This week on War News Radio, anti-government protests in Ukraine and Bangkok, a ceasefire in South Sudan, the militant targeting of health care workers in Pakistan, the inauguration of the new Central African Republic president, and more.
Dylan Okabe-Jawdat: From War News Radio at Swarthmore College, I’m Dylan Okabe-Jawdat.
Jerry Qin: And I’m Jerry Qin. Anti-government protests in the Ukraine turned deadly this week after five people were killed and hundreds more injured in violent clashes on the streets of Kiev. The deaths marked the first fatalities in two months of protests following the Ukrainian government’s failure to sign a deal that would have strengthened the country’s ties with the European Union. Two of the deaths were reportedly due to gunshot wounds, although Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov blamed the demonstrators and insisted that police forces were not carrying live ammunition. The protesters have since agreed to a temporary cease-fire in response to the bloodshed, as opposition leaders have begun another round of negotiations with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich .
Okabe-Jawdat: The Thai government, led by Yingluck Shinawatra, imposed a state of emergency in Bangkok in response to increasingly violent protests in the capital. The protesters aim to disrupt elections scheduled for February 2 and believe an unelected people’s council should run the country. The 60-day emergency laws allow the government to implement curfews, censor the news media, disperse gatherings, and use military force to maintain order. According to Labor Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, who will manage the joint operation between the military and the police, the government will not use weapons and will not attempt to disperse protesters at night. The United States and other foreign governments have praised the Thai government for its restraint in managing the protests. However, human rights groups worry that the state of emergency could, quote, “boil over” if protests increase the pressure on Ms. Yingluck’s administration.
Qin: The government of South Sudan and rebels aligned with the country’s ousted former vice president signed a cease-fire agreement after over a month of fighting. Both sides promised to put down arms, refrain from taking actions that could lead to military confrontations, and set up a monitoring and verification team. Although humanitarian groups have praised the ceasefire for its potential to restore stability to the new nation, the cease-fire is only a temporary measure. A formal peace agreement has yet to be negotiated. As talks progress, tens of thousands of South Sudanese refugees continue to flee to neighboring countries.
Okabe-Jawdat: Gunmen fired on a Spanish cyclist and his police escort in Pakistan earlier this week, killing six police officers and injuring the cyclist and nine other officers. No group has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack. Authorities, however, suspect that the gunmen were members of a group of militants that orchestrated a recent bus attack in which 28 Shiite Muslims were killed. Over the last few years, violence against the minority Shiites by radical Sunni militants has skyrocketed in the southern Pakistani region of Baluchistan. Over the past week, militants across Baluchistan have targeted health care workers carrying out polio vaccinations, as well as the police officers in charge of protecting the workers.
Qin: Earlier this week, Israel announced its arrest of three Palestinians who were allegedly plotting a suicide attack on the United States embassy in Tel Aviv. The suspects were affiliated with Al Qaeda. While sources in Washington were unable to corroborate the Israeli claims, the Shin-Bet intelligence agency said that the three men were recruited by an operative in the Gaza Strip working for Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Shin Bet has claimed that the Palestinians harbored plans to storm a Jewish conference center with firearms and then to detonate a truck bomb to kill rescue workers while simultaneously executing the embassy attack. The arrests marked the first instance of Al Qaeda being linked to an attack in Israel, although several Al Qaeda-inspired groups have formed across the Gaza Strip in recent years.
Okabe-Jawdat: Catherine Samba Panza, the new interim president of the Central African Republic, was sworn in earlier this week. Her inauguration followed former president Michel Djotodia’s resignation in the face of growing violence by the radical Muslim rebel Seleka group. Samba Panza is the first female president of the country, and many leaders and activists have expressed hope that she will bring peace to the ethnically divided nation. Marie-Louise Yakemba, the head of an interfaith civil society organization, stated, quote, “Everything we have been through has been the fault of men. We think that, with a woman, there is at least a ray of hope.”
Qin: Samba Panza has vocalized her commitment to repairing the divide between Muslim and Christian militias and to building political structures to stabilize the country. In a statement, she vowed to, quote, “safeguard the peace, strengthen national unity, ensure the wellbeing of the Central African people, and conscientiously fulfill my work without any ethnic, regional, or religious considerations.”
Okabe-Jawdat: United States military leaders outlined their proposed troop withdrawal from Afghanistan earlier this week. According to senior government officials, the US plans to keep 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization–or NATO–mission ends in December of 2014. The 10,000 soldiers would stay in the country to train Afghan military personnel, as well as root out leaders of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. An unnamed source at the Pentagon noted, however, that if 10,000 troops cannot be committed to the mission, the best strategy would be to withdraw all troops by the end of the year. The future of US involvement in Afghanistan further rests on Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s willingness to sign a bilateral security agreement. Without the agreement, which includes provisions to protect American soldiers, American officials predict that the US will likely pull out all forces and abandon its Afghan military training program.
Qin: Chinese human rights lawyer Xu Zhiyong stood trial earlier this week on charges that he participated in protests against the Chinese government. Xu is a member of the New Citizens Movement, which has been pushing for the Chinese government to crack down on corruption. Xu and other members of the movement will likely all be convicted because, according to their lawyers, their cases have been pre-determined by the politically controlled courts. The lawyers cannot call or cross-examine witnesses, and no defendants from the movement will be allowed to testify in other trials. Xu and his lawyer have declined to speak at his trial, which his lawyer called a, quote, “ piece of theater”. Reports on the trial have been censored in China, and members of the foreign press have struggled to gain access to the trial. If convicted, Xu will face upwards of five years 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 Nora Bailin, Caroline Batten, Sabrina Merold, Collin Smith, Will Sullivan, Tyler Welsh, and Chloe Wittenberg. I’m Dylan Okabe-Jawdat.
Qin: And I’m Jerry Qin. Until next time, thanks for listening.