Issue 63:2016 07 21: Week in Brief International

21 July 2016




FRANCE:  A lorry was driven 2km through crowds gathered to watch the Bastille Day firework display in Nice.  At least 80 people were killed.  The driver was shot dead by police after exchanging gunfire with them.  He was a French citizen of Tunisian origin.  Reportedly a lapsed Muslim, he had no known terrorist links. See comment On peut faire plus et on peut faire mieux?

A woman and her three daughters were stabbed while on holiday in the south of France.  It is claimed that their attacker was a Muslim man, born in Morocco but resident in France, who objected to the way they were dressed.  They were wearing shorts and t-shirts.

A Paris taxi driver on a terrorism watchlist has been arrested after police found a fake passport on him during a routine stop, and sticks of dynamite and detonators were found at his home.

GERMANY:  Police seized computers, phones and cameras from 60 homes across Germany in a mass raid against online hate-crime.  The targets were neo-Nazi groups posting racist messages.

A 17 year old Afghan refugee armed with a knife and an axe attacked four tourists from Hong Kong on a train in Bavaria.  He was shot dead by police.  Isis has claimed responsibility.

GREECE:  Eight Turkish army officers have claimed political asylum, having fled Turkey by helicopter after the failed coup (see under Turkey below).  They have gone on trial in a Greek court for illegally entering the country.  President Erdogan of Turkey has asked for them to be extradited back to Turkey.

ITALY:  An average of 3000 African migrants are arriving by boat from Libya each week.

RUSSIA:  An independent report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency has concluded that Russian state bodies have organised and run a massive doping program and manipulated test results for Russian sport in recent years.  The International Olympic Committee is considering Wada’s recommendation that Russia should be banned from competing in all sports at next month’s Olympic Games.  The Russian athletics team has already been banned.

The Federal Security Services have arrested three officials of the Investigative Committee for allegedly trying to help Zakhary Kalashov, allegedly the most powerful organised crime boss in the country, who was arrested last week.

There are reports that at least 15 Crimean Tartars have disappeared since the Russian annexation of the Crimea.  Many Tartars opposed the annexation and it is thought that the authorities are clamping down on dissent.

SPAIN:  Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has failed to persuade the Socialists to join his Popular Party in a coalition, so a fresh general election (the third in one year) may have to take place this autumn.

Middle East and Africa

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: President Hollande announced that France will end Operation Sangaris, its three-year peace-keeping mission in the country.

EGYPT:  A new ruling has ordered that a weekly sermon written by government officials must be given by every Muslim cleric at weekly prayers.

KENYA:  Three corpses dredged from the Athi River near the Fourteen Falls have been identified as a Kenyan human rights lawyer, his client and their taxi driver.  The lawyer’s hands were tied behind his back and all three show signs of torture.  Three police officers have been arrested following allegations that the dead were the victims of extra-judicial killings.  The Fourteen Falls were a popular tourist destination, but so many corpses have been found there recently (at least two a month, and many are considered to be the victims of police death squads) that visitors are staying away.

RWANDA:  President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Idriss Deby of Chad were issued with the first African Union passports at the African Union summit in Kigale.  African leaders hope that such passports will be standard for everyone in the continent by 2020, allowing free movement of people between its 54 countries.

SOUTH AFRICA:  An international conference about Aids opened in Durban, with Bill Gates announcing that his charitable foundation will donate $5 billion over the next five years to help the fight against Aids and other infectious diseases.

SYRIA:  US secretary of state John Kerry met President Putin in Moscow, to offer Russia joint military action in Syria if the Kremlin backs a wider peace deal. See comment The Other Side Of The Hill.

The rebel-held area of Aleppo is now completely surrounded by government forces, which have cut off the Castello Road, the last route in and out. A siege would threaten more than 300,000 people with starvation; the UN has asked the Assad government to allow the passage of humanitarian aid.

TURKEY:  The military attempted a coup overnight on Friday/Saturday.  Tanks and soldiers took to the streets; social media was shut down; airports and broadcasting studios were seized; parliament buildings in Ankara were bombed.  290 people were killed.

