National security wrap

The Beat

A murder every 1.5 hours

At least 6,640 murders took place in El Salvador last year, making it one of the world’s deadliest nations. Though numbers have dropped more recently, the country still experiences a murder every 1.5 hours on average. A new series, Latin America Investigates, highlights the police and military’s failed attempts to prosecute, use force against, and negotiate with gangs such as MS-13. In desperate attempts to regain control of death squads like Los Exterminio, police implemented harsher anti-gang policies. But unsurprisingly—given a 94% impunity rate for homicides; meaning there’s little to deter groups from killing—the policies have seen higher numbers of police-gang confrontation.

No stranger to corruption scandals

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has asked the parliament to find a way for her to stand down from office. The news comes after corruption allegations; more specifically, that Ms Park had a considerable role in pressuring large South Korean companies to contribute funds to foundations owned by a close friend. It’s just the latest twist in a bizarre story. But South Korea’s no stranger to corruption scandals—Former president Kim Dae-jung’s two sons were jailed for taking bribes, and his successor, President Roh Moo-hyun, committed suicide after leaving office as corruption investigators closed in on allegations he accepted US $6 million in bribes.

CT Scan

German spy agency employee arrested

An employee of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency BfV was arrested on Tuesday under accusations that he made extremist comments and leaked sensitive agency information online. The 51-year-old man had reportedly discussed bombing the BfV’s home office in Cologne with an agency informant before being detained. According to Der Spiegel (source in German), the man’s family didn’t know about his conversion to Islam two years ago and subsequent radicalisation, nor did his actions raise any red flags at the BfV during his hiring process.

‘Lone wolf’ attack at US university campus

Ohio State University in the US was locked-down on Monday after a man injured 11 students by intentionally ramming them with his car and then attacking them with a knife. The attacker, a US permanent resident from Somalia who studied at the university, was shot dead soon after by a nearby university police officer. Daesh has claimed responsibility for the attack but no evidence has been found to suggest that the attacker had any contact with the group. Posts on the attacker’s Facebook profile suggest he may have been self-radicalised, with specific references to deceased radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.


Open for business

Cameroon has reopened its border market with Nigeria. Markets were closed in January following a Boko Haram attack that killed at least 35 in Bodo on Cameroon’s far north border. The spike in terrorist activity on the poorly-managed borders had been linked to a Nigerian-led regional offensive’s gain against the group’s strongholds in Nigeria. Attacks have subsided in recent months, prompting the decision to reopen borders and allow the return of hundreds of merchants.

‘This land is your land’

Belgium and the Netherlands have negotiated a land swap to settle a longstanding border problem. The issue arose after the rerouting of the Meuse River—that demarcated the border between Belgian and Dutch municipalities—created small parcels of each country’s territory on the opposing side of the river (see map here, and watch explanatory video here). The resulting jurisdictional ordeal left Belgian and Dutch law enforcement authorities unable to do much about it. The plots became havens for drug and sex-related crime; neither country was able to combat the issue as special permissions had to be granted from each side. Under a treaty signed on Monday, Belgium is due to give 40 acres of land to the Netherlands in return for just over seven acres, effectively realigning the border with the river. It’s hoped that the lawlessness in the municipalities can be corrected after the treaty comes into effect in 2018, pending Parliamentary approval.

First Responder

Floods lash Italy

The Italian regions of Liguria, Piedmont and Sicily recently suffered heavy rains which caused floods, landslides and sinkholes over Thursday and Friday which finally receded over the weekend. Hundreds were evacuated in  the three regions by the Protezione Civile who suggested that construction on low lying farmland had contributed to the crisis. Piedmont and Liguria’s main rivers, the Tanaro and Po, both swelled to inundate towns—leaving 610 homeless. In Sicily, agricultural association Coldiretti estimated (Italian) a loss of 50% of citrus fruit crops and said that extreme weather events had cost Italian agriculture €14 billion over the last decade.

The community-minded Taliban?

The Afghan Taliban have announced in a press release that they are offering to protect large national infrastructure projects like the Mes Aynak cooper mine, CASA 1000 electricity project and TAPI gas pipeline. Ministry of the Interior spokesmen Sediq Sediqqi responded to the claim by saying that, ‘until now the Taliban has been the main obstruction in the way of development of Afghanistan, over the past few months, nearly two billion Afs in losses was inflicted on public utility projects’. Human Rights Watch looks at the Talban’s destructive track record of infrastructure protection.