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This Week Around the World July 20-26

July 19 Bab al-Salameh, Syria: An explosion in an area of Syria currently controlled by Turkish-backed rebels killed at least five people and injured dozens more. There are multiple conflicting reports on the death toll and the number of injured. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, based in Great Britain, claimed the explosion killed up to seven and injured over 60, while state media in Turkey and opposition activists claim five were killed and over 80 were injured. Some of the critically injured are receiving medical care in Turkey. According to AP News, no group has taken responsibility for the incident, but the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights speculated it was likely a group of individuals connected to the Islamic State. 


July 21 Inirida River, Colombia: A Black Hawk helicopter crashed along the Inirida River with a total of 17 soldiers on board. According to The Guardian, nine bodies were found at the crash site, along with six wounded. On July 22, authorities discovered the remaining two bodies a short distance away. The dense jungle terrain around the crash site made search and rescue operations difficult for authorities. While President Iván Duque tweeted that the crash was an accident, the army has yet to release whether the helicopter crashed or was shot down by guerilla fighters present in the area. 


July 23 Hamburg, Germany: Bruno Dey, a former Nazi guard at Stutthof concentration camp from August 1944–April 1945, was convicted of 5,230 counts of accessory to murder in what many believe will be one of the last Nazi-era trials with a living defendant. Dey, who is now 93 years old, was 17 years old when he was a guard and therefore tried in a juvenile court. He was served a two-year suspended sentence on July 23 and apologized at the end of his trial to “those who went through the hell of this madness.” Despite his apology, Dey maintained he was forced into the position and claims he was unaware of “the extent of the atrocities” until his trial began. His sentence has been criticized by activists and survivors of the Nazi concentration camps as too lenient. 


July 25 Mogadishu, Somalia: Somalia’s Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire was dismissed after a no-confidence vote by Parliament ruled he was ineffective in the position. “We urge Somalia’s president to appoint a new prime minister,” stated Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Mursal Sheikh Abdirahman, according to Al Jazeera. “The prime minister failed to establish national security forces to tighten security for the federal and state governments.” The 170-8 majority decision was accepted by the president, though it is currently unclear who will replace Khaire, who has held office since March 2017. Since 2000, Somalia has seen over 10 prime ministers. Only two were not dismissed from the position before the end of their term.


July 24–26 Cape Town, South Africa: On July 24, a total of 68 prisoners, all of whom were awaiting trial, escaped from Malmesbury Correctional Center. “The escapees overpowered officials, took the keys and locked three officials in a cell and opened other cells before escaping through the main entrance and over the roof,”the South African Justice Department stated. Authorities locked down the prison and staged a large-scale manhunt for the escapees. By July 25, 65 of the original 68 were back in police custody. All 68 escaped prisoners had been returned to the facility by July 26. During the escape, some prisoners made their way onto a nearby school campus, while others are alleged to have had cars waiting for them outside the prison. 


July 26 Nantes, France: A man was convicted of arson in the case of the July 18 fire at the 15th century Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul that resulted in severe damage to the interior of the church. The man’s name was not released to the public, but it is known that he is 39 years old and was a volunteer at the church in charge of locking the building at night. “We have determined that the man was in the area of the cathedral the morning the fire broke,” prosecutor Pierre Sennes told The New York Times. “We noticed, in two or three locations where the fire started, troubling elements that could corroborate a criminal act.” A 17th century organ, a stained glass window partially composed of 16th century glass and a painting of the cathedral’s first bishop painted in 1835 by Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin were all destroyed in the fire. Experts say the cathedral’s restoration will take at least three years.