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Monday, September 23, 2013

‘Final Stage’ Kenyan in Kenyan Mall Standoff

Two days after members of the Somalia-based militant Islamist group al-Shabab stormed a high-end mall in Nairobi, murdered dozens, injured hundreds and took an unknown number of people hostage, the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) say they are close to ‘clearing’ the building and have taken control of all the floors. Three militants have been killed and an additional 10 suspects arrested. The government claims “very few” hostages are left in the building, Kenya’s Red Cross said that 49 people were still missing.

The attackers were carrying military-grade weaponry and, like their victims, seem to hail from all over the world. A Twitter feed linked to al-Shabab claimed that five Americans were among the militants holed up in the mall. A few reports claim that some attackers changed clothes and blended in with the fleeing civilians, and were now free on Nairobi’s streets.

Al-Shabab claims it targeted Kenya as retribution for sending troops into Somalia to support the current government and drive out the terrorist group. Although this is one of al-Shabab’s largest attacks outside of Somalia, it comes on the heels of a major leadership struggle at a time when the territory it controls is shrinking. Its spokesman denied that their decision to attack a civilian target instead of a military one was a sign of weakness.

Egypt Bans Muslim Brotherhood

In a sharp escalation of the government’s crackdowns on the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian court ordered the dissolution of the group and the seizure of its assets. The ruling bans “all activities of the Muslim Brotherhood” as well as any institution or organization cooperating with it or “branching out from” it, including those with any Brotherhood member in a senior leadership position. The court did not reveal the grounds for the ruling, but the lawsuit filed against the Brotherhood accused it of “exploiting religion in political slogans.”

The ruling is unexpectedly sweeping and opens the door for a wider crackdown on the entire Brotherhood network, including its social organizations, charities and  political wing.  Over a million dues-paying members are estimated to attend weekly Brotherhood meetings, which would become illegal, eradicating a major component of Egyptian civil society and possibly driving those members to pick up arms.

Bangladesh Workers Protest, Burn Factories

Hundreds of thousands of workers flooded the streets for a third day today, blocking major roads on the outskirts of the capital, Dhaka, to demand an increase in the monthly minimum wage. Currently, Bangladesh’s minimum wage is $38 a month; workers want it increased to $100 but factory owners are unwilling to pay more than $45. Both neighborhoods are home to hundreds of factories, about 300 of which were closed today because protesters attacked any that were open.

Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas  to attempt to disperse the demonstrators and around 50 people have been injured so far. A series of deadly accidents has recently brought working conditions to the forefront.  The garment industry generates about 80% of Bangladesh’s export earnings; this month, a group of clothing and retail brands failed to establish a compensation fund for the victims of factory disasters.

North Korea Can Make Crucial Nuclear Parts

A study has found that North Korean scientists have likely learned how to produce crucial components of gas centrifuges. Together with other signals that the country is expanding its nuclear production facilities, it seems that North Korea is attempting to master all facets of the process. Satellite images suggest that it likely tested a rocket engine sometime between August 20th and August 25th this summer.

If North Korea can make its own parts, it essentially invalidates the international strategy of sanctions and embargoes to force them to denuclearize.  It would also make it even more difficult to monitor the production process.

Greece Investigates Possible Police Connection to Golden Dawn

After media reports that Greek police were “actively involved” in the far-right political party Golden Dawn, training its members and turning a blind eye to its illegal acts, the government suspended several senior police officers and launched an investigation into possible connections. Golden Dawn denies any role in the stabbing of an anti-racism rapper, but the party’s vehement anti-immigration rhetoric has often suspicion that it is behind attacks on immigrants. The accused killer has said he had a “loose” connection with the party.

The police chiefs in the neighborhood where the stabbing occurred have all been reassigned and four police officials in another district have been suspended for failing to investigate why people were carrying weapons near Golden Dawn offices in the area.


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