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February 17, 2017

Daily News Brief

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TOP OF THE AGENDA

Pakistan Cracks Down After Islamic State Attack

Editor’s note: There will be no Daily Brief on Monday, February 20, for Presidents’ Day.

Pakistani authorities said they have killed at least thirty-nine suspected militants and arrested forty-seven others as the death toll from a suicide attack on a Sufi shrine in southern Sindh province rose. Eighty-eight people (Guardian) were killed and another 343 wounded (AP). The self-proclaimed Islamic State (Al Jazeera) said it was behind the attack, which was the deadliest in Pakistan in recent years. In response, Pakistan closed border crossings with Afghanistan and asked the country to turn over seventy-six suspected militants (Express Tribune) it says are hiding there. Pakistan has been shaken by multiple attacks this week, despite two years in which the country has seen an improvement in security (Dawn).

ANALYSIS

"When an attack takes place in Pakistan, officials generally point the finger at Afghanistan. Pakistanis blame elements in the Afghan intelligence agency and India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) for supporting militants who carry out attacks against Pakistan. Afghan officials view this as hypocrisy, accusing Pakistan of discriminating between 'good' and 'bad' militants. They accuse Pakistan of allowing on its soil militant groups that attack Afghanistan and India," Dawood Azami writes for the BBC.

"The bombing at Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine followed three successive days of violence that claimed 25 lives in all four provinces of Pakistan and two tribal areas. On Monday, a suicide blast in the eastern city of Lahore killed 13 people and injured scores. An affiliate of the Islamic State, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, said in an email to journalists that the bombing was the start of an operation targeting government agencies and sites," Pamela Constable and Nisar Mehdi write for the Washington Post.

"Thursday’s bombing was the worst single attack since the Pakistani Taliban massacred about 150 students at an army school in the northern city of Peshawar in December 2014, prompting a military campaign against some domestic insurgent groups. Since then, Pakistan has seen renewed foreign investment as fears over safety have eased. Since 2014, fatalities in Pakistan from violence have dropped 66 percent to 2,610 last year, according to the Islamabad-based Center For Research and Security Studies," Kamran Haider and Faseeh Mangi write for Bloomberg.

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PACIFIC RIM

Samsung Heir Arrested in South Korea

Samsung Electronics vice chairman Lee Jae-yong was jailed on charges of bribery (Korea Times) stemming from an ongoing investigation into influence-peddling involving President Park Geun-hye, who was impeached in December. Samsung has denied wrongdoing (BBC).

CHINA: China will add a synthetic opioid to a list of controlled substances following pressure from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, which has linked the narcotic to seven hundred deaths (WSJ) in Florida, Michigan, and Ohio. The United States says carfentanil, whose legal version is used to sedate large animals, often originates in Chinese laboratories.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Little Progress at Syria Talks in Astana

Syrian government and opposition representatives again refused to talk one on one (RFE/RL) at a second peace conference in the Kazakh capital, while Iran, Russia, and Turkey vowed to bolster a shaky cease-fire. UN talks are slated to resume on February 23 in Geneva.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Car Bomb in Iraqi Market Kills Fifty-Two

A bombing at a used-car market south of Baghdad killed at least fifty-two people, making it the deadliest attack (Guardian) so far this year and the third such attack in the Iraqi capital in three days. The self-proclaimed Islamic State took responsibility (WaPo) for the bombing.

MIDDLE EAST: U.S. embassies in the region received a directive to suspend travel for refugees awaiting resettlement (WSJ) in the United States after March 3, saying the number of people resettled is already close to President Trump's annual cap of fifty thousand, officials said. The previous administration allowed for the admission of 110,000 a year.

This CFR Backgrounder explains how U.S. refugee admissions work.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

South Sudanese Troops Accused of Mass Rape

Forty-seven men were detained (Sudan Tribune) following reports of mass rape of women and girls by South Sudanese soldiers in villages near the capital of Juba last week. President Salva Kiir recently issued a warning that soldiers who rape (VOA) will be shot.

CFR's Katherine Almquist Knopf argues that an international transitional administration is needed to end South Sudan’s civil war.

ANGOLA: Vice President Manuel Vicente has been charged in Portugal with corruption and money laundering (Africa News) in a case dating back to when he led the state oil company. Vicente is also accused of bribing a Portuguese judge (AP).

EUROPE

Hundreds of Migrants Force Way Into Spanish Enclave

Hundreds of migrants broke through a barbed-wire fence between Morocco and Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta (AP), Spain’s Civil Guard said. Migrants who make it across are often taken to mainland Spain and either repatriated or released, choosing to request asylum or work informally.

SWEDEN: A former Syrian rebel living in Sweden as an asylum seeker has been given a life sentence (NYT) for taking part in the killing of seven captured government soldiers in 2012. Haisam Omar Sakhanh has also been investigated for attacking Syrians living in Italy.

AMERICAS

Countries to Cooperate on Brazil Graft Investigations

Prosecutors from Brazil, Chile, Panama, Venezuela, and seven other countries agreed in a meeting organized by Brazil's attorney general to collaborate in ongoing investigations of corruption surrounding the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht (LAHT).

CFR's Matthew Taylor discusses the costs of corruption after Odebrecht was hit with a record fine.

ECUADOR: Voters on Sunday will choose a successor to Rafael Correa (WSJ), who has been in office since 2007. Former Vice President Lenin Moreno, who served under Correa, is expected to lead, but not by the margin needed to avoid an April runoff.

CFR's Shannon K. O'Neil writes about Latin America's populist hangover in Foreign Affairs.