The world at a glance ...
Terrorist suspect killed: A French Muslim man known to security agencies attacked a soldier on patrol at Orly airport this week, putting a pistol to her head and shouting “I am here to die for Allah!” After Ziyed Ben Belgacem wrested the soldier’s assault rifle from her, two other soldiers shot him dead. Earlier that day, Belgacem, 39, had shot at a police officer after being stopped for speeding and had stolen a car at gunpoint to escape. Authorities said Belgacem had been radicalized while in prison for robbery, and his house was among scores searched in November 2015 after terrorists killed 130 people at Paris’ Bataclan music venue and around the city. Police are investigating whether Belgacem’s attack was linked to any terrorist group.
Explosive mail: Someone is sending parcel bombs to Greece’s creditors. Last week, rudimentary explosives were mailed to the German finance minister in Berlin and to the Paris offices of the International Monetary Fund; one mail room worker was slightly injured. This week, Greek authorities intercepted at least eight more explosive packages before they left the country. Various names were listed on the bombs as senders, including two former Greek finance ministers who took part in international bailout negotiations and two lawmakers who support stringent economic reform—implying that the real sender was angry over the harsh tax hikes and benefit cuts that the IMF and EU forced Greece to impose in exchange for a multibillion-dollar bailout. An anarchist group called Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire claimed responsibility for one bomb, but police are still investigating.
Americans behaving badly: A Mexican news site has denounced American college kids on spring break for chanting “Build that wall!” while partying in Cancún. Mexican tourists, some of them honeymooners, asked the youngsters to stop the chant, which they took as a reference to President Trump’s proposed wall on the U.S.- Mexican border, but the Americans refused. TheYucatanTimes.com said the chant was just one of many “acts of xenophobia and discrimination against Mexicans within their own country” by young Americans this year. It said there was a “growing number of complaints from tourism sector workers” that “spring breakers have been offensive, rude, and haughty toward Mexican people.”
Christian dissident jailed: A Cuban dissident was sentenced this week to three years in prison for assault, charges that Amnesty International says are fabricated. Eduardo Cardet, a physician who heads the Christian Liberation Movement, was arrested in late November a day after returning from the U.S., where he had criticized the legacy of former Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Witnesses said government agents pushed Cardet off his bicycle and then detained him, accusing him of assaulting one of them. “The way [the government] manipulated the case is absolutely shameless,” said Cardet’s wife, Yaimaris Vecino. The founder of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Payá Sardinas, died in a single-car wreck in 2012; dissidents have accused the government of foul play.
Statesman dies: IRA terrorist turned peacemaker Martin McGuinness, 66, died this week of a rare geneti c disease. In his younger years, McGuinness was a commander in the Irish Republican Army, which terrorized the U.K. for decades, killing 1,800 people. Later he became chief negotiator for Sinn Fein, the IRA’s political arm, during the peace process that led to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and a Northern Irish government in which Catholic nationalists and Protestant unionists shared power. He memorably called dissident IRA members who continued to bomb “traitors to the island of Ireland.” For the last decade of his life he served as Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister.
Rotten meat: A new corruption scandal—this one a threat to public health—is roiling Brazil. Investigators said last week that at least 21 meat companies had bribed government inspectors to approve sales and exports of expired meat and poultry, some of it spoiled. China and the European Union quickly banned imports of Brazilian meat. Eager to protect one of his nation’s biggest industries, President Michel Temer said this week that all bad meat had been recalled, and he invited a group of foreign diplomats to dinner at Brasilía’s Steak Bull restaurant to showcase the safety of Brazilian beef. Employees there, though, say they actually served the diplomats Australian beef, which they’ve been buying since the scandal broke. Brazil accounts for 20 percent of global beef exports and almost 40 percent of chicken exports.
Attack at Parliament: At least three people were killed this week when a suspected terrorist launched a deadly attack outside the Houses of Parl iament. Witnesses reported that the bloodshed began when a car rammed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing at least two people and injuring 20 more— including several French children on a school trip in the British capital. The car drove on and crashed into a fence outside Parliament; witnesses said a knife-wielding man emerged from the vehicle and fatally stabbed a policeman before being shot dead by armed officers. The attack came shortly after Prime Minister Theresa May’s weekly question time, when she and all top lawmakers were in Parliament. May was evacuated and the building locked down.
Famine spreads: More than 20 million people across four African and Middle Eastern countries are facing starvation in what the United Nations is calling the worst humanitarian crisis to hit the planet since World War II. “Without collective and coordinated global efforts, people will simply starve to death,” said U.N. humanitarian coordinator Stephen O’Brien. “Many more will suffer and die from disease.” In Somalia, hunger is already claiming lives, while Yemen, South Sudan, and Nigeria are on the verge of famine. This will be Somalia’s third famine in 25 years of civil war and anarchy. The U.N. said it needs at least $4.4 billion by July to prevent “a catastrophe.”
Manafort worked for Putin ally: President Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Associated Press said in an explosive report this week. In the mid-2000s, Manafort signed a $10 million–a-year contract to work as a consultant for Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate and close Putin ally. In a strategy document for Deripaska obtained by the AP, Manafort said he would influence politics, business deals, and news coverage in the U.S. and in former Soviet republics to “greatly benefit the Putin government.” The document appears to contradict claims by the Trump administration and Manafort that he never worked for Russian interests. Manafort said he worked only for Deripaska, not Russia, and that he was the victim of a “smear campaign.”
Suspicious accident: A lawyer representing the family of a dead Russian whistleblower fell from the fourth story of a Moscow apartment building this week—a day before he was due to appear in court for a key hearing. Nikolai Gorokhov, 53, had been working to launch a probe into the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a lawyer who died in prison in 2009 after alleging massive tax fraud by Russian officials. Gorokhov is now in the hospital with a severe head injury. U.S.-born hedge fund boss Bill Browder, the man Magnitsky was working for when he uncovered the fraud, tweeted that Gorokhov had been thrown from the building; Russian media reported that he fell while trying to hoist a bathtub to his apartment. Gorokhov had been scheduled to appear in front of the Moscow City Appeals Court to push for a new hearing into Magnitsky’s death.
Hindu nationalism: Hindu hard-liner Yogi Adityanath, a priest who once urged his followers to kill Muslims, was named governor of India’s most populous state this week and immediately began imposing Hindu nationalist policies. Police in Uttar Pradesh closed slaughterhouses suspected of killing cows, which are sacred animals to Hindus, and set up “anti-Romeo squads” to arrest young men loitering near girls’ schools. The appointment came as a shock to many political pundits in India who thought that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had moderated his own Hindu nationalist beliefs since taking office in 2014. “Keep watching. A lot of things are g oing to shut down,” Adityanath said. “Uttar Pradesh will be Prime Minister Modi’s Land of Dreams.”
Israel vs. Syria: Israel threatened to destroy Syrian air defense this week, after Syria launched an anti-aircraft missile at Israeli jets that were bombing Hezbollah militants. The Syrian missile was intercepted by Israel’s missile defense system. “The next time the Syrians use their air defense systems against our airplanes,” said Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, “we will destroy all of them.” Israel said it had been targeting weapons that were being transported from Syria to Lebanon by Hezbollah—the Iran-backed, Lebanon-based militant group that has been fighting in Syria on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad. Russia, an Assad ally, summoned Israel’s ambassador in Moscow to explain the strike.