The world at a glance ...
Raids target ISIS: German police swept through apartments and mosques in early-morning raids in 60 cities this week, seizing documents and computers from an Islamist missionary group that they said has been recruiting for ISIS. The ultraconservative group, True Religion, is highly visible in Germany, operating dozens of mosques and giving out free translated Qurans on busy city streets. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said the group would be banned for inciting hate, and that the seized documents would be used as evidence for the ban. He said at least 140 True Religion adherents had left Germany to fight in Syria.
Tortured priest: A Catholic priest abducted last week in the Mexican state of Veracruz has been found alive, but with signs of torture. The diocese said that Father José Luis Sánchez Ruiz had been targeted because he fought corruption in the crimeand drug-plagued state. “He had received threats in recent days because he is a defender of human rights,” said Father Aaron Reyes, a spokesman for the diocese. “He criticized the system of corruption.” Sánchez Ruiz was the fourth priest kidnapped in the past two months; the other three were murdered. Mexico is the most dangerous country in the world to be a priest—at least 15 have been murdered there since 2012.
Warning from Obama: Speaking in Greece on his final foreign trip, President Obama warned against a “crude sort of nationalism” that is on the rise in many countries around the world, including his own. In the U.S., he said, “we know what happens when we start dividing ourselves along the lines of race or religion or ethnicity. It is dangerous.” Obama was in Athens to talk with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras about the country’s lingering debt crisis, and warned that the austerity policies forced on Greece and other debt-addled nations by Europe in return for bailout cash would only fuel the rise of nationalism. Some 7,000 leftists protested Obama’s visit, which came just two days before the anniversary of Greece’s violent 1973 student revolt against a U.S.-backed military junta. Anarchists threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at police during the demonstration, and officers responded with tear gas. Six people were arrested.
Peace deal 2.0: Colombia’s government and the leftist rebel group FARC have agreed on a revised peace deal, six weeks after the original accord was narrowly rejected in a popular referendum. The new pact limits the number of seats in Congress for former rebels, and it requires FARC to give up all assets earned through drug trafficking— two changes that critics of the first deal had demanded. The new agreement will probably be submitted to Congress, rather than a popular vote, for approval. But passage is uncertain, because the agreement still does not demand jail time for rebels accused of human rights violations, and the leader of the opposition, former President Álvaro Uribe, says the new proposals don’t go far enough. Some 260,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced in the 52-year conflict between FARC and the government.
Investigating president’s death: The remains of the late Polish President Lech Kaczynski have been exhumed as part of a new investigation into the plane crash that killed him in Smolensk, Russia, in 2010. All 96 people aboard the Polish military transport plane died, and at the time many Poles suspected foul play. The presidential delegation, which included high-ranking politicians, Kaczynski’s wife, and military officers, had been on its way to honor the 22,000 Polish officers murdered by the Soviet secret police in Katyn Forest at the start of World War II. Over the next two months, Kaczynski’s remains and those of 82 other victims will be tested for evidence of explosives. “There will not be a free Poland, a truly free Poland, without the truth,” said Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the late president’s twin brother, who now leads Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party.
Friend to Trump: Mauricio Macri, the business tycoon turned Argentine president, has congratulated his old golfing buddy Donald Trump on his election victory and hopes to use their friendship to better U.S.-Argentine ties. Macri spoke by telephone this week with the U.S. president-elect and was invited to visit the White House. “The personal bond they had for many years was reconfirmed and re-established,” said Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, who arranged the call. Macri’s father, Francisco Macri, sold Trump his stake in a Manhattan real estate project in 1985. During the negotiations, according to the elder Macri’s memoir, the younger Macri beat Trump at golf, and Trump smashed his clubs in frustration after the game. Macri, whose election ended 12 years of leftist rule in Argentina, is seeking foreign investment to help lift his country out of recession.
Minister purged: Russia’s minister of economic development was arrested on bribery charges in a late-night raid this week—a Soviet tactic against disfavored officials that many thought had been consigned to history. Aleksei Ulyukayev, 60, is the highest-ranking official arrested since President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000. Some Russian analysts say the arrest was an act of revenge by Kremlin insiders for Ulyukayev’s initial opposition to a deal that let state oil giant Rosneft buy a chunk of a smaller oil company that the government had confiscated from an oligarch. Authorities said Ulyukayev received $2 million from Rosneft as a thank-you for ultimately approving the deal. The purpose of the arrest “was to eliminate resistance,” said opposition politician Vladimir Milov. “The message is ‘Don’t stand in my way.’”
Refugees headed to U.S.: Australia has struck a deal with the U.S. to resettle some of the 1,300 mostly Muslim refugees stuck in desperate conditions in camps on the impoverished Pacific island of Nauru. Since 2013, Australia has refused to accept any asylum seeker who arrived by boat, instead paying Nauru and Papua New Guinea to house them in poorly maintained camps, where detainees say they have been abused by guards. Two refugees set themselves on fire in protest at their treatment on Nauru; several sewed their lips shut. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he did not mention the deal with the Obama administration when he spoke last week with President-elect Donald Trump, who has called for a ban on Muslim immigration.
ISIS excited by Trump: An ISIS commander in Afghanistan has called President-elect Donald Trump a “complete maniac” and said his election will help the group radicalize Muslims around the world. “His utter hate toward Muslims will make our job much easier, because we can recruit thousands,” Abu Omar Khorasani told Reuters. “Our leaders were closely following the U.S. election, but it was unexpected that the Americans would dig their own graves—and they did so.” Khorasani described President Obama as a moderate infidel who seemed smart in comparison with Trump.
Currency mayhem: Indians resorted to barter this week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi abruptly banned the two mostused banknotes, the 500- and 1,000-rupee bills, in a bid to force tax evaders to deposit their hidden piles of cash in banks. The two bills, worth about $7.50 and $15, respectively, account for more than 80 percent of all cash circulating, and the surprise ban sent the country into chaos. Lines snaked for hours outside of banks and post offices, where people could change their old bills for new, 2,000-rupee ones, and at least five people died of exhaustion in line. Those who managed to make the swap, though, said they can’t use the new, larger-denomination bills, because merchants haven’t got enough change.
U.S. targets al Qaida: President Obama has shifted the U.S.’s counter-terrorism strategy in Syria, and ordered the Pentagon to target the leaders of an al Qaida affiliate there. That group, formerly known as the Al Nusra Front and now as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, has been in the vanguard of the fight against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and the U.S. has left it alone and focused on battling ISIS. But the Obama administration now fears that the group’s success could give al Qaida a new base close to Europe. Meanwhile, Russian and Syrian forces resumed their pounding of civilian areas of besieged Aleppo, dropping barrel bombs on a children’s hospital, a blood bank, and targets near schools. “Me and my staff and all the patients are sitting in one room in the basement right now,” said the children’s hospital director. “Pray for us, please.”
Kaikoura, New Zealand
Powerful earthquake: New Zealand mounted a large rescue operation to evacuate hundreds of residents and tourists stranded after an earthquake cut off access to the coastal town of Kaikoura. The magnitude-7.8 quake, which was followed by hundreds of aftershocks, killed at least two people, caused massive landslides, and cleaved rifts in roads across the country. Ships were diverted from celebrations of the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary to bring aid to ravaged coastal areas, and helicopters ferried people to safety. Several buildings were damaged in the capital, Wellington, including the headquarters of New Zealand’s military. Scientists from New Zealand’s Geonet quake-monitoring service called the temblor “one of the most complex earthquakes ever recorded on land.”