The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 57

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, March 25th, 2024

Good morning everyone,

Apologies for the late newsletter today. We are traveling and making big moves for Atlas so that we are able to improve the content we can bring to you guys. So, let’s jump right into it.

In Europe, the UK’s migrant deportation plan is delayed once again, several countries announce their intention to recognize a Palestinian state, and Russia adds the “LGBT Community” to their list of extremist organizations.

Over in the Middle East, the UNSC passes a ceasefire resolution and Canada halts arms exports to Israel.

Meanwhile, in Africa, Senegal’s opposition appears to have won the election and several UN peacekeepers are injured in the DRC.

In the Americas, the Colombian government has revived military action against the FARC-EMC , former President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, was indicted on charges related to falsifying documents, and a narco-terrorist group in Colombia agrees to initiate peace talks with the government.

In Asia and Oceania, the US and Japan plan to further their alliance, China meets with Hamas, and China damages a Philippines ship.

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

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

ISIS Claims Responsibility for Devastating Terror Attack in Moscow

March 25th, 2024: (2 Minute Read) On March 22nd three gunmen entered the Crocus City Hall music venue in Krasnogorsk, Moscow Oblast, Russia. They began firing and several eyewitnesses reported several explosions as the gunmen fired on the crowd. The gunmen threw firebombs which caused a massive fire at the popular music venue and emergency services had trouble had difficulties reaching the hundreds feared trapped inside. Special Forces eventually arrived on scene but the terrorists fled. A nationwide manhunt was issued and the suspects were eventually found.

At least 115 people were killed and over 100 others were left wounded.

The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement released through the Amaq News Agency. The statement reads:

“The Islamic State dealt a strong blow to Russia with a bloody attack, the most violent targeting it in years. Security sources told Amaq Agency that a coordinated attack was launched by Islamic State fighters, on Friday, on a large crowd of Christians in the city of Krasnogorsk on the outskirts of the capital, Moscow.

The sources added that the attack targeted a mass concert attended by thousands of Christians, inside a music hall located within a large commercial complex in the city. The sources revealed to Amaq that the attack was carried out by four Islamic State fighters who were armed with machine guns, a pistol, knives and incendiary bombs, and was preceded by an intensive monitoring operation of the place.

The sources explained that the fighters stormed the hall and three of them began shooting at the crowd, while the fourth fighter was busy setting fire to the hall using incendiary bombs that had been prepared in advance for this purpose. The sources indicated that the fighters confirmed that they shot dozens of Christians in the heads, and slaughtered a number of them inside the hall and its corridors.

The bloody attack resulted in at least 300 Christians being killed or wounded, and a major fire broke out that destroyed two-thirds of the hall and caused the collapse of large parts. The sources confirmed to Amaq that the attack comes within the normal context of the raging war between the Islamic State and countries fighting Islam.”

The statement itself does not glean any new or unique information about the events that happened, except clarifying that there were four suspects directly involved in the attacks. ISIS tends to claim isolated attacks as their own, however, the presence of a photo of attackers lends itself credibility that there was some form of coordination.

Through footage taken during the attack and statements by Russian media, it was already known that the attack primarily targeted the Crocus City Hall’s concert venue and that the assailants were armed with automatic rifles and incendiary devices, which were used to light the complex on fire. Footage released online also showed the brutality of the attack, where the gunmen fired on crowds of venue goers at close range as they made their ay through the complex.

Casualty counts released by ISIS through Amaq are typically inflated significantly, however, this number released in the statement appears to be fairly realistic and is close to what authorities are stating.

The statement also went on to say that “the attack comes within the normal context of the raging war between the Islamic State and countries fighting Islam.” This is fairly vague, but it does fall in line with previous ISIS statements regarding attacks against the West.


March 21st, 2024 - The UK government’s ‘Safety of Rwanda’ Bill has faced yet another setback as the House of Lords voted to instate several amendments to the bill, thus forcing it back into the House of Commons. This now means that the bill will be unable to pass until at least mid-April when the House of Commons returns from its Easter break. The House of Lords voted to make amendments to the legislation that would require ministers to take "due regard to domestic and international law" and restore the jurisdiction of domestic courts on the matter. Additionally, they would add an amendment that would only declare Rwanda to be a "safe country" after a treaty Rwanda signed with the UK is implemented. The Safety of Rwanda Bill seeks to establish Rwanda as a safe country under UK law to satisfy the UK's legal requirements in their plan to deport illegal migrants and illegal asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda. The bill also seeks to give ministers the power to ignore emergency injunctions as well as to halt legal challenges from outside the UK, an issue that had previously stopped deportation flights from the UK to Rwanda.

UK authorities pictured intercepting migrants attempting to make it to the UK (Photo from PA Media).

March 22nd, 2024 - Several European countries announced their desire to formally recognize Palestine as a legitimate country on Friday. Those supporting the move include Ireland, Spain, Malta, and Slovenia. The President of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, a member of the leftist Spanish Socialist Workers' Party, stated that he expects the recognition to go through within his tenure as President. "We are agreed that the only way to achieve lasting peace and stability in the region is through the implementation of a two-state solution, with Israeli and Palestinian States living side-by-side in peace and security," a joint statement issued by Ireland following a meeting between the nations read.

