The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 49

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, January 29th, 2024

Good morning everyone,

Let’s jump right in today.

In Europe, a Russian milblogger is sentenced to prison, European farmers protest EU climate policies, and Spanish police arrest a group of ex-military burglars.

Over in the Middle East, the ICJ delivers it’s ruling on provisional measures in the case of alleged genocide by Israel, the Houthi’s continue ship attacks, and Turkey votes to allow Sweden into NATO.

Meanwhile, in Africa, Kenya’s Haiti deployment faces even more delays, the British Museum “loans” some artifacts back to Ghana, and the conflict in the DRC escalates further.

In the Americas, a Mexican town utilizes youth police, the Venezuelan Supreme Court upholds a Presidential ban, and six Catholic nuns are released from captivity in Haiti.

In Asia and Oceania, the US and China are set to meet to discuss fentanyl, Evergrande is liquidized, and the Philippines cancels it’s delivery to contested islands.

All in all, it’s just another day at the office. Let's dive in:

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

3 US Military Personnel Killed in Jordan

An overhead photograph of the base. (Photo - Planet Labs PBC/AP)

January 28th, 2024: (2 Minute Read) The United States has confirmed that three American servicemen were killed and at least two dozen others were wounded during an Iran-backed militia explosive drone attack carried out against the Tower-22 outpost in Jordan, which sits along the border with Syria.

While exact details remain unclear, statements by United States President Joe Biden and the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) confirmed that three servicemen were killed during an explosive drone attack carried out by Iran-backed Shia militia forces. The target of the attack was the Tower-22, or T-22, outpost in northeastern Jordan, where American forces are stationed as part of advise-and-assist missions with the Jordanian military.

“On Jan. 28, three U.S. service members were killed and 25 injured from a one-way attack UAS that impacted at a base in northeast Jordan, near the Syria border,” CENTCOM reported.

The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella organization of Iran-backed Shia militias that have been responsible for nearly 200 attacks against American forces in Iraq and Syria in recent months, has claimed responsibility for the attack.

In a statement, the group stated that it has carried out drone attacks against a number of American military installations, such as in al-Rukban, which is where the T-22 outpost is located. More specifically, this attack was likely carried out in part by elements of Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, who had also claimed involvement, as well as Kataib Hezbollah.

Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, an Iran-backed Shia militia that is part of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), has previously been involved in attacks against United States military forces in Iraq as part of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq and was the target of previous retaliatory American airstrikes. Earlier this month, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba Commander Abu Taqwa al-Saeedi was killed during an American airstrike on a PMF base in eastern Baghdad, Iraq.

This marks the first time that American forces were killed directly by strikes carried out by Iran-backed militia elements since attacks began on October 17. Over the past few months, American forces have faced nearly 200 drone and rocket attacks by these militias against military installations in Iraq and Syria, resulting in dozens of TBI-related injuries.


January 25th, 2024 - Igor Girkin, the former military leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), who has recently become a milblogger, was sentenced to four years in Russian prison following his conviction of charges for the “founding of extremist groups that instigate hate or violence“. His initial arrest followed a sharp increase in criticism of Russian military and political leadership in his blog. Girkin is a former Russian military and FSB officer who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for his role in the shootdown of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 civilian airliner in 2014, for which he is wanted for 298 counts of murder. 

Igor Girkin, pictured in detention (Photo from AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko).

January 24th, 2024 - Spanish police arrested a group of ex-military criminals from Eastern Europe on Wednesday in a raid which resulted in the seizure of jewelry, watches, cash, and weapons as well as the arrest of six individuals including the group’s ringleader. Police stated the group were skilled burglars and had robbed an estimated 71 locations primarily located in Marbella, a city in Spain’s southern Malaga province. The suspects had reportedly become violent in some cases of their criminal activities, with the ringleader possessing a pistol. Spanish police faced struggles in locating the criminals due to the group’s prior military training and the leader’s expertise in counter-surveillance, the group was only busted after a joint investigation between both local and national police. 

January 27th, 2024 - The last few days in various countries across Europe have seen a series of protests by the farmers of each nation against new climate policies put in place both by the EU and the individual governments. The EU has moved to revamp its Common Agricultural Policy, spending 55 billion to do so. 70% of this money has gone directly to farmers as a fallback option. Outside of this, however, the revamp makes it so 4% of arable land cannot be used for productive methods, seeks a 20% reduction in fertilizer use, and establishes a required crop rotation. The farmers of the EU have argued the restrictions make them even less competitive with foreign farms than they already were, in particular with Ukrainian farms, which a number of European farmers were already struggling against. Protests thus far have been held in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and more.

