Asia/Africa update: June 17-18 2017


Screen Shot 2017-06-18 at 4.07.36 PM
Mali, with Bamako highlighted, via Google Maps

Four jihadi attackers stormed the Campement Kangaba, a Bamako hotel reportedly popular with foreigners, on Sunday afternoon. They killed at least two people before Malian authorities, with some French assistance, killed three of them (the fourth attacker seems to have gotten away). There’s been no claim of responsibility, but Mali has a significant al-Qaeda presence so they would be the logical suspect.

On Saturday, an army post in northern Mali was attacked–again, there’s been no claim of responsibility so far–and at least five Malian soldiers were killed.



On Saturday, one Afghan soldier was killed and seven Americans were wounded in an “insider attack” at a military camp in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. On Sunday, at least six Afghan police officers were killed in an attack on a police headquarters in eastern Afghanistan’s Paktia province. The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks.

The Pakistani government says that two of its diplomats working out of its Jalalabad consulate have gone missing. It’s likely they’ve been kidnapped, but without some communication from their kidnappers it may be tough to sort through all the suspects. The Afghan Taliban is one, obviously, but the Pakistani Taliban could be responsible and, given that Jalalabad is the capital of Nangarhar province and Nangarhar is their main foothold in Afghanistan, ISIS could also be responsible.


Ten people–two of them civilians–were killed on Saturday in clashes between Indian police and separatist rebels in the town of Achhabal. Police and soldiers responded to reports that militants were hiding in the town, leading to what sounds like at least two engagements during the course of the day.


The Indonesian military is deploying fighter jets to a base on the island of Borneo in order to guard against any Islamist militants attempting to flee the conflict in the Philippine city of Marawi. It’s also asked locals in Borneo to keep an eye out.


In the Philippines, meanwhile, the ongoing fighting in Marawi has spurred Manila to suspend any operations against the country’s other main rebel faction, the communist New People’s Army. Interestingly, there were a number of government-NPA clashes this weekend before the unilateral ceasefire was announced, though I have no idea if that spurred the government’s decision.


Agents with the US Department of Homeland Security reportedly took a diplomatic package on Friday from a delegation of North Korean diplomats who were returning home from a UN conference in New York. Pyongyang has described this incident as a “mugging,” but there’s been no comment from DHS yet. This is a pretty significant breach of diplomatic protocols so you’d like to assume DHS had a good reason for doing it, but there’s no reason to expect they actually did.


Prime Minister Shinzō Abe is watching his approval rating tank over–what else?–a corruption scandal:

Support for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe slumped more than 10 points to 44.9 percent in a public opinion poll published on Sunday, amid opposition party suspicions he used his influence unfairly to help a friend set up a business.

Abe has repeatedly denied abusing his authority to benefit his friend. His grip on power is not in danger, given his ruling coalition’s huge majority in parliament, but the affair looks unlikely to fade away.

The education ministry unearthed documents last week that the opposition said suggested Abe wanted a new veterinary school run by a friend to be approved in a state-run special economic zone. The ministry had earlier said it could not find the documents but reopened the probe under public pressure.

If it seems like corruption is becoming one of this blog’s recurring themes, it’s because corruption, and the public outrage it generates, is a pretty big recurring theme all around the world these days.

The seven US sailors who were missing after their destroyer, the Fitzgerald, collided with a cargo vessel on Friday were all killed in the incident. It’s not clear how the collision could possibly have happened, but the results could have actually been even worse: the Fitzgerald, which can carry upwards of 300 officers and crew, apparently came pretty close to sinking.



Hey, it sounds like the eventual Haftar regime is going to do wonderful things for opening up Libyan society:

According to a video posted on Facebook by Al Manara, a Libyan media platform, more than 6,000 books – including reported biographies of the Prophet Muhammad – were destroyed by a police force in the eastern city of Benghazi on Saturday.

The video showed a police officer claiming that the seized literature was promoting the ideas of “Daesh” (the Arabic term for Islamic State of Iraq and Levant or ISIL), as he sat behind a desk covered with books, including classical Islamic works.

The officer said the books “promoted violence” and the “ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood”, which has been banned by UAE and Egypt.

In January, more than 100 Libyan writers and intellectuals, including renowned Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho, condemned a seizure of books deemed “erotic” or anti-Islamic by authorities in eastern Libya.

Books by Egyptian Nobel Prize-winning novelist Naguib Mahfouz and Arabic translations of books by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche were allegedly among dozens seized from a truck heading from Tobruk to Benghazi.

Remember, this is the side that says it’s fighting the intolerant, hardline Islamists that’s the one burning these books.


Speaking of corruption, here’s some: according to a “Nigerian government official,” at least half of food aid sent by the Nigeria government to displaced people in the northeastern part of the country has been “diverted” from its intended targets. Well, I’m sure the people who skimmed all that aid off of the top (and, well, much of the middle too) needed it just as much as people who lost everything to the Boko Haram insurgency. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo launched a new aid program earlier this month that aims to actually get all of its goods to the intended recipients.


The African Union is calling on Eritrea and Djibouti to show “restraint” in their border conflict, which flared up almost immediately when Qatar withdrew its peacekeepers from the area earlier this week. The Eritrean government says that Qatar hasn’t offered an explanation for its “hasty” decision to pull its soldiers out, which frankly takes some balls considering that both Eritrea and Djibouti joined the Saudi-led blockade of Qatar several days ago.

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