China – On the 8 Mar 16 it was announced that China hinted it is planning more global military bases after setting up a logistics centre in Djibouti, a move some analysts view as Beijing's attempt to wield more global influence. Djibouti - strategically located at the southern entrance to the Red Sea en route to the Suez Canal - is already home to US and French bases, while other navies often use its port. On the Horn of Africa, Djibouti has fewer than a million people but is striving to become an international shipping hub. China is building the logistics facility there to support its anti-piracy operations in the waters off Somalia and Yemen. Speaking on the sidelines of China's annual congress meeting on the 8 Mar 16 Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Beijing was fulfilling its international obligations to protect shipping. "We are willing to - in accordance with objective needs, responding to the wishes of host nations, and in regions where China's interests are concentrated - try out the construction of some infrastructure facilities and support abilities," he said. "I believe that this is not only fair and reasonable but also accords with international practice," Wang added, without elaborating. Wang also said China is not looking to supplant the United States. China and the US regularly clash on everything from trade and human rights to Beijing's claims in the disputed South China Sea. Candidates for this year's US presidential election have routinely criticised Beijing. China, the world's second-largest economy, is seeking to expand its capacity to respond to growing threats to its interests abroad. Beijing has been keen not to call it a military base, but state media increasingly uses this language to refer to it.
India/al-Qaeda – Idara As-Sahab Barr-e-Sagheer (As-Sahab Institution for the Subcontinent) – a media group belonging to Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), has launched a new series of reports on its activities, which includes a new Twitter hashtag. In the first week of Mar 16 AQIS-affiliated Twitter accounts began using the new hashtag, which refers to the Al-Hadeed News Report - AQIS's new initiative on social and electronic media. (7 Mar 16 – http://www.memrijttm.org/al-qaeda-in-indian-subcontinent-aqis-launches-al-hadeed-news-report-news-service-using-ams_alhadeed-hashtag-on-twitter.html)
Malaysia – Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Malaysia’s deputy prime minister, said Malaysia had foiled a plot by ISIS to kidnap government leaders, including the country’s prime minister it was announced on the 9 Mar 16. The Strait Times quotes Hamidi to say that jihadists attempted to kidnap him and two other Malaysian officials — including the Prime Minister Najib Razak and the defence minister, Hishammuddin Hussein. He added that Malaysia’s anti-terrorism unit, which stopped the plot, also managed to prevent attempts to create chaos in Kedah, Kuala Lumpur, and Putrajaya. “On Jan. 30, 2015, a total of 13 people with ties to Da’esh [ISIS] had planned to kidnap the leaders, including the prime minister, home minister and defence minister,” Hamidi said. According to the Straits Times, he added that police had foiled four attacks planned by ISIS in Malaysia. In one incident, in September 2014, there was a plan by the group to test improvised explosive devices in the northwest state of Kedah. “They also wanted to destroy the Free Mason Lodge in Bukit Jalil.” He added: “Although there is no proper Da’esh (ISIS) establishment in the country, those who were here were being influenced and have been receiving orders from the network in Syria. “We detected plans to attack several locations in Kedah, Kuala Lumpur, and Putrajaya, attempt to rob of firearms from army camps, making of explosions, robbing cash-in-transit vans as well as plot to kidnap the country’s leaders for ransom.” Last week Prime Minister Razak vowed to fight extremism and terrorism in Southeast Asia, where officials said ISIS has been working to co-opt local terror groups. Speaking at a business conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, he said that the two countries will remain “inseparable partners” against terror groups that have caused havoc in the Middle East and around the world. “We stand shoulder to shoulder with you in this fight,” Najib said, according to the Star Online. “And we will never tire in the battle to defend the true, authentic Islam.”
Turkey – Two women opened fire and threw a grenade at a Turkish police bus as it arrived at a station in an Istanbul suburb on the 3 Mar 16. Television stations said there were no casualties. One of the women threw a grenade and the other opened fire with what appeared to be a machine gun as the riot police bus drove towards the station entrance in the Bayrampasa district of Turkey’s biggest city, the footage showed. Police returned fire, killing both women, NTV news channel said. Special Forces units were sent to the area and residents were evacuated as security forces prepared to carry out an operation, it said. Footage on Turkish television stations showed the street cordoned off as armed plainclothes police in bullet-proof vests emerged from the police station. Attacks on the security forces have increased as violence flares in the country’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, where a ceasefire between Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants and the state collapsed last Jul15.
