The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 28

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday August 7th, 2023

Good morning everyone,

Let’s jump right in today. In Europe, Poland accuses Belarus of airspace violations, Serbia promises to ignore sanctions, and a migrant ship capsizes off Italy. Over in the Middle East, Israel makes concessions on judicial reform, a shooting kills an employee at a consulate in Turkey, and Israel strikes targets in Syria. Meanwhile in Africa, Boko Haram’s violence grows, South African protests turn deadly, and Senegal arrests the opposition. In the Americas, the son of Colombia’s president is under investigation, a bus crashes in Mexico, and Colombia pursues peace. In Asia and Oceania, the Chinese and Philippine Coast Guards clash, Australia assumes the worst following a military helicopter crash, and India deals with more religious violence.

Just another day at the office. Let's take a look:

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

Nigerian Senate Denies Approval For ECOWAS Attack on Niger; Wagner Deploys

Sunday, August 6th, 2023: (2 Minute Read) ECOWAS chairmen and Nigerian President Bola Tinubu formally asked the Nigerian Senate for war with Niger earlier this week. However, despite much speculation and Western approval for intervention, the request was denied, with lawmakers pointing to Nigeria’s already busy military in dealing with Boko Haram Islamist insurgents in their own country.

Senators opposed to military action pointed out that our military is highly ill-equipped and not prepared to fight any war. They said that we have fragile peace in Nigeria and that Niger is the highest arms market in Africa. Senators instead urged President Tinubu to intensify negotiations with the coup leaders by again sending a high-powered delegation to Niamey. It was suggested that respected elder statesmen like Obasanjo, General Ali Gusau, or Abdulsalam Abubakar be sent as special envoys to dialogue and seek a diplomatic solution.

This devastating ruling evaporates the Nigerian President’s options to enforce international condemnation against the coup, even as the French government has vowed to support a Nigerian-led military intervention.

ECOWAS gave the junta seven days to put an end to their coup. It expired on Sunday, August 6.

In light of the looming end of the deadline, Nigerien National Council for Safeguard of Homeland Deputy Leader Salifou Mody reportedly requested the deployment of Wagner troops from Mali to the Niger capital of Niamey. The request was reported by the Associated Press, but local media have now reported that those advisers are present in the Nigerien capital.

As it may be confusing, please note that "Nigerian" refers to Nigeria, whereas "Nigerien" refers to Niger.


August 1st, 2023 - Poland summoned a Belarusian diplomat after two Belarusian helicopters violated its airspace. Prior to the incident, Polish authorities stated that they had been notified of Belarusian training exercises that were to take place close to the border. Following the incident, Poland’s Defence Minister has ordered an increase in Poland’s military presence on the already tense border. The border has been tight for months after Polish authorities accused Belarusian authorities of flying in migrants from Africa and the Middle East and forcing them towards the Polish border.

August 4th, 2023 - Serbia has stated they will simply ignore the sanctions the US has recently placed on four Bosnian-Serb officials, saying they will still be welcome in Serbia. "The Republic of Serbia will treat the sanctions as if they do not exist," said Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Those sanctioned are accused of taking part in drafting a law that the US says undermines the 1995 peace process. The law passed allows the Bosnian-Serb parliament to not recognize or implement decisions from Bosnia’s constitutional court.

President Vucic and Bosnian-Serb leader Milorad Dodik during Vucic’s visit to Serb areas of Bosnia (Photo from AP/Radivoje Pavicic).

August 6th, 2023 - Two migrant ships have crashed off the coast of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, claiming two lives and leaving an estimated 30 others missing. The Italian Coast Guard rescued 57 migrants, and the Italian mountain rescue service airlifted 34 others, including a child and pregnant woman, by helicopter from a cliff on the island where migrants had been stranded since Friday following another shipwreck. Authorities believe the migrants originally set out from the Tunisian city of Sfax, which stands on its eastern coast and is an emerging hotbed of Europe’s immigration crisis that has been attributed to President Kais Saied's crackdown on illegal immigrants living in the country.

Middle East

August 6th, 2023 - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced massive concessions to protestors and oppositionists regarding his planned judicial reforms. He announced that his government would be abandoning all further reform plans except one, which seeks to increase the government's say in picking supreme court judges. The government had already passed one of the reforms on July 24, which removed the power the Supreme Court had to overrule government actions that it saw as "unreasonable". The announcement came as Netanyahu attempted to reassure investors after the Israeli Shekel has been performing poorly and internal strife has been scaring away investments.

Israeli protestors gather against PM Netanyahu's judicial reforms in Tel Aviv, one of the epicentres of the Anti-Reform protests (Photo from AFP).

August 1st, 2023 - One person was injured after a gunman attacked the Swedish Honorary Consulate in Izmir, Turkey. The person injured was a Turkish employee, and the injury at the time of the incident was said to be "serious". Turkish authorities stated they took the attacker, whom they referred to as "mentally disabled", into custody.

August 7th, 2023 - At least four Syrian soldiers were killed with an additional four wounded after an Israeli missile attack struck nearby Damascus. In its media release, the Syrian state media SANA stated "At 2:20am [23:20 GMT Sunday] the Israeli enemy carried out an air attack from the direction of the occupied Syrian Golan, targeting areas in the vicinity of Damascus". On top of casualties, they also stated the strikes caused some material damage. Additionally, they claimed to have shot down some of the Israeli missiles.


