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Nigeria: 15-Year-Old Claims Jesus Is The Father Of Her Unborn Child

Latifah Smith-Nabengana, a pregnant 15-year-old teenager from a “very religious family” has claimed that Jesus Christ is the father of her unborn baby.

According to her, an angel, during an encounter in July 2015, ‘divinely impregnated’ her while explaining that she had been chosen to bear a child for Jesus Christ.

World News Daily Report quoted her to have said: “she was visited by an Angel of God in July 2015”. That presence told her that she had been chosen to bear Christ’s son. “He told me that he was a Nephilim, like those described in the Bible,” Smith-Nabengana explained. “He told me that he had a message from Jesus, He said that I was going to be pregnant, and that I would give birth to a son, Jesus’ son.

Nephilims are mythical creatures mentioned in Genesis 6:4; “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown.”

The girl’s family being “very religious” believe her wholeheartedly and await the birth of her child. Dr. William Franklin Murphy, the dector who has been following the girls’ pregnancy, says he is aware of his patient’s claim, but can’t confirm or invalidate them right now until the child is born.

“Her claims of Virgin pregnancy are technically true, but that doesn’t mean there was a divine intervention. I can tell you that it’s a boy, but there is no way for me to determine if it is Jesus’ son until he is born.”

Credits to The Guardian Nigeria.

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Gorillas pose for selfie with DR Congo anti-poaching unit

The image was taken at a gorilla orphanage in Virunga National Park, DR Congo, where the animals were raised after poachers killed their parents.

The park’s deputy director told that they had learned to imitate their carers, who have looked after them since they were found as reported by BBC Newsday.

The gorillas, he added, think of the rangers as their parents.

Innocent Mburanumwe, deputy director of Virunga said the gorillas’ mothers were both killed in July 2007 as reported by the BBC

The gorillas were just two and four months old at the time.

Shortly afterwards, they were found and taken to Senkwekwe Sanctuary in Virunga, where they have lived ever since.

Because they’ve grown up with the rangers who rescued them, Mr Mburanumwe added, “they are imitating the humans” – and standing on two legs is their way of “learning to be human beings”.

But it “doesn’t happen normally”, he said.

“I was very surprised to see it… so it’s very funny. It’s very curious to see how a gorilla can imitate a human and stand up.”

Being a ranger, however, is not always fun – it is mainly dangerous work.

Five rangers were killed in Virunga National Park last year in an ambush by suspected rebels, and more than 130 park rangers have been killed in Virunga since 1996.

Eastern DR Congo is mired in conflict between the government and various armed groups.

Some of these armed groups are based in the park, where they often poach animals

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Sadaf Khadem, the first female Iranian boxer to win an overseas fight, cancels return to Iran after arrest warrant issued

Sadaf Khadem, the first female Iranian boxer to win an overseas fight, intends to stay in France, where she fought last weekend, after an arrest warrant was issued by her country.

Sadaf Khadem beat the French boxer Anne Chauvin in an amateur bout on Saturday.

She had planned to fly to Tehran with her French-Iranian trainer this week.

Khadem was quoted by a sports newspaper as saying she believed she was accused of violating Iran’s compulsory dress code by boxing in a vest and shorts.

Iranian officials have not commented, but the head of Iran’s boxing federation denied that Khadem would be arrested if she came home.

“Ms Khadem is not a member of [Iran’s] organised athletes for boxing, and from the boxing federation’s perspective all her activities are personal,” Hossein Soori was quoted as saying by an Iranian news agency.

Sadaf Khadem is presented with the trophy after beating Anne Chauvin in their boxing match in Royan.

Khadem fought in a green vest and red shorts with a white waistband – the colours of Iran’s national flag – in Saturday’s bout in the western French town of Royan.

The 24-year-old had to fight abroad as, despite having the blessing of Iranian sporting authorities, it proved too complicated to fulfil their requirement that the bout be refereed and judged by women.

Khadem had been expecting a hero’s welcome when she returned to Iran.

Sadaf Khadem and her coach, Mahyar Monshipour prepare for the fight.

But while she travelled to Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport with her trainer Mahyar Monshipour – an Iranian-born former World Boxing Association champion who also serves as an adviser to the French sports minister – she said they were told that warrants had been issued for their arrest.

“I was fighting in a legally approved match, in France. But as I was wearing shorts and a T-shirt, which is completely normal in the eyes of the entire world, I confounded the rules of my country,” she told the L’Equipe newspaper.

“I wasn’t wearing a hijab, I was coached by a man – some people take a dim view of this.”

A spokesman for the Iranian embassy in Paris told Reuters news agency on Wednesday that he could not comment on whether Khadem faced arrest in Iran or on her decision not to return to Iran.

Under Iranian law, women and girls as young as nine years old who are seen in public without a headscarf can be punished with a prison sentence of between 10 days and two months, or a cash fine.

