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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 16-Sep-2014
16-Sep-14 World View -- Saudis push to avoid MERS outbreak as Hajj approaches

Web Log - September, 2014

16-Sep-14 World View -- Saudis push to avoid MERS outbreak as Hajj approaches

The center of international piracy moves from Somalia to Singapore

This morning's key headlines from

Saudis push to avoid MERS outbreak as Hajj approaches

Camel traders can become infected with MERS by contact with camels (BBC)
Camel traders can become infected with MERS by contact with camels (BBC)

With millions of Muslims from around the world about to arrive in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for their once in a lifetime Hajj pilgrimage on October 2-7, Saudi officials are pushing hard to prevent an outbreak of MERS-CoV (the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus). There is particular sensitivity this year, as the Ebola virus spreads out of control in Western Africa. Crowded Hajj events are the perfect venues for one infected person to spread MERS to several other people, causing a chain reaction.

Since the first cases of MERS were identified in 2012, there have been 855 cases and 333 deaths, with a 40% death rate. However, MERS apparently is more difficult to spread than Ebola, as most of the MERS deaths have been health care workers, or others who caught it in hospitals.

The "reservoir" for the MERS virus appears to be camels. Camels carry the virus but are not sickened by it, and can pass the virus to humans, who DO become sickened by it.

Saudi officials have for several months been on a massive education campaign, particularly targeting thousands of health care workers. Saudi health officials say they have beefed up their response to the outbreak, with better infection control in hospitals and improved surveillance systems such as a new Command and Control Centre in Jeddah, which can coordinate swift isolation and treatment of new cases to prevent spread. Arab News and BBC

Pakistan's umbrella Taliban group appears to be disintegrating

On Monday, the Baitullah Mehsud faction of the Pakistan Taliban umbrella group Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) became the fourth faction recently to announce its separation from TTP. The apparent disintegration of TTP isn't necessarily good news, as it means that the individual ethnic terrorist groups within TTP are going to continue individually. Factional fighting within the TTP began in November 2011, when an American drone strike killed TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud. In an attempt to reunite the factions, the TTP pulled off a spectacular attack on Karachi airport in June of this year, claiming that was revenge for the drone strike that killed Mehsud. However, that attack backfired since, for the first time, Pakistan's army finally launched an operation, known as Zarb-e-Azb, on North Waziristan in Pakistan's tribal area to "clean out" the Taliban's hideouts and weapons stores.

The new faction has declared extortion, abduction for ransom, and bombing public places as Haram (any act that is forbidden by Allah). "One of the reason we have given up on the larger group is that conspirators have infiltrated it," according to a spokesman.

It was just three weeks ago that another group of factions broke off from TTP, and called itself Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA, Assembly of Freedom). The leader, Maulana Qasim Omar Khorasani, had been strongly opposed by the "peace talks," earlier this year, between TTP and Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif. In a statement last February leading up to the split, a spokesman said:

"Some of our leaders have become prey to compromises and have agreed to conduct dialogue only to get the tribal areas liberated. It is very clear that Shariah can never be attained through talks. Even if the Government makes a concession, it will only be limited to the tribal areas. In the past, we used to participate in jihad [Holy war] from the platform of Tehrik-e-Taliban. But from now onwards, we will carry out attacks independently. The Mujahideen associated with the TTP are our brothers, but if they opt for a ceasefire with the Government, we shall not be bound by their agreement, nor are we willing to accept such a ceasefire."

Following the split, a spokesman claimed, "It was lack of leadership quality that TTP had been involved in bloody clashes that have taken lives of known Mujahideen. The leadership had no policy to deal with this situation." Samaa TV (Pakistan) and South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP - India)

The center of international piracy moves from Somalia to Singapore

The changing nature of piracy has changed it from a multi-million dollar industry pursued by Somali warlords off the horn of Africa to a billion dollar industry pursued by commercial pirates in the seas of the Singapore Strait and Strait of Malacca.

Five years ago, pirate attacks off the horn of Africa had become fairly common. Pirates would board ships and hold the crews for multi-million dollar ransoms. But thanks to a multinational military effort and merchant crew training, the number of such attacks was reduced to 13 last year from 197 in 2009.

But the sheer number of merchant ships at sea, roughly 55,000, makes a similar approach impossible with the pirates of southern Asia. These pirates almost never seize hostages. Instead, they board the ship, tie up the crew, smash the communications and navigation equipment, and then get down to work -- stealing the cargo, which is usually gas or oil. The pirates bring their own tankers and siphon the oil or gas to their own ship. A typical haul for a few hours work is half a million dollars. CNBC

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 16-Sep-14 World View -- Saudis push to avoid MERS outbreak as Hajj approaches thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (16-Sep-2014) Permanent Link
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