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You’ve heard about escalating violence by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram based in Nigeria. But few have considered how religious groups can become a part of the solution. War News Radio’s Sabrina Merold talks to a group trying to build interfaith dialogue between Muslims and Christians — work especially important ahead of elections later this month.

For more information on Dr. Darren Kew and Dr. Eben Weitzman’s program check out: Conflict Resolution Graduate Programs – University of Massachusetts Boston

Categories : 2015 Spring
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United States: CIA Torture Report Released on Tuesday

On Tuesday, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released its report on CIA interrogation and torture methods. The report criticized CIA methods on grounds that the “enhanced interrogation” was not effective at gaining information, that these methods were not necessary in providing information to find Osama bin-Laden, and that the CIA misled the White House, Congress, and the public. Detailed descriptions of the CIA’s torture methods included waterboarding, nudity, sleep deprivation, and rectal hydration. CIA officials, including director John Brennan, criticized the report’s methodology and claim that government officials were misled. Taking criticism of the report a step further, former Vice-President Dick Cheney asserted that the program was authorized and that claims of human rights violations were questioned, asking: “how nice do you want to be to the murderers of 3,000 Americans?” Many countries criticized by the United States for human rights violations were quick to point out the hypocrisy of the United States also violating human rights. Many critics of the report, including former CIA officials and US members of Congress, have expressed fears that retaliation attacks will follow the release of the report or that terrorist organizations will use it as a recruitment tool.

Palestinian Official Dies During Protests on the West Bank

Palestinian official Ziad Abu Ein died this week after a protest in the West Bank, where he inhaled tear gas and was struck in the chest by a member of the Israeli security forces. Video footage of the protest shows Abu Ein, a member of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council and head of the campaign against Israeli barriers and the settlements in the West Bank, being grabbed roughly by the neck and shoved to the ground. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon has said that Abu Ein’s death is under investigation, but the European Union has called for an independent inquiry. EU High Representative Federica Mogherini called reports about IDF methods at the demonstration “extremely worrying” and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the incident was “an intolerable crime in every sense of the word.”

Hong Kong Protests End as Protesters Wait for Police to Close in on Them

Hong Kong authorities began dismantling the main encampment of pro-democracy protesters this week after more than two months of demonstrations. A successful injunction applied to one part of the protest site, but Hong Kong’s High Court officially have ordered the entire demonstration area cleared. Protesters have demand the right to vote for Hong Kong’s chief executive official without Beijing screening candidates beforehand. Current Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying has repeatedly refused to negotiate with protesters, citing election laws enacted when Hong Kong returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Student demonstrators have called for a peaceful clearing process, but many say they are not finished. “We’ll stop now, but that doesn’t mean we’re giving up,” said Koby Chan, a sales representative. “We’ll be back for sure.”

Ukrainian Military and Rebels Observe a “Silent Day,” to Coincide with the Start of New Peace Talks Between Ukraine and Russia.

In belated recognition of the cease-fire agreement signed on September 5th, this week Ukrainian government forces and Russian-backed rebels observed a “silent day” to reopen peace talks. In anticipation, Russia resumed shipments of natural gas to Ukraine, which it had cut off for the past six months. At the meeting, Russia continued to insist that the European Union and other Western nations recognize Ukraine as a neutral country, rather than draw it into Western organizations such as NATO. Germany’s foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated NATO membership was off the table. Ukraine could reject the deal, however, choosing to cede territory currently occupied by the rebels. As the “silent day” drew to a close, Ukrainian officials accused the separatists of violating the cease-fire, alleging 13 artillery attacks on Ukrainian positions.

This week’s newscast was written and edited by: Jay Clayton, Amy DiPierro, John Gagnon, Sabrina Merold, and Lily Tyson.

Categories : 2014 Fall
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This week on War News Radio, the United States Senate approves President Obama’s plan to both train and arm Syrian rebel groups to counter ISIS, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, rising tensions on the Ukrainian border with an increase in the number of Russian troops in Crimea, and more. Along with our weekly newscast, War News radio will be releasing additional feature pieces from our show last week, “Neighbors.” Next up, War News Radio’s Sabrina Merold explores the impact of social media on the Israeli Palestinian Conflict.

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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.

flickr via Saraf Omra

Dylan Okabe-Jawdat: For War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Dylan Okabe-Jawdat.

Boozarjomehri: And I’m Fatima Boozarjomehri. Ukrainian military forces left Crimea earlier this week as acting-defense minister Ihor Tenyukh stepped down from office. The Ukrainian Parliament initially rejected his resignation, but ultimately named Colonel General Mikhail Kovalyov as his replacement. Tenyukh, a strong supporter of the uprising against former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, rebuffed critics who labeled his response to the Russian annexation of Crimea as indecisive. Meanwhile, the United Nations General Assembly has dismissed the annexation of Crimea as illegal. Several former Soviet republics, including Albania, Estonia, and Slovenia, joined the list of the resolution’s co-sponsors.

