Kenyan Mall Siege Mostly Over
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta announced that the mall siege was over today, saying that 5 al-Shabab militants had been killed while another 11 suspects were in custody. An al-Shabab Twitter feed had claimed that the militants still had live hostages, but Kenyatta did not mention any in his speech (if the tweets were true). Three floors of the mall have collapsed, with at least 62 civilians killed and 175 injured. The body count expected to rise as soldiers finish digging through the rubble.
Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed emphasized that al-Shabab is “not acting alone,” saying the assault was “part of an international terrorism campaign.” She also claimed that one British woman and several Americans were involved in the attack, prompting al-Shabab vehemently deny the “involvement of any woman.” Much of the speculation of the identity of the British woman revolves around Samantha Lewthwaite, the widow of a suicide bomber known to be in East Africa and wanted by Kenyan police.
While the witness testimonies are chilling, there are some not horrible details: a member of the British Special Air Service is said to have rescued over 100 people from the mall and a 4-year-old boy told one of the militants that he was “a very bad man,” prompting the attacker to give him a Mars bar and ask forgiveness.
UN Debates Syria Action, Syrians Starve
President Obama challenged the UN Security Council to hold Syria accountable if it doesn’t dismantle its chemical weapons; Turkey and Jordan said the international community had a responsibility to end the conflict; Russia openly worried that the US would attack Syria no matter what; while Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged world leaders just to stop fueling the bloodshed by supplying both sides with weapons.
There was no discussion of the risk of mass starvation across the country, especially in Damascus suburbs where Assad’s forces have created a blockade to prevent supplies from getting through. More than 4 million Syrians do not have enough to eat and food prices have exploded. Children are dying of malnutrition. the UN’s World Food Program, Save the Children and other NGOs are attempting to provide food and water, but it is not enough.
China Bans Some Exports to North Korea
In a sign that even China is growing nervous about North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and capabilities, the government published a list of substances to be banned from export to North Korea for fear they could be used to construct nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The move comes two weeks after satellite photos showed North Korea might have resumed plutonium production and less than a week after China invited the US, North Korea and other countries to a conference to try to persuade Pyongyang to give up its nuclear ambitions.
China is North Korea’s only ally and its major trading partner, but in recent months, relations between the two countries have become strained due to North Korea’s recent resumed attempts to develop nuclear weapons.
Egypt’s Military Continues Crackdown
Egyptian security forces raided a village near the Giza pyramids today in the latest move by the government to assert control over pro-Morsi strongholds that have been successfully resisting state authority since the military’s July 3rd coup. This latest raid was a hunt for suspects in the killing of 15 policemen last month in an adjacent town. The government also arrested a farmer who had put General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s name on a military hat and put it on his donkey. 8 people were arrested elsewhere for anti-military graffiti.
Despite yesterday’s court ruling that banned the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s military-backed government said it would wait for the ruling to be upheld by a higher tribunal before dismantling the organization. The Brotherhood had vowed to appeal the decision, but with much of their leadership imprisoned (approximately 2,000 members altogether), and the tide of public opinion against them, that seems to be all they can do.
Retired Generals Support Military Sexual Assault Reform
Three retired generals endorsed New York Senator Kirstin Gillibrand’s amendment to the annual national defense authorization bill, which would remove the responsibility for prosecuting rape, sexual assault and other criminal cases from the chain of command and hand it to independent military prosecutors.
The need for reform was hammered home in a recent story on a sexual assault case in the US Navy. For roughly 30 hours, a female midshipman who had accused three former US Naval Academy football players of raping her was grilled on her sexual habits, including whether she wore a bra, her oral sex technique and whether she had apologized to a man with whom she’d had consensual sex “for being a ho.”