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Daily Brief: Seventeen Killed in Attack on Kabul Shia Shrine

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October 12, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Seventeen Killed in Attack on Kabul Shia Shrine

At least seventeen people were killed and dozens wounded when at least one gunman attacked (RFE/RL) worshippers at a Shia shrine in Kabul on the Ashura holiday. No group claimed responsibility for the attack. The Taliban, which has repudiated (WSJ) violence against Shia Muslims, denied responsibility. The attack is the second time in recent months that Kabul's Shia community has been targeted by assailants, following a July suicide bombing at a protest by the ethnic Hazara minority that killed (Guardian) eighty people and was claimed by the Islamic State. The attack came as the Taliban continued (WaPo) an assault on Helmand province, entering the provincial capital.


"While sectarian violence targeting the Shiite minority in neighboring Pakistan has increased, such assaults in Afghanistan, where most people belong to the Sunni branch of Islam, have remained relatively infrequent. But a string of recent attacks has raised concern. The predominantly Shiite Hazaras, one of Afghanistan?s largest ethnic minorities, have been repeatedly abducted while traveling on buses in the southern part of the country," Zahra Nader and Mujib Mashal write for the New York Times.

"Since entering Afghanistan nearly 15 years ago, NATO has committed thousands of troops and billions of dollars to the country. Today, 13,000 NATO troops remain there, and this summer, NATO committed to continue funding Afghan forces until 2020. But despite all these efforts, Afghanistan remains highly volatile, with a weak central government and various insurgency groups that maintain considerable influence in the country," Ariane M. Tabatabai writes for Foreign Affairs.

"Afghanistan is once again under heavy assault by various terrorist groups, particularly the Taliban and the Haqqani group. They have recaptured some districts while keeping others under continuous assault. Kabul experiences indiscriminate suicide attacks and road travelers are kidnapped on the country's interstate highways, often to be exchanged for Taliban prisoners. While almost 3,000 souls were killed on 9/11 in New York and Washington, the US has lost nearly 3,600 military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan due to the resurgence of the Taliban. The Afghan casualty figures have been staggering. During 2014 and 2015 alone, the National Security Forces have had 28,500 casualties," Helena Malikyar writes for Al Jazeera.


Chinese Veterans Protest in Beijing

More than one thousand veterans protested for improved benefits outside the defense ministry headquarters in Beijing (WSJ) in a rare show of dissent. The protest came as President Xi Jinping aims to cut 300,000 troops from the 2.3 million-strong People's Liberation Army.

CFR's Jennifer M. Harris discusses China's approach to the militarization of the East and South China Seas in this op-ed for the Washington Post.

VIETNAM: Vietnamese authorities arrested (NYT)popular blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, who criticizes the country's one-party government and toxic waste dumping into waterways, accusing her of spreading propaganda. She could face twelve years in prison.


Uzbekistan Approves Mass Prisoner Amnesty

The Uzbek senate approved President Shavkat Mirziyoyev's motion for a mass prisoner amnesty (RFE/RL), which will include women inmates, prisoners convicted when they were underage, foreigners, and disabled people.


Russia, Egypt to Host Joint Military Patrols

The Russian defense ministry announced it would hold joint anti-terrorism military exercises with Egypt later this month (Middle East Eye). Russian media reported that the Egyptian government is considering allowing Russia to reopen military bases in the country.

SAUDI ARABIA: The Saudi government warned (WSJ)investors ahead of a bond sale that it would take seventy years to sell the country's oil reserves, prompting concerns that low oil prices, advances in technology, and climate change regulations could make that oil less valuable.

This CFR event discussed Saudi Arabia's future.


Summons Issued for South African Finance Minister

South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan received a court summons on Tuesday (FT) in an ongoing probe into allegations he set up a rogue surveillance unit at the South African Revenue Service to spy on politicians. The rand tumbled against the dollar and South African banking stocks dropped following the news.

ETHIOPIA: Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said that Ethiopia needed to reform its electoral system to make room for the opposition (AFP) during a press conference in Addis Ababa with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Hailemariam's coalition took every one of parliament's 546 seats under the current system, which only requires 51 percent of the vote to win all seats.


Paris Attack Suspect?s Lawyers Quit Case

Two lawyers for Salah Abdeslam, a main suspect in last year's attack on Paris that killed 130 people, are abandoning his case after he has refused to speak to them (VOA). Abdeslam is believed to be the only survivor among the group that carried out the attack.

TURKEY: Turkey's crackdown has turned toward the Kurdish ethnic minority in recent weeks (WaPo), with the arrests of community leaders and the shuttering of a Kurdish news channel. Kurds make up about 20 percent of Turkey's population of seventy-five million.

This CFR Interactive discusses the history of the Kurds and the quest for Kurdish statehood.


Gunmen Target Two Honduran Environmentalists

Two indigenous environmental activists in Honduras suffered assassination attempts by gunmen (Guardian) this week; one had already been shot in May following opposition to a mining project. The shootings come seven months after the assassination of Honduran environmentalist Beta Caceres.

URUGUAY: Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez is beginning a state visit to China (LAHT), during which he is expected to negotiate a free trade agreement.

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