Bossangoa, Central African Republic
‘Verge of genocide’: France announced this week that it is sending 1,000 troops to its former colony Central African Republic, warning that violence against Christians by the Muslim minority that recently took power could become genocide. The so-called Seleka militants, who propelled President Michel Djotodia to power in a March coup, have been accused of massacring civilians and burning entire villages. One tenth of the country’s population have fled their homes. “The tension here is palpable,” said Frédéric Tonfio, the priest in charge of a Catholic mission sheltering refugees. “People are absolutely terrified.”
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Squashing dissent: Egypt’s coup-installed government this week banned protests that haven’t been precleared by police. University students immediately challenged the new law by staging a demonstration in Cairo, but police spraying tear gas and firing water cannons quickly dispersed them. The government says the law is needed to restore security because Muslim Brotherhood supporters have been clashing with police almost daily since Mohammed Morsi was ousted as president in July, and hundreds of people have been killed. But activists say the law is harsher than restrictions under deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak. “They don’t want anyone in the streets anymore,” said Rasha Azab, a political activist. “Not us, not the Islamists.”
Deal imperiled: Afghan President Hamid Karzai is threatening this week to kill the historic security pact that his government reached with the U.S. last week. The deal, which took months to negotiate, sets conditions for a limited number of U.S. troops to remain in the country for training and counterterrorism operations after all combat troops are withdrawn next year. An Afghan council of elders approved it, but Karzai refuses to sign it until the U.S. meets a whole slew of new conditions—including opening peace talks with the Taliban, releasing all Afghan prisoners in Guantánamo, and banning raids of Afghan homes. “President Karzai just doesn’t want to own the agreement,” said Kate Clark of the Kabul-based Afghanistan Analysts Network.
Honor killing: In a case that has shocked middle-class India, a professional couple has been sentenced to life in prison for the 2008 murder of their 14-year-old daughter and their male housekeeper. So-called honor killings, in which girls suspected of sexual impropriety are killed by family members, are a feature of conservative rural areas, but Rajesh and Nupur Talwar are both dentists from a posh Delhi suburb. The case against them was circumstantial, and the Talwars, who say they were demonized by sensationalist media coverage, are appealing the verdict.
Government under pressure: Protesters massed in the Thai capital this week to push for an end to the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Tens of thousands of demonstrators put key government buildings under blockade, with some of them occupying the finance ministry. The protesters say Yingluck is just a puppet for her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and convicted of corruption. Rallies began last month after Yingluck proposed an amnesty bill that would let Thaksin return to Thailand without facing jail time. The government has since dropped the bill, but the protests have snowballed, and Yingluck this week faced a no-confidence vote in parliament.
Claiming the islands: China took a belligerent step this week in the dispute over the East China Sea by declaring a new air defense zone that includes Japan’s uninhabited Senkaku Islands-—just as the U.S. and Japan launched joint military exercises. The U.S. immediately challenged the Chinese by flying two B-52s over the islands and sending a carrier battle group to the area, accompanied by Japanese warships. The Chinese claim 1 million square miles of ocean far from the Chinese shoreline and much closer to Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. “This is a very dumb, very risky move by China,” said Brad Glosserman of the Hawaii-based Pacific Forum Center for Strategic and International Studies. “If the People’s Liberation Army tries to interfere [with the U.S.-Japan exercise], there will be real problems.”
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