Show sidebar

The Early Edition: April 1, 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.

EUROPEAN TERROR THREAT

The nephew of one of the Brussels suicide bombers has been released and later rearrested by Belgian authorities, the latest in a string of mishaps by the country’s law enforcement in the wake of the deadly attacks, report Valentina Pop and Julian E. Barnes. [Wall Street Journal]

Salah Abdeslam’s extradition to France has been approved by Belgian judicial authorities, prosecutors announced, adding that no date had been set for his transfer. [AFP; Reuters]

Investigators are pursuing a lead in northwestern Belgium, linked to Reda Kriket, a Frenchman charged with plotting an “imminent attack” on French soil. Police conducted a raid yesterday at Marke, in the town of Courtrai. [New York Times’ Aurelien Breeden, France 24]

Europe and the US are experiencing a surge in far-right sentiment following last week’s attacks in Belgium, report Ben C. Solomon et al, noting that in both, “two party systems that were once stable are under new pressure, fracturing and creating openings for populists on the extremes.” [New York Times]

Intense scrutiny of security procedures and personnel across Europe’s airports has arisen in the wake of Brussels, amid questions over whether the attacks could have been prevented, reports Dan Bilefsky. [New York Times]

“Would the UK be safer inside or outside the European Union?” Stephen Fidler explores both sides of the debate, “sharpened” by the Brussels terror attacks. [Wall Street Journal]  

The Islamic State attracts ex-convicts, reports Dina Temple-Raston, noting that almost all of the men involved in both the Paris and Brussels attacks had criminal records, suggesting that this has created a “new breed of violent jihadi – part gangster, part terrorist.” [NPR]

IRAQ and SYRIA

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is open to holding early presidential elections, if it is what the people want, he said in remarks to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti. [AFP]

Syrian government air strikes reportedly killed over 30 people in a rebel-held suburb of Damscus yesterday. [BBC]  The US is “appalled” by the strikes, a spokeperson for the State Department said.

Iraqi forces are leading the advance on the ISIS-controlled town of Heet, eight of whom were killed yesterday after a suicide attack targeted an army convoy heading for the town. [Al Jazeera]

Russian security forces are engaged in a mine-clearing mission in the town of Palmyra, after it was recaptured by Syrian government forces from the Islamic State this week. [Al Jazeera]

Islamic State has been using a university chemistry lab in Mosul, Iraq, to make explosive devices and conduct training in bomb-making for the past year, according to Iraqi and US military officials. [Wall Street Journal’s Margaret Coker and Ben Kesling]

The State Department has issued a new travel warning on Syria to American citizens, noting that the “security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable,” warning against all travel to the country.  

ISIS has prevented Christians from leaving Raqqa, according to a tweet from the activist group, Raqqa is Being Silently Slaughtered. [Fox News’ Perry Chiaramonte]

A senior commander in the fight against ISIS has rejected presidential candidate Donald Trump’s suggestion that nuclear weapons could be deployed against the militant group. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]

US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out two airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on March 30. Separately, partner forces conducted a further 25 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]

CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY

The encryption, privacy and security battle between European law enforcement and tech firms is escalating, report Sam Schechner and Daisuke Wakabayashi, noting that European authorities have been unable to access data on more than 40 encrypted phones involved in recent investigations. [Wall Street Journal]

Vulnerabilities have been uncovered in a State Department system that could have allowed hackers to change visa applications or steal data from more than half-billion files on record, ABC News has reported.

President Obama had a “candid talk” with Chinese President Xi Jinping about cybersecurity, Obama said yesterday. Cybersecurity is an area of major friction between the two powers. The meeting came on the sidelines of the National Security Summit, held in Washington this week. [The Hill’s Cory Bennett]

Egypt shut down Facebook’s Free Basics Internet service at the end of 2015 because the American company would not facilitate the Egyptian government’s ability to spy on users, two sources familiar with the matter have said. [Reuters’ Yasmeen Abutaleb and Joseph Menn]

NUCLEAR SECURITY SUMMIT

North Korea was a focus of the Nuclear Security Summit yesterday, President Obama urging the US and its allies to stand together against the nuclear threat posed by that country. [Wall Street Journal’s Carol E Lee]

The potential nuclear armament of Islamic State was a key concern, most of the nations represented at the summit also being members of the coalition the US has assembled to fight the militant group. [NBC News’ Ron Allen]

Meanwhile, Obama’s plans to modernize the US’ nuclear arsenal is drawing criticism, which could cost “as much as $1 trillion over the next three decades,” opponents warning that it could lead to another arms race. [Financial Times’ Geoff Dyer]

“But the problem with a balance of power is that power doesn’t like to stay balanced.” Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s comments earlier this week favoring Japan and South Korea developing their own nuclear weapons have prompted the Wall Street Journal editorial board to set out the reasons why “America’s security interests are better served by extending the US nuclear umbrella to allies rather than encouraging them to go nuclear themselves.”

President Obama also met privately with President Xi Jinping of China at the summit yesterday, the two leaders announcing that they would sign a climate change deal before moving on to “more contentious issues” including China’s construction of military facilities in the South China Sea, the Chinese president advising Obama that both sides should respect each other’s core interests. [New York Times’ Mark Landler]

LIBYA

Libya’s unity government has commenced work from a naval base in Tripoli, meeting with politicial supporters, local council leaders, businessmen and the central bank’s governor. [Al Jazeera]

Seeing the arrival of the government as a “positive sign,” militia leaders have announced that they plan to reopen three oil ports that have been closed for over a year. [Wall Street Journal’s Benoit Faucon and Summer Said]

The UN has said it will contemplate lifting sanctions on Libya if the UN-backed government can gain control of the country. [BBC]  The UN yesterday called on all political actors in Libya to hand over power to the Presidency Council.

