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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
Members of Sudan’s transitional government and other civilian leaders have been arrested amid reports of a military coup in Sudan. Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok is among those reported to have been put under house arrest by unidentified soldiers. A statement from Sudan’s Information Ministry on Facebook said that the detentions were carried out by “joint military forces” and those arrested were being held in “an unidentified location.” BBC News reports.
Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the Sudanese military officer who heads a power-sharing ruling council, has declared a national state of emergency in Sudan. Al-Burhan “said [that] the military will continue with the democratic transition until the handover to the elected civilian government. He said the 2019 agreement on the transitional government with balanced power between the civilian and military leadership had turned into a struggle that was threatening peace and security. The military needed to protect the country’s safety and security as stated in the constitutional declaration, he said, announcing the dissolution of the power-sharing ruling council and the government,” Al Jazeera reports.
Large crowds of anti-military protesters are marching on the street of Sudan’s capital Khartoum, denouncing the overnight detentions of government members, according to images posted on social media. Peter Beaumont reports for the Guardian.
There have been reports of gunfire and injuries in clashes on the streets in Khartoum, involving thousands of people opposed to the apparent military coup. “A Reuters journalist in Khartoum saw joint forces from the military and from the powerful, paramilitary Rapid Support Forces stationed in the streets of Khartoum. They restricted civilians’ movements, as protesters carrying the national flag burnt tires in different parts of the city,” Khalid Abdelaziz reports for Reuters.
The Ministry of Information has also said that bullets were fired at protesters outside Sudan’s military headquarters in Khartoum. The ministry “said that there were casualties, but did not clarify how many or who was shooting at demonstrators,” Tim Lister and Mostafa Salem report for CNN.
The U.S. and E.U. have expressed grave concerns about the situation in Sudan and a possible military takeover. The U.S. Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Jeffrey Feltman, who has been mediating in Sudan, said that Washington was “deeply alarmed” and indicated that a military coup would threaten American aid to the country. “As we have said repeatedly, any changes to the transitional government by force puts at risk U.S. assistance,” the U.S. Bureau of African Affairs wrote on Twitter. E.U. foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell has tweeted that he is following events in Sudan with the “utmost concern” and that “the E.U. calls on all stakeholders and regional partners to put back on track the transition process.” AP reports.
Hamdok is under pressure to release a statement in “support of the takeover,” but has refused to do so, Sudan’s Information Ministry has said. Rather, “Hamdok, in a message from his house arrest, asks the Sudanese to adhere to peaceful (means of protest) and occupy the streets to defend their revolution,” the ministry said in the Facebook post. Yasir Abdallah, Kareem El Damanhoury, Mostafa Salem, and Jennifer Deaton report for CNN.
Sudanese soldiers have stormed the headquarters of the state broadcaster and detained staff there, the Sudan’s Information Ministry has said. The headquarters are located in Omdurman near Sudan’s capital of Khartoum. BBC News reporting.
Protesters in Sudan have blocked three main bridges in Khartoum, an eyewitness has said. “Security forces fired tear gas near the bridge briefly to disperse the protesters, the eyewitness said. Security forces, including members of the military and a powerful paramilitary unit called the Rapid Support Force, were patrolling the streets, the eyewitness added,” Salah Nasser reports for CNN.
Internet access in Sudan has been widely disrupted and the country’s state news channel has been playing patriotic traditional music, in hallmarks of a takeover of the country. AP reports.
Flights to Sudan’s capital Khartoum have been suspended, amid reports of an ongoing coup in the country. Military forces are reportedly surrounding the airport preventing access. BBC News reporting.
“I am deeply concerned about reports of an ongoing coup and attempts to undermine Sudan’s political transition,” the U.N. Special Representative in Sudan, has said in a statement. Volker Perthes called for the “security forces to immediately release those who have been unlawfully detained or placed under house arrest,” and also asked all parties to “exercise utmost restraint” and called for them to “return to dialogue” in order to “restore the constitutional order.” Akanksha Sharma reports for CNN.
The Arab league has expressed “concern” over the developments in Sudan and has called on Sudanese parties “to abide by the signed transitional arrangements.” Sudan is an African member of the Arab League. BBC News reporting.
The African Union chair Moussa Faki Mahamat has called for the release of Sudan’s Prime Minister and all other officials and political leaders arrested. Bethlehem Feleke reports for CNN.
