Yemen

This Week in Middle Eastern Conflict… March 2nd-March 9th, 2012.

  • At least 35 soldiers and some 14 suspected militants were reportedly killed in twin suicide bombings and ensuing clashes with al-Qaeda militants in southern Abyan Province in Yemen on Sunday, part of an upsurge of attacks since the Presidential election last month. On Monday, officials raised the death toll to at least 139 people, as clashes continued; and the new President vowed to pursue the militants to their last hiding place. By Tuesday, the death toll had risen to over 180 soldiers and at least 25 militants dead; with some 70 soldiers captured by militants. On Tuesday, the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda announced that it attacked a US intelligence officer due to an increasing American military presence. On Thursday, an army officer and six of his bodyguards were reportedly killed in a shootout with rebels in the north of the country, where insurgents have snatched territory during anti-government protests. On Friday, the UN refugee agency reported that the country is facing a new wave of internal displacement, with tens of thousands of civilians fleeing tribal clashes in the north and fresh fighting between government troops and militants in the south; while air strikes on suspected positions of al Qaeda linked fighters in the south killed several militants.
  • Police in the United Arab Emirates reportedly arrested an activist after he criticized the security services for interfering with the lives of citizens, the latest step to limit political dissent in the country.
  • Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in Bahrain on Friday to demand democratic reforms in the biggest protest yet. Riot police reportedly blocked the road and fired tear gas at rock-throwing protesters.
  • Around 8,000 students at a women’s university in Saudi Arabia demonstrated on Wednesday against a move by the university to keep cleaning crews away after accusing students of not doing enough to keep their areas tidy, resulting in the injuries of some 53 students after security forces dispersed them. The students declared on Friday they were planning to boycott classes the following day in response to the intervention by security forces.
  • Chatter on potential Israeli strikes on nuclear targets on Iran have reportedly never been higher, but some suggest it is all smoke-and-mirrors being used as a diplomatic weapon. AlertNet ran a report claiming that any strike on Iran would lead to an unleashing of horrible consequences, an opinion I strongly agree with. On Friday, Israeli PM Netanyahu announced once again that Israel reserved the right to defend itself against Iran and that global powers would be falling into a trap if they pursued talks with the country; while American President Obama said he would not hesitate to use military force against Iran if necessary to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weaponry and also admonished Israel for “too much loose talk of war”. On Monday, PM Netanyahu responded for American President Obama’s call for an end to “loose talk of war” by reiterating Israel’s “right to defend itself” during a meeting between the two at the White House and Obama reassured the PM that the US “will always have Israel’s back”; while a young Palestinian man throwing rocks at soldiers in the West Bank reportedly had his skull smashed by a tear gas canister fired by an Israeli soldier. On Tuesday, the Atlantic ran an interesting article comparing the nuclear developments of both Israel and Iran over different time periods; while Hamas ruled out military support for Iran in any war with Israel; while two Palestinian children were reportedly killed when an abandoned ordnance exploded in the West Bank. On Wednesday, Israel reportedly cautiously welcomed the possible resumption of international talks on Iran’s nuclear program, but announced it will not abandon other options. On Thursday, Israel reportedly asked the US for advanced “bunker buster” bombs and refueling planes that could improve its ability to attack Iran’s alleged underground nuclear sites, something that White House press secretary denied was discussed; an Israeli soldier reportedly shot dead a Palestinian and wounded another who stabbed him, as troops carried out an arrest in West Bank; Israel announced it is training its troops to hunt below ground with robot probes and sniffer dogs fearing a surge in tunnel and bunker construction by Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestinian militants; while PM Netanyahu announced that Israel will give sanctions on Iran a chance to work and will not attack the country in the coming days or weeks. On Friday, Israeli air strikes reportedly killed 10 militants in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian gunmen fired more than two dozen rockets at the Jewish state, in the worst violent flare up in months; while a vehicle exploded in Gaza, killing at least two people.
  • A prominent human rights lawyer in Iran was sentenced to 18 years in prison by a revolutionary court for spreading anti-government propaganda, endangering national security and accepting an “illegal” human rights price that critics are saying is politically motivated, his daughter said on Sunday; while conservative rivals of President Ahmadinejad appeared to have extended their lead in the parliamentary election that reportedly had more than 64% turnout after nearly 90% of ballot boxes counted. On Monday, the head of the IAEA highlighted the ongoing serious concerns about a possible military dimension to Iran’s nuclear programme, adding that the country has tripled its monthly production of enriched uranium; while the Washington Post suggested that international sanctions on the country are starting to really hurt Iran (The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg responded with an interesting point that’s worth mentioning—that sanctions that harm civilians may be less humane than other military options). On Tuesday, Iran announced it will allow UN inspectors access to a secret military complex where the IAEA suspects secret atomic work has been carried out and the EU foreign policy chief wrote to Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator to accept an offer to meet to discuss the country’s nuclear programme. On Wednesday, a post on Supreme Leader Khamenei’s Twitter account said that he had signed an executive order establishing the Cyberspace Council, appointing the President as its chair; while satellite images of a military facility reportedly show trucks and earth-moving vehicles at the site, which some are calling an indication of an attempted cleanup of radioactive traces possibly left by tests of a nuclear-weapons trigger. On Thursday, Supreme Leader Khamenei welcomed recent comments by American President Obama emphasizing diplomacy in regards to the country’s nuclear program; an American Air Force General discussed the use of a 30,000 pound bunker buster bomb designed to smash through 200 feet of concrete before exploding in possible clashes with Iran; while world powers said in a joint statement that proposed talks with Iran on the nuclear program must be “serious”, without preconditions, and should produce “concrete results”. On Friday, six world powers reportedly demanded Iran keep its promise to let international inspectors visit a military installation where the IAEA believes explosives tests geared to developing atomic bombs may have taken place, not ruling out that Iran may be trying to remove evidence from the site; American Secretary of State Clinton announced the US and South Korea were making progress in discussions on the implementation of new American sanctions on Iran, but stopped short of announcing any deal on a potential waiver; while the chairman of the American Senate Armed Services Committee called for a naval blockade of Iranian oil exports to be considered before resorting to air strikes against country for its nuclear program. An interesting article was released in this month’s Washington Monthly suggesting that “an Iran with a bomb would not be anywhere near as dangerous as most people assume, and a war to try to stop it from acquiring one would be less successful, and far more costly, than most people imagine”; while another article in the American Prospect discussed ways to keep the peace without regime change in the country. The Atlantic ran two articles discussing the chances of an American or Israeli war with Iran.
  • The Interior Ministry of Iraq asked authorities in the autonomous Kurdish region to arrest VP al-Hashimi and hand him over for a trial on Sunday on charges he was running death squads. On Monday, at least 27 people were reportedly killed in a wave of attacks in the western province of Anbar. On Tuesday, at least 13 people were reportedly killed and nearly two dozen others wounded in dual car-bomb and suicide attack in the northern town of Tal Afar.
  • Refugees International announced on Friday that desperate people fleeing the besieged city of Homs in Syria were being shot at as they tried to escape over the border into Lebanon, including shooting at children as young as 10 or 12 years old; while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least 10 people were killed when security forces fired a mortar on an anti-government protest in the town of Rastan. On Saturday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed alarm at report suggesting government forces are arbitrarily executing, imprisoning and torturing people in Homs; Turkey’s Foreign Minister accused the Assad regime of committing “war crimes”; Syrian army tanks deployed in the eastern city of Deir al-Zor to support forces and militiamen loyal to Assad who reportedly came under rebel attack after three pro-democracy demonstrators were killed; an explosion killed seven people and wounded several others in the southern town of Deraa; armed forces bombarded parts of Homs and allegedly blocked the Red Cross aid for a second day; while China urged the government and rebels to immediately end all acts of violence, especially against civilians and to start a dialogue.  On Sunday, the Red Cross again said it had been prevented from entering Baba Amr in Homs, but was instead delivering aid to a village near Homs where refuges were sheltering; armed forces allegedly renewed their assault on Homs, bombarding more areas and killing at least seven, including four children; Israel offered to assist international efforts to provide humanitarian aid to Syria without intervening directly; a senior Republican American Senator called for the arming of Syrian rebels through the Arab League and suggested the imposition of “no drive” and “no fly” zones against Syrian military forces; while reports suggested that Lebanon was bracing itself for the new influx of thousands of Syrian refugees crossed their border, claiming they  feared they would be slaughtered in their own homes as the government forces hunted down opponents in Homs. On Monday, the Saudi foreign minister asserted that Syrians have a right to take up arms and defend themselves in a rare news conference; China announced it will send an envoy to help ease the crisis; Canada announced it has closed its embassy in Syria and expanded its economic sanctions against the country; heavy fighting allegedly broke out between government and rebel forces in Deraa on the border with Jordan; Ban Ki-moon announced that relief chief Valerie Amos is set to arrive in the country for Wednesday to urge parties to the conflict to allow in humanitarian assistance; teams of Red Cross and Syrian Arab Red Crescent reportedly reached two neighbourhoods of Homs where they distributed food and blankets to civilians; secretly shot video footage was released by a British television station that allegedly shows Syrian patients being tortured by medical staff at a state-run hospital in Homs; while the International Crisis Group released a new report suggesting a plan for a negotiated transition in the country and the Center for American Progress released a new report discussing the challenges to ending the violence  in the country. On Tuesday, Assad again refused to allow aid into the destroyed suburb of Homs and reiterated his determination to fight “foreign-backed terrorism”; the UN announced it has footage similar to that aired by Britain’s Channel 4 television station purporting to show Syrian patients being tortured in hospital; while American President Obama said it was only a matter of time before Assad will leave office, but added that it was a mistake to think the US could take unilateral action there. On Wednesday, the UN humanitarian affairs chief visited parts of the neighbourhood of Baba Amr in Homs, finding it largely deserted and completely devastated.  On Thursday, the five permanent UN Security Council members and Morocco met behind closed doors to discuss a US drafted resolution urging an end to the crackdown on demonstrators; former UN Secretary-General Annan called for diplomatic solutions to the continued bloodshed, warning against arming the opposition; Lebanon’s foreign minister rebuffed a call by the American ambassador for their government to protect all Syrians who have fled across the border into Lebanese territory; Tunisia and Turkey announced that they are opposed to using outside military force to intervene in the country; the UN announced that it is readying food stocks for 1.5 million people in Syria as part of a 90 day emergency contingency plan to help civilians; the bodies of 18 Baba Amr residents were reportedly found stabbed to death after security forces raided homes; security forces reportedly shot and wounded three mourners at a Damascus funeral for an army defector that turned into an anti-government protest; Assad reaffirmed his determination to go on fighting what he called “foreign-backed terrorism”; Russia accused Libya of running a training centre for Syrian rebels; the UN cultural agency UNESCO condemned Syria for its crackdown on protesters but did not expel Damascus from its human rights committee as some countries had demanded; a Russian diplomat said that Assad is battling al-Qaeda-backed “terrorists” including at least 15,000 foreign fighters who will seize towns across the country if government troops withdraw; Libya’s PM denied Russian accusations that his country was running camps to train and arm Syrian rebels, but expressed strong support for them; while US officials are reportedly finalizing plans to aid the internal and external opposition, stopping short of direct military assistance until the opposition unites but not removing the possibility of potentially military options. On Friday, five members of the Syrian armed forces, including at least two generals and a colonel, reportedly defected to Turkey; Syrian forces reportedly killed at least 54 people as they sought to quell anti-government demonstrations; tanks shelled on opposition districts in Homs, killing four and wounding scores more; security forces reportedly killed one civilian in a residential neighbourhood in Damascus as they tried to put down an act of civil disobedience; Germany urged Russia to change its policy towards Syria and back a UN resolution condemning Damascus; France announced it cannot accept a UN Security Council resolution that would assign responsibility for the violence equally to the government and its opponents; UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos arrived in Turkey following her trip to Syria to visit the camps for Syrian refugees; China said it will send another envoy to the Middle East and France to discuss the Syrian crisis; while an UN-Arab League envoy with Koffi Annan prepared to meet with President Assad the following day.

This Week in Middle Eastern Conflict… February 24th-March 2nd, 2012.

  • At least 28 people were reportedly killed in clashes on Saturday between government troops and opposition forces in Syria as the Red Cross continued efforts to evacuate civilians from the city of Homs; while at least 89 people were reportedly killed nationwide. On Sunday, the ICRC said that Syrian authorities had still not responded to a request for a ceasefire to allow the wounded to be evacuated from the Baba Amro district in Homs. On Monday, activists reported the deaths of more than 125 people across the country, just hours after the state television announced that an overwhelming majority of voters (some 89.4%) agreed to a new constitution, though the UN announced that it was “unlikely to be credible”; the shelling of Homs continued; the EU agreed to new sanctions against the country, targeting the central bank, seven cabinet ministers, prohibiting trade in gold and other precious metals with state institutions and a ban on cargo flights from the country; the ambulances of the Arab Red Crescent reportedly evacuated three people from the Baba Amro district of Homs; activists reported the discovery of at least 62 people near the city of Homs; and the Qatari PM called upon the international community to provide arms to the rebels. On Tuesday, the UN human rights chief announced that the situation in the country is “dire” and called upon the government to declare an immediate “humanitarian cease-fire”; a UN official said that Syrian forces have killed more than 7,500 civilians, or more than 100 a day; Paul Conroy, a Sunday Times photographer was reportedly evacuated from Homs, though many other journalists, including Edith Bouvier, remained trapped. On Wednesday, Libya announced it will donate $100 million in humanitarian aid to the opposition and allow them to open an office in Tripoli; 13 Syrian activists were reportedly killed in the process of helping wounded foreign journalists trapped in Homs escape; heavy fighting broke out near the main rebel stronghold of Baba Amro in Homs as Syrian troops began a ground assault; UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs announced she was denied in her repeated requests to visit the country; and Reuters ran an article on the “path of death” smuggling route that is fueling the rebels.  On Thursday, a top US official for the Middle East says the “tipping point” in the country must come “quickly”; the UN Security Council called upon the government to grant UN humanitarian chief Amos “immediate and unhindered access” to the country; the Syrian National Council formed a military council, which it says will act as a clearing house for anyone offering it arms; the rebels defending Baba Amro said they faced at least 7,000 government troops; Kuwait’s Parliament said it would support the rebel Free Syria Army  and called upon the Kuwaiti government to cut ties with Assad; Ban Ki-moon and the head of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons expressed their concern at the possibility that Syria may have chemical weapons; security forces reportedly opened fire on an anti-government demonstration in Damascus, injuring five young men; Russia’s Putin announced he had no special relationship with President Assad and that Syrians should decide who should rule their country; American journalist Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Ochlik were allegedly buried in Homs where they were killed 8 days prior; government troops started to advance on Homs, after weeks of bombardment by tanks and fighters; and the Free Syrian Army announced they had withdrawn from the Baba Amr district of Homs. On Friday, Syrian authorities reportedly blocked the Red Cross from entering the Baba Amr district of Homs, despite receiving permission from the government to send a convoy with seven truckloads of aid; Human Rights Watch said that new satellite imagery and eyewitness accounts reveal that bombardment of the Baba Amr neighbourhood has inflicted widespread destruction; Ban Ki-moon underlined the need for concerted action to end the crisis, lamenting that the international community has thus far failed in its responsibility to stop the bloodshed; while two French journalists, including Edith Bouvier, were safely evacuated from Homs to Lebanon. Some interesting articles were published, one calling for the world to prepare to arm the Syrian rebels (a position I personally strongly disagree with—after all, arming opposition groups has had soo much success in the past *sarcasm*); another questioning the morality of any foreign intervention within the country; one talking about the logistics of intervention; and another one questioning the world’s inconsistency on foreign intervention into conflicts.
  • At least 25 people were reportedly killed in a car bomb attack outside the gate of a Presidential compound in south Yemen on Saturday, hours after the new President was sworn in; while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated the new President after he took his oath of office in Parliament. On Wednesday, an al-Qaeda linked group threatened to unleash a torrent of attacks unless the government pulled its forces back from a contested southern city of Zinjibar. On Thursday, rival units of the military briefly traded fire outside the residence of the newly elected President, with no reported casualties.
  • At least 8 people were reportedly killed in violence in Iraq on Wednesday, after a car bomb exploded in a shopping area in southeastern Baghdad, unknown gunmen shot at a car in Mosul and a car bomb exploded in the city of Kirkuk; the main Sunni Muslim insurgent groups rejected laying down their arms to join the political process and announced they will keep fighting to topple the “occupation government”. On Thursday, a student shot and killed an American teacher at a private Christian school in the autonomous Kurdish region, then attempted suicide and was taken to a mental hospital; while Human Rights Watch criticized Iraqi authorities for using “repressive means” to muzzle peaceful protests after last week’s demonstrations to mark the one-year anniversary of protests against widespread corruption, poor basic services and high unemployment. Reuters reported that militants killed 151 Iraqi civilians and members of the security forces in February, showing that daily bombings and shootings remain persistent fact of life despite the withdrawal of US forces in December.
  • The government of Bahrain announced on Sunday that almost all the verdicts issued by military courts against people involved in pro-democracy protest movements crushed by the state last year were now being handled by civilian courts. On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch released a new report on unfair trails in military and civilian courts in the country. On Thursday, authorities imposed restrictions on groups trying to monitor reforms and asked UN investigators into torture to postpone their scheduled trip.
  • A Palestinian man reportedly died after being shot in clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers in the West Bank on Saturday. On Monday, a Palestinian women, released by Israel in a prisoner swap last year, but re-arrested earlier this month and held without charge, is reportedly on a hunger strike to protest her treatment, just a week after the Israeli government struck a deal with another prisoner on a hunger strike. On Tuesday, the UN political chief called upon Israeli and Palestinian leaders to get serious about overcoming the current impasse, noting that talks that began last month have stalled and the situation on the ground in West Bank and Gaza remains dangerous. On Wednesday, Israeli troops reportedly raided two private Palestinian television stations in the West Bank, seizing transmitters and other equipment on the grounds that they “interfered with legal broadcasters and aircraft communications”.
  • American intelligence analysts suggested on Friday that they continued to believe that there is no hard evidence that Iran has decided to build a nuclear bomb despite a new report from the IAEA about an accelerated uranium enrichment program. On Saturday, the IAEA claimed that Iran had yet to give an explanation over a small quantity of uranium metal missing from a research site; while SWIFT, the world’s biggest electronic banking system, announced it is ready to block the country’s central bank from using its network to transfer funds. On Tuesday, Iran’s foreign ministers announced he expects talks with the international community over the controversial nuclear program and is confident they will continue, also condemning the production of atomic weaponry as a “great sin”; while Human Rights Watch claimed that authorities are “dramatically” escalating their crackdown on freedom of expression ahead of the parliamentary elections. On Wednesday, Hezbollah said that an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear programme would set the Middle East ablaze, possibly drag in the US and unleash a conflict beyond their control; while Iranian authorities offered Pakistan 80,000 barrels of oil per day on a three-month deferred payment plan in an attempt to soften the impact of Western sanctions and ease some of Pakistan’s energy needs. On Thursday, the Atlantic ran an article claiming that bombing Iran would mean also invading Iran and all that this would entail; Israel announced that it would soon test-fire a ballistic interceptor missile, hoping to avoid stoking war tensions with Iran; an opinion poll showed that a wide majority of Israelis either oppose a strike on Iran or would favour an attack only if it was carried out with US agreement; while Israel pressed American President Obama for an explicit threat of military action against Iran if sanctions fail and their nuclear programme advances beyond specified “red lines”. On Friday, Iranian semi-official Mehr news agency reported that the sister of President Ahmadinejad failed to win a Parliamentary seat and early returns were showing conservative rivals of Ahmadinejad elected in many other constituencies; several other sites wrote articles about the parliamentary elections that reportedly had a “record” turnout; Iran’s ambassador to Moscow complained that a Russian state-controlled bank shut down the accounts of Iranian embassy personnel, the Russian Foreign Ministry thought may be a consequence of EU and US sanctions; American President Obama warned that he is not bluffing about attacking Iran if it builds a nuclear weapon, but that a premature attack would do more harm than good; while Israeli PM Netanyahu says his country will not draw any “red lines” for action regarding Iran’s disputed nuclear program.

This Week in Middle Eastern Conflict… February 17th-24th, 2012.

