Issue 45:2016 03 17:Week in Brief International

17 March 2016

Week in Brief: International



BELGIUM: One terror suspect was killed and another escaped when French and Belgian police raided a property in the Forest suburb of Brussels.  Four police officers were injured.

FRANCE: Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, including students and trades unionists, marched through French cities to protest against President Holland’s labour reform plans.  France’s failure to liberalise restrictive work regulations, as Spain and Italy are doing, has contributed towards the country’s economic stagnation and high levels of unemployment.  President Hollande responded by ordering prime minister Manual Valls to ‘correct’ the legislation, and is now facing criticism that he is watering the reforms down.

At the same time, railway workers went on strike over a pay dispute.

GERMANY: Regional elections were held in three states – Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Wűrttemberg and Saxony-Anhalt.  The anti-immigration, populist, hard-right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), dramatically gained votes at the expense of the centre left and centre right parties of Chancellor Merkel’s coalition, winning 12.3%, 14.9% and 24% of votes in the three states respectively.

GREECE: Prime minister Tsipras met the Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu to sign an agreement for the deportation of migrants back to Turkey from Greece, which is a central part of the EU’s new plan to cope with the migration crisis.  For each migrant returned to Turkey, the EU will accept a refugee from camps in Turkey.

Migrants continue to cross the Aegean despite Nato patrols.  About 1,400 arrive on Greek islands daily.

The migrant route into northern Europe from Greece through the Balkans has effectively been shut down by the closure of borders in countries from Macedonia to Slovenia.  About 13,000 migrants are camping against the Macedonian border at Idomeni; about 4000 were sent back into Greece by Macedonian guards after crossing a river on the border.

RUSSIA: President Putin announced that Russia’s military campaign in Syria has achieved its objectives, and that most Russian forces would now be withdrawn from the country. See comment ‘A Lenten Change of Heart in the Kremlin’.

A gang of 16 masked men armed with clubs attacked a group of journalists and activists on their way to Chechnya to investigate human rights abuses.  The gang stopped the mini bus, smashed its windows, set it alight, and beat up the eight passengers.

Mikhail Lesin, the former media adviser to President Putin found dead in a Washington hotel room last year, was killed by blows to the head following a severe beating, according to Washington’s medical examiner’s office.  Russian state media had reported that he died of a heart attack.

SPAIN: A rally in Valencia to protest against a ban on bullfighting imposed by a number of local authorities attracted thousands of demonstrators.

‘El Pais’, Spain’s biggest newspaper and the most influential newspaper in the Hispanic world, is to phase out printed publication and become digital-only.

Middle East and Africa

ETHIOPIA: The Gambia-based ACHPR (the African Union’s commission for human and people’s rights) has ordered Ethiopia to pay £100,000 compensation to an Ethiopian woman who was kidnapped and raped at the age of 13 as part of a traditional and widespread marriage custom.  Equality Now, the rights group which championed her case, hopes that the ruling will help to protect other girls.

IRAQ: US special forces captured Sleiman Daoud al-Afari, the Isis head chemical and biological warfare, in a raid in northern Iraq.  – Afari was formerly one of Saddam Hussein’s chemical and biological warfare experts.  US officials reported that US airplanes attacked two suspected Isis chemical weapons sites following information given by al-Afari.

Kurdish forces and the Iraqi Commission for Human Rights reported two mustard gas attacks by Isis on the town of Taza.

IVORY COAST: Gunmen killed 18 people and wounded 33 others in an attack on three hotels in the beach resort of Grand-Bassam. Officials reported that three of the gunmen were killed by the security forces.  Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has claimed responsibility for the attack.

KENYA: The cartoonist Gado, a political satirist recognised as ‘Africa’s most important cartoonist’, has been sacked by the ‘Daily Nation’ newspaper.  The paper’s managing editor was sacked two months ago.

MOZAMBIQUE: Another piece of airplane debris – a small wing part –suspected to be from Malaysian Airlines MH370 has been found on the coast of Mozambique.  Two other pieces also thought to be from the vanished Boeing 777 were found last week.

NIGERIA: As state elections approach, the governing party has claimed that 32 of its supporters have been killed in the south eastern Rivers state, in which the opposition Democrat party is dominant.

SAUDI ARABIA: The government is looking for a five year loan of between $6 billion to $8 billion, according to financial sources.  The drop in oil prices and the cost of armed conflict in the Yemen and Syria have hit the country’s finances hard.

SOMALIA: US officials reported a joint US and Somali special forces raid against al-Shabaab militants in the southern town of Awdhegele.

