Weekly Global Newscast | March 11 - March 17, 2019


Afghan Troops Killed and Captured in Taliban Attacks

The officials reported an attack on major checkpoints in the northern part of Afghanistan. The attack, carried out by the Taliban killed some 22 troops. The Taliban offensive came after some 100 Afghan forces fled heavy fighting in the country’s west in recent days and tried to cross into neighbouring Turkmenistan. The attack is being considered as the biggest known operation in recent past.


‘The Taliban launched the assault late on Saturday against checkpoints manned by police and pro-government forces in Qaisar district, setting off a fierce gun battle that lasted into Sunday morning said Mohammad Tahir Rahmani, the head of the provincial council in the northern Faryab province. The army sent in reinforcements, who were among those killed. Rahmani said another 20 Afghan forces were wounded in the attack. “The Taliban have gained control of more areas in the district” after stepping up attacks in recent weeks, Rahmani said, adding that troop reinforcements have arrived from the capital, Kabul.  Provincial police spokesman Karim Yuresh confirmed that a large number of Taliban launched attacks in Faryab, but he could not immediately provide more details. The Taliban spokesman claimed in a tweet that Taliban fighters overran a government base and checkpoint in Qaisar. The Taliban claim 21 soldiers and militiamen, known locally as arbaki were killed. The Taliban said their bodies were left on the battlefield.’ Reuters reported for Al Jazeera.

‘The Taliban carried out the biggest known capture of Afghan soldiers of the war, taking 150 prisoners after they chased units into neighboring Turkmenistan and that country forced them back, Afghan officials said. The operation took place in the northwestern Afghan province of Badghis, and brought to 190 the number of soldiers captured by insurgents in the hotly contested district of Murghab — with 16 more soldiers killed — in less than a week. Last Monday, an entire Afghan Army company was killed or captured there. By Saturday, its defenders said the district had fallen mostly into Taliban control, though Afghan forces were still holding the district’s government center. The latest capture was perhaps the biggest setback for the Afghan security forces since a Taliban offensive in August in the southeastern city of Ghazni killed as many as 200 soldiers and police officers, but few prisoners were taken then. The biggest recent capture of soldiers by the Taliban was about 50 who surrendered after a siege of their base, known as Chinese Camp, in Faryab Province, also in August.’ Najim Rahim and Rod Nordland write for New York Times.

Middle East & North Africa

Retaliating to First Tel Aviv Attack; Israel Strikes Gaza Strip

In response to Hamas’ first rocket attacks on Tel Aviv since 2014, Israel raided Gaza with airstrikes, injuring four Palestinians.


‘Israel has launched air attacks on Gaza hours after rockets were allegedly fired near Tel Aviv, raising fears of a major escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Explosions were heard in the Gaza Strip early on Friday and Palestinian witnesses said Israeli warplanes bombed Hamas security positions. Four Palestinians were wounded in the raids, the enclave’s health ministry said. Palestinian news media reported raids throughout Gaza, from Rafah in the south to the north of the densely populated coastal strip that is home to two million Palestinians. The late-night attack on Tel Aviv, Israel’s densely populated commercial and cultural capital, marked a dramatic escalation in hostilities. It was the first time the city had been targeted since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. The rockets triggered air raid sirens across the city. Explosions were heard in Tel Aviv and witnesses said Iron Dome interceptor missiles were fired skyward and detonated – although the military said no rockets were shot down.’ Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.

‘The Israeli military accused Hamas of firing rockets from Gaza towards Tel Aviv – the first time the seaside city had been targeted since the 2014 Gaza War. But Hamas denied responsibility and Israeli media, including Ha’aretz and Channel 7 News, later carried reports that the rockets might have been fired from Gaza by mistake. A security official briefed on the situation, who declined to be identified by name or nationality, told Reuters the launch was “the result of an error – that an attack on Israel was not intended. Israel holds Hamas responsible, hence the response”. The exchange was the most serious since a botched Israeli commando incursion into Gaza last November. In the aftermath of that episode, dozens of Israeli air strikes killed seven Palestinians, at least five of them gunmen, and destroyed several buildings. Rocket attacks from Gaza sent residents of southern Israel to shelters, wounding dozens and killing a Palestinian labourer from the occupied West Bank. The air strikes, the heaviest in five months, hit about 100 military targets belonging to Hamas, the Islamist group which controls Gaza, the military said. These included a rocket manufacturing site, a naval post and weapons facility, and a Hamas headquarters, it said.’ Nidal Al Mughrabi reports for Reuters.