March 22nd, 2024 - The Russian government added what they deemed the “LGBT Community” to their long list of extremist organizations on Friday. This move solidifies a ruling by the Russian Supreme Court that declared the movement an extremist organization earlier in December and culminated in raids on several LGBT venues in Moscow, which included a nightclub, a male sauna, and a bar that hosted LGBT parties. Following the ruling, police reportedly checked and photographed the documents of attendees. This designation allows the government to freeze the bank accounts of activists within Russia alongside others designated as extremists, which includes a total of 14,000 people and entities ranging from members of US corporations to terrorist organizations. This move follows President Vladimir Putin’s move to crack down on liberal movements, which he has attributed to the “decadent West.” The designation also follows laws established by the Russian government to prevent sex change surgeries as well as the promotion of LGBT relationships. Over 100 other groups are banned in Russia, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses and opposition organizations.

Middle East

March 25th, 2024 - The UN Security Council (UNSC) has officially passed a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The resolution was the first to pass without a permanent member of the UNSC exercising their veto rights. The draft calls for an “immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan respected by all parties leading to a permanent sustainable ceasefire,” as well as for the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.” It also calls for a significant expansion of humanitarian aid and the “lifting of all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale.” Every member of the UNSC voted in favor of the resolution, except for the US, which abstained. The US has emphasized that the abstention “vote does not represent a shift in our policy." However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already expressed a level of anger at the US not vetoing the resolution, having reportedly cancelled meetings with several US officials over the matter. The US abstention comes after they vetoed three previous resolutions, with Russia and China vetoing the latest on Friday. The resolution’s passage comes as negotiations in Qatar are ongoing for a ceasefire related to the release of some hostages. The fate of these negotiations is now called into question with the passage of the resolution. However, there is no guarantee that Israel will adhere to the new UNSC resolution. It is immensely unlikely that the UNSC will seek to militarily enforce their resolution if Israel decides to go ahead with their operations, though it would open up the possibility of nations cutting off support for Israel completely, as well as potential UN sanctions upon Israel. If Israel carries on with operations, it will most likely isolate them on the world stage.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to media in Tel Aviv on March 22nd, 2024 (Photo from Evelyn Hockstein, Pool Photo via AP).

March 19th, 2024 - Following the passage of a motion proposed by the New Democratic Party (NDP) in Canada's House of Commons, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Melanie Joly, has committed to ceasing future arms exports to Israel. The motion is non-binding and calls upon the government to take a number of different actions. One such portion of the motion, "Cease the further authorization and transfer of arms exports to Israel to ensure compliance with Canada’s arms export regime and increase efforts to stop the illegal trade of arms, including to Hamas,"  is already being listened to by the government, announced Minister Joly. When approving defense exports, as is the responsibility of the Foreign Affairs Minister in Canada, one of the legal qualifiers is whether such exports can be used in human rights abuses. Given the "highly fluid" situation in Gaza, Minister Joly said the government is not able to fulfill its legal obligations of establishing potential risks for the exports, prompting the cessation.


March 25th, 2024 - Opposition leader Bassirou Diomaye Faye has, in essence, won Senegal’s long-awaited election. While official results are not yet in, he was one of two primary candidates, the other of which, Prime Minister Amadou Ba, has conceded the election as incoming results showed Bassirou securing a large majority. Bassirou’s victory represents a significant shift in Senegal, with key points of his platform being a renegotiation of the nation's oil and mining contracts with foreign companies, as well as a potential departure from the West African Franc, a regional West African currency seen by many in Senegal as a remnant of French colonialism. He has also promised a re-examination of the nation's relationship with France, a move that several other West African nations have taken lately, though the majority of them have been the result of coups within the region. Bassirou’s victory represents a major defeat for the ruling party, which had previously sought to delay the election. Initially, the election was to be held on February 25th, but it was delayed by the government until December 15th. The Senegalese Constitutional Court ruled the government delay unconstitutional, and after some time, March 24th was chosen as the new election date. Bassirou enjoyed the support of Ousmane Sonko, the primary opposition leader who had been barred from running in the election due to the upholding of his conviction in a defamation case. Sonko and Bassirou hold extensive popularity with Senegal’s youth, a significant portion of the population in Senegal, where approximately half of the population is 25 years old or younger. The government delay prompted intense protests nationwide, which seemingly assisted in lowering their popularity significantly in an election that they already had significant potential to lose.

A photo of pro-Sonko and pro-Bassirou protestors (Photo from AFP).

March 18th, 2024 - The UN has announced that eight of their peacekeepers belonging to MONUSCO, the UN's mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), were wounded during clashes with the DRC's M23 rebels on Saturday. The clashes took place around the town of Sake, which is approximately 20km from the North Kivu provincial capital of Goma. Combat has been ongoing around Sake for over a month now, with the town being the last barrier from the M23 completely cutting off Goma, a city of 2 million people. Isolating Goma would bring the city under the threat of capture; however, the M23 claims to not want to capture the city, as they did in 2012 and almost did again in 2022. The UN condemned the wounding of the peacekeepers and called for the M23 to adhere to pre-established peace processes and withdraw from occupied territories.