Iranian sportswomen are required to cover their hair, neck, arms and legs when competing.

Until recently, Khadem would not have been permitted to take part in an official boxing match wearing a hijab or a full body form fitting uniform for religious regions. But the International Boxing Association (AIBA), amateur boxing’s governing body, changed its uniform rules at the end of February.

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Yangtze giant softshell, world’s rarest female turtle, dies in China zoo leaving only 3 male known alive

The recent death of the last known surviving female Yangtze giant soft shell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) means that the species is now walking into the sunset.

According to media reports, the female died after a failed artificial insemination in Suzhou Shangfangshan Forest Zoo in eastern China’s Jiangsu Province on April 12, 2019. She was 90 years-old.

The female had been found in 2008 in the city of Changsha. She had been moved to the zoo where efforts were made to mate her with a 100-year-old male. The female laid fertilised eggs on several occasions but none of them hatched. Since 2015, an effort had been on to artificially inseminate. Those efforts ended on April 12.

With the passing of the female, only three known individuals of this species remain in the world. One is the 100-year-old male in Suzhou. There is another male in Vietnam’s Dong Mo Lake, and a turtle in Xuan Khanh Lake on the outskirts of Hanoi, whose gender is unknown.

The male Yangtze giant softshell is now the only one of its species left in captivity

According to Chinese news agency, Xinhua, the Yangtze giant soft shell turtle is known to have inhabited the Yangtze river in China and the Red river that flows from southern China into northern Vietnam for millions of years. It was the inspiration behind the mythological creature “Bi Xi” or “Ba Xia,” the sixth son of the dragon in ancient Chinese belief.

Several attempts at artificial insemination had taken place in the hope of continuing the species, but they all failed

The Yangtze giant softshell turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in the world. It grows to 100 centimetres and weighs up to 100 kilograms (kgs).

The plight of soft shell turtles

The species’ extinction draws attention to the plight of soft shell turtles. But what is the difference between them and hard shelled turtles? “The name itself points to that,” says Zoological Survey of India scientist, Basudev Tripathy.

The Yangtze giant softshell turtles thrive in muddy water and can weigh up to 90 kg (200 pounds)

“In soft shell turtles, the top or back is fleshy. In hard shell ones, it is made up of bone and covered by the skin or epidermis,” he says.

Tripathy says the soft shell of the turtles renders them vulnerable to predators and hence, all of them are usually found in freshwater habitats like rivers, lakes and ponds. “The hard shell varieties are found in both, marine and freshwater environments. The largest turtle on the planet though, is neither hard shell nor soft. It is somewhere in the middle. It is called the Leatherback. It measures three-and-a-half metres and weighs 700-800 kgs,” says Tripathy.

“Freshwater turtles are more threatened today than marine ones,” says Biswajit Mohanty, Secretary, Wildlife Society of Orissa. “Their population is low and highly localised. Pollution, sand mining, poaching and dams threaten their future,” he adds.

Tripathy explains it with examples from India. “The Gangetic soft shell turtle (Nilssonia gangetica) is poached for its meat. It also suffers from sand mining in the Chambal river, a major habitat. These turtles bask on the shore and lay their eggs on it. Sand mining prevents them from doing either.”

A female Yangtze giant softshell turtle, one of four remaining in the world, is seen at Suzhou Zoo in China in a 2015 file photo.GERALD KUCHLING

But what is the ecological importance of a soft shell turtle? “They are scavengers. They eat dead bodies floating in rivers and keep them clean. They also feed on plankton,” says Tripathy.

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Notre Dame’s spire collapses as fire and smoke engulf the 12th century Paris cathedral

Notre-Dame cathedral, the iconic symbol of the beauty and history of Paris, was scarred by an extensive fire on Monday evening that collapsed part of its delicate spire, bruised the Parisian skies with smoke and further disheartened a city already back on its heels after weeks of violent protests.

The cause of the fire was not immediately known, André Finot, a spokesman for the cathedral, said in a telephone interview, and there was no immediate indication that anyone had been hurt.

But the spectacle of flames leaping from the cathedral’s wooden roof — its spire glowing red then turning into a virtual cinder — stunned thousands of onlookers who gathered along the banks of the Seine and packed into the plaza of the nearby Hotel de Ville, gasping and covering their mouths in horror and wiping away tears.

Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, the cathedral is currently undergoing extensive renovation work.CreditPhilippe Lopez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The fire broke out about 6:30 p.m., upending President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to deliver an important policy speech about trying to heal the country from months of “Yellow Vest” demonstrations that had already defaced major landmarks in the capital and disfigured some of its richest streets.

The tragedy seemed to underscore the challenges heaped before his administration that has struggled to reconcile the weight of France’s ideals and history with the necessity for change to meet the demands of the 21st century.

