A convicted terrorist out on parole stabbed and wounded two people in a South London suburb this week before being shot dead by police. Authorities said that Sudesh Amman, 20, was under police surveillance when he stole a knife from a shop in Streatham and began stabbing passersby. Undercover officers opened fire and killed Amman, who was wearing a phony suicide vest, less than a minute into his spree. One stabbing victim has life-threatening injuries; another was treated and discharged from the hospital. Amman was imprisoned for distributing terrorist documents in December 2018 but was freed automatically halfway through his sentence less than two weeks ago. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to change the law to prevent other terrorists getting early release.
Cartel royalty weds
The daughter of convicted Sinaloa cartel kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán wed the nephew of another top crime figure this week in a lavish cathedral ceremony. Alejandrina Gisselle Guzmán Salazar, 33, arrived in a white armored limousine to marry Édgar Cázares, the nephew of alleged Sinaloa money launderer Blanca Margarita Cázares, aka the Empress. Alejandrina’s brother Ovidio, who was briefly detained last October by Mexican soldiers before the cartel freed him in a massive show of strength, was in attendance. Culiacán’s cathedral was protected by gunmen during the ceremony. Some Mexican commentators have accused the Catholic Church in Mexico of helping cartels launder money through the collection plate.
Butterfly activists killed
Two defenders of a Mexican forest where monarch butterflies spend the winter have been found murdered in recent weeks, and activists fear that powerful logging interests may be to blame. Homero Gómez González, manager of the El Rosario butterfly sanctuary, went missing in mid-January; his body was found in a well last week. An autopsy showed he’d suffered head trauma and drowning. Gómez had long lobbied for an end to logging, saying that butterfly tourism would be more lucrative for the community and more environmentally sound. Just days after the first grim discovery, the body of sanctuary guide Raúl Hernández Romero was found; he had an apparent knife wound to the head.
Streets of rage
Chile was engulfed by violent protests again last week after a soccer fan was run over and killed by a police truck during a postgame riot in Santiago. Footage of the death of Jorge Mora, 37, went viral and prompted attacks on police stations across the country. At least four people died in the violence, including one man who succumbed to carbon monoxide poisoning when a supermarket was torched in the capital. Chile was paralyzed late last year by weeks of protests over the soaring cost of living. The government has agreed to implement reforms, but that process will take more than a year. “Violence will persist for a long time,” said analyst Mauricio Morales. “The security scenario is so precarious that any event can trigger new waves of violence.”
In a rare formal condemnation of the U.S., the European Union this week criticized the Trump administration’s decision to scrap restrictions on the American military’s use of anti-personnel land mines. Unlike all of its NATO partners, the U.S. never signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. The Obama administration did limit the use of mines to the Korean Peninsula in 2014, but the Trump administration reversed that ban last week, saying it wanted “to give our military the flexibility and capability it needs to win.” The EU said the order “undermines the global norm against anti-personnel mines,” which “has saved tens of thousands of people in the past 20 years.” Land mines can kill civilians decades after they were laid; nearly 7,000 people were killed or injured by mines in 2018.
Another Russian dissident dead
A Chechen blogger was found dead in a French hotel this week, apparently stabbed in the neck, the latest Russian dissident to die in a wave of assassinations. Based in Belgium, Imran Aliev, 44, was known for YouTube videos in which he insulted the ruthless leader of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, as well as people from the neighboring Russian republics of Ingushetiya and Dagestan. Acquaintances of Aliev said he was recently visited by a Chechen man who asked for help with a health issue, and the two traveled to Lille, where Aliev was killed. Russian dissidents often end up dead abroad. Last year, a former Chechen rebel commander was fatally shot in a Berlin park by an alleged Russian hitman. Mikhail Lesin, President Vladimir Putin’s former media czar, was found battered to death in a Washington, D.C., hotel room in 2015.
Don’t sanctify nukes
The Russian Orthodox Church wants its priests to quit blessing nuclear bombs. Priests in Russia have long splashed holy water on arms, but in recent years critics have argued that it is inappropriate to sanctify weapons of mass destruction that kill indiscriminately. A church commission was set up to look into the practice, and it recommended this week that clerics stop blessing nukes and instead focus on seeking divine protection for soldiers. Under President Vladimir Putin, the church has become an important arm of the state and has a close relationship with the military. The armed forces are currently building their own cathedral in a military park outside Moscow; it will be one of the tallest Russian Orthodox churches in the world.
First lady charged with murder
After initially fleeing to South Africa, Lesotho’s first lady has turned herself in to face charges that she murdered her predecessor. Maesiah Thabane, 42, is suspected in the 2017 slaying of Lipolelo Thabane, 80. Lipolelo was undergoing an acrimonious divorce from Thomas Thabane, 80, when she was shot dead outside her home just two days before her husband’s inauguration as prime minister. Maesiah married the widower two months later, and her reign as first lady has been fraught with accusations of money laundering and political interference. Thomas Thabane was questioned in connection with the killing last month, after police said communication records showed that someone at the murder scene called his cellphone on the day of the crime. The prime minister has said he will resign.
Influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called on his followers to withdraw from anti-government protests, after he struck a deal with an Iran-backed faction to approve a new prime minister. Protesters have blocked roads in Baghdad since October, demanding the removal of Iraq’s corrupt ruling elite. Officials hope the appointment of Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, the new premier, will cool that anger. But many demonstrators consider Allawi, a former communications minister, a member of the elite. Government forces and Iran-backed militias have been trying to discourage Iraqis from taking to the streets by kidnapping and torturing protesters. “They beat me up until I started throwing up blood, and electrocuted me,” said activist Evan al-Jaf, 19.
Cruise ship quarantined
A cruise ship carrying 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew members has been placed under a two-week quarantine in Yokohama harbor after a Hong Kong man who disembarked from the vessel tested positive for the new coronavirus. Passengers aboard the Diamond Princess have been confined to their rooms, and hundreds of people who may have had contact with the sick man are being screened for the respiratory illness. At least 10 people have tested positive so far, including one American. Meals are being delivered by staff wearing masks and goggles. Princess Cruises has waived Wi-Fi fees, so passengers are streaming movies and uploading videos to Facebook. “What my bar bill is going to be, goodness only knows,” said British passenger David Abel.
Turkey vs. Syria
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the Syrian regime to halt its advance into the last rebel-held province in Syria this week, after eight Turkish troops were killed by Syrian shelling and retaliatory Turkish airstrikes killed at least 13 Syrian soldiers. Turkey has long supported the Syrian rebels, and under a 2018 deal struck with Russia—a major backer of the Syrian regime—was allowed to set up 12 observation posts in Idlib province. Those outposts were hit by Syrian artillery fire during an offensive, prompting Erdogan to order airstrikes on dozens of regime targets. The U.S. supported Turkey’s response, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling Syria’s killing of Turkish troops a “grave escalation.” Some 3 million civilians live in Idlib, and the Syrian offensive has driven nearly 400,000 from their homes in the past two months.
Al Qaida claims U.S. attack
Wadi Ubaidah, Yemen
The Yemeni branch of al Qaida has claimed responsibility for the December shooting at a military base in Florida that killed three sailors and wounded eight people. Qassim al-Rimi, the leader of al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), said in an audio recording released this week that he ordered Saudi military officer Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani to carry out the attack at Naval Air Station Pensacola. AQAP produced correspondence showing it had been in contact with Alshamrani, who was shot dead during his rampage. Al-Rimi is believed to have been killed in a U.S. drone strike in eastern Yemen just days before the recording was released. The audio suggests that “AQAP has infiltrated the Saudi military,” said former CIA officer Bruce Riedel. ■