The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 24

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday July 10th 2023

Good morning everyone,

Let’s jump right in today. In Europe, hundreds of migrants have gone missing after fleeing Africa, Wagner returns to Russia, and Ukraine gets cluster bombs. Over in the Middle East, there is terrorism in Iran, Turkey details it’s demands for Sweden, and Israel reports a citizen abducted by Hezbollah. Meanwhile in Africa, Kenya continues to face terrorism from Somalian militants, an oil pipeline draws protests, and Ethiopia’s Tigray experiences famine. In the Americas, Colombia negotiates with rebels, journalists are targeted by cartels, and Brazilian weather leads to issues. In Asia and Oceania, North Korea continues to threaten the US, Thailand’s election ramps up, and Japan and South Korea continue to bump heads.

Just another day at the office. Let's dive in:

- Joshua Paulo, Sebastien Gray, Trent Barr, & the Atlas team

Russia Harasses US Drones in Syria As They Hit ISIS

(Photo - Reuters)

Sunday, July 9th, 2023: (1 Minute Read) Several major reports out of Syria were released this week, as the United States reported that the same MQ-9 Reaper drone that was harassed by Russian aircraft over Syria was used to carry out a strike that killed a senior Islamic State official, Usama al-Muhajir.

According to reports from the United States, Russian aircraft harassed US drones three times last week while acting unsafely in accordance with international regulations. The unsafe observations included 18 close passes, causing drone operators to take the necessary actions to avoid a collision. This confrontation of drones over Syria is novel and follows a pattern observed over the Black Sea in which Russian fighters downed an MQ-9 in mid-March 2023.

However, according to the U.S. Air Force, their operations center on anti-ISIS operations while Russian jets seek to directly degrade that mission, saying, "We continue to encourage Russia to return to the established norms of a professional Air Force so we can all return our focus to ensuring the enduring defeat of ISIS."

The United States reports no civilian deaths but is investigating the possibility of civilian injuries due to the strike.

"We have made it clear that we remain committed to the defeat of ISIS throughout the region," General Michael Kurilla, commander of CENTCOM, declared in a press release, adding that "ISIS remains a threat, not only to the region but well beyond."


July 9, 2023 - At least 300 African migrants have been lost in the Atlantic Ocean following the disappearance of three boats, according to a migrant aid group, Walking Borders. The migrants were on route to Spain’s Canary Islands off the coast of Senegal following instability in their home country. Two boats, one carrying 65 people and another carrying about 60, have been missing for 15 days, while a third carrying an estimated 200 passengers left for the islands on June 27. The families of the migrants have told Walking Borders that they have not received any contact from their family members. Each boat had left the southern Senegalese port of Kafountine, roughly 1,057 miles from the Canary Islands. The islands are a popular crossing point for African migrants seeking entry into Spain; however, the crossing is one of the most dangerous in the world, with at least 559 people, including 22 children, having died in 2022 while attempting to reach the Islands, according to the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration.

July 6, 2023 - Lukashenko announced that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner PMC who recently headed a mutiny against the Russian MoD, was temporarily back in Russia as he was sorting out the last of his affairs in the nation. Flight trackers showed his private jet had made a number of trips between Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Belarus since the end of his mutiny. Around the same time, a raid was launched by the Russian FSB on Prigozhin’s estate, and they released pictures of bundles of money (including thousands of USD), wigs (to be used for disguises), and weaponry that they claimed to have found in his residence.

A photograph found in Prigozhin’s residence of one of his disguises he used to travel to Libya (Photo - via Russian FSB)

July 7, 2023 - The US announced its controversial decision to send Ukraine cluster munitions, stating they had received written assurance that Ukraine would use them carefully to reduce the risk of civilian casualties. While cluster munitions are banned by over 100 countries, neither the US, Russia, nor Ukraine are signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and thus the use of the munitions is technically legal for both sides, as has been shown by their repeated use by both Russian and Ukrainian forces throughout the war.

Middle East

July 8, 2023 - The militant group Jaysh Al-Adl attacked an Iranian police station, Police Station 16, in Zahedan. The attack used firearms as well as two suicide vests. Four total militants were killed in the attack as they attempted to storm the police station. In their claim of responsibility, Jaysh Al-Adl stated they targeted the specific police station as "Police 16 was one of the main factors in the Bloody Friday tragedy". The Bloody Friday tragedy refers to a series of crackdowns by Iranian police on protestors in 2022 that killed 96 people.

July 10, 2023 - Turkish President Erdogan held a press conference prior to his departure for the NATO summit in Lithuania, in which he detailed the Turkish position on Sweden’s ascension into NATO, among other things. Regarding Sweden, perhaps most importantly, he said that the European Union must "clear the way for Turkey" before Turkey will allow Sweden into NATO. He also said his willingness to allow Sweden in will largely depend on a meeting this week between himself, NATO General Secretary Stoltenberg, and Swedish PM Kristersson.

Turkish President Erdogan (Photo - Umit Bektas/Reuters).

July 5, 2023 - Israel’s Prime Minister’s Office has reported that Israeli/Russian dual national Elizabeth Zurkov had been kidnapped by a group from the "Hezbollah Brigades" in March. She was in Iraq, studying Kurdish communities. According to the PM’s office, she is still alive, but neither Israel nor Russia are sure of where she may be.


