The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 62

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, April 29th, 2024

Good morning everyone,

Let’s jump right in today.

In Europe, the UK’s illegal migrant deportation legislation passes, Ireland is rocked by anti-immigration protests, and Poland and Lithuania hold a joint exercise.

Over in the Middle East, the ICC may be issuing arrest warrants for Israeli officials, the US begins construction of their Gaza pier, and the UK shoots down a Houthi ballistic missile.

Meanwhile, in Africa, Botswana rejects a migrant proposal from the UK, Burkina Faso allegedly massacres civilians, and the RSF gears up for a potentially deadly assault in Sudan.

In the Americas, Hundreds of thousands take to the streets of Buenos Aires to protest President Javier Milei, Ecuador recaptures an alleged gang leader, and Ecuador greenlit new security reforms in a national referendum.

In Asia and Oceania, the Philippines detains several Chinese nationals, Taiwan expands it’s navy, and North Korea practices nuclear responses.

As always, it’s just another day at the office. Let's see what we got:

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

The 2024 Global Terrorism Index

April 22nd, 2024: (4 Minute Read) The 2024 Global Terrorism Index has finally been released, giving an in depth analysis on terrorism and its trends from 2023. You can access the full report here, but it will be summarized below.

Key Trends

  • Deaths from terrorism rose to 8,352 in 2023, a 22 percent increase from the 6,701 deaths in 2022.

  • The number of terrorist attacks decreased to 3,350 in 2023, a 23 percent decrease from the 4,321 attacks in 2022.

  • Burkina Faso became the country with the highest impact from terrorism for the first time, with deaths from terrorism increasing by 68 percent to 1,907. A quarter of all terrorism deaths occurring globally were in Burkina Faso.

  • The Sahel is the most affected region in the world, accounting for almost half of all deaths from terrorism and 26 percent of attacks globally in 2023.

  • The Islamic State and its affiliates remained the world’s deadliest terrorist group in 2023, despite deaths from attacks declining by 17 percent from 1,963 to 1,636.

  • Terrorism against the West has decreased 55 percent since 2022 with only 23 recorded attacks, marking the lowest level since 2017.

  • Only 50 countries reported at least one terror attack in 2023, down from 60 in 2022.

  • Deaths caused by terrorism in Afghanistan down 81 percent since 2022.

Deadliest Terror Groups

  1. Islamic State (ISIS) and its affiliated groups

    • 1,636 attributed deaths (down 17 percent from 2022)

  2. Hamas

    • 1,200 attributed deaths (up 119,900 percent from 2022)

  3. Jamaat Nusrat Al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM)

    • 1,099 attributed deaths (up 293 percent from 2022)

  4. Al-Shabaab

    • 499 attributed deaths (down 36 percent from 2022)

Note: These groups account for over 75 percent of attacks deaths in 2023.

Deadliest Attacks

  1. (10/7/2023) Hamas-led attacks against Israel left 1,200 dead.

  2. (11/16/2023) JNIM attack against Nigerien military convoys in the Tillaberi region kill at least 200 soldiers and wound dozens more.

  3. (10/5/2023) Unknown explosive drone attack against a military academy graduation in Homs, Syria, kills at least 89 people and wounds 240 others.

  4. Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) suicide bombing at a mosque inside a police compound in Peshawar, Pakistan, kills 84 and wounds 200 others.

  5. (2/17/2023) Islamic State gunmen kill at least 71 Burkinabe soldiers during an ambush in the Oudalan province.

  6. (2/26/2023) Suspected JNIM gunmen kill 70 civilians during an attack against the town of Partiaga, Burkina Faso.

  7. (11/5/2023) Unknown gunmen kill 70 civilians during an attack against the town of Zaongo, Burkina Faso.

  8. (3/1/2023) At least 60 Islamic State militants killed in clashes with JNIM in Mali’s Gao region.

  9. (8/19/2023) At least 60 Boko Haram militants killed in clashes with Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) militants.

  10. (12/24/2023) JNIM militants kill at least 60 Burkinabe soldier during an attack against a barracks in Souli.

Top Countries Impacted by Terrorism

  1. Burkina Faso

  2. Israel

    • Note: Deaths from terrorism increased from 24 in 2022 to 1,200 in 2023 from the October 7 attacks, marking a 4,900 percent increase.

  3. Mali

  4. Pakistan

  5. Syria

  6. Afghanistan

  7. Somalia

  8. Nigeria

  9. Myanmar

  10. Niger

Deaths Rose While Attacks Decreased in 2023

Deaths from terrorism rose to 8,352 in 2023, a 22 percent increase from the prior year, marking the highest level since 2017. The increase in deaths has largely been attributed to the October 7 attacks against Israel and increased militant activity in Burkina Faso.

