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Suicide bombings by children in Indonesia part of horrible, growing global phenomenon

Suicide bombings by children in Indonesia part of horrible, growing global phenomenon

The National TodayChildren as suicide bombers: Indonesian attacks part of a horrible, growing global phenomenonA closer look at the day's mo…

Suicide bombings by children in Indonesia part of horrible, growing global phenomenon

The National TodayChildren as suicide bombers: Indonesian attacks part of a horrible, growing global phenomenonA closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: the attacks in Indonesia that use children as suicide bombers are a horrible, growing global phenomenon; ebola outbreak in DR Congo worries WHO; player in new NBA esports league talks about how he turned video games into a career

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

Firefighters work to extinguish a blaze following Sunday's blast at the Surabaya Centre Pentacostal Church in Indonesia. Twenty-two civilians and police were killed in attacks Sunday and Monday in the country's second-largest city, (Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Surabaya government via Reuters)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.


  • The attacks in Indonesia using children as suicide bombers are a despicable, growing global phenomenon
  • Player in new NBA esports league talks about how he turned video games into a pro career
  • An Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has nine neighbouring nations being told by health officials to prepare countermeasures in case it spreads
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here

Child suicide bombers

Yesterday it was a family of six, recently returned from Syria, who carried out three co ordinated suicide bombings at Christian churches in the Indonesian city of Surabaya.

Today, it was five members of a different family who detonated two motorcycle bombs outside the local police headquarters.

Twenty-two civilians and police were killed in the attacks in the country's second-largest city, Indonesia's worst death toll since suicide bombers killed 20 people in Bali in 2005.

A police K9 unit examines the site of the attack outside the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church. (Juni Kriswanto/AFP/Getty Images)But what has shaken authorities most is the age of some of the perpetrators.

On Sunday, a mother blew herself up along with her two daughters, aged 9 and 12, inside a Catholic church. Her two teenage sons detonated their suicide devices outside another house of worship.

Today, an eight-year-old girl survived the twin blasts that killed the rest of her family. When the explosion was triggered, she was thrown clear of one of the motorcycles by its force.

Indonesia's President, Joko Widodo, shook his head in disbelief as he read an update on the attacks in front of television cameras.

"This is the act of cowards, undignified and barbaric," he said.

Indonesia President Joko Widodom visits the site of the bomb attack on the Surabaya Centre Pentecostal Church on Sunday. (Beawiharta/Reuters)But as shocking as the concept of family suicide attacks might be, the use of children as suicide bombers has become a despicable, global phenomenon.

A 2017 Unicef report detailed more than 110 Boko Haram suicide attacks in Nigeria and Cameroon that used children, more than half of them girls and most under the age of 15.

In Afghanistan, 20 young boys were killed in Taliban-directed suicide attacks between September 2010 and December 2014.

The strategy also spilled across the border into Pakistan, where an Army general said that close to 400 soldiers were killed by teenage bombers in a single province in 2015.

People hold candles during a vigil for the victims of the church attacks in Surabaya on Sunday. (Trisnadi/Associated Press)ISIS has also made considerable use of child bombers in Iraq and Syria. A 2016 report, from the Combating Terrorism Centre at West Point, used the Islamic State's propaganda channels to try and track the deaths of its child and adolescent soldiers. It counted 89 fatalities over the course of a year, almost 40 per cent them in car and truck bombings.

In the summer of 2016, authorities in Kirkuk stripped an explosive belt off a crying 15-year -old boy outside a Shia mosque.

During the height of the last Intifada, both Hamas and Islamic Jihad regularly used teens as suicide attackers. In 2004 in the West Bank city of Nablus, Israeli authorities arrested a 15-year-old who they alleged was recruiting friends and classmates to blow themselves up at army checkpoints.

A child soldier looks through a rifle trigger guard during a release ceremony in Yambio, South Sudan, on Feb. 7. More than 300 child soldiers, including 87 girls, have been released in South Sudan's war-torn region of Yambio under a programme to help reintegrate them into society, the UN says. (Stefanie Glinksi/AFP/Getty Images)The tactic was also used by groups linked to Al-Qaeda during the American occupation of Iraq. In Colombia, by FARC rebels. And in Sri Lanka, by the Tamil Tigers.

Child Soldiers International, a global human rights organization, has collected reports on the use of children in combat or attacks in at least 18 conflicts around the globe since 2016.

The sad truth being that there remain far too many places where all life is cheap.

Andrew Chang on assignment

The first time I met Toronto's Yusuf Abdulla, we were in New York City and he was in the final chapter of a surreal journey: becoming a professional NBA 2K video gamer.

He and 101 of the game's best were at Madison Square Garden for a real NBA draft. I say "real," because the NBA is involved in building the nascent NBA 2K esports league from the ground up.

Most of the NBA's team owners are also the owners of their esports equivalent in the league. So, get drafted by "Mavs Gaming," and in a very real way, you are playing for the Dallas Mavericks.

It wasn't until much later, after the draft, that Yusuf and I reconnected outside his home in Toronto. And it was at the very basketball court â€" the real-life one â€" where he remembers spending so many hours playing in his youth.