U.S. RELATIONS AND MILITARY
In the second U.S. drone strike in Syria in about a month, Abdul Hamid al-Matar was killed in an attack by an MQ-9 Reaper drone. A U.S. Central Command spokesperson identified al-Matar as a senior al-Qaeda leader and stated that there were no indications of civilian casualties. Howard Altman reports for Military Times.
“The removal of this al-Qaeda senior leader will disrupt the terrorist organization’s ability to further plot and carry out global attacks threatening U.S. citizens, our partners, and innocent civilians,” Army Maj. John Rigsbee, a spokesperson for the U.S. Central Command, said in a statement. Caroline Vikal reports for The Hill.
The Qatari government, after supporting U.S. evacuation efforts in Afghanistan, has expressed frustration with the U.S.’ delay regarding its request to purchase four armed MQ-9B Predator drones. According to Qatari officials, the drones would be used for surveillance of natural gas facilities to prevent terrorism. Gordon Lubold reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Russia’s intelligence agency has launched another campaign to pierce thousands of U.S. government, corporate, and think-tank computer networks, Microsoft officials and cybersecurity experts have warned. “The new effort is ‘very large, and it is ongoing,’ Tom Burt, one of Microsoft’s top security officers, said in an interview. Government officials confirmed that the operation, apparently aimed at acquiring data stored in the cloud, seemed to come out of the S.V.R., the Russian intelligence agency that was the first to enter the Democratic National Committee’s networks during the 2016 election,” David E. Sanger reports for the New York Times.
The U.S. Special Representative for North Korea, Sung Kim, has called Pyongyang’s recent ballistic missile test “concerning and counterproductive.” Kim called on North Korea to engage in dialogue instead, expressing that the United States was ready to meet without preconditions. Josh Smith reports for Reuters.
The Navy and Army last week conducted three “successful” hypersonic weapon tests, the Defense Department has said. The tests, run by Sandia National Laboratory from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, will help “inform the development of the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike and the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon offensive hypersonic strike,” the Pentagon said. Using hypersonic weapon component prototypes, the tests “demonstrated advanced hypersonic technologies, capabilities, and prototype systems in a realistic operating environment,” the Pentagon statement said. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
In the days leading up to and after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Rudy Giuliani led the legal effort to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 election results from the Willard Hotel in downtown Washington D.C. Others present at the Willard that week include former chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and legal scholar John Eastman. The legal effort focused on Eastman’s strategy for former Vice President Pence to steer the vote count in former President Trump’s favor, while Kerik focused on alleged voter fraud. Jacqueline Alemany, Emma Brown, Tom Hamburger, and Jon Swaine report for the Washington Post.
Former Acting Assistant U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Clark, who has emerged as a key player in efforts to overturn the 2020 election, is expected to testify before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Clark would be the first official from former Trump’s administration to comply with a subpoena from the committee. Alyssa Farah, former director of strategic communications in the Trump White House, has voluntarily met with Republicans on the select committee. Katelyn Polantz, Ryan Nobles, Paula Reid, and Zachary Cohen report for CNN.
Internal documents acquired by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have revealed Facebook’s role in the Jan. 6 attack and resulting employee discontent. Facebook employees had long been upset over the company’s policies allowing political figures to spread misinformation. Despite Facebook’s research producing strategies on reducing polarization, conspiracy theories, and incitements to violence, executives often did not implement these methods and had in fact rolled back some protective measures after the 2020 election. Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin, and Reed Albergotti report for the Washington Post.
There is “no question” that the Jan. 6 attack was a premeditated attack, the Chair of the Jan. 6 select committee, Benni Thompson (D-MS), has said. Thompson made the comments on CBS’s “Face the Nation” after being played a portion of former Trump strategist Stephen Bannon’s podcasts, where Bannon could be heard saying, “all hell is gonna break loose tomorrow. It’s going to be moving. It’s going to be quick. And all I can say is strap in. The war room, a posse, you have made this happen and tomorrow it’s game day.” “Clearly the direction of the committee is to look at that premeditation to make sure that we identified, but the worst kept secret in America is that…Trump invited individuals to come to Washington on Jan. 6,” Thompson said. Caroline Vikal reports for The Hill.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan has threatened to expel ambassadors from ten Western countries, including the U.S., after they called for a jailed philanthropist to be released. The ambassadors have not been given a deadline to leave. Philanthropist Osman Kavala has been held since 2017 without a conviction, and human rights groups have called the charges he is facing baseless. “I gave the instruction to our foreign minister and said ‘you will immediately handle the persona non grata declaration of these 10 ambassadors,’” Erdoğan said in a speech on Saturday. Carlotta Gall reports for the New York Times.
