Geopolitics

Latest On Ukraine, Beirut Blast, Weiwei's Vase

Kiev on Feb. 18
Kiev on Feb. 18
Worldcrunch

LATEST ON UKRAINE

  • After a night of intense fighting in central Kiev, at least 25 people are reported dead, including nine policemen and a journalist, Interfax quotes the Ukrainian Health Ministry as saying. According to the official figures, 351 people were also injured with 241 hospitalized.

  • In a televised address, President Viktor Yanukovych blamed the deaths on opposition leaders who “called people to arms,” denouncing the role played by radical group Right Sector and the Svoboda Party in the escalation of violence.

  • The European Union announced its 28 foreign ministers will hold an extraordinary meeting tomorrow to discuss possible sanctions on Ukraine for the police use of violence, AP reports. In the past, Brussels and Washington have repeatedly threatened the Ukrainian government with such measures.

  • Observers are fearing the recent escalation could mark the beginning of a civil war in Ukraine. According to RT, radical protesters in Kiev are reinforcing their barricades and were reported as saying, “This is not a rally. This is an organized military confrontation.”

BEIRUT HIT BY DEADLY BLAST
At least six people have died and over 100 were left injured after twin explosions hit South Beirut, near the Kuwaiti embassy and the Iranian Cultural Chancellery, Al Arabiya reports. The southern part of the Lebanese capital, a Hezbollah stronghold, has been the target of many attacks over the last few months. The Abdullah Assam Brigades, an al-Qaeda-linked group that pledged last week to attack Hezbollah and Iranian interests, has claimed responsibility for the attack via Twitter, according to L’Orient Le Jour.

PROTESTS CONTINUE IN VENEZUELA AFTER OPPOSITION ARREST
Leopoldo López, an opposition leader in Venezuela against whom a warrant had been issued following last week’s violent clashes in Caracas, handed himself in to the police during yesterday’s demonstration, Reuters reports. López is due to appear in court today, according to El Universal.

FOTO

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, famous for his thought-provoking and often controversial art, has reacted to the protest smashing of one of his vases by a Miami artist.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
From Die Welt, the story of a Somali restaurateur who left the sweet life in the UK to return to his war-ravaged homeland, where he has survived multiple attacks on his restaurant:Why, his wife asked him, would he want to exchange all that for life in war-torn, bombed-out Somalia? Islamic groups — and in recent years mainly al-Shabaab — have been fighting the central government since 1991 trying to establish a religious state. Jama says he reflected for a long time before answering his wife, then said: “When I die, I want to leave something behind. Something that people will remember when they think of me.” Read the full story here.

JP MORGAN EMPLOYEE JUMPS TO HIS DEATH AT HONG KONG HQ
A 33-year-old investment banker at JP Morgan in Hong Kong is said to have jumped to his death at the bank’s headquarters yesterday, South China Morning Post reports. This is the latest in a series of mysterious deaths among bankers over the last few weeks, and more particularly at JP Morgan. In late January, a senior manager at the bank’s headquarters in London was found dead after he fell from the roof of the building, while earlier this month, Ryan Crane, an 37-year-old executive director, was found dead at his home in Connecticut. In an investigative piece, website Wall Street On Parade suggests that the bank might actually profit from the deaths.

KILLERS OF FORMER INDIAN PM TO BE RELEASED
All seven people serving prison for the murder of former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991 are to be released, the government in the Tamil Nadu state has decided. The announcement comes one day after the country’s Supreme Court lifted the death sentence to which three of the convicted had been condemned. Read more from Times of India.

BY THE NUMBERS
As of Monday night, 22 Olympic athletes had wiped out in Sochi’s Extreme Park, which is particularly brutal on women skiers, most of whom have never faced such difficult conditions.

GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD


CRIME INT’L

Thousands of euros were discovered by employees at a German garbage plant, and for the moment police are describing it as a lost property case.

