Kabul suicide attack kills 57; protesters rally in Armenia

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  • Suicide attack in Kabul – Dozens are dead after a suicide attacker set off an explosive at a voter registration centre in the Afghani capital Kabul. The blast killed at least 57 people and injured 119, officials say. The Islamic State group said it was responsible for the attack. Voter registration began this month for legislative elections coming in October.

  • Armenians protest after leader detained – Thousands demonstrated in Armenia’s capital Yerevan after the opposition’s leader was arrested by police. Nikol Pashinyan was arrested after the collapse of a plan for televised talks with Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan. Pashinyan said Sargsyan should quit and Sargsyan accused him of “blackmail.” The opposition objects to Sargsyan holding onto power after serving two consecutive terms as president.

  • Iran warns of consequences to nuclear deal – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the country would react with “expected and unexpected” actions if the United States pulled out of a multinational nuclear deal.  The deal reached between Iran, the United States and five other world powers put curbs on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from sanctions. However, Trump has called the agreement one of the worst deals ever negotiated and has threatened to pull out of it.
  • International chemical weapons experts visit attack site – A team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) visited the Syrian town of Douma and collected samples and other items from the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack on April 7. Last week, Western states bombed several Syrian government sites in retaliation. Syria and Russia deny chemical weapons were used.


  • North Korea suspends missile testing – North Korea will suspend all missile testing, including nuclear weapons, and close a nuclear site on April 21, according their state media. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stated that his country no longer needs to conduct tests because it has achieved its goal for the tests, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
  • Comey memos detail Trump reservations – Former FBI Director James Comey’s memos on his encounters with U.S. President Donald Trump show Trump’s repeated concerns over salacious allegations in an intelligence dossier. Comey also wrote that he was asked by Trump to drop an inquiry into links between Russia and then National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn. And Comey said he spoke with Trump in 2013 about an alleged event involving prostitutes in Moscow. The partially-censored 15 pages of memos (AP) were given by the U.S. Justice Department to three House of Representatives committees. (Report more on the Comey memos).
  • Two dead in Gaza protests – Two Gazans were killed and 12 were injured in the fourth Friday of protests at the Israel-Gaza border. Despite earlier warnings from the Israeli military to stay away from the border fence, some Palestinians set tires on fire and used kites to fly burning objects into Israel. The Israeli military said that about 3,000 Palestinians were rioting. The six-week-long Palestinian ‘Great March of Return’ campaign (Middle East Eye) is led by refugees seeking their ancestral homes in Israel. Since the protests started, Israeli forces have killed at least 33 Palestinians and wounded hundreds. The campaign is expected to end May 15.
  • Rebels near Syrian capital surrender after government bombing overnight – Rebels and jihadists in the last area outside the Syrian government’s control, just outside Damascus, surrendered, Syrian state media said. A source told Reuters there is a deal with the government to will relocate them to eastern Syria, partially controlled by Islamic State, and to area near a rebel stronghold in the northwest of the country.
    • The Yarmouk Palestinian-refugee camp and the Syrian City of al-Hajar al-Aswad, which were being fought over by jihadists and rebels, were bombed overnight. (UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights) President Assad continues to take the remaining rebel enclaves, but the fighters are left with two major strongholds in the northwest and southwest.
  • Democrats sue Russia, Trump and Wikileaks for “treachery” – The Democratic Party has sued the Russian government, Donald J. Trump presidential campaign and WikiLeaks. They claim there was an “all-out assault on our democracy,” according to Tom Perez, the head of the Democratic National Committee. The party also claims that Trump “gleefully welcomed” Russia’s use of social media and hacking to disrupt the 2016 presidential election. A spokesperson for the Trump election team (known as Donald J. Trump for President Inc.) called the lawsuit a “last-ditch effort to substantiate the baseless Russian collusion allegations.”
  • Top Democrats announces pro-cannabis law – Senate Democrat Leader Chuck Schumer now supports decriminalizing cannabis under federal law, reversing his long-held opposition. If his proposal was passed, federal authorities would not intervene in states that have legalized recreational use. President Donald J. Trump has expressed willingness to reduce the enforcement of federal cannabis laws. That is a divisive break from Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ support of harsher sentencing and policing for drug-related offenses (CNBC). Schumer’s announcement came on April 20th, an informal holiday celebrating cannabis. Help WikiTribune brainstorm on how to report on the “War on Drugs,” or the tenure of Jeff Sessions as AG.
  • ‘Jihadist’ linked to 9/11 captured – A man linked to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. was captured in Syria by U.S.-backed forces more than a month ago, the Pentagon said on Thursday. Mohammad Haydar Zammar, a Syrian-born German national,  was said to have praised “the virtues of violent jihad.” The 9/11 Commission report, a Congressional account on the 2001 attacks, said Zammar was an “outspoken, flamboyant Islamist.”
  • South African president tries to quell violent protests – South African president Cyril Ramaphosa cut short his diplomatic trip in the UK to deal with growing unrest in the northern region of his country. The major cities of South Africa are all on the southern coast. The residents in the landlocked north have long said there was neglect from political leadership and chronic poverty. The protesters demand their regional premier Supra Mahumapelo resign over allegations of corruption which Mahumapelo denies. President Ramaphosa campaigned on an anti-corruption platform after nine scandal-ridden years of his predecessor Jacob Zuma. Reuters reports that protesters have burned cars and looted businesses. No deaths have been reported.

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  • “Peter Thiel’s data-mining company is using War on Terror tools to track American citizens. The scary thing? Palantir is desperate for new customers.” Here Businessweek tells the story of the company which cut its teeth working for the Pentagon and the CIA in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has grown its web of influence dramatically since then.

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