Britain has a “moral responsibility” to help train a new national Libyan army following its ignominious intervention in Libya in 2011, the chair of the UK’s foreign affairs select committee Crispin Blunt said yesterday, but added that British forces stationed in Tripoli would be seen as a legitimate military target. Prime Minister David Cameron is widely reported as being prepared to provide a thousand-strong training force, but he will require the support of key political figures such as Blunt if he is to do so. [The Guardian’s Patrick Wintour]

SAUDI ARABIA

The US and Saudi Arabia announced new sanctions on four individuals and two organizations linked to al-Qaeda, the Taliban and an extremist group known as Lashkar-e-Taiba, in a “relatively rare” bilateral move, particularly as the relationship between two countries has deteriorated due to differences over Iran. The fact that Saudi Arabia’s royal family continues to work with the US on sanctions like this underlines its concerns over the threat of terrorist groups to its rule, says Nahal Toosi. [Politico]

Islamic State in Saudi Arabia incorporates elements of the nation’s conservative version of Islam, a Sunni creed known as Wahhabism, using it to “destabilize the monarchy,” reports Ben Hubbard. [New York Times]

TURKEY

Turkish President Erdogan was met by protesters as he arrived at the Brookings Institution in Washington yesterday to deliver a speech, his bodyguards reacting heavy-handedly. DC police were compelled to intervene. [Washington Post’s Ishaan Tharoor]

The controversial deal on asylum seekers between Turkey and the EU is to be implemented on Monday, the EU intending to transfer around 500 refugees back to Turkey. [Wall Street Journal’s Valentina Pop]

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has released a report in which it says that 100 Syrians have been sent back to the war-torn country by Turkey since mid-January, in breach of international law. [BBC]

A car bomb attack in Diyarbakir, a city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeastern region, killed at least six people yesterday. No group has claimed responsibility. [Washington Post’s Brian Murphy; Reuters]

ISRAEL and PALESTINE

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas offered to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss peace efforts yesterday, saying he is working to put a stop to knife attacks by Palestinians and other violence against Israelis. [Reuters’ Dan Williams]

The Israeli guard videoed shooting a wounded Palestinian will face a charge of manslaughter rather than murder, prosecutors decided yesterday. [Al Jazeera]

GUANTANAMO BAY

The Guantánamo Bay parole board has refused to grant parole to “forever prisoner” Muhammed al Ansi, a former bodyguard of Osama bin Laden, who has been detained without charge for 15 years now. He is the fifth indefinite detainee to have his forever prisoner status upheld, another 20 having been designated fit for transfer, reports Carol Rosenberg. [Miami Herald]  The Miami Herald provides a guide to the Periodic Review Board’s classification of previous and current detainees.

Former Guantánamo Bay detainee and Afghan Taliban dissident Abdul Qayum Zakir has pledged allegiance to the Taliban’s new leader, helping to mend divisions within the militant group ahead of possible peace talks with the Afghan government. [AP’s Mirwais Khan and Lynne O’Donnell]

HILLARY CLINTON EMAIL CONTROVERSY

FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch have been meeting frequently as the investigation progresses into Hillary Clinton’s use of private email while secretary of state. “In a case like this you get one shot at the queen,” a source close to the ongoing FBI investigation has told Pamela K Browne for Fox News, referring to the fact that the case has to be “airtight and perfect.”

Fewer FBI staff members may be working on the investigation than was claimed in a report by the Washington Post on Sunday, which has since been revised to say that “dozens” of agents are involved, rather than the 147 originally claimed. Other reports claim that only “about 12” are working on the case. [The Hill’s Jesse Byrnes]

NORTH KOREA

North Korea has fired another ballistic missile off its east coast today, according to South Korean officials, hours after South Korea, Japan and US leaders, speaking from the Nuclear Security Summit, warned North Korea that further provocations would lead to greater pressure. [Reuters; AFP]

North Korea is also accused of attempting to block GPS signals in South Korea, the South said today, though without success. North Korea has made several similar attempts in the past, some of which have been more successful. [New York Times’ Choe Sang-Hun]

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A weakened Boko Haram is using kidnapped girls as suicide attackers against Cameroon, in an attempt to hold-out against the regional offensive of nearly 9,000 troops fighting the group. [Al Jazeera]

The US is preparing to give Iran “limited access” to American dollars, as it loosens sanctions on Tehran. Iran has criticized last year’s nuclear agreement for failing to provide the country with sufficient economic benefits. [Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon]

UK police will train an extra 1,500 firearms officers in an attempt to protect the population from terrorism. [BBC]

 “Who will succeed Ban Ki-moon?” Julian Borger sets out details of the declared candidates and possible contenders for the post of UN secretary-general. [The Guardian]

The UN is investigating “sickening” new reports of sexual abuse by its peacekeepers in the Central African Republic, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announced yesterday, another UN spokesperson saying she had been “shocked to the core” by the nature of the allegations. [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone]

Tags:


About the Authors

was the Assistant News Editor at Just Security.

is the Assistant News Editor at Just Security. She is also Legal Researcher at UK-based human rights organization, JUSTICE.