Hello all! Hope all is well!
Since the This Week in Conflict report has gotten so incredibly long in recent weeks, I thought it might be easier to digest as 6 shorter reports highlighting the different regions on separate days. The World report, which will highlight different news at international organizations, human rights research and other aspects of peace and conflict that affect global situations, will be posted each Monday. The Africa report will be posted on Tuesdays; the Asia report will be posted on Wednesdays; the Americas report will be posted on Thursdays; the Middle East report will be posted on Fridays and the Europe report will be posted on Saturdays. If you have any news to report for a region, please submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org the day before the report is to be posted. Any reports of conflict for Australia or Oceania will be posted within the Asia report.
These changes will begin as of Monday the 20th of June. As such, the news for the World section for this week will only highlight those stories reported from Friday the 10th until Monday the 13th; the Africa report from Friday until Tuesday the 14th; and so on, so that there will be week-long content for each of next week’s reports.
I hope readers find the reports easier to read and comprehend in this manner, and would love any feedback on this change, either positive or negative.
- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) was hit by a large and sophisticated cyber-attack last week, but did not make a public announcement regarding the attack. The IMF database contains potentially market-moving information and includes communications with national leaders as they negotiate, often behind the scenes, on terms of international bailouts. In response, the World Bank (WB) cut the computer link that allows the two institutions to share information. On Saturday, the Bank of Israel Governor, Stanley Fischer, announced that he will be running against Christine Lagarde for the top job at the IMF.
- A New York Times report discussed a global effort to deploy “shadow” Internet and mobile phone systems, led by the US, which dissidents can use to undermine repressive governments seeking to silence them by censoring or shutting down telecommunications networks.
- Russia became the last permanent member of the UN Security Council to back Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s re-election bid. The UN General Assembly is expected to hold a formal vote before the end of the month on the position.
- Almost ironically, US Secretary of State Clinton warned Africans during an address in Zambia on Saturday of the “new colonialism” they face, as China expands ties and helps build productive capacity on the continent. China responded on Tuesday saying it was far from a coercive and exploitative force in Africa and that it too had been a victim of colonial occupation and oppression.
- A new report by the International Peace Institute looks at the problems of the security sector in Cote d’Ivoire; how it contributed to the electoral crisis and how security-sector reform is the key to preventing a return to armed conflict in the future. Ongoing insecurity is preventing the return of at least 300,000 civilians who were internally displaced during the post-election crisis, as well as some 200,000 refugees in several neighbouring West African countries. Many have lost their livelihoods during the crisis and are still at serious food insecurity risk.
- African leaders met in Zimbabwe on Saturday to lay out a roadmap for the country’s upcoming Presidential elections. Members of the Southern African Development Community want to delay elections until a new constitution is adopted, while Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party insist they must be held this year.
- President Al-Bashir of Sudan and President Kiir of South Sudan met in Addis Ababa on the weekend to discuss the issue of Abyei, four weeks prior to the independence of the South. On Saturday, the ICRC facilitated the transfer of two Sudanese armed forces who had been held by the Liberation and Justice Movement to government authorities; fighting continued in the Southern Kordofan border state between the North Sudanese Army and southern-aligned troops for the seventh day and the airport was closed, hampering humanitarian operations into the region. The SPLM claimed fighters had downed two northern warplanes, though on Sunday, Khartoum denied that any military aircraft were shot down in Southern Kordofan. On Sunday, President al-Bashir agreed “in principle” to pull northern troops out of the disputed Abyei region before the south’s independence on July 9th while Ethiopia agreed to send two battalions deployed under the UN flag as peacekeepers for the region during the discussions in Addis Ababa. On Monday, the UN voiced alarm over continuing clashes in Southern Kordofan, with bombardments and artillery shelling in 11 of 19 localities, while the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that some 53,000 people were displaced by fighting and that food insecurity was growing.
- At least three people were killed and another four other injured after armed bandits opened fire on a civilian bus in southern Somalia on Saturday; and the PM announced he would not resign unless Parliament endorsed an agreement signed by the President and Speaker that stipulates he must leave office within 30 days. The PM announcement comes following negotiations in Uganda that more than 200 MPs complained took away Parliament’s oversight of the government.
