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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Riots in Khartoum; Sudanese Internet Goes Dark

Today marks the third and most intense day of riots in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, over the cancellation of fuel subsidies. A number of police stations have been razed, while security forces have reportedly resorted to live ammunition in their attempt to disperse the angry populace. At least two people have been killed in what the government is describing as “premeditated” acts of sabotage. Sudan lost the majority of its oil production when South Sudan gained independence; President Omar al-Bashir insists the current fuel subsidies are no longer feasible.

Ominously, Sudan has also disappeared from the Internet today. Preliminary investigations seem to indicate al-Bashir’s government has disconnected vital servers which allow Sudanese computers and smart phones to access the global Internet. This disconnect recalls a similar act by Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, which galvanized the protest movement that ultimately deposed Mubarak.

Westgate Attack Has Ended

The hostage situation at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya has come to an end, with scores dead and hundreds unaccounted for. Kenyan Defense Forces claim they’ve arrested 11 people in relation to the attack, and freed all of the remaining hostages. Three days of national mourning have been announced in Kenya.

Though internationally criticized, al-Shabaab defended its fighters’ actions as valid retaliatory acts against Kenya. Kenyan armed forces currently occupy portions of southern Somalia and provide significant military support the nominal Transitional Federal Government of Somalia in its war against al-Shabaab. The group used similar justifications for their 2010 Kampala, Uganda bombing. This attack however was marked by a curious regard for those they killed: Muslims, children, and some women were spared or at least not explicitly targeted. According al-Shabaab’s press office, “The Mujahideen carried out a meticulous vetting process at the mall and have taken every possible precaution to separate the Muslims from the Kuffar (disbelievers) before carrying out their attack.”

French Minister Wants to Deport Roma from France

Yesterday, Manuel Valls, the French Interior Minister, suggested Roma living in France should “return home” as they are in “confrontation” with the French way of life. He continued today, saying “We don’t have the obligation to welcome these populations.” His comments come on the heels of a number of Parisian police raids on Roma camps outside of Paris, triggered by minor thefts. According to Amnesty International, French authorities have evicted more than 10,000 of the 20,000 Roma living in France since the beginning of the year.

Marian Mandache, director of the rights group Romani Criss in Romania, characterized Valls’ tirade as nothing more than a populist ruse. “The French minister is discriminating against an ethnic group, it is a breach of the right to free circulation and a breach of other human rights.” Even members of Valls’ own party, the ruling and nominally progressive Parti Socialiste, have castigated Valls for his harsh comments. Industrial recovery minister Arnaud Montebourg said, “I think there exists no theory whereby a particular population, or a person of a given origin cannot integrate [into French society]. “They said that of Italians, they said that of Spanish, they said that of the Portuguese, they said that of the Arabs.”

American Astronaut Takes a Russian Flight to ISS

A Russian Soyuz rocket leapt into space today from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins and cosmonauts Oleg Kotov and Sergey Ryazanskiy. The space travelers reached orbit 10 minutes after an “uneventful and successful” launch. Kotov and Ryanzansky will spend six months on the International Space Station and plan to carry the Olympic torch into space as part of the Olympic flame relay ahead of the Sochi Winter Games.

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