July 6, 2023 - The Kenyan government has once again delayed re-opening its border with Somalia amid a "wave of attacks" by Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab. The border has been closed since 2011 as Somalia faces intense internal strife. In May, Somalia and Kenya had come to an agreement to reopen the border; however, this idea has once again been put aside as attacks on Kenya in recent weeks have killed over a dozen people, including eight police officers.

July 10, 2023 - Human Rights Watch (HRW) has come out in condemnation of a planned oil pipeline, owned in majority by French company TotalEnergies, that is set to carry oil from Uganda to Tanzania. The project, which began construction earlier this year, is set to displace a significant number of people, with a total length of 1,445 kilometers (898 miles). While TotalEnergies has offered compensation to those who are displaced by the project, the HRW has not only declared most of the compensation packages to be inadequate but also stated that a number of people are facing multi-year delays in even receiving anything. The HRW has also made an environmental appeal, as the pipeline’s path heads through a number of ecologically sensitive areas. The project remains endorsed by Uganda’s government.

Protestors march in Kampala, Uganda, after the EU (non-binding) resolution to stop the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) in October of 2022 (Photo - Abubaker Lubowa/Reuters).

July 10, 2023 - Ethiopia’s Tigray region is experiencing a hunger crisis. Approximately one fifth of Tigray’s six million people were severely food insecure, according to the World Food Programme in February. Tigray has been the scene of a multitude of crises for a number of years, with a glimmer of hope arriving in November when the civil war ended. Aid began flowing in but was halted in June due to reports of widespread theft of donations. Ethiopia condemned the decision but stated they were investigating the claims. While both the US and the UN have announced their intention to resume the flow of aid this July, the situation remains dire. In the past few months, 595 people have died from hunger.

The Americas

July 8, 2023 - Colombia's Government has announced they have reached an agreement to initiate peace talks with a separatist faction of the FARC, a Marxist-Leninist paramilitary group, next month. While FARC was officially demobilized in 2016, a breakaway group opposed to the ceasefire known as the Estado Mayor Central (EMC) continued its operations against the government. The meeting is thought to have been facilitated following Colombia’s Attorney General, Francisco Barbosa's, suspension of arrest warrants against more than 20 EMC members in early March. Colombia’s President, Gustavo Petro, has made it his top priority to end the 60-year conflict, which has led to the deaths of an estimated 450,000 people. However, FARC is not the only paramilitary group that Colombia is seeking peace with. Another communist paramilitary group known as The National Liberation Army (ELN) has been in talks with the government since last November, with a temporary six-month ceasefire that will take effect in August.

A Colombian soldier inspecting a FARC bunker in the jungle. (Photo - Luis Ramirez/AFP/Newscom)

July 8, 2023 - A Mexican journalist by the name of Luis Martin Sanchez Iniguez was found dead in the Mexican state of Nayarit on Saturday, according to the Mexican Prosecutor's Office. His body was found in the village of El Ahuacate outside the city of Tepic with two messages attached to his chest, although authorities have not revealed what they said. Two other journalists have gone missing in recent days, including Osiris Maldonado, an ex-journalist who began working as a teacher. Both Sanchez and Maldonado worked for the newspaper La Jornada, leading some to speculate that members of the publication are being targeted by criminal gangs. Another journalist by the name of Jonathan Lora Ramirez was kidnapped following two masked intruders breaking into his home and forcing him into a vehicle on Friday, but was later found by authorities "in a good state of health". Authorities have immediately opened investigations into the cases and are following a special protocol for journalists and human rights defenders.

July 7, 2023 - At least eight people have died and five more are missing following an apartment collapse in Brazil’s northeastern city of Recife on Friday. The building collapsed early Friday morning, around 6:35 a.m. While authorities have not commented on the cause, Recife has suffered severe rainfall over the past few days, which has led some to speculate that the fierce weather may be behind the tragedy. Locals reportedly referred to these types of apartment buildings as "coffin blocks," claiming that their poor construction poses safety hazards to residents. However, four people have been rescued from the rubble, while six others remain missing. Among those killed are two children, aged five and eight, as well as a 43-year-old mother and her 19-year-old son. The Governor said on Friday that the rain would not let up and that all citizens should seek safe structures to wait out the foul weather.

Asia and Oceania

July 9, 2023 - North Korea accused US spy planes of violating its airspace and threatened to shoot them down, ratcheting up tensions before the NATO summit in Lithuania. The North Korean Defense Ministry also claimed that the United States was engaging in "nuclear blackmail" by planning to bring a nuclear-armed submarine near the peninsula while flying aircraft along its coasts for eight consecutive days, adding the threat of "such shocking accidents" as the downing of US reconnaissance aircraft.

The Boeing RC-135 is an example of the type of reconnaissance aircraft the United States may have used to monitor North Korea. (Photo - Daniel J. Condit/USAF)

July 9, 2023 - While addressing crows in Bangkok, Thai prime minister candidate Pita Limjaroenrat appealed to the country’s lawmakers to support his campaign just days before parliament votes. He urged the National Assembly to “return to normalcy” and elect him in order to overthrow years of military corruption in the government.

July 7, 2023 - Japan has summoned South Korean diplomats over military drills on disputed islands between the two countries. Calling the incident "unacceptable and extremely regrettable", Japan said the islands, known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in Korea, are “indisputably an inherent territory of Japan”. South Korea maintains that the drills were necessary for it’s "mission to protect our territory, people, and property." The two nations have long been at odds over the sovereignty of the islets located halfway between them in the Sea of Japan.

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