Middle East

January 26th, 2024 - The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered that Israel and the IDF must take “all measures” in order to prevent genocide in the Gaza strip, in a series of provisional measures ordered by the court against Israel. In addition, Israel must prevent and punish within its power public incitement of genocide (including that by Israeli officials), ensure the establishment of basic services in Gaza, and allow for greater amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. After one month, Israel is to deliver a report to the ICJ about the measures in which it has taken to adhere to the provisional measures. Notably, the provisional measures do not call for a ceasefire of any kind, which was sought by South Africa when they initially filed the case of genocide against Israel in December.

A Pro-Palestinian protest watches the ruling live (Photo from Patrick Post/AP Photo).

January 26th, 2024 - Yemen’s Houthi Rebels fired an anti-ship ballistic missile at the Marshall Islands-flagged, British-owned ‘Marlin Luanda’, which managed to strike the ship and catch it on fire. Several hours after the strike, which triggered an incident response from nearby international naval vessels, the crew was temporarily forced to abandon the ship. Although the crew suffered no injuries, the fire had been described as "uncontrolled" until nearby naval vessels arrived and assisted with firefighting efforts. Following the extinguishing of the fire, the crew re-boarded the vessel and set sail “towards a safe harbor”. Strikes were carried out by the US against the Houthi’s in response to the attack.

January 23rd, 2024 - In a 287-55 vote, the Turkish parliament has voted to allow Sweden’s ascension into NATO after several months of delays and negotiations. Turkey had initially denied Sweden’s ascension due to the nation's leniency towards several different Kurdish groups, including the PKK (which Turkey considers a terrorist group). Negotiations were held between Turkey and Sweden, as well as between Turkey and several other NATO allies, particularly the US. Following Turkish approval, the US approved a 23 billion-dollar sale of F-16 jets to Turkey, which they had been withholding for several months. Similarly, Canada has stated it will resume exporting arms to Turkey after the vote. Now Hungary remains the only nation yet to approve Sweden’s ascension into NATO, which requires unanimous approval.


January 26th, 2024 - The Nairobi High Court in Kenya has ruled against the Kenyan government's plan to head a multi-national UN deployment to Haiti. The court ruled that the deployment was “unconstitutional”, claiming that Kenyan law states that police may not be deployed outside of the country. The deployment, which was requested by Haiti first in 2022, would see Kenya deploy 1,000 police officers alongside police from Jamaica, Belize, Chad, Senegal, and Burundi. The deployment was requested by Haiti in order to try and help the nation regain control over the plethora of gangs that are operating within the country, particularly in the capital of Port au Prince. The government has stated their intention to appeal the court decision. The court's rejection of the deployment came one day after Haiti’s foreign minister spoke to the UN Security Council, asking to speed up the deployment. In 2023, Haiti’s murders were more than double that of 2022, with approximately 4,800 murders in 2023.

Kenyan police forces pictured in Nairobi, 2023 (Photo from YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/File).

January 26th, 2024 - The British Museum and Manhyia Palace Museum in Ghana have announced an “important cultural” collaboration which will see a series of artifacts of the Asante people returned to Ghana – temporarily. The British Museum will be ‘loaning’ 17 Ashanti Empire (the pre-colonial kingdom that ruled over most of modern-day Ghana) artifacts to Ghana, 13 of which are Royal Ashanti regalia. The loan is a way for the two museums to circumvent British law, which states that items within the British Museums collection cannot be returned outside of the UK. However, they can be temporarily loaned under a set series of conditions. The British Museum holds an estimated 239 Ashanti regalia in their collection, with a myriad more held in other UK museums and around the world. Of the British Museum’s collection of 8 million pieces, the vast majority are from outside the UK, a large chunk of which comes from British colonial conquests, including the relics being returned, which were purchased in an auction after the Anglo-Asante wars of 1873–74 and 1895–96.

January 27th, 2024 - MONUSCO, the UN’s Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has reported the evacuation of at least 1,000 refugees and the establishment of a civilian corridor from Mweso, a town in the eastern DRC's North Kivu province. The evacuation comes after the town suffered an attack on January 25th, which left at least 19 civilians dead and another 17–27 wounded. The government has taken to blaming the attack on the DRC’s M23 rebels, claiming they “indiscriminately dropped mortar bombs” on the town. In contrast, the M23 has denied responsibility, instead blaming the government for the attack. The attack comes as fighting has again sparked between the M23 and the DRC, after the DRC began joint combat operations with the Southern African Development Community.