Okabe-Jawdat: An Egyptian court has sentenced to death 529 people described as supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood. They have been convicted of participating in a riot in which an Egyptian police officer was killed. The trial itself lasted less than two hours, and 400 defendants were sentenced in absentia. The judge has been accused of violating criminal law procedures by preventing defense lawyers from calling witnesses, and Egyptian legal experts believe the sentences will be overturned or reduced following the appeals process. Each death sentence must be ratified by Egypt’s grand mufti before it can be carried out, which provides a measure of hope to those affected by the ruling. 683 more people have also been put on trial this week and are still awaiting a verdict.

Boozarjomehri: Egyptian General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has announced his resignation from the military in order to run for President in Egypt’s upcoming elections. Sisi deposed Mohammed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, in 2013, and he is expected to easily win the election. Although he has acknowledged the economic and political difficulties the country faces, Sisi has promised to build a, quote, “modern and democratic Egypt”. Despite the continuous crackdown on, and recent conviction of over 500 Muslim Brotherhood members, Sisi vowed that his politics would be non-exclusionary and that he would extend a hand to, quote, “all those who have not been convicted”.

Okabe-Jawdat: A pro-government militia killed at least 151 rebels in the Darfur region of Sudan this week. Several commanders of the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement–or S-L-M–died in the fighting, according to a report by the Sudanese Media Center. The SLM is a rebel group that formed in 2003 in response to perceived governmental discrimination and neglect. This recent incident is the latest in a string of violent assaults on rebel groups by Sudanese government forces. Human rights groups and the United Nations have condemned the Sudanese government for the attacks, noting that over 100,000 citizens have been displaced since the violence escalated earlier this month.

Boozarjomehri: Taliban militants attacked an election commission office in Kabul this week, killing at least five people. Two suicide bombers detonated their vehicle outside the office while three other militants stormed the building, engaging in a five hour gunbattle with Afghan security officers. The victims include a provincial council candidate, two police officers, two election commission workers and five militants. This assault is the latest in the Taliban’s campaign to disrupt Afghanistan’s crucial presidential election on April 5th. The elections will decide the successor to president Hamid Karzai, marking the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan’s history.

Okabe-Jawdat: North Korea launched two medium-range ballistic missiles earlier this week as part of a military technology test. The launch may have been timed to coincide with a nuclear security summit attended by Japan, South Korea, and the United States. Kim Min-seok, a spokesman from the South Korean defense ministry, said that the decision to launch the missiles from mobile vehicles was a clear move by North Korea to, quote, “show off its ability to attempt a surprise attack.” The defense ministry also reported that the missiles flew about four hundred and three miles into the sea between North Korea and Japan. This launch represents an escalation from the test-firing of twenty-five short-range rockets by North Korea earlier this year. A North Korean diplomat, however, has claimed that the test launches are meant to protest the continued US and South Korean military drills near the Demilitarized Zone.

Boozarjomehri: Dozens of people were killed this week as a series of attacks swept across Iraq. The deadliest attack occurred in northeastern Baghdad after a suicide bomber crashed a truck filled with explosives into a security checkpoint, killing 6 and wounding 21 others. Gunmen in Tarmiyah and Mosul, cities north of Baghdad, killed 13 soldiers and wounded 13 in separate attacks on army checkpoints. Two bomb blasts in Baghdad also killed 5 and wounded 17. In Baghdad’s Ghalibiya district, 2 bodyguards were killed and 7 wounded in an attempted assassination of Sunni lawmaker Salim al-Jubouri. Although no group has claimed responsibility for these attacks, they are similar to acts of violence by an Al-Qaeda breakaway group. These attacks come just weeks before Iraq is set to hold national elections on April 30.

Okabe-Jawdat: Three Venezuelan air force generals were arrested under charges that they were planning a coup against the current regime. None of the generals have been identified. This most recent development comes as the government has increasingly cracked down on opposition groups. Other high profile arrests have included opposition party leader Leopoldo Lopez and the mayor of San Cristobal, Daniel Ceballos. These arrests followed weeks of protests in Venezuela that have left at least 34 people dead and dozens more injured. The anti-government protests have criticized President Nicolas Maduro’s administration for failing to address shortages of basic goods, increased crime, and rising inflation.

Boozarjomehri: Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, has been convicted by a New York federal court jury of, quote, “conspiring to kill Americans and providing material support to terrorists”. The prosecution accused the 48 year old Kuwaiti clergyman of serving as Al-Qaeda’s mouthpiece and main recruiter, pointing to his fiery speeches in which he glorified the 9/11 attacks. Abu Ghaith, however, testified that he had never joined Al Qaeda. He also insisted that his videos were only meant to encourage Muslims to rise up against their oppressors and that the more severe threats against America were fed to him by Bin Laden himself. Abu Gaith will be sentenced on September 8th and faces life in prison.

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 Aneesa Andrabi, Caroline Batten, Joelle Hageboutros, Allison Hrabar, Sabrina Merold, Jerry Qin, Tyler Welsh, Zoey Werbin, Chloe Wittenberg, and Rachel Yang. I’m Dylan Okabe-Jawdat.

Boozarjomehri. And I’m Fatima Boozarjomehri. Until next time, thanks for listening.

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