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.
This week on War News Radio, “Remembrance.” April 7, 2014 marked the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. For this month’s show, we examine numerous perspectives on the Rwandan genocide two decades after it first took place. We hear from a diverse range of voices about the genocide’s causes and consequences and assess the long-ranging impacts of the massacre on the history and identity of the country. First, we discuss the role of justice in the peace and reconciliation process. Next, we interview a student who studied abroad in Rwanda about her experiences living in the country. Finally, we talk to experts about the role of the media in inflaming the genocide. But first, a round-up of this week’s news.
This week on War News Radio, “Reclaiming Identities.” First, we hear from Swarthmore Alumnus, David Kennedy, about the impact of the criminal justice system on social norms. Next, we present our editorial segment, “Filibusted.” Finally, we explore the recent evolution of Iraqi art and culture with New York University Professor Sinan Antoon. Stay with us.
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.
MARSHALL-HALLMARK: For War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Pendle Marshall-Hallmark.
BATTEN: And I’m Caroline Batten. Ukrainian security forces clashed with pro-Russian activists in the city of Mariupol in the eastern region of the country this week, killing three and wounding thirteen. Interim Ukrainian interior minister Arsen Avakov stated that the firefight was initiated by protesters who were attempting to storm a National Guard base in the city. Another military operation came to a halt when an entire force of 21 armored vehicles either turned back or surrendered to the pro-Russian militants. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated that the upper chamber of the Russian parliament had granted him the authority to use military force in eastern Ukraine. While he continued to insist that Russia was not involved in the current unrest, he repeatedly referred to the eastern region of Ukraine as, quote, “New Russia.”
MARSHALL-HALLMARK: One hundred and nineteen supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have been sentenced to 3 years in prison by an Egyptian court. They were charged with unlawfully protesting the overthrow of former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, during violent demonstrations in October 2013. In recent months, Egyptian military-backed authorities have been making increased efforts to quell the Muslim Brotherhood, banning former members from voting in the upcoming elections, and tightening control on mosques they believe to be in support of the Brotherhood. This week’s ruling comes in the wake of a trial last month that sentenced 529 Morsi supporters to death, a decision that has drawn criticism from human rights organizations. According to Amnesty International, the crack-down on the Brotherhood has jailed an estimated 15,000 Islamists and claimed the lives of more than 1,400 Morsi supporters since last summer.
BATTEN: Armed gunmen stormed a United Nations peacekeeping base in South Sudan this week, killing at least 20 civilians and injuring dozens more. The mob entered the base by claiming to be nonviolent protesters delivering a petition to the U.N. mission. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric condemned the incident, stating, quote, “This attack on a location where civilians are being protected by the United Nations is a serious escalation.” At the time of the attack, approximately 5000 civilians were housed at the base in the city of Bor, located in the northern Jonglei state. Over one million individuals have been displaced since the conflict between the South Sudanese government and rebel groups began last year. Although the two parties agreed to a ceasefire in January, fighting has continued to intensify across the country.
MARSHALL-HALLMARK: Anti-government extremists staged a mass kidnapping in Nigeria, abducting over 100 schoolgirls in the town of Chibok. The gunmen, who pretended to be government soldiers conducting an evacuation, are suspected of belonging to the insurgent group Boko Haram, which strongly opposes the education of women. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has also blamed Boko Haram for a recent bombing outside the Nigerian capital of Abuja. The attack killed more than 70 people and left at least 124 injured. Although Jonathan called the terrorist organization, quote, “a temporary problem,” the number of attacks by Boko Haram has increased dramatically this year, killing more than 1,500 people in 2014 alone.
BATTEN: Two of Muammar Gaddafi’s sons and thirty-six former officials of his regime began trial for alleged war crimes this week. The defendants are accused of helping repress the 2011 uprising in Libya and additional charges including murder and theft of state funds. Last year, the International Criminal Court ruled that Libya could try former military intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi, but it demanded the transfer of Gaddafi’s eldest son, Saif, to the Hague. Saif is still being held by militia forces in the city of Zintan, where he was captured in late 2011. A Libyan court has insisted that the defendants will be provided with legal counsel, but a recent courthouse video showed younger son Saadi Gaddafi confessing to, quote, “destabilizing” the country, apparently without the presence of an attorney.
MARSHALL-HALLMARK: Also in Libya this week, masked gunmen in the capital city of Tripoli have abducted Jordanian ambassador Fawaz al-Itan. The kidnappers opened fire on the ambassador’s car, wounding his driver and taking the unharmed ambassador into captivity. In exchange for releasing al-Itan, they have demanded that Islamist militant leader Mohamed Dersi be set free. Dersi was jailed for life in 2007 for plotting to blow up an airport in Jordan. The attack on al-Itan is the latest in a string of high-profile kidnappings of diplomats and officials in Libya. Abductions have become common in the country, as the Libyan government struggles to control the armed military groups operating within its borders.
BATTEN: The Iraqi government has shut down the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, citing concerns that its location was vulnerable to attacks by insurgent groups. The Iraqi Justice Ministry stated that 2,400 prisoners had been moved from the facility, now known as Baghdad Central Prison, to other high-security prisons in the northern region of the country. While the prison was a common destination for political prisoners under Saddam Hussein, it gained international infamy in the wake of reports that American soldiers stationed at Abu Ghraib had used physical and sexual torture on Iraqi detainees. It is unclear whether the closing of the prison is intended to be a temporary measure or a permanent decision.
MARSHALL-HALLMARK: A South Korean ferry carrying 462 people, including 325 high school students, sank several miles off the southwest coast of South Korea. The student passengers were in their second year at Danwon High School, and were embarking on a class field trip to the island of Jeju. On the nearby island of Jindo, friends and relatives of the passengers awaiting news from authorities expressed their dissatisfaction with the rescue effort. Protesting the announcement from officials that turbulent waters prevented rescuers from entering the submerged vessel, Chung Hae-sook, mother of a student on the ferry, insisted, quote, “There is no tomorrow for this… My heart is turning to ashes.” The cause of the disaster remains unclear, though nine passengers are confirmed dead, and government minister Kang Byung-kyu reports that 164 people were rescued, 55 were injured, and 292 passengers are still missing.
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 Nora Bailin, Caroline Batten, Jay Clayton, Joelle Hageboutros, Allison Hrabar, Dylan Okabe-Jawdat, Jerry Qin, Tyler Welsh, Zoey Werbin, and Chloe Wittenberg. I’m Caroline Batten.
PENDLE MARSHALL-HALLMARK: And I’m Pendle Marshall-Hallmark. Until next time, thanks for listening.
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.