The coup failed because the army was divided (a number of top ranking commanders were abducted by the rebels), the police force remained largely loyal, and protestors defied soldiers on the streets.  President Erdogan, who narrowly escaped abduction, managed to broadcast to the people via a Facetime link to news studios.

In the aftermath, the government has dismissed more than 20,000 people from the military, judiciary, police force and education.  Thousands of arrests have been made. The reintroduction of the death penalty is being considered (it was abolished in 2004, after pressure from EU – if reinstated, it could jeopardise relationships with EU and Turkey’s chances of joining the EU).  President Erdogan has demanded the extradition of Fethullah Gulen (an Islamic preacher who was once an ally of Erdogan, but is now an enemy and is accused of masterminding the coup) from the USA.  Fourteen navy ships are missing, and the commander of the navy and the commander of the regular army are also missing.

ZIMBABWE:  Harare magistrates’ court has thrown out the charges of attempting to overthrow the government brought against Evan Mawarire, a pastor who helped to organise last week’s general strike.  On his release from custody, Mr Mawarire posted a video on Facebook urging further protests against the government.

YEMEN: UN-brokered peace-talks between the government and rebels are due to resume in Kuwait this week.

Far East, Asia and Pacific

AFGHANISTAN:  The Pentagon reported that an airstrike has killed the Taliban leader who organised the attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, which killed more than 130 children in 2014.   Four Isis officials were killed with him; the Taliban in Afghanistan has links with Isis.

CHINA:  Eight people were killed when a lift fell 18 storeys to the ground on a building site in Longkou.

INDIA:  21 people died and six have gone blind after drinking home-made alcohol in Utter Pradesh.  Bootlegged alcohol is becoming a severe problem in northern India.

A girl who has refused out-of-court settlements from the five men she accused of raping her in 2013 was found seriously injured and taken to hospital.  She has reported that the five men – who have been free on bail – abducted her, beat her, raped her again and threatened to kill her brother and father, in another attempt to get her to drop criminal charges, before dumping her from their car. This and other recent cases of violent sexual attacks have caused widespread public outrage.

INDONESIA:  Police reported that their anti-terrorism unit Densus 88 has killed the country’s most wanted terrorist in the jungle on Sulawesi Island.  Two militants were killed; one is believed to be Santoso, the leader of the Isis-linked Mujahidin of Eastern Indonesia.

JAPAN: The state TV channel NHK reported that Emperor Akihito (aged 82 and ailing) wants to abdicate. There was no explicit confirmation or denial from either the royal household or the government. There is no provision for abdication in Imperial Household Law. He would be succeeded on the Chrysanthemum Throne by his son Crown Prince Naruhito.

KAZAKHSTAN: A gunman shot dead three policemen and two other people at a police station in the capital Almaty. Security officials suspect terrorism, and think that the gunman forged links with Islamic militants in prison.

PAKISTAN:  Qandeel Baloch, a controversial social media celebrity, was murdered by her brother.  He admitted that he strangled her in her sleep as an ‘honour killing’.  Widespread public outrage has forced the government to intervene and define the murder as a crime against the state.

TAIWAN:  26 Chinese tourists were killed when the bus taking them to the airport burst into flames and crashed.


USA:  Donald Trump has chosen the Indiana governor Mike Pence, a conservative establishment figure, as his vice-presidential running mate.  Mr Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination at the Republican Party convention in Cleveland.  There was controversy over the speech given by his wife, Melania, which appeared to have borrowed passages from a speech given by Mrs Obama in 2008.

A sensitive chapter of the top-secret congressional report on 9/11 attacks has been declassified. It details suspected links between the terrorists and the Saudi Arabian government.

Three police officers were killed and three wounded in Baton Rouge, in an attack which appears to be race-related. The gunman was killed. There have been continual anti-police protests in Baton Rouge since the killing of Anton Sterling, an African American man, on July 5.

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