India/Maoists – Two women and a 15-year-old girl were killed in an IED (Improvised Explosives Device) blast in Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh on the night of the 18 Jan 17. Four other women also suffered injuries in the explosion allegedly planted by the Maoists near Tumanar village under Narayanpur police station limits of restive Bastar region of the State. “Two women from Tumnar village under Narayanpur police station limits and one minor girl have been killed. Four women from the same village were injured in a pressure IED blast in Narayanpur district. The Maoists had planted the IED to target security forces deployed to facilitate ongoing road construction on that axis,” said Bastar range Inspector General of Police Shiv Ram Prasad Kalluri in a statement. “Let us all unite to condemn these serial killings and senseless violence by the Maoists. Let us warn the Maoists and their frontal organisations, NGOs, over ground sympathizers, legal aid groups, Fact Finding teams and so called human rights activists that Bastar shall no longer tolerate murder and massacre on the pretext of fighting for Adivasis. The Maoists and these organisations are killing Adivasis for extorting terror money from Bastar,” Mr.Kalluri claimed.
Pakistan – Pakistan seems to be increasingly teetering on the verge of a split once again it was reported on the 21 Jan 17. After the Balochistan and Sindh, the Islamic republic is now seeing another armed group being set up in the North West frontier province of the country. The region, vastly inhabited by Pashtuns, has demanded that they be set free from Pakistan so as to set up their own country 'Pashtunistan'. Pakistan has long contested the issue of citizenship of Pashtuns with the neighbouring country of Afghanistan. Pashtuns remain divided between Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, Pakistan has long claimed them in their entirety even contesting the Durand line that divides the two countries. The line, cuts the Pashtun-inhabited areas between the two countries, something that is unacceptable to Pakistan. The province that remains part of Pakistan, however, is woefully developed, without even the very basic of necessitates. A hotbed of extremist activities, the region has been constantly targeted by Pakistani and foreign attacks. Residents, however claim that Pakistan is purposefully using the region to cultivate terrorists and are demanding to be freed from the clutches of the failing state. In a bid to do so, the province has launched the 'Pashtunistan Liberation Army', an armed struggle along the lines of the Balochistan Liberation Front and Sindhudesh Liberation Army. Speaking to the agency ANI, a Pashtun activist requested that global powers, including India, help the liberation of the region. The Pashtun activist, Umar Khattak, further elaborated, "Pakistan has kept hundreds of Pashtun girls in Lahore as sex slaves, kidnapped girls from SWAT & Waziristan. Pakistan Army has bulldozed several of our houses, looted markets and raped women. It's a catastrophe. According to UNHCR about 5 lakh people from the area have fled to Afghanistan to escape atrocities of Pak Army." Adding that Pakistan was not a country, he said, "Pakistan has misled Pashtuns enough, now we won't be fooled. Pakistan wants to use the area for terror camps hence wants to evict us. We are forming a Pashtunistan liberation army; we will launch an armed struggle against Pakistan. This Pashtunistan liberation army will put an end to terror. We appeal to the global community to support us. Pakistan is not a country it’s a project of the western imperialists, destroyed identity of local ethnicities. Pakistan can use nuclear weapons against us. It's a nuclear black market selling such weapons to rogue nations." While India has supported the liberation of Balochistan, it remains to be seen whether it will support the Pashtun cause.
Philippines/Piracy – A surge in piracy to the west of the Philippines is forcing ship owners to divert vessels through other waters, stoking their costs and extending the time it takes to transport goods such as Australian iron ore to key Asian destinations it was reported on the 20 Jan 17. There have been 16 attacks since Mar 16 on ships in the Sulu and Celebes Seas, through which about $40 billion worth of cargo passes each year, according to the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP). That government-backed anti-piracy organisation says over a dozen crew are currently being held hostage by Filipino Abu Sayyaf militants, all from ships sailing through the Sulu and Celebes Seas. "The Sulu/Celebes area is the world's fastest growing piracy hotspot, with violent attacks on commercial vessels and their crews, and an increasingly successful kidnap and ransom business model," said Gerry Northwood, chief operating officer at armed guard company Maritime Asset Security and Training (MAST). The International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur has also warned of the rising threat of armed pirates in these waters, with shipping companies starting to shy away. "Increasing piracy particularly in the Sulu Sea has been a rising concern for us," said Benedikt Brueggermann, chartering manager at shipper Oskar Wehr Asia in Singapore. "We are doing our best to avoid the area both on empty and laden voyages. We'd rather do that than put the ship and crew's lives at risk. It's very sad to see this happening in this region." Shipping data in Thomson Reuters Eikon shows several large vessels carrying iron ore from Australia to northern Asia, which used to take the route through the Sulu Sea, are now sailing east of the Philippines, through the open Pacific Ocean. At least six shipping companies are diverting vessels via this route, according to shipping executives. One is U-Ming Marine Transport, Taiwan's largest dry-cargo ship-owner, which said 10 of its large capesize-class ships have taken this detour since the end of 2016. "All our ships sailing from Australia to China and North Asia are now sailing via east of Philippines - it is a proactive action to prevent pirate attacks," said U-Ming's president, Ong Choo Kiat. Other firms avoiding the Sulu and Celebes seas are Eastern Pacific Shipping, Diana Shipping, and Anglo-Eastern Ship Management. Sailing east to avoid the Sulu Sea adds about half-a-day to a 14-day voyage from Port Hedland, Western Australia's main iron ore export terminal, to northern Asia. Shippers said that while the extra costs of around $300 per day for fuel on each journey were not huge, the added costs would mount up over time - another blow to an industry already grappling with a period of extremely low profit margins.
