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Canada Stalls on Mission To Mali

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This month, Canada indicate that it would again put off a decision on contributing troops to a United Nations peacekeeping operation in Mali – a move that has upset allies who have stated that the new delay could undermine Canada’s effort to obtain a seat on the Security Council.

Last year, the Liberal government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that it would consider deploying troops to Mali. However it has taken months longer than predicted to make up tis mind amidst increasing fears that soldiers would die. Officials say that sending Canadian troops to Mali would inevitably result in casualities, which could prove politically unpopular. Canada lost 158 troops in a 10-year stint in Afghanistan – more per capita than any other nation. Allies were now expecting an announcement before Canada hosts a peacekeeping conference in November however in a Toronto Star interview published on Wednesday 13 September, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan disclosed that the decision would not be made by then. Diplomatic sources from three countries have now disclosed that the delay could harm Canada’s efforts to expand its influence in the United Nations. According to one of the sources, “if you want a seat on the Security Council, not being active at the UN isn’t helpful.” Meanwhile a second diplomatic source stated that “being a serious player at the United Nations means not always choosing the safe option.”

Prime Minister Trudeau came to power in 2015, declaring that “Canada is back,” and stressing the need for a more progressive foreign policy. As part of the effort to rebuild ties at the UN, Canada indicated that it would commit up to 600 soldiers for possible UN deployment, and pressed for one of the Security Council’s 10 non-permanent seats. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Trudeau stated that several hundred Canadian troops were taking part in international operations in Latvia, Iraq and Ukraine, telling reporters that “we are serious about re-engaging with United Nations peace operations but…we need to make sure we’re doing it right.” The Canadian leader is due to go to the UN next week and address the General Assembly

The United Nations has deployed some 10,000 peacekeepers to Mali to help deal with Islamist militants. In recent months, security in Mali, particularly in the northern and central regions, has significantly deteriorated, with violence spilling over into neighbouring states, affecting particularly northern Burkina Faso, where a number of incidents have been reported in recent months.

UN Security To Meet after North Korea Fires Another Missile Over Japan

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Tensions again increased between North Korea and the international community last week after the North fired another missile over Japan. It was a week of high tensions, with North Korea threatening both Japan and the United States.

On Friday, South Korean and Japanese officials reported that North Korea fired a second missile over Japan far out into the Pacific Ocean – in a move that has further depend tension after Pyongyang’s recent test of its sixth an most powerful nuclear bomb. Diplomats announced late on Friday that the United Nations Security Council would meet later in the day in order to discuss the launch at the request of the United States and Japan. The meeting will take place just days after its fifteen members unanimously stepped up sanctions against North Korea over its 3 September nuclear test. Those sanctions imposed a ban on North Korea’s textile exports and capped its imports of crude oil.

Speaking to reporters, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga disclosed that the latest missile flew over Hokkaido in the north and landed in the Pacific, about 2,000 km (1,240 miles) to the east. According to South Korea’s military, the missile reached an altitude of about 770 km (480 miles) and flew for about 19 minutes over about 3,700 km (2,300 miles) – far enough to reach the US Pacific territory of Guam, which North Korea has threatened before. Warning announcements about the missile blared around 8 AM (2200 GMT Thursday) in parts of northern Japan, while many residents received alerts on their mobile phones or saw warnings on TV telling them to seek refuge. On 29 August, North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile, the Hwasong-12, which travelled 2,700 km (1,700 miles) over Japan. In a statement, the Union of Concerned Scientists disclosed that “the range of this test was significant since North Korea demonstrated that it could reach Guam with this missile,” noting however that the accuracy of the missile, still at an early stage of development, was low.

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has disclosed that Friday’s launch “put millions of Japanese into duck and cover,” although residents of northern Japan appeared calm and went about their business as normal after the second such launch in less than a month. Soon after Friday’s launch, the US military reported that it had detected a single intermediate range ballistic missile, noting however that the missile did not pose a threat to North America or Guam, which lies 3,400 km (2,110 km) from North Korea.

