The Early Edition: March 14, 2016

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.

ANKARA BOMB ATTACK 

A car bomb exploded in the Turkish capital, Ankara on Sunday, less than one month since a suicide attack killed dozens of soldiers and civilians there. At least 37 people have been killed and a further 70 injured. [The Guardian’s Constanze Letsch]

Turkey has retaliated against the attacks by carrying out airstrikes on Kurdish Workers Party, PKK’s camps in south-east Turkey and Iraq. No group has so far claimed responsibility but the Turkish government suspects the PKK is responsible, according to sources.  Curfews have also been imposed on two mainly Kurdish towns in south-eastern Turkey, Yuksekova and Nusaybin. [BBC]

Evidence has emerged indicating that one of the bomb suspects was a female PKK member, who joined the militant group in 2013, security officials say. [Reuters]

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to bring terrorism “to its knees” following the deadly attack. [BBC]

The attack comes two days after the American Embassy warned of a possible terror plot against government buildings in the city. [New York Times’ Ceylan Yeginsu]

The Wall Street Journal editorial board comments on a weekend marred by violence, commenting: “Welcome to what is becoming the new global terrorist normal.”

COTE D’IVOIRE ATTACK

Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for an attack on a resort in Grand Bassam beach town, Ivory Coast, on Sunday, which resulted in the deaths of at least 16 people. [Al Jazeera; BBC]  A local diplomatic source has claimed that the target was a US delegation led by Assistant Secretary of Commerce Marcus Jadotte, which was due to arrive at the site of the attack. [Fox News]  The UN condemned the attack and reiterated its commitment to support the nation in a statement released yesterday.

The attack underlines why it is being said that Africa is “the “new front” in Islamist militancy,” writes Jason Burke. [The Guardian]

IRAQ and SYRIA

Syria peace talks. Peace negotiations aimed at bringing to an end the Syrian civil war are set to begin today in Geneva. The talks will begin despite calls from the Syrian government to exclude the future of President Bashar al-Assad from the agenda. [The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour] Western states have condemned Syria’s attempts to affect the agenda, Secretary of State John Kerry accusing Damascus of “trying to disrupt the process.” [BBC]

The opposition umbrella group, the High Negotiations Committee has said that talks should focus on a timeline for political transition while the Syrian regime has no interest in that process, offering instead to hold elections that would exclude any group defined by them as terrorists. [The Economist]

The High Negotiations Committee has also warned that the Assad regime is preparing for more fighting, adding that if they regime is “stubborn” in this round of talks that they will “go back to the military solution.” [Reuters]

“So the outside should impose a settlement but not dictate the future of Syria.” Charles Glass opines that as the latest round of talks begin, Russia and the US “now have the power to impose peace in Syria.” [The Guardian]

Syria’s partial ceasefire has proved “more effective and durable” than expected, report Anne Barnard et al, noting the significant reduction in violence since it came into effect on Feb. 27. [New York Times]

Moscow is prepared to coordinate with the US-led coalition in a military push against the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Raqqa. [Reuters]

The Nusra Front attacked a Western-backed Syrian opposition faction over the weekend, seizing American-supplied equipment and reinforcing recent setbacks by the country’s rebel groups, rebels and local residents said. [Wall Street Journal’s Sam Dagher]

Plans are underway to send American troops to accompany Iraqi forces as they move to reclaim Mosul from ISIS, two US defense officials have said. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

Sex slaves kept by the Islamic State are being given birth control, a “particularly modern solution to a medieval injunction,” reports Rukmini Callimachi. [New York Times]

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out six strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on March 13. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 12 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command] 

SURVEILLANCE, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

Tech giants, including Facebook, Google and Snapchat plan to heighten encryption on their services as Apple battles with the FBI, the Guardian has learned. Danny Yadron reports. 

