Pakistan shrine attacked in suicide bombing
On Thursday, Feb. 16, a suicide bomber attacked a shine in the Pakistani town of Sehwan. The Sufi shrine was full at the time, and the attack killed approximately 80 people and injured about 250 others. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) later claimed responsibility for the attack, which is one of a series of other bombings in the country this year. Since last week, the Pakistani government has closed its borders with Afghanistan and launched rockets into nearby Afghani provinces. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to track down the perpetrators of this most recent attack, and Army Chief General Qamar Javed Majwa has said they will operate with “no more restraint for anyone.” The Pakistani army has said that a list of 76 “most wanted terrorists” was handed over by the Afghan Embassy. Since then, Pakistani lead raids have killed roughly 100 alleged ISIS militants. Many others have been arrested, although those numbers and further details are not expected until later this week.
Pence reassures NATO
Over the weekend, Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Brussels to discuss the United States’ commitment to NATO and the European Union. Pence met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenber, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and President of the European Council Donald Tusk. During the meetings, Pence made clear that the U.S. was quickly losing patience with members of NATO that were not meeting quotas that dictate two percent of their nation’s GDP be used on defense. He said that “America will do our part, but Europe’s defence requires Europe’s commitment, as well as ours.” President Donald Trump criticized NATO heavily during his campaign for the same reason, and even went so far as to call the organization “obsolete.” However, Pence took care to reassure European leaders that the United States remains committed to its supportive role in NATO and the EU. Mr. Tusk quoted Pence outside of their meeting, relaying that America still supports “a united Europe.”
Trump attempts to explain Sweden comments
In a rally in Florida on Friday, Feb. 17, President Donald Trump made comments about the dangers of open door immigration policies by citing a terrorist attack that never happened. Trump pointedly instructed attendees to “look what’s happening last night in Sweden… [Sweden] took in large numbers, they’re having problems like they never thought possible…” However, there were no reports of an attack in Sweden, and Sweden’s government asked President Trump to explain his remarks. Trump has since shared that he got his information from watching Fox News. The network did run a Friday night special on refugees, gun violence and rape in Sweden. Sweden has taken in about 200,000 refugees and migrants since 2015, but there has not been a terrorist attack recorded by the government since 2013. There has been a marginal increase in the country’s crime rate since 2016, and there has been a 13 percent rise in the number of reported rapes, but the total number is still lower than it was in 2014 before the massive influx in immigration.
Day Without Immigrants
Thursday, Feb. 16 was the “Day Without Immigrants” protest, observed all around the United States. The protest involved people born outside of the U.S. walking out of work and school for the day. Businesses stayed closed when workers did not show up, and some schools even saw student-organized walkouts. The Davis Museum at Wellesley College removed or covered artwork created or donated by immigrants. Since last week’s protest, however, over 100 workers who participated have been laid off from work. Those predominantly affected are shop, construction and restaurant workers. One man in Colorado, who manages a masonry company, is quoted explaining his decision to fire 30 of his workers: “They were warned ‘if you do this you’re hurting the company, and if you go against the team, you’re not a member of the team.’” The exact number of those affected remains unclear, as several U.S. news sources are attempting to count the reported layoffs.
Mosul offensive continues
Last month, as the result of prolonged fighting, Iraqi forces reclaimed the eastern portion of Mosul from ISIS fighters. Sunday saw the Iraqi offensive push forward again in an effort to reclaim what remains of the city. As of Monday afternoon, the army entered the village of Abu Saif. It is close enough to Mosul to overlook the city and is near the airport. This village, which is currently being subjected to air strikes, has long been considered an ISIS stronghold and acts as a protective buffer of the southern section of west Mosul. The Iraqi military has, by this point, all but surrounded the ISIS-controlled parts of west Mosul, but improvised explosives have made their progress slower than it was during the retake of the eastern part of the city. Furthermore, there is concern that the winding streets of this area will make infiltration more slow and costly than the previous offense. Last week, the United Nations expressed concern about the 650,000 civilians trapped in Mosul. In an attempt to warn civilians of the possibility of an attack, the army distributed leaflets throughout the city via an air drop.
Kim Jong-nam assassinated
Last week, Kim Jong-nam, the older brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jongun, was assassinated in an airport in Kuala Lumpur. Security footage shows one woman approaching Kim to speak, while another woman runs up to him, covering his face in a cloth. The rag was likely soaked in a toxin intended to poison him. Kim Jong-nam claimed his eyes were burning to airport staff before being taken to a private room. Although Malaysia and North Korea have had somewhat amicable ties for several years, Kim’s death has uncovered diplomatic strain. This is due in part to Malaysia’s refusal to return Kim’s body to North Korea without performing an autopsy. Kang Chol, North Korea’s ambassador to Kuala Lumpur, said “there is no clear evidence on the cause of the death and at the moment we cannot trust the investigation by the Malaysian police even though it’s results have yet to be obtained… it only increases the doubt that there is someone else’s hand behind the investigation.”