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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.
The Ethiopian government has declared a nation-wide state of emergency. The move came after Tigrayan fighters, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), captured two strategic towns in the Amhara region and indicated that they might advance south toward the capital, Addis Ababa. The six-month state of emergency allows the government to exercise broad power to disrupt movement, impose curfews, and detain without a warrant anyone suspected of having a link with “terrorist” groups. Ethiopian Justice Minister Gedion Timothewos stated: “our country is facing a grave danger to its existence, sovereignty and unity. And we can’t dispel this danger through the usual law enforcement systems and procedures.” Al Jazeera reports.
Addis Ababa city officials have told the capital’s five million residents to register all firearms within two days and prepare to defend the city from Tigrayan forces. Al Jazeera reports.
All sides in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict have violated international human rights, some of which may amount to crimes against humanity, a new report has said. A joint investigation by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission and the U.N. High Commission for Human Rights has documented extra-judicial executions, torture, rape, and attacks against refugees and displaced people, as well as possible evidence of war crimes. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that the conflict had been marked by extreme brutality, and called for a lasting ceasefire and for perpetrators on both sides to be held accountable. BBC News reports.
The joint investigation is a rare partnership that has raised eyebrows among Tigrayans, human rights groups and other observers, who have flagged concerns about its independence from government influence, however the U.N. has reaffirmed its impartiality. The report draws from interviews with 269 confidential interviews with victims and witnesses of alleged violations and abuses. Reacting to the findings, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that the report “clearly established the claim of genocides as false and utterly lacking of any factual basis.” Eliza Mackintosh reports for CNN.
Washington has urged the rebels not to try and take Addis Ababa. “We oppose any TPLF move to Addis or any TPLF move to besiege Addis,” Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, has said. BBC News reports.
Ethiopia has said that it is “extremely disappointed” about U.S. plans to withdraw a deal for duty-free exports to the United States. U.S. policymakers are planning to suspend duty-free rights for Ethiopia, Mali and Guinea under the African Growth and Opportunities Act to address concerns about human rights abuses. Yesterday, President Biden in a letter to Congress cited Ethiopia as being in “gross violations of internationally recognised human rights.” Mali and Guinea are also being suspended over the coups that have taken place in recent months. BBC News reports.
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres is extremely concerned about the escalation of violence in Ethiopia and the recent declaration of a state of emergency, according to a statement from his spokesperson. Guterres’s spokesperson said that “the stability of Ethiopia and the wider region is at stake.” Guterres reiterated his call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and unrestricted humanitarian access to deliver urgent life-saving assistance to the restive northern regions; Tigray, Amhara and Afar,” UN News Centre reports.
The U.N. human rights chief’s office is receiving ongoing reports of violations in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, including shelling and airstrikes causing civilian deaths, summary executions, large-scale displacement and a worsening humanitarian situation. Speaking at a news briefing to launch her office’s joint report with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Bachelet said that “the Government of Ethiopia has assured us that national institutions have begun investigations and prosecutions, with some perpetrators already reportedly convicted and sentenced. There is, however, a troubling lack of transparency.” Reuters reports.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has pledged to bury his government’s enemies “with our blood,” as he marked the start of the war in the Tigray region one year ago. “The pit which is dug will be very deep, it will be where the enemy is buried, not where Ethiopia disintegrates,” Ahmed said in a speech at an event at the military’s headquarters in Addis Ababa. Reuters reports.
The Taliban has blamed the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) for the deadly attack yesterday on Afghanistan’s biggest military hospital. A Taliban official reported that the attack was initiated by a suicide bomber, who blew themself up near the entrance to the hospital, and the official claimed that Taliban forces killed five other attackers. Al Jazeera reports.
At least 25 people were killed and more than 50 wounded from the attack in the military hospital, a Taliban security official has said. Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam reports for Reuters.
ISIS-K has claimed responsibility for the attack on the hospital. A Taliban spokesperson, Bilal Karimi, also told the BBC that fighters from ISIS-K had entered the compound after detonating the first explosion at the entrance gate. Karimi said Taliban fighters shot and killed four ISIS-K attackers and captured one alive. BBC News reports.
