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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
September 23, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Kenya's Mall Standoff Continues

Thomas Mukoya/Courtesy Reuters  

Thomas Mukoya/Courtesy Reuters

Terrorists from Somalia's al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab stormed an upscale mall in Nairobi this weekend, killing nearly seventy people and taking an unknown number of hostages in what appears to be their final standoff with Kenyan military forces (AP). Al-Shabaab has been routed in Somalia after Kenyan forces entered the troubled country, but the group's cross-border attack demonstrated a resiliency that alarmed Washington (NYT). The deadly attack on the high-end shopping mall has raised new questions on safety at malls around the world, and changes to security procedures are being considered (Reuters).


"Time has come for ensuring that our intelligence gathering systems factor in the Kenyan realities of corruption, tribalism, and the manual nature of our criminals. In other words, our security systems must be designed to anticipate and address the ailments that haunt our national way of doing things," John Walubengo writes in the Daily Nation.

"Since 2011, Kenyan forces allied with Uganda and a handful of other African countries have fought to re-establish Somalia as a bona fide country, ruled by a functioning central government providing a modicum of social services and security to its people. To a surprising degree it has succeeded. It has driven Al Shabab's warlords out of the capital and major cities," Michael Meyer writes in the New York Times.

"[A]s the Westgate atrocity suggests, the radicalization of al-Shabaab under its new hardline leadership may make the final push towards normalization in Somalia the toughest challenge of all. The terrorists are divided and losing ground. But they seem determined to go down fighting," Simon Tisdall writes in the Guardian.


InfoGuide: China's Maritime Disputes

We are delighted to announce the launch of a new interactive series called "InfoGuides." The first guide examines the escalating maritime disputes in the South China and East China Seas, pairing expert analysis with maps, timelines, infographics, and videos. Take a look.


Bo Xilai Sentenced to Life in Prison

Former Communist Party Politburo member Bo Xilai was found guilty of corruption, embezzlement, and abuse of power, and was sentenced to life in prison (WaPo). Bo was a rising star in the party, but his influence unraveled after his wife was connected to the murder of a British businessman.

This Backgrounder explains the history and challenges of China's Communist Party.

CHINA: At least twenty-five people were killed in Guangdong province after typhoon Usagi made landfall (Xinhua). The typhoon damaged 7,100 homes and caused at least $500 million in economic losses.



Suicide Attack on Pakistani Church Kills Dozens

At least eighty-one people were killed on Sunday when two suicide bombers detonated their explosives in a crowded church in Peshawar (Guardian). The Jundullah wing of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility and threatened further attacks on non-Muslims in Pakistan.

SRI LANKA: The Tamil National Alliance in Sri Lanka swept all five districts in the first semi-autonomous council elections in the island's north after decades of ethnic conflict (AFP).



UN Talks to Focus on Iran, Syria

High-stakes talks on Iran's nuclear program and Syria's chemical weapons are expected this week at the annual UN General Assembly meeting, where overtures by Iran's newly elected president Hassan Rouhani will be tested by U.S. diplomats (FT).

IRAQ: Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region voted this weekend in its first election since 2009 (RFE/RL). Turnout was strong at 73.9 percent, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party is expected to win the most seats in the new parliament.



Sudan's Bashir Plans Trip to U.S. for UN Meeting

Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir, who faces two arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, is seeking a visa to the United States so he can attend the annual UN General Assembly meeting this week (SudanTribune).



Merkel Wins Big in German Election

Chancellor Angela Merkel and her conservative party boosted their share of the German vote by 7.7 percentage points to 41.5 percent in the country's weekend elections, a result that analysts said has rewarded Merkel's stewardship of the euro crisis (Spiegel).

This CFR Issue Guide explains the major issues at stake in Germany's election.

GREECE: Merkel's victory elicited a worried response in Greece, where the German chancellor is blamed for forcing austerity measures on the troubled country (BBC).



Obama Calls for Action on Gun Violence

President Barack Obama attended a memorial for the victims of last week's mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, saying that "tears are not enough" and change is necessary to reduce "gun violence that unleashes so much mayhem on a regular basis" (LATimes).

ARGENTINA: Consumers in Argentina are increasingly pessimistic about rising prices and expect inflation to exceed 30 percent over the next year, according to a university study (MercoPress).



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