- On Saturday, Libyan troops loyal to Gaddafi fought gun battles with rebels in Zawiyah, shutting the road to Tunisia completely and killing some 13 rebels and civilians and also said to have encircled the city of Zlitan; several explosions from NATO airstrikes were heard in Tripoli throughout the afternoon, reportedly wounding a senior Gaddafi aide; and rebels expressed frustration at NATO tactics that prevented them from moving forward. On Sunday, six rebel fighters were reported killed by government artillery barrages near Misrata which were followed by air strikes. On Monday, another member of the Gaddafi regime, Sassi Garada, was reported to have defected and fled the country, while six rockets are said to have hit an oil refinery in Misrata.
- The Central African Republic (CAR) signed a ceasefire agreement on Sunday with the last big active rebel group, the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) paving the way for a peace deal to end years of conflict. The CPJP agreed to enter a disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) campaign joining several other rebel groups.
- Uganda has announced that it will give away free pepper spray to young women to help them fight off rapists, in an attempt to fight a high sex-crime rate. A police spokeswoman said the force would help the government train women how to use the weapon.
- Madagascar has announced that it will reject a call from South African leaders to allow all political exiles, including former President Ravalomanana who was ejected from the country in a 2009 military coup, to return home to end a crisis. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) called on the government to allow Malagasy people in exile for political reasons to be allowed to return to the country unconditionally, and for political role players to create an inclusive process to hold free and fair elections. The government said former President Ravalomanana will not be allowed to return home until the country is stable and he can be held accountable for acts committed during his rule on Tuesday.
- Two people died and six were wounded in a clash between security forces and bandits on Sunday in northern Niger. The army is also said to have recovered a four-wheel drive vehicle containing 640 kilos of explosives, 435 detonators, various military arsenal and tens of thousands of dollars in cash.
- Several hundred people gathered in Tokyo, Japan on Saturday to demonstrate against the use of nuclear power, marking three months since the powerful earthquake and tsunami triggered one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.
- Foreign Ministers from Armenia and Azerbaijan met on Saturday to discuss their long-running dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. On Wednesday, it was announced that the two countries could soon possibly reach a framework agreement on their lingering dispute; while an American journalist and a British human rights activist were reportedly attacked and beaten in Baku, Azerbaijan.
- On Saturday, the commander of a police rapid reaction forces was killed and 23 others wounded in a suicide attack in Khost, eastern Afghanistan; a roadside bomb hit a bus in Kandahar province, killing 15, including 8 children; an ISAF service member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul; six civilians were wounded when insurgents fired mortar rounds at police headquarters in Khost; two policemen were killed and nine wounded by an explosion in Laghman; while Afghan President Karzai met with Pakistani PM Gilani to discuss a range of issues including the fight against the Taliban. The UN announced that May was the deadliest month for civilians in the country since 2007 when the organization started recording civilian casualties. On Sunday, a NATO air strike is said to have killed more than five suspected insurgents in western Badghis province. On Monday, four suspected insurgents were caught and killed by police in Kabul; the death toll from the firefight in western Badghis grew to at least 32 suspected insurgents and four Afghan soldiers; an ISAF service member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul; and another ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul.
- At least 34 people were killed in a suspected suicide bombing in Peshawar, Pakistan on Saturday. On Monday, a suicide bomber killed at least one person at a bank in Islamabad; a roadside bomb hit a military convoy killing three soldiers and wounding another four in South Wazirstan; suspected militants detonated a roadside bomb killing one paramilitary soldier and wounding four in Orakzai; a bomb explosion wounded two people in Quetta; two rockets fired by suspected militants landed inside a military camp in North Waziristan with no damage or injuries reported; and a bomb blast destroyed four NATO fuel supply trucks in the north-western region of Khyber. On Tuesday, a woman was reportedly stripped down and paraded naked as a punishment for her son, who was found guilty of rape in the northwest.
- Another 36-hour general strike called by the opposition disrupted life across Bangladesh on Sunday. The strike aims to amend the constitution, denouncing a government proposal to rescind constitutional provisions under which the government is temporarily handed over to a non-party administration before an election. As many as 100 were injured in clashes with law enforcement and around 150, including two former ministers are said to be detained.
