Assassination shifts Syrian rebel focus to al Qaeda

July 12, 2013

Syrian rebels face off with Islamist militants, controversial Indian politician poised for a comeback, and Ireland votes in landmark abortion law.

Malala Yousafzai gives her first speech since the Taliban in Pakistan tried to kill her for advocating education for girls, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, July 12, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Today is July 12, 2013, the day activist and Pakistani Taliban attack survivor Malala Yousafzai celebrates her 16th birthday with a U.N. educational appeal. Here’s the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

A Free Syrian Army fighter aims his weapon as he takes position inside a house in the city of Aleppo, July 11, 2013. REUTERS/Muzaffar Salman

New front opens in Syria. Syrian rebel leaders said today that they consider the assassination of Free Syrian Army commander Kamal Hamami by al Qaeda-linked militants on Thursday to be a declaration of war:

Rivalries have been growing between the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and the Islamists, whose smaller but more effective forces control most of the rebel-held parts of northern Syria more than two years after pro-democracy protests became an uprising… Hamami, also known by his nom de guerre, Abu Bassir al-Ladkani, is one of the top 30 figures on the FSA’s Supreme Military Command. His killing highlights how the West’s vision of a future, democratic Syria is unraveling.

Opposition sources said Hamami was killed after a dispute between his troops and the Islamic State of Iraq over a strategic checkpoint in the north, and that they expect more fighting to follow. Though the two sides have battled together in the past, the Western and Arab-backed FSA has distanced itself from Islamist groups recently, hoping to show Washington that arms sent to the FSA won’t end up with al Qaeda – an outcome U.S. lawmakers fear. Islamist-led ad hoc religious courts and local governance have made it difficult for the FSA, made up of loosely-affiliated disparate groups, to lead across Syria.

Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi speaks during the 29th annual session of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Ladies Organisation in New Delhi, April 8, 2013. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Polarizing politician could be India’s next PM. India’s most controversial politician, Narendra Modi – a man whose fame rivals that of Bollywood actors – is poised to make a comeback in a possible bid to become prime minister. In a rare interview, Reuters spoke with the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat about his plans, touching on topics such as the global backlash to his alleged role in encouraging anti-Muslim protests that killed over 1,000 people in 2002:

The hour-long interview with Modi, conducted mostly in Hindi, along with interviews with advisers and aides, paint a picture of a hard-working loner with few friends and an unusually small circle of colleagues and loyal officials around him. At times Modi appeared tense, though not defensive. He chose his words carefully, especially when talking about his role in the 2002 riots. “A leader who doesn’t take a decision: who will accept him as a leader? That is a quality, it’s not a negative,” Modi said. “If someone was an authoritarian then how would he be able to run a government for so many years? Without a team effort how can you get success?” He dismissed concerns about his style of management. “I always say the strength of democracy lies in criticism. If there is no criticism that means there is no democracy. And if you want to grow, you must invite criticism. And I want to grow, I want to invite criticism.”

The steady economic growth of Gujarat recommends Modi to possible backers, but critics say his policies neglect the poor. Read the full report on the Modi’s remaking, and check out a timeline of his political career.

A woman holds a poster during a vigil in Dublin on November 17, 2012, in memory of Savita Halappanavar and in support of changes to abortion law. REUTERS/Cathal McNaughton

Ireland legalizes abortion. For the first time ever, Ireland’s parliament voted on Friday to allow abortion in some cases, following months of controversy during which the country’s prime minister received plastic fetuses and letters written in blood by opponents of the bill:

Prime Minister Enda Kenny has provoked protest from both sides of the debate by pushing through a compromise that will allow abortion, but only when a woman’s life is in danger. His governing party has faced down more rebels over the issue than it did over its harsh austerity measures. After a marathon debate that ran past midnight for the second night in row, lawmakers passed the bill by 127-31. The vote was greeted with applause.

The government drafted the bill after a woman died last year in an Irish hospital from blood poisoning after miscarrying – a week after she was refused a termination of her pregnancy – leading to protests across the country.

Nota Bene: Mursi supporters prepare to rally for his reinstatement after a week of deadly violence.


Aspiring to Pakistan – Reuters columnist Ian Bremmer discusses why emulating Pakistan may be Egypt’s least bad option. (Reuters)

Dead man running – Mexican officials are investigating how a man declared dead in 2010 came to be elected mayor of Oaxaca state. (BBC)

Long drive down under – Australian students build a solar car to race across the Outback. (ABC)

Trapeze dreams – Images capture the daily glamour of being a Vietnamese circus performer. (The New York Times)

Luddite’s solution – Russian federal guards go old-school with typewriters to avoid eavesdropping. (The Moscow Times)

From the File:

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