The Turkish lira has weakened by 1.6% to a record low against the dollar following Erdoğan’s comments that he had ordered the expulsion of the ambassadors. “The currency had already hit record lows last week after the Turkish central bank cut its policy rate by 200 basis points, despite rising inflation, in a shock move derided as reckless by economists and opposition legislators. The lira hit an all-time low of 9.75 by 18:40 GMT on Sunday, weakening from Friday’s close of 9.5950. Two bankers attributed the early weakness to Erdoğan’s comments on Saturday,” Al Jazeera reports.
The Pakistani government is providing intelligence and technical support to help the Taliban fight the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISIS-K) in Afghanistan. A Pakistani official noted the concerns of states like Russia and Iran about ISIS-K, and said that there could be an understanding about counterterrorism in the region. Susannah George, Joby Warrick, and Karen DeYoung report for the Washington Post.
Several dozen Afghan evacuees have been red-flagged for connections to violent crime or Islamic militants, leaving them in limbo. Most have been transferred to Camp Bondsteel, a NATO base in Kosovo, but it is unclear where they will end up if they are ultimately deemed ineligible to come to the United States. Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times.
Millions of Afghans will face starvation this winter unless urgent action is taken, the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) has warned. “More than half the population — about 22.8 million people — face acute food insecurity, while 3.2 million children under five could suffer acute malnutrition, the WFP said,” BBC News reports.
The former U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has said that the U.S. “did not succeed” in building a democratic Afghanistan after two decades spent fighting in the country. “I think with regard to terrorism, we largely have achieved that objective. On the issue of building a democratic Afghanistan – I think that – that did not succeed. The struggle goes on,” Khalilzad told CBS’s Margaret Brennan on “Face the Nation.” “The Talibs are a reality of Afghanistan. We did not defeat them. In fact, they were making progress on the battlefield even as we were negotiating with them. And the reason we negotiated with them was because militarily things were not going as well as we would have liked. We were losing ground each year,” Khalilzad said. Caroline Vikal reports for The Hill.
The State Department is in touch with 363 U.S. citizens in Afghanistan, 176 of whom want to leave the country, the State Department informed congressional staff last week. The numbers presented by the State Department, combined with evacuation figures since the U.S. completed its troop withdrawal on Aug. 31, present a much higher number of Americans looking to leave Afghanistan than the administration publicly estimated at the time of the U.S. withdrawal. Jennifer Hansler reports for CNN.
Top Republican lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services, Foreign Relations, and Homeland Security committees want four government watchdogs to conduct a joint inquiry into how President Biden’s administration handled the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The senators are asking for a wider investigation than that announced by the State Department Inspector General last week which is to review the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, among other issues. “While we appreciate the U.S. Department of State Office of Inspector General’s commitment to carry out a review of the SIV program, we feel any audit must be comprehensive in scope and consider the role of other key agencies, notably the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense,” the senators wrote in a letter sent Thursday to the inspector generals of the Pentagon, State Department, Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Agency for International Development. “This investigation should thoroughly review each individual executive department that holds responsibilities in the SIV process, as well as their respective bureaus, offices, and missions, and the interagency processes in place to help facilitate communication and coordination between them,” the senators wrote. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
Roughly 150 Afghan Air Force pilots and personnel could be transferred out of Tajikistan soon after waiting several months to be relocated following their exit from Afghanistan, a State Department official has said. “The United States hopes to soon relocate all of the identified Afghans together,” the official said, declining to offer a timeline for the transfer but saying that the U.S. hoped to move the pilots and personnel at the same time. Phil Stewart reports for Reuters.
The Biden administration is taking an unprecedented step to resettle the 55,600 Afghan evacuees into permanent homes from the U.S military bases where they’ve been housed. An official leading the resettlement effort told CNN that to increase housing options for evacuees, the Biden administration is launching a program that would allow veterans with ties to Afghans, as well as others, the opportunity to bring them to their cities and serve as a support network as they get their lives started in the U.S. Priscilla Alvarez reports for CNN.
