The week at a glance...International
Bangui, Central African Republic Looting follows coup: Thousands of rebel fighters, many of them children, entered the Central African Republic capital this week, easily overpowering a small South African force that was there to defend President François Bozizé. The president, who took over in a 2003 coup, fled to Cameroon. Rebel leader Michel Djotodia proclaimed himself president and asked international troops to help him restore order as looters, some of them his troops, pillaged the capital. Djotodia, whose forces have been fighting in the troubled country for years, said Bozizé had reneged on an earlier peace deal that promised jobs to his fighters.
Cairo Secular activists arrested: Egyptian authorities rounded up prominent anti-Islamist activists after clashes at the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo. The conflict occurred when an anti-government demonstration, the latest in a series of protests against President Mohammed Mursi, turned violent. The government said five top activists had incited the violence on social media, although their posts were explicitly anti-violence. Those arrested included Alaa Abd El-Fattah, a blogger who chronicled the 2011 uprising that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak, and Ahmed Douma, a blogger who was tortured under the Mubarak regime. Opposition leaders said the arrests showed that Mursi was becoming an autocrat. “We feel this is a total reversal for democracy and we expect the worst,” said Khaled Dawoud, a spokesman for the opposition National Salvation Front.
Mayadeen, Syria Opposition in disarray: Syria’s opposition fragmented this week when the political and military wings failed to agree on a leader. In a vote boycotted by many moderates, the political faction appointed as prime minister Ghassan Hitto, an information-technology exec who lived in the U.S. for 30 years before joining the opposition last year. He is said to be backed by the Muslim Brotherhood. Opposition leader Mouaz al-Khatib promptly quit his post, citing a lack of international support and an Islamist effort to hijack the Syrian revolution, and military leader Salim Idris refused to recognize Hitto’s authority. Another top military leader, Riad al-Asaad, lost a leg when a bomb went off in his car.
Kabul Kerry woos Karzai: Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise visit to Afghanistan this week to rein in President Hamid Karzai. The Afghan leader had recently accused the U.S. of colluding with the Taliban, but after meeting with Kerry, an old friend who has frequently served as President Obama’s intermediary with Afghan authorities, Karzai said his remarks had been “misinterpreted.” Kerry said he and Karzai were “on the same page” as the U.S. handed over control of the Bagram detention center to Afghan troops. Bagram, also known as Parwan, is an important symbol as the site of alleged torture of Afghan prisoners by U.S. forces.
Karachi, Pakistan Musharraf returns: Braving the risk of arrest or assassination, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf returned to his country this week after more than four years in self-imposed exile. He said he wanted to play a role in the May elections: “I came back, putting my life in danger, to save Pakistan.” The former general took over in a 1999 coup and ruled until 2008, when he was forced to resign after a popular uprising. There’s an arrest warrant outstanding against him for allegedly facilitating the 2007 assassination of his rival Benazir Bhutto, and the Pakistani Taliban have threatened to kill him.