- Some 25 people were arrested in clashes between residents and security forces in the city of Guanghzou, China on Sunday following a dispute between the police and two street vendors. In a separate incident, hundreds of people laid siege to local government offices in Lichuan city following the death in custody of a respected local official who had been arrested for allegedly taking bribes linked to land seizures and forced demolitions of homes. On Monday, thousands of riot police were called to Zengcheng to quell angry mobs torching government buildings and demonstrating in the thousands against building social pressures, corrupt local officials and economic problems. Authorities later detained a person on suspicion of spreading rumours that led to the three days of rioting and unrest in Guanghzou.
- On Monday, Vietnam staged live-fire drills in the South China Sea after weeks of rising tensions between Vietnam and China. China said it would not resort to the use of force to resolve maritime border disputes, and warned other countries not to become involved in an escalating border dispute, though days later it sent one of its biggest civilian maritime patrol ships into the South China Sea to “protect its rights and sovereignty”.
- The UN declared Nepal free of landmine fields on Tuesday, after the last of the anti-personnel weapons planted by the army during the Maoist rebel revolt was destroyed. The clearing began in 2007 after the signing of a peace deal, though there are still areas where homemade bombs were planted by both sides and efforts to clear those still continue.
- A mass grave with what is believed to be the bodies of some 14 Maoist rebels was found in eastern India on Monday. Police say they believed the rebels died in clashes with security forces and were buried by the Maoists. India’s popular yoga guru ended his 8 day old hunger strike against government corruption on Sunday after being admitted to hospital for dehydration and low pulse rate. On Wednesday, dozens of journalists went on a hunger strike to demand justice for their colleague who was slain by unidentified assailants on Saturday.
- Two inmates at a notorious prison in central Kazakhstan threatened to self-immolate themselves after allegedly being beaten by prison guards on Sunday. Striking oil workers in the western part of the country were joined by several visiting activists from opposition groups, who were then detained and threatened with arrest if they don’t leave the area.
- Various sources reported on Tuesday that the military in Myanmar/Burma had clashed for several days with a militia controlled by the ethnic Kachin minority in a remote but strategic region near the Chinese border. By Wednesday, there were rising fears that fighting could spread to other areas on the heavily militarized border, with thousands of people fleeing the area. By Thursday, China was urging the warring sides to defuse the outbreak and begin talks.
- Colombia has passed a controversial law aiming to compensate an estimated 4 million victims of the country’s long-running armed conflict. The Victims’ Law allows damages to be paid to relatives of those killed and seeks to restore millions of hectares of stolen land to its rightful owners. There are fears that some armed groups which still occupy much of the stolen land may respond violently to attempts to repossess the land. On Tuesday leftist rebels are reported to have clashed with security forces at a checkpoint in the southwest and other guerrillas briefly kidnapped a security contractor of an oil company in the east.
- A “peace caravan” spent the week traveling through Mexico to protest against drug-related violence and crossed the border into the US. The leader of the convoy said the US bore “grave responsibility” for failing to tackle the drugs crisis as Mexico’s drugs gangs are battling for control of the lucrative US drug market. On Tuesday, police say a gang hung a man from an overpass in Monterrey and set fire to him, in the same spot where a youth was found last week, hung by his hands with a gunshot wound. On Wednesday, it was reported that US firearms agents sat by and watched as hundreds of American guns were bought, resold and sent to Mexican drug cartels during an Arizona sting operation, as they were ordered not to intervene, resulting in no arrests of any major traffickers; while some 33 people were killed within a 24 hour period in Monterrey in drug gang violence. Police also found the dismembered bodies of two bodyguards charged with guarding the governor of the state of Nuevo Leon.