Turkey – At least 37 people were killed and more than 70 hospitalised with wounds after a car bomb struck the Turkish capital, the second mass-casualty blast to rock Ankara in three weeks. Witnesses said the blast on the 13 Mar 16 set vehicles on fire and heavily damaged several buses. The explosion also sent burning debris showering down over an area a few hundred metres from the justice and interior ministries, a top courthouse, and the former office of the prime minister. As of now there has been no claim of responsibility. But this is a real concern for Turkey. It happened in the capital and this is the third explosion to have happened in Ankara since October. Sunday's attack comes just three weeks after a suicide car bombing in Ankara targeted buses carrying military personnel, killing 29 people. ISIL has carried out at least four bomb attacks on Turkey since June 2015, including a suicide bombing which killed 10 German tourists in central Istanbul in Jan 16.
Turkey/PKK – Turkey has begun security operations against Kurdish rebels in the country's south-east and in Iraq it was reported on the 14 Mar 16. The moves come as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed a crackdown on terror after the terrorist attack on the 13 Mar 16 attack in Ankara that killed at least 36 people. A suspected bomber, who also died in the blast, was a female member of the PKK, sources stated. A curfew was declared in three towns in south-east Turkey, while warplanes struck PKK camps in Iraqi Kurdistan. Eleven warplanes carried out air strikes on 18 targets including ammunition dumps and shelters in the Qandil and Gara sectors, the army said. The PKK [the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party] confirmed the attacks. Curfews have also been imposed in two mainly Kurdish towns in south-eastern Turkey, Yuksekova and Nusaybin, as security operations are carried out against Kurdish militants, Anadolu news agency reports. Another curfew is due to start in the city of Sirnak at 2300 hrs local time (2100 hrs GMT). No group has admitted carrying out the attack in the capital, Ankara, but government sources have cast suspicion on the PKK. Interior Minister Efkan Ala said an investigation would conclude on the 14 Mar and those responsible would be named. Unnamed officials said the female bomber was a member of the PKK from the eastern town of Kars who joined the group in 2013. Kurdish rebels have carried out a series of attacks on Turkish soil in recent months, and security forces have raided Kurdish areas, after a ceasefire ended last year. The so-called Islamic State group has also targeted Ankara recently. Last month, a bomb attack on a military convoy in Ankara killed 28 people and wounded dozens more. That bombing was claimed by a Kurdish militant group, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK). It said on its website that the attack was in retaliation for the policies of President Erdogan. Turkey, however, blamed a Syrian national who was a member of the YPG. Last October, more than 100 people were killed in a double-suicide bombing at a Kurdish peace rally in Ankara.
Pakistan – Two women and a child are women at least 13 people killed in a suicide bombing in northwest Pakistan, described as a "revenge attack" by a splinter group of the Pakistani Taliban on the 7 Mar 16. The bomber blew himself up outside a district court in the Shabqadar market area of Charsadda in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, police said. Police said 26 people were also injured in the explosion, with six in a critical condition. The blast took place about 30km from the region's main city of Peshawar. Inspector Ali Jan Khan, from the Shabqadar police station, said the attacker was attempting to enter the court. "The suicide bomber was interrupted by two security personnel, which prompted him to blow himself up outside the court," he said. A splinter group of the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, saying it was a revenge attack for the recent execution of a former Pakistani commando who shot dead Punjab province's governor in 2011. "The Pakistani courts give decisions against the laws revealed by Allah, and convict and hang innocent people," Ehsanullah Ehsan, TTP spokesman, said in an emailed statement. The assassinated governor Salman Taseer had sought to reform Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws. Charsadda is near the Mohmand tribal district, one of seven regions along the border with Afghanistan, where the Pakistani military has launched a major offensive against fighters from al-Qaeda and the TTP. Charsadda is the first point of entry for any attacker coming out of Mohmand. In Jan 16 Bacha Khan University - also in Charsadda - came under attack by the Pakistani Taliban, which killed 21 students and teachers after gunmen stormed the school.
