ISIS has claimed responsibility for an April 18 attack on a security checkpoint near the gates of St. Catherine's Monastery in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, in which one officer was slain and four injured. Founded in the 6th century and located at the foot of Mount Sinai, St. Catherine's is believed to be the world's oldest continuously used Christian monastery, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is affiliated with the Eastern Orthodox church. The attack came just 10 days before Pope Francis was scheduled to visit Egypt, and nine days after two deadly suicide bombings on Coptic churches, also claimed by ISIS. (Al Jazeera, BBC News, April 19)
Russian authorities say they have detained, and obtained a confession from, a man linked to a terrorist metro bombing in St. Petersburg that killed 14 passengers. The Russian Federal Security Service says that Abror Azimov pled guilty to planning the attack. Officials say that, for his part, Azimov said that he does not object to being detained and does not deny his involvement in the attack, but said he was not involved in planning, and did not plead guilty.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's referendum on granting himself sweeping powers took place in an atmosphere of terror, with opposition leaders silenced and detained. So the reuslts in favor are hardly a surpirise. International observers are yet to give the election a clean bill of health, but whether there was any actual monkey-business with the vote is almost beside the point. Some 51.3% of the more than 58 million Turkish voters apparently said "yes" to the constitutional amendment package put forth by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The amendment package was backed by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and opposed by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and leftist Kurdish-led Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), the third largest party in parliament. The opposition has not conceded, claiming voting irregularities.
At least 750 female detainees have joined in a hunger strike to protest harsh conditions at the 1,500-bed Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash. The strike was reported to be in its fourth day on April 13, with no sign of ending despite ongoing negotiations between detainees, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the GEO Group, the prison contractor that operates the facility. Detainees are protesting the quality of food, facility hygiene, poor access to medical care, lack of recreation, and what they call exorbitant commissary prices. The detainees also seek an increase in the $1 a day they are paid for performing menial jobs at the center. The strike has been led by the group NWDC Resistance, which is composed of detainees and seeks to end all immigration-related detentions.
Egyptian authorities have declared a three-month state of emergency after twin ISIS bombings killed 43 at two Coptic churches in the Nile Delta cities of in Tanta and Alexandria on Palm Sunday. Dozens more were injured in the attacks, which came as the churches were filled with worshippers. The first suicide blast, at Mar Girgis (St George) Church in Tanta, killed 27. Hours later, a second blast struck outside Saint Mark's church in Alexandria, where Coptic Pope Tawadros II was leading a service, killing a further 16. ISIS warned of more attacks in its statement. "The Crusaders and their apostate followers must be aware that the bill between us and them is very large, and they will be paying it like a river of blood from their sons, if God is willing," the group said in Arabic.
Anti-terrorism laws that were passed by Senegal's National Assembly in October, are "draconian" and could "restrict freedom of expression and roll back the rule of law in Senegal," according to a report (PDF) released April 3 by Amnesty International. The laws in question were passed as part of the government's efforts to deal with the rise of terrorism in the region, including Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Niger, Nigeria and Mali. Recognizing the country's need to address terrorism, AI claims the vagueness of the laws are problematic, as violations such as "insults" and affronts to "morality" could be interpreted in a way that suppresses dissident opinions. Other provisions of the new laws criticized by AI include those designed to prevent "defamation of the President of the Republic," "the dissemination of false news," and acts likely to "cause serious political unrest."
Israeli forces detained Palestinian writer Khalida Ghusheh on March 11 after raiding her home in the neighborhood of Beit Hanina in occupied East Jerusalem. Ghusheh's manager, Amani Abd al-Karim, said that Israeli police had raided Ghusheh's home, before detaining her and transporting her to a police station in the illegal Israeli settlement of Neve Yaqoub in the Beit Hanina neighborhood. Al-Karim added that Ghusheh called her after arriving to the interrogation center, informing her that she was in need of a lawyer and said that the reason for her detention was related to her novel scheduled to be published in October. The novel, titled The Jackal's Trap, explores Palestinian collaborators with the Israeli occupation.
Lynne Stewart, the fighting activist attorney who gained fame with her 2005 conviction for "providing material support" to terrorism, died March 7 at her home in Brooklyn. She was 77, and had been granted a "compassionate release" from federal prison in January 2014 after she was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. The obituary in the New York Times says she was convicted of "helping smuggle messages" from her imprisoned client Omar Abdel Rahman "to his violent followers in Egypt." It doesn't mention that the "messages" were essentially press releases, barred by stringent "Special Administrative Measures" imposed by the Justice Department, which Stewart rejected as illegitimate. Her prison term, initially set at 28 months, was later increased to 10 years after an appeals court ordered the trial judge to consider a longer term. In a statement after her release, her longtime partner Ralph Poynter said: "The enduring global movement for social justice has persevered—ever inspired by Lynne Stewart's steadfast refusal to bend the knee, submit to coercion or official duplicity."