Issue 100:2017 04 13:Week in Brief International


13 April 2017

Week in Brief: International


FRANCE: Francois Fillon accused President Hollande of using the police to hunt out scandals against him, and of leaking the findings to the press.

The Basque militant group ETA surrendered their arms cache to French authorities in Bayonne. The group called a ceasefire in 2001.

GERMANY: Three explosions in Hoechstein damaged the Borussia Dortmund team bus and injured one of the players.

The government is proposing to change the law so that it does not recognise child marriages.  The ban will apply to future marriages, but it will also apply retrospectively.  The change is designed to stop immigrants from arriving with child brides or from solemnising marriages in Germany with underage girls.  The age of consent in Germany is 18.  Underage brides come from a range of countries: Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania and Greece.  1,500 underaged married girls are thought to be living in Germany.

HUNGARY: Germany has stopped returning asylum seekers to Hungry under the Dublin rules until it is sure that they will be properly accommodated.  The Hungarian government, which regards mass migration as a threat to Europe, has been housing them in shipping containers on the basis that they can leave and return to Serbia at any time.

NORWAY: Police in Oslo found and detonated a device, and detained a suspect.

RUSSIA: The suicide bomber who killed 14 people in the St Petersburg metro was born in Kyrgyzstan and is thought to have links to Islamic terrorists, although no group has yet claimed responsibility.

SPAIN: A Russian has been detained at the request of the USA.  It has been alleged that he is a hacker, possibly involved with cyber attacks during the presidential election.

SWEDEN: A stolen lorry was driven into a crowd outside a shop in Stockholm, killing 4 people and injuring 15, in a suspected terrorist attack.  The police arrested the driver, from Uzbekistan, and found a suspect device in the vehicle.

Middle East and Africa

EGYPT: An attack by a suicide bomber against Coptic Christians in a town north of Cairo has killed at least 27 people.  The attack took place in the church of St. George’s while worshippers were celebrating Palm Sunday.  There was a second attack at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria.  There the police stopped a man from entering the cathedral but he detonated the bomb and killed 17 people.  Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

IRAQ: Isis shot down an Iraqi military helicopter in Mosul.  Two crew members were killed.

SOUTH AFRICA: The High Court overturned the government’s ban on the domestic trade in rhino horn.  Rhino farmers say that the ban encouraged poaching, and that the proceeds of domestic sales will fund anti-poaching security measures.

Former president, Thabo Mbeki, has urged MPs to vote against Mr Zuma in a forthcoming a vote of no-confidence.  Although Jacob Zuma retains the support of the ANC national working committee, he has been under pressure following his dismissal of finance minister Pravin Gordhan in a reshuffle which has been badly received by the markets and has resulted in the country’s debt being reduced to junk status.

SYRIA: The UN Security Council has held an emergency meeting to discuss the chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun.  Attempts to compel the Syrian Government to co-operate in an investigation have been thwarted by Russia which insisted that the planes had blown up a chemical stockpile set up by the rebels.  Experts have said that if sarin is blown up, it is destroyed and not released or dispersed.  President Assad was supposed to hand over all his stocks of chemicals in 2013, but there are suspicions that he kept back 200 tonnes, more than enough to be used in the latest attack.  The US military has released data showing that the planes involved had taken off from the Shayrat air base.

In response, President Trump ordered an attack on the air base.  59 Tomahawk missiles were fired; according to reports, 6 Syrian planes were destroyed.  Russian military personnel are stationed on the base and the US warned Russians at another base, in Latakia, that an attack on Shayrat was imminent. Russia and Iran have warned that if there are any more attacks on Syria, they will respond “with force”.

Leaders of the G7 nations supported the USA’s recent punitive action, and called on Russia to reconsider its support of Assad. However it rejected calls from the UK to increase sanctions against Russia.

There are reports that Russian planes may have used white phosphorus bombs on rebel held towns in northern Syria.  However, commentators have said that the fires which have been raging may have been started by incendiary cluster bombs.

Far East, Asia and Pacific

INDIA: eight people were killed and dozens injured in violent protests during elections in Srinagar, Kashmir.

NORTH KOREA: The US is sending a carrier- led strike group to the Korean Peninsula as a show of force against Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons program.  North Korea has said that it will react with nuclear weapons if attacked.

PAKISTAN: Police killed 10 militants who attacked them in Lahore, according to counter-terrorist officials.

A retired professor was shot dead by a gunman on a motorbike, apparently killed because of his Ahmadi faith.

A military court has passed the death sentence on an Indian national whom it accused of espionage.  Indian officials have protested, denying the charges and claiming that the accused was kidnapped from Iran by Pakistan’s security forces.

PHILIPPINES: President Duterte ordered troops to a number of islands in the Spratley archipelago in the South China Sea, an area where China claims sovereignty.


USA: President Trump hosts President Xi of China in Mar-a-Lago to discuss the USA’s trade imbalance, North Korea, South China Sea, Taiwan.  The summit ended with the announcement of a 100 day plan to improve trade relations between the two countries.

Neil Gorsuch’s nomination as Supreme Court judge was forced through the Senate following a change of the rules imposed by the Republicans.

President Trump removed his chief strategist Steve Bannon from the national security council, following citicism of his original appointment as inappropriate.  Trump has re-appointed senior military and intelligence chiefs to the council.

Republican Congressman Devin Nunes stepped down as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the elections, following allegations from Democrats that he is briefing the President on his findings but not the rest of the committee.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is visiting Russia this week, but it is uncertain whether he will be able to meet with Putin.


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