August 4th, 2023 - Civilians in Cameroon discovered the bodies of 12 people on the island of Darak in Lake Chad. The 12 killed have been attributed to a wave of attacks by Boko Haram. The attacks on Darak this week are the first such attacks the island has experienced by Boko Haram in over a year. The area had experienced a relative calm due to Multi-National operations against Boko Haram; however, with recent instability in the area (particularly with the coup in Niger), the threat of Boko Haram rises. Midjiyawa Bakari, governor of the region where Darak is located, has requested the immediate deployment of government forces and the reactivation of local militias in order to push out militants and defend against any future incursions.

August 7th, 2023 - Protests in South Africa have resulted in the fatal shooting of two people in two separate incidents. Protests have been ongoing for a few days in Cape Town after minibus and taxi drivers went on strike for one week due to persistent heavy-handed run-ins with police and some of their vehicles being impounded. The union that organized the strike, however, has said that they are not instigating the violence that has marred their days of protest and that the strike is instead being co-opted by other groups as an excuse to launch their own protests. One of the shootings took place after a group of protestors pelted a car with stones, to which the driver responded with gunfire, killing one and injuring three. Police said they would be charged with murder and attempted murder if caught. A separate shooting took place that killed a man, which police have connected to the protests as well.

A Mini-Bus Taxi driver pictured wearing a mask during a trip in 2020 (Photo from AP Photo/Themba Hadebe/FILE).

August 5th, 2023 - Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko’s Lawyer, Juan Branco, has been taken into custody by Senegalese authorities. Juan Branco is a Franco-Spanish lawyer and political activist who has been a key player in Sonko’s legal battle with the government. Senegalese prosecutors announced on July 14 that they were beginning an investigation into Branco and would be pursuing an arrest warrant after finding "criminal offenses" in his writings, statements, and social media posts. In July, Branco entered Senegal covertly through The Gambian border. Authorities allege that when he was arrested, he was attempting to leave Senegal for Mauritania disguised as a fisherman.

The Americas

August 4th, 2023 - A Colombian judge has approved the conditional freedom of Nicolas Petro, the son of Colombia’s President, Gustavo Petro, while he faces charges of money laundering and illicit enrichment while in office. Judge Omar Leonardo Beltran rejected a request from the attorney general’s office to impose house arrest on Nicolas Petro, saying that the prosecution has not substantiated the need to keep the president’s son in detention or under house arrest. The judge allowed his freedom on the condition that he not leave Colombia or partake in political activities. Nicolas has complied, resigning from his duties as a congressman for Colombia’s northern Atlantic province. President Gustavo has claimed to have no knowledge of his son’s supposed illicit activities and has made it clear that he does not intend to impede the investigation.

President Gustavo Petro and his son Nicolas Petro. (Photo - Colprensa)

August 3rd, 2023 - A bus crash in Mexico has left 18 dead and more injured after the bus drove off the road and crashed into a ravine on Thursday. Authorities have detained the driver of the bus on the condition that they were driving recklessly. Many of the travelers were foreigners, primarily from India, the Dominican Republic, and a variety of countries in Africa. The bus was headed towards Tijuana, a city on the border of California and the largest city in Baja California, which has led some to speculate that the travelers may have been seeking entry into the United States. The accident occurred just outside Tepic, in Mexico’s eastern Nayarit state.

August 3rd, 2023 - A temporary ceasefire between the Colombian government and the Marxist-Leninist paramilitary group known as the National Liberation Army (ELN) began on Thursday. Peace talks have been ongoing with the group since November, following President Gustavo Petro’s strategy of negotiating a series of ceasefires and treaties with various paramilitary groups in an effort to end the 60-year civil strife that has claimed an estimated 450,000 people’s lives. The ceasefire was negotiated earlier in June, preceding an opening of peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), another Marxist-Leninist paramilitary group with ties to drug smuggling, which was negotiated in July. These talks are scheduled to take place in August.

Asia and Oceania

August 6th, 2023 - The Philippines have accused China of obstructing and using water cannons against a Philippine military supply boat in the South China Sea. The actions were strongly condemned as "excessive and offensive" towards their vessels. China's coast guard justified their actions, stating that they were enforcing necessary controls within the bounds of the law to deter Philippine ships, which were accused of trespassing and transporting illegal building materials. The incident involved a Chinese coast guard vessel blocking and water-cannoning a chartered Philippine boat that was on a routine troop rotation and resupply mission near the Second Thomas Shoal.

(Photo of the incident. - AP/Philippine Coast Guard)

August 5th, 2023 - Following clashes during a religious procession led by a Hindu nationalist group, mobile internet and SMS services were suspended in Nuh, India. These clashes in Nuh, located in Haryana state, have resulted in six fatalities and have been part of ongoing religious tensions between Hindus and the Muslim minority. The situation has led to numerous police officers being injured, prompting the deployment of thousands of Indian paramilitary forces to restore and maintain peace. To control the unrest, a curfew has been imposed, and banks and ATMs in the area have been closed.

August 4th, 2023 - Military personnel from at least three nations have been participating in a search and rescue mission to find the crew of a downed Australian MRH-90 helicopter. The helicopter had been taking part in the large-scale Talisman Sabre exercise, which involves several nations. However, due to the nature of the crash and recent findings, Defence Minister Richard Marles, has announced the mission change to that of recovery, under the assumption that the crew has died. According to Army Lt-Gen Greg Bilton, at a depth of 40 meters, a submerged drone detected human remains and a section of the cockpit. The MRH-90 fleet has been grounded and will be retired next year.

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