Excluding the October 7 attacks, deaths from terrorism would have still increased 4.8 percent from 2022.

The number of terrorist attacks decreased to 3,350 in 2023, a reduction of 23 percent from the 4,321 attacks in 2022.

Sahel Remains the Epicenter for Terrorism

The Sahel is the most affected region in the world, accounting for almost half of all deaths from terrorism and a quarter of attacks globally. Burkina Faso has become the most impacted country with increased activity by militants from the Islamic State and JNIM, which has been exacerbated by a fragile security and political situation following the coup in 2022. Excluding Israel, Burkina Faso saw the largest increase in deaths due to terrorism over the past year.


April 23rd, 2024 - The UK’s ‘Safety of Rwanda’ bill has officially passed through the UK’s parliament after an extended parliament session between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The extended session came after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak expressed frustrations at how long the bill had been delayed, and ordered the session in order to assure the bill’s passage. The bill is the theoretical last step in the UK’s plan to deport illegal migrants and illegal asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda. The plan is meant as a deterrent to migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats, a dangerous journey that is oftentimes organized by human traffickers. The danger of the journey was highlighted by the drowning of five migrants in the English Channel, including a seven year old girl, mere hours after the bill had passed. PM Sunak has claimed that flights will take off to Rwanda in 10-12 weeks.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Rwandan President Paul Kagame pictured at 10 Downing Street in London, the UK (Photo from Paul Kagame on Instagram).

April 25th, 2024 - A demonstration against the establishment of a site for asylees rocked Newtownmountkennedy, County Wicklow, on Thursday night in a protest that would ultimately turn violent. The protest began after Ireland’s Department of Integration announced plans to establish 20 eight-person tents for international protection applicants in the small Irish town just south of Dublin. According to officials, the protest would turn violent around 19:00 local time when protestors began throwing stones alongside other improvised weapons at authorities, resulting in the deployment of forced dispersion tactics utilizing batons and pepper spray. Among attacks against authorities, demonstrators also started several fires across the site, damaging three Gardai vehicles, while an axe was seized by authorities during the dispersion. Demonstrators further threatened journalists, with a reporter from Sky News facing threats for recording with his cellphone while a cameraman from Raidio Teilifis Eireann, an Irish public service broadcasting company, was forced to leave after he attempted to document the gathering. Officials placed the blame firmly on the shoulders of the UK’s controversial "Safety of Rwanda" bill, which has reportedly led to an increase in those seeking sanctuary crossing the Northern Irish border into the Republic.

April 26th, 2024 - Poland and Lithuania began a joint military exercise on their nations’ shared border on Friday in order to show the “potential aggressor” the readiness of both nations, according to Polish President Andrzej Duda. The exercise focuses on the Suwalki Gap, a key location between the Lithuanian and Polish borders, which experts believe to be a key flashpoint in case of invasion due to the region standing between Russian Kaliningrad and Belarus. 1,500 Lithuanian troops, along with 200 Polish mechanized infantry and military personnel from both the United States and Portugal, took part in the exercise. “There is a potential threat, which is why these exercises are going on,” Duda said. This follows NATO’s recent consolidation of military power in the Baltics following the Bundeswehr, Germany’s army, establishing a NATO base in Lithuania earlier in April.

Middle East

April 26th, 2024 - The US has officially begun construction of the Gaza Pier, a pier built by the US on the coast of Gaza in order to better facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid via the sea. The plan for the pier was officially announced by US President Joe Biden during the State of the Union address, on March 7th. The pier is one of many ways that different countries are attempting to bring aid into Gaza, as the humanitarian situation there continues to collapse. Israel has continually been accused of obstructing aid, an accusation which they deny. In the shortage of aid, several different nations began air dropping supplies into Gaza, however this has not been enough to make any noticeable difference. The UN, among other groups, have called for unobstructed access of humanitarian aid into Gaza in order to prevent what many say is a starting famine.