The Americas

January 24th, 2024 - A town located in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero has begun recruiting youth on Wednesday in an effort to restore order and decrease kidnappings in the small town. The recruits, some as young as 12 years old, joined the volunteer force amid a debilitating crime wave that has impacted daily life in the Mexican town. “We can't study because of lawlessness,” one recruit told the Milenio television channel before explaining how he had learned to properly handle firearms following lessons. Crime has increased exponentially in Guerrero following a drone attack on a town that left nearly 30 people dead and displaced a significant number of civilians.

Recruits of Guerrero’s force (Photo - Reuters)

January 26th, 2024 - The Venezuelan Supreme Court maintained a ban on the nation’s leading opposition candidate on Friday following her landslide victory in the party’s primaries last October and ahead of Venezuela’s 2024 presidential elections. Maria Corina Machado had been banned from holding office for 15 years shortly after she announced her running in June, leading some to speculate the ban as another tool to lead the state of the upcoming election by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Despite her ban, Machado has stated that her campaign’s “fight to conquer democracy through free and fair elections” is not over. “Maduro and his criminal system chose the worst path for them: fraudulent elections. That’s not going to happen. Let no one doubt it; this is to the end,” Machado posted on X. Elections were announced to be held sometime in 2024 following a deal between the Maduro administration and the United States in exchange for a relaxation of sanctions on the socialist nation. The election was one of many demands made by the US; others included the release of American prisoners in Venezuela and the lifting of bans on opposition candidates.

January 25th, 2024 - Six Catholic nuns were released from captivity in Haiti on Thursday after almost a week of being held in captivity. The religious sisters were first taken hostage on Friday after gunmen hijacked the bus they were on in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. “The archdiocese of Port-au-Prince thanks the Lord for the liberation of the six religious sisters and the others who were kidnapped on Jan. 19,” Archbishop Max Leroy Mesidor announced. “This traumatizing event has, once more, tested our faith, but it remains unbreakable.” The kidnapping comes amid a wave of violence across Haiti following the assassination of the nation’s president, Jovenel Moïse, in 2021. The nation’s Prime Minister, Ariel Henry, previously requested the issuance of an international force to aid in restoring order, with his pleas only recently being answered by the nations of Jamaica, Belize, Chad, Senegal, Burundi, and Kenya, who is set to lead the deployment. However, Kenya’s High Court blocked the deployment on the grounds that the deployment is unconstitutional, announcing the final verdict on Friday.

Asia and Oceania

January 28th, 2024 - Senior officials from China and the United States will hold the first joint meeting in Beijing of a joint working group on fentanyl precursor chemicals on January 30th and 31st . The meeting will formally launch the U.S.-China Counter Narcotics Working Group. The U.S. delegation will be led by Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Jen Daskal and will include senior officials from the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of State, and Department of Treasury. The group will allow both China and the United States to enhance cooperation and coordination to tackle the distribution, financing, and production of illegal drugs and to support law enforcement actions.

(Photo - REUTERS/Lintao Zhang/Pool)

January 28th, 2024 - A court in Hong Kong ordered the liquidation of China Evergrande Group, China’s and the world’s most indebted real estate developer on Monday morning. Evergrande is considered to have approximately $300 billion USD in total liabilities. The judge presiding over the case, Justice Linda Chan, ordered the liquidation after highlighting that the company was unable to provide an effective restructuring plan despite months of delays and numerous court hearings. The decision will be first step of a long, complex process given the several economic and political issues that will arise from the liquidation.

January 22nd, 2024 - The Philippines announced they cancelled a resupply mission to the Second Thomas Shoal. An Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Colonel Francel Padilla said that one of the contracted civilian vessels, the Unaizah Mae (UM) 1, had unspecified ‘technical difficulties’ that prevented its use. The spokesperson then said that the mission will go ahead once the ship is repaired and deemed sea worthy. However, Padilla said that the personnel are ‘trained for any eventualities’ when asked if they are in danger of starving due to the cancelled mission. She also said that the while the military has the capability to deliver supplies via airdrop, this option would be considered only in ‘emergency situations.’

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