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Monday, September 23, 2013

Al-Shabaab Attacks Kenyan Shopping Mall

The hostage situation at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya entered it third day today, as efforts by the Kenyan military to dislodge a number of shooters holed up in the mall met with limited success. Militants stormed Westgate on Saturday, spraying gun fire and lobbing grenades at the mall’s affluent and expatriate clientele. More than 68 people have already died, with hundreds more wounded and an unknown number of people held hostage. Shortly after affirming that the mujahideen attacking the Westgate mall were in fact aligned with al-Shabaab, the al-Shabaab twitter account was suspended. This is not the first time al-Shabaab’s twitter account has been suspended presumably for threats of violence. The Kenyan Defense Force held a press conference to announce that operations would continue overnight and to assure the public that the situation is drawing to a close, that all methods of egress from the mall have been cut off, and that they believe it is unlikely any mujahideen will escape.

Citing the significant al-Shabaab attack, the International Criminal Court adjourned its trial against Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto for ethnic cleansing charges, and allowed Ruto to return to Kenya. His trial will go on in absentia if he does not return.

Chiquita Moves to Block Colombian Lawsuits

Facing billions of dollars in potential legal liabilities, Chiquita Brands is asking a U.S. court to block or invalidate a number lawsuits filed against it by Colombians seeking redress for the murder of family members at the hands of Chiquita hired paramilitary forces. Chiquita admits to having paid millions to the right-wing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC). But the company once known as United Fruit, insists that while the company did pay the militants, it did not approve or direct each murder.

The motion to block the lawsuits was made possible by Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, which prevents foreign claimants from filing lawsuits against U.S. subsidiaries of multinational corporations. Chiquita’s motion suggests the colombian lawsuits have no standing in the U.S. “Instead, they involve allegations that Colombian guerrilla and paramilitary groups tortured and killed Colombians in Colombia,” suggests Chiquita’s filing. Thus a U.S. federal judge has no jurisdiction. If Chiquita is successful in their motion, this will be the second time the company has escaped consequences for the use of armed forces against Colombian civilians.

Pussy Riot Member Goes on Hunger Strike

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of the art protest punk band Pussy Riot currently serving a two-year prison sentence in a Mordovian penal colony for ‘hooliganism’, has begun a hunger strike to protest harsh working conditions and threats to her life. In a letter published on the Free Pussy Riot blog, Tolokonnikova said inmates in her penal colony are forced to work up to 17 hours a day in a shop that makes police uniforms, in order to fulfill the quotas. Brigades that fail to meet the quotas are punished by being denied food, prevented from using the bathroom, or made to stand outside in the cold, she wrote. Russian prison officials deny Tolokonnikova’s charges, but Mikhail Fedotov, head of the presidential human rights council, said that member’s of his group would travel to the prison tomorrow to look into the matter.

Massive Pakistani Church Bombing

Jundallah, an arm of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), killed 78 people and wounded 141 others when it bombed the historic All Saints Church in Peshawar, Pakistan yesterday. A spokesperson for Jundallah claimed that all non-muslim people in Pakistan were viable targets, so long as the U.S. continued its aerial bombardment of militants in Pashtunkhwa and the federally-administered tribal areas. In the past, Jundallah had also targeted Shiite muslims in Baluchistan, but appears to have backed off that hardline stance. The attack, which is the most significant assault on Christians in Pakistan in recent memory, comes at a time when the TTP has begun peace negotiations with the Pakistan government.

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