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This week on War News Radio, Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen have entered a new stage, President Obama announced the deaths of two aid workers in Pakistan by US drone, new information on the strength of North Korean ballistic missiles, and more.

United Nations via Flickr

United Nations via Flickr

This week on War News Radio: the Yemeni government resigns, DRC protests against election delays, the Islamic State threatens new hostages and more.

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Wikimedia Commons via Nickispeaki

This week on War News Radio, US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Palestinian negotiators, Russian President Vladimir Putin announces a peace plan after speaking with Ukrainian President Peter Poroshenko, President Barack Obama commits to sending 350 more non-combat American troops to Iraq, and more. Special thanks and welcome to Leo Elliot and Oliver Newman for contributing to their first newscast.

United Nations Photo via flickr

United Nations Photo via flickr

WELSH: For War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Tyler Welsh.

BAILIN: And I’m Nora Bailin. Peace talks in South Sudan were delayed this week following attacks by rebel forces on a United Nations base in the city of Bentiu. At least 100 civilians were killed and 400 others were injured in the massacre, according to a U.N. official. Although victims have not yet been identified, reports have indicated that those targeted were members of the ethnic Dinka group, which includes supporters of President Salva Kiir, rather than the Nuer group, which includes members of the rebel militia and supporters of former vice president Riek Machar. A spokesperson for the rebel faction, however, denied that the rebels were responsible for the attack and accused the U.N. of fabricating the story as, quote, “cheap propaganda.” Thousands of civilians have been displaced from their homes or killed since fighting began in December, but recent peace talks have done little to quell the violence across the country.

WELSH: Over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by anti-government extremists last week, and as of this Monday, at least 190 are still missing. The kidnappers were suspected of being members of Boko Haram, an insurgent group that opposes the education of women. Security forces in the region have said they are in, quote, “hot pursuit” of the girls’ captors, but have yet to recover any of those missing. Violence from Boko Haram is common in the region, but sources say that a kidnapping of this size is unprecedented. Although the Nigerian government and military have claimed that Boko Haram’s power is declining, deaths attributed to the group have reached record highs this year, with more than 1,500 having been killed this year.

BAILIN: An Afghan police officer opened fire at Cure International Hospital in Kabul Thursday morning, killing three Americans and wounding several others. The assailant, who had worked at the hospital for two years, is now in the custody of the Afghan government after an unsuccessful suicide attempt following the shooting. The American-run Cure International Hospital, which opened in 2005, is part of an international network of hospitals run by a Christian charity organization based in Pennsylvania. According to Kabul’s police chief, Abdul Zahir, an investigation is underway to determine the cause of the attack. The shooting marks a recent increase in attacks by members of the Afghan security forces and Taliban militants, targeting foreign civilians. Jawid Kohestani, a former Afghan army general and Kabul-based security analyst, believes the Taliban and its supporters are increasing their attacks on civilians in an attempt to quote frighten foreigners and disrupt their reconstruction and development work.

WELSH: Fatah and Hamas, previously opposed Palestinian factions, recently announced a reconciliation deal, ending a seven-year political rift. The political organizations violently split in 2007, resulting in Fatah governing the West Bank and Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip. The recent resolution called for the formation of a united government within the next five weeks followed by national elections after six months. Yet many ideological and political differences remain. The unity may also jeopardize international aid and diplomatic relations with Western countries, due to Hamas’ international classification as a terrorist organization. In response, Israel indefinitely suspended American-sponsored peace talks and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas would have to choose between peace with Hamas and peace with Israel. Around the same time the deal was announced, Israel carried out an airstrike on northern Gaza, wounding twelve Palestinians.

BAILIN: The U.S. offered extensive assistance to Yemeni forces during a multiday anti-terror operation. On Monday, CIA drones are suspected to have targeted Al Qaeda fighters, weapon storage locations, and training camps in southern Yemen. The drone strikes killed over 65 people. U.S. special operations forces flew Yemeni commandos to a remote, mountainous location in southern Yemen in Russian-built helicopters, seemingly to obscure U.S. involvement. The Yemeni commandos then engaged in a firefight against suspected members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. U.S. military personnel are conducting DNA tests to determine if master bomb maker Ibrahim al-Asiri was among those killed in the firefight. U.S. officials emphasize that the raid did not target the leadership of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, but they have not yet confirmed if al-Asiri was killed.

WELSH: Russian military forces engaged in drills along the Ukrainian border this week, as tensions continue to rise over pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that these drills would include military flights along the Ukrainian border. Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that any action taken by Kiev against these demonstrators would be, quote, “a serious crime against their own nation.” The Russian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, has claimed that the United States and Ukraine are distorting the terms of the recent agreement signed in Geneva and are failing to reign in nationalist forces in Ukraine. US officials say President Barack Obama will impose new sanctions on Russian officials close to Putin, and 150 US troops have already been sent to Poland in order to reassure allies near the Russian border.