.Russia/Europe – Russia is seeking to influence the outcome of several key elections in European countries this year with fake news, a special task force set up by the European Union has warned, it was reported on the 24 Jan 17. The EU is reportedly allocating more funds to its East StratCom task force to counter the disinformation, amid fears Russia will target elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands. “There is an enormous, far-reaching, at least partly organized, disinformation campaign against the EU, its politicians and its principles,” a source close to the task force told Germany’s Spiegel magazine. It is “highly likely” Russia will try to influence European elections “as it did in the US”, the source said. The number one target is Angela Merkel, who has been subjected to a “bombardment” of fake news over her refugee policy and support for economic sanctions against Russia. Disinformation is “part of state policy” and a “military tool” for the Kremlin”. A report by US intelligence agencies earlier this month found that Vladimir Putin personally “ordered an influence campaign aimed at the presidential election”. German intelligence warned last year that Russian hackers may seek to influence the country’s elections in Sep 16. But fears are now growing over the effect of fake news, after a completely false story spread claiming that Germany’s oldest church had been burnt down by 1,000 Muslims chanting Allahu Akbar. East StratCom, set up by the EU in 2015 to counter Russian propaganda and disinformation, says it has already found evidence of a massive fake news campaign targeting European countries. The unit’s experts found more than 2,500 examples of “stories directly contradicting public facts” in 18 different languages over just 15 months. The stories were repeated on a daily basis and reproduced in multiple languages. Fake news stories uncovered by the task force range from conspiracy theories over who shot down Flight MH17 over Ukraine to claims the EU is planning to ban snowmen as “racist”. They also include a fake terror video threatening attacks in the Netherlands if the country supported an EU association agreement with Ukraine. “There is no doubt that the pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign is an orchestrated strategy,” the task force, which is part of the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s diplomatic service, says on its website. “The aim of this disinformation campaign is to weaken and destabilise the West, by exploiting existing divisions or creating artificial new ones. “Often, outright lies are deployed, aimed at denigrating a particular person, political group or government. “Another strategy is to spread as many conflicting messages as possible, in order to persuade the audience that there are so many versions of events that it is impossible to find the truth.” The Czech counter intelligence service said in a 2015 report the goal of Kremlin disinformation is to “weaken society's will for resistance or confrontation”. Most Russian disinformation in the EU is spread by "domestic actors" who independently repeat talking points that first appear on Russian state news outlets because it suits them ideologically, said Jakub Janda, a deputy director of the European Values think tank in Prague, which monitors suspected Russian disinformation efforts and works closely with the EU task force. He singled out Milos Zeman, the Eurosceptic president of the Czech Republic, as an example of a high-ranking European politician who “copy pastes Russian messaging and helps Russian foreign policy by repeating its talking points on Syria and Ukraine”. The EEAS is reportedly reallocating funds to East StratCom to counter the threat from within its existing budget, after member states rejected a proposal to boost its funding by €800,000 (£689,000) last year. A spokesman for the EEAS said the funding was part of a “general reorganisation of the budget”.
The five types of fake news:
Stories classified as fake news can generally be put into five categories, as experts try to develop a way of warning readers what they may be encountering.
1. Intentionally deceptive
These are news stories created entirely to deceive readers. The 2016 US election was rife with examples claiming that “x celebrity has endorsed Donald Trump”, when that was not the case.