Sub Saharan Africa

Ethiopia Reports Similarities in Ethiopian and Indonesian Plane Crashes

The data recovered from the black box of Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 plane has reaffirmed the suspected similarities between the Lion Airlines crash nearly five months ago. On March 10, an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed minutes after taking off from Bole International Airport of Addis Ababa, killing 157 people. A pilot of the flight has reported flight control problems and asked to return to the base before the control tower lost contact. The crash killed all 157 on board.


‘The crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane that killed 157 people had “clear similarities” with October’s Lion Air crash, Ethiopia said on Sunday, shown by initial analysis of the black boxes recovered from the wreckage of the March 10 disaster.  Both planes were MAX 8s, and both crashed minutes’ post take-off after pilots reported flight control problems. Concern over the plane’s safety led aviation authorities to ground the model, wiping billions of dollars off Boeing’s market value. “It was the same case with the Indonesian (Lion Air) one. There were clear similarities between the two crashes so far,” Ethiopian transport ministry spokesman Muse Yiheyis said. “The data was successfully recovered. Both the American team and our (Ethiopian) team validated it,” he told Reuters, adding that the ministry would provide more information after three or four days. In Washington, however, U.S. officials told Reuters the FAA and U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) had not yet validated the data.’ Reported Maggie Fick and David Shepardson for Reuters.

‘The Federal Aviation Administration identified similarities between the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight and the Lion Air crash in Indonesia, leading the agency to ground all Boeing 737 Max planes on Wednesday. In its emergency order, the FAA said new information about Sunday’s crash “indicates some similarities” between the two disasters that “warrant further investigation of the possibility of a shared cause that needs to be better understood and addressed.” President Donald Trump said that the United States will ground all Boeing 737 Max planes immediately, becoming the last country banning such flights after the fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash. “Pilots have been notified, airlines have been all notified. Airlines are agreeing with this. The safety of the American people and all people is our paramount concern,” Trump said from the White House.’ ‘Earlier on Monday, China’s civil aviation administration ordered the country’s airlines to ground the jets “in view of the fact that the two air crashes were newly delivered Boeing 737 [Max] 8 aircraft” and had “certain similarities”. Approximately 60 of the 737 Max planes have been delivered to about a dozen Chinese airlines since the aircraft was released. Indonesia’s aviation authorities said all 737 Max jets would be temporarily grounded. India’s aviation regulator issued new rules on Monday stating only pilots with more than 1,000 hours of training could operate the Boeing 737 Max 8.’ Associated Press reported for The Guardian.


US, Canada, EU Hit Russia With Fresh Sanctions Over Ukraine

The United States, in coordination with Canada and the European Union, has slapped new sanctions on more than a dozen Russian officials and businesses, citing Moscow’s “continued aggression in Ukraine”.


‘Six Russian officials, six defence firms and two energy and construction firms were targeted, either over the seizure of Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait, or for their activities in Russian-annexed Crimea or separatist eastern Ukraine, the US Treasury said in a statement. “The United States and our transatlantic partners will not allow Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine to go unchecked,” said Steve Mnuchin, the US treasury secretary. “This joint initiative with our partners in the European Union and Canada reinforces our shared commitment to impose targeted and meaningful sanctions in response to the Kremlin’s attempts to disregard international norms and undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he added. The US sanctions freeze all property and interests in property belonging to the designated individuals and entities, and prohibits US persons from transacting with them.’ Associated Press reported for Al Jazeera.

