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Obama announces intention to negotiate with the Taliban

About the author
Hannah Cooper is at Exeter University studying for a BA in History with European Studies. Hannah is currently an editorial intern at terrorism.openDemocracy.

US willing to negotiate with the Taliban

During an interview on Friday, President Barack Obama stated that the US was not winning the war in Afghanistan and explained that Washington is considering negotiations with moderate factions of the Taliban. The precedent for reconciliation talks was set in Iraq, where the government reached out to Sunni militias, and much success was had in persuading insurgents away from more radical elements of al-Qaeda. However, Obama also recognised the complexities of the situation in Afghanistan and the fact that suitable groups would have to be found for any negotiations. The Pakistani government's compromises to rebel groups, such as the recent deal involving the introduction of Sharia law in the Swat valley, has been criticised by the administration in Washington. A fine line will have to be drawn, it seems, between giving way to terrorist organisations and drawing more moderate insurgents into an alliance with the US. Last month,Obama ordered an additional 17,000 troops to be sent to Afghanistan.

Violence returns to Northern Ireland

Two British soldiers were gunned down and four other people were wounded in Northern Ireland on Saturday during what the police called "an attempt at mass murder". The soldiers were shot at their base in Massereene, County Antrim, whilst collecting a delivery of pizzas. Two other soldiers and two pizza delivery men were seriously injured.

The toD verdict: Over 500 British soldiers died during nearly 40 years of fighting in Northern Ireland, but this attack is the first time that British troops have been killed in Northern Ireland by terrorists since 1997, just one year before the 1998 Good Friday Accord. A power-sharing executive, which consists of Unionists and members of Sinn Féin, currently runs Northern Ireland. This attack could jeopardise the already fragile union between the two former rivals.

The Real IRA has taken responsibility for the gun attack, which Gordon Brown has called "cowardly". However, the prime minister asserts that it will not be allowed to undermine efforts to secure a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. The Real IRA group was formed as a result of the split in the Provisional IRA in 1997 due to the peace process. The Real IRA were also the group behind the Omagh bombing, along with other bomb attacks in London and Birmingham.

The memories of conflict and unrest in Northern Ireland aroused by this attack could emerge as significant and it remains to see how much of an impact it will have on the peace process, despite Brown's denial that it will have any. It also raises questions over the government's conduct of war in different areas and how it is affecting the situation at home: Operation Banner, the British deployment of troops to Northern Ireland, was terminated in 2007; the soldiers attacked in Massereene were expected to be moved to Afghanistan in the near future.

Bicycle bomb detonated in high-security Baghdad

A man on a bicycle detonated a suicide bomb in Baghdad on Sunday morning, killing 28 people and injuring dozens more. Despite the checkpoints which fill the Iraqi capital, the bomber managed to infiltrate the high-security area which also houses the Ministries of the Interior and Oil. The attack, which is the most serious in a month, occurred outside a police training academy. Security forces are increasingly becoming the preferred target for al-Qaeda attacks, and the same institution was attacked in two blasts last December which killed 15. The incident came on the same day as the US government in Washington announced its intention to remove 12,000 troops from Iraq by September as part of their timetable to end the mission in Iraq by August 2010.

FARC weakened but still fighting back

At least five soldiers died near Vista Hermosa, south of the Colombian capital of Bogota, on Friday as they searched for hidden weaponry owned by militants of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The explosion also injured eight more officers. This incident comes during a period of weakness for the FARC, when they have little left but attacks such as this to sustain their anti-government fight which has lasted over four decades. Many of their senior leaders have been killed by the military and desertions are common. Last summer, the organisation was also tricked into releasing the high-profile hostage Íngrid Betancourt.

Soldiers' mutiny adds to Madagascan unrest

Mutinous soldiers in a military camp in Madagascar have announced that they will take no orders from the country's government. Around 70 soldiers are involved in the mutiny, with some officers having been taken hostage, which has led to the blockade of the camp in the Soanierana district outside of Antananarivo, the Madagascan capital. It comes as a result of internal disputes within the army after Andry Rajoelina announced his own appointment as the head of the country. Over 98 people were killed in the ensuing political unrest.

China clamps down during anniversary in Tibet

Chinese authorities in Tibet are increasing security before Tuesday, which will mark the 50th anniversary of a failed uprising that led to the exiling of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader. Memories of protests that occurred last March, which resulted in the death of 18 civilians and one police officer with hundreds more wounded, has led to extreme caution on the part of the Chinese authorities during the last week, as the Tibetan New Year passed. The Losar celebrations were boycotted by many in order to commemorate those who died in the riots last year. In addition to extra precautions in Tibet, the Chinese authorities have sent an envoy to Nepal to ask them to ban anti-China protests. Their propaganda campaign, which presents the Dalai Lama as a radical separatist, continues. In the aftermath of last year's Olympics, the world's attention has once more been distracted from the situation in Tibet and Chinese cautionary measures look to last a considerable time, but when they end little will have been resolved in terms of securing a lasting peace for Tibet and its people.

Tensions on the rise between North Korea and the South

On Monday, the US and South Korean armies began joint military exercises involving 26,000 US soldiers, over 30,000 troops from South Korean and the aircraft carrier USS Jong C Stennis. The North Korean military has simultaneously been put on alert, in part a reaction to the military cooperation just over the border and in part due to fears that their impending satellite launch, which many US and South Korean intelligence analysts believe to be a long-range missile, will be shot down. In this case, the government in Pyongyang has asserted its willingness to resort to violence.

The Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone and South Korea's Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Yu Myung-hwan have agreed that the North Korean launch will violate UN Security Council Resolutions. These hostilities are the latest in a situation that has seen increasing tension between the North and South Korean governments, with the former announcing in January that it no longer recognised any agreements made with its counterpart in the South, including that which finalised the Northern Limit Line, a sea border drawn unilaterally by US-led United Nations forces after the 1950-1953 Korean war.

Booby-trapped vehicle proves fatal in Peshawar

A car bomb explosion in Peshawar, in the northwest of Pakistan, killed eight people on Saturday. Warnings of a suspicious vehicle parked by the side of a road were telephoned to police officers, who were told that there was a dead body inside the car. However, this turned out to be a trap and five policemen died in the subsequent blast, along with two paramilitary soldiers and a passer-by.

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