For the first time since 2012, Somali pirates have hijacked a commercial ship. Authorities in Somalia said Tuesday that pirates on two skiffs boarded an oil tanker, called Aris 13, and seized its eight-person Sri Lankan crew. Members of Somalia’s security forces have been sent to the port city of Alula for a rescue operation. The tanker is currently off the coast of the northern region of Puntland, which is semi-autonomous. A pirate, identified as Abdullahi, told Reuters, “We are now heading on boats toward our colleagues holding the ship at Alula. We are carrying water, food and weapons for reinforcement.” There has been a relative ease in Somali waters in the last few years. While there have been a few attempted hijackings in recent years, pirate activity has dropped since its height in 2011, when there were 237 attacks and $7 billion in losses. Aris 13, which is owned by a company based in the United Arab Emirates and was flying a flag from the Comoros Islands, was carrying oil from Djibouti to Mogadishu. Pirates have not made demands yet.
—Parts of the U.S. got up to 20 inches of snow today as a powerful blizzard rolled its way up the Northeast, shuttering schools and affecting air travel. More here
—Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan heightened his criticism of the Netherlands, calling the Dutch “spineless and ignoble” during the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. More here
—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Standard Time (GMT -5).
The First Somali Pirate Hijacking Since 2012
UPDATE: Erdogan, Citing Srebrenica Massacre, Calls Dutch 'Spineless and Ignoble'
Updated at 12:04 p.m.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan heightened his criticism of the Netherlands, calling the Dutch “spineless and ignoble” during the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. Bosnian Serb forces massacred Muslims in the city, while Dutch UN peacekeepers didn’t intervene. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told the BBC that Erdogan’s remarks are a “vile falsification.” The issue is still a sensitive one in the Netherlands, which undertook much soul-searching after the massacre. Rutte also told the BBC that Erdogan was becoming “increasingly more hysterical hour by hour and I want him to... calm down.” The comments are the latest salvo in the diplomatic dispute between the two countries that was sparked this weekend after the Dutch refused to allow two Turkish ministers from campaigning in the Netherlands ahead of a Turkish referendum in April that would greatly expand Erdogan’s powers. Many Turks in the Netherlands and in other parts of the EU hold dual citizenship and are eligible to cast their votes in the referendum; many of them also support Erdogan. The Dutch cited “security concerns” as a reason for why they prevented the ministers from campaigning on Dutch soil. In response, Turkey accused the Netherlands of using “Nazi tactics” and suspended diplomatic talks, prompting an appeal for restraint Monday by Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign-policy chief, and Johannes Hahn, the EU’s enlargement commissioner. The Turkish foreign ministry dismissed those calls as “worthless.” The flare-up coincides with Wednesday’s Dutch elections where issues of immigration and Islam have dominated the campaigning. Most polls show the ruling center-right People’s Party (VVD) for Freedom and Democracy neck-and-neck with the far-right Dutch Freedom Party (PVV). Neither party is expected to win an outright mandate to govern, but, because of how the Dutch political system is structured, the VVD is more likely to be part of the next Dutch government.
Employees Can Be Banned From Wearing Religious Symbols, European Court Rules
Employers can ban their staff from wearing religious symbols, the European Court of Justice ruled Tuesday in a case concerning two women who were fired for wearing headscarves in the workplace. “An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical, or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination,” the EU court said in its decision. It added, however, that employers must have a policy barring religious symbols in place in order to invoke the rule. The rule can also be applied to political or philosophical symbols, the ruling said. The landmark decision was prompted by two cases—one in France and the other in Belgium—in which two women were dismissed for refusing to remove their headscarves. In the Belgian case, the court ruled that Samira Achbita’s firing from security company GS4 did not amount to discrimination because the company had an unwritten rule barring religious symbols in place. In the French case, the court ruled that Asma Bougnaoui’s firing from IT company Micropole did constitute a form of discrimination because it was based on a customer’s complaint, and thus “cannot be considered a genuine and determining occupational requirement.” John Dalhuisen, the director of Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia program, called the ruling “disappointing” in a statement Tuesday, adding: “At a time when identity and appearance has become a political battleground, people need more protection against prejudice, not less.”
Blizzard Rolls Into the U.S. Northeast
A major winter storm is unfolding across the mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States, with winter-storm warnings in effect from eastern West Virginia to Maine, the National Weather Service said Tuesday; blizzard warnings are in effect from eastern Pennsylvania to southwest Maine. Many areas could get more than a foot of snow, accompanied by strong winds. The conditions, which are likely to last in some parts until Wednesday, have caused school closures and flight delays across the region. More here