BAILIN: At a press conference with Japanese President, Shinzo Abe, President Obama expressed American military support for Japan in the event of an escalation of the China-Japan territorial dispute of the Diaoyu, or Senkaku Islands. In this first leg of his weeklong tour of Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines, the President referred to the obligation of the United States to offer military support for Japan if it were to come under attack, citing the 1960 security pact between the United States and Japan. Nearly two decades since the last United States President visited Japan on a state trip, President Obama’s arrival serves as a reminder to the Japanese that the United States remains a faithful ally. Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines are increasingly important partners with the United States to counterbalance China’s growing influence in the Pacific region.

WELSH: Suspicions of activity at the North Korean underground nuclear site, Punggye-ri, suggest that North Korea may be preparing for another nuclear test. Both the South Korean Defense Ministry, and a state-run Chinese news agency claim to have observed these activities. Senior fellow at the Institute for Peace and Cooperation in Seoul, Lee Byong-chul, says that “North Korea wants attention ahead of Obama’s visit,” referring to President Obama’s weeklong Asia tour. South Korea insists that the North might soon detonate a nuclear device, in spite of the Obama administration’s call for North Korea to curtail its nuclear program. China maintains diplomatic relations with North Korea, and South Korean President Park Geun Hye has pressured Chinese President Xi Jinping to discourage North Korea from carrying out additional nuclear tests.

BAILIN: If you want to hear more from War News Radio, visit us online at War News Radio.o-r-g. This week’s newscast was written and edited by Jay Clayton, Joelle Hageboutros, Allison Hrabar, Sabrina Merold, Dylan Okabe-Jawdat, Jerry Qin, Nithya Swaminathan, Chloe Wittenberg, and Henry Zhang. I’m Nora Bailin.

WELSH: And I’m Tyler Welsh. Until next time, thanks for listening.

flickr via IHH (Humanitarian Relief Foundation)

flickr via IHH (Humanitarian Relief Foundation)

Asma Noray: For War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Asma Noray.

Dylan Okabe-Jawdat: And I’m Dylan Okabe-Jawdat. Pro-Russian demonstrators in Ukraine seized government buildings in several cities near the Russian border, including Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk. Similar tactics were used by protesters in February to oust former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. These activists, some of whom have declared a new independent state, the Donetsk People’s Republic, argue that the high concentration of ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine justifies independence. Although Russia has yet to recognize this new state, United States Secretary of State John Kerry said that civil unrest between the new Ukrainian government and these protestors could, quote, “potentially be a contrived pretext for military intervention.” Kerry also suggested that Russian special forces and agents were responsible for instigating these demonstrations, and the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have warned Russia against any further intervention in Ukraine.

Noray: Iran celebrated a National Day of Nuclear Technology this week, marking its eighth year since first enriching uranium. At a celebration, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei explained that, quote “None of the country’s nuclear achievements can be stopped, and no one has the right to bargain over it,” referring to the “p-five plus one” talks in Vienna featuring the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, and Germany. Though Iran has already curbed its nuclear program in return for eased sanctions, the current dialogue, which is supported by Khamenei, seeks to further constrain its nuclear program. Iran insists that its nuclear program is peaceful, and according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, it is continuing to cooperate with a United Nations investigation of its nuclear sites. In late 2013, the “p-five plus one” countries formed a framework deal under which Iran agreed to greater transparency, and would address suspicions that it may have designed an atomic weapon.

Okabe-Jawdat: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ordered his ministers to halt negotiations with Palestinian representatives as United States-led peace talks between the two sides continue to crumble. Netanyahu’s action is a direct response to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ decision to sign 15 United Nations treaties in order to advance its application for statehood. Netanyahu’s order does not apply to Israel’s leading negotiator Tzipi Livni or to defense and security officials. Netanyahu is threatening to impose economic sanctions on the West Bank if the Palestinians continue to pursue unilateral action regarding statehood. In his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, US Secretary of State John Kerry said Israel’s announcement of settlement development in East Jerusalem was responsible for the latest impasse in the peace negotiations, which are set to expire on April 29th.

Noray: Two car bombs in the Syrian city of Homs killed at least 21 people and injured over 100. The Karam al-Loz district of Homs, where the bombs were detonated, is inhabited mainly by Alawites—the Shi’ite sect to which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad belongs. This violence in Homs was preceded by the recent assassination of a 75 year old Jesuit priest in the Old City district, an area controlled by Syrian opposition forces. Father Frans Van der Lugt lived in Homs for over 50 years and had continuously offered Muslim and Christian communities refuge throughout the conflict. The identity and motive of Father van der Lugt’s assailant is unknown.