  • China announced on Friday that it had yet to receive a formal invitation to a meeting of international powers in Tunis next week to discuss the crisis in Syria; the government reportedly blocked a premiere live stream website, Bambuser, that has been used by dissidents to upload streaming video of conditions in the country in real time; thousands of Israeli Arabs reportedly demonstrated against Assad, calling for him to step down; an award-winning “New York Times” correspondent died in the country from an apparent asthma attack; NATO’s Secretary General said that the they have no intention of intervening in Syria, even if the UN mandate was changed to protect civilians; three pro-democracy protesters were allegedly killed by security forces during protests; security forces renewed a bombardment of opposition strongholds in Homs and attacks on rebels in Deraa; while the government of Venezuela allegedly supplied diesel to the country, undermining Western sanctions. On Saturday, security forces reportedly fired live ammunition to break up an anti-government protest in Damascus, killing at least one person; China said it backs President Assad’s plans for a referendum to end the violence; and Iraq announced it was reinforcing security along its Syrian border to stop the flow of arms and smuggling. On Sunday, gunmen reportedly staged an ambush that killed a senior state prosecutor and judge in an opposition-dominated northern region; a leading Chinese newspaper accused western countries of stirring civil war in Syria and that their calls for Assad to step down could provoke a “large-scale civil war” that might demand foreign intervention; Egypt announced it was recalling its ambassador to Damascus; an insider in the Syrian regime said it is “disintegrating” under the weight of international sanctions; and AP reported a troop build up in Homs. On Monday, members of the EU announced they will likely adopt fresh sanctions against the Syrian President in the coming week; the International Committee of the Red Cross said it is negotiating with Syrian forces and opposition fighters on a daily two-hour ceasefire to bring life-saving aid to civilians the hardest hit by the conflict; security forces reportedly injured four youth when they fired live ammunition at a night demonstration in Damascus. On Tuesday, the US said it will consider taking “additional measures” to end the bloodshed in Syria if an international outcry and a strengthened sanctions regime do not convince the government to stop the crackdown on the opposition; Russia said it will not attend a Western-backed international conference in Tunis about the crisis because it only supported the opposition cause; security forces reportedly killed at least 33 civilians in army raids on villages in northern Idlib province; and government forces reportedly continued to bombard the city of Homs, killing at least 63 people. On Wednesday, a veteran Sunday Times correspondent and a French photographer were reportedly killed in Syria, along with some 80 others as security forces rained rockets and bombs on opposition-held neighbourhoods in Homs, increasing the foreign pressure on Assad; security forces and militiamen loyal to Assad allegedly chased, captured and then shot dead 27 young men in three northern villages; two Islamist militant groups in Iraq rejected a call by al Qaeda to aid Syrian rebels in their revolt, saying sending weaponry and fighters across the border would only worsen the conflict; the main opposition Syrian National Council said it wants a minimum of 3 points of safe passage for life-saving aid supplies to enter the country; a main opposition group called upon Syrians to boycott an upcoming referendum on a new constitution, calling it an attempt to cover up the crackdown; King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told Russian President Medvedev that any dialogue about the crisis in Syria would lead nowhere; the Information Ministry reportedly told foreign journalists that are illegally inside the country that they should report to the government, as they allegedly had no knowledge of the entrance of the two foreign journalists who were killed in Homs; France called upon the Syrian government to immediately halt the military onslaught of Homs and allow safe access for medical aid; while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked the UN relief chief to visit the country to assess the humanitarian situation. On Thursday, security forces reportedly lined up and shot dead 13 men and boys from one extended family after raiding the village of Kfartoun in Hama province; three people were killed in shelling in the village of Soubin; a French journalist who was badly injured in a recent attack in Homs issued a video plea for help to cross the Lebanese border; the UN accused the Syrian regime of “crimes against humanity”, including the use of snipers against small children, and drew up a list of senior officials who should face investigation; China announced it would not accept an invitation to discuss the crisis in Syria with other world powers during the “Friends of Syria” conference on Friday in Tunisia; several attendees of the Friends of Syria group announced they would seek tougher measures, including a possible economic “stranglehold” on the Syrian government. On Friday, representatives from more than 70 nations gathered in Tunis for the “Friends of Syria” conference aimed at finding ways to end the bloodshed, with Saudi Arabia and Qatar reportedly pushing for more forceful intervention against Assad including supplying weapons to rebels; pro-Assad protesters rallied outside the conference in Tunis; EU diplomats named seven Syrian ministers to be targeted with new sanctions including travel bans and asset freezes on the ministers of health, education, presidential affairs, communications and technology, industry, oil and mineral resources, and transport, with more sanctions expected to be issued on Monday; US Secretary of State Clinton called upon Syria to agree to a cease-fire and criticised Russia and China for siding with Assad; while the Syrian Arab Red Crescent began evacuating wounded or sick women and children from the Baba Amro district of Homs, in what is being called “a first step forward”.
  • Police and anti-government protesters clashed in Bahrain on Thursday, with two policemen reportedly severely injured in a petrol bomb attack. Two Western activists were detained for leading a women’s protest on Friday, while police suppressed the protests with water cannons and armoured vehicles. On Monday, police again used water cannons and tear gas to break up a march chanting anti-government slogans following a funeral. On Wednesday, Sunni Muslims warned the government at a rally of some 20,000 people, against entering a dialogue with Shi’ite-led opposition parties, instead urging them to focus on security.
  • Government forces in Yemen reportedly detained 10 al Qaeda linked fighters on Friday; while oil pipeline workers returned to work after a 10-day strike which had shut down oil exports. On Monday, an explosion rocked a polling station in Aden and was followed by gunfire that killed one soldier and injured another; while the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda confirmed the death of a senior leader who officials say died in a bloody family feud. The country went to the polls on Tuesday, with the Vice-President as the only candidate in polls that are reported to have a high turnout despite calls for a boycott by the opposition and deadly violence in the south. Reuters ran an article outlining the high-ranking members of Saleh’s family who still have positions in security and military roles or influential positions in the business community. On Wednesday, vote counting was underway  to confirm the current VP as the new leader, amid violence that killed at least 10 people across the country’s south; while the Security Council welcomed the holding of elections and encouraged leaders to move on to the next stage of transition. On Thursday, troops reportedly opened fire on a rally by southern secessionists opposed to the Presidential elections, killing one protester and wounding three others; while outgoing President Saleh, who had been receiving medical treatment in the US, left the country headed for an unknown destination. On Friday, Al Jazeera ran a report about the cost of rebuilding the country in the wake of Saleh’s departure, a price the country can ill afford.
  • Police announced on Friday that they had found the bullet-riddled body of a man in his twenties floating in a river northwest of Kirkuk, Iraq; gunmen in a speeding car opened fire on a man and his son, wounding both in Mandili; a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded two policemen near Muqdadiya; gunmen opened fire on an off-duty policeman near his home, killing him near Khalis; gunmen in a speeding car opened fire on a police patrol, killing two officers in southern Baghdad; gunmen in a car opened fire on a police lieutenant colonel and his driver, killing both in Tikrit; and a sticky bomb attached to a car wounded a farmer near Hawija. On Saturday, authorities began evacuating an initial batch of 400 Iranian dissidents from Camp Ashraf to a transit camp near the airport in Baghdad; gunmen killed two off-duty soldiers in separate attacks in western Mosul; a mortar round killed one civilians in eastern Mosul; a bomb attached to a car wounded three people in Falluja; gunmen opened fire at a police checkpoint, wounding one policeman in Falluja; police found the body of a man who had been handcuffed and shot in southern Kirkuk; and police found the body of an unidentified man who was killed by the explosion of a roadside bomb he was trying to plant in Hawija. On Sunday, a suicide bomber reportedly killed 16 people and wounded some 26 in a crowd of police recruits leaving their academy in eastern Baghdad. On Monday, a sticky bomb attached to a police lieutenant colonel’s car exploded, seriously wounding him in Tuz Khurmato; gunmen stormed a house killing a tribal leader in the southern outskirts of Falluja; a sticky bomb attached to a former civil defense lieutenant’s car exploded, killing him and seriously wounding two others in Jalawla; a sticky bomb attached to an off-duty police lieutenant’s car exploded, killing him and seriously wounding another policeman in Ramadi; while judges ordered one of the two VPs be tried for terrorism, a move the accused dismissed as “black comedy”. On Wednesday, a bomb near a policeman’s house exploded, wounding his wife and child in Baquba; a roadside bomb wounded one civilian in western Mosul, and gunmen shot dead a civilian in eastern Mosul. On Thursday, at least 28 separate bombings were reported across the country, killing over 49 people and wounding at least 280 people, many of them security forces; while there were at least 6 attacks by gunmen, mostly at security checkpoint,  killing some 18, and wounding at least 31 people.
  • The United States and the EU expressed cautious optimism on Friday over prospects that Iran  may be willing to engage major powers in new talks; President Ahmadinejad blamed foreign powers for “all the problems” in the region through their interference; two Iranian naval ships sailed through the Suez Canal with permission of Egyptian authorities; officials in key parts of the American Obama administration are increasingly convinced that sanctions will not deter Iran from nuclear ambitions and that the US will be left with “no option” but to launch an attack on the country, or watch Israel do so; two articles in the Atlantic discussed the warmongering media frenzy over Iran; and Israel blamed Iran and the Lebanese group Hezbollah of plotting attacks against Israelis and Jews worldwide, a claim Hezbollah leader Nasrallah vehemently denied. On Saturday, Britain’s foreign minister warned that any attack on Iran would carry huge costs, including leading to a new cold war; American General Martin Dempsey also warned against military strikes against Iran; the Israeli Defense Minister said a nuclear-armed Iran could trigger an arms race in the Middle East and that nations should impose “crippling” sanctions on them to force the end to their nuclear ambitions; while a Vienna-based diplomat announced that Iran may be poised to expand its nuclear program at an underground site near the city of Qom. On Sunday, Iran’s oil ministry announced it had stopped selling crude oil to British and French companies in retaliation for the EU sanctions. On Monday, inspectors from the UN International Atomic Energy Agency arrived in the country for two days of talks about the Iranian nuclear program; the Iranian media reported that two of their navy ships docked in the Syrian port of Tartous on a mission to provide training to Syrian naval forces; Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s outlook on the West appears to dim the hopes for any future nuclear deal; several European countries announced they have stopped buying Iranian oil, while others announced they would be cutting back on their purchases; authorities reportedly faced a second and more extensive disruption of Internet access; and Common Dreams published a report highlighting the hypocrisy of condemning Iran for its alleged connection to the assassinations in Tbilisi, New Delhi and Bangkok while not doing the same to the assassinations of Iranian scientists allegedly ordered by Israel. On Tuesday, the EU’s foreign policy chief renewed calls for Iranian authorities to halt the execution of an Iranian man with Canadian residency for “designing and moderating adult-content websites” that contravene the country’s laws; the two Iranian warships were reported to have passed south through the Suez Canal after a brief stop in the Syrian port of Tartus; the Iranian body that vets election hopefuls reportedly approved 3,444 candidates to run in the March 2nd parliamentary polls; authorities announced they expect to hold more talks with the IAEA; while a five-member group of UN atomic energy watchdog experts continued their talks on Iran’s nuclear programme. The Christian Science Monitor ran a report detailing what would happen if Iran did have a nuclear bomb. On Wednesday, the IAEA team declared their mission in Iran a disappointment as they were unable to visit a military site at Parchin; Russia warned that an attack on Iran would lead to a catastrophe; Supreme Leader Khamenei offered new assurances that his country is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons, even while a report, allegedly out of Iran, of the wife of an assassinated nuclear scientist who said her husband’s ultimate goal was the annihilation of Israel; Israel said it believes that within 2-3 years Iran will have intercontinental missiles able to hit the US; and the Atlantic ran a piece suggesting that a pre-emptive attack on Iran may actually ensure they get nuclear weaponry, if they don’t already have it.  On Thursday, a weeklong election campaign began for the March 2nd parliamentary polls, with analysts predicting a comfortable victory for the ruling conservative faction loyal to Ayatollah Khamanei. On Friday, Russian PM Putin accused the west of seeking “regime change” in Iran under the guise of trying to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction, during a tour of Iranian nuclear research centre; while the IAEA reportedly claimed that Iran has dramatically accelerated its production of enriched uranium in recent months and is refusing to cooperate with an investigation of evidence that it may have worked on designing a bomb.
  • Several thousand Palestinians reportedly rallied in Gaza and the West Bank on Friday in support of the jailed Islamic Jihad leader who has been on a hunger strike protest for a 63rd day against his detention by Israel; while reports suggested that a sustainable energy program in a rural area of the West Bank was being threatened by Israeli authorities. On Saturday, at least two Palestinian were wounded in an Israeli air strike on southern Gaza City, allegedly in retaliation for several rockets fired into southern Israel the day before. On Tuesday, the Palestinian prisoner whose life was in danger after he went on a hunger strike for 66 days, agreed to eat after a deal was struck for him to be released at the end of a four-month period of detention. On Wednesday, the top UN envoy for the Middle East peace process described Israel’s announcement that it had given approval to a large number of new settlement units deep inside occupied Palestinian territory; while members of Hamas endorsed a unity government with the Palestinian authority, taking on a more moderate position that reportedly presents a serious challenge to Israel and raises the states in any future peace process. On Friday, Israeli police clashed with hundreds of Muslim worshippers near the al-Aqsa mosque for the third time this week, reportedly sparked by fears that far-right Israeli activists were planning to enter Muslim-controlled areas at the site; while the UN committee on Palestine rights voiced alarm over the recent Israeli decision to build more than 500 new homes in a settlement inside occupied Palestinian territory and to retroactively “legalize” some 200 settlement units built earlier without permit.

This Week in Middle Eastern Conflict… February 10th-17th, 2012.

  • A new report in the Atlantic this week suggests that a barely perceptible shift occurred in recent months that make the possibility of Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear sites more possible, as the benefits outweigh the costs. NBC reported last week that Israel used an Iranian opposition group, designated as terrorist group by the United States, to carry out much-publicized assassinations of Iranian scientists. On Friday, China announced it would be sending a senior official to the country for talks on their nuclear program; ; while the PM of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip arrived in Tehran for a three day visit to mark the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. On Saturday, President Ahmadinejad addressed tens of thousands of supporters in Freedom Square, saying that the country will soon announce “very important” achievements in the nuclear field. On Sunday, a Palestinian prisoner being held without charge who has been on a hunger strike for more than 8 weeks is reportedly being kept shackled to a hospital bed, despite warnings that he may be close to death. On Monday, Israeli PM Netanyahu accused Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah of being behind twin attacks on Israeli targets in India and Georgia that injured four people; the Iranian media reported that President Ahmadinejad’s press advisor was sentenced to six months in jail for insulting Supreme Leader Khamenei; China urged authorities to do more to end the standoff over its disputed nuclear program; while the international community accused authorities of misleading them with their claims to have abandoned the death penalty for juvenile offenders and execution by stoning of those convicted of adultery. On Tuesday, Israel again accused Iran of being behind three blasts in Bangkok, Thailand that injured some five people. On Wednesday, authorities unveiled their nuclear progress, claiming their success in manufacturing fuel rods and advanced centrifuges and also indicated that they were on the verge of imposing an oil embargo on European countries in retaliation for their sanctions; Thailand arrested two Iranians charging them with plotting the recent bomb attack in Bangkok and linking them to recent attacks in India and Georgia; while Israeli PM Netanyahu said that Iranian “terror activities” must be halted. On Wednesday, Russia said global powers must work harder to win concessions from Iran over its nuclear programme; Iranian authorities denied any role in Tuesday’s bomb blasts in Thailand, while Thai police held three Iranian nationals in connection; Iranian authorities also told world powers they were ready to resume stalled nuclear talks at the “earliest” opportunity; the US Treasury Department slapped sanctions on Iran’s main intelligence organization, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups, committing human rights abuses and backing the Syrian government’s crackdown on citizens; Israel’s defense minister dismissed Iran’s announcements of major nuclear advancements as exaggerations; and Iranian censors allegedly blocked access to a number of news websites sympathetic to President Ahmadinejad ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections in March.
  • State-run media in Syria reported that at least 28 people were killed on Friday and 200 others injured in two car-bomb explosions perpetrated by “armed terrorist gangs” in Aleppo; Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister said that Assad’s assurance to Russian officials that he will hold a constitutional referendum means that the opposition now “bears full responsibility” for ending the violence there; a firefight broke out in a poor district of Damascus between loyalist forces and rebels; and the EU foreign policy chief called on Russia to reconsider its position on Syria after last week’s veto on Syrian violence. A video uploaded to YouTube on Saturday allegedly shows an anti-aircraft tank firing directly into an urban neighbourhood in the city of Douma; Syrian forces reportedly continued their bombardment of districts of the city of Homs, killing some 10 people; security forces entered the besieged town of Zabandani near the Lebanese border after agreeing to a ceasefire with rebels; authorities told Libya and Tunisia to close their embassies in Damascus within 72 hours; while the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported that gunmen had assassinated an army general in Damascus.  Security forces reportedly eased their week-long bombardment of Homs with only sporadic shelling on Sunday and let a few families leave opposition districts while thousands of protesters crowded the streets overnight; Tunisia announced it would host a meeting of the “Friends of Syria” which seeks to build an international agreement on how to end violence in the country on February 24th; the Arab League reportedly wants the UN to form a joint peacekeeping force and appoint a special Arab envoy to try and end the violence, a move Russia made clear it would not support; al-Qaeda’s leader called for the ousting of Assad and urged all Muslims to help the rebels; while the head of the Arab League’s observer mission to Syria resigned during a meeting of ministers in Cairo. On Monday, authorities flatly rejected the call by the Arab League to deploy peacekeepers in the country, while Britain said no western troops could be involved in such a mission; British PM Cameron and French President Sarkozy announced that they will be meeting in Paris on Friday to discuss a possible increase in help to the rebels, including giving them military advice; Russia allegedly signaled a new-found willingness to consider international intervention when it abandoned its absolute defence of the Syrian regime and announced that it does not rule out its participation in a potential UN peacekeeping mission as long as there was a ceasefire between government and opposition forces first; security forces reportedly resumed their offensive by shelling areas of Homs and Rastan and storming areas near Damascus; and the UN human rights chief warned that failure by the UN to take action has emboldened the Assad regime to mount an all-out assault on his opponents and accused the government of an “indiscriminate attack” on civilians and other grave human rights violations.  On Tuesday, government forces again clashed with protesters across the country, with some 20 people killed; and government troops shelled the city of Homs for a 10th day, killing at least 7 people and wounding more than 20; Arab officials confirmed that regional governments would be ready to arm the resistance if bloodshed did not cease; while France announced it had created an emergency fund for aid agencies helping the Syrian people. On Wednesday, President Assad ordered a referendum on a new constitution to be held on February 26th with a parliamentary election to be held within 90 days of the constitution’s approval; Syrian forces reportedly launched an offensive on the city of Hama, bombarding residential neighbourhoods with armoured reinforcements; Egypt called for change in the country that met the demands of the people, but ruled out supporting a military intervention into Syrian territory; an Arab delegation dismissed Russian amendments aimed at weakening a draft UN General Assembly resolution plan to get President Assad to step down as unacceptable;   while Libya invited the Syrian opposition National Council to open an office in Tripoli. On Thursday, the UN General Assembly strongly condemned the continued “widespread and systematic” human rights violations by the Syrian authorities and demanded that the government immediately cease all violence and protect its people; at least 22 people were reportedly killed in a military assault on opposition strongholds and several activists were arrested; the American embassy in Damascus posted a supposed satellite image of an oil pipeline fire in Homs to make a statement on China and Russia’s vetoes of a UN resolution demanding Assad step down; while the Director of American National Intelligence blamed the Iraqi al-Qaeda for a series of recent bombings against Syrian government targets.
  • Police in Bahrain reportedly used force to break up a peaceful anti-government march in the capital on Saturday, using tear gas and stun grenades to disperse hundreds of protesters and arresting two American rights activists. On Sunday, King Hamad dismissed the country’s opposition movement as disunited and said the threat of Iran had compelled him to call in foreign troops to crush last year’s uprising. On Monday, security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters trying to occupy a landmark roundabout in the capital ahead of the one-year anniversary of the uprising. On Tuesday, the Guardian reported that Britain has continued to sell arms worth more than 1 million pounds to the country despite continuing political unrest, including gun silencers, weapons sights, rifles, artillery and components for military training aircraft; while a massive police presence in the capital kept protesters from gathering in Pearl Roundabout to mark the one-year anniversary, arresting at least 30 people. On Wednesday, more than 120 protesters were reportedly wounded in clashes with police.
  • Security forces in Saudi Arabia reportedly shot one person dead and injured three others during an anti-government demonstration in the Eastern Province on Friday.
  • Thousands of people rallied in the capital Sanaa in Yemen on Friday to back a single-candidate Presidential election planned later this month. On Sunday, militants in the south said they had executed three men for giving the US information used to carry out drone strikes in the area; while southern separatists set fire to a tent camp housing anti-government protesters in Aden in opposition to an election this month to replace outgoing President Saleh. On Tuesday, the Nation ran an article on how American plans in Yemen are backfiring. On Thursday, security officials announced that a leading al-Qaeda operative had been killed in a family dispute that left at least 16 other tribesmen dead; while militants reportedly shot dead five people, including a military officer and regional head of the country’s election committee in al-Baydah province.
  • A roadside bomb targeted an army patrol, wounding three soldiers on Friday night in Abu Ghraib, Iraq. On Saturday, a car bomb went off targeting a police convoy, wounding the police station chief and at least three other policemen in Mahaweel; while gunmen shot dead a teacher in front of his house northeast of Baghdad. On Sunday, Turkish warplanes carried out air strikes on suspected Kurdish militant targets in the north; a sticky bomb killed a gas station manager and his driver in Baiji; a roadside bomb went off and wounded two soldiers in Baquba; a roadside bomb wounded three people in central Baghdad; and another roadside bomb blew up and wounded six people, including three policemen in northern Baghdad. On Monday, a sticky bomb attack wounded a teacher and two other passengers in his car in Kirkuk; another sticky bomb wounded a police captain in Kirkuk; and a sticky bomb attack wounded a government-backed Sahwa militiaman in Muqdadiya. On Tuesday, a car bomb explosion killed two people, including one soldier and wounded 14 others in Mosul; gunmen opened fire from a car, wounding an off-duty security officer in Kirkuk; a roadside bomb near a police patrol killed one civilian and wounded six others, including three policemen in eastern Baghdad; police found the body of a strangled woman in Baquba; and police said they found the decayed bodies of two men buried in 2006 near Baquba after an insurgent confessed to the killing and revealed the burial place. On Wednesday, gunmen wearing army uniforms attacked a policeman’s house using grenades and machineguns, killing his wife and two daughters and wounding him seriously in Jurf al-Sakhar; while a roadside bomb wounded two people in Baquba. On Thursday, an investigation panel said that death squads under the command of the Sunni Vice President were behind years of fatal attacks on security officials and Shi’ite pilgrims, a claim the VP denied as a smear campaign to consolidate power; while the leader of the exiled Iranian opposition group called the Mujahedin-e Khalq agreed to start relocating residents of the long disputed dissident camp Ashraf after receiving assurances from the US about their safety.
  • The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process called upon Israel to do everything in its power to preserve the health of a Palestinian detainee reportedly close to death on a hunger strike on Friday. Hundreds of other Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails reportedly joined in on the hunger strike, and Human Rights Watch called upon Israel to “immediately charge or release him” on Saturday; while a Palestinian in Gaza died after being wounded during a series of Israeli airstrikes. On Monday, Israel rejected an appeal by the prisoner on a hunger strike, prompting a furious reaction from the Issa Qaraqa, the Palestinian Authority’s prisoner affairs minister, who said the rejection was tantamount to murder; while Israeli embassies in Georgia and India were targeted by bomb strikes that Israel is blaming on Iran, who has denied any involvement. On Tuesday, the Gaza Strip’s only power station has reportedly been shut down, cutting already problematic electricity flows in the area by almost two-thirds, allowing each household only six hours of electricity at a time.
  • Two people were reportedly killed and several soldiers and others wounded in Tripoli, Lebanon on Saturday as supporters and opponents of Syria’s al-Assad fought in the street.