April 29th, 2024 - Several Israeli officials may receive arrest warrants from the International Criminal Court (ICC), pending a several year long investigation by the ICC into alleged war crimes carried out by both Israel and Palestinian militants. Figures such as Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and several prominent military officials, may receive warrants. The court itself has given no indication that an arrest warrant will be issued, only stating it has “an ongoing independent investigation in relation to the Situation in the State of Palestine,” and that it had “no further comment to make at this stage.” Israel nor the US recognizes the jurisdiction of the ICC, meaning if arrest warrants are issued, it is unlikely they will end up in jail. However, it does mean they will be unable to travel to any nation that has ratified the Rome Statute, as those nations will be obligated to arrest them. The ICC issued an arrest for Russian President Putin in March of 2023. This warrant prevented Putin from travelling to South Africa for the BRICS summit later that year, as South Africa is a member of the ICC and would have been obligated to arrest him. So while a warrant may not mean Netanyahu and the other figures will be imprisoned, it would significantly restrict their ability to travel, including to nations that have historically been aligned toward Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo from AHMAD GHARABLI/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES).

April 24th, 2024 - The UK’s HMS Diamond has become the first warship of the Royal Navy to shoot down a ballistic missile during combat operations, after it intercepted a Houthi ballistic missile in the Gulf of Aden. The HMS Diamond shot down the missile using a Sea Viper anti-air missile system. The shoot down took place while the ship was defending a commercial vessel. The shoot down marked both the Royal Navy’s first interception of a Houthi missile since deploying to the region, as well as the first interception of any ballistic missile for the Royal Navy. It was additionally the first missile they had intercepted since the Gulf War in 1990-1991. The UK is presently deployed to the region as a part of the US headed Operation Prosperity Guardian, which is meant to protect commercial shipping vessels travelling in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden that have been suffering attacks from Yemen’s Houthi Rebels.


April 25th, 2024 - Botswana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lemogang Kwape, stated that Botswana has rejected a proposal from the UK to sign a migration deal similar to that which the UK has signed with Rwanda. Minister Kwape said that Botswana could not commit to “hosting people not knowing what the end game would be." Botswana’s statements come several days after the UK’s legislation for the Rwanda deal finally passed, and a week after the Times of London had reported the UK was considering partnering with several countries in order to expand the deal. The Times had reported that the UK was considering Armenia, Botswana, Costa Rica, and Cote d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast) as partner nations. Costa Rica quickly stated they were not considering such a deal, and Botswana publicly rejected the deal the following week. Armenia and Cote d’Ivoire have not commented on any potential negotiations.

April 25th, 2024 - The Human Rights Watch (HRW) has claimed that 223 civilians were executed by Burkinabe military forces in February, in the villages of Nondin and Toro, in Burkina Faso’s Yatenga province. The attack was apparently a reprisal attack by the military in relation to militant activity in the area. Survivor testimonies claimed that the military forces accused them of cooperating with militants by not informing them of the militants movements, before summarily executing them. Burkina Faso suffers extensively from militant activity, with approximately 40% of the country under the control of various jihadist groups. 25% of all terrorism deaths in 2023 were recorded in Burkina Faso. Civilian populations frequently suffer attacks from militants, but also frequently suffer attacks from security forces who accuse villages of cooperating with the militants.

Leader of the Burkinabe Military Junta, Captain Ibrahim Traore (Photo from Anadolu Agency/Getty Images).

April 26th, 2024 - Several international entities are expressing grave concern about what looks to be an imminent attack by the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on the city of El Fasher, in Sudan. El Fasher is the regional capital of North Darfur, and the last remaining city within Darfur still under control of the Sudanese Armed Forces. The city has a population of two million, and additionally hosts approximately 500,000 people displaced from other areas of Sudan. The RSF is moving to encircle the city, and has been amassing several thousand troops for several weeks now. Clashes began on April 14th, and have already killed dozens of civilians and, according to the North Darfur state governor, displaced 70,000 people. The UN has warned of an immediate humanitarian crisis if the city is attacked, claiming several hundred thousand civilians will be put at risk. El Fasher’s situation is already desperate, with hunger running rife throughout the city, and Sudan as a whole.

The Americas

April 23rd, 2024 - Hundreds of thousands of Argentineans, many of whom are students, took to the streets of Buenos Aires on Tuesday to protest against President Javier Milei's economic reforms intended to revive Argentina's struggling economy. The protests focus on Milei's decision to cut funding for public universities and other educational sites, much like others, which has left thousands of Argentine government workers unemployed. Universities have reportedly been forced to cut power as the campuses are unable to pay the bill following the budget cuts, with universities being forced to cut air conditioning, the use of elevators, and even being unable to use projectors in class. Students of public universities were not the only ones taking to the streets, with those from private schools joining their compatriots in the protest against the economic reforms, while some private schools also closed to show their support. Students were joined by a plethora of activists, with unions and political figures taking to the streets alongside those seeking higher education.

