Last Month in War (2nd to 27th February 2015)

Due to the lack of posts on the usual political updates. Here is an accumulation of events that took place last month. An update for this week will be up shortly.

February 23rd – 27th 2015

  • The regionalization of the war against Boko Haram creates both new opportunities for victory over the terror group and new risks.
  • American trainers prepare the Chadian army for war with Boko Haram.
  • Bombs in the Nigerian city of Jos and the town of Biu killed 34 people.
  • Further violence in the Central African Republic has forced the internal displacement of 30,000 people already this year, and another 20,000 have fled over the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  • The Congolese government launched strikes against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, a Rwandan Hutu rebel group involved in many years of violence in eastern Congo.
  • The International Criminal Court upheld the war crimes acquittal of former Congolese militia leader Matthieu Ngudjolo.
  • The South African intelligence service used an agent with links to Russia to spy on its own government.
  • Survivors of the Islamic State’s raid on a compound in Sirte, Libya, where they abducted Egyptian Copts whom they later beheaded, tell their story.
  • Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi signed into law a new anti-terrorism actthat gives the government greater powers against individuals and groups it deems a threat to national security.
  • Banksy has reappeared in Gaza.
  • A watchdog group says that Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank rose by forty percent last year.
  • Yemen’s ousted president has withdrawn his resignation after either escaping or being released from rebel captivity.
  • The Islamic State fighter who committed the serial on-camera beheadings of hostages, known to the Western public as Jihadi John, has been named as Kuwaiti-born Londoner Mohammed Emwazi.
  • As the Islamic State retreated from a Kurdish counter-offensive in northeast Syria, they took 90 Assyrian Christians hostage.
  • Crowdfunding attempts to raise an army to combat the Islamic State.
  • In Mosul, the Islamic State ransacked the library and burned 100,000 books and manuscripts. They also videotaped themselves taking sledgehammers and power tools to the ancient artifacts in the museum and at an archaeological site.
  • In Tikrit, the group took hostage 100 Iraqi men and boys, many of whom have family members fighting the Islamic State.
  • Bombings in Baghdad killed 37 on Tuesday.
  • Reuters details the ways in which the Iraqi government, Iran and Shi’ite paramilitary groups collaborate inside Iraq.
  • A UN report details the “regular and prevalent” torture of detainees by Afghan security forces.
  • The Afghan Taliban has re-established its offices in Doha and is starting talks with Kabul.
  • The US is considering extending its mission in Kandahar.
  • Avijit Roy, a well-known blogger and writer in Bangladesh who spoke out against violent fundamentalism, was killed by unidentified assailants this morning (February 26th) in Dhaka.
  • The loss of the Ukrainian town of Debaltseve to the Russian-backed rebels and the subsequent rebel attack on Mariupol puts Ukraine in a difficult positionbetween the Western peace agreement and the reality of further land grabs.
  • A Kremlin memo published in Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta shows that Russia planned the annexation of Crimea before the collapse of the Ukrainian government.
  • A year’s worth of war has ravaged Ukraine’s Donetsk Airport. More from Reuters.
  • British military personnel will train and advise the Ukrainian military.
  • Violent clashes broke out between police and anti-government protesters in Athens.
  • Two former detainees of a police “black site” in Chicago, as first reported last week by The Guardian, speak out to The Intercept.
  • The recent reporting on torture committed by the Chicago PD and further torture committed by former Chicago detective Richard Zuley at Guantánamo, is important to read in the context of the reporting done by John Conroy in the 1980s. Conroy’s work uncovering police torture and forced confessions in Chicagoremains some of the best journalism I’ve ever read.
  • The FBI arrested three Brooklyn men this week who were allegedly planning to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State, and short of that, conduct attacks on US soil. The New Yorker explores whether the FBI encouraged the would-be terrorists prior to arresting them.
  • A Minnesota teen pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy after being stopped at the airport attempting to travel to join the Islamic State.
  • Six students who disappeared from Montreal are believed to have travelled abroad to join the Islamic State, bringing suspicion down upon a Montreal Islamic teacher.
  • After last week’s revelations that the NSA and GCHQ had hacked Gemalto, the world’s biggest manufacturer of cell phone SIM cards, the company is busy saying the breach really wasn’t so bad.
  • VICE News received, after submitted a FOIA request, internal analysis done by the Defense Intelligence Agency regarding the impact of the Snowden leaks on national security – but they were all but entirely redacted.
  • Laura Poitras’ documentary of the Snowden leaks, Citizenfour, won an Academy Award last weekend. Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden did a Reddit AMA.
  • CIA Director John Brennan is planning a broad expansion of the agency’s cyber capabilities, a part of his bigger restructuring plans that would be aimed at breaking down the walls between operations and analysis.
  • Meanwhile, the intelligence community is raising the level of concern over a Russian cyber threat, with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper saying “the Russian cyber threat is more severe than we had previously assessed.”
  • Reuters investigates the impacts of the Pentagon bureaucracy’s bad payroll bookkeeping.
  • While the government still refuses to release its photographic evidence of torture,soldiers’ own photographs of detainee abuse are coming to light.
  • After the Pentagon ordered judges in the 9/11 trials to move to Guantánamo for the duration of the case, a judge abated the pre-trial death penalty hearing for Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, saying the relocation order brought up concerns of “Unlawful Influence by creating the appearance of improper pressure on the military judge to adjust the pace of the litigation.”
  • The Periodic Review Board approved Egyptian Guantánamo detainee Tariq el-Sawah for release.
  • At the Brooklyn trial of Al Qaeda suspect Abid Naseer, MI-5 agents wore wigs and makeup in order to testify in court.
  • A Saudi man, Khalid al-Fawwaz, was found guilty in a New York court of four counts of conspiracy for plotting the 1998 African embassy bombings.
  • An excerpt up at The Guardian from a new book about drone warfare.
  • The number of women set to attend Army Ranger School in April is up to six.

