The Soapbox: Mexico, Congo, ISIS

The Soapbox is a weekly column by WSN’s news desk examining the major developments in world news and rounding up the stories we think are worth the read this week. Global consciousness for a global university.

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Susan Behrends Valenzuela

The Soapbox is a weekly news column rounding up stories worth reading for a global university. (Staff Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

Kristian Burt, News Editor

In Mexico, four journalists killed in less than a month

Roberto Toledo, a local reporter for Monitor Michoacán in the city of Zitácuaro, was the fourth journalist killed in Mexico since the beginning of 2022. Toledo was gunned down by three men on Monday in a parking lot by his workplace.

“Toledo lost his life at the hands of three people who shot him in a mean and cowardly manner,” Armando Linares, the director of Monitor Michoacán, said on Tuesday. “We don’t carry weapons. We only have a pen and a notebook to defend ourselves.”

Three other journalists have been murdered within less than a month. José Luis Gamboa, who founded the news website Inforegio and co-founded the news website La Noticia, was fatally stabbed at least seven times in Veracruz on Jan. 10. 

Two journalists, Margarito Martínez Esquivel and Lourdes Maldonado López, were killed in Tijuana less than a week apart, on Jan. 17 and 23, respectively. Martínez was shot three times outside his home, while Maldonado was shot inside her car more than two years after telling President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in a press conference that she feared for her life.

Following the killings in Tijuana, journalists around the country held demonstrations protesting the Mexican government’s lack of support for media workers.

There are very few journalists who are fulfilling the noble office of informing,” Obrador said following Maldonado’s death on Jan. 28.

In the past 20 years, 149 journalists have been killed in Mexico, according to Article 19, a human rights group. The country remains one of the most dangerous nations in the world for journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

In the Congo, a camp for displaced people is raided by militia

A refugee camp of around 20,000 people fleeing violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo was attacked by the militant group CODECO on Feb. 2. At least 60 people were killed.

The Plaine Savo site in the Congolese town Djugu, a makeshift camp for people fleeing militia attacks in neighboring villages, was raided by members of CODECO wielding machetes and other weapons late Tuesday night. At least 25 women and children were among the dead and at least 50 more people were injured.

CODECO, a loosely-formed association of militias that have been attacking towns in the Ituri Province since 1999, has increased raids in the region since the beginning of 2021. The Kivu Security Tracker, a collaboration between Human Rights Watch and the NYU-based Congo Research Group that tracks attacks and incidents in eastern Congo, reported more than 2,000 victims of violent assaults in Ituri since January. More than 800 deaths in the last six months of 2021, the Kivu Security Tracker’s coordinator told The New York Times.

Members of the U.N. Peacekeepers and the Congolese military fired at the militia groups, but were not able to apprehend CODECO, which later reached the camp.

“Neither the Congolese Army nor the United Nations peacekeeping forces have been able to offer adequate protection to all the [Internally Displaced Persons] sites, whose numbers are growing,” Pierre Boisselet, the coordinator of the Kivu Security Tracker, said. 

President Felix Tshisekedi declared martial law in the Ituri and North Kivu provinces in April 2021. The decree is still in effect, allowing the military to control the regions to fight against the numerous militia attacks.

A separate militia group, the Allied Democratic Forces, released about 20 prisoners during a raid in the town of Nobili on Thursday. During the raid, three people were killed, including a pregnant woman and a child.

In Syria, an ISIS leader blows himself up during U.S. military raid

President Biden announced on Thursday that the current leader of ISIS, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, killed himself during a U.S. military raid in northwest Syria.

The raid, which involved about two dozen soldiers in helicopters, was originally intended to capture al-Qurayshi. He detonated a bomb inside a house, killing himself, his wife and his children, as well as several civilians.

During the raid and subsequent explosion, at least 13 people were killed, including women and children, according to Syria Civil Defense and The Syrian Observatory for Civil Rights. Biden said Special Forces were used to minimize civilian casualties.

Knowing that this terrorist had chosen to surround himself with families, including children, we made a choice to pursue a Special Forces raid at a much greater risk than our — to our own people rather than targeting him with an airstrike,” Biden said in the announcement. 

Al-Qurayshi was named the new leader of ISIS after his predecessor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, died in October 2019 after detonating a suicide vest during a U.S. raid. Al-Qurayshi was arrested by U.S. forces in Iraq in 2008, but was freed after providing information on some of the terrorist group’s members.

Contact Kristian Burt at [email protected]