The Americas

March 17th, 2024 - The Colombian government announced they would resume military operations against the Estado Mayor Central faction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) following an attack on an indigenous community on Sunday. This follows the Colombian government negotiating a ceasefire between themselves and the FARC in October, which would be re-signed with further stipulations including those in place to protect those living in the rural areas of Colombia as well as indigenous communities who are most affected by operations undergone by the FARC. The attack that would break the ceasefire occurred on March 16th, when members of the FARC attacked the populace of the community while kidnapping a minor from a school. During the confrontation, two members of the community were injured and another was killed when members of the FARC began to fire “indiscriminately” into those attempting to assist the minor. The community member killed was Carmelina Yule Pavi, who was a leader of the local community, participated in cultural preservation and the protection of women, and was the coordinator of the community’s Women’s Program.

Néstor Gregorio Vera Fernández, also known by his alias “Iván Mordisco,” the commanding general of the FARC dissidents. (Photo - El Pais)

March 19th, 2024 - The former President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, was indicted on charges of falsifying vaccine records according to a police report seen by Reuters on Tuesday. Investigations revealed that Bolsonaro may have falsified documents relating to his receiving of the COVID-19 vaccination, with the official document stating he was vaccinated in Sao Paulo in July 2021, when he was not in the city. One of Bolsoanro’s aides, Mauro Cid, has also been accused of falsifying records, with investigators alleging that Cid had illegally obtained false vaccine records for both Bolsonaro and his daughter at the order of the former president. Bolsonaro has denied the accusation, claiming that he had never attempted to pass off that he was vaccinated, claiming to Reuters that "The world knows that I didn't take the vaccine."

March 19th, 2024 - Clan del Golfo, also known as the Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia (AGC), the largest narcotics production and smuggling organization in Colombia, agreed to sit down for peace talks with the Colombian government on Tuesday. Gustavo Petro, the President of Colombia, stated on Monday that he would be willing to negotiate a ceasefire with the group if they agreed to give up the narcotics trade, stop extorting businesses, and cease all human trafficking operations. While Clan del Golfo agreed to initiate peace talks, the organization denied that they participated in human trafficking. This prospective peace talk comes alongside Petro’s desire to bring “total peace” to Colombia and end the 60-year civil conflict within the nation, which has led to the deaths of an estimated 450,000 people. Previously, Petro has made peace with other armed groups such as the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s dissident Estado Mayor Central faction (FARC-EMC), which rejected a 2016 peace deal brokered by which would see the bulk of the FARC disarmed and disbanded. However, this deal with the FARC-EMC recently fell apart following an attack on an indigenous community, which left one community leader dead and two others wounded.

Asia and Oceania

March 24th, 2024 - The United States and Japan will undertake a significant upgrade of their security alliance since the 1960 Mutual Defense Treaty. The plan to upgrade the security alliance is seen as Japan’s and the United States’ response to an increasingly aggressive China in the region. U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will announce plans to restructure the U.S. military command, U.S. Forces Japan (USFJ), during a summit between the two leaders on April 10th. The plans will seek to enhance “operational planning and exercises between the nations” as well as increase coordination between the two militaries. Several potential structuring options are currently on the table, ranging from upgrading USFJ, basing a Joint Task Force in Japan, to stationing a four-star general, and giving more operational command authorities to coordinate with the Japanese Self-Defense Force.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Joe Biden. (Photo - MANDEL NGAN / AFP)

March 18th, 2024 - An ambassador of China’s West Asia and North Africa Department within the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry, Wang Kejian, met with key members of the group, including Ismail Haniyeh, the Chairman of Hamas’ Politburo, and other senior officials of Hamas in Qatar on Monday. The meeting between officials covered China’s support for Hamas against Israel alongside talks regarding providing aid to those affected by the ongoing conflict between Hamas and Israel. Haniyeh stressed to Wang during the meeting that the war “needs to be ended quickly, the IDF needs to withdraw from Gaza, and an independent Palestinian state needs to be established.” Wang stated China’s continued support for what the state deemed a just cause for freedom from Israeli aggression alongside independence from Israel and a two-state solution to end the conflict. “Hamas is part of the Palestinian national fabric, and China is eager to establish relations with it,” Wang stated.

March 22nd, 2024 - Footage from an Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle showed a Chinese Coast Guard (CCG) vessel using a water cannon on the resupply vessel, the Unaizah May 4 (UM4), during its resupply mission to Second Thomas Island. However, the AFP said the water cannon blasts from the CCG caused significant damage to the UM4 at 8:52 a.m. local time. The damage appeared to be concentrated in the vessel’s middle section. The canon was so intense that water could be seen coming out of the other side of the ship. The vessel also stopped in the water, indicating that the blast caused significant damage to the engine compartment as well.

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