The Apple v. FBI dispute has sparked a nationwide debate, write Michael D. Shear et al, noting that unlike the Snowden revelations, the debate concerning a device used by most Americans, the iPhone, is “concrete and personal” in a way NSA surveillance never was. [New York Times]

The Justice Department is in the middle of a less public court fight with WhatsApp, over access to the popular instant messaging app. WhatsApp encrypts conversations on its service, making it impossible for the DoJ to access communications made using the app, even with a judge’s wiretap order. [New York Times’ Matt Apuzzo]

President Obama has warned against an “absolutist” position on encryption, during an appearance at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas. [The Hill’s David McCabe]

The head prosecutor of the Paris attacks described encryption as a “gigantic black hole,” during an interview on CBS News’ “60 Minutes.” 

“How to break the deadlock over data encryption,” from Adam Segal and Alex Grigsby of the Council on Foreign Relations. [Washington Post]

YEMEN

An Emirati fighter jet has gone missing while taking part in the Arab coalition mission against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Local witnesses reported that a jet had crashed into a mountainside during operations in the vicinity of Yemen’s second city, Aden, earlier today. [AFP]

The Obama administration’s support for the Saudi-led coalition military campaign in Yemen has embroiled the US in a “humanitarian disaster” and has been “a study in the perils of the Obama administration’s push to get Middle Eastern countries to take on bigger military roles in their neighborhood,” say Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt. [New York Times]

LIBYA

The US, UK, France, Italy and Germany threatened sanctions against Libyans who block the formation of a unified national government on Sunday, during a meeting in Paris. [Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Dalton and Jenny Gross]

Libya is the US’ “first, and latest, target.” Patrick J Lyons charts US attacks on Libya from the First Barbary War in 1801-5 to the present day. [New York Times]

NORTH KOREA

The US and South Korea conducted their largest ever military drill on Saturday, the launch of an eight-week series of military exercises between the two nations, adding to rising tensions with North Korea. [CNN’s Ivan Watson]

North Korea has denied cyberattacks on South Korean officials via its official daily newspaper on Sunday. The newspaper report called South Korea’s recent accusations “abrupt, provocative, and heinous” and claimed that they were made in order to justify a new “anti-terrorism” law. [Reuters]

North Korea is devoting its resources to developing nuclear weapons while its citizens lack food, according to UN human rights investigator Marzuki Darusman, who was speaking to the UN Human Rights Council. [Reuters]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Iran’s recent missile tests are fanning the debate in the Senate over sanctions and putting pressure on the Obama administration to respond more strongly, reports Kristina Wong. [The Hill] 

A 23-year-old Mississippi man pleaded guilty to trying to join Islamic State in Iraq and Syria on Friday. Muhammad Dakhlalla was arrested while attempting to board a plane in Columbia last August, along with his fiancée. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]

A Russian man has pleaded guilty to spying in the US on behalf of Moscow. Evgeny Buryakov posed as a banker in order to spy on a bank in New York, federal documents showing that he had been doing so since at least 2012. [The Hill’s Julian Hattem]  “More than two decades after the end of the Cold War, Russian spies still seek to operate in our midst under the cover of secrecy,” US Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement released Friday.

Three Palestinians carried out back-to-back gun and car-ramming attacks on Israelis near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank today. All three were shot dead by the Israeli army. [Reuters]

The notorious insurgent leader of radical Islamist group Hezb-i-Islami is to join the peace talks aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has been “blacklisted” by the UN, said he wishes to participate in order “to show Afghans that we want peace.” [Washington Post’s Erin Cunningham]

The South Sudanese government’s “scorched earth policy,” which encourages the rape, torture and deliberate displacement of civilians, has been exposed by a UN report. [The Guardian’s Sam Jones]  Sudan’s people are so afraid of government forces that they hide in crocodile and snake infested swamps to avoid them. [New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof]

President Obama is “right to be skeptical about American intervention” in the Middle East, writes Aaron David Miller. The American urge to “do something” in the face of crisis is understandable, he says, but in this case will not help to reinstate “freedom and democracy” in nations like Iraq, Syria and Israel. [Politico]

UK public and political figures are divided over whether to endorse Trident, the UK’s “ageing nuclear deterrent,” reports Alasdair Soussi, setting out the arguments on either side. [Al Jazeera] 

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About the Author(s)

Nadia O'Mara

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security

Zoë Chapman

Former Assistant News Editor at Just Security, Legal Researcher at UK-based human rights organization, JUSTICE