In the news
ISIS continues to wreak havoc in the Middle East as the Tripoli Province of Islamic State, a Libyan group that pledged allegiance to ISIS last year, released a video showing the mass execution of twenty one Egyptian Coptic Christians. The attack was the first outside ISIS-controlled territory in Iraq and Syria. Egypt quickly responded by bombing Islamic targets in Libya and calling on the U.S. and Europe to join an international coalition to combat ISIS in Libya. In a sign of growing strain between the two longtime allies, the U.S. refused to back Egypt’s military operation against Libya. Italy, on the other hand, given its strong historical ties with Libya, has stated that it would be integrally involved in any peacekeeping operation in Libya. This map is a useful overview of the current Libyan situation.
Meanwhile in Iraq, reports from the western town of Al-Baghdadi indicate that forty five people were burned to death by ISIS militants. In Syria, the U.S has decided to give moderate rebels the support of U.S. airstrikes, striking a deal with Turkey to train and arm the rebels in their fight against ISIS. On the cyber front, the group of hackers Anonymous have started a campaign against ISIS by attempting to dismantle their vast social media operation.
Initial hopes that the ceasefire between Ukraine and Russia would hold were short-lived. Indeed, the fighting continued unabated around the town of Debaltseve, notably along the hotly contested road that provided the Ukrainian troops stuck in the town with their only supply route. As the violence escalated at the beginning of last week, Ukrainian troops were forced to withdraw in one of their worst defeats since the beginning of the conflict. Although European leaders accused Russia of breaching the cease-fire, the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted Russia’s resolution for the implementation of the peace agreement. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s call for the deployment of UN peacekeepers to monitor the ceasefire was met by claims by Russian separatists that this would constitute a violation of the truce.
Following the suicide bombing of a teenage girl that killed sixteen people, the Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, has reportedly asked President Obama to send in combat troops to fight Boko Haram, a request he claims to have been making since 2014. The US denies that such a request has been made, and seems to want to leave the task of battling Boko Haram to the Nigerian government. While Boko Haram’s leader has released a video vowing to disrupt the upcoming Nigerian presidential elections at any cost, his fighters have been losing ground to the Chadian troops who reclaimed a town that had been surrounded for months by the militant group.
In the rest of the world, two Taliban suicide bombings killed an estimated twenty eight people in Afghanistan, while reports that the Taliban would meet for peace talks with U.S. officials were denied by the White House. Europe was rocked by new terror attacks in Copenhagen, Denmark – the worst terrorist attack the country has experienced in decades. There is no evidence that this attack was related to ISIS. Finally, the insurgents that toppled Yemen’s government are threatening to take over a key oil producing province, triggering fears that this could lead the country to an all-out civil war.
Around the web
Cyberspying. Russian researchers have published detailed information on the development by a group – almost certainly the NSA – of new technological implant tools which would allow its users to permanently survey and sabotage targeted cyber-networks such as those of Iran, Russian and others. Commentators highlight the serious computer security problems that this type of targeted surveillance brings to light.
New Chapter VII resolution on financing terrorism. The U.N. Security Council has unanimously passed Resolution 2199 to respond to terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq. Its significance is demonstrated by the specific targeting of oil supplies, the prohibition on trade in cultural artifacts, the banning on the payment of ransom and finally and by the fact that it was drafted by Russia.
Impractical weapons of war. A history of the most impractical weapons of war exemplifies how ingenious ideas are not always the most practical ones. These days, however, impracticality comes from ridiculous weapon accessories.
On the blog
Caught in the Crossfire. A reminder that on March 5th, the American Red Cross and the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies will host an expert presentation and panel on ensuring the existence of a safe space for education during conflict. RSVP on the blog to attend in person or watch the event live-streamed in HD at bit.do/caughtinthecrossfire.