households with a total income of SR10,000 at least per month.
According to the findings, Riyadh malls in the “favorites” category include Marina Mall, Granada Mall, Nakheel Mall and Panorama Mall as 40-60 percent of responders in the city say they have visited in the past three months. Marina Mall comes out on top with 15-20 percent of interviewees rating it their “preferred mall.”
Meanwhile, 10-15 percent of interviewees rated Granada, Nakheel and Panorama their “preferred mall.”
In Jeddah, five malls were placed in the “favorites” category — Mall of Arabia, Red Sea Mall, Aziz Mall, Salaam Mall and Andalus Mall.
Here, 45-60 percent of interviewees said they visited the malls in the past three months, with Red Sea Mall and Andalus Mall coming out on top as 15-20 percent of respondents called it their “preferred mall.”
Geared toward providing much-needed insight into the shopping habits of consumers, the Mall Mapping initiative was launched at last year’s Arab Luxury World forum.
Organized by Dubai-based publisher Mediaquest Corp., the two-day luxury business conference featured an agenda of speeches and panel discussions by more than 70 speakers under the theme “Digital Disruption and Emotional Engagement.”
The event, which wrapped up Tuesday, served as a platform for professionals from the premium goods and services market to discuss and debate the latest trends in the industry.

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WannaCry Attackers Have Links To North Korea’s Lazarus Group

Cybersecurity researchers at Symantec say they’ve found linkes between the WannaCry Ransomware attackers was likely carried out by a hacking group with ties to North Korea.

In a blog post, Symantec said the “Tools and infrastructure used in the WannaCry ransomware attacks have strong links to Lazarus, the group that was responsible for the destructive attacks on Sony Pictures and the theft of $81 million from the Bangladesh Central Bank.”

Here’s a summary of links provided by Symantec:

  • Following the first WannaCry attack in February, three pieces of malware linked to Lazarus were discovered on the victim’s network: Trojan.Volgmer and two variants of Backdoor.Destover, the disk-wiping tool used in the Sony Pictures attacks.
  • Trojan.Alphanc, which was used to spread WannaCry in the March and April attacks, is a modified version of Backdoor.Duuzer, which has previously been linked to Lazarus.
  • Trojan.Bravonc used the same IP addresses for command and control as Backdoor.Duuzer and Backdoor.Destover, both of which have been linked to Lazarus.
  • Backdoor.Bravonc has similar code obfuscation as WannaCry and Infostealer.Fakepude (which has been linked to Lazarus).
  • There is shared code between WannaCry and Backdoor.Contopee, which has previously been linked to Lazarus.

Symantec discovered that the WannaCry attackers used some of the same hacking tools that were previousky used in other Lazarus Group attacks. There are also, the group reported, “a number of links between WannaCry itself and Lazarus.”

The WannaCry ransomware, for example, shares some code with a piece of malware that has previously been linked to Lazarus.

Symantec also found that the WannaCry attackers used some of the same network infrastructure as the Lazarus Group. “There are a number of crossovers seen in the C&C servers used in the WannaCry campaigns and by other known Lazarus tools.”

Beginning a week ago Friday, the WannaCry virus infected thousands of computers around the world, threatening to destroy users’ data unless a ransom was paid in bitcoin. Ultimately, the group received less than $100,000, and most of the data were destroyed.

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