The world at a glance . . . International
Train bombing: A bomb blast aboard a crowded passenger train left at least 26 people dead last week, and Russian authorities are now blaming Islamist separatists. The explosion blew the last three cars of the Nevsky Express, a high-speed luxury train that connects Moscow to St. Petersburg, off the tracks. “People were tossed around the carriage like rags,” said survivor Natalya Tarasova. “Suitcases were jumping from the racks like frogs and falling on people.” The next day, as police were picking through the rubble, a second bomb was detonated by remote control, injuring the chief investigator. That “double blast” tactic is frequently used by Islamist separatists in Chechnya and other parts of the Caucasus region of southern Russia.
Mayor charged with massacre: A powerful mayor and ally of the Philippine president has been charged with leading the slaughter of 57 people in a shocking political massacre last week. Andal Ampatuan Jr., the heir to the most prominent family in Maguindanao, was accused in the murders of relatives and supporters of politician Esmael Mangudadatu. The victims were traveling in a convoy when they were attacked by gunmen and then dumped in a mass grave. Many of the bodies were mutilated. Ampatuan’s clan has long been part of the political party of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, though the party expelled the family this week. Ampatuan’s father—who is governor of the province—and his brothers are also under investigation in the killings.
Stern words from Obama: President Obama has warned Pakistan that it must stop harboring terrorist groups such as al Qaida and Lashkar-e-Taiba if it wants to remain a U.S. ally. In a confidential letter to President Asif Ali Zardari, which was obtained by The Washington Post, Obama offered Pakistan an expanded strategic partnership, including more military and economic aid. But he also said Pakistan must stop using insurgent groups to pursue its own policy goals. And his advisors reportedly told Pakistani officials that if Pakistan didn’t crack down on insurgent groups based on the Afghan border, the U.S. would. “We have to create a situation in which they see a much more positive interest in closer relations with us than they do in trying to play us,” said one unnamed U.S. official.
Down with the U.S.: Hezbollah, the Lebanese political party and terrorist group, issued a new manifesto this week blaming the U.S. for all terrorism in the world. In a speech outlining the first new party platform since 1985, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah labeled American policies “the root of all terrorism” and called for a “global front” against the U.S. and Israel. That rhetoric is fairly standard for Hezbollah. But in a departure from past practice, Nasrallah said Hezbollah would no longer seek to establish an Islamic state in Lebanon, a country with a large Christian community. “The whole world changed over the past 24 years,” he said. “Lebanon changed.”
Off the coast of Somalia
Pirate attacks soar: Somali pirates have hijacked an oil tanker that was carrying $20 million in crude from Saudi Arabia to the United States. The attack is the latest in a renewed wave of piracy by former fishermen who station mother ships far offshore, deploying rubber dinghies to the shipping lanes. In the past two months, 38 ships have been attacked and 10 hijacked. “They have definitely increased their capacity and their ability to stay out at sea for longer,” said Cyrus Mody of the International Maritime Bureau. A large international naval presence has not stopped them. “It’s 2.5 million square miles we’re dealing with,” said U.S. Navy spokesman Lt. Matt Allen. “It’s a very large area.”
Shift on AIDS: In a dramatic break with his predecessor’s policies, South African President Jacob Zuma said this week his country would treat all HIV-positive babies with AIDS drugs. “Let there be no more shame, no more blame, no more discrimination, and no more stigma,” Zuma said in a speech on World AIDS Day. “Let the politicization and endless debates about HIV and AIDS stop.” South Africa’s previous president, Thabo Mbeki, denied that AIDS was caused by HIV and actively discouraged the use of antiretroviral drugs, recommending garlic and other herbal remedies instead. More than 10 percent of South Africa’s population is infected with HIV, the highest rate in the world.