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UK parliament under lockdown after shooting

Five people were killed and about 40 injured in London on Wednesday after a car ploughed into
pedestrians at Westminster Bridge and a suspected Islamist-inspired attacker stabbed a policeman close
to the UK Parliament.

The dead, in what police called a “marauding terrorist attack,” included the assailant and the policeman
he stabbed. The other three victims were among those hit by the car as it sped across Westminster
Bridge before crashing into railings just outside parliament.

Prime Minister Theresa May condemned the attack as “sick and depraved”.

“The location of this attack was no accident,” she said in a statement outside her 10 Downing Street
office late in the evening. “The terrorist chose to strike at the heart of our capital city, where people of all
nationalities, religions and cultures come together to celebrate the values of liberty, democracy and
freedom of speech.”

Any attempt to defeat those values through violence was “doomed to failure”, May said.

Mark Rowley, Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, told reporters the attack started when a
car was driven over Westminster Bridge, hitting and injuring members of the public and three police
officers. “A car then crashed near to parliament and at least one man, armed with a knife, continued the
attack and tried to enter parliament,” Rowley said.

He said the police’s “fast-paced investigation” was working on the assumption that the attack was
“Islamist-related terrorism”. Police believed they knew the identity of the attacker but would not provide
details at this stage, he said.

It was the deadliest attack in London since four British Islamists killed 52 commuters and themselves in
suicide bombings on the city’s transport system in July 2005, in London’s worst peacetime attack.
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Syria Army Recovers Damascus District a Day After Rebel Raid

The Syrian Army has claimed victory after a day of dealing with a surprise rebel invasion of the Jobar
District of the capital city of Damascus, saying they have recaptured all the parts of the city lost to the
rebels over the previous 24 hours, and chased the rebels out of the area.

Rebels from the al-Qaeda-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham as well as Fallaq al-Rahman faction surprised the
government with a puish into the district, which reportedly involved the use of tunnels to enter into areas
previously thought secured, setting up mortars and firing deeper into the city. One shell reported hit the
Russian Embassy, causing limited damage.

Syrian troops rushed into the invaded area, but it took awhile to get tanks in to back them up, and they
appear to have relied heavily on airstrikes to get the advantage over the rebels. The Syrian Observatory
for Human Rights reported 47 killed in the fighting, including 26 troops and 21 rebels, though this has
not been confirmed elsewhere.

Though rebels retain some territory in suburbs around Damascus, the Syrian military has greatly reduced
the rebel presence in the area over the past several months, surrounding areas and forcing the rebels to
agree to evacuation deals which have greatly reduced their numbers. Despite this, it is clear the rebels are
able to carry out strikes against the capital, as they did this week.

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Man killed at Paris airport was flagged for radicalism

ORLY, France — French soldiers shot and killed a man who wrestled a colleague to the ground Saturday
and tried to steal her rifle at Paris’ Orly Airport. The melee forced the airport’s busy terminals to close
and evacuate and trapped hundreds of passengers aboard flights that had just landed.

The 39-year-old Frenchman, who authorities said had a long criminal record and was previously flagged
for possible radicalism, first fired bird shot at police officers during an early morning traffic stop before
speeding away and heading for the airport south of Paris.

There, in the public area of its South Terminal, the man wrestled the soldier who was on foot patrol and
tried to snatch away her rifle, authorities said. The French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said the
patrol’s other two members opened fire. Le Drian said the soldier managed to keep hold of her weapon.

“Her two comrades thought it was necessary – and they were right – to open fire to protect her and
especially to protect all the people who were around,” Le Drian said.

The attack further rattled France, which remains under a state of emergency after attacks over the past
two years that have killed 235 people.

Witnesses described panicked bystanders fleeing, flights halting, traffic chaos and planes under
lockdowns. French authorities, however, stressed that security planning – reinforced across the country
in the wake of repeated attacks – worked well.

The soldier was “psychologically shocked” but unhurt by the “rapid and violent” assault, said Col. Benoit
Brulon, a spokesman for the military force that patrols public sites in France. No other injuries were
reported.

“We’d already registered our bags when we saw a soldier pointing his gun at the attacker who was
holding another soldier hostage,” said Pascal Menniti, who was flying to the Dominican Republic.

Authorities said at least 3,000 people were evacuated from the airport. Hundreds of passengers also were
confined for several hours aboard 13 flights that were blocked in landing areas, and 15 other flights were
diverted to Paris’ other main airport, Charles de Gaulle, the Paris airport authority said.

A French official connected to the investigation confirmed French media reports that identified the
attacker as Ziyed Ben Belgacem, born in France in 1978. The official spoke to The Associated Press on
condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly discuss the man’s details.

The attacker’s motives were unknown. After the airport attack, his father and brother were detained by
police for questioning Saturday – standard operating procedure in such probes.
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Dutch election: European relief as mainstream triumphs

European leaders have welcomed the result of the Netherlands election, which saw the anti-immigration
party of Geert Wilders fail to become the largest in parliament.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte's centre-right VVD won by some margin.

For Francois Hollande of France it was a "clear victory against extremism", while German Chancellor
Angela Merkel hailed a "good day for democracy".

The vote was closely watched ahead of elections in France and Germany.

The Netherlands was seen by many as a bellwether for how populist parties will perform in those polls.

In contrast, Turkey, currently embroiled in a bitter dispute with the Netherlands, had little positive to say.

"Hey Rutte, you may have won the election as first party, but you have lost a friend like Turkey,"
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a rally.