“It is like losing a member of one’s own family,” said Pierre Guillaume Bonnet, a 45-year-old marketing director. “For me there are so many memories tied up in it,” he said of the cathedral.

France’s Interior Ministry said that 400 firefighters were battling the blaze.

Notre-Dame is one of the city’s most famous landmarks, drawing about 13 million visitors a year.CreditGeoffroy Van Der Hasselt/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A jewel of medieval Gothic architecture built in the 12th and 13th centuries, Notre-Dame, others noted, was a landmark not only for Paris, where it squats firmly yet gracefully at its very center, but for all the world. The cathedral is visited by about 30,000 people a day and around 13 million people a year.

“This is just horrible,” said Mohamed Megdoul, 33, a film producer. “A thousand years of history which is being wiped away,” he said brushing away tears.

“This belonged to the whole world, and now it is disappearing,” he said.

As the last rush of tourists were trying to get in for the day, the doors of Notre-Dame were abruptly shut without explanation, witnesses said. Within moments, tiny bits of white smoke started rising from the spire — which, at 295 feet, was the highest part of the cathedral.

The fire alarm first went off around 6:30 p.m.CreditThibault Camus/Associated Press

Billowing out, the smoke started turning gray, then black, making it clear that a fire was growing inside the cathedral, which is currently covered in scaffolding. Soon, orange flames began punching out of the spire, quickly increasing in intensity.

The Paris prosecutor’s office said it had opened an investigation.CreditThomas Samson/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The French police rushed in and started blowing whistles, telling everyone to move back, witnesses said. By then, the flames were towering, spilling out of multiple parts of the cathedral. Tourists and residents alike came to a standstill, pulling out their phones to call their loved ones. Older Parisians began to cry, lamenting how their national treasure was quickly being lost.

As the last rush of tourists were trying to get in for the day, the doors of Notre-Dame were abruptly shut without explanation, witnesses said.CreditBertrand Guay/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Thousands stood on the banks of the Seine river and watched in shock as the fire tore through the cathedral’s wooden roof and brought down part of the spire. Video filmed by onlookers and shared on social media showed smoke and flames billowing from the top of the cathedral.

Vincent Dunn, a fire consultant and former New York City fire chief, said that fire hose streams could not reach the top of such a cathedral, and that reaching the top on foot was often an arduous climb over winding steps.

“These cathedrals and houses of worship are built to burn,” he said. “If they weren’t houses of worship, they’d be condemned.”

Mayor Anne Hidalgo of Paris said on Twitter that “a terrible fire” had struck at the cathedral, and the city’s prosecutor’s office said it had opened an investigation.

The Paris police warned people to stay away from the area around the cathedral. And City Hall announced around 8:30 p.m. that all roads on Île de la Cité, the island in the heart of the city where Notre Dame is, were closed.

The cathedral is currently undergoing extensive renovation work. Last week, 16 copper statues representing the Twelve Apostles and four evangelists were lifted with a crane so that the spire could be renovated.

The cathedral had been in dire need of a thorough and expensive restoration, Mr. Finot, the cathedral spokesman, told The New York Times in 2017.
Broken gargoyles and fallen balustrades had been replaced by plastic pipes and wooden planks. Flying buttresses had been darkened by pollution and eroded by rainwater. Pinnacles had been propped up by beams and held together with straps. In some places, limestone crumbled at a finger’s touch.

Glenn Corbett, an associate professor of fire science at John Jay College in New York, said that construction work and renovations had long been a dangerous combination.

“There’s a history of churches and synagogues and other houses of worship falling victim to construction fires,” he said, adding that one of the reasons for the peril was the proximity of open flames on torches, sparks from welders and other hazards on scaffolding to other flammable materials.

“It hurts to watch this,” said Pierre-Eric Trimovillas, 32. “The cathedral is the symbol, the heart of Paris.”

The crowd gasped and cried in horror as the spire fell, Mr. Trimovillas said, adding, “Paris is beheaded.”

The crowds that had gathered were eerily calm, with little shouting or commotion.

Angelique de Almeida, 32, watched through tears. “We are going to lose her, everything is up in flames,” she said. “We lose this, we lose Paris. It is apocalyptic. And this is the Holy Week.”

President Macron said on Twitterthat “like all of our fellow citizens, I am sad tonight to see this part of us burn.”

The risk of the fire is not just to the cathedral itself, one of the world’s most important examples of Gothic architecture. The cathedral is renowned to visitors for the gargoyles that cover its walls and also the stained glass, particularly its “rose” windows.

The largest of its bells, which dates to 1681, managed to survive the French Revolution and has been rung at some of the most important events in French history, including both World Wars.

Yet the fire is likely to be just the latest, though surely one of the most dramatic, insult the landmark has endured through its more than 850-year history, including decades of neglect and damage, some at the hands of French revolutionaries.

Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, “Notre-Dame of Paris,” noted even then that “one cannot but regret, cannot but feel indignant at the innumerable degradations and mutilations inflicted on the venerable pile, both by the action of time and the hand of man.”

France’s Interior Ministry said that 400 firefighters were battling the blaze.CreditLudovic Marin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In recent years, the Friends of Notre-Dame, a foundation based in the United States, estimated that the structure needed nearly $40 million for urgent repairs. The French state, which owns the cathedral, already devotes up to 2 million euros a year in upkeep, or about $2.4 million.

The German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said in a tweet: “The burning of Notre Dame also hits us in the heart. Our thoughts are with all the forces and our French friends. Together with them, we hope that no one will be harmed by the fire.”

The French authorities, in an apparent response a tweet by President Trump that suggested using “flying water tankers” to stop the fire, stressed that the use of firefighting planes was too dangerous for the cathedral.

France’s emergency services said on Twitter that “dropping water by plane on this type of structure could cause the whole of the structure to collapse.”

Notre-Dame is one of Paris’s most famous landmarks, drawing more than 12 million visitors a year.CreditDmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

The cathedral is a jewel of medieval Gothic architecture.CreditDmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times
The cathedral towered over the city when it was built.CreditNigel Dickinson for The New York Times
As the years passed, the cathedral showed signs of age. In 2017, fallen stones littered its roof.CreditDmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times
Notre-Dame in about 1900.CreditRoger Viollet, via Getty Images
Work on the cathedral did not stop once it was completed. A laborer in about 1900.CreditImagno, via Getty Images
At play in the snow in December 1938.CreditKeystone-France, via Getty Images
Ordaining deacons in 1938.CreditKeystone-France, via Getty Images

Credits to BBC and NY Times.

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Russia awards India’s PM Narendra Modi with highest state honour

Russia on Friday awarded its highest state honour ‘Order of St Andrew the Apostle’ to PM Narendra Modi for promoting bilateral special and privileged strategic partnership.”On April 12, 2019, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi was decorated with the Order of St Andrew the Apostle – the highest state decoration of Russia – for exceptional services in promoting special and privileged strategic partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of India and friendly relations between the Russian and Indian peoples,” announced a Russian government statement.The award was extended on behalf of Russian President Vladimir Putin with whom Modi shares a strong chemistry.The two leaders met on numerous occasions including an informal summit over past five years promoting defence and economic partnership. Putin was the only P-5 leader who telephoned
Modi after the Pulwama terror attack as he defended India’s right to self-defence.The Order of St Andrew the Apostle is awarded to prominent statesmen and public figures and representatives of science, culture, the arts and various industries for their exceptional services in promoting the prosperity, greatness and glory of Russia. The order can also be awarded to foreign heads of state for outstanding services to Russia.Among the foreign awardees are the President of China Xi Jinping, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Geydar Aliev. The ceremony for the award is usually held at the St Andrew Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace.The most recent person who was decorated is Valentina Matvienko, Chairperson of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation. She was awarded the order on March 28, 2019The Order was established in 1698 by Tsar Peter the Great, in honour of Saint Andrew, the first apostle of Jesus and patron saint of Russia. It was bestowed in a single class and was only awarded for the most outstanding civilian or military merit.Let’s go back to the history a bit...The Order of St. Andrew the Apostle the First-Called (Russian: Орден Святого апостола Андрея Первозванного) is the highest orderof the Russian Federation. Established as the first and highest order of chivalry of the Russian Empire in 1698, it was abolished under the USSR before being re-established as the top Russian order in 1998.The Order was established in 1698 by TsarPeter the Great, in honour of Saint Andrew, the first apostle of Jesus and patron saint of Russia. It was bestowed in a single class and was only awarded for the most outstanding civilian or military merit.Peter learned of the practice of bestowing awards from his travels in the West during the Great Embassy. In the past, service to the Russian state was rewarded with money or large estates. He witnessed first hand the awards ceremonies for England’s Order of the Garter and Austria’s Order of the Golden Fleece and noticed the loyalty and pride of the awardees. It also saved the state land and money.Count Fyodor Golovin was the first recipient of the order. Until its abolition following the Russian Revolution of 1917, just over one thousand awards had been made. During the monarchy, recipients of the Order of St. Andrew also automatically received the Order of St. Alexander Nevsky, the Order of the White Eagle, the Order of St. Anne first class, and the Order St. Stanislaus first class. Moreover, recipients of lower ranks were automatically promoted to the rank of lieutenant general or vice admiral. The Order of Saint Andrew continued to be awarded by the Russian Imperial House in exile. The first post revolutionary presentation was to HH Prince Georgy Konstantinovich of Russia on attaining his dynastic majority in April 1923.

