News You Should Read Today – November 20 – 2015

Gunmen in Mali take 170 people hostage in capital's Radisson Blu Hotel (Photo in Mali take 170 people hostage in capital’s Radisson Blu Hotel
Early Friday, a group of armed men stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali‘s capital, taking 140 guests and 30 employees hostage, according to the hotel chain’s parent company.

The Rezidor Hotel group said there were two gunmen, but Malian army commander Modibo Nama Traore told reporters that 10 gunmen shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is great) ran in and fired on the hotel guards. The luxury hotel is popular with foreigners, and the U.S. and French embassies told their respective citizens to take shelter if they are in Bamako.

There were no reports of fatalities yet, and the identity of the gunmen is so far unknown. But Islamist militants took control of norther Mali in 2012, driven out only after the French led a military operation in the country. The jihadists have launched isolated attacks since being ousted in 2013. Reuters, The Associated Press via The Week



ASEAN summit in Malaysia (Photo AP)ASEAN summit in Malaysia
The latest high-profile meeting of Southeast Asia’s primary political and economic organization began Wednesday in Kuala Lumpur amid what Malaysian officials describe as a doubling of security in the wake of the fatal attacks in Paris. The summit is expected to put more emphasis on regional security and countering terrorism.

President Barack Obama arrived Friday in the capital of Malaysia to attend the summit. After landing in the Malaysian capital, Obama held a town hall meeting where he called on young Southeast Asian leaders to reject extremism and embrace tolerance. During a question and answer session, Obama also said he would “definitely” raise the issue of human rights and corruption when he meets later Friday with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

More than 2,000 soldiers are stationed in Kuala Lumpur and another 2,500 are on standby, according to Malaysia’s army, to protect the ASEAN summit meetings following a reported, but unconfirmed, terrorist threat. VOA News



Convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard released from jail after 30 years (Photo AP)Convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard released from jail after 30 years
Jonathan J. Pollard, the American convicted of spying on behalf of Israel, will walk out of prison on Friday after 30 years, but the Obama administration has no plans to let him leave the country and move to Israel as he has requested. Mr. Pollard, who as a Navy intelligence analyst passed classified documents to Israeli handlers, was due to be released from a federal prison in Butner, N.C., after receiving parole on a life sentence, ending a long imprisonment that has been a constant irritant in relations between the United States and Israel.

Under federal parole rules, Mr. Pollard cannot leave the country without permission for at least five years. But his wife, Esther, lives in Israel and he has asked to be reunited with her there. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel personally raised the request in a meeting with President Obama earlier this month, but the president was unmoved, according to American officials and the Israeli news media.

Two Democratic lawmakers wrote to the Justice Department last week urging Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch to grant the request, saying that Mr. Pollard would be willing to renounce his American citizenship and never return to the United States. They noted that a spy for Cuba was allowed to renounce his American citizenship and live in Cuba in 2013 after serving his sentence. The New York Times



Hillary Clinton details plan to defeat ISIS (photo Clinton details plan to defeat ISIS
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Thursday urged a tougher approach to fighting Islamic State militants than President Barack Obama has pursued, with an intensified air campaign and more U.S. special forces and trainers. Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, the former secretary of state offered her most expansive view to date on how to counter a growing militancy that launched attacks in Paris last Friday in which 129 people died.

“Our goal is not to deter or contain ISIS, but to defeat and destroy ISIS,” she said, using a common acronym for the group, in what amounted to an implicit criticism of Obama, who said days before the Paris attacks that it had been contained.

Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination for the November 2016 election, called for a “new phase” in the fight against Islamic State and outlined an approach that is more hawkish than Obama’s. Reuters



Chinese security forces kill 28 terrorists (Photo AP)Chinese security forces kill 28 terrorists
Chinese security forces killed 28 “terrorists,” state media say, during a weeks-long search for those who carried out a deadly attack at a coal mine in the country’s ethnically divided Xinjiang region. The reports published Friday were the first official confirmation of the gruesome September 18 attack on the coal mine in Aksu prefecture, which officials said killed 16 people, including 5 policemen.

Following the attack, the assailants fled into the nearby mountains, prompting a massive manhunt that lasted 56 days and involved the assistance of around 10,000 people, according to local officials. Security forces eventually “busted” the alleged terrorist gang, according to the Xinhua news agency, killing 28 of its members. One other member was arrested, it added.

The group was operating “under the direct command of an overseas extremist organization” and was headed by two people with apparently Uighur-sounding names, according to the Xinjiang regional government. VOA News

South Korea accepts North's offer to talk (Photo cnn)South Korea accepts North’s offer to talk
South Korea has accepted an offer from Pyongyang for talks in its truce village of Panmunjeom, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said. The talks will be held next Thursday, November 26, and will be the first since August, when the two sides met to agree to ease escalating tensions.

Hostilities flared earlier that month when South Korea blamed the North for a land mine explosion in the neutral area of the DMZ, which injured two South Korean soldiers. Pyongyang denies responsibility. As part of the recent agreement, separated families from both Koreas held emotional reunions in October. Millions of family members were separated after the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in an armistice not a peace treaty.

Thursday’s talks will be a preparatory meeting for high-level discussions, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said, on a date yet to be set. CNN

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