‘ The five years that have passed since Russia’s annexation of Crimea have turned out to be an important period in the history of modern Russia. It is widely accepted that this period has been characterized by a particular social mindset. Much has been said about the so-called “Crimea euphoria” or the “Crimea mobilization,” and commentators have frequently been premature in claiming the effects have worn off. It was only at the end of last summer, when there was widespread discontent with the authorities and with Putin personally over the adoption of a law on increasing the retirement age for Russians, that observers finally become convinced that the “post-Crimea syndrome” had come to an end. We can no longer see the signs of mass euphoria or enthusiasm that characterized the first few months after the seizure of Crimea. The bitter arguments between supporters and critics of the annexation have also faded away. Occasionally, events that are linked one way or another to affairs on the peninsula, such as Russian warships firing on Ukrainian boats in the Kerch Strait, make the headlines, but on the whole, the fate of Crimea has ceased to be a topic of concern for Russian public opinion.’ Alexei Levinson writes for The Moscow Times.


New Zealand to Bring Reforms in Guns Laws

Mass killing at the mosque in the city of Christchurch in New Zealand compelled the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to bring new reforms in guns laws within 10 days.


‘Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday. Tarrant was remanded without a plea and is due back in court on April 5 where police said he was likely to face more charges. ‘Within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our community safer,’ Ardern said at news conference after her cabinet reached in principle decisions on gun reform laws in the wake of New Zealand’s worst ever mass shooting. Gun City owner David Tipple said the alleged gunman legally bought four weapons and ammunition online from the store between December 2017 and March 2018, but it did not sell him the high-powered weapon used in the massacre. ‘The MSSA, military-style automatic, reportedly used by the alleged gunman was not purchased from Gun City. Gun City did not sell him an MSSA, only A-category firearms,’ Tipple told a news conference in Christchurch. Under New Zealand gun laws, A-category weapons can be semi-automatic but limited to seven shots. Live-streamed video of a gunman in one mosque showed a semi-automatic weapon with a large magazine round. Tipple said he supported Ardern’s move to reform gun laws as the Christchurch shootings had raised legitimate concerns. Australia introduced some of the world’s toughest gun laws after its worst mass killing, the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in which a lone gunman killed 35 people using a semi-automatic AR-15 – the same weapon used in the Christchurch massacre. Australia banned semi-automatic weapons, launched a national gun amnesty in which tens of thousands of guns were handed in, and made it much tougher to own firearms.’ John Mair and Parveen Menon write for Reuters

‘Semi-automatic, ‘assault-style’ weapons are due to be banned and an amnesty is expected to be called for the surrender of these types of guns. The government is expected to make a public demonstration of their destruction. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced gun reforms will be announced within 10 days. New Zealand has 1.3m guns in a population of 4.6m. The country’s gun clubs are also likely to face heavy scrutiny in the wake of the terror attacks. On Monday, prime minister Jacinda Ardern said the Cabinet had made ‘in principle’ decisions about gun law reform, with further details to be announced by next Monday. “This ultimately means that within 10 days of this horrific act of terrorism, we will have announced reforms which will, I believe, make our communities safer,’ she said. Ms Ardern said the Cabinet was ‘absolutely unified’, and said the shootings had ‘exposed a range of weaknesses’ in New Zealand’s gun laws. She added that there would be an inquiry into the events leading up to the attacks. It also emerged that the alleged perpetrator bought four weapons online from a gun store in Christchurch. David Tipple, owner of Gun City, said the alleged gunman bought four ‘A category’ firearms and ammunition through a ‘police-verified online mail order process’. Mr Tipple told reporters: ‘I returned from Europe on Saturday and immediately searched all our purchase records and found the alleged gunman’s purchases. I provided the police with full details of the sales’. Associate Press reported for the Evening Standard.


Trumps Veto Over US Border Wall

US President Donald Trump has issued the primary veto of his administration, overruling the US Congress to secure his crisis statement for fringe divider subsidizing. The president needs to utilize the crisis request to occupy billions of government dollars reserved for protection spending towards the divider along the southern outskirt with Mexico. His arrangement still faces a few legitimate difficulties from Democratic state lawyers general and ecological gatherings that contend the crisis announcement was illegal.