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Man goes to poach rhino, gets killed by elephant & eaten by lions

A man suspected of being a rhino poacher was killed last week by an elephant and his remains devoured by a pride of lions at a South African park, officials said.

Rangers at Kruger National Park and other searchers found only a human skull and a pair of pants, the park said in a statement on Friday.

A lion at Kruger National Park in South Africa, where the remains of a man who officials said was poaching rhinos in the park were found last week.CreditCreditJerome Delay/Associated Press

Four of the dead man’s accomplices were arrested, the authorities said.

The man’s accomplices told his relatives that they had been in the park to poach rhinos on Tuesday night when he was killed by an elephant, local officials said.

A search party, including rangers on foot and members of the park’s air wing, searched the area that was described by the family but could not find the body because light was fading, the statement said. Searchers found the remains on Thursday morning.

A white rhino is seen at the Kruger National Park. (Photo | AFP)

The managing executive of the park, Glenn Phillips, offered his condolences to the family of the dead man, who was not identified.

“Entering Kruger National Park illegally and on foot is not wise,” he said in the statement. “It holds many dangers and this incident is evidence of that.”

Mr. Phillips said it was sad to see the daughters of the man “mourning the loss of their father, and worse still, only being able to recover very little of his remains.”

Kruger National Park advertises itself as offering “an African safari adventure of a lifetime.” At nearly two million hectares, it is the largest national reserve in South Africa, according to its website, which added that it was home to animals such as lions, elephants, rhinoceroses, leopards and African buffaloes.

Last July, rangers and police officers said that as many as three men suspected of being rhino poachers had been killed by lions at a South African game preserve.

Rhino horn is worth about $9,000 per pound in Asia, driving a lucrative and illicit trade. It is a prized ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine and is considered a status symbol.

“It’s one of the most expensive wildlife products on the illegal market and that’s why these poachers go after it,” Michael Slattery, founder of the Texas Christian University Rhino Initiative, said on Sunday. “The current prices for a rhino horn are anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000 a kilogram. They are seeing dollar signs. It is more expensive than gold and cocaine, so the demand is driving these poachers.” as reported by NYTimes.

South Africa is home to about 20,000 wild rhinos, more than 80 percent of the world’s population. About one-third of the animals are owned by private breeders.

Since 2008, more than 7,000 rhinos have been hunted illegally, with 1,028 killed in 2017, according to the South African Department of Environmental Affairs.

The poachers can get more money if they can deliver a complete rhino horn, but to get a full rhino horn they have to kill the animal, Professor Slattery said. Poachers drug the rhinos and then use a machete to “hack away at the face,” he said. The rhinos then bleed to death.

A rhino horn, which is made of 100 percent keratin, or the equivalent of compressed hair, provides no health benefits to humans.

Still, people grind up the horn and use it in a drink in a misguided effort to reduce fevers and cure hangovers, among other things. Rhino horns are also given as gifts, Professor Slattery said.

“That equation pretty quickly tips over to these animals disappearing before our eyes,” he said.

A version of this article appears in print on April 8, 2019, on Page A10 of the New York edition with the headline: Rhino Hunt Ends Badly, Via Death By Elephant.

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India’s PM Narendra Modi Awarded Zayed Medal, UAE’s Top Civilian Honour

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has been awarded the highest civilian award of United Arab Emirates (UAE) –The Zayed Medal. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces made the announcement through a tweet.

A file photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan during the prince’s visit to India in 2016. | Prakash Singh/ AFP

“We have historical and comprehensive strategic ties with India, reinforced by the pivotal role of my dear friend, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who gave these relations a big boost. In appreciation of his efforts, the UAE President grants him the Zayed Medal,” he tweeted.

Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces tweets that UAE President has awarded PM Narendra Modi with the Zayed Medal.— ANI (@ANI) April 4, 2019

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj welcomed the announcement of the award to PM Modi saying the award is recognition of Prime Minister’s stellar role in ushering in a new era of strategic partnership.

She tweeted, “I am extremely happy to welcome the announcement of Order of Zayed for a great son of India Prime Minister @narendramodi by His Highness @MohamedBinZayed.”Adding, “This is in recognition of Prime Minister’s stellar role in ushering in a new era of strategic partnership with UAE and the best ever relations with the Islamic world.”

UAE-India ties in the last few years have grown manifold especially with a number of high-level visits.Indian PM Modi first visited the country in August of 2015 which was followed by a visit by Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in 2016.

The following year the Crown Prince was the chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade and again in 2018 PM Modi visited the country and was the chief guest at the sixth World Government Summit in Dubai. UAE is one of the very few countries Modi had visited twice.

Earlier this year, in a first, UAE invited India as a guest of honour at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation foreign ministers meet despite reservations from Pakistan.

