World News Brief, Tuesday June 16

US counterterrorism raid targets senior militant in Libya; nine arrested in Hong Kong explosives plot; five new cases of MERS in South Korea; senior Taliban leader killed in Peshawar; Greek debt talks collapse; and more


U.S. Air Strike Targets Senior Militant in Libya

An aerial U.S. counterterrorism raid targeted (Reuters) former leader of an al-Qaeda affiliate Mokhtar Belmokhtar and other militants on Sunday, according to Pentagon officials. The internationally recognized Libyan government reported on Monday that the air strike had killed (AP) Belmokhtar, but the United States has yet to confirm his death. Belmokhtar, a leader of a north African militant group and former chief of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was found responsible (Al Jazeera America) for the 2013 attack on an Algerian gas plant that killed thirty-eight hostages, including three Americans. The air strike is the first by U.S. aircraft in Libya since the overthrow of Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011.


"The French intervention in Mali appears to have pushed Belmokhtar north from his previous hunting grounds into Niger and southern Libya. He was able to take advantage of the complete collapse of government in Libya and the weapons bazaar that emerged there after Gadhafi's fall. But it seems that he was more frequently on the move, relying on a variety of Libyan allies. And that made him more vulnerable to being tracked and targeted," writes Tim Lister for CNN.

"But this isn't the first time authorities have claimed to have killed Belmokhtar, a militant believed to be 43 who reportedly lost his eye in combat and fought in Afghanistan. He was one of a number of Islamist fighters who have battled Algeria's government since the 1990s, later joining al-Qaida. Intelligence officials say Belmokhtar essentially built a bridge between AQIM and the underworld, creating a system where various blends of outlaws now support each other and enroll local youth," write Sarah el Deeb and Lolita C. Baldor for the Associated Press.

"Now is the time to play diplomatic hardball; when the Thursday deadline for an agreement passes, [Libya's] civil war is likely to intensify. This chaos is dangerous, but not only for Libya. Since late May, ISIS has been on the march, taking over a key airport, overrunning a military base and accepting the surrender of various tribal groups in central coastal Libya. And every day, barely seaworthy boats depart with human cargo toward Europe from Libya's coastline, which has become an unpatrolled, lawless sieve," write Brian Klaas and Jason Pack in the New York Times.


Nine Arrested in Hong Kong Explosives Plot

Police detained (SCMP) nine people on Monday in connection to an alleged plot to detonate explosives ahead of a debate in Hong Kong's legislative council on proposed political reforms.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at the relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China.

SOUTH KOREA: Authorities reported (Korea Herald) two deaths and five new cases of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) on Monday, bringing the death toll to sixteen; 150 people have been diagnosed. Meanwhile, a North Korean soldier defected (Yonhap) to South Korea through the inter-Korean border on Monday.


Senior Taliban leader killed in Peshawar

Greek debt talks collapse

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