04 February 2016
Week in Brief: International
AFGHANISTAN: A Taliban suicide bomber murdered 20 people and wounded at least 29 others outside a police station in Kabul.
Afghan ground forces and coalition airstrikes attacked a new Isis radio station which has been broadcasting propaganda in Nangarhar province.
AUSTRALIA: Tasmania’s World Heritage status forests have been devastated by more than 70 lightning-strike fires.
AUSTRIA: Austria declared that it would deport at least 50,000 migrants and cap asylum claims at 127,500 over the next four years. It added Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia to its list of ‘safe countries of origin’ from which it will not consider asylum applications.
BURMA: The first democratically elected parliament for more than fifty years was convened this week. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League For Democracy party, which won 80% of the elected seats (25% of the total seats are reserved for the army), has not yet named a president.
BURUNDI: The government has rejected African Union leaders’ offer of a peacekeeping force. Burundi has suffered violence verging on civil war since President Nkurunziza declared last April that he intends to stand for a third term.
CHINA: Four miners trapped 722ft underground since Christmas day in a collapsed gypsum mine in Pingyi county have been rescued. 11 others have already been rescued, 13 are missing, and 1 has been confirmed dead. The mine’s owner killed himself two days after the collapse.
Three non-violent activists known as the “three gentlemen of Guangzhou” have been found guilty of “inciting subversion” in Guangzhou, near Hong Kong, and jailed.
EGYPT: Reports that an airline mechanic, whose cousin is in Isis, has been arrested and charged with planting the bomb which destroyed Russian Flight 9268 last October have been denied by the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority.
EU: Leaders are drawing up plans to return every migrant who crosses the Aegean Sea and instead accept 250,000 asylum seekers a year from Turkish camps. The EU is also drawing up plans to make it a criminal offence for anyone – locals, charities, volunteers, tourists – to rescue or help migrants arriving on Greek islands (see also under GREECE below). See Comment article.
FRANCE: The justice minister Christiane Taubira has resigned in protest against plans to strip citizenship from terrorists with dual nationality.
President Rouhani of Iran’s visit was not given official status as a state visit, in order to avoid a state banquet where his ban on wine and other alcoholic drinks might have been problematic. Instead, he met President Hollande over orange juice and croissants. During his visit, Iran placed an order for 118 Airbus aircraft worth £17 billion.
A man was arrested at a hotel at Disneyland Paris when two guns and a copy of the Koran were found in his suitcase.
GAZA: A tunnel used for smuggling and terrorist attacks collapsed after heavy rain, killing seven Hamas militants trapped underground 700 yards from the Israeli border. Four others managed to escape.
GERMANY: A hand-grenade was thrown over a fence into a refugee hostel in Villingen-Schwennigen, but failed to explode. Swimming pools in a number of cities have had to issue instruction and advice leaflets subtitled in Arabic following cases of migrants being ejected for inappropriate sexual behaviour.
GREECE: A petition nominating the Greek islands for the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of their humanitarian response to the migrant crisis has been launched. See Comment article.
INDIA: The minister for women and child development said that a ban on prenatal gender testing has encouraged a black market in the tests and failed to stop the widespread abortion of female foetuses. She suggests that every foetus should be tested and its gender officially recorded instead, so that female foetuses can be monitored and protected.
IRAN: Tehran council is sponsoring a Holocaust cartoon competition this June, with a prize of £35,000 for the best cartoon making fun of the Holocaust.
ISRAEL: A Palestinian guard shot and wounded three Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint, before being shot dead.
IVORY COAST: Former president Laurent Gbagbo and his former minister Charles Ble Goude have gone at trial at the International Criminal Court at the Hague accused of atrocities which killed 3000 people.
MALAYSIA: Switzerland’s attorney general is launching an investigation into an alleged misappropriation of $4 billion from the Malaysian state fund 1MDB. Last year, reports claimed that hundreds of millions of dollars had been paid out of the fund to the Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak.
NIGERIA: Four female suicide bombers murdered 13 people and injured 32 others at a market in Chibok. Boko Haram gunmen and suicide bombers murdered at least 50 people in the village of Dalori.
NORTH KOREA: The US and China failed to agree on sanctions against North Korea for its recent nuclear weapons testing.
SWEDEN: The interior minister Anders Ygeman announced that Sweden will repatriate half of the 163,000 migrants who came to the country last year.
SYRIA: The United Nations office on drugs and crime reported that the production and use of the banned amphetamine Captagon is widespread in Syria. It overcomes fear and fatigue. It is thought that organised crime has taken over the country’s large pharmaceuticals industry and is producing the drug for sale to fighters in the civil war, to Isis and to neighbouring countries in a trade worth billions of pounds.
Tension between Turkey and Russia is rising as an attack on the Isis-held town Jarablus is expected from the Syrian YPG Kurdish militia. Jarablus is on the border of Syria and Turkey; there is a military build up by Turkey north of the border, and a military build-up by Russia south of the border. Russia is forging links with Syria’s Kurds, while Turkey regards the PYG as associated with the PKK Kurdish group which has launched an insurrection in Turkey.
Peace talks began in Geneva, with the main rebel delegation threatening to boycott them unless the Assad regime allows humanitarian aid through to besieged areas and ends airstrikes. They also say they will boycot meetings with chief UN negotiator Staffan de Mistura in protest at continued Russian military action. According to the UN resolution (which Russia partnered) a cease-fire should coincide with peace-talks. The British foreign secretary Philip Hammond condemned Russia for continuing to bomb Syrians opposed to Assad even while it posed as a promoter of the peace process and took part in peace-talks.
A car bomb and two suicide bombs killed at least 71 people and wounded many others in a suburb of Damascus near the Sayyidh Zaynab shrine, a Shia monument. Isis claimed responsibility for the attack.
TANZANIA: A British helicopter pilot working for a conservation charity was shot dead by elephant poachers as he flew overhead to investigate their crimes.
THAILAND: A British tourist was killed by an elephant while trekking on Koh Samui island. He and his daughter were riding the elephant when it threw them off and then attacked him and its keeper.
TURKEY: An opposition party MP was jailed for 14 months for saying that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu supported Isis.
USA: Police have arrested Ammon Bundy, the leader of the protesters against federal land-ownership who have seized Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. The police made the arrest when they stopped a car in which a group of protesters were travelling to a meeting. One man was killed. Ammon Bundy is now calling on the other protesters to give themselves up.
In the Iowa caucus, Ted Cruz came in ahead of Donald Trump for the Republicans (with Marco Rubio in third place very close behind Trump). Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were neck and neck for the Democrats. See Comment article.
A case of the zika virus was contracted in Texas, probably by sexual transmission; the victim’s partner has just returned from Latin America.
YEMEN: An Isis suicide car bomber killed seven people but failed to reach its target, the presidential palace.