France’s embassy in Tripoli, Libya’s capital, was hit Tuesday by what appeared to be a car bomb, wounding two French guards and several residents. The explosion destroyed the reception area of the embassy on the ground-floor and the perimeter wall, as well as nearby homes and shops. A French embassy official said, "We think it was a booby trapped car." French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said deaths and greater injury were avoided because the explosion occurred before embassy staff would have been arriving for work in the morning. French President Francois Hollande condemned the attack and said, "France expects the Libyan authorities to shed light on this unacceptable act so that the authors are identified and brought to justice." No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, which was the first on a diplomatic mission in the city since the ouster of Muammar al-Qaddafi. Other similar attacks have been primarily in the eastern city of Benghazi, such as the September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate.
Gunmen in an opposition held area of northern Syria have abducted two Christian bishops. Yohanna Ibrahim, head of the Syriac Orthodox Church in Aleppo and Boulou Yaziji, leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in Aleppo, were reportedly kidnapped when they were doing "humanitarian work in Aleppo countryside," according to Syrian State TV. A member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Abdulahad Steifo, said the two men were abducted on the road to Aleppo from the opposition held Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey. While several prestigious Muslim clerics have been killed since the uprising in Syria began over two years ago, these are the most senior Christian leaders to be caught up in the conflict. Meanwhile, Israel’s senior military intelligence analyst, Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, made a statement Tuesday that Syrian government forces have used chemical weapons. Brun’s comments came a day after U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, while visiting Israel, said U.S. intelligence agencies were still investigating suspected chemical weapons use in attacks on March 19 near Damascus and Aleppo. Brun said, "To the best of our understanding, there was use of lethal chemical weapons. Which chemical weapons? Probably sarin." On Monday, Hagel said the use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces would be a "game changer."
- A raid by Iraqi security forces on a camp in Hawija of Sunni anti-government protesters early Tuesday sparked clashes, killing at least 23 people, however reports are conflicting.
- Iran has denied ties to al Qaeda after Canadian police claimed a planned attack on a passenger train was linked to an al Qaeda group in Iranian territory.
Arguments and Analysis
State of Denial (Ursula Lindsey, Latitude Blog, The New York Times)
"For over two years we have been living surrounded by the faces of the shuhada, or martyrs: the many hundreds of protesters and bystanders who disappeared or died in the 2011 revolution and other violent clashes that followed.
At the height of the initial uprising against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak, you could see their blurry, smiling faces on posters, banners and even memorabilia sold in Tahrir Square. In the months since, their stenciled portraits have appeared on walls throughout the city, the work of anonymous graffiti artists.
When President Mohamed Morsi came to power he promised justice to the victims’ families. But now he is burying a report by the very fact-finding committee he created last July to investigate abuses against protesters.
Although the document was finished many months ago, it has not been released. It took The Guardian and the privately owned Egyptian newspaperEl Shorouk to publish a series of articles based on leaked copies for us to know what the commission had discovered."
Northern Iraq: Peace, harmony and oil (The Economist)
"BIBLE scholars say the Garden of Eden was in southern Iraq, perhaps where the rivers Tigris and Euphrates meet. But when Iraqis think of earthly paradise they tend to look north, towards Kurdistan. It is easy to see why. Over Nowruz, the spring holiday celebrated last month, picnickers flocked to the autonomous region’s flower-speckled meadows and valleys carved by streams flowing down from snow-capped mountains.
Nature is not Iraqi Kurdistan’s only draw. The relative order, security and wealth enjoyed by the 5m residents of Iraq’s three Kurdish provinces are the envy of the remaining 25m who live in the battered bulk of Iraq, and of others too. Since 2011 some 130,000 Syrian refugees, nearly all of them ethnic Kurds, have been welcomed in as brothers; the UN says that number could reach 350,000 by the year’s end. From the east come Iranian Kurds eager to work on the building sites that bristle across a territory the size of Switzerland. From the north come plane-loads of Turkish businessmen seeking profit from a land so rich in oil that its sweet, cloying smell hangs everywhere. Iraq is now Turkey’s second export market after Germany, with 70% of that trade directed to the Kurdish part; 4,000 trucks cross the border daily."
–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey
David Kenner is the Middle East editor for Foreign Policy.| Passport |