COTABATO, Philippines: Dozens of Muslim militants occupied a public market in the southern Philippines overnight before fleeing after a tense altercation with government forces, officials said Saturday.
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters did not take hostages or resist when army troops and police took up position near the public market in the farming town of Datu Paglas on Saturday morning, military spokesman Lt. Col. John Paul Baldomar said.
“They went to the market and stole food, but got stuck inside when they saw our armed forces took positions to ensure that other buildings could not be threatened,” he told reporters.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or deaths.
The rebel group broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim rebel group in the south, after initiating peace talks and signing a Muslim autonomy agreement with the government in 2014. The breakaway guerrillas have continued sporadic attacks and bombing raids. Some join the Daesh group.
Baldomar said government forces blocked the city center, where the public market is located, and closed a highway at the height of hours of rebel occupation of the market. After the armed men fled in large numbers after talking to local officials, the soldiers found at least four homemade bombs placed along the highway by the rebels. Troops were chasing the armed men, he said.
However, the deputy mayor of Datu Paglas, Mohammad Paglas, reported differently, telling reporters that the mostly young Muslim rebels arrived on Friday on board five trucks in the city center to rest and celebrate the holy month of Ramadan. He added that some of the armed men have relatives in the city in the predominantly Muslim province of Maguindanao.
“A large number of armed men came and told us they just wanted to rest since it was Ramadan. We allowed them to,” said Paglas.
When troops and police arrived, some aboard armored personnel carriers, the rebels were forced to retreat to the public market to hide, but allowed people to exit the building, he said.
Paglas said there was an exchange of fire before the rebels fled, as requested by local officials.
Baldomar said some of the armed men opened fire on civilian motorists trapped along the highway. The motorists were later able to flee with the help of the military, he said.
Government forces in the south, home of the Muslim minorities in the largely Roman Catholic nation, were on alert after hundreds of mostly local militants with some foreign supporters affiliated with the Daesh group besieged the southern city of Marawi in 2017.
They took over buildings including banks, school grounds and a hospital before troops put down the five-month uprising with the help of surveillance planes deployed by the US and Australia. The bold attack at the time heightened fears that the Daesh could gain a foothold in Southeast Asia despite setbacks in Iraq and Syria.

LONDON: A British-Muslim entrepreneur celebrated Tower Bridge in London with the Adhan on the last Friday of Ramadan 2021 as the sun set over the British landmark.
The 35-year-old Kazi Shafiqur Rahman presented the adhan in the style of the muezzin head of the Great Mosque, Sheikh Ali Ahmad Mulla, who wore a white thobe and a Saudi ghutra as part of an interfaith virtual iftar on Friday.
It is a style that he has perfected since childhood and that fueled the passion of the British-Bangladeshi people for the public performance of the adhan. Mulla has been a muezzin in the Grand Mosque since 1975 and his voice is recognized by Muslims around the world whether or not they have visited Mecca.
The Adhan at Tower Bridge marked the end of an iftar hosted by Tower Hamlets Homes, the East London Mosque, the & London Muslim Center and the Tower Hamlets Interfaith Forum.
Rahman spoke of the great satisfaction he gets from the public delivery of the Adhan and how grateful he was that he had the opportunity to deliver one from Tower Bridge.

“I am just an ordinary person and it is humble to be blessed with such an opportunity,” he said.
Although Rahman has performed the adhan in mosques and at events for more than two decades, this is the second time he’s extradited it in a legendary London location.
Last year he performed the Adhan in the heart of London’s financial district, Canary Wharf, and the video of its performance has been viewed millions of times.
Rahman added that he hopes to deliver the adhan to “other world famous locations such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.
“After delivering the Adhan in Canary Wharf last year, I realized that the call to prayer is such a powerful message and that I send it around the world on social media,” Rahman said.
“It had such a wide reach even on LinkedIn, and a lot of non-Muslims said how fascinating they found the adhan and asked what it actually was,” he added.
Rahman said he was initially shocked at the traction the video of last year’s Adhan received. “But then I realized that this is the word of God and the call to prayer, and so it will inevitably reach so many people,” he said.
“The effects of the Adhan last year have been just incredible. The video reached millions of viewers. ”
Before Rahman performed the adhan on Tower Bridge, Rahman told Arab News he was nervous about trying to live up to last year’s performance.
“I don’t want anything to go wrong, and I want to meet expectations. However, I also remember doing it just for God’s sake. With social media, it’s easy to get distracted and think about the traction that this delivery brings des Adhan. But that should not be my intention. I keep reminding myself that I am doing it for God’s sake and only for Him. ”
Rahman, who lives in London, said he thank God for giving him this opportunity and a melodious voice.
“I’m just an ordinary person, but I feel like God has favored me with such a voice and opportunity that I’m both grateful for. It gives me a sense of satisfaction that the adhan I deliver is appreciated all over the world. It makes me praise God even more. “

LONDON: A Libyan coast guard ship that was involved in the shooting of a Sicilian fisherman on May 6th was brought to Tripoli from Italy to stop the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean.

