This week's editor
Rosemary Bechler is openDemocracy’s Editor.
Rosemary Bechler is openDemocracy’s Editor.
Mandela: the global icon
The philosopher Jan Patočka is something of a national hero in the Czech Republic, and deservedly so. A teacher of Vaclav Havel, he was, in addition to one of the most important Central-European thinkers of the twentieth century, a martyr to the struggle for freedom in the Czech Republic during Communist rule. In 1977, at the age of 70, he died from a brain haemorrhage after a prolonged police interrogation.
Noordin Mohammed Top, one of the most wanted terrorists in South East Asia was killed this morning in a raid on a militant hideout in central Java, Indonesian officials claimed. The raid, which resulted in the deaths of Top and three associates, followed a nine-hour siege. Top was the Malaysian born head of a violent splinter group of the terrorist organisation Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).Keep up to date with the latest developments and sharpest perspectives in a world of strife and struggle. Sign up to receive toD's daily security briefings via email by clicking here
The ToD verdict: Since its establishment over two decades ago, JI had grown to include cells across South East Asia - most notably in Indonesia, the south Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore. JI aims to create a united Islamic state across Muslim South East Asia and is suspected of being responsible for a string of bombings, including the Bali bombings seven years ago that claimed 202 lives.
Top and his followers were believed by analysts to have increasingly alienated themselves from the mainstream JI, who are thought to be adopting a less violent approach. Top and his splinter group, thought to be affiliated to al Qaeda, have taken a more violent path and are consequently suspected of being responsible for the Jakarta hotel bombings in July.
The July bombings renewed the resolve amongst leaders of ASEAN, many of whose countries face significant threats, to tackle Islamist violence in the region. Thailand and the Philippines in particular have seen growing insurgencies and attacks in the Philippines in July were thought to bear the hallmarks of JI. The news of Top's death will consequently come as a relief to many, but whether the extremist wing of JI will die with him is, as yet, unknown.
Mogadishu AU base hit
An African Union base was the target of two bombs this morning, leaving at least six wounded. Witnesses say that the blasts were caused by two suicide car bombs. Reports that the bombing was a retaliation for the US strike which killed a prominent al Shabaab member on Monday may underwrite fears of the attack causing further destabilisation. Concerns had been voiced all week about the effect of the US strike - one of the first direct military interventions in Somalia by the US since its withdrawal from the country in 1994 - with some suggesting that it will cause a rift between the Somali TNG and the US. A dispute over US tactics and influence in Somalia was made open today after the UN's special representative in Somalia challenged the US position on the possibility of talks with al Shabaab.
Civilians killed in Yemen air strike
At least 80 civilians, mostly women and children, were reported dead on Wednesday afternoon after a refugee camp in Amran governorate was targeted by a Yemeni Army strike in the north of the country. Witnesses and the military claimed rebels were hiding among the displaced people but Human Rights Watch have called for an investigation into the strike. The month long campaign, the latest in six ‘rounds' of fighting between the government and Houthi rebels in a conflict that has been ongoing since 2004, has left around 150,000 people displaced and living in poor conditions. The UN has predicted a humanitarian disaster in the country for some time, but recent appeals for funds have gone largely unheard.
Large blast targets NATO in Kabul
A suicide car bombing close to the US Embassy in Kabul today killed at least ten civilians, in addition to six of the Italian NATO troops it ostensibly targeted, and injured many more. The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the high-profile attack which they claim demonstrates their ability to target coalition forces anywhere in the country.
The explosion comes a day after President Karzai dismissed any allegations of fraud on a significant scale. His campaign office had reacted angrily to the EU Election Observation Mission assessment of the extent of the fraud, but Karzai promised to abide by the results of any investigation. His assurances may be an attempt to avert possible protests, which may provide an additional target, as well as posing a security risk of their own. The Taliban has stepped up attacks in the Afghan capital, previously seen as a relatively safe area of the country, with today's blast the fourth major attack in five weeks.
Honduras overlooked in independence celebrations as sanctions discussed
The ‘Torch of Freedom' that travelled across the Central American states to celebrate their 188th anniversary of independence did not pass through Honduras as concerns about the political crisis in the country mount. Central American governments have refrained from recognising the current Honduran administration, which took power following a coup in June.
At talks to discuss possible sanctions on Wednesday, the EU denounced ‘ongoing constitutional violations' and expressed concern at ongoing human rights abuses and the administration's unwillingness to participate in talks which could see the peaceful return of ousted President Zelaya. Spain has already blocked ten members of the new Honduran administration from travel to the country and wants the application of an EU-wide ban. Current sanctions in place include the suspension of budget support to the country.
Obama scraps plans for European missile shield
Plans for the controversial US missile shield that was set to be built in Poland and the Czech Republic are likely to be scrapped today. The missiles were nominally intended to prevent a long-range strike by Iran, although the Putin administration, among others, suspected Russia to be the target. While the US still fears Iran could build a nuclear weapon, it now doubts its ability to develop such a long-range missile and claims the planned interceptors are not necessary for its defence.Poland has requested that the US should stand by its promise of assistance, which the country valued as a measure of strategic independence from its former-overlords in Moscow. Russia, by contrast, is likely to welcome the news, having repeatedly denounced US plans as an attempt at encirclement and requested their termination. There was further evidence of a possible warming of relations between Russia and the US after Medvedev yesterday announced he would consider sanctions against Iran only days after his foreign minister appeared to rule out the possibility of energy sanctions sought by the US.