News Roundup and Notes: October 23, 2014

Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.

OTTAWA SHOOTINGS

The Canadian capital suffered its second terrorist attack this week when a gunman fatally shot a soldier guarding the National War Memorial before entering the Canadian Parliament building and firing multiple shots yesterday. The assailant, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, was shot dead by Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers outside the MP’s caucus room. [CBC News]  Zehaf-Bibeau was a convert to Islam and had reportedly already been designated as “high-risk” by authorities. [NBC News]

Both President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the “heinous and evil” attacks on “close” ally Canada, and Obama spoke by phone with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to express America’s solidarity with Canada following this week’s attacks.

The U.S. has increased military presence at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery after the fatal shootings, though both the FBI and Homeland Security Department said there was no specific threat posed to the U.S. [AP]

Justin Ling describes the incident as a “spectacular failure for Canadian intelligence” and notes the difficult questions facing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government. [The Guardian]  Marc Santora explores the threat of homegrown extremism facing Canada. [New York Times]  Tim Mak et al. question whether those responsible for this week’s attacks were part of a larger jihadist web. [The Daily Beast]

The Ottawa attack is “a reminder of the threat the free world still faces,” according to the Wall Street Journal editorial board, which suggests that the Secret Service should consider what the attack indicates about the vulnerability of U.S. government buildings.

CBC News has live updates on the shootings and the police response surrounding Parliament Hill.

IRAQ and SYRIA

American military forces conducted six airstrikes near Kobani over Tuesday and Wednesday, and a further 12 strikes with partner nations in Iraq, in the vicinity of Mosul Dam. [Central Command]

U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Syria have killed 521 Islamist fighters and 32 civilians so far in the campaign against the Islamic State, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [Reuters]

One bundle of weapons and supplies airdropped by U.S. forces in Syria likely fell into ISIS hands, a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed yesterday. However, Army Col. Steve Warren said “[t]here is always going to be some margin of error in these types of operations” and that one bundle is “not enough equipment to give the enemy any type of advantage at all.” [DoD News] Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized the U.S. airdrop to the Kurdish fighters on the basis that some weapons were seized by the Islamic State [New York Times’ Ceylan Yeginsu]

Iraqi Kurds will send Peshmerga fighters to help defend Kobani in northern Syria from Islamic State assault, after Ankara gave permission for them to cross Turkish territory to reach Syria. [Al Jazeera]  The growing unity between Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, despite long-standing rivalries, is increasing concern in Ankara that the move could strengthen the Kurdish militant group in Turkey, reports Wall Street Journal’s Joe Parkinson.

The moderate Syrian opposition fighters to be trained by the U.S. and its coalition partners will be taught to defend territory rather than to seize it from the Islamic State, according to U.S. and coalition officials. [Washington Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran]

Hugh Naylor provides details of the steep increase in Syrian army assaults on moderate rebels, following dramatically intensified air and ground assaults this week which are “attempting to deliver crippling blows” to the opposition forces. [Washington Post]

“Military success has bred popular support for the Islamic State,” argues the Washington Post editorial board, including in countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

6 in 10 Americans believe the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State is not working, according to a Pew Research poll released on Tuesday.

British authorities have arrested a 25-year-old woman on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts related to Syria. [Press Association]

BLACKWATER TRIAL

Four former Blackwater security guards were found guilty of charges related to the 2007 shooting at Nisur Square in Baghdad, Iraq, which killed 14 civilians and wounded many others.  [Justice Department]  The New York Times’ Matt Apuzzo has more details.

The New York Times editorial board writes that while the verdict “brings a measure of justice,” it does not “solve the problem of an American government that is still too dependent on private firms to supplement its military forces during overseas conflicts and is still unable to manage them effectively.”

Jeremy Scahill considers how only the low level soldiers are being held accountable for the Blackwater shooting, “[j]ust as with the systematic torture at Abu Ghraib.” [The Intercept]

RUSSIA and UKRAINE

The airspace of NATO member Estonia was briefly breached by a Russian surveillance aircraft on Tuesday, the alliance said yesterday. Estonia has summoned the Russian ambassador for an explanation. [Deutsche Welle]

The OSCE mission in Ukraine will carry out a trial launch of a drone in Donetsk today, in an effort to effectively monitor the situation in the country’s east. [Interfax-Ukraine]

Ukraine’s revolution remains unfinished, according to Reuters’ Richard Woods, who offers a detailed special report explaining why “millions of Ukrainians are still waiting for their revolution.”

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Jess Bravin reports on the oral arguments in al Bahlul v. United States; the federal appeals court heard arguments challenging the use of military commissions for offenses that are not recognized as international war crimes. [Wall Street Journal]

An infant was killed and seven people injured when a Palestinian drove his car into a busy train station in East Jerusalem yesterday evening, in an incident being described as a terrorist attack by authorities. The State Department said the child was reportedly an American citizen. [Haaretz’s Nir Hasson and Barak Ravid]

An unarmed man jumped over the White House fence last evening, but was quickly apprehended by Secret Service agents. [Washington Post’s David Beard and Julie Zauzmer]

Secretary of State John Kerry said that the Obama administration does not require initial congressional permission to suspend sanctions on Iran but that “in the end” Congress would be involved. [The Hill’s Peter Sullivan]

Shreeya Sinha provides a useful summary of the “growing list” of violent attacks connected to Islamic extremism in the West. [New York Times]

Five people were killed and at least 12 injured when a bomb exploded in Nigeria’s northern Bauchi state late yesterday; the attack is likely to be blamed on Boko Haram militants. [Reuters]  The ceasefire agreement between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government appears shaky, with continued attacks by the militant group and no news on the release of the 219 abducted girls. [AP]

The Taliban in northern Afghanistan is more prevalent than it has been in years, with just two months until the formal end of the international combat mission in the country. [New York Times’ Azam Ahmed]  The former head of the British military told the BBC that military leaders failed to calculate the scale of the conflict in Afghanistan, saying their troops were “underprepared and under-resourced.”

Eight Pakistanis from the ethnic Hazara minority were killed today when gunmen opened fire on a bus in the Baluchistan province, in an apparent sectarian attack likely committed by radical Sunni militant group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. [Dawn’s Syed Ali Shah]

China wants a closer military relationship with Iran, the country’s defense minister told the head of the Iranian navy during a visit earlier today. [Reuters]

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About the Author(s)

Ruchi Parekh

Former Associate Editor at Just Security Follow her on Twitter (@RParekh88).

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security