Okabe-Jawdat: A bombing in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad killed more than 20 people and wounded dozens. The bomb, which was hidden in a fruit crate, exploded in a market full of civilians. Soon after the attack, the Taliban released a statement condemning the act, calling it, quote “regrettable and un-Islamic.” A different separatist group, the little-known United Baluch Army, claimed responsibility for the bombing. They have fought for the independence of the Baluchistan Province, and until now, most of their fighting has remained in the region. The involvement of the United Baluch Army comes at a tense time for Pakistan, as the government is deeply involved in peace talks with a more prominent militant group in the region, the Taliban.

Noray: The United States has named Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis – or A-B-M – a foreign terrorist organization. This designation, announced by the United States Department of State this week, makes it a crime to knowingly aid the group. It also allows the US government to freeze ABM assets, but it is not known whether the organization has any holdings in the United States. While the State Department noted that the Sinai-based Egyptian militant group is not formally linked to al Qaeda, the report insists that the two organizations have ideological connections. Among the terrorist activities of the group listed by the US State Department are an assassination attempt on Egypt’s Interior Minister last year, a missile attack on Cairo in January, and rockets fired at the city of Eilat, in southern Israel.

Okabe-Jawdat: Car bombs exploded across Baghdad this week, killing at least 24 people and injuring dozens. Most of the areas targeted in the attacks were predominantly Shiite neighborhoods. No group has come forward to claim responsibility for the attacks, but the bombings bore a resemblance to strategies used by al-Qaeda inspired groups, as well as Sunni insurgents. The attacks were the latest in a string of violent incidents across the country. According to United Nations estimates, over 8,800 people died in attacks in Iraq last year, and the violence has only continued to rise in recent months. These most recent bombings have raised concerns about the stability of the upcoming elections. The national elections, which will take place on April 30, mark the first democratic vote in the country since the United States withdrew its troops in 2011.

Noray: Over the past week, Kenyan authorities have arrested over 3000 Somalis and deported 82 as part of an ongoing security crackdown in response to a spate of terrorism in Kenya. According to Kenya’s Interior Minister, Joseph Ole-Lenku, the deported Somalis were in Kenya illegally and lacked proper documentation. The most recent incident was a grenade attack on April 1st in Nairobi that killed six people in Eastleigh, a predominantly Somali neighborhood in Kenya. Kenya has blamed the recent attacks on the Somali militant group al-Shabab. Kenya police spokesman Masoud Mwinyi said that 447 Somalis remain in custody under anti-terrorism laws. The detained Somalis are being held in Kasarani Stadium, a sports stadium on the outskirts of Nairobi. Reports of human rights violations by police officers have led the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights to believe that the detainees are being held in degrading and inhumane conditions. Religious clerics and leading members of the Kenyan parliament have accused the security forces of unfairly targeting Somalis in the current security crackdown.

Okabe-Jawdat: If you want to hear more from War News Radio, visit us online at War News Radio.o-r-g. This week’s newscast was written and edited by Caroline Batten, Jay Clayton, Joelle Hageboutros, Allison Hrabar, Sabrina Merold, Tyler Welsh, Chloe Wittenberg, and Henry Zhang. I’m Dylan Okabe-Jawdat.

Noray: And I’m Asma Noray. Until next time, thanks for listening.

snamess via flickr

This week on War News Radio, government military offensive against rebel groups in the Philippines, updates on anti-government protests in Ukraine, journalists charged with conspiracy in Egypt, a zone of peace in Latin America and the Caribbean, tensions over Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and more.

Pendle Marshall-Hallmark: From War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Pendle Marshall-Hallmark

Caroline Batten: And I’m Caroline Batten. At least 37 people were killed on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines this week, as the Philippine government launched a military offensive against rebel groups. The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, or B-I-F-F, opposed a peace deal made last week between the government and another rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The group was granted control of an autonomous area of Mindanao in exchange for a ceasefire. But the B-I-F-F, along with the al-Qaeda-linked group Abu Sayyaf, continue to seek the establishment of an Islamic state. Government officials have expressed concern that opposition to the peace deal might affect future negotiations. In a statement, Colonel Ramon Zagala noted, quote, “There is no direct link between the signing of the peace agreement and this operation, but it has an effect on the peace process.”

