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Daily Brief: Bombings in Eastern Turkey Kill Six, Wound Hundreds

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August 18, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Bombings in Eastern Turkey Kill Six, Wound Hundreds

Two car bombings of police stations in Turkey's eastern provinces killed (BBC) at least six people and wounded more than two hundred others. Turkish officials blamed (Al Jazeera) the outlawed Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) for both attacks. The PKK has stepped up its attacks on Turkish security forces since the collapse of a cease-fire in 2015, and Turkey's defense minister, Fikri Isik, linked the group (Hurriyet) to the alleged plotters of July's failed coup attempt.


"Since the 1980s, the Turkish government has regularly arrested Kurdish politicians and banned half a dozen Kurdish political parties, without coming any closer to defeating the movement they represent. If anything, these efforts have only helped build support for the PKK and its violent tactics," argues Nick Danforth in Foreign Affairs.

"As Turkey grapples with the aftermath of a failed coup, its resurgent conflict with the PKK has faded from the headlines. A month ago, security forces were busy 'cleansing' Kurdish towns of guerrilla fighters; now, the military itself is being purged of the government’s opponents," writes Zia Weise in Foreign Policy.

"Major drivers of the increase in lethal terrorism in recent years—including the Syrian Civil War, the rise of ISIS, and the collapse in 2015 of a two-year ceasefire between the Turkish government and the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its affiliates—come together within Turkey," writes Kathy Gilsinan in the Atlantic.


North Korea Claims It Has Resumed Plutonium Production

North Korea's atomic agency said (Kyodo) that the country has restarted its production of weapons-grade plutonium at its Nyongbyon facility. South Korean officials said (Yonhap) that they would take the "necessary steps" to punish the North for its violation of UN resolutions.

North Korea's nuclear assertiveness poses a dilemma for both China and South Korea, explains CFR's Scott A. Snyder in this article.

PHILIPPINES: President Rodrigo Duterte criticized (Philippine Star) the United Nations for its "interfering" in the country's affairs. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had recently condemned Duterte's rhetoric as seeming to endorse extrajudicial killing in drug-related crimes. Duterte has made the fight against drugs a central plank of his new administration.


Amnesty International Closes India Offices

Amnesty International India temporarily closed its offices and postponed events after protestors accused the group of sedition (Reuters) for hosting an event in which allegations of rights violations carried out by Indian security forces in Kashmir were discussed. Protests led by a nationalist student group accused Amnesty of being "anti-India" and supportive of Kashmiri independence, which the organization denies.

AFGHANISTAN: A report released Wednesday by the advocacy group Human Rights Watch alleges (VoA) that Afghan security forces have increasingly used schools to stage combat missions, disrupting classrooms and making students potential targets. The Afghan defense ministry contested the claims.


Report Estimates Syrian Prison Death Toll

Nearly eighteen thousand people have died (Al Jazeera) in Syrian government jails since 2011, or an average of three hundred per month, according to an investigation by Amnesty International. Interviews with former prisoners also revealed "massive" abuse of prisoners, including torture, rape, beatings, and electric shocks.

SAUDI ARABIA: Security forces are searching (Al Arabiya) for six men suspected of killing a police officer in a drive-by attack in the Qatif region. The attack marked the fourth fatal shooting of a police officer this year in Qatif.


South Sudan Opposition Leader Leaves the Country

Riek Machar, former South Sudan vice president and leader of the opposition to President Salva Kiir, fled the country (Sudan Tribune), a spokesman said. Fighting between the government and forces loyal to Machar has flared in the past month, threatening a 2015 peace deal, but Kiir's allies deny (Reuters) that Machar has been personally targeted.

DR CONGO: A protestor and a police officer were killed (Reuters) at a demonstration in the northeastern town of Beni. Protestors denounced the failure of government forces to prevent an increase of violence in the region, where fifty people were killed by rebels last week.

This CFR InfoGuide explores the origins of the ongoing conflict in the Eastern Congo.


German Arrested Over Alleged Terror Plot

A German national arrested on suspicions of planning a terrorist attack may have had connections (DW) to the self-proclaimed Islamic State, officials said. A search of his apartment found Islamic State posters, an automatic weapon, and a protective vest, but no explosives. At an election rally, Chancellor Angela Merkel said the recent influx of refugees (Reuters) did not bring “the phenomenon of Islamist terrorism” to Germany.


Prisoners May Have Played Role in U.S. Payment to Iran

A $400 million cash payment made by the U.S. government to Iran earlier this year coincided with the release of several prisoners, the Wall Street Journal reports. Unidentified U.S. officials said that no money was allowed to be transferred until a plane carrying three U.S. prisoners was off the ground, fueling charges this was ransom. The Obama administration says the payment was a first installment on a settlement for a 1979 arms deal that went unfulfilled, and that cash was required because the United States has no banking relationship with Iran.

CFR's Micah Zenko notes the history of U.S. hostage negotiations with Iran in this blog post.

HAITI: The United Nations acknowledged for the first time (NYT) that its peacekeepers played a role in Haiti's cholera outbreak, which has killed at least ten thousand since 2010. The UN has been fighting a U.S. federal lawsuit seeking damages for victims of the epidemic.

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