World this week
Insurgents killed 17 soldiers and wounded nearly 24 in the first major attack in half a year against the army in Niger, where Western powers fear a coup by the elite presidential guard last month is weakening a rare ally against jihadi violence in West Africa's Sahel region. Niger was one of the last democratic countries in the region south of the Sahara and France and the U.S. have about 2,500 military personnel there who were training Niger's forces.
France also conducted joint operations with its former colony, but since the July 26 coup Paris and Washington have been forced to suspend military operations. A military detachment was attacked Tuesday afternoon (Aug. 15) as it moved between the villages of Boni and Torodi in the Tillaberi region, the Ministry of Defense said on state television. The wounded were evacuated to the capital, Niamey. It was the first major attack against Niger's army in six months, according to observers.
North Korea acknowledged it has US soldier Travis King, saying he crossed into its territory last month because of "inhuman maltreatment and racial discrimination" in the US army. The 23-year-old private dashed across the border from South Korea on July 18 while on a guided tour. Private King admitted to crossing illegally and wanted refuge in the North, state news agency KCNA reported. The statement did not provide further details about Private King's health or whether the country would accept him as a refugee.
Concerns were growing for the welfare of the US soldier, after he wasn't heard from or seen since his crossing. According to a US official's account to CNN, after bolting over the demarcation line delineating the border, King tried to enter a North Korean facility - but the door was locked. He then ran to the back of the building, at which point he was hurried into a van and driven away by North Korean guards.
Russia's central bank made a big interest rate hike, an emergency move designed to fight inflation and strengthen the ruble after the country's currency reached its lowest value since early in the war with Ukraine. The ruble has lost more than a third of its value since the beginning of the year as Moscow increases military spending and Western sanctions weigh on its income from energy shipments. The central bank hiked its key rate 3.5 percentage points to 12% after the Russian currency passed 101 rubles to the dollar Monday - the lowest level in almost 17 months.
The flagging currency does not mean the Russian economy is in freefall - though it is facing challenges. A lower exchange rate allows Moscow to transfer the dollars it earns from selling oil and natural gas into more rubles to pay pensions and run government agencies. But the drop in value went a bit too far, and officials are now tightening it up, analysts say.
At least 55 people were killed and 146 others injured as clashes broke out between two powerful armed factions in the southern Libyan capital of Tripoli, where fighting began Monday (Aug. 14). It followed the detention of the commander of the 444 Brigade, Mahmoud Hamza, as he attempted to travel through Tripoli's main Mitiga airport. He was apprehended by a rival faction, the Special Deterrence Force, which controls the airport. The reason for his detention remains unknown.
The clashes ceased following an agreement reached with the UN-recognised Government of National Unity to transfer Hamza to a neutral party, as reported by official news agency LANA. The fighting is considered the most severe of this year with images showing smoke rising above the capital following the overnight battles. The agreement encompasses the cessation of all military operations in Tripoli, the return of military units to their barracks, assessment of damage to public and private property, and that the Government of National Unity would issue compensations.
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