SYRIA: Peace talks restarted this week, as the ceasefire has more or less held for the last 17 days.  President Putin announced that Russia’s military campaign in Syria has achieved its objectives, and that most Russian forces would now be withdrawn from the country. See comment ‘A Lenten Change of Heart in the Kremlin’.

A deserter from Isis has stolen top secret documents containing details of thousands of the terrorist movement’s fighters.  Western security services are examining the files.

US officials reported the suspected death of the Chechen fighter Abu Omar al-Shishani, one of Isis’s  most valued commanders, in an airstrike near the town of al-Shadadi.

Assad regime forces backed by Russian aircraft have begun to attack Isis-held Palmyra.  Reports from inside Palmyra say that the modern city has been heavily bombed and a number of bombs have fallen on the remains of the ancient city.

TURKEY: A powerful car-bomb exploded in central Ankara, killing at least 37 people and wounding another 75.  Turkish officials suspect that the PKK, the Turkish Kurds separatist group, is responsible.

Turkey intensified airstrikes on PKK positions outside Turkey, and imposed military curfews on a number of cities in the Kurdish region inside Turkey. The authorities revoked the state press cards of journalists writing for ‘Ozgur Gundem’, the newspaper believed to be the mouthpiece of the PKK.

UGANDA: A candidate in the recent elections, the former prime minister Amama Mbabazi, is preparing a supreme court challenge to President Museveni’s victory.  The offices of Mr Mbabazi’s lawyers were burgled this week and documents and three computers relating to the case were stolen.

ZIMBABWE: The independent newspaper NewsDay discovered that President Mugabe flew to Singapore when state media reported that he had flown to India.  It is thought that the government is anxious to cover up the medical treatment that Mugabe is allegedly receiving in Singapore.

Asia, Far East and Pacific

AUSTRALIA: Record-breaking high temperatures have been registered in Sydney, where a five-week heatwave has been blamed for a sharp rise in street violence.

BURMA: Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party nominated Htin Kyaw, an old friend of Suu Kyi and head of her charity the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, as president of Burma.  He was subsequently elected president by parliament.  Aung San Suu Kyi is forbidden by law to become president because her children are British-US citizens.

Fighting between the army and the ethnic rebels of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army in Shan state has created about 8,000 refugees in eastern Burma.

INDIA: A 15 year old girl who was raped and set on fire has died in a hospital in Delhi.

A 28 year old woman was raped and her 14 day old baby killed on a bus in Delhi.

A woman in a village in western Rajasthan was burnt to death by her brothers for marrying a man from a different caste.

NORTH KOREA: A North Korean spy submarine has gone missing off the east coast.  US and South Korean military intelligence are monitoring North Korean naval efforts to find the submarine.

PAKISTAN: At least 28 people have died and another 50 have been injured as torrential rain and lightning strikes destroyed buildings across the country.

THAILAND: As the dry season approaches, Thailand is facing its worst drought in over 20 years.


ARGENTINA: An Argentinian coastguard ship sank a Chinese trawler which was allegedly fishing illegally in Argentinian waters.

BRAZIL: Over a million demonstrators protested against President Rousseff across Brazil, calling for her resignation.  She faces accusations of deceiving the electorate over the state of the economy and of financing her election campaign illegally.

Ex-president Luiz Inacio da Silva has accepted a cabinet post in the government of his protégé President Rousseff.  He is being investigated on a number of corruption charges and the position will give him a degree of immunity from prosecution; the judge in charge of the anti-corruption investigation will not be able to try him.

USA: Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, announced that his space company, Blue Origin, will be offering space tourism in 2 years time.

A gun-rights advocate who supports gun-use by children was shot in the back by her four year old son.

A campaign rally in Chicago for Donald Trump was cancelled when violent protests broke out.  Dr Ben Carson, who withdrew from the Republican leadership race last week, gave his endorsement to Donald Trump.  Further violent confrontations broke out at other Trump rallies as the Republican candidates campaigned for Ohio, Florida, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina.  Trump won in Florida, Illinois and North Carolina.  John Kasich won in Ohio.  Marco Rubio withdrew from the race after losing in his home state of Florida. See comment ‘Does It Matter?’.

In the Democrat race, Hilary Clinton won in Ohio, Florida, Illinois and North Carolina.

Missouri remains too close to call for both parties.

VENEZUELA: 17 people have been killed and 21 are missing after an attack by a criminal gang on a gold mine in the jungle region of Bolivar state.


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