Korea/North – A senior North Korean military officer who oversaw spying operations has defected, say South Korean officials on the 11 Apr 16. The officer has not been named, but the defence ministry in Seoul said he was a senior colonel in the Reconnaissance General Bureau and left last year. South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted a source as saying the colonel was seen as elite by other defectors. More than 28,000 people have fled North Korea since the end of the Korean War, but high level defections are rare. During the reporting period, 13 North Koreans who had been working in one of the North's restaurants abroad defected as a group. Yonhap said a number of senior political figures had defected while working overseas recently. It quoted government officials as saying this was a sign the leadership of Kim Jong-un was cracking. Defence Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun said the South could not release further information on the colonel. One unnamed official told Yonhap the man was the highest-level military official ever to have defected. "He is believed to have stated details about the bureau's operations against South Korea to the authorities here," said the official. The Reconnaissance General Bureau handles intelligence gathering and spying operations, as well as cyber warfare, said Yonhap. The BBC's Stephen Evans in Seoul said such a figure would likely have valuable information about the workings of Kim Jong-un's government. For most North Koreans it is almost impossible. The borders are heavily guarded and few people have to resources to fund an escape. Those who do make it out usually cross the river borders into China. They either lay low to avoid being sent back by China to face severe punishment, or try to reach a third country. There are many cases of diplomats, athletes, musicians and others defecting and claiming asylum while representing North Korea in other countries. Some border guards have simply walked away from their posts. Relatives they leave behind are almost certain to face persecution or jail. Numbers are not widely available but dozens of senior level officials are thought to have defected in the past few years. The most high-profile defection to date was Hwang Jang-yop, a politician who was considered the architect of North Korea's policy of "juche", or self-reliance. He claimed asylum at the South Korean embassy in Beijing while on a work visit in 1977. He died in 2010. About 29,000 people have defected in total since the 1950s, though numbers have fallen in recent years. Any North Korean who makes it to the South enters into a rehabilitation programme and is given an aid package to help them start a new life. Despite this, many find it hard to adjust. High-level defectors are questioned closely for valuable information, and to ensure they are not acting as double agents. South Korea denies North's Korea's accusations that is enticing people to defect.
Philippines – At least 18 soldiers were killed and more than 50 others injured on the 9 Apr 16 in fierce fighting with the armed group Abu Sayyaf and allied fighters on a southern island in the Philippines. It was the largest single-day combat loss by government forces this year in the restive south, where the military has long battled Muslim separatist rebels and Communist fighters. Three military officials said the heavy daylong fighting took place on Mindanao island of Basilan. Local media reports said about 100 Abu Sayyaf fighters clashed with troops and four soldiers had been decapitated. The evacuation of wounded soldiers was continuing late on the 9 Apr 16. In 2015, more than 30 police commandos were killed by Muslim rebels during a government raid on mainland Mindanao. Some Muslim rebel groups in the area have reportedly allied themselves with Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) followers. Abu Sayyaf is known to maintain a base in Basilan, as well as the neighbouring Sulu archipelago, where a former priest from Italy was released on the 8 Apr 16 after millions of pesos in ransom was reportedly paid. Abu Sayyaf was founded in 1991 in Basilan, about 880km south of the capital, Manila. The United States and the Philippines have separately blacklisted Abu Sayyaf as a "terrorist" organisation for deadly bombings, extortion, kidnappings for ransom, and beheadings of locals and foreigners, including Christian missionaries in the south. More than a decade of US-backed Philippine offensives have weakened the armed group, but it remains a key security threat.
Russia – Three suicide bombers carried out explosions in a village in Russia's Stravropol region, close to the North Caucasus, police said on the 11 Apr 16. The three suicide bombers were killed by the blasts and no one else was hurt, according to RIA news agency. "At least two explosions went off outside the entrance to a district police station in the village of Novoselitskoye in the Stavropol region," a police spokesman said. Russia's state news agency (TASS) said there were no casualties aside from the attackers. "Two militants who attempted to attack the Novoselitsky police station were liquidated today," Tass reported. "There have been no casualties [among civilians and police]." The city is located in the northern tip of Russia's North Caucasus Mountains, where authorities have struggled with home grown armed groups for decades.
Turkey – The United States and Israel on the 9 Apr 16 warned their citizens of a high-level, imminent threat of attacks in Turkey - urging them to immediately leave the country. Turkey has been rocked by four suicide bombings already this year, the most recent last month in Istanbul. Two of those have been blamed on Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), while Kurdish fighters have claimed responsibility for the other two. The US embassy emailed what it called an "emergency message" to Americans, warning of "credible threats" to tourist areas in Istanbul and the resort city of Antalya. Israel announced "immediate risks". "The US Mission in Turkey would like to inform US citizens that there are credible threats to tourist areas, in particular to public squares and docks in Istanbul and Antalya," it said. Later on the 9 Apr 16, three people were slightly wounded after a small bomb left on the side of a road exploded in Istanbul's central Mecidiyekoy district, Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reported. The blast came from a non-lethal stun grenade, designed to create a loud noise and blinding flash. Earlier on the 9 Apr, two news agency reporters in central Istanbul saw an extremely heavy police presence with roads sealed off. Armed special police units were deployed outside foreign consulates, including the German and Italian missions.
Turkey/PKK – Turkish police have smashed a cell of Kurdish militants in a usually tranquil region between Istanbul and Ankara who had hoarded explosives, guns and suicide vests, the Dogan news agency reported the 10 Apr 16. Police in the Bolu province east of Istanbul, said they had detained seven members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as part of an investigation into plans for a suicide attack. The arrests come three days after Bolu police killed two suspected PKK members in an unusual raid in the province which is about half-way between Turkey's biggest city Istanbul and the capital Ankara, and far from the Kurdish-dominated southeast. Police uncovered two pistols, four homemade explosive devices, two Kalashnikovs, C4 plastic explosives and two suicide vests, the Dogan news agency reported. The haul comes with Turkey on a knife's edge after four militant attacks that have killed 79 people this year alone in Istanbul and Ankara. The two bombings in Ankara were claimed by a group calling itself the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), a radical splinter group of the PKK which has which has fought a decades-long insurrection against the Turkish state. Those in Istanbul have been blamed on the Islamic State group. Since the collapse of a two-year ceasefire with the PKK last year, Turkish government forces have been waging a blistering military campaign against the group in the southeast of the country.
Turkey – Four soldiers were killed and two wounded when a bomb hit a military vehicle travelling in the south-eastern Turkish province of Mardin on the 15 Apr 16 security sources said. The vehicle was on patrol between the villages of Yazdir and Taslikli in Mardin’s Savur district when a handmade explosive was detonated. The two injured soldiers were being treated in hospital, they said. In another attack in Sirnak, east of Mardin, one police officer died and seven security force members were injured by a bomb during the search of a house by security forces. Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast has been hit by waves of violence in clashes between government security forces and members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) after a ceasefire fell apart last year. On the 15 Apr 16 authorities lifted a curfew imposed to fight Kurdish militants in an area of southeast Turkey’s largest city, Diyarbakir. The one-day curfew in Silwan district was lifted from 1630 hrs. The government has ruled out any return to the negotiating table and has said it will crush the PKK, which is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey and its Western allies. The bombing of security force vehicles and installations is common in the southeast.