The Taliban has banned the use of foreign currencies in Afghanistan, in a move that could further disrupt the country’s economy which is on the brink of collapse. The U.S. dollar has been used widely in Afghanistan’s markets and dollars often are used for trade in areas bordering Afghanistan’s neighbors such as Pakistan. “The economic situation and national interests in the country require that all Afghans use Afghani currency in their every trade,” the Taliban said. “Anyone violating this order will face legal action,” a statement from Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said. BBC News reports.
China has accused the U.S. of a “lack of transparency and responsibility” regarding an accident in the South China Sea involving a Navy submarine last month. Two U.S. Navy officials have said that the service determined the nuclear-powered USS Connecticut struck a seamount, or underwater mountain. However, at a daily briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin “said the U.S. should provide full details of the incident that has revived a dispute between the two countries over the strategic waterway…He said the U.S. has so far failed to offer ‘a clear explanation’ of what the Navy nuclear submarine was doing in the area, as well as ‘the specific location of the accident, whether it was in another country’s exclusive economic zone or even territorial waters, whether it caused a nuclear leak or damaged marine environment,’” AP reports.
China appears to be making “significant progress” in building missile silos in the western part of the country, according to a report from the nonpartisan research center Federation of American Scientists. The report details “rapid construction at three suspected missile silo fields near the cities of Yumen, Hami and Ordos based on commercial satellite images. As the report notes, the Chinese government has not confirmed or denied that the facilities under construction are for silos. The report also noted that the apparent silo fields are ‘many years away’ from becoming fully operational, and it’s unclear how China will arm and operate them,” Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
American universities and research institutes are saying that the U.S.’s dominance in science and technology could be undermined by stricter U.S. visa requirements for Chinese students. A presidential proclamation signed by former President Trump in May last year “bars entry to the U.S. for Chinese graduate students and postgraduate researchers with ties to any Chinese entity that implements or supports China’s military-civil fusion strategy,’’ referring to enterprises that meld economic and military interests. In practice, this has meant that Chinese nationals who have studied at the so-called Seven Sons of National Defense — Chinese universities with close ties to the country’s defense industry — have found it all but impossible to obtain visas, according to a group of more than 500 Chinese students who banded together after their visas were rejected this year,” Sha Hua reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, has urged Sudan’s military leader Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan to restore the country’s civilian-led government, as mediation efforts press on following last week’s coup. Feltman said that Burhan should allow Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and his Cabinet to resume their work, and should release government officials and politicians detained in connection with the takeover. Samy Magdy reports for AP.
Feltman also said the Sudanese military demonstrated “restraint” in its response to anti-coup protests on Saturday. He said that the military’s response showed potential for resuming the civilian-military partnership that the transition requires. Reuters reports.
“Investing in our clean-energy future is an enormous opportunity for every country to create good-paying jobs and spur a broad-based economic recovery,” President Biden said as he promoted his $1.75 trillion spending package — which includes investments in climate initiatives — in his closing remarks at the COP26 summit. While Biden has used the climate summit to pitch to global leaders that “America is back,” Democrats are still struggling to garner the support needed to pass the legislation through Congress. But Biden expressed confidence: “I think we’ll get this done.” Erin Cunningham reports for the Washington Post.
More than 90 countries have signed the Global Methane Pledge, which targets 30% cuts in methane emissions by 2030. Signatories include six of the ten largest methane emitters, and the pledge now covers about 45% of global methane emissions. The pledge is significant because “reducing methane emissions — not just carbon dioxide emissions — is crucial for staving off the worst effects of climate change,” Steven Mufson, Maxine Joselow and Sarah Kaplan report for the Washington Post.
In an “unprecedented collaboration,” Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Panama have announced a chain of new protected marine areas that will create an “ocean highway” for species to swim more freely through waters threatened by overfishing and warming sea temperatures. The “highway” will stretch from the Galápagos Islands to the Pacific coast of Central America. “Protection of these waters will not only protect marine life, but it will also help to replenish the waters around them,” said conservationist Enric Sala. Sarah Kaplan reports for the Washington Post.
Biden has criticized the leaders of China and Russia for not turning up to the COP26 climate summit. Both China and Russia have sent delegations to the talks, but neither Russian President Vladimir Putin nor Chinese leader Xi Jinping are attending the summit in Glasgow. In a speech yesterday evening, Biden said that climate was “a gigantic issue” and China “walked away,” adding it was the “same thing with Russia and Putin.” BBC News reports.