Yusuf Abdulla says he stopped going to his local basketball court in Scarborough as a result of gun violence that took the life of his friend. (Sean Brocklehurst/CBC)He grew up in a notorious part of Scarborough, Galloway and Kingston Road, with a big love of basketball and dreams of playing the in the NBA.

But gun violence in his neighbourhood forced him off the courts and inside where he would be safe.

That's when he turned to NBA 2K video games.

Yusuf Abdulla grew up in a notorious part of Scarborough, Galloway and Kingston Road, with a big love of basketball and dreams of playing the in the NBA. The gun violence in his neighbourhood forced him off the courts and inside, so he started playing basketball video game s. He got so good, he's just gone pro - as an NBA 2K player with the Raptors Uprising. 1:39

If staying home meant staying safe, NBA 2K represented a path back out for Yusuf â€" an escape, and a new passion.

And Yusuf was good.

Good enough to get drafted to play as a pro with the Raptors Uprising, good enough to earn a full-time salary, and good enough to earn a shot at making a career of his life's passion.

That chapter of his story is just beginning.

Watch Andrew Chang's feature on Yusuf Abdulla and the new NBA 2K esports league tonight on The National on CBC television and streamed online.

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Ebola outbreak in DR Congo

An E bola outbreak has killed at least 19 people in a remote corner of the Democratic Republic of Congo and is sparking fears that the deadly fever could again spread across international borders.

The World Health Organization today reported 39 suspected, probable or confirmed cases of the disease between April 4 and May 13.

Another 393 people who have come into close contact with those who have fallen ill are under medical observation.

A health worker is sprayed with chlorine Saturday after visiting a suspected Ebola patient in the isolation ward at Bikoro hospital, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Jean Robert N'Kengo/Reuters)To date, all the victims live in a 60-kilometre area of Equateur province in the northwest of DR Congo. But one of the affected villages, Bikoro, is a market town on a major river, heightening concerns that th e infection may have already spread farther afield.

The last major outbreak of Ebola started in a border village in the West African nation of Guinea in 2014, and then spread to neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia. By the time it was finally brought under control 21 months later, 11,000 people had died and 17,000 more had been sickened.

The illness often starts with vague flu-like symptoms and then quickly becomes debilitating, sometimes causing patients to spontaneously hemorrhage. The virus can be spread via contact with even a tiny amount of body fluid.

A colourized transmission electron micrograph image shows an Ebola virus virion. The virus can be spread by exposure to even a tiny amount of an infected person's body fluid. (Frederick Murphy/Associated Press)This is the ninth time that Ebola has been detected in DR Congo, dating back to th e very first recorded outbreak in 1976 which killed 280 people in the country's Yambuk region, near the Ebola river.

In 2014, 49 people in Equateur province died from the disease, and there have been three smaller clusters of Ebola cases since the 2016 end of the West African epidemic.

The WHO has yet to declare the current outbreak an "event of international concern," but it has dispatched more than 40 experts to the region and will soon start administering doses of an experimental Ebola vaccine.

Director general of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a news conference at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday. The WHO has sent more than 40 experts to DR Congo to try and contain the Ebola outbreak. (Denis Balibouse/Reuters)Efforts to contain the disease are being hampered by the remote locati on â€" a 15-hour journey by road from the provincial capital. And there may be many more cases to come, as testing only began on Saturday after the arrival of a mobile lab.

Experts in Congo's capital, Kinshasa, have told the media that the region's inaccessibility might be an advantage, limiting the spread of the disease. In the best-case scenario, they predict that the outbreak might be brought under control in "two to three months."

However, nine neighbouring nations have been told to prepare counter measures in case the outbreak spreads, with the greatest concern for the Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.

Quote of the moment

"Jerusalem must remain a city that brings people of all faiths together."

- White House advisor Jared Kushner in a speech to mark the relocation of the American Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem today. At least 41 Pale stinians were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces during mass protests at the Gaza border.

White House Senior Advisor Jared Kushner speaks during the dedication ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on Monday. (Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)

What The National is reading

  • At least 40 dead in India dust, wind storms (CBC)
  • Anti-American cleric takes early lead in Iraqi elections (NBC News)
  • Canadian cannabis firms consolidate in friendly $3.2 billion takeover (CBC)
  • 'Serious' flaw found in PGP secure email tech (BBC)
  • How crematoriums are recovering precious metals from the dead (CBC)
  • Chinese airliner makes emergency landing after cockpit window falls out (South China Morning Post)
  • Donald Trump and Sean Hannity's late night calls (NY Magazine)
  • Royal wedding coul d take place on hottest day of the year (Telegraph)

Today in history

May 14, 1990: Joyce Milgaard snubbed by Justice Minister Kim Campbell

The cameras were waiting and Kim Campbell walked straight into the trap. Legally, her position was correct â€" the justice minister couldn't be seen to be discussing David Milgaard's case when the matter was still before the courts. But the optics of politely brushing off his mother Joyce and scurrying away were terrible. "My son's been waiting 21 years. Why can't she listen?" Milgaard asked. Many Canadians had the same question.

The federal justice minister brushes off Joyce Milgaard's efforts to get justice for her son David. 1:59

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About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.

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