The protestors, many of whom being students, united against Milei's slashing of public universities' budgets. (Photo - AP)

April 22nd, 2024 - The alleged leader of Ecuador's infamous "Los Lobos" gang was recaptured by authorities on Monday following a months-long investigation launched after the leader fled prison in January. The gang leader, Fabricio Colon Pico, had escaped a prison in Riobamba on January 9th, where he was held awaiting trial for the kidnapping of an Ecuadorian civilian in 2023 and an alleged plan to assassinate Ecuadorian Attorney General Diana Salazar. Colon Pico was recaptured alongside four other individuals, two of whom were also escapees, while another was his sister. Authorities were reportedly greeted by Colon Pico and his companions with gunfire. These attempts to resist arrest failed, leading to the arrest of the group along with the seizure of 1 rifle, 2 pistols, 60 ammunition cartridges, and $7,300 in cash.

April 21st, 2024 - Ecuador passed nine of eleven reforms in a national referendum organized by Noboa's government on Sunday, intended to grant the president further power to fight against the various criminal gangs within Ecuador. Between 63 and 70% of voters voted in favor of the security measures, some of which include the authorization of further patrols by military and police units, preventing parole for crimes like kidnapping or terrorism financing among other anti-crime initiatives. While Noboa won over voters on the security front, two economic policies were rejected by Ecuadorians. The referendum sought to allow employers to contract workers by the hour alongside a vote to allow international arbitrage; both policies were rejected by over 60% of voters. This referendum comes after a major shift in Ecuador's security situation in January, when infamous Los Choneros gang leader Fito Macias escaped prison in Guayaquil, sparking an uprising in Ecuador's criminal underworld, which would lead President Noboa to declare a national state of emergency. Despite the now-month-long state of emergency, Ecuadorian authorities continue to struggle to put an end to the wave of violence that has plagued that nation while Fito himself remains uncaptured.

Asia and Oceania

April 27th, 2024 - The Philippine National Police’s (PNP) National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) announced the arrests of two Chinese nationals as local police served a search warrant in the metro Manila area looking for weapons and illegal gambling. The NCRPO‘s Regional Special Operations Group (RSOG) and other police officers executed the warrant at a residence in Taguig City, detaining several Chinese nationals and confiscating many weapons and cars. The detainees were eventually moved to the RSOG headquarters, where a Mr. Jerry Mari S. Cheng handed Zhuang Guangdong, one of the detained individuals who police had just released, two black paper bags with “9 Dynasty Group” labels. He then approached one officer outside the compound and attempted to bribe them with 3 million PHP ($51,836 USD) if he released the other Chinese nationals. However, the RSOG officers arrested Zhuang after he attempted to bribe the officers, while Cheng left the area after giving him the paper bags. Authorities said that Zhuang will face “corruption of public officials” charges while they continue efforts to locate Cheng. The Chinese government expressed solidarity with the Philippines in response to their citizens being detained.

During the raid, police cataloged and seized several items, including firearms and an unregistered McLaren GTR. (Photo - National Capital Region Police Office)

April 28th, 2024 - The Taiwanese Navy plans to commission the 3rd and 4th Tuo Chiang-class corvettes, Wu Chiang and Hsu Chiang, next month. Taiwanese news outlets reported that the Hsu Chiang was delivered in February and the Wu Chiang in March of this year. The first batch of six was all delivered, with the Taiwanese Navy receiving the An Chiang and the Wan Chiang last month. The second batch is currently in production and will finish in 2026. This increase in naval power by bringing on these two additional corvettes is part of a larger plan to improve the Navy amid rising tensions in the Taiwan Strait. The decision to switch to local defense production will benefit Taiwan as it decreases the need for foreign equipment. Domestic manufacturing allows them to continue production, development, and repairs, among other things, regardless of a naval blockade or shipping lanes being cut off. 

April 29th, 2024 - North Korea has carried out its first-ever nuclear counterattack drill as part of a larger measure to test the nation’s “nuclear trigger” warning system. According to a translated announcement by the North Korean media outlet, Korea Central News Agency (KNCA), the purpose of the drill was to “demonstrate the reliability, superiority, might, and diverse means of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea’s (DPRK) nuclear force and to strengthen the nuclear force both in quality and quantity." The KNCA also reported that the DPRK had been threatened by “hostile forces ceaseless military provocations to stifle the DPRK by force." As part of North Korea’s nuclear doctrine, the military is authorized to launch preemptive nuclear strikes against enemies if the government is perceived as being under serious threat, according to NPR. 

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