Second Suicide Bombing in Two Days in Russia
In what seems to be part of a deadly campaign ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, a suicide bomb exploded today on a trolley bus in Volgograd during rush hour. Yesterday, a suicide bomber detonated a backpack filled with explosives and shrapnel in Volgograd’s main railroad station. Together, the bombings have killed 31 people and wounded 104. Russian investigators have said that the “identical” shrapnel in the station and the bus indicates the bombings are linked.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the attacks have brought renewed attention to the Chechen leader of the nebulous Caucasus Emirate, whose goal is to create an independent Muslim state out of Russia’s mostly Muslim southern republics. In a July video, he urged his followers to use “maximum force” to prevent the Olympics from going ahead.
The NSA’s Powerful and Creepy Toolbox
The German magazine Der Spiegel has released a report detailing how the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) – a top-secret hacking unit – infiltrates computers around the world, steals data and inserts invisible “back door” spying devices into computer systems. It probably goes without saying that TAO is not simply a counter-terrorism operation: its specialists have accessed the protected networks of democratically-elected leaders around the world. Der Spiegel also published excerpts from the NSA’s extensive catalogue of diverse spying equipment and their prices.
Independent journalist and security expert Jacob Appelbaum discussed the documents revealed in Der Spiegel’s report at a hacker conference in Germany today, including how the NSA plants malicious software onto iPhones to turn them into eavesdropping devices, and uses radar waves to see what someone is typing, even if the computer isn’t connected to the internet.
Congolese Army Repels Coordinated Attack on Capital
Assailants armed with machetes and automatic weapons attacked Kinshasa’s airport, a military barracks and the state television headquarters today. The youths were disciples of the self-styled Christian evangelical prophet Paul Joseph Mukungubila, who failed in his own presidential bid and has angrily criticized President Joseph Kabila for signing a peace deal with the M23 Tutsi rebel group.
Dozens were killed during the shootout with the army, including 46 of the attackers; the government reported that 20 more had been arrested.
Fighting Erupts when Iraqi Police Clear Sunni Protest Camp
Despite an alleged agreement between protesters and the Shiite-led government to dismantle a Sunni Muslim protest camp, clashes between demonstrators and the police have left at least 13 people dead. Police claim that the violence started when gunmen opened fire on police special forces trying to enter Ramadi, the city where the camp was located, and that around 30 gunmen have been wounded. The violence has triggered an immediate political backlash as dozens of Sunni lawmakers offered their resignations.
Sunni protesters had set up the camp a year ago to demonstrate against the perceived marginalization of their sect. Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, however, has repeatedly accused the camp of being “a headquarters for the leadership of al-Qaeda.”