2. Jokes taken at face value
Humour sites such as the Onion or Daily Mash present fake news stories in order to satirise the media. Issues can arise when readers see the story out of context and share it with others.
3. Large-scale hoaxes
Deceptions that are then reported in good faith by reputable news sources. A recent example would be the story that the founder of Corona beer made everyone in his home village a millionaire in his will.
4. Slanted reporting of real facts
Selectively-chosen but truthful elements of a story put together to serve an agenda. One of the most prevalent examples of this is the PR-driven science or nutrition story, such as 'x thing you thought was unhealthy is actually good for you'.
5. Stories where the ‘truth’ is contentious
On issues where ideologies or opinions clash - for example, territorial conflicts - there is sometimes no established baseline for truth. Reporters may be unconsciously partisan, or perceived as such.
Turkey/Night Club Attack/Follow-on Report – The suspected gunman behind the new year’s eve Istanbul club attack, Abdulkadir Masharipov, was arrested in Iran before heading to Turkey, Turkish daily Milliyet said in its 17 Jan 17 edition. The newspaper added that Masharipov was then able to escape Iran and enter Turkey through the borders at Agri. Turkish and Iranian media did not report on why he was arrested in Iran or how he escaped from custody or where he was being detained. He confessed that he had cooperated with ISIS and had received military training in Afghanistan. Some Turkish media outlets only reported that Masharipov sneaked through the eastern borders into Turkey and stayed in Konya with his wife and children and then headed to Istanbul on the 16 Dec 16. Masharipov, who was arrested in Istanbul on the night of the 16 Jan 17 admitted to carrying out the attack that left 39 people dead. He said he is an Uzbek national and confessed that he had cooperated with ISIS and had received military training in Afghanistan. He is believed to speak several languages, including Arabic, Russian, Persian, Chinese and Uzbek, according to Turkish media reports.
Turkey – An assailant opened fire on a police car on the 20 Jan 17 in Istanbul, just hours after two other attacks against the police and Turkey's ruling party offices, media reports said. The series of assaults, which authorities suggested were the work of ultra-leftists, come as the nation is reeling from an unprecedented series of attacks and bombings. The shooter opened fire on officers in a car in the Esenyurt district of Istanbul, the Dogan news agency said. The assailant left a hand grenade before running away when officers shot back. No injuries were reported. The attack came in the same area where the gunman blamed for the New Year shooting on an elite nightclub in Istanbul was arrested. Saturday's gunfire came less than 12 hours after two rocket attacks in the city on a police headquarters and the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party's Istanbul offices late on the 20 Jan 17. No one was killed or injured in any of the three attacks, local media said. Images in Turkish media showed an unexploded rocket which had become stuck in a framed text of the Turkish national anthem inside the AKP offices. No group claimed responsibility for the attacks but authorities suggested the outlawed ultra-leftist Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) could be to blame. Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said there was speculation that a "leftist terror group" was the culprit but said it was not clear which one, referring to the DHKP-C and another. In recent years, there have been sporadic attacks by radicals from the DHKP-C, which seeks a Marxist revolution in Turkey and espouses a fiercely anti-Western agenda. The attacks happened as the Turkish parliament in Ankara was voting on a draft bill to expand President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's powers, which was approved in the early hours of the 21 Jan 17. EU Affairs Minister Omer Celik said on Twitter such attacks target people and security services, but they also target "politics and tr(y) to influence decision making mechanisms". After multiple bombings in 2016 blamed on jihadists and Kurdish militants, the New Year began with the bloody attack on Istanbul's Reina club which killed 39 people.
It was later claimed by the Islamic State group.
Ukraine/Iran – Ukraine has announced that it has seized an airplane destined for Iran loaded with arms at Kiev’s Zhulyany Airport. The plane was reported on the 29 Jan 17 carrying Russian-made anti-tank guided missiles. The Russian agency Interfax confirmed that the weapons were discovered by Ukraine’s border police in Kiev’s airport following a search of 17 containers that were not registered in the flight’s cargo manifesto. A spokesman said that three containers were found to be storing the missiles, which are light weight, infrared guided anti-tank missiles, while the remaining storage boxes contained airplane spare parts. During an investigation, the airliner’s crew members, whose origin of either Iranian or Ukrainian has yet to be confirmed, denied knowledge of the weapons shipment. The shipment was later confiscated by Ukrainian authorities for violating international law governing the transport of goods and weapons. Most UN sanctions on Iran were lifted a year ago under a deal Iran made with Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, the United States and the European Union to curb its nuclear program. But Iran is still subject to an arms embargo and other restrictions, which are not technically part of the nuclear agreement.