This Week in Middle Eastern Conflict… February 2nd-10th, 2012.

  • Human Rights Watch alleged that authorities in Iran are intimidating and arresting relatives and friends of Persian-language journalists working abroad on Friday; while American spy chiefs told Congress that they believed Iran’s leaders are now more willing to attack the US in response to real or perceived American actions that threaten their government. The Revolutionary Guards reportedly began carrying out military exercises in the south on Saturday amid rising tensions over their nuclear programme and rumours of a possible strike by Israel or the US. On Sunday, authorities warned that any country used to launch airstrikes against its nuclear bases would face retaliation. On Monday, American President Obama signed an executive order imposing tougher sanctions on Iran and its central bank and also said he does not think Israel has decided whether to attack Iran over its alleged nuclear program, though American Defense Secretary Panetta reportedly believes there is a growing possibility that Israel will attack Iran as early as April. On Tuesday, lawmakers reportedly summoned President Ahmadinejad to respond to a long list of complaints, particularly his handling of the economy; the Foreign Ministry denounced the new US sanctions as “psychological war” and said they will have no impact on the course of the country’s nuclear program; while authorities reportedly made a new deal on oil payments with India, who will make 45 percent of payments for Iranian crude in rupees in the face of disrupted regular payment channels. On Wednesday, the ambassador to Russia announced that Iran is capable of striking US military forces around the world if attacked by the US and that Russia is to resume arms exports to the country under a recent understanding, but will comply with international law in doing so; a regime-linked website, Alef, allegedly produced an article calling on Iran to use its missile arsenal to kill all of Israel’s Jews, describing how it could be done; while the country’s energy minister announced that it should invest in renewable energy to preserve its hydrocarbon reserves in the face of tightening sanctions that are making it increasingly difficult to sell oil. On Friday, Amir Oren reported that an Israeli Strike on Iran would be less likely than some people would think. The Atlantic ran two articles that discussed whether military action is justified against Iran, or whether diplomacy is the better option, especially in light of the fact that the US intelligence community said they were not even sure that Iran was trying to build a nuclear weapon.
  • Two people were reportedly wounded in Palestine in the Gaza Strip on Friday following Israeli airstrikes only hours after a visit by UN SG Ban Ki-moon, five other airstrikes are said to have targeted tunnels and fields; while an Israeli soldier stranded after a raid in occupied territory was allegedly escorted to safety by a Palestinian man in the same village that troops had targeted. On Monday, Hamas endorsed a proposal by Qatar in which Palestinian Authority President Abbas will assume the role of PM and lead an interim national consensus government in preparations for elections in the West Bank that unites Fatah and Hamas factions; while Israeli PM Netanyahu said that President Abbas had chosen to “abandon the way of peace” by reaching a power-sharing deal with Hamas and that he had to choose between “peace with Hamas, or peace with Israel”. On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon urged President Abbas not to abandon talks with Israel. On Wednesday, the Gaza-based leadership of Hamas challenged the reconciliation deal signed by the group’s political chief in exile, threatening to split the peace between the two groups. On Thursday, banks, ports and the stock market remained closed for a second day in Israel as half a million workers continued a general strike while the government and main labour union held talks over the status of contract workers.
  • Human Right Watch released a new report on Thursday that claims that security forces in Yemen stormed and shelled hospitals, evicting patients at gunpoint, and beating medics during an assault on the protest movement that killed at least 120 people in Taizz last year and called upon the US, the EU and the Persian Gulf states to publicly acknowledge that the domestic immunity granted to Saleh and his aides has no legal effect outside the country. On Friday, one militant was allegedly killed in an attack on an army base in the southern Abyan province. On Saturday, Al Jazeera filed a report on the growing power of the Houthis group not that Saleh is set to leave power. On Monday, authorities began a publicity campaign to get citizens to vote in the upcoming Presidential election that has only one candidate, the current VP. On Tuesday, outgoing President Saleh said he will return to the country before the election to install his successor finishes, raising concerns about his commitment to the peal deal that would oust him from power. On Wednesday, at least 10 tribesmen were reportedly killed in the north during clashes with Shi’ite rebels, after the tribesmen accused the Houthis of trying to grab more territory; while army defectors and protesters are continually calling upon leading military officials, including Saleh’s half bother who is commander of the air force, to also give up power. On Thursday, Yemeni troops reportedly killed two people when they opened fire at a protest in the southern province of Dalea that was calling for a boycott of the upcoming election.
  • Israel’s deputy foreign minister announced on Friday that President al-Assad of Syria  will fall from power eventually, but that the process could be “long and bloody” as he had outside support from Iran and “no real challenge” from the international community; while Human Rights Watch alleged that the Syrian government forces have been torturing children as young as 13 in a new report. On Saturday, both Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that called upon al-Assad to step down, citing a potential violation of the country’s sovereignty—a move that provoked massive international condemnation; Tunisia began the procedure to withdraw its recognition of the Syria leadership, expelling the Syrian ambassador; American President Obama called upon the UN Security Council to stand up against Assad’s “relentless brutality” and act as a credible advocate for human rights, pledging support to the Syrian people; more than 200 people were reportedly killed by Syrian forces in the city of Homs, claims that Syrian state media vehemently denies; French President Sarkozy said it was consulting with Arab and European countries to create a contact group on Syria to help find a resolution; the head of the Arab Parliament called for Arab countries to expel their Syrian ambassadors and sever all diplomatic relations with Syria over the crackdown on protesters; a crowd of Syrians stormed their embassy in Cairo, while protests broke out outside Syrian missions in Britain, Germany and the US. On Sunday, Islamists in Jordan called upon the world’s Muslims and Arabs to boycott Russian and Chinese products following their veto of the UN resolution; while US Secretary of State Clinton called upon “friends of diplomatic Syria” to unite against Assad. On Monday, the United States vowed to block funding and arms supplies to the country and talked about offering support to the Free Syrian Army, ranging from medical supplies and weaponry to intelligence and reconnaissance surveillance; the US closed its embassy in Syria; China’s leading party newspaper defended their country’s rejection of the UN resolution, citing the failures of western campaigns in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq and the error of forced regime changes; Syrian and Libyan protesters hurled rocks, eggs and tomatoes at the Chinese embassy in Tripoli; Russia expressed its anger about what it called Western “hysteria” over their use of the veto; the bombardment of Homs continued, allegedly killing at least 50 people; an explosion ripped through an oil pipeline in the city of Homs; Syrian army defectors announced the formation of a higher military council to “liberate” the country from Assad’s rule; while the Free Syrian Army announced they have no other choice now but to fight to free the country from Assad’s grips after China and Russia’s veto. On Tuesday, attacks on Homs reportedly continued; German police reportedly arrested two men on suspicion they were spying on Syrian opposition groups within their country; Russia’s Foreign Minister is set to lead a Russian diplomatic mission to Syria and hold talks with Assad; and many major European states, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Britain and the US all  recalled their Syrian ambassadors in protest. On Wednesday, reports suggested that the neighbouring Lebanese army was arresting anyone trying to cross the border, regardless of whether they were injured or not; the bombardment of Homs continued as tanks reportedly moved into the Inshaat neighbourhood and shelled the district with more than 200 rockets, with at least 47 civilians allegedly killed in the attacks, including three unarmed families; the American Pentagon was reportedly drawing up contingency plans for intervention into Syria that include military action with allied NATO countries such as Turkey; Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister said that 11 kidnapped Iranians in Syria were released, but that 18 others were still being held hostage;  Doctors Without Borders alleged that authorities are using access to medical care as a weapon of persecution; the Turkish Foreign Minister announced his country is ready to host an international conference on the Syrian crisis; while the French Foreign Minister called Assad’s promises to Russia to implement reforms and end the crackdown against protesters a “manipulation”. On Thursday, Syrian troops reportedly sealed off the population of a rebel stronghold within Homs and continued to bombard it using tanks, helicopters and artillery, killing as many as 110 people; both Germany and Libya expelled Syrian diplomats from their respective countries; UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the UN’s failure to agree to a resolution on the country is disastrous and is encouraging the Syrian government to “step up its war on its people”; the Turkish ambassador warned the EU that Assad still has support from the middle class and that the opposition is fragmented, raising the risk of a slide into full-scale civil war that could inflame the whole region; Russian President Medvedev and French President Sarkozy reportedly had a phone conversation over the Syrian crisis; while the UN and Arab League were considering sending a joint observer mission to the country. The Atlantic ran an interesting article by Daniel Serwer that suggested that the Syrian rebels would be better to put down their guns and continue with a non-violent strategy if they want to unseat the Assad regime.
  • The Islamist-led opposition in Kuwait won a landslide majority in snap polls this week, securing 34 seats in the 50-member Parliament. Parliament was dissolved in December over alleged corruption and bitter disputes between the opposition MPs and the government. On Monday, the emir asked the outgoing PM Sheikh Jaber to form a new cabinet, after his caretaker cabinet resigned following the election.
  • Thousands held a peaceful anti-government protest in the capital of Bahrain on Friday, demanding the release of political prisoners and political reforms. On Saturday, a rare political forum was held to try to bridge the deep rifts in the country; while Al Jazeera reported that almost a year since the crackdown on demonstrators began, little has changed in the country and protests are actually growing. On Sunday, thousands began a week-long rally in a Shia village, 10 days ahead of the first anniversary of the start of pro-democracy protests. Violence and protests reportedly escalated over the week, with masked teenagers wielding iron bars and petrol bombs facing off against riot police. On Thursday, a jailed rights activist has allegedly gone back on a hunger strike until he is released; while a senior American official said the country has taken important steps towards reform, but still needs to do more to heal the rifts, however, it seems they have little problems with continuing their arms sales to Bahrain.
  • Prosecutors in Jordan have ordered the detention of a former intelligence chief over corruption related charges stemming from his time in office from 2005-2008 in the latest step in an anti-graft campaign.
  • A sticky bomb attached to the car injured one man in central Baquba, Iraq on Friday; four militants attacked an Asiacell equipment building, knocking out service to the mobile phone operator with explosives in Mosul; gunmen in a car opened fire, killing a civilian in Muqdadiya; and a roadside bomb exploded near a police patrol in south-western Baghdad, killing two civilians and wounding seven others. On Saturday, two teenagers were killed while trying to plant a bomb in western Mosul; police found the bodies of two men who had been shot in the head in Mosul; a bomb exploded on a bus, wounding one passenger in northeastern Baghdad; a sticky bomb attached to a car killed a member of a government-backed Sahwa militia in central Baquba; and a bomb planted in front of the house of a Sahwa member went off and wounded him and one of his family members in Udhaim. On Monday, three mortar rounds hit buildings housing displaced Kurds, killing one and wounding 13 in Balad Ruz; a roadside bomb exploded next to a car, injuring the driver in Abu Saida; a roadside bomb wounded three in Mahmudiya; and a sticky bomb attached to a police lieutenant-colonel’s car seriously injured him in Jalawla. On Tuesday, the American State Department announced it is preparing to slash the enormous diplomatic presence it had planned for the country by as much as half. On Wednesday, Iraq’s Justice Ministry announced that 14 Iraqis, most of them al-Qaeda members, were executed for terrorism and criminal offenses. Human Rights Watch sharply criticized the Iraqi authorities for their executions, now numbered at over 65 since the beginning of the year.

This Week in Middle Eastern Conflict… January 25th-February 3rd, 2012.