Biden argued that by not attending the COP26 summit, China and Russia were ceding their global influence. “The rest of the world is going to look to China and say, what value add are they providing? They’ve lost an ability to influence people around the world and all the people here,” Biden said on the sidelines of the summit, adding that he felt the same way about Russia. Andrew Restuccia reports for the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. District Judge Robert Scola has partially dismissed seven of the eight money laundering charges against Alex Saab, an envoy for Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro, to abide by the agreement the U.S. made with Cape Verde for Saab’s extradition. The Colombian businessman still faces one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which could carry a 20-year jail term. During the extradition process, the United States “sent an assurance” to Cape Verde that it would not “prosecute or punish defendant Alex Nain Saab for more than a single count of the indictment,” the prosecution said in its request to Scola. Alexandra Ulmer and Luc Cohen report Reuters.
Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) are raising concerns about President Biden’s nomination of Amy Gutmann to serve as U.S. ambassador to Germany. In a letter to Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Sen. James Risch (R-ID, the senators said that they are “deeply concerned” that Gutmann’s nomination was part of a “quid pro quo,” referring to Biden’s appointment as the University of Pennsylvania’s Benjamin Franklin Presidential Professor of Practice during Gutmann’s tenure as president of the university. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
400 people incarcerated in the D.C. jail are being moved to a federal penitentiary after a surprise inspection of the jail “found evidence of ‘systemic’ mistreatment of detainees, including unsanitary living conditions and the punitive denial of food and water.” During the investigation, an 8-member team of deputy U.S. marshals recorded standing human sewage, water and food withheld from incarcerated people as punishment, staff members “antagonizing detainees,” and a failure to follow Covid-19 protocols. Spencer S. Hsu and Paul Duggan report for the Washington Post.
Opening arguments in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse focused on whether he was acting as an aggressor or in self-defense when he instigated a confrontation that led him to shoot and kill two people and wound a third. Rittenhouse, at 17 years old, travelled across state lines with an AR-15-style rifle and shot demonstrators at a protest against police brutality in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The protest was in response to a white police officer shooting Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the back seven times while attempting to make an arrest. Becky Sullivan reports for NPR.
Facebook has announced that it is removing its facial recognition system and will delete the faceprints of more than one billion users. The move comes as the company tries to rebound from whistleblower revelations that the company knew how harmful its products were but failed to take action. Activists and academics have long raised concerns about facial recognition on the grounds that the programs are racially biased and contribute to the targeting of Black and brown people. Al Jazeera reports.
Senate Republicans have criticized Democratic leadership for their decision not to push ahead the annual defense authorization bill and bring it to the floor for a vote, calling the move a “dereliction of duty.” The Republican lawmakers “accused Democrats of focusing too much on President Biden’s domestic agenda instead of helping the military with the nearly $780 billion National Defense Authorization Act. ‘When asked the question, ‘Why are we not getting floor time?’ There’s not an answer,” Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jim Inhofe (R-OK), said during a GOP press conference,” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
President Biden has nominated the head of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Adm. Christopher W. Grady, to serve as the vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon has announced. If confirmed, Grady will succeed Air Force Gen. John Hyten, who is set to retire before the end of the month. Sam LaGrone reports for USNI News.
The House has approved two bills to strengthen the cybersecurity of small businesses: the Small Business Administration (SBA) Cyber Awareness Act and the Small Business Development Center Cyber Training Act. The SBA Cyber Awareness Act would require the SBA to issue a report on its cybersecurity capabilities and notify Congress in the event of a cybersecurity breach potentially compromising sensitive information, while the Small Business Development Center Cyber Training Act would establish a cybersecurity counseling certification program to help existing Small Business Development Centers better assist businesses with cybersecurity needs. Maggie Miller reports for The Hill.
A man who plotted to bomb a 2019 political rally in Long Beach, California, has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. Mark Steven Domingo was found guilty in August of providing material support to terrorists, and of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction “At trial, [Domingo] testified and repeatedly affirmed that he intended to commit mass murder in March and April 2019,” prosecutors wrote in a statement recommending a life sentence, according to a Department of Justice statement. Monique Belas reports for The Hill.
Voters in Minneapolis have rejected a proposal to replace the city’s police with a new department of public safety. “Unlike the police, who report to the mayor, the department of public safety would have been jointly overseen by the mayor and the 13-member city council. Mental health professionals would have been dispatched for most non-violent crimes, but police officers would have still been available should an arrest need to be made,” BBC News reports.
