Twin Bombings in Russia Cast Cloud Over Olympics
Two suicide bomb attacks on consecutive days rocked the southern Russian city of Volgograd, a key railroad hub some 400 miles (640 km) northeast of Sochi, where the Winter Olympics start in early February. The first blast hit the central train station on Dec. 29, killing at least 17. The following day, at least 14 died when a bomb ripped through a trolleybus.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but attention immediately turned to the restive Russian republics in the nearby Caucasus, where an Islamist insurgency has blown hot and cold for over a decade. In July, Doku Umarov, a shadowy Chechen militant leader, called on Muslims to target the Olympics, describing the winter sporting events set for the Black Sea resort as “Satanic dancing on the bones of our ancestors.”
Terrorists from the Caucasus–a region where many complain of heavy-handed rule from Moscow–have struck before, including a 2010 suicide attack on the Russian capital’s subway system. Well aware of the threat, Russia has put into place a heavy security cordon around Sochi.
But other cities are clearly more vulnerable. The bombings in Volgograd–formerly Stalingrad, the site of a devastating, epic World War II battle–provide a grim prologue to Sochi. Russia’s leaders and Olympic organizers must hope the narrative will turn happier in the weeks to come.
‘It seems that I have been totally abandoned and forgotten.’
Warren Weinstein, 72-year-old American contractor, calling in a video message for the U.S. government to negotiate his release with his kidnappers, who are believed to be al-Qaeda militants. Weinstein was abducted from his apartment in Lahore in 2011, and the White House has thus far been unable to free him.
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New York City
How Japan Upset The Neighborhood
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine–which honors some 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including war criminals convicted for their imperial rampage across Asia during World War II–has drawn criticism from other countries.
A history museum on Yasukuni’s grounds downplays Japan’s brutal wartime conduct, describing the Nanking massacre–in which hundreds of thousands died–as an “incident.” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi labeled Abe’s shrine tour a step in a “very dangerous direction” and warned that “China will not tolerate [it].”
The colonized Korean Peninsula suffered under imperial Japan. Yasukuni “glorifies Japan’s history of militaristic aggression and colonial rule,” said Yoo Jin-ryong, South Korea’s Culture Minister, who also deemed Abe’s pilgrimage “deplorable.”
Although Japan is an American ally, the U.S. was “disappointed that Japan’s leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbors,” according to a statement from the U.S. embassy in Tokyo.
A Safe Haven
A family takes shelter in a makeshift U.N. refugee camp on the outskirts of the South Sudanese capital of Juba. Some 120,000 South Sudanese were forced to flee their homes in recent weeks as political infighting in the world’s youngest nation–independent since 2011–morphed into full-blown ethnic conflict between members of two prominent tribes. The U.N. says more than a thousand civilians could have been killed in the space of a few days, and a shaky cease-fire seems unlikely to keep the peace.
Four Reasons Why
Turkey’s Prime Minister Is in Trouble
The indomitable Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled for over a decade and reshaped his nation. But a real estate corruption scandal may be his undoing.
Already the investigation has netted key Erdogan allies, including businessmen, politicians and the sons of Cabinet ministers.
Three prominent ministers have stepped down in the wake of the scandal; one, Erdogan Bayraktar, called for the Prime Minister to follow suit.
Analysts say the investigations may have been prompted by the Gulenists, a powerful Islamic movement with ties to the police and judiciary; they once backed Erdogan but now oppose him.
The political turmoil shows cracks widening within Erdogan’s ruling AKP party and may strengthen the hand of another Erdogan ally turned foe: current President Abdullah Gul.
Number of ships hijacked by Somali pirates in 2013, down from a peak of 52 four years earlier. The fall in piracy is due in part to international naval patrols and the presence of Kenyan troops in former Somali pirate dens.
The Church of England accepted a challenge to play the Vatican in a cricket match, five centuries after splitting from Rome
Pro-E.U. activists in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv want to rename Lenin Avenue after Beatle John Lennon
The Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy was frozen in place for a week during an Antarctic research mission, trapped in an ice floe that two icebreakers could not penetrate
Thousands of people fled their homes after a volcano erupted in eastern El Salvador, spewing hot ash and smoke
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