February 16th- 20th 2015

  • The Islamic State beheaded 21 Egyptian Copts in Libya, using their footage in yet another propaganda video.
  • Libya is asking the UN to lift an arms embargo to allow it to combat the terror group.
  • Mali and the Tuareg-led rebels agreed to a cease-fire on Thursday so that another round of UN negotiations could proceed.
  • Boko Haram lost ground to a major push by the Chadian army into northern Nigeria and the Nigerian military says it killed 300 Boko Haram fighters in an offensive on Wednesday.
  • Boko Haram released a new video promising to disrupt this spring’s elections at all costs.
  • 36 people at a funeral ceremony in a village on the Niger-Nigeria border werekilled in an airstrike for which the Nigerian government is denying responsibility.
  • The US screened 1200 moderate Syrian rebels for participation in a new training program in the fight against the Islamic State.
  • Turkey and the US have signed a deal to train and equip the Syrian opposition.
  • Syrian rebels rejected a ceasefire proposal for the city of Aleppo, saying that Bashar al-Assad has yet to negotiate in good faith.
  • Mike Giglio on discovering the mass graves left by the Islamic State.
  • The Islamic State immolated 45 people in the Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi.
  • Iraq’s envoy to the UN says that the terror group is using organ harvesting as part of its financing operations.
  • Iraq’s fight against the Islamic State is characterized by uneasy alliances.
  • Kurdish forces, who have borne the brunt of the ground offensive efforts against IS for the past six months, are showing the strain.
  • A highway that provides a key supply route for IS is a major target in the offensive against them.
  • US officials say an Iraqi ground offensive to retake the city of Mosul is planned for this spring, as early as April.
  • The Atlantic‘s cover story, “What ISIS Really Wants,” by Graeme Wood details the apocalyptic visions of the group and the restrictions that the group’s own interpretations of militant Salafism impose on it.
  • A thoughtful piece in Dissent examines why women join the Islamic State.
  • Yemen, which is kind of always on the edge, is really facing down the potential for civil war.
  • The new Saudi king quietly shapes a new power structure.
  • Civilian casualties were at record levels in Afghanistan in 2014.
  • After reports that the Afghan Taliban and US envoys were going to meet this week for negotiations in Qatar, the US and the Taliban spokesman are denying that any such meetings were scheduled.
  • The UN agreed to a delay on the release of a report about atrocities and war crimes during Sri Lanka’s war with the Tamil Tigers.
  • The credibility of the ceasefire in Ukraine is dwindling (not that anyone’s surprised). On Wednesday, thousands of Ukrainian soldiers trapped in Debaltseve had to fight their way out of the town. It isn’t known how many survived the retreat. The rebel assault on Debaltseve was bold, and “amounts to a test of the West’s resolve to stand up to” Putin. Kiev fears an assault on the port city of Mariupol.
  • A new border agreement between Russia and South Ossetia has drawn condemnation from Georgia.
  • BuzzFeed photographer Max Avdeev captures graphic imagery of war in Ukraine.
  • A 22-year-old Danish man attacked a free speech event last Saturday in Copenhagen and followed with an attack on the city’s main synagogue. Two died in his attacks, as well as the shooter himself.
  • Gaps in intelligence related to the Charlie Hebdo attack may be obvious, but the answers to how to improve the process is not.
  • Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist arrested for her reporting on the president of Azerbaijan last year, wrote a letter from prison.
  • The mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma – also a vocal opposition leader, has been arrested on the one year anniversary of Venezuela’s fatal protests.
  • What we know so far about the death of Alberto Nisman.
  • Poland has agreed to pay reparations to two Guantánamo inmates – Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri – for the time they spent at a CIA black site in Warsaw.
  • Before he committed acts of torture in interrogation booths in Guantánamo, Richard Zuley spent years as a detective with the Chicago PD, extracting confessions through police brutality.
  • The US Court of Military Commission Review vacated the sentence of former Guantánamo inmate David Hicks, an Australian who spent six years imprisoned there.
  • The US will begin allowing the sale of armed drones to friendly and allied countries, not just the United Kingdom.
  • The Intercept has a big Snowden-related scoop: NSA and GCHQ hacked the largest SIM card manufacturer in the world, Gemalto, and stole the encryption keys that protect the privacy of cell phone communication.
  • The Intercept also reported on State Department expert Stephen Kim who ended up in jail for speaking to a reporter.
  • New York Times reporter James Risen tweeted some deep criticisms of Eric Holder and the current administration’s relationship with press freedoms – sentiments that drew a lot of attention, and which the NYT’s public editor has since supported.

