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News Summary: August 2016

Italian Earthquake 

At least 247 people have been killed and 369 injured following the 6.2-magnitude earthquake that hit towns and villages in a mountainous part of central Italy, some 140 km (85 miles) east of Rome.

It struck at 3.36am when most people in the hardest-hit towns of Amatrice, Accumoli and Arquata del Tronto were asleep and was followed by several aftershocks, all of which could be felt across Italy, from Bologna in the north to Naples in the south, each more than 200km from the epicentre of Norcia in Umbria.

Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology said it had recorded more than 200 aftershocks by 3:00pm on the same day as the initial jolt including one which was recorded as magnitude 5.5 by the US Geological Survey.

Most of the dead — 184 — were in Amatrice, a picturesque medieval town of around 3,000 people where people often come to escape the heat of Rome.

Yemen Suicide Bombing 

A suicide car bomb attack on an army recruiting camp for the pro-government Popular Resistance militia in Yemen’s port city of Aden killed at least 70 people and injured scores more according to medical sources, in the deadliest jihadi attack on the Yemeni city for more than a year.

The attacker drove his vehicle into a gathering of new recruits at the camp and the explosion took place in the crowded Mansoura neighborhood around 8:15am, when many people were outside commuting to work, officials said. Witnesses said the suicide bomber entered the compound behind a truck that had brought breakfast for the recruits, who had queued for the meal. They added that some recruits were buried under rubble when a roof collapsed after the blast. Medical sources could not immediately verify whether all of those killed in the attack were army recruits.

Médecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) or Doctors Without Borders said its hospital in Aden had received 45 dead and at least 60 wounded following the explosion.

The neighbourhood has been the site of multiple attacks by militants in the past year. Isis claimed responsibility for the attack later in the day on its official propaganda outlet, Amaq calling the attack a “martyrdom operation” and saying they had killed “around 60 people.”

Turkish Wedding Attack 

The deadly attack in Gaziantep, Turkey which killed 51 people and injured over 100 with 69 people receiving treatment in hospital including 17 who are in critical condition was carried out by a suicide bomber between the ages of 12 and 14, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on live on national television in front of Istanbul’s city hall, citing police sources.

Erdogan said the aim of the bombing was to divide Turkey’s different groups and “spread incitement along ethnic and religious lines”.

“Our country and our nation have again only one message to those who attack us: You will not succeed!” he said.

The attack took place at a traditional pre-wedding henna night party where over than 200 people  were dancing on the street when an explosion ripped through the celebrations at around 11pm in Turkey’s southeastern province of Gaziantep, just 37 miles north of the Syrian border.

Earlier, President Erdogan said that: “Daesh is the likely perpetrator of the attack”, using the alternative name for Isis.

“It was clear that Daesh had such an organization in Gaziantep or was attempting to make room for itself in recent times,” President Erdogan said.

The jihadists have recently lost ground in northern Syria, including a former stronghold, Manbij, cutting the terror group’s last major road link to Turkey, which it had used to shuttle foreign fighters and supplies. Syrian rebel soldiers are preparing to advance further into the Isis-held province of Jarablus. If the bomb was the work of Isis, there will be speculation it was a revenge attack, intended as a show of strength by a group on the defensive.

Turkish Car Bomb 

An attack with an explosives-laden truck targeting a police checkpoint in Cizre, south-east Turkey has killed at least 11 police officers and wounded 78 other people and left the nearby headquarters of the special anti-riot police force in the town completely destroyed.

Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which was the latest in a string of bombings, authorities have blamed the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) which they later confirmed according to a website linked to the organization.

The PKK launched its insurgency in 1984, alleging widespread abuse and discrimination against the, now 20 to 25 million Kurds, who make up 18% of the population, by Turkish authorities. The movement has been fighting for autonomy  in the southeast of the country for decades and has, especially in Turkey’s view, sister organisations in Iraq, and especially in Syria both of which border Sirnak province where Cizre is located. The province has a largely Kurdish population and the area has been rocked by violence since a two-and-a-half year ceasefire between the Turkish government and the PKK collapsed in July 2015. Hundreds of security force members have been killed since.

Thailand Blasts 

A series of apparently coordinated blasts across Thailand, including in the tourism hotspots of Hua Hin and Phuket, have left at least unknown numbers of people dead and dozens injured.

Police said 10 foreigners were injured in the violence, some of the worst in the country since the military seized power in a coup two years ago.

No responsibility has been claimed for the bombings but Thai authorities were quick to rule out international terrorism, instead blaming “local sabotage”.

Hua Hin, Phuket and Phang Nga are far from the usual conflict zone, where attacks typically target security forces and not tourists.

Hua Hin is home to the summer palace of Thailand’s revered royal family and the blast came as the country geared up for Queen Sirikit’s 84th birthday and just ahead of the first anniversary of a Bangkok shrine bombing that killed 20

The explosions also occurred in the same week that Thai voters approved a new constitution while the three southern provinces of Hua Hin, Phuket and Phang Nga all rejected the military-backed referendum, and the Muslim-majority southeastern provinces of Thailand have faced an insurgency that has left more than 6,500 people dead since 2004.

Thailand Car Bomb 

One person was killed and 30 others injured after two car bombs exploded in a busy nightlife district in Thailand’s troubled southern province of Pattani, near the border with Malaysia.

The first bomb targeted a pub and karaoke bar causing no casualties, before a second blast struck the same area 20 minutes later.

No group has claimed responsibility for the wave of bombings, but some security experts noted at the time that southern insurgent groups have a track record of carrying out coordinated bombing attacks.

Most embassies warn nationals against all travel to Pattani because of the long-running conflict between the Buddhist-majority state and Muslim rebels seeking greater autonomy.

Burkini Ban Controversy

Cannes mayor David Lisnard, said this month that a ‘burkini ban’ was being introduced in the town to prohibit “beachwear ostentatiously showing a religious affiliation while France and places of religious significance are the target of terror attacks”.

“I took this decision among several other rulings to make sure my city is safe in the context of the state of emergency,” he added, referring to the recent wave of terorist attacks on France.

Rulings over the ban have been closely watched in France and around the world, after photos of armed police surrounding a Muslim woman as she removed her top on a beach in Nice sparked outrage.

The UN human rights office condemned the bans in France on burkini swimwear as “a grave and illegal breach of fundamental freedoms” and a “stupid reaction” to recent extremist attacks.

The ban issued in Cannes has since been overturned by a French court on the basis that it violates basic freedoms and is illegal as there were no proven risks of disruption to public order, or reasons of hygiene or decency for the ban.

Anjem Choudary Facing Jail

British-born radical preacher Anjem Choudary, who has spent the past 20 years spreading extremist views, is facing jail for drumming up support for Islamic State.

Choudary encouraged backing for the terrorist group in a series of talks posted on YouTube.

Police pounced after Choudary recognised a caliphate  had been created under an Isis leader in June 2014 and he and three other influential radicals lent their names to an oath of allegiance to IS which was posted on the internet.

Despite being a leader figure in the banned extremist group al-Muhajiroun (ALM), Choudary somehow manage to stay on the right side of the law for two decades before investigators were able to pin him down as he preached inciting messages to his 32,000 Twitter followers.

He now faces a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison.

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Naina Bhardwaj

Naina Bhardwaj

Naina Bhardwaj

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