‘President Trump issued the first veto of his presidency Friday to secure federal money for a border wall that he promised as a candidate and considers a crucial priority for his re-election, capping a week of confrontation with both political parties. ‘Today I am vetoing this resolution. Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution, and I have the duty to veto it,’ Trump said during a made-for-the-cameras Oval Office event with supportive sheriffs and families of Americans killed by undocumented immigrants. Rebuffed by Congress in his demands for billions for the wall, Trump had declared a national emergency at the Mexican border last month, a move that would allow the president to circumvent the will of lawmakers and spend billions on border barriers. Congress backed a resolution of disapproval, with the Senate voting 59-to-41 for the measure. Twelve Republicans defied Trump and joined Democrats on the legislation. The rare rebuke from members of his own party was symbolically important, but Congress does not have the votes to overturn Trump’s veto. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) immediately announced a March 26 vote to try, saying that ‘House Republicans will have to choose between their partisan hypocrisy and their sacred oath to support and defend the Constitution.’ Pelosi called the president’s wall money manoeuvre a ‘lawless power grab.’ Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said there was no emergency.’ Congress has refused to fund his wall multiple times; Mexico won’t pay for it; and a bipartisan majority in both chambers just voted to terminate his fake emergency,’ Schumer said in a statement. Most congressional Republicans who defected did so as a protest of the president’s methods and the possible precedent of executive overreach, rather than as a stance on the underlying question of whether a border wall is necessary. Democrats and some Republicans challenged the declaration as a blow to the separation of powers. Trump said Friday that he understands that objection and maintained that he didn’t twist arms, although he had warned potential Republican defectors and had dispatched Vice President Pence and other administration officials to Capitol Hill to plead his case. ‘They’re doing what they have to do, and I put no pressure on anybody,’ Trump said: ‘I could have gotten some of them to come along.’ I said: ‘I want for you to vote your heart. Do want you want to do. I’m not putting any pressure.’  Republican alignment with Trump’s agenda and GOP control of both houses of Congress until this year meant that legislation the president opposed never reached his desk. Democrats now control the House, and some Republicans in the Senate seem more willing to cross the White House.’ Anne Gearan and Devlin Barrett write for The Washington Post

‘This week, Senate Republicans served President Donald Trump the first two resolutions he’s likely to veto — one rescinding his national emergency declaration to build the border wall, (which he vetoed on Friday afternoon), the other on cutting assistance to the Saudis’ war in Yemen. The breaking of ranks naturally prompted speculation about GOP allegiance to Trump and whether it signals some sort of shift away from him by congressional Republicans. Bucking the President on his signature issue is certainly a big deal. But a deeper examination of both the numbers and the politics indicates that the GOP remains firmly in Trump’s grip. If anything, given the constitutional rhetoric of elected Republicans, the President might have had a true revolt on his hands. Instead, he was given an effective slap on the wrist by a small fraction of Republican lawmakers. Of the 250 Republicans in Congress (197 in the House, 53 in the Senate) only 10% broke ranks with the President on the national emergency resolution. After 13 Republicans in the House joined Democrats to pass the resolution last month, a dozen Republican senators ended up breaking ranks this week to send it to the President’s desk. Even fewer Republicans — just seven senators — crossed Trump and voted Wednesday for the resolution directing the removal of US forces from Yemen without a war authorization from Congress. This isn’t the first time Trump has faced resistance from the upper chamber on issues like trade and foreign policy. But is it the beginnings of a GOP revolt? “I think 12 is significant,” said Doug Heye, a former spokesman for the RNC and a CNN contributor. “I don’t think it’s a watershed moment.” It’s notable which Republicans were willing to vote against the President. Half of the Republican senators who voted for the emergency declaration — which redirects funds intended for other uses to build the border wall — sit on the Appropriations Committee. And 11 are not running for re-election and facing the threat of a primary challenge in 2020. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is unlikely to lose the GOP nomination, and Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee has already announced he won’t be seeking another term next year. But what kept 90% of Republicans in the fold was the fact that this resolution would have been a rebuke of the President’s signature domestic issue: the wall on the southern border. “If this were a different issue, it would have been higher,” Heye said. “But it’s about the wall.” And crossing Trump may pose a significant risk for elected Republicans.’ Jim Acosta writes for CNN.


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