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Daily Brief: U.S. Authorities Investigate Nation's Worst Mass Shooting

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June 13, 2016

Daily News Brief

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U.S. Authorities Investigate Nation's Worst Mass Shooting

Florida Gov. Rick Scott asked U.S. President Barack Obama to declare an emergency and requested federal funds to assist victims of a massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday (Miami Herald). Authorities have identified twenty-six of the reported forty-nine people killed in the attack (Orlando Sentinel), the deadliest on U.S. soil since 9/11. The twenty-nine-year-old assailant, identified as U.S. citizen Omar Mateen, pledged his allegiance to the self-proclaimed Islamic State in a 911 call (WaPo) before he was killed in a standoff with SWAT teams. Mateen had worked for a private security firm as a guard (Bloomberg) since 2007 and had reportedly undergone two federal background checks and screenings.


"Diplomats in the Middle East have warned that more attacks on the West are likely as Islamic State loses territory in Iraq, Syria and Libya and border access to neighboring countries. Lone-wolf attacks are some of the most difficult to thwart as they render obsolete the powerful surveillance tools Western intelligence agencies have to detect terror plots: monitoring communications or posing as terrorist sympathizers to entrap would-be attackers. Such attacks often involve individuals with no previous links to terrorism and who work alone, without communicating with other operatives, such as the San Bernardino, Calif., attackers who killed 14 people last year. The pledge of loyalty to Islamic State tends to happen right before or during the attack," Maria Abi-Habib writes for the Wall Street Journal.

"Was the killer truly acting under orders from the Islamic State, or just seeking publicity and the group’s approval for a personal act of hate? For the terror planners of the Islamic State, the difference is mostly irrelevant. Influencing distant attackers to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State and then carry out mass murder has become a core part of the group’s propaganda over the past two years. It is a purposeful blurring of the line between operations that are planned and carried out by the terror group’s core fighters and those carried out by its sympathizers," Rukmini Callimachi writes for the New York Times.

"There’s plenty of anger to stoke. Hate crimes based on sexual orientation are commonplace in the United States, but those attacks have not been on a large-scale or linked directly to foreign terrorist groups or their propaganda. A 1990 bombing of a gay bar in Greenwich Village in New York that injured three people was eventually blamed on a suspected Islamist terrorist. According to the FBI’s most recent statistics, in 2014, hate crimes against gay Americans accounted for more than 18 percent of the 1,017 such incidents across the country, with about 2 percent occurring in gay bars or nightclubs," Molly O'Toole and Dan De Luce write for Foreign Policy.


Outgoing Philippines President Warns of Dangers to Democracy

President Benigno Aquino warned Filipinos about the extremist views of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, and referring to repression under dictator Ferdinand Marcos, said that "if we are not vigilant, this can happen again (Phil Star)."

TAIWAN: The government of Tsai Ing-wen blocked former President Ma Ying-jeou from visiting Hong Kong to give a speech, citing security concerns (Bloomberg). Ma said the move could harm Taiwan's reputation for freedom and democracy (Hong Kong Free Press)


Bangladesh Detains Thousands in Anti-Extremism Crackdown

Police in Bangladesh said they had detained 8,500 people in four days in a crackdown on suspected militants. The crackdown, aimed at countering violence against religious minorities and secularists (WSJ), came after the wife of a police chief was killed. Bangladesh's prime minister has vowed to root out Islamic radicals (Guardian).   

SOUTH ASIA: The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute warned that India and Pakistan were each increasing their nuclear capabilities (AFP). The group said India is fortifying its nuclear-capable ballistic missile program and plutonium production while Pakistan is developing nuclear weapons. The research institute said that Pakistan's "nuclear arsenal may increase significantly over the next decade."

This CFR Backgrounder discusses the nuclear capabilities of China, India, and Pakistan.


Fifty Soldiers, Militia Members Killed in Fallujah

Military sources said fifty soldiers and militia members were killed outside Fallujah in an attack by the self-proclaimed Islamic State. A government offensive to retake the city from militants is entering its fourth week (Al Jazeera).

SAUDI ARABIA: CIA Chief John Brennan said he expects the release of a classified congressional report about the 9/11 terrorist attacks will show "no evidence" that the Saudi government was involved (Reuters). Victims' family members have looked to the undisclosed portion of the 2002 report as potential evidence in a lawsuit against Saudi Arabia.


Uganda Arrests Dozens of Military Officers in Alleged Coup Plot

A Ugandan military spokesman said that dozens of military officers had been arrested for plotting to overthrow President Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986 (AP).

Democratic Republic of Congo: Leading opposition parties, meeting in Belgium, formed a unity coalition to challenge President Joseph Kabila (VOA), in power since 2001, when his term ends this year.


Polls Inconclusive in Upcoming 'Brexit' Vote

A survey of two thousand UK voters showed 55 percent in favor of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union (France 24) in a June 23 referendum. Six recent polls on the referendum have shown margins as close as 1 percent between the two camps (Independent).

This Expert Roundup looks at the stakes of a potential "Brexit."

FRANCE: UNICEF says it will release a report Thursday that documents sexual exploitation by traffickers of unaccompanied minors in refugee camps in northern France (Guardian). MPs in the UK are expected to question Home Secretary Theresa May about government pledges to fast-track resettlement for unaccompanied child refugees.

This CFR Backgrounder discusses Europe's migration crisis.


Brazil Projects Record Budget Gap of $49.7 Billion

Brazilian Interim President Michel Temer said the country's fiscal accounts "were worse than we imagined" when he came into office a month ago (Bloomberg) after the suspension of President Dilma Rousseff, who will be tried for impeachment charges. Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles forecasted this year's budget gap to be a record $49.7 billion.


Clinton Calls for Stepped Up Anti-Terror Effort; Trump Reiterates Ban on Muslims

Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton said (NYT) the country should "redouble efforts" at countering terrorism after the mass shooting in Orlando on Sunday. Presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump reiterated his call for a temporary ban on Muslims immigrating or traveling to the United States. The suspect, Omar Mateen, the son of an immigrant from Afghanistan, was a U.S. citizen. 

Track and compare Clinton and Trump's positions on national security with CFR’s interactive, The Candidates and the World.

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