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Paying tribute to the victims of the attack in Kongsberg

Terje Bendiksby/NTB Scanpix/ZUMA
Carl-Johan Karlsson

The bow-and-arrow murder of five people in the small Norwegian city of Kongsberg this week was particularly chilling for the primitive choice of weapon. And police are now saying the attack Wednesday night is likely to be labeled an act of terrorism.

Still, even though the suspect is a Danish-born convert to Islam, police are still determining the motive. Espen Andersen Bråthen, a 37-year-old Danish national, is previously known to the police, both for reports of radicalization, as well as erratic behavior unrelated to religion.

Indeed, it remains unclear whether religious beliefs were behind the killings. In an interview with Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, police attorney Ann Iren Svane Mathiassens said Bråthen has already confessed to the crimes, giving a detailed account of the events during a three-hour interrogation on Thursday, but motives are yet to be determined.

Investigated as terrorism 

Regardless, the murders are likely to be labeled an act of terror – mainly as the victims appear to have been randomly chosen, and were killed both in public places and inside their homes.

Mathiassens also said Bråthen will undergo a comprehensive forensic psychiatric examination, which is also a central aspect of the ongoing investigation, according to a police press conference on Friday afternoon. Bråthen will be held in custody for at least four weeks, two of which will be in isolation, and will according to a police spokesperson be moved to a psychiatric unit as soon as possible.

Witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.

Police received reports last year concerning potential radicalization. In 2017, Bråthen published two videos on Youtube, one in English and one in Norwegian, announcing that he's now a Muslim and describing himself as a "messenger." The year prior, he made several visits to the city's only mosque, where he said he'd received a message from above that he wished to share with the world.

Previous criminal history 

In 2012, he was convicted of aggravated theft and drug offenses, and in May last year, a restraining order was issued after Bråthen entered his parents house with a revolver, threatening to kill his father.

The mosque's chairman Oussama Tlili remembers Bråthen's first visit well, as it's rare to meet Scandinavian converts. Still, he didn't believe there was any danger and saw no reason to notify the police. Tlili's impression was rather that the man was unwell mentally, and needed help.

According to a former neighbor, Bråthen often acted erratically. During the two years she lived in the house next to him — only 50 meters from the grocery store where the attacks began — the man several times barked at her like a dog, threw trash in the streets to then pick it up, and spouted racist comments to her friend. Several other witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.

The man used a bow and arrow to carry the attack

Haykon Mosvold Larsen/NTB Scanpix/ZUMA

Police criticized

Norway, with one of the world's lowest crime rates, is still shaken from the attack — and also questioning what allowed the killer to hunt down and kill even after police were on the scene.

The first reports came around 6 p.m. on Wednesday that a man armed with bow and arrow was shooting inside a grocery store. Only minutes after, the police spotted the suspect; he fired several times against the patrol and then disappeared while reinforcements arrived.

The attack has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms

In the more than 30 minutes that followed before the arrest, four women and one man were killed by arrows and two other weapons — though police have yet to disclose the other arms, daily Aftenposten reports. The sleepy city's 27,000 inhabitants are left wondering how the man managed to evade a full 22 police patrols, and why reports of his radicalization weren't taken more seriously.

With five people killed and three more injured, Wednesday's killing spree is the worst attack in Norway since far-right extremist Anders Breivik massacred 77 people on the island of Utøya a decade ago.

Unarmed cops

As questions mount over the police response to the attack, with reports suggesting all five people died after law enforcement made first contact with the suspect, local police have said it's willing to submit the information needed to the Bureau of Investigation to start a probe into their conduct. Police confirmed they had fired warning shots in connection to the arrest which, under Norwegian law, often already provides a basis for an assessment.

Wednesday's bloodbath has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms — the small country being one of only 19 globally where law enforcement officers are typically unarmed, though may have access to guns and rifles in certain circumstances.

Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert and professor at the Swedish Defence University, noted that police in similar neighboring countries like Sweden and Denmark carry firearms. "I struggle to understand why Norwegian police are not armed all the time," Ranstorp told Norwegian daily VG. "The lesson from Utøya is that the police must react quickly and directly respond to a perpetrator during a life-threatening incident."

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