“India-UAE commercial relations are anchored by energy cooperation, trade, investments by UAE in India and investments and businesses driven by Indian expatriates in UAE,” the ministry added.

India and UAE share warm relations that were strengthened after Prime Minister Modi paid a visit to the nation in 2015. PM Modi visited the UAE for the second time as Prime Minister in February last year and held wide-ranging talks with the Crown Prince.

Aftertheir talks, the two sides signed five agreements related to energy sector, railways, manpower and financial services.The Crown Prince had also visited India in 2017 as the chief guest for Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi.

In February, the Crown Prince telephoned Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan as part of his efforts to de-escalate Indo-Pak tensions in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed terror group which killed 40 CRPF personnel.

Congratulatory messages poured in for the Prime Minister on receiving UAE’s top civilian honour:Union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Sushma Swaraj, former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and several other leaders tweeted about india’s “best ever relations with the Islamic world”.

The UAE accounts for 8 per cent of India’s oil imports and is the fifth largest supplier of crude oil to India. The country is also a part of the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which is headquartered in Gurgaon in India.

India-UAE trade stood at about USD 50 billion in 2017, making India the second largest trading partner of UAE, while UAE is India’s third largest trading partner (after China and the US). Moreover, UAE is India’s second largest export destination, accounting for over USD 31 billion for the year 2016-17.

Zayed medal or Order of Zayed

Earlier recipients of Zayed medal or Order of Zayed includes Russian President Vladimir Putin (2007), President of China Xi Jinping (2018), Queen Elizabeth of UK (2010) and King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (2016).

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Conversion is not your mission, Pope Francis tells Catholics in Morocco

Conservative Catholics have frequently criticised Pope Francis’ position against organised or aggressive recruiting of potential converts

Pope Francis told Morocco’s tiny Catholic community on March 31 their role in the predominantly Muslim country was not to covert their neighbours but live in brotherhood with all other faiths.

Pope Francis has used his two-day trip to stress inter-faith dialogue. He has also backed Moroccan King Mohammed VI’s efforts to spread a form of Islam that promotes inter-religious dialogue and rejects violence in god’s name

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI invited the pope for the sake of “interreligious dialogue” according to Moroccan authorities [Youssef Boudlal/Reuters]

The country’s 23,000 Roman Catholics — most of them expatriate Europeans, mainly French, and sub-Saharan African migrants — make up less than 1% of the population of about 35 million.

“Christians are a small minority in this country. Yet, to my mind, this is not a problem, even though I realise that at times it can be difficult for some of you,” he said at a meeting with Catholic community leaders in Rabat’s cathedral.

Conservative Catholics have frequently criticised Pope Francis’ position against organised or aggressive recruiting of potential converts. “The Church grows not through proselytism but by attraction,” Pope Francis said to applause.

“This means, dear friends, that our mission as baptised persons, priests and consecrated men and women, is not really determined by the number or size of spaces that we occupy, but rather by our capacity to generate change and to awaken wonder and compassion,” he said.

Pope Francis greets the faithful as he leaves Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Rabat, Morocco, March 31, 2019.REUTERS/YOUSSEF BOUDLAL

Moroccan authorities do not recognise Moroccan converts to Christianity,many of whom worship secretly in homes. Conversion from Islam to Christianity is banned — as it is in many Muslim countries — and proselytising is punishable by up to three years in prison.

“The problem is not when we are few in number, but when we are insignificant,” Pope Francis said, adding that Catholics were called to be an integral part of inter-religious dialogue in a world “torn apart by the policies of extremism and division”.

Pope Francis arrives for a meeting with Catholic priests and other Christian representatives in the cathedral of the capital, Rabat, Morocco on March 31, 2019. | Photo Credit: AP

On March 30, Pope Francis and King Mohammed VI visited an institute the monarch founded to train imams and male and female preachers of Islam.

Morocco has promoted itself as an oasis of religious tolerance in a region torn by militancy. It has offered training to Muslim preachers from Africa and Europe on what it describes as moderate Islam.

At the March 30 event, Pope Francis praised the monarch for providing “sound training to combat all forms of extremism, which so often lead to violence and terrorism, and which, in any event, constitute an offence against religion and against God himself”.

Pope Francis talks to King Mohammed VI at the Hassan Tower esplanade in Rabat, Morocco | Photo Credit: REMO CASILLI

Also on March 30, Jewish leaders joined Christian representatives in the front row at two events presided over by the Pope and the monarch on interfaith dialogue.

Pope Francis’ appeal for inter-religious dialogue was made more poignant on March 31 by the presence in Rabat cathedral of Father Jean-Pierre Schumacher, a 95-year-old French monk who survived what is known as the Tibhirine massacre in Algeria. In March 1996, seven French monks were kidnapped in a monastery in the central Algerian village of Tibhirine during the civil war. They were held for about two months and found dead. Rev. Schumacher managed to escape.

