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Daily Brief: Three French Soldiers Killed in Libya

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July 20, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Three French Soldiers Killed in Libya

French President Francois Hollande confirmed that three French soldiers had been killed in a helicopter accident while conducting intelligence operations in Libya (France 24), marking the first official acknowledgement of French troops in the country (WSJ). The helicopter was shot down Sunday outside the city of Benghazi, according to Libyan officials (AP), and a group that calls itself the Defending Benghazi Brigade claimed responsibility. A French government spokesman (WaPo) said that French forces are in Libya to "ensure that France is present everywhere in the fight against terrorism." The deaths are the first reported Western military casualties since it became known earlier this year that foreign special forces, including from the United States, are operating in Libya (Reuters).


"Libyan-based militants have not been directly linked to any of the major Islamic State attacks in Europe, including last year’s rampage across Paris that claimed 130 lives and last week’s Bastille Day truck attack in Nice that left at least 84 dead. But some suspects had links to Tunisia and other nations in North Africa. Since 2014, Libya has been split between rival governments backed by various militias and tribes. A U.N.-brokered deal in December to create a unity government has struggled to make headway. According to the claim of responsibility by the Benghazi Brigade militia, the helicopter used by the French forces belonged to Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who opposes the internationally recognized government, the AP reported," James McAuley writes for the Washington Post.

"The existence of the operations room raises questions on international co-operation with Libyan militias not aligned with the new unity government, which is currently leading an assault on the IS stronghold of Sirte. Crispin Blunt, chairman of the British parliamentary select committee on foreign affairs, [in May] said supporting Haftar would be a perilous 'shortcut' that would sacrifice Libyans' liberty in exchange for stability," Karim El-Bar writes for Middle East Eye.

"The Government of National Accord has asked that the arms embargo on Libya be lifted, and NATO has agreed to begin training Libyan government troops—though exactly when and where is still undecided. Three intelligence sources in the region tell Newsweek they expect, at some point, an increase in NATO troops on the ground in Libya," Bill Powell writes for Newsweek Middle East.


U.S. to Seize $1 Billion in Assets Linked to Stolen Malaysian Funds

U.S. authorities are expected to seize more than $1 billion in real estate, art, and luxury goods hidden in the United States that were allegedly purchased with funds embezzled from a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund (NYT). The fund was set up by Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009 (WSJ).

MYANMAR: Representatives from a coalition of nine rebel groups that did not sign a peace agreement last October met with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi to discuss preparations for peace negotiations (RFA) to end a decades-long conflict between minority groups and the government.


Pakistan PM Delays Return to Islamabad After Surgery

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has spent seven weeks away from the country's capital following an open-heart surgery in London and a resultant infection (FT), provoking concerns about the country's political management.

AFGHANISTAN: U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that counterterrorism in Afghanistan "will probably be an enduring interest to the United States for quite some time" and that future presidents will likely "continue to adjust" U.S. troop levels in the country (NPR). U.S. President Barack Obama recently announced he will keep 8,500 troops in the country through 2017.


Israeli Parliament Passes Impeachment Law for Legislators

The Knesset passed legislation 62-45 (Haaretz) that will allow sitting lawmakers to be ousted for inciting racial hatred or for supporting armed struggle against the Israeli state. The Joint List of Arab parties said it will appeal the law in the Supreme Court. 


Armed Groups Claim Attack on Malian Army

An attack left seventeen soldiers dead at a military base in central Mali, which has seen a rise in violence even since a 2015 peace agreement (Al Jazeera). A group with ties to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed the attack, as did a militia from the Peul ethnic group. Peul groups in the region have accused the military of torturing and killing civilians (AP).

This CFR Global Conflict Tracker looks at instability in Mali.

NIGERIA: The International Monetary Fund predicted that Nigeria's economy will contract by 1.6 percent in 2016 (FT), a break from a prediction in April that the country's economy would grow 2.3 percent.

CFR's John Campbell discusses insecurity in Nigeria in this blog post.


Turkish Crackdown Reaches 50,000 After Coup Attempt

More than fifty-thousand people have been detained, fired or suspended from their jobs since an attempted coup in Turkey last Friday (BBC). Turkey's High Board of Education announced a ban on academics traveling abroad (Reuters) and ordered the resignation of 1,577 university deans (Hurriyet). The Turkish government also blocked the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks following the release of nearly 300,000 emails from the ruling party (Al Jazeera).

CFR's Steven A. Cook discusses the failed coup in the context of Turkey's past coups in this op-ed.

FRANCE: Muslim funerals were held for at least thirty of the eighty-four people killed in the terror attack on a Bastille Day parade in Nice, indicating that Muslims made up more than a third of the attack's victims (NYT), according to a regional Islamic association.


UN Calls on Venezuela to Accept International Aid

The United Nations called on the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to accept humanitarian aid in the forms of food and medicine and expressed alarm over reports of arrests of people who participated in protests over food shortages (El Universal). Meanwhile, Colombia will no longer allow Venezuelans to cross temporarily into the country to buy goods, arguing instead for a permanent opening in the border. An estimated 167,000 Venezuelans have crossed into Colombia in recent weeks to buy basic goods (Reuters).

This CFR Backgrounder looks at Venezuela's political and economic crisis.

HAITI: Interim President Jocelerme Privert ordered new presidential elections for Oct. 9 following last year's contested elections (Miami Herald). The United States recently announced a suspension of financial support for a new round of elections amid widespread allegations of fraud (AP).

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