On Thursday, a North Korean state agency threatened to use nuclear weapons to “sink” Japan and reduce the US to “ashes and darkness” for supporting a UN Security Council resolution and sanctions over its latest nuclear test. The Korea-Asia Pacific Peace Committee, which handles the North’s external ties and propaganda, also called for the breakup of the UN Security Council, which it called “a tool of evil” made up of “money-bribed” countries that move at the order of the United States.

US officials repeated Washington’s “ironclad” commitments to the defense of its allies, with Secretary of Stat Rex Tillerson calling for “new measures” against North Korea and stating that the “continued provocations only deepened North Korea’s diplomatic and economic isolation.” Meanwhile South Korean President Moon Jae-in has stated that dialogue with the North was impossible at this point. According to a spokesman, he ordered officials to analyse and prepare for possible new North Korean threats, including electromagnetic pulse and biochemical attacks. Russia stated that the missile test was part of a series of unacceptable provocations and that the UN Security Council was united in believing that such launches should not be taking place.

North Korea has launched dozens of missiles under young leader Kim Jong un as it accelerates a weapons programme that is designed to give it the ability to target the US with a powerful, nuclear-tipped missile. Two tests carried out in July were for long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching at least parts of the US mainland. Last month, North Korea fired an intermediate range missile from a similar area near the capital Pyongyang that also flew over Hokkaido into the ocean. The North warned at the time that more would follow.

London Terror Attack: Improvised Bomb Explodes Packed Tube, Injuring 22

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Police disclosed on Friday morning that a home-made bomb exploded on a packed rush-hour commuter train in London, injuring 22 people in what is being treated as the fifth terrorist attack to take place in Britain this year.

Passengers on board a train heading into the capital fled as fire engulfed a carriage at Parsons Green underground station in West London after the explosion at 8:20 AM (0720 GMT). Some suffered buns while others were injured in a stampede to escape. The National Health Service (NHS) has reported that 22 people were taken to London hospitals, with the ambulance service disclosing that none were thought to be in serious condition.

Speaking to reporters, Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer Mark Rowley disclosed “we now assess that this was a detonation of an improvised explosive device.” Rowley declined to answer whether the authorities knew who was responsible or if the suspected bomber had been on the train, saying that it was a live investigation which was being assisted by the intelligence services.

Pictures taken at the scene showed a white bucket with a supermarket freezer bag on the floor of one train carriage. The bucket was in flames and there appeared to be wires coming out of the top.

UN Security Council Imposes New Sanctions on North Korea

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On Monday 11 September, the United Nations Security Council unanimously voted to step up sanctions on North Korea – a move that has been welcomed by major US allies in Asia. The latest sanctions will target North Korea’s profitable textile exports, which will now be banned, and fuel supplies will be capped. The move comes after North Korea carried out its sixth nuclear test.

Monday’s decision was the 9th sanctions resolution unanimously adopted by the 15-member Security Council since 2006 over North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programmes. A tougher initial US draft was weakened in a bid to win the support of China, Pyongyang’s main ally and trading partner, and Russia, both of which hold veto power in the Council. According to South Korean data, UN member states will now be required to halt imports of textiles from North Korea, its second largest export after coal and other material’s in 2016 that totalled US $752 million and accounted for a quarter of its income from trade. Nearly 80 percent went to China.

On Tuesday, 12 September, Japan and South Korea disclosed that after the passage of the US-drafted Security Council resolution they were prepared to apply more pressure if Pyongyang refused to end its aggressive development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. South Korea’s presidential Blue House disclosed on Tuesday that the only way for Pyongyang to end diplomatic isolation and become free of economic pressure was to end its nuclear programme and resume dialogue. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also quickly welcomed the resolution and stated after the vote that it was important to change North Korea’s policy by imposing a higher level of pressure. However, China’s official Xinhua news agency disclosed in a commentary that the Trump administration was making a mistake by rejecting diplomatic engagement with the North. Xinhua stated, “the US needs to switch from isolation to communication in order to end an ‘endless loop’ on the Korean peninsula where nuclear missile tests trigger tougher sanctions and tougher sanctions invite further tests.”

