The Early Edition: March 29, 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.


A number of arrests have been made and weapons seized during raids in the aftermath of Sunday’s bomb attack in Lahore, Pakistan, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif calling for better coordination between security agencies in dealing with terrorists. [BBC]

Pakistan is to give paramilitary Rangers the power to conduct raids and interrogate suspects in Punjab province following Sunday’s attack. These “special powers” have been exercised in Karachi for the past few years, leading to accusations of human rights abuses, and their introduction in Punjab is likely to be controversial, report Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Mubasher Bukhari. [Reuters]

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, the terrorist group claiming responsibility for the bombing, has been responsible for a string of attacks since it split off from the Pakistan Taliban two years ago. Sunday’s attack was its “boldest bid” to “establish itself as the most aggressive and violent” terrorist group in Pakistan, reports Jason Burke. [The Guardian]

This latest bombing is just one of numerous attacks by terrorist groups in Pakistan. Patrick Boehler and K K Rebecca Lai provide a timeline of terrorist attacks since December 2014, which have collectively resulted in the deaths of over 500 people. [New York Times]

Over 10,000 Islamic extremists entered Islamabad, Pakistan, on Sunday, in ongoing protest against the hanging of a man who murdered a secular governor, Salman Taseer, in 2011. Demanding the strict enforcement of Sharia law, they moved through the capital destroying buildings and bringing parts of the city to a standstill. [AP]


European intelligence sharing. There are growing calls for European nations to dramatically expand intelligence sharing in the region, amid reports that ISIS fighters have used a number of countries as hideouts while plotting terror attacks. [Washington Post’s Michael Birnbaum] 

A man arrested on suspicion of being the “third bomber” in the attack on Brussels Airport has been released; Fayçal Cheffou was freed after Belgian authorities admitted that the evidence against him was not as strong as initially thought. [Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Higgins and Kimiko De Freytas-Tamura; BBC]  There was no forensic evidence to link Fayçal Cheffou to the scene of the bombing at the airport, his lawyer said yesterday. [Reuters]  And authorities have since released new surveillance footage calling for help in identifying “the man in white” at Brussels Airport, following Cheffou’s release. [Washington Post’s Steven Mufson]

An Algerian citizen has been arrested by Italian authorities on suspicion of connections to the Paris and Brussels attacks; Belgium had issued a European arrest warrant for the man on Jan. 6. [Wall Street Journal’s Giovanni Legorano]

Text messages were sent to young men in the Molenbeek district of Brussels over the weekend urging them to “make the right choice” and “fight the westerners;” the messages were sent from a prepaid account which could not be traced. [The Guardian’s Arthur Nelsen]

ISIS sent operatives to target Europe long before the Paris or Brussels attacks, reports Rukmini Callimachi, citing officials who say this strategy is apparent in the group’s actions since 2014. [New York Times]

President Obama met with a team of national security advisers yesterday to discuss American efforts to combat ISIS in the wake of last week’s terror attacks in Brussels. [Reuters]


Apple v. FBI. The Department of Justice says it has unlocked the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters without the help of Apple. The breakthrough means the case against the tech giant can be withdrawn, ending the “increasingly contentious” legal battle over encryption. [New York Times’ Katie Benner and Eric Lichtblau]

No information has been provided about the method used to access the data contained in the phone, nor has it been said whether any evidence was found on it. A US official said the method was devised by a private entity. [Wall Street Journal’s Devlin Barrett and Daisuke Wakabayashi]

Iran has denied any involvement in cyberattacks on the US after seven Iranian hackers with links to Tehran were charged with hacking American banks and a New York dam. [AP]


Russia’s demonstration of its military capacity in Syria has heightened interest from arms buyers, and could lead to new sales up to several billion dollars, according to analysts and media. [The Guardian’s Alec Luhn]

A suicide attacker targeted Tayaran Square, Baghdad this morning killing at least three people and wounding 27, according to police. No organization has claimed responsibility. [Reuters]

China has appointed its first special envoy for the crisis in Syria, as the country tries to gain a more important role in the Middle East. [Reuters]

“The strategy behind the Islamic State’s destruction of ancient sites,” from Sarah Almukhtar, in the wake of Syrian government forces’ victory over ISIS in Palmyra. [New York Times]

The victory in Palmyra is telling of Moscow’s broader strategy against ISIS in Syria, reports Aymenn al-Tamini, noting that Russia diverted firepower from targeting rebels to hit the Islamic State in the city. [The Daily Beast]

Iraq’s Shi’ite militia leaders see opportunities as the country becomes ever more fed-up with the political paralysis in Baghdad. Erika Solomon has the story at the Financial Times.