- The complete Pentagon Papers were made public on Monday, describing top-secret American involvement in Vietnam, though much has previously been released through leaks published by the New York Times. The 7,000 page report was commissioned in 1967 by Robert McNamara. Hackers broke into the US Senate’s website over the weekend, leading to a review of all of its websites. Lulz Security claimed to have done the hack “just for kicks”, causing much embarrassment for the American government. On Wednesday, the group claimed to have briefly brought down the public site for the CIA. Ayman al-Zawahiri was appointed as the new leader of al-Qaeda’s General Command and the US vowed to hunt him down and kill him as it did Osama bin Laden.
- Riots broke out in Vancouver, Canada following the 4-0 loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final (hockey) on Wednesday night. At least two people were reported injured, two police cars were burning, and some fires were out of control, after some looters came armed with Molotov cocktails and other weapons. Windows were smashed, vehicles overturned, and looters ravished department stores in the downtown core.
- Some 19 people died and many more were injured in a prison riot in Venezuela after two rival gangs confronted each other on Sunday. Prisons are notoriously overcrowded, with reports suggesting they are three times over capacity. By Wednesday, the death toll was listed as 22.
- A landless peasant activist was found dead in Brazil’s Amazon state of Para, in the fifth murder in a month believed to be linked to conflict over land and logging in the rainforest region. The activist was killed by a gunshot to his head outside his home.
- On Saturday, two car bombs exploded in Mosul, Iraq killing six people and injuring at least 50; the beheaded body of an activist from a local human rights NGO was found in his home in Abu Ghraib; and gunmen killed a teacher and four members of his family in their home in Samarra On Sunday, two roadside bombs killed three civilians and wounded some 14 others in southwest Baghdad; gunmen killed a government-back militia leader and his wife in Hilla; a roadside bomb wounded two near Mosul; one policeman was killed and another wounded in a roadside bomb attack near Mosul; a roadside bomb wounded three policemen in north eastern Baghdad; a sticky bomb wounded an army officer in southern Baghdad; and a roadside bomb wounded three civilians in northern Baghdad. On Monday, two civilians were wounded in a bomb explosion in northern Baghdad; a sticky bomb attack wounded another civilian in northern Baghdad; police found the beheaded bodies of two civilians who were kidnapped last week in Baaj; gunmen shot dead an off-duty Iraqi soldier in front of his house in Mosul; the imam of a mosque was wounded after gunmen stormed his house in Balad; five policemen were killed and 15 wounded in a suicide bomb attack at a police brigade compound in Basra; a sticky bomb attack killed a policeman in Mussayab; three people, including two policemen were killed when gunmen attacked a police checkpoint in Baquba; and a senior municipal official was wounded in a bomb attack in eastern Baghdad. On Tuesday, nine were killed and another 15 wounded in an insurgent attack on a provincial government compound in Baquba; gunmen killed an army lieutenant-general in northern Baghdad; gunmen killed two soldiers in western Baghdad; two US service members were killed in the south; gunmen killed the manager of the legal department of Baghdad provincial council in his car in central Baghdad; gunmen killed a policeman in western Mosul; and gunmen shot dead a former Iraqi army brigadier inside his car in Kirkuk. The US Pentagon and the Iraqi government close a funding program this month without determining the loss of $6.6 billion in cash to be used for reconstruction and other projects that has been under audit for several years. On Wednesday, a bomb killed one civilian and wounded nine others in Hilla; US military helicopters fired on suspected militia fighters in Basra, killing one and wounding two in response to a rocket attack on an airport; at least 10 Iraqi army soldiers were wounded when a mortar round landed at their checkpoint in Rashad; gunmen killed two soldiers at an Iraqi army checkpoint in Mosul; gunmen attacked an Iraqi military checkpoint in north-western Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded two in southern Baghdad, and another bomb wounded four in the same area. On Thursday, a dead body showing signs of torture and gunshot wounds was found in Kirkuk; gunmen shot dead a porter in a market in western Mosul; gunmen shot dead a civilian in front of his home in eastern Mosul; gunmen stormed the house of an Iraqi contractor, killing him and two others in Hilla; and gunmen shot and seriously wounded an Iraqi policeman in northern Baghdad. A UN working group announced that Iraq should tightly regulate private security firms to prevent abuses by their employees when they stay on in the country after the scheduled US military withdrawal.