Pendle Marshall-Hallmark: The President of Ukraine has taken sick leave – but without signing a repeal of harsh restrictions on free speech and assembly passed earlier this month. A statement on the website of President Viktor Yanukovych says he is suffering from respiratory illness and does not indicate when he will return. The streets in the capital city of Kiev were reported calm Wednesday, but tensions remain high. Opposition leaders say a measure freeing two hundred eighteen activists and urging an end to protests is unacceptable so long as efforts to overhaul the Constitution fail. Russia has also withdrawn financial aid to Ukraine, a move designed to put economic pressure on the country as it considers aligning with the West. Protests began in November when Mr. Yanukovych rescinded a trade deal with the European Union and instead drew closer to Russia.

Caroline Batten: It has been seven months since US Secretary of State John Kerry launched Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and tensions within the two camps continue to threaten their success. The Secretary of State’s plan calls for the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state drawn along the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Earlier this week, Naftali Bennett, the leader of the religious-nationalist Jewish Home Party, criticized a statement made by the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The statement alluded to the likelihood of some Israeli settlers living under Palestinian authority as minority citizens, should a peace deal be brokered. Bennett argued that, quote, “imposing Palestinian sovereignty over Israeli citizens is dangerous and it was my duty to remove this idea immediately from our agenda.” The Prime Minister’s office warned that if Bennett did not apologize, his seat in the cabinet would be threatened. While no official apology has been given, Bennett’s criticism reveals the deep fractions within the Israeli government over the existence of a Palestinian state and its potential nature.

Pendle Marshall-Hallmark: The 33 countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean states agreed to respect the right of all countries in the region to select their own political systems, as representatives convened at a summit in Cuba this week. The announcement is significant, as Cuba is the only one-party state in the Western Hemisphere. At the summit, the leaders also agreed to, quote, “not intervene, directly or indirectly, in the internal affairs of any other state and to observe the principles of national sovereignty.” Cuban President Raul Castro proclaimed Latin America and the Caribbean a, quote, “zone of peace.”

Caroline Batten: Tunisia’s new caretaker government, led by Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, was sworn into office earlier this week. Jomaa and his cabinet replaced the Islamist Ennahda party, which came under fire for failing to combat terrorism and stabilize Tunisia’s economy. The power transfer comes just days after the country’s national assembly passed a new constitution. The caretaker government will preside until elections are held later this year, supervised by an electoral commission. Ennahda’s leader spoke out in favor of the regime change, stating, quote, “Ennahda handed over power for the benefit of our country.” Jomaa will be the fifth prime minister to take office since the 2011 revolution that overthrew former dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali.

Pendle Marshall-Hallmark: The first peace talks between the Syrian Government and the opposing Syrian National Coalition began earlier this week, facilitated by United Nations Arab League mediator Lakhdar Brahimi. At the beginning of the talks, Mr. Brahimi noted a large gap between the two sides but a growing interest in continuing dialogue. Both parties have agreed to use the “Geneva communiqué,” a document produced by UN Security Council members, to illuminate possible steps to ending the violence in Syria. As talks continue, twenty-five hundred Syrians living in the Old City of Homs remain under siege, and await a UN aid convoy of food and medicine that has yet to be approved by the Syrian government.

Caroline Batten: Edward Snowden has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by two members of Norway’s Socialist Left Party. Snowden leaked National Security Agency documents in 2013 that revealed mass surveillance of individuals in the US and around the world. The nomination letter claims that Snowden has contributed to making the world more peaceful, because President Obama was encouraged to make changes in surveillance programs, after the public backlash resulting from Snowden’s whistleblowing. White House officials claim that Snowden should be tried as a felon for damaging security interests, rather than receive the same prize won by President Obama in 2009. Snowden currently has temporary asylum in Russia.

Pendle Marshall-Hallmark: Earlier this week, Egyptian prosecutors charged 20 Al Jazeera journalists, including 4 foreign correspondents, with aiding a terrorist group. Prosecutors have accused the journalists of, quote, “manipulating video footage to produce unreal scenes to suggest abroad that what is happening in the country is a civil war that raises alarms about the state’s collapse.” If they are convicted, the journalists could spend several years in prison. Many see the charges against the journalists as only the latest in government attempts to stifle public dissent. In a statement by Al Jazeera, a spokesperson called the detainments a, quote, “challenge to free speech, to the right of journalists to report on all aspects of events, and to the right of people to know what is going on.”

Caroline Batten: If you want to hear more from War News Radio, visit us online at War News Radio.o-r-g. This week’s newscast was written and edited by Caroline Batten, Amy DiPierro, Joelle Hageboutros, Allison Hrabar, Sabrina Merold, Dylan Okabe-Jawdat, Jerry Qin, Tyler Welsh, Zoey Werbin, Chloe Wittenberg, and Rachel Yang. I’m Caroline Batten.

Pendle Marshall-Hallmark: And I’m Pendle Marshall-Hallmark. Until next time, thanks for listening.

Categories : 2014 Spring, Newscast
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