Philippines – Militants fighting in the name of Da’esh are escalating attacks in the southern Philippines, analysts said on the 3 Mar 16, deepening fears for the volatile region after its main Muslim rebel group failed to seal a peace pact. Gunmen who have pledged allegiance to the extremists controlling vast swathes of Iraq and Syria have instigated a series of deadly battles with the army since the nation's parliament blocked the peace push last month. An assassination attempt this week on a visiting Saudi Arabian preacher who was on a Da’esh hit list has raised the alarm further, although police emphasised they were yet to determine the gunman's motives. "Their influence is growing stronger and it is expanding," Rodolfo Mendoza, a senior analyst at the Manila-based Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research said referring to Da’esh. He said the various local groups that had pledged allegiance to Da’esh were "planning big operations, like bombings, attacks or assassinations". Such violence has plagued large areas of the southern Philippines for decades, as rebels have fought an insurgency that has claimed 120,000 lives. The violence has left the region one of the poorest in the Philippines, while allowing warlords and extortion gangs to flourish.
Philippines/North Korea – The Philippines says it has seized a North Korean ship in line with tightened UN sanctions targeting the country's nuclear programme it was reported on the 5 Mar 16. Deputy presidential spokesman Manolo Quezon said the Philippines "has to do its part to enforce the sanctions". The Jin Teng is one of 31 ships operated by North Korean firm Ocean Maritime Management, which is subject to an asset freeze and sanctions. It is currently docked in Subic Bay and is unloading palm kernels. New UN sanctions were imposed after North Korea's recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests. They include mandatory inspections of all cargo going to or from the DPRK. The Philippines government says it will impound the Jin Teng and eventually deport the crew. Safety issues were reportedly found during an inspection of the vessel by the Philippine coast guard on Friday. A second inspection took place on Saturday, coastguard spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said. He said the crew of 21 had been "very cooperative". Ocean Maritime Management was blacklisted by the UN Security Council in 2014 after one of its ships was seized in July 2013 near the Panama Canal with Cuban weapons hidden under sugar sacks. It was accused last year of renaming and reflagging its vessels to evade asset freezes. The Jin Teng was sailing under a Sierra Leone flag. Pyongyang reacted to Wednesday's sanctions by firing six short-range missiles into the sea. Leader Kim Jong-Un later ordered that the country's nuclear weapons should be "ready for use" at any time.
What exactly is banned?
The export of coal, iron and iron ore used for North Korea's nuclear or ballistic missile programmes.
- All gold, titanium ore, vanadium ore, rare earth minerals and aviation fuel exports.
- Any item (except food and medicine) that could develop North Korea's armed forces.
- Small arms and light weapons are now included in an arms embargo.
- Upmarket watches, watercraft, snowmobiles and other recreational sports equipment added to a ban on luxury goods.
- No vessels or planes can be leased or registered to North Korea.
- Member states must inspect all cargo to and from North Korea, not just those suspected of containing prohibited items.
- An asset freeze on North Korean funds linked to nuclear and missile programmes.
- Foreign financial institutions cannot open new offices in North Korea without approval, and North Korean banks cannot open offices abroad.
Russia – Chemical terrorism is now a reality, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov believes, as extremists from Islamic State and other terrorist groups now possess the technical capabilities to produce ‘proper chemical war agents.’ The threat of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of non-government groups is widely recognized, the Russian Foreign Minister said on the 3 Mar 16. The issue emerged in light of evidence that militants from Islamic State (IS, previously ISIS/ISIL) and other terrorist groups not only repeatedly used “toxic industrial chemicals,” but also “proper chemical warfare agents,” Lavrov said. He added there is a growing threat of similar crimes being committed in Libya and Yemen. There is intelligence about terrorist groups acquiring access to scientific and technical documentation for the production of chemical weapons, and seizing equipment needed for such production, according to Lavrov. This involves foreign specialists in order to master the synthesis of chemical warfare agents. Lavrov mentioned incidents in the town of Marea, 25 kilometers north of Aleppo in northern Syria in August-September 2015. In October, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) released a report saying that mustard gas had been used during fighting between IS and other militant groups in Marea. The gas is known to cause severe delayed burns to the eyes, skin and lungs. “It leaves no room for doubt that chemical terrorism is now turning from an abstract threat to a harsh reality, which can and should be stopped by intensifying serious work at an international level.” Lavrov has suggested developing a separate convention to counter acts of chemical terrorism. According to the minister, the current norms of international law “don’t solve the problem of forbidding the use of chemical weapons by non-governmental organizations.” “To eliminate such problems by adding amendments to the Chemical Weapons Convention is a problem” as it includes “too complex, lengthy and bulky procedures.” “A more realistic, reliable and promising means of tackling this problem is to develop a separate convention for battling the acts of chemical terrorism.”
READ MORE: OPCW finds chemical weapons use during rebels vs ISIS fighting in Syria