- Youths in a poor southern town in Jordan began throwing stones at police in anger over their rough handling during a visit by King Abdullah II on Monday. On Sunday, King Abdullah said he was committed to pushing ahead with democratic reforms in a televised speech, but believed street pressure to change was a “recipe for chaos”.
- Tanks and thousands of forces sealed the roads leading to Jisr al-Shugour, Syria on Saturday, while defecting soldiers and police officers remained behind to fight against an expected all-out government assault. At least 4,300 people have fled into Turkey, seeking refuge from violence, though the real number is suspected to be much higher as many cross the border unnoticed by the army. Russia and China are said to have snubbed the UN Security Council talks on Saturday that were set to discuss a resolution aimed at condemning the violence happening in Syria; the US is not sponsoring the resolution but made it clear that it supports the text and several sanctions have been placed on the country. On Sunday, state television was reporting heavy clashes between troops and armed men in Jisr al-Shughur, with a resident claiming as many as 150 tanks and armored vehicles rolling into the town and shelling non-stop. Many expressed anger upon learning they were duped by the story of the “Gay Girl in Damascus”, a supposed Syrian-American lesbian blogger who appeared to have been kidnapped by Syrian officials last week that garnered much international attention, after the blogger turned out to be a 40 year old American man living in Scotland. Sadly, this attempt to “get the story out” will only result in giving justification for the government and outsiders to deny “eye-witness” reports of violence experienced in the country. On Monday, Syrian troops reportedly pushed towards the northern town of Maarat al-Numaan after rounding up hundreds in a sweep through villages near Jisr al-Shughour. On Tuesday, the UN issued a report condemning Syria for its crackdown on protesters, saying the troops are committing “alleged breaches of the most fundamental rights”, while Canada, speaking on behalf of 45 countries, called for credible and impartial investigation into the abuses. On Wednesday, thousands fled Maarat al-Numaan to escape troops and tanks pushing into the north in the widening military campaign. On Thursday, Syria’s most powerful businessman, a confidant and cousin of President al-Assad announced he was quitting business and moving to charity work, in what many are calling a symbolic gesture of a change of heart in the regime. On Friday, security forces were accused of shooting dead at least 16 people, including a 16 year-old boy, during fresh anti-government protests that took place in several cities across the country and even in northern Lebanon.
- Kuwait has allegedly arrested a man for publishing criticism of the ruling families in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia on the social media site Twitter. No charges have been pressed so far, though he has been held for several days.
- Twenty-one al-Qaeda members and nine soldiers are said to have been killed on Saturday in southern Yemen in clashes between the army and the militant group who had previously seized the town. On Monday, opposition sources said they had met with the VP to discuss a transfer of power within a transitional period and the need to expand the truce negotiated by Saudi Arabia to the rest of Yemen, while fresh clashes broke out between pro-Saleh forces and anti-government protesters in Taiz and Yemeni authorities are said to have arrested several people in connection with the assassination attempt against Saleh. Three guards were shot dead on Wednesday when armed men stormed three state buildings in the country’s south. Protests continued on Thursday, as hundreds of Yemenis demonstrated in Sana’a calling on Saleh to step down; while masked gunmen attacked buildings in the country’s south.
- Thousands took to the street for the first time since March on Saturday in Bahrain demanding political reform. The government said it granted permission for the rally, but still kept barbed wire and armoured vehicles guarding the Pearl Roundabout where protesters camped out in previous protests, to prevent it from becoming a focal point for protesters. The young Bahraini woman who staged a 10 day fast in April following the beating and arrest of her father, that led to the arrest of her husband and brother-in-law, was allowed just six minutes with her husband this week. The woman was arrested by police while holding a sit-in protest at the UN offices in Manama on Wednesday, along with two other women, but all were later released by police, after the UNDP refused to press charges.
