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Vox Sentences: A tragic day in Syria and Kenya

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An Islamic State attack in Syria and a siege in Kenya both leave multiple people dead.

Islamic State attacks in Syria

Alex Wong/Getty Images
  • The Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Syria Wednesday that killed 15 people, including civilians, Syrian soldiers, and least four American service members. [WSJ / Raja Abdulrahim and Nancy A. Youssef]
  • The attack happened the same day that Vice President Mike Pence said ISIS was defeated. President Trump’s plan to bring home the 2,000 American troops in Syria, announced less than a month ago, is still going forward. [Vox / Alex Ward]
  • The situation has worrying precedent: When US troops were withdrawing from Iraq in 2011, militant attacks also rose. [NYT / Eric Schmitt and Ben Hubbard]
  • Meanwhile, Trump is demanding that Turkey fortify a safe zone for the Kurds in northern Syria — a claim that angers Turkey, which considers the Kurdish forces to be terrorists. [CBS News]
  • At the same time, Russia is demanding that Syria reclaim the country’s northern region after the US withdraws. [The Times / Tom Parfitt and Hannah Lucinda Smith]
  • Congressional leaders from both parties have urged President Trump to be cautious about pulling troops out of Syria, fearing the enemy could have been emboldened by departing American troops and Trump needs a better strategy. [CNN / Zachary Cohen]

Nairobi terrified by overnight siege

  • A 20-hour hostage situation in Nairobi, Kenya, that began when militants entered a luxury hotel and office complex at 3 pm Tuesday finally ended on Wednesday morning. At least 21 people were killed and 100 held under siege overnight. [NYT / Reuben Kyama, Emily Oduor, and Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura]
  • The attack began when one perpetrator detonated a suicide bomb in the hotel restaurant while others released explosives to thwart security. Police evacuated 700 civilians from the area of the attack, and security forces eventually killed the attackers. Fifty people are still missing. [Vox / Alex Ward]
  • The Somali extremist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack. The group is connected to al-Qaeda and killed 67 people at a nearby shopping mall in Nairobi six years ago. [WSJ / Matina Stevis-Gridneff and Gabriele Steinhauser]
  • Al-Shabaab claimed the attack was a response to President Trump’s declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. However, it’s more likely the attackers were fighting against US-backed Kenyan airstrikes on al-Shabaab. [Vox / Alex Ward]
  • The true purpose of the attack: to threaten the Western presence in Kenya that’s thwarting Islamic power. The upscale hotel, high-end shops, and multinational companies in the complex were symbolic of Western attitudes. [Atlantic / Tristan McConnell]
  • The victims include an American tech CEO who survived 9/11, and one British death is confirmed. Both were attached to development projects in Kenya. [Guardian]
  • Increasing anti-Somali sentiment after these attacks could further threaten the safety of hundreds of Somali refugees living in Kenya. People in the Dadaab camp, one of the largest refugee camps in the world, are fearing for their lives. [Guardian]


  • Kirsten Gillibrand has announced an exploratory committee for the 2020 presidential nomination. Her platform: the power of women. [Washington Post / Isaac Stanley-Becker]
  • The 2017 Women’s March was the largest single-day demonstration in American history. Since then, the organization has been plagued by controversy; the co-chairs addressed their focus on intersectionality and a changing mission in preparation for this year’s march on Saturday. [Elle / Melissa Harris-Perry]
  • Dying people do talk, and what they say could mean a lot. [Atlantic / Michael Erard]
  • A Pew study found that the majority of Facebook users don’t understand how the platform’s advertising works — and didn’t know they could adjust what information is used to serve them ads. [Wired / Louise Matsakis]
  • New York magazine’s Zak Cheney-Rice argues that Republicans’ condemnation of Rep. Steve King for racist statements has given future racist politicians a road map for avoiding similar censure. [New York magazine / Zak Cheney-Rice]


“Sadly, given the security concerns and unless government reopens this week, I suggest that we work together to determine another suitable date after government has reopened for this address or for you to consider delivering your State of the Union address in writing to Congress on January 29.” [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a letter to President Donald Trump]

Watch this: “False Positive”

Next week we’re launching a three-part miniseries about the bad forensic science that put an innocent man behind bars. [YouTube / Joss Fong]

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