February 2009 Current Events: World News
Here are the key events in world news for the month of February, 2009.
- Iceland Swears in First Female Prime Minister (Feb. 1): Johanna Sigurdardottir will lead an interim government until Aprilo elections. She's the first female to hold the position of prime minister in that country. Sigurdardottir is a member of Iceland's Social Democrats party; the previous prime minister is a more conservative member of the Independence Party.
- Shelling near Sri Lankan Hospital Kills Nine (Feb. 1): As a result of three artillery attacks in Puthukkudiyiruppu, Sri Lanka, at least nine people are killed. The last shelling hit a ward for women and children. The Sri Lankan military is trying to take over the area, controlled by guerrillas from the rebel group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam; it is uncertain whose blasts were the cause of the deaths.
- Wildfires Kill At Least 181 in Australia (Feb. 7): The worst wildfires in Australian history kill at least 181 people in the state of Victoria, injure more than a hundred, and destroy more than 900 houses. At least 50 people are still missing. At least one of the fires is suspected to be the work of arsonists. Australian officials criticize for failing to evacuate those in danger, according to The New York Times. There will be a government inquiry into the state's response to the fires.
- Fire in Beijing Destroys Hotel (Feb. 9): Illegal fireworks in Beijing, China—set off to celebrate the final day of festivities for the Lunar New Year—cause the Mandarin Oriental Hotel to catch fire. The hotel, part of China Central Television's headquarters, was under construction, leaving it more vulnerable to fire. CCTV hired the fireworks company and later apologized for the blaze. One firefighter is killed and seven people are injured.
- Death Ends Right-to-Die Controversy (Feb. 9): The woman in the center of the right-to-die controversy in Italy dies "unexpectedly," according to reports. Eluana Englaro, 38, had been in a coma since 1992, following a car accident. Her father had been fighting for the right to remove her feeding tube, which was vehemently opposed by the Catholic Church, calling it euthanasia. Englaro was moved to a private clinic willing to remove the tube on February 6.
- Iraq Suicide Bomber Kills Four U.S. Soldiers (Feb. 9): In the worst single loss to the American military in nine months, a suicide bomber kills four American soldiers and their Iraqi translator in the northern Iraq city of Mosul. The bomber's vehicle exploded as the soldiers' Humvee drove past. Three of the soldiers died at the scene while the other later die at a nearby hospital. Three Iraqis are also injured in the blast. (Feb. 13): A female suicide bomber kills 35 Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad, the deadliest attack in a string of bombings. Most of the dead are women and children, who were walking in an annual procession to the holy city of Karbala "to commemorate Arbaeen, which marks the end of the mourning period for Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad," according to The New York Times.
- Parliamentary Elections in Israel (Feb. 10): Parliamentary elections held in Israel prove inconclusive. The centrist Kadima party, led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, wins 28 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, the most of any party. Netanyahu's right-wing Likud takes 27. The Labor Party fares poorly, garnering only 13 seats, behind the far-right party, Yisrael Beitenu, which takes 15. President Peres asks Netanyahu, who has the support of a block of allies on the right, to form a government; Netanyahu has six weeks to do so.
- Chávez Wins Bid to End Presidential Term Limits (Feb. 15): Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has won his bid to end presidential term limits in his country, thus allowing him to run for reelection. Already in power for a decade, Chávez may run for another six-year term in 2013, when his current term runs out. 54.4% of voters were in favor of Chávez referendum, while 45.6% voted against it, preliminary reports show.
- Pakistan Agrees to Islamic Law, Taliban Truce (Feb. 16): The government of Pakistan has agreed to implement a system of Islamic law in the Swat valley and a truce with the Taliban regime. This accommodation will essentially provide the Taliban with a safe haven in the country, effectively ending Pakistan's offensive strategy against the insurgents. Taliban militants now control approximately 70% of the region. The Pakistani government claims that this truce does not infringe on their constitution, though it appears to counter U.S. demands that the country fight the militants and refuse to negotiate.
- Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan Rose 40% in 2008 (Feb. 17): According to a survey conducted by the United Nations, civilian deaths in Afghanistan increased by 40% in 2008: 2,118 people last year, compared to 1,523 in 2007. This is the highest number of civilian casualities since the Taliban government was ousted in 2001. In the past, President Hamid Karzai has blamed U.S. involvement in the country for this rise in violence.
- Amsterdam Plane Crash Kills Nine (Feb. 25): Turkish Airlines Flight 1951, carrying 135 passengers and crew members, crashes at 10:30 A.M., killing at least 9 people and injuring 50. It is unclear whether the pilot sent a distress signal before the crash. The plane did not catch fire and there was no inclement weather at the time of the crash. Among the dead are two pilots and one junior pilot.