Home > Publications > Political and security risk updates > The weekly briefing, 29 November 2018: UN peacekeepers killed in Mali, political turmoil engulfs the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, militants kill over 300 people in northern Sinai

The weekly briefing, 29 November 2018: UN peacekeepers killed in Mali, political turmoil engulfs the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, militants kill over 300 people in northern Sinai

by Kirsten Winterman, Raphaël Zaffran and Matthew Clarke

Briefing photo

Summary

Africa: Kenyan president sworn in for second term; four UN peacekeepers killed in two separate attacks in northern Mali.

Americas: Political turmoil engulfs the US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as Trump attempts to appoint loyalist as acting director; Opposition candidate unexpected lead in Honduras presidential election. 

Asia-Pacific: North Korea tests new nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile; Australian police arrest man over planned gun attack on this year’s New Year’s Eve celebrations in central Melbourne.

Europe and Central Asia: Major of town in western Germany stabbed in neck; Head of Russia’s Chechen republic unexpectedly raises possibility that he might stand down.

Middle East and North Africa: Militants kill over 300 people in bomb and gun attack on mosque in northern Sinai province; Saudi Arabia allows UN aid ship to dock in rebel-held Saleef port in Yemen.

Africa

Kenya

Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in for a second term as president of Kenya on 28 November. Kenyatta was re-elected on 26 October with 98% of the vote and a voter turnout of 39%. However, the president’s main opponent, Raila Odinga, decided not to stand in the re-run election in the hope that the poll would be cancelled, providing the electoral commission with time to change its processes and personnel after the supreme court had annulled the presidential election that Kenyatta had previously won in August due to ‘irregularities and illegalities’. Despite large gatherings in support of the president, clashes between opposition supporters and police have occurred in the Doonholm area of the capital, Nairobi. The opposition continues to contend that the result is invalid and boycotted Kenyatta’s inauguration ceremony. Violence between opposition supporters and police is likely to continue. 

Mali

At least four UN peacekeepers and a Malian solider were killed and another 20 soldiers injured in two separate attacks in northern Mali on 24 November. The attacks took place as troops from the UN stabilisation mission in the country, MINUSMA, carried out a joint operation with national forces close to the border with Niger. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks. MINUSMA is regarded one of the most dangerous UN peacekeeping missions in the world, as its troops are frequently targeted by armed groups. The United Nations reports that 146 MINUSMA personnel have been killed since the mission began in 2013.

Americas

United States 

Political turmoil has arisen around the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in the United States. On 24 November, the agency’s director, Richard Cordray, resigned and appointed his chief-of-staff, Leandra English, as deputy director and hence acting director. However, the US president, Donald Trump, argued that Cordray did not have the authority to select his own successor, and appointed the director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, as the agency’s acting director. Republicans and their supporters on Wall Street perceive the CFPB as another burdensome regulatory tool set up by the Democrats during the Obama era. Trump’s move against the CFPB is part of a larger White House strategy to gain control of a wide array of US agencies and alter their organisational culture. However, English filed suit in federal court on 26 November, insisting that she is the legitimate acting director of the agency. The final appointment will likely come down to a tight Senate confirmation vote that both sides will vigorously try to influence.

Donald Trump's move against the CFPB is part of a larger strategy to gain control of a wide array of US agenciesClick To Tweet

Honduras

Honduras held a general election on 26 November to elect the country’s president, all 128 members of the unicameral national congress and mayors for the 298 municipalities of Honduras. The leading candidates in the presidential race, the US-friendly incumbent, Juan Orlando Hernández, and the head of the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship coalition, Salvador Nasralla, both claimed victory. Hernández has come under fire for standing in this year’s election, as re-election was unconstitutional until the Honduran supreme court ruled against the prohibition in a controversial and likely politically-motivated ruling in 2015. Hernández has campaigned on his relatively-accepted record of improving security in the country, but his critics have accused him of taking an authoritarian turn, including sponsoring a new law that made public demonstration a crime. Nasralla is a flamboyant television presenter and businessman who founded the Anti-corruption Party in 2012. On 27 November, electoral authorities gave him a five-point lead over Hernández, an outcome that is at odds with pre-election polling, which predicted that the incumbent would win. The electoral tribunal has stated that it might be ready to deliver more-definitive results by the end of the month.

