News Roundup and Notes: January 8, 2015

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.

PARIS ATTACK

“Several arrests” were made overnight as part of the hunt for the two gunmen suspected of killing 12 people in yesterday’s attack on the offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris. [France 24]  Two brothers suspected of conducting the attack are yet to be apprehended, but a third suspect who drove the getaway car turned himself in late last night. [New York Times’ Andrew Higgins and Maia de la Baume]  France 24 and The Guardian have live updates as the situation develops.

A Parisian policewoman has died due to injuries sustained in a shootout overnight; it is as yet unclear whether the incident is linked to the earlier Charlie Hebdo shootings. [France 24]

The attack was “more sophisticated” than most recent anti-Western attacks, according to early indications, particularly due to the shooters’ apparent training and organization. It is not yet clear whether they were part of a small group or larger plot, report Wall Street Journal’s Damien Paletta et al.

The attack “fits well within the old al-Qaeda playbook,” reports Jytte Klausen, who explores the future of al-Qaeda in light of the shootings. [Foreign Policy]

International reactions to the attack. President Obama condemned the “terrorist attack” and emphasised that freedom of expression cannot be “silenced because of the senseless violence of a few.”  World leaders, including the Australian, British and Russian leaders, similarly denounced the attack. [Sydney Morning Herald’s Alice Ritchie]  Leaders from Muslim countries and organizations also joined the international condemnation, stating that the attack should not be associated with the Islamic faith. [Bloomberg News]  And UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon cautioned the international community against falling into the divisive “trap” intended by such attacks. [UN News Centre]

President Obama’s statement was a “fierce” defense of free speech, a “sharp contrast to his more tepid response to previous [similar] attacks,” writes Josh Gerstein. [Politico]

The media weighs in. The Guardian editorial board calls for an “unequivocal” condemnation of the attack aimed at “stifling liberty of expression everywhere.”  In considering the limitations to be placed upon the media, the New York Times editorial board  argues that it is “absurd to suggest that the way to avoid terrorist attacks is to let the terrorists dictate standards in a democracy.”  Similarly, the Washington Post editorial board implores that “such acts cannot be allowed to inspire more self-censorship–or restrict robust coverage and criticism of Islamic extremism.”  And the Wall Street Journal editorial board notes that “jihadism isn’t a distant Middle Eastern phenomenon” and calls for “broad authority to surveil and interrogate potential plotters to stop them.”

The Paris shootings were “not very surprising,” writes Judah Grunstein, who details the “various embryonic threats” that have arisen in France in recent years. [Politico Magazine]

IRAQ and SYRIA

Baghdad and Erbil are holding high-level talks to discuss greater cooperation between Iraqi and Kurdish troops in the battle against the Islamic State. [Asharq Al-Awsat’s Hamza Mustafa]

Members of the Islamic State’s religious police force have been reportedly kidnapped in Syria by unknown gunmen. [BBC]

SONY HACK and NORTH KOREA

The FBI Director offered further details on the Sony hack yesterday, in an effort to refute skeptics of the agency’s claim that North Korea was responsible. James B. Comey said that the cyberattack was traceable to internet addresses “exclusively used” by North Korea. [Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima]  Check out Ryan Goodman’s post at Just Security which contains the verbatim text of the FBI Director’s remarks.

DNI James Clapper said that he dined with the North Korean general responsible for the Sony cyberattack two months ago, as part of a secret mission to free the two Americans who were being held by the country. [AFP’s Jennie Matthew]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Stricter drone guidelines will not be applied in Afghanistan, despite the formal end to the conflict, and the country will “continue to be considered an ‘area of active hostilities’ in 2015, an administration official tells John Knefel. [Rolling Stone]

A military judge has halted the use of female Guantánamo guards to move the five defendants in the 9/11 case to and from their cells. The dispute over female guards has threatened to disrupt the ongoing pre-trial proceedings. [AP]

A pro-Russian group claimed responsibility for the cyberattack against Germany’s government websites yesterday, with the group calling on Berlin to end financial and political support of the “criminal regime in Kiev.” [Wall Street Journal’s Andrea Thomas et al]  Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk blamed Russian intelligence for the attack, which took place just before Yatseniuk was due to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. [Reuters]

Uganda’s military has confirmed that the man who surrendered and is in U.S. custody is in fact Dominic Ongwen, a senior commander of the Lord’s Resistance Army. [AP]

The recent surge of violence in Yemen highlights the “growing ferocity” with which al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is retaliating against the country’s Houthi fighters, reports Kareem Fahim. [New York Times]  Meanwhile, Yemeni authorities failed to bring a U.S. citizen to a scheduled court appearance yesterday; the American has been held for nearly five years after first being detained on suspicion of terrorist connections. [Washington Post’s Carol Morello]

The Senate will consider Ashton Carter’s nomination as Defense Secretary in February; the Pentagon veteran is not expected to face opposition from the Senate Armed Services Committee. [Stars and Stripes’ Travis J. Tritten]

Iran’s supreme leader has reiterated his skepticism of nuclear negotiations with the West. Talks are scheduled to resume later this month in Geneva. [New York Times’ Thomas Erdbrink]

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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