The Early Edition: July 25, 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.

MULTIPLE ATTACKS IN GERMANY

A suicide bombing in German town Ansbach late last night has injured 12 people and killed the man responsible. Ansbach was hosting a music concert that had attracted a crowd of around 2,000. The attacker detonated his bomb nearby having been denied entry to the concert, Bavarian Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann told reporters early this morning. [Wall Street Journal’s Anton Troianovski; New York Times’ Niraj Chokshi]

The man responsible for the attack – the fourth to hit Germany in a week – has been identified as a 27-year-old Syrian who had been denied asylum a year ago, but had been allowed to remain in Germany due to the ongoing situation in Syria. He had been receiving psychiatric treatment, according to the Bavarian interior minister. The AP’s Tomislav Skaro and Kirsten Grieshaber report.  The attacker was reportedly due to be deported to Bulgaria. [AP]

Another Syrian refugee used a long knife or a machete to kill a woman in Reutlingen, Southwestern Germany, on Sunday. However, the killing is not being treated as terrorist in nature, a police spokesperson has confirmed. [New York Times’ Melissa Eddy]

German police have detained a 16-year-old Afghan on Sunday in connection with a shooting attack at a Munich shopping center on Friday, on suspicion of having been aware of the attack but failing to report it. He is also suspected of posting an announcement on Facebook inviting people to a cinema close to Munich’s train station, similar to the post left by the gunman himself inviting users to the McDonald’s where the shooting began, described by investigators as a lure. [Reuters]

Again, the attack is not believed to have been terrorist in nature, and the perpetrator – an Iranian-German teenager – is being described as depressed and as having a fascination with mass killings, but with no links to the Islamic State or any other extremist group. The shooting took place on the fifth anniversary of the attack in Oslo, Norway, and on the island of Utoya, but Anders Behring Breivik, which left 77 dead. Souad Mekhennet at al report for the Washington Post.

The string of violence has thrown Germany into high alert, assured France’s continued state of emergency, and poured fuel on the contentious debate of Europe’s migration crisis and its security, write Julian E. Barnes and Matthew Dalton for the Wall Street Journal. Although there is a difference between terrorism and mass killings perpetrated by unstable individuals, experts have said that images of one high-profile attack can encourage others: mentally-ill would-be killers “absorb the violence and aggression” of terrorist attacks.

TURKEY

Detention warrants for 42 journalists have been issued by Turkish authorities today as part of the crackdown on the “virus” that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says infected state bodies and led to the coup attempt. [BBC]

Thousands gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim square for the first cross-party rally to condemn the coup attempt, yesterday. Among the strongly patriotic crowd, reports AFP, a few banners displayed messages such as “sovereignty belongs to the people alone,” and “no to the coup, yes to democracy!” as the post-coup state of emergency and the ongoing purge of alleged state enemies contribute to rising concerns among citizens.

The rally was a rare show of unity between opposition group and ruling party members, report Christopher Torchia and Cinar Kiper for the AP. The rally was organized by the opposition Republican People’s Party, which was close to the secularist generals who used to control Turkey’s military. The party has lost influence since Erdoğan came to power on the votes of a pious Muslim class.

Over 2,250 social, educational and healthcare institutions and facilities were seized by Turkish authorities on Saturday, a new tactic against suspected coup plotters. In an interview broadcast Saturday, President Erdoğan was critical of the West’s concern over possible human rights violations in the crackdown on alleged coup plotters, telling reporters that it was his duty to take such measures. [Washington Post’s Christopher Tochia and Crinar Kiper]

“Law is suspended:” the Ankara Bar Association human rights commission and other lawyers and human rights organizations have reported beatings and mistreatment of those detained since Turkey’s failed coup. Prisoners are being held in sports facilities and stables and subjected to “systematic” abuse, according to the deputy head of the commission. The Turkish government strongly denies the allegations. Loveday Morris reports for the Washington Post.

Turkey is in no position to become a member of the European Union any time soon, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Junker said today, adding that negotiations will stop altogether if Erdoğan reintroduces the death penalty in Turkey. [Reuters]

IRAQ and SYRIA

Government airstrikes have hit five medical clinics in the northern province of Aleppo amid intensifying fighting in the area, leaving four out of service, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. [AP]

A suicide car bomb in Khalis, a town northeast of Baghdad, has killed at least 21 this morning. No group has claimed responsibility, but the Islamic State regularly attacks security forces and civilian areas in the region, and was responsible for a suicide bombing in Baghdad’s Kadhimiyah neighborhood on Sunday, which killed at least 15. [Al Jazeera]

Iraq has banned the bomb detectors proved to be fake years ago – even before the 2013 conviction for fraud of the two British men who sold them to Iraq – despite which the Iraqi government has continued to use them until now, spending almost $60 million on them despite the warnings of US military commanders and the devices’ repeatedly proven failure to prevent bomb attacks in Baghdad. The ban was prompted by the massive suicide bombing that killed almost 300 people in Baghdad on July 3, reports Hamza Hendawi for the AP.