Colonel Massoud Abdalsamad of the Libyan Coast Guard told Italian media that the ship had “fired warning shots in the air against ships allegedly entering Libyan waters”. Three Italian fishing boats had entered their territorial waters in search of red shrimp without permission.

Giuseppe Giacalone, captain of one of the fishing boats, told the Italian news agency ANSA: “It is a miracle that we are alive. We were shot at. Our boat’s cabin is full of holes.

“It was 2 p.m. on Thursday when it happened. As we were sailing northeast, a Libyan patrol boat caught up with us and started firing. The shots hit us and the dashboard glass broke. “

An Italian naval ship intervened, brought the fishermen to safety and rescued one who had been shot in the arm. The Italian Navy later confirmed that the ship involved in the shooting, formerly known as the Ubari, was handed over to Libya in 2018.

The Libyan coast guard fired on three Italian fishing boats on Thursday, injuring the captain of one of the ships, the Italian authorities said. Click here for more.

Former Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti and UN-backed Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj signed a treaty in 2017 in which Italy agreed to train and equip Libyan authorities to prevent migrants and refugees from North Africa from traveling to Europe .

However, several authorities have warned many people trying to flee Libya about human rights abuses – and have accused officials of complicity.

In April, the Guardian announced that Abdalsamad had been wiretapped by Italian prosecutors investigating people smuggling. In June 2017, he reportedly told Italian Coast Guard officials who had asked for his help to rescue a group of migrants in need: “It’s a day off. It’s a vacation here. But I can try to help. Maybe we can be there tomorrow. “

The International Organization for Migration said 126 people died in the waters of the Mediterranean this weekend.

And on April 22 of this year, the Ubari allegedly ignored a ship’s distress call before 130 asylum seekers died.

Skirmishes between Libyan authorities and Italian fishermen looking for valuable red shrimp have been rife since the 1990s. They intensified after the former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi unilaterally expanded the border of the territorial waters of his country from 12 to 74 miles off the coast in 2005.

According to the fishing cooperative Distretto della Pesca, more than 60 Italian boats have been seized or confiscated by Libya in the past 25 years. At least 40 people were arrested and several injured.

In September 2020, two Sicilian fishing boats, the Antartide and the Medinea, were intercepted and escorted to Benghazi. The 18 crew members, including eight Italians, six Tunisians, two Indonesians and two Senegalese, were detained for another 100 days, which led to a major diplomatic incident.

MANILA: The Philippine authorities are providing emergency aid for 12 members of a container ship with an exclusively Filipino crew who tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) after a two-day port stop in India.

According to a report by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), the Panamanian flag MV Athens Bridge left India on April 22nd and arrived in Haiphong, Vietnam on May 1st, where the ship’s crew performed a reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction test.

The results showed that of the 21 crew members, 12 were positive for the virus, which led the Vietnamese authorities to deny them entry.

The ship then sailed to Manila to seek refuge, despite a travel ban in the Philippines. After arriving in the capital on Thursday, two of the sailors were taken to hospital, both in critical condition.

The rest of the crew stayed on board the ship off Sangley Point in Cavite, but are being taken to a quarantine facility.

The exception was granted to MV Athens Bridge by the country’s Ministry of Health after an emergency meeting with the quarantine office, the Philippine Coast Guard and the Ministry of Transportation.

Filipino Health Minister Francisco Duque III said: “Given the growing concern about this variant, recently discovered in India, we were made aware that the ship had a history of travel to the country.

“But our guiding principle in deciding what steps to take was that our hardworking compatriots were on board and that we would never leave a Filipino behind.”

He pointed out that the rescue operation was carried out in accordance with strict health protocols for handling COVID-19 cases.

“We recognize the risk involved in this act of compassion, but assure Filipinos that we have followed protocols in dealing with COVID-19 patients and that we have coordinated with other government agencies to provide urgent assistance to our compatriots. We also thank everyone who supported the crew of the MV Athens Bridge, ”added Duque.

KHAIRPUR: Five years ago, 70-year-old Ghulam Qasim Jiskani, a farmer in Khairpur, Pakistan’s largest date-producing region, experimented with fruits from the Middle East to see if he could increase his yield.

Pakistan is one of the world’s leading date producers and exporters with an annual date production of more than 535,000 tons according to the Trade Development Authority.

The main region for date cultivation is the Khairpur district in the southern province of Sindh, Jiskani’s hometown.

On his farmland in the village of Kot Diji, Jiskani planted date palm varieties that are grown in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco.

“It can play a critical role in date production and export in the region,” Jiskani told Arab News last week. By growing foreign fruit varieties, Pakistani farmers could earn up to 15 times more with their harvest.

“Five years ago I brought 400 handkerchiefs with 15 types of date palm from Dubai,” he said.

“These trees are now loaded with fruit and I plan to market the crop in July when they are ready for harvest. My experiment was successful. “

Jiskani’s plantation covers two hectares of land, but since his Arabian date varieties have grown so well in the country, he now plans to use three more hectares for the fruit and hopes other growers will follow suit.