Republican Glenn Youngkin has defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia’s high-profile election for governor. Youngkin’s win flips control of the state that President Biden won a year ago, and sends “a warning shot to Democrats, suggesting that trouble may be brewing ahead of next year’s midterm elections,” Alex Seitz-Wald and Henry J. Gomez report for NBC News.
Eight takeaways from the 2021 elections are provided by Eric Bradner, Gregory Krieg and Dan Merica reporting for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
France’s ambassador to Australia has criticized the Australian government’s leaking of text messages between French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Scott Morrison, saying the move is an “unprecedented new low” that raises questions over whether other countries can trust Australia. The criticism comes after Australia canceled a submarine contract with France following the AUKUS pact with the U.S. and U.K.. Private text messages where Macron asked Morrison, prior to the announcement of the AUKUS pact, if he should expect good or bad news on the submarine deal, were leaked to three separate Australian newspapers. However, Morrison has refused to say whether his office was behind the leak. “France’s ambassador to Australia, Jean-Pierre Thebault, on Wednesday laid out his country’s timeline of events leading up to the federal government dumping the $90 billion submarine deal, saying his country had concluded that the ‘deceit was intentional’ and a ‘stab in the back,’” Anthony Galloway and David Crowe report for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Syria’s military has said that Israel carried out an air raid that hit a military post on the outskirts of the capital of Damascus today, causing material damage. The air raid is the second Israeli attack to target areas near the capital in four days. “A Syrian military statement carried on state media said the aerial attack early Wednesday came from northern Israel and targeted a military post in the town of Zakia, in the western Damascus countryside. It offered no further details,” AP reports.
The Central African Republic’s presidential guard opened fire on U.N. peacekeepers in the capital, wounding 10 of them, the U.N. mission said yesterday. One person was struck and killed by a U.N. vehicle as it fled the scene. The incident occurred on Monday after a civilian officer for the U.N. mission, known as MINUSCA, entered the security perimeters of the presidential residence, according to a MINUSCA spokesperson. MINUSCA has called the shooting of the unarmed Egyptian peacekeepers near the presidential palace “deliberate and unjustifiable.” A presidential spokesperson urged calm, saying it was “an incident that we are managing,” adding that “we deplore the death of this compatriot and we offer our most saddened condolences to the family,” Jean Fernand Koena reports for AP.
Bahrain has urged all citizens to leave Lebanon immediately. The announcement follows the escalation in regional tensions after the Lebanese information minister criticized Saudi Arabia’s role in the Yemen war. A similar announcement was made by the United Arab Emirates on Sunday. Al Jazeera reports.
A Hong Kong activist who had been trying to seek asylum at the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong has been found guilty of secession by a court in Hong Kong. Tony Chung, 20, “and two others were detained by unidentified men at a coffee shop near the U.S. consulate early on Oct. 27. Chung’s supporters said at the time he had been intending to seek political asylum. They said Chung had submitted his paperwork weeks earlier, but fear of an imminent arrest prompted him to seek shelter at the consulate. Chung entered a plea bargain, admitting guilt on the charge of secession and one count of money laundering and pleading not guilty to a sedition charge and another money laundering accusation. Prosecutor Ivan Cheung said he acted as an administrator for the Facebook pages of the U.S. branch of Studentlocalism and an organisation called the Initiative Independence Party,” Reuters reports.
Bulgaria is deploying 350 troops and 40 army vehicles along its southern border with Turkey to help border police deal with a growing migrant influx, the Defense Ministry has said. AP reports.
A tunnel from a house frequented by a known extremist has been discovered in Tunisia near the French ambassador’s residence. The Tunisian Interior Ministry has said that anti-terrorism forces are investigating. Reuters reporting.
The coronavirus has infected over 46.17 million people and has now killed over 748,600 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 247.62 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.01 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) is asking Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to suspend the Pentagon’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate for members of the Oklahoma National Guard. Austin ordered all service members to “immediately” get vaccinated against Covid-19 in late August. In a letter to Austin, Stitt said that the mandate “violates the personal freedoms of many Oklahomans, as it asks them to potentially sacrifice their personal beliefs in order to not lose their jobs.” Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
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.