October 2021 global news roundup: Global acts of terror; States of and in emergency; Electoral developments; China, Taiwan, and US relations and developments

Morning in Kabul, Afghanistan (Photo by Mohammad Rahmani on Unsplash)

This roundup summarises the most important news stories around the world in the last month (October 2021).

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Global acts of terror

Haiti, Norway, and United Kingdom (UK) were struck by acts of terror, as Afghanistan continued to be rocked by violence. In Haiti, 16 American and one Canadian Christian missionaries and their family members were kidnapped by a gang and held for ransom. The gang demanded US$1 (S$1.3) million per hostage and threatened to kill them if the demands are not met. In Norway, an attack – first reported as a bow-an-arrow one, later revealed to be one involving sharp weapons – killed at least five people. Norwegian officials are treating the attack as an act of terror. And in the UK, a conservative parliamentarian died after being stabbed multiple times. This was the second killing of a seating British lawmaker in five years. The suspect was a 25-year-old man born in the country to a Somali family and was previously referred to an anti-radicalisation programme.

Twin mosque at Shiite places of worship blasts, among the deadliest attacks since the US withdrew troops in late August. struck Afghanistan and killed dozens. Blasts and gunfire at a Kabul military hospital also killed at least 25 people. Across the country, the risk of mass starvation is rising, as the Taliban government calls on the United States (US) to lift its economic restrictions on the country’s banking system. However, the US is reluctant to do so, for fear of implicitly acknowledging Taliban rule.

Militants killed five soldiers in India-administered Kashmir, at least five were killed following heavy gunfire at a Beirut demonstration, at least 14 were killed in an attack on a military bus in Syria, and in Yemen a car bomb targeting officials killed at least five people.

States of and in emergency

States of emergency were declared in Chile and Ethiopia. In Chile, it was declared in two Southern regions to contain attacks by indigenous groups seeking to reclaim ancestral land. And in Ethiopia, the government declared it and called on citizens to pick up arms.

An apparent coup in Sudan, the second in two years, resulted in the detention of the prime minister and other civilian political leaders. Thousands protested in the streets in response, with at least seven killed after soldiers opened fire, and subsequently the World Bank cut off aid and Sudan’s African Union membership was suspended. The prime minister was later released after a week and military leaders plan to hold elections in July 2023.

Electoral developments

Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced his resignation days following allegations of corruption and bribery, of him using federal money to pay for positive coverage by pollsters and journalists. Mr. Kurz remains in parliament and plans to be a key opposition voice.

Opposition groups in the Czech Republic won a parliamentary majority, ousting the populist prime minister’s party from power in a broader sign of opposition to strongman leaders in Central and Eastern Europe. And in Japan, the party of the new prime minister won an absolute and comfortable majority in parliament.

China, Taiwan, and US relations and developments

Following the incursion of about 150 Chinese aircraft into Taiwan’s air defence zone, the country’s defence minister said that Sino-Taiwan relations were at their worst in 40 years. He also warned that China could launch a full-scale attack on the island nation with minimal losses by 2025. Later, in a televised speech on the 110th anniversary of the 1911 revolution which led to the founding of the Republic of China one year later, Chinese president Xi Jinping spoke of peaceful reunification with Taiwan as being in the best interests of both countries. The Taiwanese president then confirmed that a small number of US troops have been stationed on her country since at least last year.

LinkedIn – the only major US social network operating in the country – announced it would shut down in China, despite censoring posts in the past to keep operating. Facebook and Twitter were blocked in 2009 and Google exited the Chinese market a year later. Citing the country’s challenging business and legal environment, Yahoo also announced the shutting down of access to its services.

Separately, Facebook and its associated platforms suffered a widespread, six-hour outage.

In other news

There was some positive news. In a historic breakthrough, the World Health Organisation approved the world’s first ever malaria vaccine for children. It is the first developed vaccine for any parasitic disease in humans. Economically, at least 136 countries have joined a global agreement to implement a minimum corporate tax of at least 15 per cent.

Finally, natural disasters struck China (heavy rain and floods), India (heavy rains), Pakistan (earthquake), and the Philippines (tropical storm and landslides). In Taiwan, a fierce fire at a 13-storey residential building killed at least 46 people. And in Russia, an aircraft carrying parachutists crashed and killed at least 16 people.

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