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Monday, June 10, 2013

Two Attacks in Afghanistan Cause Significant Disruption

This morning 13 suicide bombers attacked two targets in Afghanistan. The first attack, at the Kabul International Airport, occurred just before dawn; several explosions kicked off a four-hour firefight which caused flight delays. According to Kabul police chief, Gen. Mohammad Ayub Salangi, “The terrorist attack on Kabul airport ended with the death of seven suicide bombers. Two of the bombers blew themselves up, and five others, who had occupied a building under construction, were killed by the security forces.” The second attack occurred more 350km (250miles) away in the small town of Qalat, where two vehicles carried fighters as they assaulted a government building. While one police officer was killed, security forces responded rapidly, killing all six attackers. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the Qalat attack. The Taliban has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the assault on the airport, but Afghan officials suspect the Haqqani Network, an allied militant group, had a prime role.

Brazil Braces for Surging Oil Spill

Brazilian officials are scrambling to address the imminent arrival of oil from a leak in Ecuador last month. Brazil’s foreign ministry released a statement today saying, “Ibama (Brazilian Institute of Environment), Brazil’s navy and ANP (National Petroleum Agency) are on alert in the event that the oil slick reaches the country.” On May 31st, a landslide damaged the trans-Ecuador pipeline, causing a spill of some 420,000 gallons of crude oil. A significant amount seeped out of the damaged pipeline into the River Coca, a tributary to the Amazon River which flows through Peru and Brazil. The crude has already reached into the Peruvian Amazon in Loreto. The Peruvian Environment Minister, Manuel Pulgar Vidal, worried about the cost to clean this affected area. “If there is a serious level of affected areas, international law always gives you the possibility to establish a compensation issue. But… first we have to look at the extent of the problem.”

Al-Qaeda Leader Patches Relations Between Rival Branches

A row between Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) and Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra was reportedly solved by direct intervention from al-Qaeda core leader Ayman al-Zawahri. Two months ago Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISI commander, declared a merger with al-Nusra to form the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), saying that al-Nusra was “merely an extension and part of the Islamic State of Iraq.” But al-Nusra is comprised of many Syrians who’ve joined for al-Nursa’s military reputation, rather than for theological reasons. Al-Nursa had previously sought to minimize the use of ISI-favored tactics, such as indiscriminate attacks on civilians and Islamist crackdowns, which had alienated many Iraqis from al-Qaeda during the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The declaration by Abu Bakr led to significant defections from al-Nusra, and to violent clashes between fighters loyal to al-Baghdadi and those loyal to al-Nusra. The statement from al-Zawahri said that he is dismayed by the dispute, urging both groups to “stop arguing in this dispute, and to stop the harassment among the Muslims”. Al-Zawahri concluded, “The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is canceled, and work continues under the name the Islamic State of Iraq. The Nusra Front for the People of the Levant is an independent branch.”

NSA Whistleblower Identified, Promptly Goes Missing

Edward Snowden, the whistleblower behind a string of revelations showing the U.S. National Security Agency has been systematically spying on Americans, has disappeared. Snowden checked out from his Hong Kong hotel on this morning. His whereabouts are unknown, but according to Guardian journalist Ewen MacAskill, he is believed to be still in Hong Kong. The former contractor for the NSA gave an interview that detailed what the U.S. intelligence apparatus was capable of and suggested the quasi-omniscience was disquieting. Said Snowden, “I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.” Despite earning the ire of the Obama administration and many other U.S. officials, Snowden maintained, “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong.” But he cautioned, “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.” Snowden says he chose to flee to Hong Kong because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent” and says he is seeking “asylum from any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimization of global privacy.” While Hong Kong has not yet officially received a request for Snowden’s extradition, such a request will likely be granted.

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