AFGHANISTAN

Security has increased at mosques in Afghanistan after an Islamic State bombing at a protest by ethnic Hazaras, a largely Shiite minority group, on Saturday killed over 80 people and injured hundreds of others. In claiming responsibility for the attack, the Islamic State said that it had targeted the “gathering of Shiites,” reports Ehsanullah Amiri and Jessica Donati for the Wall Street Journal.  This is the first time that the Islamic State leadership in Syria has claimed responsibility for such a deadly strike in Afghanistan. [New York Times’ Mujib Mashal et al]

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani ordered a 10-day ban on public protests yesterday, amid fears that sectarian violence could be unleashed in the Sunni-majority nation. [Washington Post’s Muhammad Sharif and Pamela Constable]

Does the attack signal a change of tactics for the Islamic State in Afghanistan? Sune Engel Rasmussen considers the veracity of the terrorist group’s claim of responsibility for the attack, and the potential outcomes if it was indeed responsible, for the Guardian.

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan are headed toward a record high this year, according to a UN report, released today. The report records 1,601 civilian deaths and 3,565 injuries in the first six months of this year, an increase of 4 per cent on the same period last year. The increase is attributed to an escalation in fighting in heavily-populated areas such as Helmand, which are teetering toward Taliban control, reports Jessica Donati for the Wall Street Journal.

GUANTANAMO BAY

The government destroyed a clandestine CIA prison with secret permission from the trial judge, defense lawyers for the alleged 9/11 plotters submitted for the first time yesterday, saying they only learned of the destruction after the fact. The defense have been alluding to the mysterious destruction of evidence since May, in response to which Prosecutors have said they did nothing wrong, but without being specific. Carol Rosenberg provides the details in the Miami Herald.

Afghan Guantánamo Bay detainee Haroon al-Afghani has been denied parole, the Periodic Review Board finding that he lacked “credibility and truthfulness” as to his future plans if released. Al-Afghani has been at the detention center since June 22, 2007, and is considered by the US military to be a former Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin commander, responsible for organizing attacks on US troops in Afghanistan. [Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg]

SOUTH CHINA SEA

US National Security Adviser Susan Rice attended talks with Chinese officials in Beijing today, the highest-level visit by a White House official since the international tribunal in The Hague issued a ruling rejecting China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea – a topic that was not raised in opening remarks to reporters, reports the AP.

US Secretary of State John Kerry met with his counterparts from the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – ASEAN – at a regional security conference in Laos today. He made no direct reference to the South China Sea, but praised ASEAN for upholding “a rules-based international system that protects the rights of all nations.” [AP]

ASEAN has gathered in Laos for its most important series of meetings since the July 12 ruling, which China has been putting pressure on ASEAN to reject. Diplomats at the conference said over the weekend that they are increasingly offended by what they call China’s manipulation of the bloc, which only makes decisions by consensus, and has been unable to issue a statement on the ruling because of blocks by Chinese ally Cambodia. ASEAN is considering allowing majority decisions as a result, reports Ben Otto for the Wall Street Journal.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A shooting at the Club Blu nightclub in Florida early this morning has left two dead and 16 injured. Three people have been arrested in connection with the attack. Police are trying to determine the motive for the shooting. [BBC]

The Department of Homeland Security is pushing to increase the number of law enforcement personnel stationed at airports abroad to screen passengers before they board planes to the United States.  Ron Nixon of The New York Times reports that this extended preclearance program would be designed to extend the United States’ border security of foreign airports as part of new initiatives to reduce the risk of potential terrorists entering the country.

The Russian government has been accused of trying to meddle in the US presidential election by orchestrating the release of damaging Democratic Party records, following Friday’s release of some 20,000 stolen emails, many of which were embarrassing to Democratic leaders. Researchers have concluded that the National Democratic Committee’s servers were hacked by two Russian intelligence agencies, also responsible for cyberattacks on the White House, the State Department and the Joint Chiefs of Staff last year. [New York Times’ David E Sanger and Nicole Perlroth]

The UN Security Council has decided to authorize member countries to help Libya destroy its chemical weapons stockpile.  The UN News Centre reports the Council’s actions follow a decision by the OPCW that call for international assistance to help Libya’s national unity government expedite the destruction of its chemical weapons.

Iran’s judiciary has confirmed the detention of an Iranian-American who was visiting his family in Iran.  The AP reports that Robin Shahini, a recent graduate from San Diego State University, was likely taken into custody on July 11 and has not been heard from since. His girlfriend is concerned that Shahini was arrested over online comments criticizing Iran’s human rights record.

Australia has proposed indefinitely detaining people convicted of “terrorism-related charges” if they are considered to pose an ongoing danger to society. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said the measure was prompted by an increase in the frequency and severity of terrorist attacks worldwide. [Al Jazeera]

Could NATO be the next alliance to unravel? CNN’s Ryan Browne asks whether, after last month’s Brexit, NATO could be facing an Amerixit or even a Turkxit, following Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s comments last week that the US may not immediately defend a NATO ally under his leadership. The answer? “Probably not,” says Browne.

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About the Author(s)

Zoë Chapman

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

George Kadifa

Intern with JUSTICE