  • The Guardian ran a special report on the mistreatment of Palestinian children locked in Israel’s military justice system; allegations that many vehemently denied. Last Wednesday, an Israeli military court ordered Hamas MP Aziz Dweik, the speaker of the Palestinian parliament to be held without trial for six months for no specifically reported reasons; while the Palestinian President said that low-level dialogues between Israelis and Palestinians about a future border had ended without breakthrough. On Friday, Azerbaijan claimed that it had foiled an alleged Iranian assassination plot against the Israeli ambassador to Baku, although Iran denied complicity instead calling it a US and Israel-staged show. On Sunday, Israeli PM Netanyahu said that exploratory talks aimed at re-launching negotiations ended in deadlock, expressing his pessimism on the prospect of peace talks and Palestinian leaders blaming Israel for the failure; the Israeli military announced that a long-flight Heron TP drone crashed in the central region on a routine experimental flight; the Israeli defense minister announced that they will soon begin clearing thousands of mines in the southern desert area; while Jordan’s King Abdullah II told the visiting Hamas politburo chief that Jordan will continue to support the creation of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as its capital. On Thursday, Palestinian protesters reportedly threw shoes and other objects at the UN Secretary-General’s visiting convoy; while Israel announced it must exploit its offensive capabilities in the battle against its enemies, most specifically Iran, and disrupt their nuclear ambitions.
  • Last Monday it was reported that Russia allegedly signed a contract to sell $550 million worth of Yak-130 combat jets to Syria, despite the EU arms embargo. On Tuesday, the state news agency reported that the government had agreed to extend the Arab League observer mission mandate by one month; while the Gulf Arab states announced that they were going to withdrawing from their observer mission. On Wednesday, the head of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent in Idlib was shot dead in unclear circumstances. On Thursday, government loyalist militiamen reportedly killed 14 members of a Sunni family in Homs, including 8 children aged 8 months to 9 years old; while the Arab League chief called upon the government to stop further acts of violence against “defenceless civilians”’. On Friday, the leader of Palestine’s Hamas announced they had effectively abandoned their Damascus headquarters; dozens of Syrians allegedly broke into the Syrian embassy in Cairo to protest the government’s bloody crackdown; at least 10 people were reportedly killed in Aleppo after pro-democracy demonstrations erupted; insurgents said they were holding seven Iranians hostages and that they would not release them until the government freed a rebel army officer and stops military operations in Homs; Oman’s Foreign Minister reportedly said that Arabs will not agree to foreign military intervention in Syria, stressing that the only way to resolve the crisis was through an Arab League peace plan; Russia stressed that they were against approving an externally engineered regime change; the head of the Arab League monitoring mission announced that violence had risen significantly in recent weeks in the country; several reports were released of a two-day massacre that killed some 74 people in a residential area in Homs; while UNICEF reported that at least 384 children had so far been killed and nearly the same number have been jailed in the 10-month uprising. On Saturday, at least 12 people were reportedly killed in a bombardment of suburbs of Damascus that have fallen under rebel control; the bodies of 17 men arrested by government forces were allegedly found dumped in the streets after being shot in the head;  state media reported that seven soldiers were killed in an ambush as they rode in a bus near Damascus; the Arab League suspended its monitoring mission within the country because of worsening violence, a move the government said it regretted; while the League announced it would take an Arab peace plan to the UN Security Council next week. On Sunday, government forces reportedly killed at least 33 people in a town near the Lebanese border in an attack to dislodge army defectors and insurgents; other forces killed at least 5 civilians (some say as many as 19)in the suburb area of Damascus; Iran called upon President al-Assad to hold free elections and allow multiple political parties to operate in the country, but that he must be given time to implement these reforms; while the Arab League chief headed to New York hoping to win support from the UN Security Council for a plan to end violence in Syria that calls upon al-Assad to step down. On Monday, street battles raged with clashes between rebel fighters and government troops, with at least 19 civilians believed killed; western governments were pushing for a new resolution on Syria and demanding countries decide where they stand, with US Secretary of State Clinton saying the UN Security Council “must act” to end al-Assad’s regime’s crackdown on the population; while the government allegedly agreed to take part in Moscow-mediated talks aimed at halting the current crisis, although a senior member of the opposition said that they hadn’t received an invitation from Moscow and that they would refuse it anyway. On Tuesday, China announced that it opposed the use of force to resolve the crisis in Syria, because it violates basic norms “guiding international relations”; while a battle loomed in the UN with the Arab League and western nations pushing the Security Council to act on an Arab Peace plan that would force al-Assad from power; security forces reportedly killed some 10 people and wounded 15 after bombarding a building in the town of Rastan; while Reuters reported on the growing sectarian nature of the Syrian population.  On Wednesday, Russia was facing intensive pressure from western and Arab governments to not veto a UN resolution calling on President al-Assad to step-down from power that was delayed until the following week; the Free Syria Army reportedly put Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah on notice for backing the Assad regime; some 36 people were allegedly killed in Wadi Barada near the Lebanese border in shelling and sniper attacks and some 70 people killed overall country wide; while the Atlantic ran an article about the dangers of military intervention.  On Thursday, the Russian Deputy Defense Minister said that it will not stop selling weapons to the al-Assad regime.
  • On Tuesday, Human Rights Watch released a report citing that dozens of Ethiopian Christians were facing deportation from Saudi Arabia after authorities raided a private prayer service in Jeddah, charging them with “illicit mingling” that prohibits unrelated men and women from mingling in public. A government-run newspaper reported that for the first time women would be allowed to attend soccer matches in a new stadium to be built in the country that would include a family section with private cabins and balconies.
  • On Thursday, a snap election was called in Kuwait for a fourth parliament in less than six years, with the Islamist-led opposition heavily favored to win. The elections were called by the country’s ruler in December after he dissolved the chamber in response to political deadlock. The UN also released more than $1 billion in Iraqi compensation to the country, in the latest payment of a war reparation scheme that began in 1994.
  • On Wednesday, an UN-backed tribunal announced it would try in absentia four Hezbollah suspects they indicted over the 2005 killing of Lebanon’s former PM al-Hariri. Hezbollah has denied any role in the bombing and has said it would refuse to allow any of the suspects to be arrested.
  • On Sunday, President Saleh of Yemen arrived in the US for a short-term visit to receive medical treatment; while gunmen reportedly attacked an office of the electoral committee in a southern province, wounding two soldiers. On Tuesday, at least 12 al-Qaeda militants were reportedly killed in a drone strike in the south; at least three al-Qaeda militants were killed in a clash with government soldiers outside Radda; and the newly appointed information minister escaped an assassination attempt as he was leaving government headquarters in Sanaa. On Wednesday, local tribesman who kidnapped six foreign aid workers in a tourist area announced that they would release their hostages on Thursday in exchange for the release of a political prisoner held by authorities.
  • On Friday, at least one person was reportedly killed and dozens injured in clashes between protesters and security forces in Shia villages outside the capital of Bahrain. On Sunday, the interior minister called for tougher penalties for attacks on security forces following a rise in sectarian violence. On Monday, anti-government protesters again clashed with security forces, demonstrating after a teenager died last week in police custody. On Tuesday, fourteen jailed opposition figures reportedly went on a hunger strike, demanding an end to the political crackdown, unfair trials and the release of all prisoners of conscience.
  • Last Monday, experts from the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that they would be visiting Iran in the upcoming week in an effort to resolve outstanding issues with the country’s nuclear programme; while the EU imposed an oil ban and financial restrictions on the country with the goal of containing their nuclear ambitions, a move Iran called “psychological warfare”. Iranian officials threatened to stop the West from importing oil from the Gulf by closing the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation and the UK threatened to send their HMS Argyll warship flotilla through the Strait in response. On Thursday, President Ahmadinejad said that the government was ready to sit down with world powers for talks on its alleged nuclear ambitions. On Friday, Iran warned it may halt its oil exports to Europe in the upcoming week in response to their sanctions; and the IAEA announced that it was including two senior weapons experts on its upcoming mission in hopes that they could illicit information from officials about alleged atomic arms. On Saturday, American Pentagon war planners concluded that their largest conventional bomb isn’t yet capable of destroying Iran’s most heavily fortified underground facilities and vowed to step up efforts to make it more powerful. On Sunday, IAEA nuclear inspectors arrived in the country; while Iranian lawmakers delayed taking action on a proposed bill to immediately cut oil deliveries to the EU, warning the European bloc that their move could drive oil prices as high as $150 (US) a barrel. On Monday, Reuters reported that Iranian traffickers trying to dodge an embargo are smuggling weapons on container ships owned by certain European countries that imposed the sanctions; the Defense Minister announced that Iran has developed laser-guided artillery rounds capable of hitting moving targets at a distance of up to 20 km; and the Foreign Minister offered to extend the IAEA’s visit and expressed optimism that their findings would help ease tensions over the country’s nuclear program. On Tuesday, Iran reportedly completed a “constructive” round of talks with the IAEA, with future meetings planned. On Wednesday, the IAEA announced it would hold a second round of talks with Iran over their nuclear program on February 21st and 22nd.
  • Last Thursday, at least 13 people were reportedly killed in two bomb attacks south of Baghdad, Iraq; and at least 3 people were killed and five others wounded in a bomb attack in Kirkuk. Last Friday, a suicide bomber killed some 31 people near a Shi’ite funeral procession in Baghdad; gunmen shot dead two policemen at their checkpoint in southeastern Baghdad; gunmen killed an electrician in western Mosul; and gunmen killed an off-duty soldier and a civil servant in Mosul. On Saturday, gunmen opened fire on the house of a government-backed militia member, killing his wife and daughter in Garma; gunmen killed a man and his wife after storming their house in Sinjar; a bomb planted near a playground went off killing one and wounding six others in Ghazaliya; a civilian was killed and his brother wounded in a sticky bomb attack in Mahaweel; gunmen in a speeding car opened fire and killed a civilian near his house in Tuz Khurmato; a sticky bomb attached to a policeman’s car exploded and wounded a passer-by in Tuz Khurmato; and a sticky bomb attached to a soldier’s car wounded a soldier and a passer-by in Tuz Khurmato. On Sunday, a secular bloc in parliament that won the most seats in the March 2010 vote said it will end a boycott of parliament that began in mid-December; gunmen opened fire at a security checkpoint, wounding two government-backed militia members in Baquba; a sticky bomb attached to a police officer’s car wounded him in Baquba; a sticky bomb attached to a civilian’s car killed him in Muqdadiya; two policemen were wounded as they tried to defuse a roadside bomb in Tuz Khurmato; a roadside bomb went off near a minibus, killing one person and wounding nine others in Baghdad; gunmen stormed the house of a national reconciliation official, wounding him and killing a guest near Samarra; and four insurgents were killed as they were transferring bombs in Baquba. On Monday, a bomb planted in front of a police official’s house exploded, wounding a member of his family east of Baghdad; a bomb blast damaged the house of a court official in central Baquba, with no injuries; a roadside bomb went off near a police patrol in central Baquba, killing one policeman and wounding three others; a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb at a police checkpoint, killing three policemen and wounding three other people, including a civilian in central Baquba; gunmen killed a policeman and his father in a drive-by in western Mosul; gunmen shot dead a government worker near his house in western Mosul; a militant was killed and a soldier wounded when the army clashed with gunmen in western Mosul; a soldier was wounded and a smuggler killed when border forces clashed with a group of smugglers near the border in Rabia; a roadside bomb went off near an army convoy and wounded one soldier in southern Baquba; and a police officer was killed and another wounded when a suspected militant threw a hand grenade during a raid in central Basra. On Tuesday, gunmen in a car opened fire at a police checkpoint, wounding a policeman and a civilian in Muqdadiya; a roadside bomb went off at a checkpoint, wounding two government-backed militia members in southern Baghdad; two roadside bombs exploded and wounded an off-duty policeman and his son near Mosul; a sticky bomb attached to a car wounded an off-duty policeman in eastern Mosul; a sticky bomb attached to a car carrying an off-duty army colonel wounded him in northern Baghdad; and a sticky bomb attached to a car carrying a police lieutenant-colonel wounded him in Shirqat. On Wednesday, a roadside bomb at a police patrol wounded three policemen and three civilians in western Baghdad; a member of parliament escaped injury in a roadside bomb attack near his convoy, though two of his bodyguards and three passers-by were wounded in southeaster Baghdad; gunmen in a speeding car killed a government-backed militia member in Muqdadiya; gunmen shot dead a grocery store owner inside his shop in Buhriz; the Justice Ministry reportedly executed 17 convicted criminals in one day; while the Health Ministry reported a total of 99 civilians, 31 police and 21 soldiers killed in January, though Reuters tallied more than 350 people killed in January, including nearly 290 civilians.

This Week in Middle Eastern Conflict… December 16th-23rd, 2011.

  • On Saturday, the Sunni-backed bloc suspended its participation in Iraq’s Parliament after accusing PM al-Maliki’s Shi’ite led government of concentrating power. On Sunday, the last of the US combat troops in Iraq crossed the border into Kuwait after nearly nine years of war, and handed over the last remaining prisoner in their custody; while a sticky bomb wounded a woman in central Kirkuk; bombs planted near the house of a judge wounded his son and two of his neighbours in southern Kirkuk; gunmen killed a man near his home in western Mosul; and a sticky bomb attached to a car wounded the drive and two others in Mussayab. On Monday, the government issued an arrest warrant  for the country’s Vice President, citing antiterrorism laws; gunmen in a speeding car opened fire at an army checkpoint, killing one soldier in Mosul; gunmen killed a grocer while he was shopping in Mosul; police wounded a wanted man after a foot chase in western Mosul; a roadside bomb went off near a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims, wounding three in Balad; gunmen in a speeding car used silenced weapons to wound two Sunni Sahwa militia members in their vehicle in Kirkuk; and gunmen using silenced weapons opened fire at a police checkpoint, wounding two policemen in Mosul. On Tuesday, two leading members of the largest and most powerful Sunni tribe in Iraq warned of imminent sectarian chaos, claiming that the government is promoting an anti-Sunni agenda.  On Wednesday, PM al-Maliki warned of problems if Kurdish authorities in the north refuse to hand over Vice President Tariq al-Hasimi for trial on terrorism charges, a charge al-Hasimi vehemently denies as he told journalists he will not return to Baghdad to face trial, but would be willing to go before court in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region; a sticky bomb attached to the car carrying a Sunni Sahwa militia member killed him in Abu Ghraib; a gunman carrying a silence weapon opened fire at a local mayor, wounding him in a market in Baquba; two sticky bombs attached to cars carrying a judge and his son killed the judge and his guard and wounded his son and two pedestrians in Kirkuk; and gunmen in a car opened fire at a police checkpoint, wounding two policemen in Samarra.  On Thursday, at least 63 people died and more than 170 people were injured in 12 bombings across Baghdad, leaving some concerned that the pullout of American troops has left massive instability; gunmen using silenced weapons killed a local bodyguard in Baquba; police found the body of a young man with gunshot wounds to the head in western Mosul; a sticky bomb seriously wounded an off-duty policeman in central Mosul; a roadside bomb wounded a woman in western Mosul; gunmen opened fire on a police checkpoint , seriously wounding a policeman in Mosul; gunmen stormed a house, killing a family of five in Baquba; police found the body of a man with a slit throat in Kirkuk; a roadside bomb went off near a crowd of Sunni Sahwa members, wounding three in Jurf al-Sakhar; gunmen attacked a Sunni Sahwa checkpoint, wounding two in Mussayab; and gunmen killed a woman in a market in Mosul. Some analysts mentioned that although the US have officially marked the end to the war in Iraq, it leaves behind the world’s largest embassy, a large mission from the State Department and thousands of armed private military contractors, as well as holds a massive database full of retinal scans, thumb prints and other biometric data identifying millions of Iraqis.
  • On Sunday, the opposition in Syria claimed that at least six army soldiers had been killed in clashes with deserters in Homs, amid heavy shelling by government forces. On Monday, Syria signed an Arab League initiative to allow Arab observers into the country, with an advance team of seven officials arriving on Thursday to lay the groundwork for monitors to implement their peace plan; a move the United States said they were skeptical of, citing past broken promises. On Tuesday, the army was reportedly hunting down deserters near the northern city of Idlib after troops killed over a hundred deserters who had fled the base. On Wednesday, loyalist forces were accused of killing at least 160 defecting soldiers, civilians and anti-government activists over the past three days, while the UN estimated that more than 5,000 people have been killed since March; and five Iranian technicians working on a power plant project in the country were reportedly abducted by an unidentified group of people. On Thursday, a British human rights group Avaaz said it had evidence that more than 6,237 deaths of civilians and security forces had occurred, at least 600 under torture, and 400 of them children; with the government announcing that more than 2,000 of its security forces had been killed in the unrest. On Friday, two explosions rocked Damascus, killing more than 40 people and injuring more than 150. Some analysts were concerned that the US was gearing up to take action in the country after it released an unusually strong statement calling upon al-Assad to step down.
  • On Saturday, a Palestinian was killed and at least two others injured by Israeli gunfire in the Gaza Strip. On Sunday, Israel reportedly released 550 Palestinian prisoners in the second stage of a deal with Hamas; while Hamas confirmed it will shift away from violent attacks on Israel as part of a rapprochement with the Palestinian Authority. On Tuesday, all the regional and political groupings on the UN Security Council criticised Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories and pointed their fingers at the US for refusing to condemn the settlement building, saying the continued settlement threaten chances of a future Palestinian state; while a senior UN official warned that the realization of a two-State solution has not advanced. On Wednesday, the UN Security Council agreed to extend the mandate of the peacekeeping force monitoring the ceasefire between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights for another six months; while rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have agreed to form a unified government to be sworn in by the end of January.
  • On Thursday, the United Arab Emirates were reported as revoking the citizenship of six men over alleged security concerns, though the men say they are being unjustly targeted for their political views.
  • On Saturday, the Intelligence Ministry of Iran said it had arrested an Iranian-American man working for the American CIA, and later he was seen on a state tv program “confessing” to his alleged “mission” to infiltrate the intelligence ministry. On Tuesday, the government says it invited the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit for talks and would be ready to discuss concerns over its disputed atomic ambitions, a move the agency welcomed; while the US state department called upon Iran to release the American man arrested in Tehran and accused of being a CIA spy. . On Thursday, Iran reportedly blocked access to a British government website aimed at Iranian audiences, the latest in the escalating tensions between the two countries.
  • On Sunday, a dissident army general in Yemen said he backed a peace accord signed last month to pull the country away from the brink of war, while officials reported the deaths of ten militants in attacks by government forces in the south. On Tuesday, soldiers battled al-Qaeda-linked fighters outside the city of Zinjibar, killing at least sixteen fighters and four soldiers, with intensive artillery shelling took place in the city overnight; while mobile operator Sabafon said that its facilities had come under repeated attack by state forces because of its chairman’s support for anti-government protests. On Wednesday, the UN envoy in the country announced that outgoing President Saleh was in need of medical treatment that will require him to leave the country; while clashes between an ultraconservative group and former Shi’ite rebels in the north reportedly killed nearly 200 people over the last few weeks. On Thursday, thousands of people marched toward the capital to demand President Saleh face trial for killing protesters during the 11 months of demonstrations against him and to denounce the new government for sparing him prosecution. On Friday, loyalists reportedly attacked demonstrators gathered south of the capital, while seven soldiers and three militants were killed near Zinjibar in an ambush by al-Qaeda suspects.
  • On Sunday, security forces in Bahrain dispersed several hundred Shia demonstrators who gathered outside Manama for the fourth day in a row. On Tuesday, Zainab al-Khawaja, daughter of a prominent activist who was detained last week during anti-government demonstrations, was released pending trial.
  • Clashes broke out between armed factions in the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon on Sunday, after the bodyguard of an official was killed. The clash at Ain el-Hilweh resulted in an unknown number of injuries.
  • On Sunday, Kuwait’s ruler called for an early Parliamentary election for February 2nd, nearly two weeks after he dissolved the chamber in a power struggle that had paralyzed the country’s politics. On Monday, riot police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse hundreds of stateless Arabs who staged a protest to pres the government to grant them citizenship rights.

This Week in Middle Eastern Conflict… December 10th-17th, 2011.

  • The Atlantic published an article highlighting the 10 biggest Middle East Stories of 2011.
  • American Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich again spoke out against Palestine this week, calling them “terrorists” who teach terrorism in schools during a candidate debate, a move that Palestinian leaders said was inviting more conflict in the Middle East. A senior official at the Arab League called the statement racist and a cheap stunt to get votes. Over the weekend a Palestinian protester died after being struck in the face by a tear-gas canister launched from mere meters away by an Israeli soldier, with further clashes taking place between mourners at his funeral and soldiers on Sunday. On Sunday, Israel closed a wooden walkway to Jerusalem’s holiest site Haram al-Sharif over fears of a fire or collapse risk, sparking Palestinian anger with Hamas calling the move a declaration of religious war (it was later reopened); while the Israeli settlement council gave final approval for the building of 40 new houses in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli Cabinet also voted unanimously to finance a $160 million program to stop the flow of illegal African migrants by stepping up construction of a border fence and detention centre. On Tuesday, dozens of extremist Jewish settlers broke into an army base in the West Bank and lit fires, damaged vehicles and threw stones at a senior officer; just hours after another group took over an abandoned building in a closed military zone on the Jordanian border; the Palestinian flag was raised for the first time at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris while President Abbas attended a ceremony; while a new report by Defence for Children International claimed that Israel had shot at children on at least 28 occasions while gathering building materials like gravel or working by the fence between March 26, 2010 and October 3, 2011. On Wednesday, Iceland formally recognized Palestine as an independent state and established diplomatic relations with it; the UN and its diplomatic partners underlined their appeal to Israel and Palestine to create an atmosphere conducive to the resumption of stalled peace talks; tens of thousands of Gazans took to the street for an anniversary rally for the ruling Hamas; while a Palestinian mosque near Ramallah was set on fire by people thought to be Jewish settlers, after Israeli forces tore down structures in a settler outpost built without government approval.  The PM vowed to take action to halt the growing number of extremist incidents. On Thursday, the American Congress proposed a new legislation that would allow economic aid to Palestine to continue next year only as long as the country is not admitted as a state into any more UN organizations; while Israel said it was unifying its special forces under one command to help it strike countries like Iran. Amnesty International issued a joint press release announcing that there have been a record number of unlawful demolitions by the Israeli authorities in the occupied West Bank over the past year, displacing a record number of Palestinian families.
  • On Saturday, the new national unity government was sworn-in in Yemen and will lead the country for a three-month transitional period, after which President Saleh is expected to formally step down after 33 years in power. On Monday, at least 16 prisoners, including al-Qaeda members escaped from a prison in the south. A day later, the interior minister announced that hundreds of protesters detained by authorities would be released. On Friday, the UN special envoy to the country announced that the government has taken new measures to restore peace and stability including instructions that roadblocks be removed, soldiers return to their barracks and militias go back to their villages.
  • On Sunday, at least 10 people (some say at least 20) were reportedly killed in clashes across Syria as opposition activists called a general strike; while UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that he holds President al-Assad responsible for all that has happened in the country and the UN human rights chief warned that the country was moving close to a full civil war, appealing for observers to be allowed to enter. On Monday, fierce clashes between Syrian troops and army defectors spread to new areas killing some 13 on the day of local elections, amid fears the conflict was now spiraling towards civil war. On Tuesday, a reported 35 people were killed by security forces; some eight soldiers died in an ambush outside of Hama; while the UN human rights chief estimates the death toll for the past nine months of protest has now surpassed 5,000. On Wednesday, rebels claimed to have killed 27 members of the security forces in clashes that killed some 12 civilians, including a seven year old; clashes across the country killed a reported 26 civilians; while Human Rights Watch named 74 senior officials and commanders for investigation for crimes against humanity, alleging that army commanders ordered troops to halt protests “by all means necessary” and often gave explicit instructions to fire on demonstrators. On Thursday, Russia surprised all after it circulated a UN Security Council resolution condemning violence by both the government and the opposition, but stop short of mentioning sanctions, which France said it considered “unacceptable”. On Friday, potentially hundreds of thousands protested to demand action by the Arab League, who indefinitely postponed a meeting on the crisis because of divisions over how to stop the bloodshed. Security forces are said to have opened fire, killing at least 17 people.
  • On Sunday, a senior commander of the Revolutionary Guard in Iran said that his country would not return the American surveillance drone captured last week, but indicated willingness to reach a deal. On Monday, state TV reported that local experts were in the final stages of recovering data from the drone that would be used in a lawsuit against the US and claimed that they had the capability to reproduce the drone through reverse engineering. On Tuesday, the Foreign Ministry spokesman said that US President Obama should apologize for sending the drone into Iranian territory rather than asking for it back after it was seized; while Iran reportedly indicted 15 people on charges of spying for the US and Israel. On Wednesday, officials announced their plans to put a series of foreign spy drones it claims to have obtained, including four Israeli and three US unmanned craft on display for foreign ambassadors based in Tehran and local journalists. Many analysts are concerned about rising tensions between Iran and the West. On Saturday, the foreign minister told Turkey that threats by Iranian political figures to strike Turkish missile defenses in case of an attack do not represent the official policy.
  • On Saturday, gunmen attacked a police checkpoint in Baghdad, Iraq, killing one and wounding another; gunmen killed a taxi driver in Mosul; a roadside bomb wounded two policemen near their patrol in western Mosul; three rockets landed in or near the US military’s Kalsu base, wounding three; gunmen wearing police uniforms attacked the house of a construction worker, wounding him and his son north of Hilla; a sticky bomb attacked killed an employee of a state-run North Oil Company in eastern Kirkuk; another sticky bomb wounded an off-duty Iraqi army officer in southeastern Kirkuk; and gunmen kidnapped four government employees in Dhuluiya. On Sunday, a sticky bomb killed a Ministry of Education official in Baghdad; gunmen in a car killed the head doctor at Mosul’s central morgue near his house; a sticky bomb wounded a school teacher in Muqdadiya; two bombs exploded wounding three policemen and four Kurdish Asaish security officers in central Kirkuk; police found the body of a civil servant at a state-run medicine factory shot in the head and chest two hours after he was kidnapped in Mosul; and gunmen shot at the car of a private Iraqi security company, killing one security guard and wounding another in Tuz Khurmato. On Monday, Iraqi PM al-Maliki met with American President Obama at the White House to discuss the next phase of the relationship between their countries amid the withdrawal of all US troops by December 31st; two roadside bombs went off in succession wounding six people in Baghdad; and gunmen in a speeding car shot dead an off-duty traffic policeman in front of his house in Mosul. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed two officers and wounded three officers and two civilians in Baghdad; gunmen killed a man and his wife in their car in Mosul; a sticky bomb killed two car passengers and wounded three others in Ishaqi; gunmen using silenced weapons and a bomb attacked a minibus carrying judges near a police checkpoint, killing three, including two policemen and a civilian and wounding five others in Falluja; gunmen shot dead a police colonel in front of his house in Mosul; a sticky bomb killed a police officer in his car in Shirqat; and three bombs hit an oil pipeline from the southern oilfields to storage tanks in Basra. On Wednesday, the US ended its nearly nine year war in the country with an official ceremony at an airport in Baghdad and President Obama marking its “success”, leaving behind an estimated $353 million in military equipment; while thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in celebration. On Thursday, police say they found the bodies of three government employees after they were kidnapped three days ago in Dhuluiya; masked gunmen kidnapped a local mayor and his son, killing the father in Jurf al-Sakhar; two bombs attached to bicycles blew up near a school, killing two and wounding three in central Ramadi; while thousands of Shi’ites rallied in the streets of the mainly Sunni province of Diyala demanding the provincial council retract its declaration of autonomy.
  • Dozens of pro-government demonstrators marched on the offices of the main opposition party in Bahrain, but were quickly suppressed by security forces on Saturday. On Tuesday, the King said that Syria is training opposition figures in the country during an interview, and also denied systematic rights abuses during the crackdowns on pro-democracy protesters. On Thursday, hundreds of protesters confronted riot police who dispersed them with tear gas and stun grenades near a highway leading to the capital; while police reportedly arrested human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja, daughter of a prominent opposition leader and several other women who were holding a sit-in in a roundabout. On Friday, protesters again attempted to block off several roads, including the main highway, amid intense crackdowns by security forces that reportedly injured dozens and arrested at least 13 teenagers for chanting anti-monarchy slogans in a northwestern village.
  • Riot police in Kuwait reportedly used tear gas and water cannons to disperse hundreds of stateless protesters who were demanding citizenship and other basic rights on Friday in Jahra. Police arrested at least six of the stateless protesters, who under Kuwaiti law have no right to hold public gatherings.
  • On Sunday, France’s Foreign Minister said that they believed Hezbollah’s Syrian wing was behind the attacks on its troops in Lebanon early last week that wounded five French peacekeepers. On Monday, Syria rejected the French accusations, as did Hezbollah. On Wednesday, the UNIFIL Force Commander paid a visit to the Lebanese Parliament to discuss the situation, and expressed his condemnation and serious concern over the recent attack and a rocket firing from Lebanese territory.

