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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Yemen’s Government ‘Foiled Al-Qaeda Plot’

Yemeni authorities say they have foiled a complex al-Qaeda plot that caused Western embassies to close throughout the region and would have resulted in key infrastructure falling under the group’s control.

The plot involved militants disguised as Yemeni troops taking control of key cities, including two southern ports that account for the majority of Yemen’s oil exports, and killing or kidnapping the foreign workers there. Other members would try to sabotage the oil pipelines to ”create panic among the Yemeni army and Yemeni security services.” The attacks, which also involved smuggling explosives into Yemen’s capital city of Sanaa, were planned for this past Sunday, the 27th day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan known as the “Night of Destiny.”

Yemen remains on ‘high alert’ and Western embassies remain on lockdown. It is not clear when they will reopen.

Violence, Chaos in Central African Republic

Ever since the March ouster of the Central African Republic’s despised president François Bozizé, the rebel group known as Seleka (“alliance”) has made the law. Even their hand-picked prime minister calls the state of the country “catastrophic.” The government has disappeared altogether: the constitution has been suspended, civil servants haven’t been paid in months, only 200 police guard 4.6 million people, roads are impassible and important government functionaries sit in offices that have been stripped of everything of value.

Malnutrition is widespread as aid has stopped, international workers have fled the country and endemic violence keeps farmers from tending their crops.  Médicins Sans Frontières has called it “the most neglected country in the world.” Abductions, mutilations, murder and rape are rampant.  Sexual violence has become so widespread that the country recently legalized abortion in cases of rape, but since the US refuses to fund organizations that provide abortion services, it will do little good.

The international community has begun to pledge humanitarian assistance, although it would probably be more helpful if they stopped pouring arms into the country (since 2005, the UK is the fourth-largest EU exporter of weapons to CAR).

Diplomatic Phase “Ended Today” in Egypt

Despite envoys from the US, EU, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt’s military-backed government declared (without a trace of irony) that diplomatic efforts had failed and signaled that it was prepared to take action against pro-Morsi protesters. The prime minister warned that the decision to disburse the sit-ins is “final” and said that any use of weapons against policemen or civilians would “be confronted with utmost force and decisiveness.”

The statement suggests that Egypt may spiral into even more bloodshed – 250 people have been killed since the army ousted Mohammed Morsi one month ago. The crackdown seems unlikely to start until next week, however, as Ramadan ends today and the government has announced four days of “harmonious” Eid celebrations.

Meanwhile, emboldened militants have taken advantage of the political turmoil by increasing their attacks on Egypt’s military in the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt’s military spokesmen said that 60 militants had been killed and 103 arrested today.

Huge Fire Destroys Nairobi Terminal

A fire started at 5am in the international arrivals and immigration area of Kenya’s largest airport and spread quickly as fire engines battled Nairobi’s notorious traffic jams to reach the airport. Many ran out of water once there, and some did not arrive until one or two hours after the fire began (as of last month, Kenya had no working fire engines). It took four hours to bring the fire under control. Passengers on international flights reported hearing explosions from inside the terminal. Fortunately, no casualties have been reported.

Despite falling on the anniversary of the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, government officials said they had no reason to believe the cause of the fire was terrorism-related. Nairobi is an international and regional hub and thousands of people were stranded even as domestic and cargo flights began operating again.

 Japanese Government Will Intervene in Fukushima Cleanup

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced today that the government will step in and take “firm measures” to stop the leaks of radioactive water at the Fukushima Power Plant. This comes on the heels of revelations that water has been seeping over or around the chemical blocks Tokyo Electric Power Co. has created to contain it.

The damaged plant is leaking an estimated 300 metric tons of contaminated water into the ocean each day. The government said TEC would begin pumping out groundwater to reduce leakage. Unfortunately, the utility is still 60 metric tons short of its goal of 300, and pumping out groundwater won’t necessarily stop the leaks.

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