US-led airstrikes continue. The US and coalition military forces carried out four strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on March 27. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 10 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]


The CIA photographed detainees naked before rendering them to foreign partner countries to be tortured, Spencer Ackerman reports. The practice, which human rights observers are calling “sexual humiliation” and a “potential war crime,” was done in order to document the detainees’ physical condition before transfer to “insulate the CIA from legal or political ramifications stemming from their brutal treatment” at the hands of partner intelligence agencies, according to “knowledgeable sources.” [The Guardian]

The new US-India Defense Technology and Partnership Act “provides a practical roadmap for both sides” in defense cooperation, a necessary response to China’s increasing military assertiveness, and “provides a clear signal” that the US’ history of sanctioning India will not repeat itself, reports Benjamin Schwartz. [Wall Street Journal]

“We do not need the empire to give us anything.” Following President Obama’s trip to Cuba last week, Fidel Castro, former president and brother of Raúl Castro, has published a long letter recounting the history of US aggression against Cuba, and accusing Obama of failing to recognize the accomplishments of Cuba’s Communist revolution. [New York Times’ Azam Ahmed]

An “imminent” attack on Jewish school children in Turkey is being planned by Islamic State, according to information obtained by intelligence officials, reveals Sam Kiley. [Sky News]

Cameroonian authorities are doubtful that an attempted suicide bomber arrested on Friday is one of the 276 Nigerian schoolgirls captured by Boko Haram in 2014. The main reason for doubting her story, officials have said, is inconsistencies over her age. [Reuters]

Two further suspected cases of sexual abuse committed by UN peacekeepers in the Central African Republic are being investigated, a spokesperson for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has announced. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

Murder or heroism? A widely-circulated video of an Israeli soldier shooting and killing a Palestinian man while he lay injured in Hebron has sparked fierce debate in Israel that has divided political and military leaders. [Washington Post’s Ruth Eglash]

A UN commission has decided that Argentina’s waters include the disputed Falkland Islands, the subject of a long-running dispute with Britain, including the Falklands war in 1982 following Argentina’s military seizure of the islands. [AP]

Indonesian sailors have been kidnapped by pirates in waters off the Philippines, Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed today. The militant Islamist group responsible for the kidnapping, Abu Sayyaf, has reportedly called the Indonesian company that owns the tugboat the sailors were crewing to demand a ransom. [New York Times’ Joe Cochrane]

The hijacking and diversion to Cyprus of an EgyptAir flight this morning was not carried out in the name of terrorism as was first thought, it has emerged. Rather, the hijacker, who told pilots he was wearing a suicide belt, wished to talk to his estranged Cypriot wife, who has now been brought to Lanarca airport where the plane has landed to assist with negotiations. [BBC]  Most of the plane’s passengers have been freed, according to EgyptAir. [BBC]  Live updates are available from the Guardian.

The FBI is arranging interviews with some of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s closest aides in relation to her use of a private email server while in office, according to a report by the Los Angeles Times. [The Hill’s Mark Hensch] The number of FBI agents involved in the investigation is disputed. The report claims 147 agents are involved, reports Jesse Byrnes for The Hill, whereas an official source has informed Politico’s Josh Gerstein that this number is “greatly exaggerated.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said he regrets his use of the word “occupation” to describe Morocco’s annexation of Western Sahara, according to his spokesperson. The comment led Morocco to order the UN to withdraw dozens of civilian staffers from the country. [Al Jazeera]

Japan has passed laws permitting Japanese troops to fight on foreign soil for the first time since the Second World War. The controversial new laws represent a reinterpretation of the country’s pacifist constitution, the aim being to allow Japan to exercise collective self-defense in overseas conflicts. China has accused Japan of threatening peace in the region, reports Justin McCurry. [The Guardian]

North Korea fired a short-range missile over the sea yesterday, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency has advised, the latest in a string of launches over the past few weeks. [Reuters] 

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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