This Week in Middle Eastern Conflict… December 3rd- 9th, 2011.

  • At least 25 people were killed in Syria on Saturday in clashes between security forces and military defectors; while police arrested blogger Razan Ghazzawi on the Syrian-Jordanian border on her way to a press freedom workshop in Amman. On Sunday, the Arab League gave Syria yet another deadline of 24 hours to accept international observers or face further sanctions; at least a dozen secret police reportedly defected from an intelligence compound; some 40 people were reported killed; and the US and Turkey announced they were reviewing how to help Syria if pro-democracy protests drive al-Assad from power. On Monday, the government said it would agree to allow Arab League observers into the country, but placed a number of conditions, including a cancellation of the economic sanctions, though the Arab League rebuffed the demands; while the government performed live-fire military exercises involving long-range missiles, armoured units and helicopters. On Tuesday, reports listed at least 50 people killed in the city of Homs killed in the past 24 hours, with dozens of bodies lining the streets; while the government said it blocked 35 “armed terrorists” from entering the country after a clash on the border with Turkey. On Wednesday, President al-Assad insisted that documented cases of killings, torture and other maltreatment are being carried out by individuals outside his control in an interview with Barbara Walters; while the US said that its intelligence community is quietly but closely monitoring the status of the country’s large chemical-weapons stockpile in fear that they could be used to quell continued political protests or be diverted to extremist groups within the region. On Thursday, pro-democracy activists launched a civil disobedience campaign with plans to stage sit-ins at work and close universities; activists reported that at least 13 people were killed by security forces across the country; and that a pipeline carrying oil from the east to a refinery in Homs was set on fire. On Friday, some 18 people were reported killed by government troops in Homs province and at least 24 across the country, including the deaths of several children; while those in Benish have taken to fighting back army tanks with light arms; and the UN Security Council agreed on France’s request for a closed-door briefing on the country’s troubles, overcoming Russian, Chinese and Brazilian resistance. Turkey announced that it cannot stand by and watch if the crackdown puts security in the region at risk, though it has no desire to interfere.
  • On Saturday, France moved to temporarily downsize its embassy in Tehran, Iran following last week’s storming of the British embassy; while the US said it had launched a “virtual Iranian embassy” in an effort to engage with the government, a move the Iranian officials allegedly blocked less than a day later. On Sunday, a top Iranian cleric criticized the storming of the embassy, calling it “illegal”; while the armed forces claimed they had brought down an unmanned US spy plane, said to be a “prized stealth unmanned aerial drone, the RQ-170 Sentinel” that violated Iranian airspace after controllers lost contact with it. On Thursday, Iranian state television aired video footage showing the US spy aircraft that appeared to be largely undamaged. The Atlantic suggested that an escalating covert war with the West is already under way against Iran and that the Iran Reduction Act of 2011 that is working its way through the US legal channels would outlaw all diplomatic conduct with Iran; though Israeli Defence Minister Barak played down the speculation, saying sanctions and threat of military strikes were still the way to curb the nuclear program. On Friday, US President Obama repeated that his country is considering all options regarding Iran and will work with US allies to prevent the country from acquiring a nuclear weapon; while Iran filed a formal complaint to the UN over the US drone, condemning what it calls increased “provocative and covert actions” against the country.
  • A new report given to a high-level advisory group in Saudi Arabia on Saturday claims that allowing women to drive could encourage premarital sex. The suggestion is that driving will allow greater mixing of genders and could promote sex. The Saudi woman who made international headlines in September for driving and was then condemned to 10 lashes only to be pardoned by the King, will apparently be lashed after all unless she wins a legal appeal in mid-December. The prince leading a pro-reform Saudi newspaper announced on Sunday that despite changes to press laws being touted as restrictive, the local media environment is growing more open. On Wednesday, Germany denied reports that it had agreed to export 270 Leopard battle tanks to the country, despite reports of a secret deal.
  • On Saturday, Iraq’s PM announced that a bombing last week inside the fortified Green Zone was an assassination attempt on him; gunmen broke into a house, killing two men in southern Mosul; a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed three in Iskandaraiya; gunmen in a car killed one person in western Mosul; a gunman was killed in a fire exchange with the Iraqi army in northern Mosul; two bombs wounded three in Baquba; a roadside bomb targeting a Shi’ite procession wounded seven, including two policemen in western Baghdad; at least one person was killed and 12 others wounded when three roadside bombs exploded in Kirkuk; and rioters burned dozens of alcohol shops and damaged several hotels in the Kurdistan region after a religious leader criticised the sale of alcohol.  On Sunday, it was reported that the US military paid tribal fighters with cash to help provide a safe exit from Iraq along the southern highway to Kuwait; a roadside bomb went off near a joint army/police checkpoint, killing one soldier and wounding three soldiers and one policeman in western Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded five people in eastern Baghdad; a bomb killed two men and wounded one woman in southern Kirkuk; gunmen in a car shot at another vehicle carrying a police officer, killing him and wounding two others near Mosul; gunmen broke into a funeral, killing one man and the attacker and wounding a woman and a child in Mosul; and gunmen wounded an army Brigadier General and killed his wife in his car in northeastern Baghdad. On Tuesday, a Katyusha rocket landed at the Kurdistan Democratic Party headquarters northwest of Baghdad, wounding one; a roadside bomb killed a policeman and wounded another in Baquba; a member of the Kurdish security forces was wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Mosul; and two mortar rounds landed near a Shi’ite mosque, killing one and wounding eight in Kirkuk;  the final 8,000 US troops prepared to leave before the end of the month; and the Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the targeting of media by supporters of various political factions in Kurdistan after several had been attacked and arrested over the previous week. On Wednesday, gunmen killed a police officer near his house in Falluja; a sticky bomb killed an oil company employee in Kirkuk; a roadside bomb wounded a senior official at state-run Iraqi Railways Company in Kirkuk; a roadside bomb killed one policeman and wounded three others in their vehicle in Abu Ghraib; gunmen killed a lawyer in Mosul; a sticky bomb wounded an employee of the Ministry of National Security along with two others south of Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded a man in Jurf al-Sakhar; gunmen opened fire at a car carrying an off-duty Kurdish peshmerga soldier, killing him in Kirkuk; and militants bombed electrical transmission towers and lines across the country, cutting power to several cities and towns and killing a policeman and wounding two others. On Friday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Gyorgy Busztin of Hungary to succeed Jerzy Skuratowicz of Poland as his Deputy Special Representative for the country, focusing on political, electoral and constitutional support; a roadside bomb wounded a tribal leader in Muqdadiya; a sticky bomb killed a government employee at the citizenship department and his cousin in Muqdadiya; and gunmen killed a member of a government-backed militia in front of his house and wounded one of his guards in Baquba.
  • Representatives of Fatah and Hamas met in Gaza, Palestine on Sunday to push the implementation of a stalled reconciliation deal. On Wednesday, Israeli forces and members of the Islamic Jihad clashed in the Gaza Strip, killing one alleged gunman and wounding another in air force attacks. On Thursday, an Israeli air strike on a car killed two alleged fighters who were “planning an attack on Israeli civilians” and wounded two other men in Gaza. On Friday, an Israeli air strike reportedly killed a Gazan civilian and wounded at least 12 others, including seven children when it hit a home next to a militant training ground; and Palestinian militants responded by firing 11 rockets into Israel, with no casualties.
  • On Sunday, Israeli PM Netanyahu called upon Egypt’s future rulers to preserve their peace treaty after Islamists took the head of the country in the first round of elections. On Wednesday, former President Moshe Katsav headed to prison to begin serving a seven-year term for rape.
  • At least 17 people were killed over three days of shelling in Taiz, Yemen over the weekend. On Sunday, two more people died in artillery fire in Taiz; while the government agreed upon a team of officials to oversee the military to end the fighting and return the forces to the barracks. On Monday, forces loyal to Saleh reportedly shot dead one woman and wounded six others when they opened fire on a crowd of protesters in Taiz. On Wednesday, a national unity government was officially formed to take over from Saleh-backed ministers; while reports warned of a serious humanitarian situation exploding within the city of Taiz.
  • The government of Bahrain has hired UK’s John Yates, who resigned from his senior police post earlier this year over a scandal, to oversee reforms in their police force. On Sunday, a bomb placed under a vehicle exploded near the British embassy in Manama, causing no casualties. On Wednesday, protesters said that police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at demonstrators trying to take back the site of the Pearl roundabout, during the marking of Ashoura, with one death and numerous injuries. The protesting and clashes continued throughout the week.
  • Oman has decided to raze a roundabout made into a hub for protesters earlier this year, apparently to ease traffic problems and avoid accidents.
  • On Tuesday, the leader of Hezbollah, Nasrallah made a rare public appearance in Lebanon to mark the Shi’ite festival of Ashoura and announced that his group was building its arsenal. On Friday, a roadside bomb exploded near a UN peacekeeping patrol in the southern city of Tyre, wounding several French soldiers and civilians. No group has yet taken responsibility for the attack.
  • The ruler of Kuwait dissolved the Parliament on Tuesday less than a week after he named a new PM, citing “deteriorating conditions” amid an increasingly bitter political showdown over alleged high-level corruption. Elections must be held within 60 days, complicating the US defence department’s plans to station thousands of soldiers evacuating from Iraq.

This week in conflict… November 27th- December 3rd, 2010

World

  • Whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks released some 250,000 diplomatic cables from the US government this week, amid much controversy. The site then faced cyberattacks, attempts to shut it down, attempts to arrest its spokesman Julian Assange, and the blocking of its paypal financial account. Ecuador offered Julian Assange refuge within their borders.
  • Foreign Policy came out with its 2nd annual Top 100 Global Thinkers list. In my opinion, the list leaves much to be desired as I would like to see more peacemakers or revolutionary thinkers, instead of the heavy focus on bankers, corporate leaders and policy makers who have a knack for spreading and continuing cultural violence under a false guise of humanitarianism.
  • Wednesday, December 1st, was World AIDs day. Around 2.7 million new HIV infections still occur each year, and despite scaled-up treatment, there are still five new HIV infections for every two who gain access to treatment.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was in favor of adding more members to the UN Security Council this week, and that it was the prevailing view among UN members that the current format is in need of reformation. If only reformation meant removing the veto and the privilege of permanent membership in favor of a more balanced, equal system…
  • The two week long UN Climate Change conference is underway in Cancun, Mexico, and many are hoping that real change can be negotiated this time around, though most are still doubtful. Canada stepped up to win the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place Fossil of the day awards, which are given to those who have done the most to disrupt or undermine negotiations, on Tuesday.

Africa

  • Egypt’s November 28th parliamentary elections were marred by widespread allegations of fraud that eventually led to the Muslim Brotherhood and Wafd opposition groups withdrawing. The electoral commission dismissed the fraud allegations. Turnout was said to be only around 15%, although other sites claimed as high as 35%. On Monday, protesters clashed with police and setting fire to cars, tires and schools and riots broke out in several cities.
  • Cote’s D’Ivoire’s elections were marked by violence and coup allegations. Please read my recent articles about the elections and the international response.
  • The UN issued a warning that armed groups in the eastern Congo, including the army, have formed criminal networks to exploit the country’s mineral wealth. The UN sought to extend its mandate of the Group of Experts in the country who are monitoring the arms embargo and sanctions. The UN Group of Experts have also released their latest report on the troubles in the DR Congo. The UN Security Council ordered sanctions and blacklisting of an army commander in the DRC on Wednesday, which amounted to a travel ban and freeze of their financial assets.
  • Kenya’s Prime Minister Odinga ordered the arrest of gay couples on Sunday on the grounds that their behaviour is “unnatural”. The PM asserted that a recent census showed that there were more women than men and that there were “no need” for same sex relationships. On Friday, two Kenyan police officers were killed in a gun and grenade attack in Nairobi by two men on a motorbike.
  • At least 1,500 south Sudanese civilians have fled the north-south border area fearing aerial attacks by the Sudan Armed Forces. The SPLA accused Khartoum of using newly-acquired Chinese planes to try and disrupt the upcoming referendum, which is to happen on December 8th. On Thursday, the south accused the northern-backed militias of killing 10 soldiers and 2 civilians in an ambush, which the north denied.
  • Two Islamist fighters are said to have died in a clash with the Algerian army on Sunday. Algerian troops are said to have surrounded the group and made an assault after residents alerted them to the presence of armed elements in the wooded region.
  • Guinea’s Supreme Court has declared Alpha Conde as President, finally confirming the results after a two-week wait. Rival candidate Cellou Dalein Diallo’s supporters had taken to the streets claiming the vote was tainted by fraud.
  • At least 40 people were killed in Mogadishu, Somalia in three consecutive days of fighting this week between al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam against the troops from the Transitional Federal Government and the African Union peacekeepers. The Bakara Market was heavily shelled in the fighting, killing and injuring many civilians. On Thursday, it was reported that another at least 35 people were killed in intense violence after two insurgent groups fought each other.
  • The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Nigeria has announced that they will be charging former US Vice-President Dick Cheney over the bribery scandal involving an engineering firm, KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton. Cheney was chief executive officer of Halliburton when the KBR firm had admitted to bribing Nigerian government officials over the construction of a liquefied natural gas plant in Nigeria.

Asia

Americas

  • Haiti voted on November 28th in an election that was denounced as a “massive fraud” by 12 out of 18 presidential candidates, although international observers considered the vote “valid” despite the irregularities. Protests and demonstrations flared across the capital, resulting in the death of at least 2 people. Results are to be made public starting December 5th, with the official tally announced December 20th. The UN and international support are rumoured to leave Haiti if the government fails to honour the elections results.
  • Brazilian security forces seized control of Rio’s most notorious slum on Sunday following a week of attacks by drug gangs in retaliation for the pacification campaign. The police say they confiscated 40 tons of marijuana, 50 assault rifles and 9 antiaircraft guns.
  • A 15-year-old student armed with a handgun held nearly two dozen students and a teacher hostage in a Wisconsin school on Tuesday. The standoff ended when the gunman shot himself, and there were no other reported injuries.
  • A new report released by Disability Rights International revealed tragic conditions in Mexican institutions for the mentally and physically disabled that included lobotomies performed without consent, children missing from orphanages, widespread filth and squalor and lack of medical care. The report has been called particularly galling because Mexico had championed human rights for the disabled and helped to write the international standards in response to earlier damaging reports. On Monday, Mexican soldiers found the bodies of 18 people buried on a ranch near the Texan border, and gunmen killed a female police chief.

Middle East

  • Bomb attacks killed a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist and wounded another in Tehran on Monday. Iranian President Ahmadinejad accused Israel and Western governments of the assassinations. A new round of nuclear talks on Iran are to begin on December 5th. 
  • Israel’s cabinet voted to build a facility to hold thousands of illegal immigrants who enter the country, mostly from Africa. The centre, which Israel stipulates is not a jail, would provide the basic needs for the migrants until they can be expelled from the country.
  • Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a statement this week labeling Houthi rebels in Yemen as “legitimate targets” and claiming that new attacks were being prepared against them. The statement vowed to kill Sunnis, destroy their homes and displace their families and are said to have increased Sunni-Shiite tensions in the northern areas.
  • In Iraq, on Sunday, a sticky bomb killed one person and wounded four in western Baghdad; three people were wounded in another sticky bomb attack in southern Baghdad; and US forces opened fire and killed an Iraqi engineer on a road after he allegedly failed to slow down at the US patrol. On Monday, police found the bullet-riddled bodies of a policeman and a member of a government backed militia north of Baghdad; police found the bullet-riddled body of a woman in Mosul; police found the body of a policeman shot in the head south of Baghdad; gunmen shot dead a taxi driver in Mussayab; gunmen shot dead a man near his home in Mosul; and militants bombed three electrical transmission towers in Anbar province, cutting power to numerous cities and towns for months. On Tuesday, a sticky bomb killed a driver in western Baghdad; and a roadside bomb wounded at least three civilians in central Baghdad. On Thursday, Iraqi soldiers killed three armed men and arrested another in Mosul; Iraqi soldiers killed an attacker who allegedly tried to throw a hand grenade at an army patrol in eastern Mosul; gunmen shot dead a civilian near his house in western Mosul; gunmen stormed a house and killed a teenage girl in western Mosul; a roadside bomb at an Iraqi police patrol wounded one policeman and two civilians in eastern Baghdad; gunmen shot dead a human rights ministry employee in Baghdad; a roadside bomb targeting Iraqi police patrol wounded two policemen in Baghdad; a roadside bomb exploded and wounded three civilians in central Baghdad and a sticky bomb wounded a driver in northern Baghdad.

Europe

  • On Sunday, Swiss voters approved a plan for automatic deportation of foreigners who commit serious crimes or benefit fraud. Anti-racism groups complained of racist posters showing white sheep kicking black sheep off a Swiss flag.
  • Moldova voted on November 28th in its general elections. The ruling pro-Europe alliance was reported as ahead of the opposition Communists, but it is still unclear whether the three-party Alliance for European Integration will gather enough mandates to allow it to elect a president and end a long-running political deadlock.
  • Two explosions in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi killed at least one person on Sunday. No cause or possible motive have yet been released.
  • Government security forces killed two suspected militants in Daghestan. The militants were described as ideologues of an underground terrorist group.
  • Russian President Medvedev warned on Tuesday that if the West and Russia cannot agree upon a joint European missile defense program, it will trigger a new arms race. The President also pledged his support for the NATO suggestions of an alliance missile shield that will be a topic of discussion at the upcoming NATO summit. However, on Wednesday, Vladmir Putin warned that Russia would be forced to deploy new nuclear weapons if the US does not agree to a partnership with Russia over the plans for a missile defense shield. On Wednesday, police in Moscow detained 10 HIV-positive protesters who were congregated outside the government buildings holding placards demanding medical care to mark World AIDs day. On Thursday it was reported that the prosecutor’s office in a central Russia city has asked the local Muslim leader to provide detailed information about the people who attend the local Islamic centre following a months-long court battle to build a mosque in the city.
  • Belarus has announced it will give up its stockpile of nuclear weapons materials by 2012. Belarus gave up its Soviet-era inherited nuclear weapons in 1994, but still retained highly enriched uranium stocks.
  • Immigrants in Greece have been subject to increasing violent attacks by suspected right-wing extremists in recent weeks. Experts say that this reflects a growing general trend of hate crimes against Muslims throughout Europe. On Thursday, police fired teargas at protesting university students demonstrating against increasing tuition fees and austerity reforms, injuring at least 3 demonstrators. A controversial bid to build a mosque in Athens have increased tensions as open-air services resulted in clashes between police and protesters from the extreme-right.
  • British students continued their demonstrations against proposed university tuition hikes amid hundreds of arrests.