CHINA, TAIWAN, AND HONG KONG
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has clarified that there was no change in Taiwan policy after President Biden said that the U.S. would come to Taiwan’s defense if it were attacked by China. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also said, “nobody wants to see cross-strait issues come to blows, certainly not President Biden, and there’s no reason that it should.” Alex Leary and Gordon Lubold report for the Wall Street Journal.
North Korea has slammed Biden’s recent comments on defending Taiwan if China attacked, calling them “reckless,” according to state news outlet Korean Central News Agency. “North Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Pak Myong Ho said in a statement to the news agency that the U.S.’ ‘indiscreet meddling’ into Taiwan ‘entails a potential danger of touching off a delicate situation on the Korean peninsula,’” Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed that China will always uphold world peace and international rules. Yew Lun Tian reports for Reuters.
Amnesty International will close its offices in Hong Kong due to Hong Kong’s national security law and concerns for staff safety. Research, advocacy, and campaign operations will be shifted to other Amnesty offices in the Asia-Pacific, Amnesty said in a statement. “This decision, made with a heavy heart, has been driven by Hong Kong’s national security law, which has made it effectively impossible for human rights organisations in Hong Kong to work freely and without fear of serious reprisals from the government,” said Dr Anjhula Mya Singh Bais, the chair of Amnesty’s international board. Helen Davidson reports for the Guardian.
Hong Kong marathon runners were told to cover up “political” slogans and tattoos, before being allowed to compete in the sporting event. “According to local media reports, runners reported being told to cover up or remove slogans, including idioms like ‘add oil’ – a phrase which was widely heard during the 2019 protests but is also a ubiquitous term of encouragement. Hong Kong’s Citizen News reported one runner was escorted to a changing booth by police during a security check, and told to change her shorts because of a small printed slogan on the side which was deemed ‘political.’ Another man was reportedly told to cover his tattoos in tape,” Helen Davidson reports for the Guardian.
ISRAEL AND PALESTINE
Israel has designated six Palestinian rights groups as terrorist organizations, accusing them of being a front for leftist militant group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. The director of Al Haq, one of the designated organizations, denied the accusations and claimed that his group was being targeted for trying to hold the Israeli government accountable internationally. According to a State Department spokesperson, the U.S. was not given advance notice of the designations and would have requested an explanation. Patrick Kingsley reports for the New York Times. For further analysis, Eliav Lieblich and Adam Shinar write in Just Security.
Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll has said that U.S plans to reopen the U.S. diplomatic mission for Palestinians in Jerusalem may not happen after Israel voiced opposition against such a move. Secretary of State Antony Blinken this month reiterated President Biden’s administration’s plan to reopen a consulate in Jerusalem, after it subsumed into the U.S. embassy that was moved to the contested city from Tel Aviv in 2018 by former President Trump’s administration. “I believe that I have good reason to think this will not happen,” Roll told Israel’s Ynet TV. “The Americans understand the political complexity…We have very good relations…We don’t believe in surprising them. I don’t think they will try to surprise us,” Roll said. Reuters reports.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has pledged that Saudi Arabia will reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2060. The Saudi economy is heavily reliant on fossil fuels, and no specific details were provided about how the goal would be reached. Sarah Dadouch reports for the Washington Post.
China is aiming to reduce its use of fossil fuels to below 20% by 2060, according to an official plan published by state media. The cabinet document follows a pledge by Chinese President Xi Jinping to wean China off coal, with a target of peaking carbon emissions by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality 30 years later. However, China “has been criticised for pushing ahead with opening dozens of new coal-fired power plants. Authorities have also been wanting to ramp up production, with coal prices surging and supplies running low, both factors behind recent power outages,” Agence France-Presse reports.
OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN AFRICA
An explosion at a bar in Uganda’s capital Kampala Saturday night has killed one person and injured three others. Three suspected bombers disguised themselves as customers before planting the explosives under a table, police said. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack. “The explosion comes one week after the U.K. government issued an alert about terrorism in Uganda,” BBC News reports.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said the bombing in Kampala was an apparent act of terrorism and has pledged to track down the perpetrators. “It seems to be a terrorist act but we shall get the perpetrators.” Museveni said in a series of tweets on Sunday. Museveni said authorities are currently investigating the scene and will share information with the public. Olafimihan Oshin reports for The Hill.
Gunmen attacked a jail in Nigeria’s Oyo State late on Friday and freed over 800 inmates by force, the Nigerian prison service has said. At least 575 inmates, all of whom were awaiting trial, were still missing and 262 escapees had since been recaptured, the prison service said on Saturday. The attack is the third such major attack this year. Reuters reports.