- Hamas rejected Fatah’s nomination of Salam Fayyad as PM in a transitional government for Palestine on Sunday, potentially compromising foreign support for the new government, accusing him of co-operating with Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. Fatah then expelled a former leader, Mohammed Dahlan, once seen as a possible successor to President Abbas, and referred him to the judiciary over alleged criminal and financial cases. A new report issued on Tuesday showed unemployment standing at 45.2% for the second half of 2010 in Gaza, a record high for a six-month period in the region, even though Israel eased its blockade during that period. Palestinian officials announced on Tuesday that they would be ready to unveil a new unity government at a meeting between Fatah leader Abbas and Hamas leader Meshaal in Cairo next week. On Thursday, Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip are reported to have fired a rocket into southern Israel, causing no damage or injuries. Israel’s Justice Ministry recommended that police open investigations into two soldiers who posted on the Internet pictures and videos in which they humiliated prisoners last year. Pro-Palestinian groups are planning a new flotilla of humanitarian aid to Gaza, and Israel has reportedly planned to prevent the ship from reaching Gaza by any means necessary.
- The UN Secretary General welcomed the formation of a new government in Lebanon on Monday, after nearly five months of disagreement between various political groups, though others were sceptical of Hizbullah’s influence over the administration.
- Amnesty International condemned a sharp rise in beheadings in Saudi Arabia. There have been more than 27 people executed this year; more than put to death in all of 2010 and more than 100 others, many foreigners, on death row. On Friday, some Saudi women defiantly drove through the nation’s capital in protest of the male-only driving rules in the country. No arrests or violence were immediately reported.
- A jailed journalist in Iran died on Sunday after going on a hunger strike to protest the death of an activist during her father’s funeral. Hoda Saber is said to have died from “cardiac complications” induced from his hunger strike.
- Croatia was told on the weekend that it should be able to join the European Union in 2013, as long as it is able to reign in corruption and reform its judiciary. On Saturday about a dozen people were hurt and more than 100 arrested at a gay pride parade after hundreds of locals shouted insults and began throwing bottles and stones at marchers.
- The head of the Armenian Apostolic Church made a week-long visit to Georgia in hopes of resolving disputes with the Georgian government and Georgian Orthodox Church over the country’s Armenian religious heritage. One of the biggest sources of Georgian-Armenian tensions lies over a 15th century church in Tbilisi that both countries insist is their own.
- Vanuatu joined Nicaragua, Nauru, Venezuela and Russia in recognizing the breakaway region of Abkhazia this week after last week’s confusion where the Vanuatu ambassador to the UN denied the recognition. The countries have no recorded history of trade or other commercial activities.
- More than 50 million people headed to the polls in Turkey on Sunday for parliamentary elections.
- A regional counter-terrorism official from Russia was killed and another officer wounded during a shootout in the North Caucasus on Sunday.
- The imam of a rual mosque in Daghestan was shot dead on Tuesday, in an unknown attack. Some five suspected militants were killed alongside the commander of an elite police unit in gunfights on Wednesday, while some four other suspected militants were killed by security forces in an exchange of gunfire south of Kaspiisk.
- The UN Security Council extended the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) for another year on Monday. The force has been on the island since 1964 and is currently staffed with nearly 1,000 uniformed personnel and 150 international and national civilian staff.
- The President of Belarus has vowed to “strike hard” against any further public protests in the country following a protest on Sunday that was forcibly broken up by police. The protest took place on the border with Poland, by motorists demanding that authorities revoke a decision to limit the amount of gasoline and other goods that can be taken out of the country. On Thursday, it was reported that a jailed activist had been “tortured” in prison. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) suggested that Belarus uses fear, harassment, torture and blackmail to clamp down on its people in a system void of justice and the rule of law in a special report issued on Thursday.
- Thousands came out dressed as clowns to protest against austerity measures introduced by the government in Hungary on Thursday, in the biggest rally since demonstrations began in April. Early retirement for public sector workers was repealed, and the government has abolished these rights retroactively.
- It was reported that Greece is likely to get enough money from the EU to survive through the summer this Sunday; because the country’s economic troubles could eventually trigger the euro zone’s first debt default. Many are concerned that a default could send shock waves that would hurt stocks, banks and entire economies around the world. On Wednesday, protesters in Athens threw petrol bombs and clashed with police at buildings housing the finance ministry.
- Thousands blockaded the parliament in Catalonia, Spain on Wednesday, protesting heavy cuts and austerity measures used to slash the deficit and forcing politicians to enter by helicopter or under police escort.