This week in conflict… October 30th-November 5th, 2010

World

  • The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has released its 2010 Human Development Report entitled “The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development” that examines progress in health, education and income. The report uses a “human development index” (HDI) which ranks 135 countries for comparable data. The report warned that a continued failure to tackle climate change was the biggest challenge to the anti-poverty drive. It listed Norway, Australia and New Zealand as the best countries in the world to live, while Zimbabwe, Niger, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo were listed as least desirable places to live. Japan was listed as the country with the highest life expectancy (83.6 years), and Afghanistan had the lowest life expectancy (44.6 years).
  • The first comprehensive report into cluster bombs around the world was released by Cluster Munition Monitor on Monday. The report found that Norway, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Colombia, Moldova and Montenegro have destroyed their weapons and that 11 other countries were in the process of doing so. The UK is said to have destroyed more than a third of its stockpile.
  • Several bombings targeting embassies and major world leaders, including  US bound packages found in Dubai and Britain, a spate of mail bombs in Greece, suspicious packages to France’s Nicholas Sarkozy, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and Germany’s Angela Merkel were intercepted this week. Intelligence agencies have cited both domestic terrorists (in some of the Greek cases), and the Yemen-based group al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as possible suspects, and are conferring with the other bomb cases to determine if they were built by the same people.
  • The International Food Policy Research Institute released its 2010 Global Hunger Index this week. Four nations ranked “extremely alarming” were all based in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for generous contributions to the UN peacebuilding fund, that was set up in 2006 to support efforts to augment peace and stability in countries emerging from conflict. The Fund has so far received $342 million, exceeding its initial target of $250 million, with 46 countries contributing.
  • Companies and states investing in large-scale land deals must be held to standards of transparency and accountability to ensure that their deals are not threatening human rights or food security a new report released by the Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU School of Law announced on Monday. The report analyzes the immediate and anticipated impacts of large-scale land deals in parts of Africa and South Asia.
  • A report by the Open Society Justice Initiative was released on “Corporate War Crimes“. The report details how corporate pillage can be tried as a war crime as both the Hague Regulations of 1907 and the Geneva Conventions prohibit pillage, as well as most domestic jurisdictions and international courts.

Africa

  • Fresh fighting is said to have erupted in southern Darfur on Wednesday between fighters from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and security forces, as rebels ambushed a government food and supplies convoy. JEM spokesmen announced that at least 50 people were killed in the attack. The spokesperson for the South Sudan referendum commission announced on Monday that he was resigning and spoke of deep disagreements with the head of the commission and its secretary general. He also expressed skepticism that the vote will be held on time, suggesting instead it be moved to April or May so that it can be more effective. Sudan’s southern army accused soldiers from the north of ambushing its men on its territory on Sunday, in violation of the 2005 peace deal. The northern army denied it had any troops south of the border. On Tuesday, the government shut down the Khartoum office of Radio Dabanga and arrested 13 of the staff for reporting negatively on Darfur. On Thursday, three people in a Latvian helicopter crew working for the World Food Programme in South Darfur were kidnapped at gunpoint.
  • In a strange move, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ordered her entire cabinet to take “administrative leave”, a euphemism for suspension, until further notice. She implied in her order that those not ordered back to work, within an unspecified time, should consider themselves dismissed.
  • Guinea’s run-off elections are in threat of being delayed again, as thousands of Guinea voters have been displaced from last month’s violence and will be denied their voting rights. The Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect issued a statement on Thursday saying the situation in the Guinea requires international action to prevent mass atrocities from happening during the second round.
  • Ivory Coast will be heading to a run-off election next month, after it failed to determine a majority candidate in its first Presidential election in more than a decade. Laurent Gbagbo will now face off against Alassane Ouattara on November 28th. Some 80% of registered voters peacefully cast ballots on Sunday. Third place candidate Henri Bedie called for a recount as the results went against his favor, although the elections have been widely regarded as fair and free. Experts fear an escalation of violence in the upcoming run-off elections.
  • At least 57 Muslim Brotherhood candidates have been barred from Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary election, it was announced on Wednesday. The group, who won 88 out of 444 seats in the 2005 elections, have claimed that the authorities are doing whatever they can to limit challenges to the ruling National Democratic Party, although the government has said the candidates will have an opportunity to appeal the decisions.
  • Tanzania participated in its presidential election on Sunday, with incumbent Jakaya Kikwete reported as the winner with a landslide 61% of the votes. The parliamentary polls were contested by the main opposition leader on suspected fraud, whose claims were later rejected by election officials. A second opposition party criticized the poll on Thursday after the National Electoral Commission admitted on Wednesday that there could have been irregularities in vote tallying. Clashes erupted between opposition supporters and riot police during the delay of vote counting. Some voters were shocked to find their names listed as dead on voter lists while they were still very much alive, along with other irregularities such as missing names, claims of malpractice and protests.
  • A new round of informal talks of fighting parties in the Western Sahara will take place in New York next week. Morocco and Frente Polisario will both send delegates, as well as neighbouring states Algeria and Mauritania. Moroccan authorities say they dismantled two al-Qaeda terrorist cells this week.
  • At least 15 people are dead following an attack by militants on government soldiers in Mogadishu, Somalia on Sunday. On Monday, the African Union Mission in Somalia announced it will train an additional 800 policemen to provide security to Mogadishu. Somalia’s parliament approved a new Prime Minister on Sunday, in a vote of 297 to 92. The new PM, Mohamed Abdullahii Mohamed is considered as someone who could potentially bridge the gap between various groups.
  • An explosion rocked a government guest house in Nigeria’s Niger Delta on Wednesday. Officials were not immediately clear on the cause of the blast or who was responsible.
  • A Ugandan newspaper again published photographs, along with names and home addresses of gay Ugandans on Monday. A human rights group is now seeking a legal injunction against the publication.
  • The Central Intelligence Organization in Zimbabwe is said to have seized donated portable radios from villagers in Chitowa district. The radios were distributed by a civil society organization to help improve access to information for marginalized groups in the area. Violence was said to mar the conclusion of the constitutional outreach meetings, as a MDC supporter was stabbed in the head by ZANU-PF thugs. Around 52 meetings have so far been abandoned or disrupted because of ZANU-PF sponsored violence.
  • At least 21 census agents are said to have been abducted while updating votes’ rolls for upcoming elections it was announced on Monday in the Central African Republic. The agents were intercepted by members of the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) who confiscated the information that had been gathered and destroyed it and are holding the agents hostage.
  • More than 600 women and girls were raped during the mass expulsion of illegal immigrants across the Congo-Angola border, the UN announced this week. Many of the victims were locked in dungeon-like conditions for several weeks and raped repeatedly by security forces. Many rape victims in the DRC, keen to keep their family reputation in tack and lacking confidence in the police, opt to take justice into their own hands and come to amicable settlements with their attackers.

Asia

  • NATO has claimed that some 30 insurgents were killed in an overnight raid on Saturday in eastern Afghanistan in an attack that wounded five coalition soldiers. Also on Saturday, two ISAF troops were killed in separate incidents in Kabul; and more than 10 suspected insurgents were killed in Helmand. On Sunday, the ISAF announced it had killed as many as 78 insurgents in air strikes. On Monday, Afghan and foreign troops announced that they had seized nearly 24 tonnes of ammonium nitrate, to be used in homemade bombs, killing at least 15 insurgents in the process; two ISAF service members were killed in a roadside bomb in Kabul; a large number of insurgents attacked and seized Khogyani district in Ghazni province; and two female Afghan aid workers were killed in Kandahar. On Tuesday, a NATO troop member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul; Afghan and ISAF troops killed several insurgents in the east in an operation targeting a Taliban leader; and an armed suspected insurgent was shot dead and two suspects arrested in an ISAF/Afghan raid in Helmand. On Wednesday, insurgents firing on NATO troops killed five Afghan civilians and wounded nine others in Helmand; five insurgents were killed while trying to plant a roadside bomb west of Kabul; two ISAF troops were killed in separate attacks in Kabul; and Afghan and ISAF troops killed “several” insurgents and detained several more during an operation in Helmand. On Thursday, two ISAF service members were killed following an attack in Kabul; ISAF forces fired a hellfire missile from the air at two people appearing to be carrying weapons by motorcycle in Kandahar; four insurgents were killed in an Afghan and foreign patrol in Helmand; and an ISAF service member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul. On Friday, a teenage suicide bomber killed at least 9 people and wounded some 30 others at a bazaar in the west; six ISAF service members were killed in insurgent attacks and roadside bombs; and a senior leader of the al-Qaeda linked Haqqani network and several insurgents were killed in a coalition air strike.  The US special envoy on Afghanistan and Pakistan has down played reports of reconciliation talks with the Taliban, announcing that while more were coming forward, the leaders were not. The US military’s claim that it had a successful campaign fighting the Taliban in Arghandab Valley infuriated local people who said the conflict destroyed their harvest this week. A US led campaign is also said to have destroyed or damaged hundreds of houses this week, despite a US strategy designed to weaken support for the Taliban by limiting harm to civilians. The UN mission in Afghanistan announced on Sunday that it had set up a group of experts to support the work in the newly-formed peace council. NATO faces a shortage of specialist instructors to train Afghan forces, so has begun to send hundreds to study outside Afghanistan. The Taliban’s ability to produce large numbers of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has been reported to be severely constrained this week due to an apparent shortage of ammonium nitrate. The Taliban claimed this week to have struck a deal with as many as 19 police officers who are said to have defected to the Taliban, leaving behind a burning police station.
  • On Monday, a US drone attack killed at least five people in northwest Pakistan, bringing the US drone attack count to 21 in Pakistan in the last month alone. On Tuesday, gunmen kidnapped seven employees of a state-owned oil and gas company in Pakistan. Three attacks by US drones are said to have killed at least 12 suspected fighters in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, a bomb blast damaged a building of an Islamist party in Peshawar. On Friday, a suicide bomber demolished a mosque in the north-west during prayers, killing at least 66 people; and a grenade blast killed at least three people at another mosque on the Afghan border.
  • Indian troops in Kashmir shot dead six separatist militants in firefights on Tuesday. Concerns were raised that militants may be stepping up violence ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit this week.
  • Protesters in southwestern China overturned and torched dozens of vehicles over what they say is an illegal land grab for a construction project on Thursday. Around 2,000 paramilitary and riot police were eventually deployed and around 20 people were said to have been injured.
  • The Philippines was on heightened alert this week for possible terrorist attacks after American, British, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand governments warned their citizens of potential attacks. The Philippine military said it did not have similar information on an immediate threat, but took the advisories seriously.
  • Japan issued a warning to Russia following President Medvedev’s November 1st visit to disputed islands in the North Pacific that both countries make claims to. Russia rejected the warning claiming it does not take advice from anyone when traveling within Russian territory.
  • The results of the Kyrgyzstani elections were released on Monday, and were assessed by observers as positive, transparent and well organized. The parliamentary elections took place on October 10th.
  • Last week’s exchange of gunfire across the Korean border was likely an accident and not a provocation, a top lawmaker and former army general announced on Monday. Media reports have downplayed the skirmish, and there have been no signs of escalation. On Wednesday, a North Korean fishing boat allegedly straying across the Korean border in the Yellow Sea, was fired upon by the South Korean Navy with warning shots.
  • Two main opposition parties in Burma/Myanmar have accused the political group of the military government of “cheating” and “threatening” voters ahead of this weekend’s elections. The election has so-far been considered a sham, as reporters and observers are to be denied access to the country during the vote.
  • The government of Cambodia demanded the removal of the director of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the country and stated that the government intends to force the office’s closure. The government is claiming that the office acted as a “spokesperson for the opposition party”.

Central and North America

  • Four Americans were killed in separate attacks in Ciudad Juarez between Friday and Sunday, and the charred body of a Canadian businessman was found on Saturday inside the trunk of a car in Guerrero. Suspected drug hitmen tossed grenades at four police stations across Monterrey on Saturday, killing one civilian and wounded 17 others. Mexican authorities found at least 18 bodies in a mass grave near the resort city of Acapulco on Wednesday. Police have not yet confirmed whether the bodies are those of the tourists who went missing in late September.
  • The US military’s ban on openly gay troops is to remain in place while the Obama administration challenges a court ruling overturning the policy. Obama says he supports ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule, but argues that congress and not the courts should make the decision. For the first time, US human rights practices will be under review by the UN Human Rights Council on Friday. The US has announced that it is open to fair criticism of its human rights record. On Friday it was reported that the US defended its “proud” human rights record, which included the Guantanamo scandal, obstacles to Hispanic immigration, discrimination of Muslims and children’s rights and was largely unapologetic for its behaviour.
  • Gunmen in Honduras opened fire on a group of people in a neighbourhood sports fiend, killing at least 14 on Saturday. It was not immediately clear what triggered the attack, but drug trafficking between rival gangs was suspected.

South America

  • Colombia has suspended seven army officers and soldiers for failing to control their troops in connection with the brutal murders of three impoverished children last month. One of the officers has acknowledged raping the young 14 year old girl before she was killed, and has also confessed to having raped a 13 year old girl in a separate incident on October 2nd.
  • Dilma Rousseff won Brazil’s Presidential election to become the first woman to lead the country by beating rival her rival with 55.5% of the vote in the run-off election. Rousseff vowed to eradicate poverty affecting 20 million people in the country.
  • A Peruvian blogger was sentenced to three years in prison, a fine and 120 days of social work for “aggravated defamation” of a politician after posting an article that linked to several media outlets that discussed criminal accusations against a former minister and congressman. The sentence has generated political and media uproar in the country and has been called unprecedented and unconstitutional.

Middle East

  • On Saturday, gunman attacked an Iraqi army checkpoint in Abu Ghraib killing two soldiers and wounding five people; gunmen wounded a policeman in Kirkuk; a sticky bomb attack killed a driver in Baghdad; an 8 year old boy was killed and two of his family wounded after a grenade he found exploded in the southwest; and a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol wounded three civilians in Mosul. More than 50 people are said to have been killed after Iraqi security forces stormed a Catholic church in Baghdad on Sunday to free hostages being held by gunmen. Also on Sunday, four Iraqi soldiers were wounded after two mortars landed at an Iraqi army base in Mosul; a car bomb exploded in the north, killing one leader of a government-back militia and wounding three passers-by; a roadside bomb wounded one policeman and two civilians in Baghdad; and another roadside bomb wounded two civilians in Baghdad. On Monday, the chief of a northern police station was killed and his driver wounded in a sticky bomb attack; and Kurdistan security forces killed a gunman carrying around 25 kg of explosive materials at a checkpoint. On Tuesday, more than 36 people were killed (later reported to be as many as 63 people) in a series of apparently coordinated blasts in Baghdad; an off-duty policeman was killed in a roadside bomb in Falluja; a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded four policemen in Mosul; a roadside bomb targeting another police patrol wounded three policemen in Mosul; a man was found suffocated and torched to death in Kirkuk; gunmen shot and killed a merchant in Kirkuk; gunmen shot and killed a government backed militia leader in front of his house north of Baghdad; and gunmen shot and killed a civilian in Kirkuk. On Wednesday, armed men killed a 17 year old boy in front of his home in Mosul; a roadside bomb on a motorcycle wounded two firemen in Ramadi; another roadside bomb in Ramadi wounded two civilians; a car bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol wounded three soldiers in the north; and gunmen threw a hand grenade at a police patrol, wounding a woman in Mosul. On Thursday, four soldiers and two policemen were wounded in three roadside bombs in the west; three children were wounded in a bomb attack in Mosul; police found the body of a man riddled with gunshot wounds to his chest and head in Mosul; three policemen were killed and six wounded during a bomb detonation in the north; two roadside bombs killed a driver in the west; three policemen were wounded in an attack on a police checkpoint near Falluja; three other policemen were wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Falluja; and two interior ministry officers were wounded in a sticky bomb attack in Baghdad. On Friday, nine civilians were killed in a bomb attack in Baquba; and a roadside bomb killed a government-backed Sunni Sahwa militia leader in Kirkuk.
  • Iran has arrested four men it claims were paid by a British based man with Kurdish sympathies to carry out a series of assassinations. The arrests are thought to put further strain on the already troubled relations between Britain and Iran.
  • The government of Yemen has launched a major offensive against al-Qaeda, and in particular a Saudi bomb maker behind a year-long wave of bombing attempts, and is suspected of the bombing of a  major oil pipeline this week. At least two Yemeni soldiers and one attacker were said to have been killed after anti-government fighters attacked a military checkpoint on Wednesday. On Thursday, a car bomb in the south killed two people and wounded at least 13 others; a masked gunmen shot and wounded a soldier manning a checkpoint; and southern secessionists took to the streets in a weekly demonstration to protest against the detention of separatists.
  • A Palestinian leader of an extremist group was killed in an apparent Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Wednesday. Also on Wednesday, a Hamas police officer shot dead a Palestinian salesman and wounded his assistant in a market in a refugee camp west of Gaza City. Israeli undercover agents have been accused by human rights group B’Tselem of abusing Palestinians during questioning at a detention centre. Israel rejected the allegations.
  • Israel has suspended dialogue with the UK in protest over a British law that allows UK courts to prosecute visiting Israeli officials for alleged war crimes. The UK has said that the law needs to be changed, but have not suggested when.

Europe

  • At least 32 people were injured after a suspected suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in Istanbul, Turkey on Sunday. Kurdish fighters have denied responsibility and announced the extension of a unilateral ceasefire. On Thursday, a group connected with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • An Arab woman on vacation in France was attacked by a French retiree for wearing a full-face veil. The case has highlighted potential problems with the recent law enforcing a veil ban.
  • A suspected militant detonated an improvised grenade during a raid on a suspected rebel hideout on Monday, killing himself, and injuring at least 10 police officers in Chechnya.
  • Kosovo’s parliament voted overwhelmingly to oust the governing coalition this week and announced that its first elections since declaring independence from Serbia would be held December 12th. Kosovo entered a political deadlock when the President resigned in September.
  • Anti-government protesters were allowed to rally on Sunday in Moscow’s Triumph Square for the first time in years after authorities granted them permission. Opposition attempts at rallying have previously been broken up, with protesters detained or arrested. Russian police officers conducted an armed raid on Tuesday of a bank belonging to a billionaire. The billionaire suggested that the raid was connected to his support of opposition newspapers. Investigators said they were searching for evidence for a criminal case that was opened some time ago.
  • Georgia announced on Friday that it had detained some 15 undercover agents working in Georgia. The spies are said to have been passing on information about Georgia’s armed forces, weapons purchases, military communications and coordination with foreign armies. Relations between the two countries have remain mostly frozen since the war in August 2008.
  • Britain and France signed defense agreements on Tuesday to expand their cooperation, including the creation of a joint expeditionary force, shared use of aircraft carriers and combined efforts to improve safety and effectiveness of nuclear weapons. The cooperation pact is set to last 50 years and will transform the way the two countries fight wars and compete for defense contracts.

This week in conflict… October 23rd-29th, 2010

World

  • Vincenc Fisas of the School for a Culture of Peace released his report on the progress of peace processes in the third quarter of 2010. Sudan, Chad, the Western Sahara, Myanmar talks with the NLD, China-Tibet talks, Israeli-Palestinian talks and Yemen were all listed as progressing poorly in their respective peace processes.
  • Negotiators are working on a treaty to share genetic resources between countries and companies, a step that could unlock billions of dollars for developing nations from drug, agri-resources and cosmetic firms. The access and benefit-sharing protocol aims to create a legal framework that would give nations much better control over their natural resources that can lead to potentially valuable discoveries.
  • The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report for 2010 came out this week. The report increased this year to cover 134 countries, up from only 115 countries in 2006 and considers factors such as gender dimension in economic participation and opportunities, educational attainment, access to basic and higher education, and political empowerment.
  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced the launch of a training programme to help war-torn countries and those vulnerable to disputes over the use of natural resources prevent strife. UNEP research suggests that natural resource disputes account for some 40% of the world’s internal conflicts. Training will begin in four countries, Timor-Leste, Liberia, Peru and Guinea, next year.
  • Transparency International released its annual report on Tuesday on corruption and transparency. Somalia was listed as the most corrupt country in the world, followed by Afghanistan, Myanmar/Burma and Iraq. Nearly three quarters of the 178 countries fell below an index score of 5 on a scale where 0 is the most corrupt and 10 is the least.