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Last days of the Caliphate: US-backed forces celebrate ‘victory’ as ISIS ‘caliphate’ is reduced to a few hundred square yards of bombed-out scrapyard: Tiny last stronghold is surrounded

US-backed forces are celebrating ‘victory’ after they captured a key ISIS encampment and reduced the terror group’s ‘caliphate’ to a few hundred square yards of bombed-out scrapyard in Syria, As reported by Daily Mail.

Officials from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were seen singing and dancing and giving ‘V for victory’ signs as they returned from the frontline in Baghouz in the country’s east.

The extremists had retreated in to a tiny parcel of land with some reportedly having used their own children as human shields.

At the height of its power the Islamic State’s ‘caliphate’ stretched from Baghdad in Iraq all the way across north eastern Syria in the west – the dwindling remains have been constricted into the town of Baghouz in the Deir’ez-Zur region of eastern Syria

Pictures show the burning remains of cars along the banks of the Euphrates river where ISIS fanatics have been desperately digging in over the last few months. Hundreds of militants surrendered overnight, an SDF spokesman said, signalling the terror group’s collapse after months of stiff resistance.

Reduced to a burning scrapyard: ISIS fighters and followers have been steadily forced back to Baghouz after years of retreats in the face of military campaigns by an array of foreign and local forces. Pictures show the bombed-out remains of cars in the terror group’s last stronghold

Fighting has been intense as SDF fighters move in on ISIS positions in the village of Baghouz. Pictures show smoke rising over the enclave on the banks of the Euphrates in eastern Syria

U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters sing and link arms as they celebrate their territorial gains over ISIS this afternoon

Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) made the ‘V’ for victory sign as they come back from the frontline today

The SDF captured hundreds of wounded militants when it overran the camp on Tuesday, Bali said. It also captured 157 mostly foreign fighters. An SDF fighter makes a ‘V for victory’ sign today

U.S.-backed Syrian forces on Tuesday seized control of an encampment held by the Islamic State group in eastern Syria, after hundreds of militants surrendered overnight, a spokesman said, signaling the group’s collapse after months of stiff resistance

Meanwhile, the spokesman, Mustafa Bali said the SDF had captured a group of alleged terrorists suspected of being behind a suicide attack in northern Syria that left four Americans dead earlier this year. Bali said the suspects were captured following technical surveillance. He did not elaborate on the number of suspects or when they were captured.

The Americans were killed in a suicide bombing in January in the town of Manbij that was claimed by ISIS. In a statement posted on Twitter on Tuesday, he said the outcome of the ongoing investigation will be shared at a later time.

The taking of the ISIS camp was a major advance but not the final defeat of the group in Baghouz, the last village held by the extremists where they have been holding out for weeks under siege, according to Bali. Still, fighters from the force were starting to celebrate anyway.

‘I’m happy it’s over. Now I know my people are safe,’ said a fighter who identified himself as Walid Raqqawi who fought in the camp Monday night. He said he is returning to his hometown of Raqqa to rest. Comrades from his unit sang and danced in celebration at an outpost in Baghouz, all saying they were looking forward to going home.

Hardened militant fighters holed up in the encampment have been mounting a last-stand defence of the enclave, all that is left of ISIS’s self-proclaimed ‘caliphate’ that once spanned a third of both Syria and Iraq.

The militants have been putting up a desperate fight, their notorious propaganda machine working even on the brink of collapse.

On Monday, ISIS issued a video showing its militants furiously defending the encampment, a junkyard of wrecked cards, motorcycles and tents. In the footage.
They shoot nonstop with AK-47s and M-16s from behind trucks, vehicles and sand berms. A group of children could be seen at one point amid the fighting.

‘My Muslim brothers everywhere, we did our best, the rest is up to God,’ a fighter said to the backdrop of black smoke rising from behind him.

The SDF captured hundreds of wounded militants when it overran the camp on Tuesday, Bali said. It also captured 157 mostly foreign fighters.

Asked earlier by Reuters how long it would take to defeat the remaining jihadists, Bali said he expected the operation to end ‘very soon’. Some remaining militants had fallen back to the bank of the nearby Euphrates River, he said.

‘The battles are not yet over,’ he said. ‘Some of the terrorists have taken their children as human shields. There are intermittent clashes.’

ISIS fighters and followers have been steadily forced back to Baghouz after years of retreats in the face of military campaigns by an array of foreign and local forces.