Asia-Pacific

North Korea

In a broadcast on state television, North Korea claimed that it tested a new nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile on 28 November. Pyongyang says that the missile, called the Hwasong-15, is capable of striking anywhere on the US mainland. The United States said that there was a ‘probable’ launch, and is working with South Korea to plot the missile’s flight path. The South Korean news agency, Yonhap, reported that the missile travelled east from Pyongsong in western North Korea. Japan’s defence minister, Itsunori Onodera, said that the missile broke up before it landed in the sea inside the country’s exclusive economic zone. The US president, Donald Trump, said that ‘we will take care of it’, and the South Korean military fired three missiles in response to the test. The launch comes a week after the United States relisted North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism, allowing it to impose further sanctions against the hermit kingdom over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

Australia

Australian police have arrested a 20-year-old Somali-Australian man on terrorism charges. Police allege that Ali Khalif Shire Ali planned to carry out a gun attack during this year’s New Year’s Eve celebrations in central Melbourne. Police further allege that he was sympathetic to Islamic State and was motivated by successful foreign attacks. Although Ali had allegedly obtained terrorist training material online, police have stated that he was working alone and had not yet secured a weapon. There is not thought to be an ongoing threat to the public. Detecting and disrupting so-called ‘lone wolf’ terrorist attacks can be extremely difficult, and this arrest should therefore be welcomed, but it also highlights the way in which successful lone wolf attacks can motivate other self-radicalised individuals.

Europe and Central Asia

Germany

The mayor of Altena, Andreas Hollstein, has been stabbed in the neck in an apparently drunken attack in a kebab shop in the town in western Germany. He has sustained significant injuries and remains in hospital. The assailant reportedly shouted anti-immigrant remarks before stabbing the mayor with a one-foot knife. Altena has accepted more than its quota of immigrants since Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, took the politically-sensitive decision to accept a large number of immigrants in 2015-16. Merkel’s decision is believed to have been a cause of her CDU party suffering a poor result in the September federal election, in which the far-right AfD won 94 seats. The attack in Altena will be a further reminder for Germany’s security services that far-right extremists remain a potent threat, even while officials concentrate their attention on preventing ISIS-inspired lone-wolf attacks.

Russia

On 26 November, Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Russia’s Chechen republic, unexpectedly raised the possibility that he might stand down after over a decade in power. Kadyrov stated that ‘it is time for change in the Chechen republic’ at the end of an interview on a state-owned Russian television channel. He also referred to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, as his ‘idol’, and claimed that he would be die for him. However, it is very likely that Kadyrov’s comments are political manoeuvring. The head of Chechnya has a reputation as a tough and ruthless leader, and is seen as having brought order and stability to the conflict-prone republic. As such, Kadyrov knows that he is not dispensable, and, in fact, actually expects the Kremlin to further validate his position of power and possibly grant further federal subsidies. It is therefore highly unlikely that Kadyrov will step down in the near future.

Middle East and North Africa

Egypt

Around 40 militants killed over 300 people in a bomb and gun attack on a mosque in Egypt’s restive northern Sinai province on 24 November. The attack on the al-Rawda mosque in Bir al-Abed during Friday prayers is the deadliest attack in modern Egypt’s history. No group has yet claimed responsibility, but it is believed that Islamic State militants carried out the attack. Both the number of fatalities and the nature of the target make this an unusual attack. Militants in the Sinai usually attack churches and the Egyptian security forces; however, the mosque is frequented by members of the Jaririya Sufi order — who are frequently targeted by Salafi militants. The Egyptian president, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, has declared a three-day mourning period in response to the attack. Attacks in the province are likely to continue despite an increasing military presence. 

Yemen

Saudi Arabia has allowed a UN aid ship carrying one month’s food supplies for around 1.8 million people to dock in the rebel-held Saleef port in western Yemen. The ship had been waiting off the coast for two weeks before being allowed to dock on 26 November. A ship containing commercial flour was also able to dock at Hudayah. Saudi Arabia imposed a blockade of Yemen on 6 November after a Houthi missile attack on Riyadh. The Kingdom eased its blockade after carrying out a security review relating to the import of weapons to rebel fighters. Although the UN sh will be welcome, around 24 million people are food insecure in Yemen, and significant aid is required to address the dire humanitarian situation in the country. 

Saudi Arabia allows UN aid ship to dock in the rebel-held Saleef port in western YemenClick To Tweet

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