World update: July 31 2018



Although ISIS has already claimed responsibility for Sunday’s car attack that killed four cyclists in Tajikistan, the Tajik government is blaming the outlawed Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan, which it labeled a terrorist organization in 2015 even though nobody is quite sure what acts of terrorism it’s actually committed. Obviously the immediate aftermath of a terrorist attack is a great time to settle political scores, but ISIS has now even posted video of the alleged attackers pledging themselves to the extremist group. Which seems pretty conclusive.


A group of likely ISIS fighters attacked a government building in Jalalabad on Tuesday, killing at least 15 people. Elsewhere, a bus struck a roadside bomb in Farah province early Tuesday morning, leaving at least 11 people dead.


The US State and Treasury departments on Tuesday targeted three men suspected of involvement with Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group. State blacklisted one Abdul Rehman al-Dakhil, allegedly a “senior commander” of the group, as a terrorist, while Treasury froze the assets of two more men suspected of moving money on LeT’s behalf.


An Indonesian court on Tuesday outlawed Jamaah Ansharut Daulah on terrorism charges. JAD has ties to ISIS and is suspected of perpetrating multiple terrorist attacks in recent years, including May’s attacks in Surabaya.


ISIS has claimed responsibility for Tuesday morning’s suicide attack in Basilan province, which has now killed at least 11 people.



Seven Algerian soldiers and four militants were killed on Tuesday in a shootout in Skikda district in the northeastern part of the country. The Algerian government doesn’t seem to have been particularly forthcoming with details about this incident so it’s unclear who the militants were.


A spokesperson for Mali’s Democratic Alliance for Peace party declared on Tuesday that its presidential candidate, Aliou Diallo, has made it into a runoff. Which is weird, because he’s the third candidate to declare that and the runoff only involves two candidates. Soumaïla Cissé, considered the main challenger to incumbent Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, has already said he knows he’s in a runoff, and Keïta’s people still seem to think that he can win the election in the first round. Obviously the vote count is still in a fairly early stage, but international observers are also citing several irregularities in how the election was conducted and there are also concerns around the fact that thousands of polling stations had their voting interrupted by violence, with 644 stations not even opening at all.


Bukola Saraki, the president of the Nigerian Senate, is quitting President Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress and rejoining the opposition People’s Democratic Party. That’s the latest in a string of parliamentary defections that the APC has suffered in the past few weeks.


According to official results just under 93 percent of Comoran voters, with 63.9 percent turnout, voted yes in Monday’s constitutional referendum, which will change the way the country elects presidents and allow incumbent Azali Assoumani to run for a second term. If that figure seems unrealistically high, well, it probably is. Opposition leaders boycotted the vote and Azali hasn’t been above suppressing dissent in his quest to get this referendum passed.

Azali Assoumani


Three Russian journalists were killed on Tuesday in an ambush near the village of Sibut in the central CAR. They were reportedly there working on a documentary about the Russian mercenary firm Wagner. It’s unclear what group was behind the ambush and in CAR there is certainly no shortage of armed groups roaming about.


Businessman Moise Katumbi and opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi are tied for the lead in new polling ahead of the presidential election that the DRC is supposed to conduct by the end of this year. Both are polling at 19 percent in the survey, with former Vice President Jean-Pierre Bemba at 17 percent. This is good news for Tshisekedi in particular, since both Katumbi and Bemba have outstanding criminal convictions that could prevent them from actually running. Incumbent Joseph Kabila came in at nine percent. Kabila is supposed to be term limited, but he has yet to definitively say he’s not running and if he does run he will certainly do anything in his power to rig the vote in his own favor. Some 62 percent of Congolese voters don’t believe that the election will be free and fair.


Zimbabwe’s electoral commission has yet to produce even partial results from Sunday’s election, and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change is alleging a deliberate delay to allow the commission time to rig the count in favor of President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his ruling ZANU-PF party. The entire campaign has been dogged by fears that the electoral commission would ultimately prove itself to be in the bag for ZANU-PF but the commission maintains that it is not. Nonetheless it hasn’t explained the lack of public results, which is unusual for Zimbabwean elections.


South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday that he plans to move ahead on a constitutional amendment to legalize the expropriation of land without compensation. South Africa is still trying to redistribute land away from large white landowners who benefited from apartheid, and critics of Ramaphosa’s African National Congress have accused the party of deliberately stalling that redistribution. Ramaphosa has already said that he believes the constitution allows for uncompensated expropriation but would like the document to be more explicit on the matter.


The BBC reports on efforts along the Syrian-Turkish border to interdict fleeing ISIS fighters attempting to get back to their home countries in Europe:


Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi on Tuesday rejected a Serbian offer to swap predominantly Serbian north Kosovo to Belgrade in exchange for the predominantly Albanian region around the Serbian town of Preševo. Thaçi stressed that he will not partition Kosovo. The Serbian offer was a long shot, but it was a potential way out of the dispute between the two countries that stretches back to the 1998-1999 Kosovo War.


With Greece due to exit its painful financial bailouts in August, the International Monetary Fund says its economy is likely to continue to struggle:

As Greece prepares to end nearly a decade’s worth of international financial bailouts next month, European policymakers have been eager to promote the country’s economic comeback story and the symbolic end of the region’s punishing debt crisis.

But the International Monetary Fund offered a dose of harsh reality on Tuesday. In a sobering report, it warned that Greece will face an uphill battle to tame its staggering debt, sustain economic growth and support the rising number of citizens pushed toward poverty after years of austerity.

Kudos to the IMF for having the guts to criticize the austerity policies Greece was forced into adopting by [checks notes] ah, the IMF. Well, technically it seems the IMF is criticizing Greece for not doing enough austerity to magically solve its austerity-induced problems, but close enough.



Gunmen killed at least nine people on Monday in Colombia’s Norte de Santander province. Several of the country’s rebel and paramilitary groups are active in that region, and Monday’s attack is believed to be related to a conflict between the National Liberation Army (ELN) and one of its splinter groups, the Popular Liberation Army (EPL).

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