Evacuation: Trucks used by the Syrian Democratic Forces are shown transporting fighters and civilians from the last remaining Syrian land held by ISIS today

A man stands in the back of a truck used by the SDF to evacuate people from Baghouz today. SDF officials say they are close to driving the terror group out of the village

The area held by ISIS in Baghouz is the last pocket of territory in Syria controlled by the extremist group, which once held a vast area of Syria and Iraq, calling it an Islamic ‘caliphate’. Pictured: An SDF fighter takes aim during the battle for Baghouz

The complete fall of Baghouz would mark the end of the ISIS’s self-declared territorial ‘caliphate,’ which at its height stretched across much of Syria and Iraq.

For the past four years, U.S.-led forces have waged a destructive campaign to tear down the ‘caliphate.’ But even after Baghouz’s fall, ISIS maintains a scattered presence and sleeper cells that threaten a continuing insurgency.

The battle for Baghouz has dragged on for weeks – and the encampment has proven a major battleground, with tents covering foxholes and underground tunnels.

The siege has also been slowed by the unexpectedly large number of civilians in Baghouz, most of them families of IS members. Over past weeks they have been flowing out, exhausted, hungry and often wounded. The sheer number who emerged – nearly 30,000 since early January according to Kurdish officials – took the Kurdish-led SDF by surprise.

In the last two weeks, many IS militants appeared to be among those evacuating. But SDF commanders have stopped speculating when the battle may finally be over. Commanders say they don’t know how many more may still be left, hiding in tunnels beneath the war-scarred village.

In the seizure Tuesday of the encampment, hundreds of wounded and sick militants were captured and have been evacuated to nearby military hospitals for treatment, Bali, the SDF spokesman, said in a Twitter post. Still, he cautioned, ‘this is not a victory announcement, but a significant progress in the fight.’

There were conflicting reports from SDF commanders on the ground about the extent of the IS surrender.

The extremists are retreating in to an ever shrinking parcel of land at Baghouz in the country’s east – with some now said to be using their own children as human shields. Pictured: An ISIS fighter waving the jihadists’ black and white flag in Baghouz on Monday

Over the past two months, more than 60,000 people have poured out of the dwindling enclave, nearly half of whom surrendered as ISIS supporters, including some 5,000 fighters, according to the SDF. ISIS released this image of fighters firing their weapons from inside Baghouz

Commander Rustam Hasake told The Associated Press that SDF forces advanced on four fronts Monday night and were inside the camp when the last IS fighters surrendered at dawn. He said the last fighters were pushed out of the camp and were now in an open patch of land by the Euphrates River and were being processed and detained.

Another commander, however, said some IS militants continue to hold a tiny area in an open patch of land in the village, outside the encampment.

AP journalists in Baghouz reported sporadic gunfire echoing in Baghouz and jets circling overhead. At a command post in Baghouz, a Humvee pulled up and unloaded weapons captured from IS on Tuesday, including sniper and hunting rifles, pump action shot guns and grenades and ammunition.

The U.S. military has warned that ISIS may still count tens of thousands of fighters, dispersed throughout Iraq and Syria, with enough leaders and resources to present a menacing insurgency. The terror group released video (pictured) purportedly showing fanatics fighting in Baghouz this week

Five trucks hauling 10 trailers full of people were seen coming out of Baghouz. A child could be heard wailing from inside one of them. At least 100 people, nearly all of them children, have died in the truck trips from Baghouz on the way to a camp in northern Syria, or soon after reaching it, according to the International Rescue Committee – a sign of how miserable conditions were inside Baghouz during the siege as supplies ran out.

Terrifying video showed the moment an ISIS suicide bomber killed two US soldiers and two American civilians in a horrific attack in Syria in January

Bali, in a separate Twitter post Tuesday, said the SDF captured a group of suspects involved in a January suicide bombing that killed four Americans in the northern town of Manbij. He did not elaborate on the number of suspects or whether they were among the most recent militants to surrender.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the blast outside a popular restaurant in Manbij, which killed at least 16 people, including two U.S. service members and two American civilians. It was the deadliest assault on U.S. troops in Syria since American forces went into the country in 2015.

As they make their final stand, the IS militants have issued a string of statements this month claiming to have inflicted heavy losses on the SDF.

In an audio posted online Monday, the ISIS spokesman, Abu Hassan al-Muhajer, issued his first message in six months, calling for revenge attacks by Muslims in Western countries in retaliation for the shooting attack on two New Zealand mosques that killed 50 people.

He also ridiculed U.S. declarations of the defeat of the Islamic State group, calling the claim of victory a ‘hallucination.’

But SDF fighters celebrated as if the final collapse were imminent. At the SDF outpost in Baghouz, a commander danced with his soldiers. Fighters said remaining IS militants didn’t put up much resistance.

‘We fired on them with our rifles and heavy weapons and they didn’t shoot back. So we walked into the camp and they didn’t shoot at us,’ said Orhan Hamad, from the northern province of Hassakeh.

‘I tell the martyrs, it wasn’t for nothing. With God’s permission, we’ve finished Daesh.’

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