Africa

  • French President Sarkozy announced on Saturday that it was a “scandal” that Africa has no permanent seat on the UN Security Council, considering they collectively have one billion inhabitants and make up 27% of the UN Membership. Sarkozy also supported places for India, South America, Japan and Germany in the UNSC.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to the international community on Saturday to find sustainable ways of supporting the African Union’s peacekeeping initiatives. Ban called for the same level of support as similar UN missions, including reimbursement of staff, saying that their current limited resources are troubling the peacekeeping efforts in places like Sudan and Somalia.
  • Twelve people were killed in fierce fighting between a pro-government militia and an insurgent group in Mogadishu, Somalia on Saturday. A separate attack killed at least 5 people after al-Shabaab attacked the presidential palace, Villa Somalia. Al-Shabaab publicly executed two young girls aged 15-17 years old on Friday in front of a crowd of some hundred residents after accusing them of spying. Recent fighting near the Kenyan border is said to have displaced some 60,000 people.
  • Cote D’Ivoire has so far deployed less than a fifth of the 8,000 troops needed to secure this coming weekend’s election. While the run-up to the poll has been generally peaceful, clashes erupted between rival candidates’ supporters in some towns over the weekend. The UN has sent an extra 500 peacekeepers ahead of Sunday’s election, bringing their numbers up to 8,000 soldiers and 1,500 police.
  • The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel group in Darfur announced on Sunday that it was ready to start discussions with international mediators in the peace process. JEM previously walked out of talks in Qatar in May claiming Sudan’s government had broken a ceasefire. A meeting on the Abyei referendum has been postponed indefinitely, after delegates from the National Congress Party and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement failed to agree on who can participate. It was announced on Wednesday that Southern Sudan has prepared to offer the north a financial package to soften the blow of secession if it agrees to allow southern annexation of the Abyei region. Several children under the age of 18 face the death penalty following their sentencing of special courts in Darfur in contradiction to international laws, which Sudan is party to.
  • The Nigerian rebel group Boko Haram attacked a police station on Sunday in Yobe, Nigeria. The rebels are said to have firebombed the police station, which led to a gun fight that killed at least one person. On Sunday morning, 3 soldiers and 13 civilians were killed in a clash between two neighbouring communities over ownership of portions of an oil palm plantation located at their border. Nigerian security forces intercepted 13 containers of arms and ammunition including rocket launchers, cartridges and hand grenades at the airport on Wednesday.The containers were suspected to have been shipped from Iran but were later determined to have originated in India. Six women and children were killed in Jos on Tuesday after attackers invaded a village.
  • Freedom of the press is in jeopardy in Egypt leading up the parliamentary elections, with a string of firings and resignations that removed most of the prominent government critics from their positions. At least four private TV channels were closed in the past week, two others were issued warnings for content violations and the opposition is claiming that Egyptian state TV has refused to air their ads and print shops are refusing to print their campaign literature.
  • The Presidential run-off elections in Guinea were delayed indefinitely, resulting in a weekend of looting and rioting. The election was postponed on Friday, just two days before the election, in the third delay to the run-off since September. Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused the Guinean security forces of using excessive force in clashes with demonstrators over the delayed elections which killed at least one person. On Wednesday it was announced that the run-off would be postponed until November 7th. Thousands of Guineans from the Peul ethnic group were forced to flee their homes in ethnic clashes following rumours that Peul businessmen tried to serve tainted water sachets at a political rally last Friday.
  • Around 50 rebels suspected to be from a Mai Mai militia group attacked a peacekeeping base in eastern Congo over the weekend, which resulted in the death of 8 assailants. The MONUSCO peacekeepers fired back on their attackers, following their rules of engagement in hostile environments. Angola deported nearly 200 Congolese citizens this week, prompting fears of a new wave of mass expulsions that saw tens of thousands displaced last year. The deported are said to come completely stripped, without clothing or even shoes, and several are injured. It was later reported that at least 30 of the deported women were kept as prisoners in a dungeon-like structure and gang-raped over several weeks at the border only to be left naked in the bush. Many men in the group were also brutalized, and at least three people were killed in the journey.
  • Human Rights Watch reported on Monday that Morocco routinely holds suspected militants in secret detention centres where they risk being coerced into making false confessions. The Moroccan government rejected the allegations.
  • Rwanda has charged the President’s main political opponent Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza with forming a terrorist organization with an aim of causing state insecurity. Ingabire has plead not guilty to all charges.
  • Two newspapers in Tanzania face being banned or deregistered for allegedly publishing material that could tarnish the government or country’s reputation. They have also been told them must stop publishing “negative articles” sent to the paper.

Asia

  • At least 10 alleged insurgents were killed after military helicopter gunships attacked the hideouts of Islamist militants in northwestern Pakistan on Saturday. On Sunday, military helicopter gunships attacked militant positions in the northwest, allegedly killing 13 insurgents and destroying four hideouts. On Monday, at least six people, all civilians, were killed in a bomb blast at a Sufi Muslim shrine in central Pakistan; two gunmen on a motorcycle killed a pro-Taliban politician outside his house in the southwest; and three labourers were killed in an attack by masked gunmen in Kohlu. On Tuesday, Islamist militants allegedly attacked a paramilitary checkpoint killing one soldier and at least five militants. On Wednesday, a pair of suspected US drone strikes killed at least 5 militants in northwest Pakistan; a roadside blast near a police van killed two policemen and one civilian in Quetta; and a bomb planted in a motorcycle wounded seven people in the north west. On Thursday, US missile strikes killed another seven suspected militants near the Afghan border; gunmen attacked a Japanese consular vehicle wounding two employees; a roadside blast killed on soldier and wounded five others in Kalaya; and militants cut the throats of three tribesmen and dumped their bodies on a roadside in Ghalanai.
  • Six Indian police were killed by a roadside bomb allegedly planted by Maoist rebels in the east of the country on Saturday. Officials claim the attack was aimed to disrupt the month-long polling process to elect a new government that began last Thursday.
  • Thousands of protesters were dispersed by Bangladeshi police using rubber bullets and teargas on Saturday, injuring some 50 people. Protesters are demonstrating against plans to acquire 1,000 acres of land for housing projects for the army.
  • Security forces in Myanmar/Burma have arrested five men accused of plotting to bomb public places, including an international airport on Wednesday. Investigators claim the insurgents had stockpiled explosives to plant bombs in three major cities in an attempt to derail next month’s election.
  • Two Kyrgyz politicians accused of planning mass disorder and attempting to overthrow the government in May of this year made their first court appearance on Monday. The two maintain that the charges are “absolutely groundless”. The leader of a nationalist party claimed on Monday that he was injured in an assassination attempt when some 50 men attacked his home in Bishkek. On Wednesday, a group of unknown assailants opened fire on a group of policemen, killing two and severely wounded another.
  • A Vietnamese blogger was arrested this week for allegedly defaming a senior Communist Party official and his family. Her arrest follows an increase in arrests in recent weeks of bloggers who criticize the government.
  • Human Rights Watch reported on Tuesday that freedom of the press is under attack in Azerbaijan, as the government is using criminal laws and violent attacks to silence dissenting journalists. Dozens of journalists have been prosecuted on criminal and civil defamation and other criminal charges while police have carried out physical attacks to deliberately interfere with journalist’s efforts to investigate issues of public interest. Opposition candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections have accused authorities of preparing to fix the elections by barring candidates, censoring the media and limiting the right to campaign.
  • On Saturday, four suicide bombers dressed as police and women attacked the main UN compound in the western Herat province in Afghanistan; a Danish soldier was killed in a gunfight in the Helmand province; an ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in the east; Afghan officials accused NATO troops of killing two schoolboys after a patrol came under fire by Taliban insurgents; and a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed one civilian. On Sunday, a NATO-ISAF soldier was killed in an insurgent attack in Afghanistan; Afghan and ISAF forces killed several insurgents in an air strike and rocket fire after a foot patrol came under attack; and several insurgents were reportedly killed by an air strike in Helmand province. On Monday, Afghan forces and NATO troops killed at least 15 alleged insurgents in a raid and air strike in Helmand province; a suicide bomber detonated explosives at an Afghan checkpoint in the southeast, killing three people; two civilians were killed when their motorcycle hit an anti-vehicle landmine in the road in Helmand province; a suicide bomber killed himself near a foreign troop convoy north of Kabul; Afghan and coalition forces killed a Taliban commander and two other alleged insurgents in an overnight right in the east; and Afghan and coalition forces killed two alleged insurgents in the west. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb killed four Afghan police in western Herat; NATO forces are said to have captured a Taliban leader in Logar; and ISAF said it killed more than five insurgents in an air strike in Helmand province. On Wednesday, a NATO service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul; and Afghan and foreign forces killed several insurgents during an overnight operation targeting a Taliban commander in Baghlan. On Thursday, an improvised bomb explosion killed a NATO service member in Kabul; more than 10 suspected insurgents were captured in three operations in Kabul; and an ISAF air strike is said to have killed one suspected insurgent in the east. On Friday, more than 20 insurgents were killed in an air attack by the NATO led ISAF in Kandahar; two insurgents were killed in a NATO air strike in the south; and several insurgents were killed in an overnight operation to capture a Taliban commander in the southeast. Also this week, an Afghan refugee woman who was trying to cross the border into Iran with her four children was shot dead by Iranian border guards. The US military has been securing a vast database of biometric information of Afghans living in the southern and eastern parts of the country. They are said to have information on over 800,000 people.
  • The US has made plans to build a $12.6 billion dollar super military base in Guam in an attempt to contain China’s military build-up. The Environmental Protection Agency fears that the influx of 19,000 Marines into a population of only 173,000 could trigger some serious water shortages, and that the dredging of the harbour to allow an aircraft carrier to berth would damage 71 acres of pristine coral reefs.
  • A fire destroyed the Islamic Resistance Party’s (IRP) cultural center, widely known as the “women’s mosque” in Tajikistan on Saturday. The IRP does not think the fire is accidental, as the center served as the only mosque in Tajikistan that allowed women to pray alongside men, following the ban of women from attending mosque prayers in 2004 by religious authorities in the region.
  • UN funding has been found to be used to run a brutal internment camp for the destitute in Cambodia, where detainees are held for months without trial, raped and beaten, sometimes to death. The so-called “social affairs centre”, that is officially described as offering education and healthcare to vulnerable people is said to actually be an illegal, clandestine prison for “undesirables”, such as drug users, sex workers and the homeless. Cambodia’s ministry of social affairs has previously denied all allegations of abuse, saying that the centre offers rehabilitation and vocational training.
  • South Korea sent its first shipment of rice aid to North Korea in more than two years on Monday and announced it would consider holding monthly talks with the North if it was committed to denuclearization. South Korean media also reported that the US and South Korean military had postponed their latest military drills in the Yellow Sea to avoid creating problems with China and North Korea ahead of the G20 summit. On Friday it was announced that North Korean troops had fired across the heavily armed border into South Korea, whose soldiers fired back.

Central and North Americas

  • A series of suspected computer problems is said to have taken 50 of America’s 450 nuclear intercontinental missiles (ICBMs) off-line for a short period. Reports say sabotage or a computer virus has been ruled out, and that the missiles could still have been launched in an emergency, despite the nearly hour long communications break. US officials arrested a Pakistani-American man for plotting a series of bomb attacks on Washington’s subway system on Wednesday. The man is suspected to have ties to al-Qaeda. Washington DC experienced more shooting of military buildings this week, as several shots were fired into the Marine Corps museum on Friday. Investigators believe that this recent shooting is linked to the two previous shootings, one at a Marine Corps recruiting station and another at the Pentagon.
  • Thirteen people were gunned down at a drug rehabilitation clinic in Tijuana on Sunday just days after another 14 people were killed at a party in Ciudad Juarez.  Also on Sunday, three bystanders were killed in the cross-fire between suspected drug hitmen and federal police in Saltillo. On Wednesday, a group of suspected drug hitmen shot and killed at least 13 people at a car wash in western Mexico. Seven other people were mowed down in the street, four factory workers were killed on a bus and nine police officers were killed in an ambush on Thursday.

South America

  • Former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner died of a heart attack on Wednesday. Kirchner, who was succeeded by his wife as president in 2007, was expected to run in the 2011 Presidential elections. 
  • I am still looking for some suggestions of reliable news sources for South America that are available in English. If you have any suggestions, please write them in the comments below or email us at apeaceofconflict@gmail.com. Thanks!

Middle East

  • The start of the olive season in Israel/Palestine has been wrought with conflict, as Palestinians blame Israeli settlers of chopping down, burning or stealing their fruit and trees and attacking farmers who try to harvest. Damage was also said to have been done to some Israeli properties. On Monday, Israel’s hardlined Foreign Minister commissioned a report on how the country will prepare for a nuclear-armed Iran, as well as a plan on possible responses should the Palestinians unilaterally declare a state taking in all of the occupied West Bank. Violent clashes broke out between Palestinian-Israelis and Israeli police following a demonstration by a right-wing Jewish group in northern Israel. Police fired tear gas at a crowd of Palestinian-Israelis who had gathered to protest the march. A huge arms cache bound for Gaza was impounded On Friday in Egypt. The cache was said to contain more than 150 kg of TNT.
  • Bahrain’s parliamentary elections have resulted in the Shia opposition movement winning all the seats it contested, and emerging as the single largest group in a political system dominated by the Sunni minority monarchy. Al-Wifaq won 18 out of 40 seats in the chamber of deputies, while 13 were won by Sunni candidates loyal to the government, with another nine to be fought out next week in the second round.
  • Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks released nearly 400,000 classified US files on the Iraq war, detailing instances of prisoner abuse and torture that was ignored by the US military. The files revealed a shocking scale of breach of international law by American soldiers, such as the shooting of men trying to surrender, the private security firm abuses and murders, and showing a significant raise in the official civilian death tolls, among other things. On Saturday, a sticky bomb attacked to a car wounded a driver in Baghdad; gunmen attacked a police checkpoint in southern Baghdad, wounding three people; and a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi checkpoint wounded six soldiers and one officer in Abu Ghraib. On Sunday, a former Iraqi intelligence officer died after Iraqi army soldiers raided his home southeast of Mosul; and a car bomb exploded inside a public hospital complex, killing two civilians and wounding 19 others in Mosul. On Monday, a gunmen in a speeding car shot an employee of the Electricity Ministry in Baghdad; and a sticky bomb attached to the car of a Defense Ministry employee wounded him and two bystanders in south Baghdad. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed six workers north of Baghdad; two roadside bomb attacks killed one civilian and wounded another civilian in eastern Mosul; a roadside bomb targeting a deputy minister wounded two bodyguards and two bystanders in central Baghdad; and one person was wounded in a sticky bomb attack on a car in Baghdad. On Wednesday, a roadside bomb killed the head of Jalawa’s criminal investigation unit and three of his bodyguards; a sticky bomb on a car wounded two off-duty policemen in Jalawla; a bomb attached to a truck killed the driver and wounded four others in Baghdad; another bomb in Baghdad killed two guards and wounded four bystanders; a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol wounded three people in Abu Ghraib; and at least three people were wounded when a bomb exploded in Kirkuk. On Thursday, a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi police patrol wounded three policemen in Mosul; a sticky bomb on a car in Basra wounded a South Oil Company employee; a sticky bomb on a car killed a police colonel in Baghdad; a sticky bomb on a car wounded a police brigadier general in Baghdad; another sticky bomb on a car wounded a Housing and Construction Ministry employee in Baghdad; a suicide bomber targeting a federal police base killed a policeman and wounded eight others in Mosul; and one civilian was killed and two others wounded in a car bomb explosion in Baghdad.
  • Security forces in Yemen announced on Saturday that they have foiled a planned attack on “vital installations” ahead of the 20th Gulf Football Cup in Aden. A man was arrested with 1,800g of dynamite along with 7 suspected accomplices. On Tuesday, 15 Yemenis suspected of belonging to al Qaeda allegedly turned themselves in to authorities after negotiations. On Wednesday, Shi’ite northern rebels are said to have killed one man and wounded three others in an ambush, and on Friday two rebels and one pro-government tribesman were killed in clashes between rebels and government aligned tribes.
  • Iran has sentenced an Iranian journalist who worked for a banned pro-opposition newspaper to one year in prison for writing anti-government articles. Masoud Bastani is just one of thousands who were arrested and jailed following the June 2009 elections.
  • The UN court investigating the 2005 killing of Lebanese statesman al-Hariri was allegedly attacked by a group of people on its way to a pre-arranged meeting. Tensions have escalated in the past few months. Hezbollah called on all Lebanese to boycott the international investigation on Thursday accusing investigators of sending information to Israel.

Europe

  • The Swedish police are investigating a racially motivated gunman following 18 shootings of citizens of ethnic-minority with no known ties to organized crime. Police have warned residents from ethnic-minority groups to take extra care when going out at night.
  • NATO will reduce its troops in Kosovo by half to 5,000 over the next few months. It was announced on Friday that security had improved in the area and that local institutions are increasingly capable of assuming responsibility for security.
  • A policeman was killed in Daghestan when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a police base on Saturday. The attacker was unable to enter the base, as the entrance was blocked by a truck, so he blew himself up outside of it.
  • Mikhail Gorbachev voiced sharp criticism of Russia’s current leaders Medvedev and Putin, accusing them of eroding democracy in the country in an effort for personal power. The Russian military could return to Afghanistan for the first time since being forcibly expelled in 1989 as part of a joint NATO-Russian initiative, including the contribution of Russian helicopters and crews to train Afghan pilots, assistance training Afghan national security forces, increased cooperation on counter-narcotics and border security, and improved transit and supply routes for NATO forces. Russia successfully tested its Bulava nuclear missile on Friday, after seven previous failures, in hopes that the missile will make the cornerstone of its nuclear missile programme.
  • Police and residents clashed this week in Italy over a waste disposal crisis. Hundreds of tons of trash lie uncollected in the streets in Naples and surrounding areas, and daily demonstrations have resulted in violence.
  • Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden has warned France to expect more of its nationals to be kidnapped because of it’s policy in Africa and the ban on the burka and the niqab. Bin Laden stated that “the reason why your security is being threatened..” is that “you intervene in the affairs of Muslims, in north and west Africa in particular”.

This week in conflict… October 16th-22nd.

World

  • Are women in war-torn countries faring any better today than they did a decade ago? The UNFPA’s 2010 State of World Population report, released on Wednesday attempted to answer this question inconclusively. The report suggests taking a broader look at the relationships between women and conflict, paying special attention to the role of women in preventing conflict and the role of women in rebuilding after conflict.