On Monday, Pyongyang warned the US that it would pay a “due price” for spearheading efforts on UN sanctions over its nuclear programme, which it said was part of “legitimate self-defensive measures.” In a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency, the foreign ministry disclosed that “the world will witness how (North Korea) tames the US gangsters by taking a series of actions tougher than they have ever envisaged.” However North Korea did not issue a response immediately after the adoption of the latest resolution.

Latest Attack In Afghanistan Sparks Fears that IS is Moving Towards New Territory

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An attack late last month on the Iraqi Embassy in the Afghan capital of Kabul has reinforced concerns that the so-called Islamic State (IS) group is seeking to bring its conflict in the Middle East to Afghanistan, however current evidence of fighters relocating from Iraq and Syria, where they have been rapidly loosing control of territory in recent months, remains elusive.

On Monday 31 July, IS confirmed that it had carried out the attack, which began with a suicide bomber blowing himself up at the embassy’s main gate, allowing gunmen to enter the building and battle security forces. IS put out a statement identifying two of the attackers as Abu Julybib Al-Kharasani and Abu Talha Al-Balkhi, Arabic names that nonetheless suggest Afghan origins – Khoasan is an old name for the Central Asian region that includes Afghanistan, while Balkh is a province in northern Afghanistan. Security officials have disclosed that they are still investigating the attack, noting however that it is still too early to say whether there was any foreign influence or involvement.

The choice of target, which came three weeks after the fall of Mosul to Iraqi troops, appeared to back up numerous warnings from Afghan security officials that as IS fighters are increasingly being pushed out of Iraq and Syria, they risked shows up in Afghanistan. According to Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Dawlat Waziri, “this year we’re seeing more new weapons in the hands of the insurgents and an increase in numbers of foreign fighters,” adding “they are used in front lines because they are war veterans.” One senior security official put the number of foreigners fighting for both IS and the Taliban in Afghanistan at roughly 7,000, noting that most are operating across the border from their home countries of Pakistan, Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, but also include others from countries such as India.

While such foreign fighters have long been present in Afghanistan, there has been growing concern that militants from Arab countries, who have left the fighting in Syria as pressure on IS there has grown, have also been arriving in Afghanistan through Iraq. The United States, which first arrived in Afghanistan in 2001 after al-Qaeda’s attacks on New York and Washington, is now considering deploying additional troops to Afghanistan, in part to ensure that the country does not become a have for foreign militant groups. However while Afghan and US officials have long warned of the risk that foreign fighters from Syria could move over to Afghanistan, there has been considerable scepticism over how many have actually done so. Back in April, during a visit to Kabul by US Defense Secretary James Mattis, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. John Nicholson disclosed that while IS had an “aspiration” to bring fighters from Syria, “we haven’t seen it happen.”

US commanders have disclosed that in partnership with Afghan security forces, they have significantly reduced IS’ strength over the past year with a combination of drone strikes and Special Forces operations. However according to Afghan intelligence documents reviewed by Reuters, security officials believe that IS is present in nine provinces – from Nangarhar and Kunar in the eastern region of the country, to Jawzjan, Faryab and Badakhshan in the north and Ghor in the central west. According to Juma Gul Hemat, police chief of Kunar, an eastern province where IS fighters pushed out of their base in neighbouring Nangarhar have increasingly sought refuge, “in recent operations, we have inflicted heavy losses on them but their focus is to recruit fighters form this area,” adding “they are not only from Pakistan or former Taliban, there are fighters from other countries and other small groups have pledged their allegiance to them.” Afghan officials have disclosed that newly arrived foreign fighters have been heavily involved in fighting in Nangarhar province, which is IS’ main stronghold in Afghanistan where thy have also repeatedly clashed with the Taliban.