Celebrating victory, Mr Rutte said the Dutch people had rejected "the wrong kind of populism".
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Indian expats in Saudi Arabia may soon find themselves jobless as country pushes to hire more
nationals

With Saudi Arabia's economic growth gradually slowing, the nation is now heavily pushing to hire more
of its own nationals.
The move suggests that there'll be fewer positions for expatriates in the country which had been
welcoming foreign nationals
for long. The push is more likely to hit nationals from poorer countries like India and Pakistan than the
westerners.

Although the situation in Saudi does not look bright for the expatriates from western countries either.
Financial
difficulties, cost-cutting and a heavy drive to employ more Saudi nationals have led to a significant
reduction in the
expatriate employment as Saudi adjusts to lower crude oil prices.

Saudi Arabia is the Arab world's largest economy and exports more amount of oil than any other country
in the world. However
the future now seems bleak for the nation ever since 2014 which marked a drop in global oil prices,
leaving the Saudi kingdom
with a huge budget deficit and billions of dollars in debt to private firms, particularly construction
companies.

However, the oil-dependant nation has begun preparing for the life ahead by pursuing its "Vision 2030"
economic
diversification effort. The nation's goal is to broaden its investment and business base by placing more
Saudis in the
private sector than ever before, according to AFP reports.

Reports state that the Saudi Binladin Group laid off around 70,000 expats from poorer countries. The
nation's slower economic
growth has left many western expatriats bidding goodbye to the country.

"People are leaving because there's not enough business for their contract to be renewed. Everybody's
margins are seriously
under pressure. There's not a business out there that's really doing well," a foreign manager in the
consumer electronics
sector whose business is down 10 percent told AFP.
The Saudi government has also planned to impose a levy on foreign workers with dependents from July.
According to Bloomberg
News, the fee will start at 100 riyals ($27) a month, rising to 400 riyals monthly by 2020, making it very
expensive for the
expatriates to stay in the country.

The electronic manager said that his firm will ask almost 300 of its expatriates to pay the charges for
themselves. The
expatriates largely include Indians, Pakistanis and Filipinos.
Most of these expatriates earn less than 10,000 riyals per month, the government charges will drive them
to send their
families home or quit jobs.
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Pakistan Parliament passes landmark Hindu Marriage Bill

Pakistan’s Parliament has finally passed the much-awaited landmark bill to regulate marriages of minority
Hindus in the country.

Pakistan’s Hindus are set to get an exclusive personal law to regulate marriages after the National
Assembly unanimously adopted the Hindu Marriage Bill, 2017, on Thursday.

The law was passed after a lengthy process of enactment.

The National Assembly passed the bill in September last year but had to pass it again as its version of the
bill was changed
by the Senate, when it adopted the law in February.

As per rules, the same text should be passed by the two Houses of the Parliament before it is sent to the
President for his
signature and promulgation for implementation.

Television channel Dawn News reported that the Senate included an amendment to the draft approved by
the National Assembly in
September. The final text approved by both Houses includes the ‘Shadi Parath’ — a document similar to
‘Nikahnama’ in Islam.

The ‘Shadi Parath’ will be required to be signed by a pandit and will be registered with the relevant
government department.
The document has eight columns starting with the date of marriage and followed by the name of the
union council, tehsil, town
and district.

The document has columns for the particulars of the bridegroom — his name and father’s name, date of
birth, date and place
where the marriage is solemnised, temporary address, etc. Similar details are required for the bride,
except for one. Her
mother’s name must also to be mentioned in the document.

Military courts

Meanwhile, the government on Friday introduced a constitutional amendment bill in Parliament to revive
the controversial
special military courts for trying “hardcore” militants.

Apart from changes sought in the constitution to set up such courts, another bill was presented to seek
amendment in the army
law to enable military to regulate these courts.

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IORA nations decide to support each other to counter terrorism

Jakarta: India and 20 other countries sharing the strategically vital Indian Ocean on Tuesday decided to
support each other’s efforts to counter terrorism and violent extremism, agreeing to share information
and best practices in this endeavour.

The leaders of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), including Vice President Hamid Ansari, also
pressed for the effective implementation of all relevant United Nations resolutions and declarations on
international terrorism, including Global-Counter-Terrorism Strategy and the UN General Assembly
resolution.

They also reaffirmed their support for international law and human rights while countering violent
extremism.

The Declaration on Preventing and Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism, which was adopted at
the first summit of IORA nations here, acknowledged that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations
constitutes a serious threat to regional and international peace and security, undermining economic
development and social cohesion.

In the declaration, the IORA leaders decided to support each other’s efforts to counter the threat from
terrorism and violent extremism, including through enhancing cooperation and coordination of efforts,
dialogue and sharing of information, expertise, best practices and lessons learned, including on stemming
the financing of terrorism.

Recognising that terrorism and violent extremism is not bound by national boundaries, they underlined
the need for cooperation at all levels, local, national, regional, and international to effectively counter,
prevent and address conditions conducive to terrorism and violent extremism.

The declaration also emphasised the importance of parents, teachers, community leaders, education and
civil society in countering and preventing youth radicalisation.

It also rejected any attempt to associate violent extremism with any religion, ethnic group, culture or
nationality.

The member states decided to cooperate to counter terrorist and violent extremist ideology and
propaganda by promoting positive messages of respect, tolerance, co-existence, inclusion, diversity and
social cohesion.

They also decided to continue to work with the United Nations and other international and regional
institutions to prevent and counter terrorism and violent extremism.

The IORA comprises India, Australia, Bangladesh, Iran, Kenya, Comoros, Madagascar, Malaysia,
Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania,
Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen. It also has seven Dialogue Partners — the US, China,
Egypt, France, Germany, Japan and the UK.
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