February 9th – 3th 2015

  • Al Jazeera journalists Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed have both beenreleased pending a retrial.
  • Spiegel interviewed Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
  • At least nineteen (but likely more) Egyptian football fans died early this week after the police fired on fans of Zamalek SC queuing to enter a Cairo stadium.
  • Egypt is restricting coverage of last month’s death of activist Shaimaa el-Sabbagh.
  • Armed conflict in Libya over the past two years has expressly targeted journalists, forcing them to flee or self-censor in the face of intimidation, kidnapping and murder.
  • Nigerian militant group Boko Haram moved north in Niger, carrying out cross-border attacks that caused thousands in the country’s southeast to flee. Earlier this week, Niger approved a troop deployment to help Nigeria fight the terror group.
  • In bus hijackings in Cameroon and Nigeria, Boko Haram killed seven hostages and abducted 30 people.
  • Security concerns have caused Nigeria to postpone its elections, originally scheduled for February 14th, until the end of March.
  • The US criticized Sudan for blocking an investigation into a mass rape in Darfur.
  • American hostage Kayla Mueller, an aid worker held by the Islamic State since 2013, was reported dead by the group, who claimed she was killed by Jordanian air strikes. Despite continued skepticism over the exact circumstances of her death, the parents of American hostage Kayla Mueller received confirmation of her death early this week.
  • A new video was released by the Islamic State, another dispatch from the caliphate featuring hostage John Cantlie. This one, however, described as the “last” in the series.
  • The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says that the death toll in Syria hassurpassed 210,000.
  • The New Yorker profiles the tragic story of Eric Harroun, an American veteran who went to fight Assad in Syria.
  • Unofficial coordination between the United States and Bashar al-Assad seems increasingly apparent.
  • A longform article at the New York Times ties together the pieces of the investigation and the tribunal for the 2005 assassination of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafik Hariri.
  • The White House sent the proposed Authorization for the Use of Military Forcefor the war against the Islamic State to Congress, six months after air strikes began. The proposal is wide-ranging, despite certain language implying limitation. Ryan Goodman discusses the breadth of the war it outlines.
  • The family of Rachel Corrie, an American woman killed by a military bulldozer in Gaza twelve years ago, lost their wrongful death suit in Israeli court.
  • The UN warns that Yemen is on the brink of civil war. The US has closed its embassy.
  • Many believe that one of the behind-the-scenes players in the chaos is former dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh.
  • The Islamic State took control of the western Iraqi town al-Baghdadi.
  • In Iraq, Shi’ite militias are having success driving back the Islamic State, but stand accused of committing their own atrocities against the Sunni population.
  • The Yazidi minority group in Iraq is also reportedly carrying out vicious reprisalsagainst their Sunni neighbors, who they believe collaborated with the Islamic State.
  • The US is considering slowing down its rate of withdrawal from Afghanistan based on ongoing security concerns.
  • A wealth of data obtained from a laptop and files in a Special Operations raid has been fueling further raids, spiking counterterrorism activity against Al Qaeda and Taliban targets.
  • Mullah Abdul Rauf, a former Taliban commander and Guantánamo inmate who had joined forces with the Islamic State, was killed along with other militants in an airstrike in Afghanistan.
  • American solid waste disposal incinerators in Afghanistan cost millions but went unfinished or unused due to poor planning.
  • The Pakistani Taliban attacked a mosque in Peshawar, killing nineteen.
  • Sri Lanka is urging the UN to delay the release of a report on atrocities committed during the civil war.
  • Myanmar’s military says that 47 soldiers were killed this week in clashes with insurgents near the Chinese border.
  • European Union leaders agreed on Thursday on a range of anti-terrorism measures.
  • After 17 hours of talks in Minsk, a ceasefire deal over Ukraine was finally agreed upon. It will take effect on Sunday. The talks highlighted particularly theimportance of imprisoned pilot Nadezhda Savchenko to Ukraine.
  • Meanwhile 8 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the past 24 hours.
  • Ukraine says that while talks were ongoing, rebels reinforced their positions in east Ukraine with tanks and missile systems.
  • Here is footage of shelling on Tuesday, filmed by a young mother from her apartment window as separatists carried out attacks against the government-controlled town of Kramatorsk.
  • The parents of missing American journalist Austin Tice, who disappeared in Syria two and a half years ago, say that they have been kept in the dark by the White House, whose communication has been “horrible.”
  • The White House has said it will veto legislation aimed at restricting detainee transfers from Guantánamo.
  • A Guantánamo court hearing was halted after Ramzi Binalshibh and othersrecognized a court translator as someone who had worked at a CIA black site.
  • An Egyptian man, Adel Abdul Bary, was sentenced to 25 years in US prison for his role in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
  • Former CIA officer John Kiriakou, who has spent two years in jail for leaking classified information, has been released.
  • Ashton Carter has been confirmed as the next Secretary of Defense.

February 2nd – 6th 2015

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