A U.N. humanitarian aid flight destined for Mekelle, the capital of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, was forced to return to Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa due to airstrikes on Friday, raising “serious concerns” for the safety of staff working on the ground, the U.N.’s Emergency Relief Coordinator has said in a statement. The airstrikes “threatened the safety of U.N. staff who are simply there ‘working to help civilians in humanitarian need,’ said relief chief Martin Griffiths…‘The U.N. had not received any prior warning of the attacks on Mekelle and had received the necessary clearances for the flight,’ he emphasized,” UN News Centre reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Colombian authorities have captured the country’s most-wanted drug trafficker, Dairo Antonio Úsuga, also known as “Otoniel.” Úsuga is the alleged leader of Clan del Golfo, a notorious drug trafficking group that dominates cocaine smuggling routes in the north of Colombia. Colombian President Iván Duque compared the arrest to the fall of Pablo Escobar. Rachel Pannett, Diana Durán and Samantha Schmidt report for the Washington Post.
Úsuga will be extradited to the U.S. following his capture, Colombia has announced. “Colombia’s Defence Minister Diego Molano told [the] El Tiempo newspaper that the next step for officials was to comply with the U.S. extradition order. Authorities have now taken Otoniel to a military base in the capital Bogotá ahead of his extradition, according to newspaper El Nuevo Siglo,” BBC News reports.
Pakistan’s government has released 350 activists of the far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) religious group, the country’s interior minister has said. The announcement came as protests demanding the release of the group’s chief entered their fourth day. “Hundreds of TLP protesters remain encamped on the main highway on Monday near the town of Muridke, about 20km (12 miles) north of Pakistan’s second-biggest city, Lahore, as negotiations between the party’s leadership and a government committee continue,” Asad Hashim reports for Al Jazeera.
The head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said in an interview that the program’s monitoring in Iran is “no longer intact” after Tehran did not repair cameras at a key nuclear facility. In an interview with NBC News, IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi said that Tehran’s refusal to repair the cameras and the breakdown in relations between the IAEA and Tehran created the possibility the world will never be “able to reconstruct the picture” of what Iran has been doing. Grossi said that he has been unable to establish the type of direct communication with Iran’s government that he had before a new hardline government run by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was elected in June this year. “Although Grossi says he had ‘no indication’ that Iran is currently racing for a bomb, he says the world needs look no further ‘than North Korea to understand what’s at stake,’” Josh Lederman reports for NBC News.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a “psychopath with no empathy,” an exiled former senior Saudi intelligence officer has claimed. In an interview, Saad Aljabri, who fled Saudi Arabia in May 2017 and is living in exile in Canada, said that the crown prince once boasted that he could kill the kingdom’s ruler at the time, King Abdullah, and replace him with his own father. During the interview Aljabri also said that “he had been warned by an associate in 2018, after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, that a Saudi hit team was heading to Canada to assassinate him,” Stephanie Kirchgaessner reports for the Guardian.
Russia and China have conducted their first joint military patrol in the western part of the Pacific Ocean. During the patrol, the ten warships “passed through the Tsugaru Strait for the first time,” according to the Russian Defense Ministry. The Tsugaru Strait runs between the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido. Vasco Cotovio reports for CNN.
German police have stopped more than 50 far-right vigilantes from trying to patrol the German-Polish border to stop migrants from entering Germany. The armed vigilantes responded to a call by the Third Way, a far-right party with suspected links to neo-Nazi groups, to stop illegal crossings. Emma Thomasson reports for Reuters.
Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) has conducted its first nationwide military exercise in nearly thirty years. In noting that GSDF needed to enhance its effectiveness, a GSDF official described the regional security environment as “extremely severe.” Blake Essig reports for CNN.
The coronavirus has infected over 45.44 million people and has now killed over 735,900 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 243.68 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 4.94 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley, and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has disclosed that New York City-based nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, as part of research conducted in partnership with the Wuhan Institute of Virology, enhanced a bat coronavirus to become potentially more infectious in humans. According to an NIH spokesperson, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was unaware of this research during his congressional testimony in July. Questions about research funded and monitored by NIH have come to the forefront during the pandemic. Katherine Eban reports for Vanity Fair.
A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.
A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.
Latest updates on the pandemic at the Guardian.