Jiskani believes that the local producers with the Arabic varieties could not only tap domestic demand, but also increase Pakistan’s date exports.

“Pakistani date farmers also have a good chance of penetrating the international market with their yield,” he said.

“Following Jiskani’s experiment, a significant number of Khairpurs date farmers want the government to facilitate the procurement of foreign palm tissue at affordable prices,” Mushtaq Soomro, a senior official with the Sindh Agriculture Extension Department, told Arab News.

“If you start growing today, 40 percent of the date cultivation in the region will change and we will see the exotic fruits cover much of this land.”

“This is also the harvest time for locally produced dates. However, the precipitation on the mature plants is destructive. In order to prevent possible losses, growers opt for dried dates, although they are comparatively less lucrative for them. However, by growing the varieties from the Middle East, the date families are hoping for a more exotic early monsoon harvest. “

“In the past four years, however, direct trade in dried dates between India and Pakistan has ceased, causing significant losses for local farmers,” Jiskani said. He added that another benefit of Arabic dates is their longer shelf life and the fact that they are healthier with higher fiber components.

Rustam Phulpoto, a representative of KHajjoor market in Khairpur, said Pakistan has not focused on the added value the foreign varieties bring by sticking to its native date types.

“This lack of added value not only makes us import more, but also restrict our exports,” he told Arab News.

As part of the Sindh government’s 2015-2020 agricultural growth project, the government had to import 3,000 exotic date tissues and supply them to local farmers at 70 percent subsidized prices. But that didn’t happen.

Jiskani, who was the central person for the project on the part of the producers, believes that the error was due to internal departmental cracks.

“The government should set up a plant tissue culture laboratory or sponsor the initiative through a public-private partnership,” he said.

YANGON: A newly formed armed militia under Myanmar’s shadow government has the support of self-defense groups and ethnic community armies against the military junta that took control of the country more than three months ago.

Since the February 1 coup, the junta has killed at least 772 civilians in nationwide protests against the takeover and violence of the army.

The National Unity Government (NUG), the shadow government of former Aung San Suu Kyi National League for Democracy (NLD) legislators who were ousted by the junta, announced on Wednesday the formation of the People’s Defense Force (PDF), a forerunner of the planned federal union, which would bring together all groups involved in the armed resistance.

The move has already been welcomed by community self-defense groups that have sprung up across the country after constant attacks, arrests and night attacks by the military.

Zayar Win of one of the self-defense groups in Yangon told Arab News that in Myanmar’s largest city alone, many hundreds or even thousands of people would be ready to take up arms.

“They are interconnected but require guidance. I think with the PDF leadership a powerful force would develop quickly. As long as the regime is in power, there will be endless human suffering. The end of the military dictatorship is therefore a top priority, ”he said.

As a civil engineer in Yangon, he ran a philanthropic organization helping vulnerable groups when the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic hit the country. In April, the organization stopped its charity work and focused on supporting and fundraising for the anti-junta resistance, including those producing explosives for the attack on the military.

“Unfortunately, we have postponed helping poor people and focused on helping those who are fighting the military,” he added.

Many of the civilians involved in self-defense groups have been trained by militants from the country’s ethnic groups who also speak out against the junta regime.

Unfortunately, we have postponed helping poor people and focused on helping those who are fighting the military.

The Karen National Union (KNU), the oldest insurgent group fighting for greater autonomy for the eastern Thailand state on the border with Thailand, and the Kachin Independence Army in northern Kachin state and northeastern Shan state on the border with it China have actively campaigned against anti-Junta resistance.

The KNU provides military training and protection to hundreds of dissidents and protesters who have fled army persecution.

“There are hundreds of people receiving combat training here,” a spokesman for KNU Brigade 5 told Arab News on Thursday. “There were also many people who finished their training here and returned to their place of origin and waited for this moment. The PDF would grow very quickly. “

While ethnic groups support the formation of the PDF, it is not yet clear whether everyone would be ready to fight under one banner, as unlike the current regime, ethnic minorities do not fully trust the shadow government whose members they have alienated from being in power were.

However, the KNU may be ready to join the fight against a common enemy, the Tatmadaw – the Armed Forces of Myanmar. Since the end of March, the group has killed more than 200 government troops in a series of clashes.

The spokesman said, “I personally see the PDF as the armed group that represents the majority of the country’s Bamar ethnic groups. And personally, I see no hurdle in uniting armed groups from different ethnic groups to fight our common enemy, the Tatmadaw. “

But KNU General Secretary Saw Kwe Htoo Win told Arab News on Friday: “There are still many questions that we have to clarify before we make the decision.”

Members of the Chinland Defense Force (CDF), who recently killed dozens of military personnel with homemade rifles in the mountain state of Chin bordering India, said they would join the PDF.

“We welcome the creation of the PDF and would work with them to fight the regime’s armed forces,” a CDF spokesman told Arab News.

He said that they would also look at the federal union when it was formed.

“We, Chin people, just want a peaceful life. Once the revolution is over, we will return to our farmland, ”he added.