And in the Rest of the World: Real-life Assassin’s Creed

Feb 25, 2017 02.00PM |
 

THINK that murder mysteries and assassinations are confined to the pages of an Agatha Christie novel? Think again, as fact is stranger than fiction. From alleged Kremlin death plot and attempt on the Libyan Prime Minister’s life to North Korean agents attempting to recover Kim Jong Nam’s body by sneaking into the Kuala Lumpur morgue, this week’s news is thick with blood and political intrigue.

 

1. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Attempted break-in at morgue holding Kim Jong Nam’s body

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Image from Facebook user Johan Manus.

On Tuesday (Feb 21), merely days after Kim Jong Nam was assassinated by two mysterious women, Malaysian police detected an attempt to break into the morgue where Mr Kim’s body was being kept. Police presence at the morgue has been stepped up. Police chief Khalid Abu Bakar claimed that authorities knew the identity of the break-in suspects, but refused to go into detail as to whether they were North Korean.  He said, “We know who they are. No need to tell you (the press).”

The break-ins, however, have intensified speculation that North Korea is behind the assassination. North Korea has repeatedly tried to foil Malaysian attempts to investigate the murder, calling for the immediate release of the two “innocent women” who were arrested in connection with Kim’s death. The isolated nation has refused to even acknowledge that the dead man was Kim Jong Nam, and has accused Malaysia of conducting a politically-motivated investigation to gain favour with the United States and South Korea.

North Korea-Malaysia relations have soured in light of this diplomatic spat. On February 20, the North Korean ambassador was summoned by the Malaysian government, while the Malaysian ambassador to North Korea was also recalled. This story is still developing.

 

2. Moscow, Russia – Kremlin has denied allegations of Montenegro assassination plot

Image from Wikipedia Commons
Image from Wikipedia Commons

Montenegrin Special Prosecutor Milivoje Katnic accused Russia on Sunday (Feb 19) of involvement in an alleged conspiracy to assassinate the Montenegrin prime minister, Milo Dukanovic, in October last year. Russia has strenuously denied any such claims.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said in response: “These (are) absurd accusations … We do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, including Montenegro.”

These allegations come as Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, criticised NATO for being a “Cold War institution”. Russia has pointed to the expansion of NATO membership as a key reason why relations have soured with the West and even annexed the former Ukrainian territory of Crimea in 2014 in response to the toppling of Russia’s ally and then-Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych.

The planned Montenegro coup, scheduled for Oct 16 last year and foiled only hours before its execution, was a blatant attempt by Serbian and Russian nationalists to deny the pro-NATO and pro-EU Montenegrin Prime Minister from retaining power.

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3. Tripoli, Libya – Libyan PM survived attack on convoy

Image from Facebook user ALGERIA PRESS SERVICE.
Image from Facebook user ALGERIA PRESS SERVICE.

On Monday (Feb 20), a convoy carrying the Prime Minister of Libya, Fayez al-Sarraj, fell under gunfire as it was passing through the Abu Salim district of Tripoli, the capital. Also among the convoy were Supreme State Council head, Abdel Rahman al Swehli, as well as the commander of Presidential Guard, Najmi al Nakou. They were travelling in armour-plated cars and were unharmed.

However, statements regarding casualties do not tally. The Times of Islamabad reported on February 20 that Mohamed Salem, a spokesman for the Supreme State Council, said two guards were wounded. At the same time, Ashraf al Thulthi, a spokesperson for Mr Fayez’s administration, was reported as saying that “there were no injuries”.

The assassination attempt was a sign of how fragile Mr Fayez’s reign is. Libya has been existing in political turmoil since 2011, with the armed uprising against and death of its dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Subsequently, the Libyan government developed into two rival divisions, one with its seat of power in Tobruk and the other, in Tripoli. In late 2015, the United Nation backed an agreement to form a Government of National Accord, with Mr Fayez at its helm.

Investigations into the identity and backer of the assailants are ongoing.

 

4. Mugla, Turkey – 47 people accused of plotting to kill President Erdogan have gone on trial

Image from Facebook user Movie Box Office Colection & Celebrity News
Image from Facebook user Movie Box Office Colection & Celebrity News.

In Mugla, a province of Turkey, the trial of 47 assassin-suspects has begun on Monday (Feb 20) in the Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s conference hall. These 47 have been accused of targeting the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016.

That night, a section of the Turkish military took to the streets of several major cities with tanks and air bombardments in a coordinated attack. The president was staying in a hotel at the port town of Marmaris then. Fifteen minutes after he left the premises, the hotel was bombed. Meanwhile, loyalist soldiers, police forces and thousands of ordinary citizens resisted the coup after news spread via social media. After a few hours, the government was able to declare victory.  However, at least 248 people died and around 2,200 were wounded.

According to the Turkish government, the mastermind of the coup attempt was Mr Fethullah Gulen, a businessman and influential Turkish preacher on self-imposed exile in the United States (US) since 1999. Mr Gulen has denied any involvement and remained in the US.

Al Jazeera reported that the chief prosecutor of the trial, Mr Necip Topuz, has described the case as “historically important” since it is the only coup-related case where the president is the plaintiff. The trial is expected to last through the year.

 

5. Manila, Philippines – Duterte accused of ordering journalist Jun Pala’s death

Image from Wikimedia Commons.
Image from Wikimedia Commons.

A former police officer from Davao City in the Philippines has accused President Rodrigo Duterte as the mastermind behind the killing of a journalist, Jun Pala. Mr Duterte, who was then the chief executive of Davao City, allegedly founded the “Davao Death Squad” in 1988 and ordered the killing of criminals and troublesome political enemies.

On September 6, 2003, Mr Pala was gunned down by two men on a motorcycle while walking home from work. Mr Duterte denied involvement in the killing, but he also claimed to know who was behind Mr Pala’s death. Mr Pala had clashed with Duterte on many occasions – one of which involved Mr Duterte’s positive relationship with the New People’s Army (a communist insurgency), while Mr Pala was reportedly part of the Alsa Masa, an anti-communist group accused of human rights abuses in the 1980s.

As president, Mr Duterte has endorsed the killing of corrupt journalists and stands accused of waging a bloody war against drug gangs and peddlers in the Philippines.

 

Featured image Earth by Flickr user Kevin Gill. (CC BY-SA 2.0) 

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