Africa

  • The African Union, with support of the European Union and Canada, launched non-combat military exercises in Addis Ababa on Wednesday to improve the continent’s capacity to respond to conflict and enhance peace-keeping operations. The exercises will last ten days and will be attended by more than 200 senior military officers from across Africa.
  • The Chinese government is fighting hard to prevent the publication of a report showing the flow of weapons it sold into Darfur last year despite a ban imposed by the UN Security Council. China has responded angrily to the revelations, insisting that they will block the public release of the report unless its finding are rewritten. Russia and Belarus were both also reported to be supplying weaponry, using signed end-user agreements with both governments guaranteeing that the weapons would not be used in Darfur. The Sudanese army was angered with the UN peacekeeping chief’s announcement last week that they intend to deploy peacekeepers in the south to Abyei and other hotspots along the border ahead of the referendum to create limited buffer zones. The UN announced on Monday that it is sending 100 more troops to the Abyei region  to step up security. South Sudan’s army complained on Tuesday that the UN failed to report a massive build-up of northern troops around sensitive border areas, warning that war could erupt. One senior official of the Sudanese government said that it is “not possible” to hold a referendum on Abyei on time. The Sudanese government removed the special prosecutor for Darfur crimes on Sunday in an apparent bid to deflect the ICC case against President Al-Bashir for war crimes. On Wednesday it was announced that the Doha peace talks on Darfur peace are moving from negotiations to decision-making in order to finalize a peace agreement. The government announced that they are willing to continue peace talks with other rebel groups that currently boycott the peace process in Doha, but stressed that they must join the negotiation before the end of the year.  UN Security Council diplomats visiting the country witnessed the sight of ground attack jets in Sudan that are a clear violation of the arms embargo. Though the presence of the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot jets does not prove they have been used in attacks on Darfuris, their presence was highly suspicious. Sudanese security officials have also been accused of arresting two Darfuri refugees who were seen speaking to the UN envoys during their visit to the region, although, the Sudanese Foreign Ministry denies the claims. 
  • Heavy clashes between Somali forces and insurgent fighters left at least 20 people dead on Saturday, but resulted in the government forces defeating the insurgents and taking back the town of Bulo Hawo on Sunday. Al-Shabaab banned the transfer and receipt of cash by mobile phone this week in an effort to weaken Western capitalism in the country, a move that the government said would stifle the economy and hurt entrepreneurs in a country where few hold bank accounts. On Monday, the government security forces initiated an operation of searching for al-Shabaab in the Galgala hills in northern Somalia, apparently seizing four prisoners and two trucks. On Wednesday, the parliamentary speaker postponed a vote to endorse the newly appointed PM after the nation’s assembly descended into chaos with lawmakers shouting at each other whether the vote should be conducted in secret or in the open. It has been announced that the vote will be held on Saturday in secret. On Friday, the African Union asked the UN Security Council to approve a no-fly zone and naval blockade of Somalia in an effort to deter pirates and prevent fighters and shipments from reaching al-Shabaab and other rebel groups. They also announced that Somali soldiers killed at least 27 al-Shabaab militants in clashes along the Kenyan border.
  • Nigerian security forces have arrested the brother of Henry Okah, who was arrested in connection to the deadly October 1st bombings in Abuja, for his suspected funding involvement. Nigerian authorities have also announced that they are beefing up their efforts to contain a radical Islamic sect in the north by launching joint army and police exercises and using attack helicopters with patrols.
  • Guinea’s scheduled October 24th run-off elections remained uncertain for most of the week due to political fighting and violence in the streets. Police opened fire on people in Conakry on Tuesday, killing at least two, after supporters of Presidential candidate Diallo reportedly threw stones at police. The electoral body was said to have lost all credibility and needed to be rebuilt before an election could be held. On Wednesday it was announced that the run-off would be delayed until October 31st, but then later in the day the two candidates announced that they were ready to take part in the vote after authorities named a new election body chief. On Thursday, they again announced that they would not be ready by Sunday as planned.
  • Thousands of women have taken to the streets in eastern DR Congo on Sunday against rising sexual violence in the country. The UN Population Fund reported that there had been more than 17,507 cases of sexual violence attacks in 2009, including more than 9,000 in North and South Kivu. Despite increasing violence, the UN’s pleas for helicopters to patrol the impassable areas of the country, have fallen on deaf ears.
  • Western Sahara’s Polisario independence group sought UN protection from alleged Moroccan repression on Monday as a UN envoy toured the region. Several human rights organizations have expressed concern over the fate of Polisario’s police chief, who was arrested on allegations of treason and espionage.
  • President Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe has threatened retaliation if the European Union countries heed the advice of this political rival PM Tsvangirai to expel diplomats that the ruler appointed unilaterally. The current political impasse is threatening the inclusive government formed last February.
  • The government of Ethiopia released leaders and members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the country’s most active rebel movement on Saturday as part of the peace accord signed last week in Addis Ababa. The peace deal represents only one part of the fractured ONLF group, with the other rebel faction calling it “irrelevant” and vowing to continue its armed struggle against the government. The Canadian government announced that it was deeply concerned over a report that found that its foreign aid to Ethiopia was being used as a weapon to crush political dissent and bolster the power of the ruling party. Canada provided more than $150 million to Ethiopia in 2008 and is now calling for a full investigation. Ethiopia rejected these claims on Thursday, saying that “Aid is not wasted in Ethiopia and is distributed effectively to all who require it”.
  • Central African nations affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have agreed to form a joint military force to strengthen the fight against the group. The region also agreed on the steps required to declare the LRA a terrorist group, instead of a rebel group, in line with the relevant instruments of the African Union.
  • A Ugandan newspaper published a story featuring the names and photographs of 100 homosexuals under the headline: “Hang Them”. Many of those on the list have since faced violence.
  • Ivorian newspapers are reporting rumours of attack in Cote D’Ivoire from ex-fighters of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) who are demanding what they say is their war allowance from Gbagbo’s government. Some reports detailed that the militiamen in the western part of the country were threatening to sabotage the political campaign and the October 31st elections.
  • The Rwandan government dismissed a media watchdog report by Reporters without Borders (RSF) on Thursday which ranked press freedom within the country alongside authoritarian states such as Burma and North Korea. Rwanda placed 169 out of 178 nations, its worst position since the founding of the index.

Asia

  • On Saturday, a Swedish soldier was killed in an IED attack and a NATO service member was killed in a separate IED attack in Kabul. Gunmen killed nine Afghan workers who were guarding a NATO supply convoy in south Afghanistan on Sunday night. On the same evening, collation forces killed four suspected Taliban fighters in an air strike. A series of explosions killed at least two civilians in Kandahar, and two coalition troops were said to have been killed in separate attacks on Sunday.  On Monday, eight Afghan security guards were killed when insurgents attacked their compound in Helmand; three civilians were killed after homemade bombs exploded under a bridge in Herat; three more civilians were killed in a roadside bomb in Ghazni; 10 insurgents were reported killed and several more detained after they fired on a joint NATO and Afghan army patrol; and insurgents kidnapped 20 employees of a construction company in Farah, resulting in the death of  two insurgents. On Tuesday, three NATO service members were killed in militant attacks; four Taliban commanders were reported killed in three separate incidents; and 40 Taliban fighters are said to have deserted to the government. Afghan elections officials have announced that ballots from 571 different polling stations in last month’s parliamentary elections may now been disqualified by fraud. On Wednesday it was announced that nearly one-quarter of the ballots were thrown out due to fraud. Also on Wednesday at least nine people, including eight children, were killed when a school bus was hit by a roadside bomb in Nimroz; an ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul; and Afghan and foreign troops killed more than 10 insurgents during an operation in the Ziruk district. On Thursday, a NATO service member was killed in an insurgent attack in the east; four Afghan policemen were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Herat; and insurgents ambushed a group of Afghan border police in Herat, resulting in the death of one insurgent and one policemen. A detainee being held by NATO troops was found dead in his holding cell on Sunday, and by Tuesday a US soldier was in custody in regards to his death. Top Taliban commanders are said to have continued in peace talks with Afghan leaders with the help of NATO troops who brought them from their sanctuaries in Pakistan this week, although some claimed that the negotiations were exaggerated, believing that the peace talks were a ploy to sow distrust among the insurgents.
  • US drone attacks in Pakistan killed nine suspected militants in Pakistan on Saturday. A special election held on Monday to replace a lawmaker who was gunned down in August resulted in the death of between 25-30 people as violent clashes rocked Karachi.  The rival party is boycotting the elections saying they are rigged. On Tuesday at least 27 people were killed in shootouts in Karachi and militants on motorcycles attacked and torched three NATO fuel tankers destined for Afghanistan. On Wednesday, Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial hub, was shut down for a day of mourning; while six soldiers were wounded after their vehicle hit a landmine in Kalaya; six Taliban were killed by security forces; security forces killed a militant who threw a hand grenade at a police checkpoint in Peshawar; two suspected militants and one police officer were killed in a shootout in Bannu; and a roadside bomb killed two soldiers on the Afghan border.  On Thursday, Pakistani police in Quetta rounded up nearly 50 people on suspicions of links with militants and a roadside bomb in the northwest killed six suspected militants. Nearly 150 members of the Pakistani parliament have been suspended by the election commission for not declaring their assets, removing them from attending sessions or voting, in the growing tensions between the government and the judiciary. On Friday, the US announced a $2 billion arms sale with Pakistan to help boost the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The deal would be spread out over the next five years and represents about a 30% increase in US funding for weapon sales to the country. Also on Friday, a roadside bomb killed six paramilitary soldiers in Kalaya and a bomb blast in a mosque killed two people just outside of Peshawar.
  • Tajik security forces claimed to have killed three suspected Islamist militants near the Afghani border on Monday. Tajik government forces have been carrying out operations targeting militants since a September attack on a military convoy. The Tajik government has been accused of increasing repression against independent media in the country.
  • Indian troops in Kashmir shot and killed two separatist militants on Thursday in a fierce nine-hour firefight. There has been a recent spike in violence after a period of relative decline, and security agencies suspect that it may signal a new rebel strategy to back popular street protests with increased militant attacks on Indian forces. Five policemen were killed in India when Maoist rebels blew up a security patrol on Friday.
  • Thousands of Chinese joined in on sometimes violent protests over a simmering territorial dispute with Japan on Saturday. Chinese authorities are said to have allowed the rowdy demonstrations to prevent the frustrations from being turned against the Chinese regime itself. China’s one child policy has resulted in the forced abortion of many fetuses, with an estimated 13 million reported abortions each year. Women who violate the policy usually pay a fine, but are often sterilised to prevent them from having another child. Activists in China are attempting to create a Chinese “WikiLeaks” project to share secret government documents in an attempt to increase transparency and lead to political reform. Critics worry that project is naive given China’s strict secrecy laws.
  • Thousands of Tibetan students in western China peacefully protested this week against proposals to curb or eliminate the use of the Tibetan language in local schools. The protests are said to be the largest in Tibetan areas since the March 2008 uprising.
  • Officials announced on Monday that foreign journalists will not be allowed into Myanmar/Burma to cover the country’s first election in 20 years. The election is widely criticized as a sham.
  • Thousands of anti-government “red shirts” demonstrated in Thailand on Sunday demanding the release of their leaders and comrades detained since the April and May protests. The capital is still under a state of emergency, following the deaths of 91 people in the earlier protests.
  • A video allegedly showing Indonesian soldiers torturing indigenous Papuans, including burning the genitals of one man, were released on Monday. The chief of the Indonesian military said the military would investigate, but given that soldiers cannot be tried in civilian courts and military courts only give lenient sentences, those responsible are unlikely to be punished. On Friday, the Indonesian government confirmed that the video was authentic and that the soldiers involved had been “unprofessional”.
  • An opposition party in Kyrgyzstan rallied in Bishkek on Tuesday accusing authorities of cheating it of seats in last week’s parliamentary elections and warning of possible upheavals and violence. The central election commission has yet to announce the final official results after calls for verification delayed the announcement.
  • South Korea announced on Wednesday that they have arrested a North Korean spy who posed as a political defector with the intention of assassinating a former member of the ruling North Korean regime. South Korean officials announced on Thursday that there have been continual movements of personnel and vehicles at North Korea’s main nuclear test site, however, they ruled out the possibility that the country is preparing for its third atomic bomb test soon.
  • At least ten people were killed after a bomb exploded on a passenger bus in the southern Philippines on Thursday. The bomb comes just two weeks ahead of the local village elections and is thought may be part of an attempt at extortion. The government named a human rights lawyer to head peace talks with Maoists to end more than 40 years of conflict that has killed about 40,000 people. New President Aquino has said his government would negotiate in good faith as peace was needed to lift economic growth and investor confidence.

Central and North Americas

  • Ten people were killed in the latest drug violence in Mexico. Six people were killed after armed men opened fire at a family party in Ciudad Juarez and another four people died in a shootout between marines and drug cartel members in Monterrey. 
  • The Pentagon experienced a temporary lockdown on Tuesday after shots were fired at the building. Authorities are still investigating. The nearly four year long murder and violent crimes case against private security firm Blackwater Worldwide is in collapse. Federal prosecutors are said to have failed to overcome a series of legal hurdles, including the difficulties of obtaining evidence in war zones, gaining proper jurisdiction for prosecution in American civilian courts, and overcoming immunity deals given to defendants by American officials at the scene.

South America

  • Bolivian President Evo Morales signed a deal on Tuesday with Peruvian President Alan Garcia allowing Bolivia to build and operate a small port, making landlocked Bolivia a new maritime nation. The 1.4 sq. mile patch of sand will be leased from Peru for 99 years. 
  • As you can see, my South American section is always a little under-reported. I would love suggestions on media sites covering South American news available in English! If you have a suggestion, please send it to apeaceofconflict@gmail.com or write it in the comments below. Thanks!

Middle East

  • Israel’s coalition government appears to be in danger of collapse following the failing peace talks and controversial “loyalty law”.  On Sunday, Israel supposedly resumed talks with Hamas rulers on the swapping of about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for a captive Israeli soldier who has been held for more than four years. Two Palestinians were killed in a pre-dawn Israeli air raid north of Gaza City on Sunday, in the latest target of alleged terror operatives. The proposed loyalty oath, deemed racist by many critics, will now apply to all new citizens and not just non-Jews. The redrafting of the oath will have little impact, as it does not address the objections of the Palestinians.
  • The Palestinian leadership is increasingly focusing on how to get international bodies and courts to declare a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The Palestinians complain that the two-state peace process solution is disappearing, while Israel rejects the move as unacceptable and a violation of the 1993 Oslo accords. Israeli settlers are said to have begun building new homes at an extraordinary pace since the government lifted its moratorium on housing starts, more than four times faster than the last two years. Many of the new homes are also said to be in areas that would more than likely become part of a Palestinian state in any peace scenario.
  • Iran is said to have brokered a critical deal with its Iraqi neighbours that could see a pro-Iranian government installed in the country. The deal involved Syria, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the highest Shia authorities. On Monday, the Iranian city of Esfahan announced that it was now a crime for women to bicycle, roller-skate, or play volleyball in public.
  • The United Arab Emirates has upheld a law allowing a man to “discipline” his wife and children providing that he does not leave physical marks on their bodies. Scholars differ on what constitutes a “beating” but agree it must not be severe.
  • On Saturday, two mortar rounds landed in southern Baghdad, wounding four; a bomb attached to a vehicle exploded in Balad, wounding four; and two people were wounded when a sticky bomb went off in Baghdad. At least 12 people are said to have been killed after gunmen stormed gold shops in Baghdad and ended up in a gunfight with security forces, police and military on Sunday; a man was killed after a sticky bomb attack on a car in Baghdad; at least six people were wounded, including three government employees, in separate sticky bomb attacks; a roadside bomb killed one soldier in Baaj; a mortar round wounded a father and son in Mosul; and a sticky bomb attack wounded a teenager in Mosul. A roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq on Monday morning killed a member of Baghdad’s Provincial Council. Also on Monday, a suicide car bomb exploded near a security patrol west of Mosul, killing one Iraqi soldier and wounding three others; two separate shootings in Diyala Province killed a man and one woman; a magnetic bomb in Baghdad killed one person; and a gunmen opened fire on an army checkpoint, killing one soldier in Mosul. On Tuesday, at least 11 people were killed after blasts ripped through the home of a senior Iraqi police commander in Tikrit; a roadside bomb hit a UN convoy, killing one policement in Najaf; gunmen opened fire on a speeding car killing an off-duty bank guard in Kirkuk; a roadside bomb killed three on a police patrol in Samarra; and a roadside bomb killed two policemen on a roadside patrol in Baghdad while two other bombs planted in buses wounded 15 Iranian pilgrims. On Wednesday, an off-duty border guard, his wife and three other relatives were killed after armed men forced their way into their house in Mosul; police found the body of an unknown man with bullet wounds in Daquq; armed men in a speeding car opened fire and killed a district mayor of Kirkuk; a bomb next to a railway in Mosul wounded two train drivers; a roadside bomb in Baghdad wounded five people; and three people were wounded by a second roadside bomb in Baghdad. On Thursday, a roadside bomb killed a member of a government-backed militia 100 km north of Baghdad and another roadside bomb went off near a police patrol in Baghdad, wounding one policeman and two civilians. On Friday, a sticky bomb killed a militia leader in Garma; gunmen opened fire at a checkpoint wounding two policemen and one soldier in Baghdad; a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed one civilian in Mosul, while a second roadside bomb killed a soldier; gunmen opened fire at a police checkpoint, killing one policeman in Mosul; and a roadside bomb wounded a young girl west of Mosul.
  • At least three soldiers were killed in Yemen after armed men ambushed a military convoy in the south on Saturday. The air force responded by bombing the attackers to give the convoy cover on its journey. The following day Yemeni forces bombed suspected al-Qaeda positions killing three suspected militants.
  • The Obama administration has formally notified Congress of an arms deal with Saudi Arabia worth up to $60 billion that includes advanced fighter jets, helicopters, missiles and other weaponry and equipment. The deal is the largest US arms deal in history.
  • Bahrain is tightening down security ahead of next Saturday’s elections, making it tougher for the Shi’a majority to vote. The Shi’ite population is angered because they want more inclusion in decision making and government ministry jobs.

Europe

  • Anti-immigration sentiment in Germany has reached a new low after German chancellor Angela Merkel claimed that attempts to create a multicultural society have utterly failed this week and that immigrants must do more to integrate. Last week, the Bavarian premier called for a halt to all Turkish and Arabic immigration following polls that suggest that one-third of Germans believed the country was overrun by foreigners and that 55% of Germans believed that Arabs are “unpleasant people”.
  • Massive protests continued in France this week, as workers protested the government’s plan to raise the age of retirement. The protests resulted in fuel pipeline supplies to airports and many gas stations being shut down. The protests were labeled as relatively peaceful, until Tuesday, when youths clashed with riot police in cities across the country. The EU Justice Commissioner announced that the EU will suspend its legal action threatened against France for its expulsion of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma populations.
  • Opposition groups and human rights activists in Russia formally applied for permission to hold a mass gathering in Moscow’s Triumph Square on October 31st in their Strategy 31 campaign. Article 31 of the Russian Federation Constitution theoretically guarantees the freedom of assembly, but previous attempts by the opposition and activist groups have been thwarted by authorities. The European Court of Human Rights slapped a fine on Russia on Thursday for banning homosexual rallies in Moscow, stating that the government had denied the right of assembly, discriminated against sexual orientation and denied activists their right to redress. Russia has announced on Tuesday that it is considering a proposal to help develop a US led anti-missile shield for Europe.
  • Gunmen stormed Chechnya’s parliament on Tuesday, killing at least 6 people. The insurgents detonated a bomb at the gates, killing himself, then two insurgents ran into the building opening fire. They tried to enter the main parliamentary hall, but were unable to do so, and so barricaded themselves in the ground floor, eventually blowing themselves up.
  • One policeman and three militants were killed on Wednesday in a shoot-out in Russia’s Kabardino-Balkaria province. An Islamist insurgency is said to have spread out of Daghestan and Chechnya.
  • Russian troops have pulled out of a Georgian village that has been occupied for the past two years in South Ossetia. Both Georgia and the EU had objections to the occupation. Russia said it would withdraw after the latest round of internationally-mediated talks in Geneva, calling it an act of goodwill and a test of Georgian restraint.
  • Turkey has began the trials of more than 150 Kurds, including a dozen elected mayors, who have suspected links with the rebel group Kurdistan Associations Union (KCK). Critics say the trial is aimed at silencing Kurds who are fighting for autonomy in the country.
  • The junior partner in Kosovo’s ruling coalition announced on Saturday that it was quitting the government amidst a deepening political crisis. The political stalemate will delay EU sponsored talks with Serbia, which refuses to recognize the independence of its former province.
  • The British military announced severe budget cuts on Tuesday to the amount of 8% cut to the annual 37 billion pound defense budget over four years. These cuts will delay the program to upgrade its nuclear defenses, reduce the number of forces it can deploy on combat missions and cut thousands of troops.
  • A new survey in the Ukraine found that one in five Ukrainians are willing to sell his or her vote in the upcoming local elections scheduled for October 31st. Less than one in ten believe that the local elections will be fair.


This week in conflict… October 9th-15th, 2010.

World

  • The UN pre-talks for the world climate summit in China ended in disappointment as negotiators from 177 countries fought over the main aspect of how to finance climate protection and the legal form of a future global climate agreement. The six days of negotiations were marred by open conflicts between the US and China, with the Chinese holding the US and other developed nations responsible for the apparent deadlock in negotiations. 
  • The top UN official fighting to end the recruitment of child soldiers appealed to governments to provide the necessary resources to ensure the reintegration of children into civil society once they have been freed. A new report released this week outlines some of the successes over the past year, and some of the major challenges facing children in war zones.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon outlined measures to strengthen the UN’s role in helping countries emerging from conflict to maintain peace and entrench stability in a report released on Thursday. He also spoke of the need to provide UN staff deployed in crisis situations with proper training to enable them to perform the full range of their responsibilities.
  • India, Germany, South Africa, Colombia and Portugal will all take their place on the UN Security Council for their term after being elected to two-year terms. The council is made up of 5 permanent veto-holding members — France, Russia, China, the UK and the US, as well as 10 non-permanent members. Brazil, Gabon, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria and Lebanon are all on the council until 2011. Canada abruptly withdrew from the contest allowing Portugal to take its place, after neither won the required votes (128 votes) for victory (Portugal with 113 votes and Canada with 78 votes).
  • NATO’s secretary-general has urged member states to endorse a proposed anti-missile system that would link alliance members into a common network, saying it was NATO’s responsibility to build “modern defenses against modern threats”. NATO defense and foreign ministers held a rare joint session in Brussels on Thursday to discuss a draft of a new “strategic concept” for the alliance, which is expected to focus on new threats including missiles from hostile states, terrorism and cyberattacks ahead of the Lisbon summit in November.
  • The UN is owed $4.1 billion by member nations with the US accounting for more than a quarter of that figure, officials announced on Thursday. