Soldier hacked to death on London street

May 23, 2013

London attack suspects were known to security services, radical Islamist relations test Tunisia’s stability, and Kerry gives Middle East peace another shot. Today is Thursday, May 23, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

A police officer carries flowers near the scene of the killing of a British soldier in Woolwich, southeast London, May 23, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Violent attack stuns London. Two British men of Nigerian descent allegedly hacked an Afghan war veteran to death after running him down with a car in broad daylight on a London street on Wednesday:

One man, filmed calmly justifying the killing as he stood by the body holding a knife and meat cleaver in bloodied hands, was named by acquaintances as 28-year-old Londoner Michael Adebolajo – a British-born convert to radical Islam. So frenzied was the attack, some witnesses thought they tried to behead the victim… British media said police raided homes of relatives in the city and near the town of Lincoln. Adebolajo and the other man, who may have been born abroad and later naturalized as British, are both in custody in hospitals after being shot by police.

The two men were known to British security services, a source close to the investigation said. Adebolajo said he acted in revenge for British wars in Muslim countries. The incident resurfaced fears of “lone wolf” attacks, which are committed by individuals radicalized over the Internet who may not have direct ties to militant Islamist groups. It was the first deadly strike on the British mainland since local Islamists killed 52 people in a series of bombs on the city’s public transit network in 2005.

Mainstream Islamists and radicals reach breaking point in Tunisia. Tensions between Tunisia’s leading Ennahda party and the radical Salafist Muslim Ansar al-Sharia are at their highest since the Arab Spring, prompting deadly clashes in two cities and increasing fears of a violent Salafist revolt in Tunisia and neighboring Algeria.

Clashes between police and Ansar supporters on Sunday, in which one person was killed and dozens wounded, highlighted the rise of fundamentalist Salafist groups in the nascent North African democracy, empowered by a new atmosphere of freedom. Ansar al-Sharia is the most radical Islamist group to emerge in what was long one of the most secular Arab countries. It poses a test to the authority of the moderate Islamist-led government and to the stability of Tunisia, a country of 11 million.

Tunisia has cracked down on Ansar al-Sharia after discovering large weapons caches in Tunis and other cities. Over the past few months, police also have arrested 16 militants for saying they wanted to establish an Islamic state. The mainstream Islamist Ennahda party fears that too much pressure on the Salafist group could alienate Ennahda’s conservative wing and drive young Tunisians, discouraged by a poor economic landscape, towards violence.

Fourth time’s the charm? Secretary of State John Kerry returned to Israel for the fourth time as secretary of state on Thursday to take another stab at working out a possible peace plan:

The main issues that would have to be resolved in a peace agreement include the borders between Israel and a Palestinian state, the future of Jewish settlements, the fate of Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem. In his visits to the region, Kerry is also trying to put together an economic package for the Palestinians to go alongside the U.S. political initiative.

The last round of negotiations broke down in 2010 over Israeli settlements in the West Bank, an issue that remains one of the main roadblocks to Middle East peace. On Tuesday, right-wing Israeli groups publicly challenged Netanyahu’s call for a two-state solution, further complicating negotiation prospects. Kerry is slated to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today.

Nota Bene: For the first time, the U.S. government formally admitted killing four American citizens in drone strikes.


Drone drawdown – Obama plans to restrict the use of drone strikes. (The New York Times)

All you need is Paul – Paul McCartney sent handwritten letters to Russian authorities requesting parole for two jailed Pussy Riot members. (Rolling Stone)

Rebel export – Belgian teen Brian de Mulder left home to fight in Syria. (Time)

Lessons from history – Brookings fellow Michael O’Hanlon and political scientist Sean Zeigler argue that removing Assad won’t solve Syria’s civil war. (Reuters)

Brazil bank panic – Brazilian officials are looking for the source of rumors that prompted a bank run. (The Los Angeles Times)

From the File:

  • North Korea says it is willing to take China’s advice to start talks
  • China urbanization plan hits roadblock over spending fears
  • Barred from poll, Rafsanjani calls Iranian leaders ignorant
  • German brewers warn fracking could hurt beer industry
  • Japanese octogenarian becomes oldest to reach Everest summit
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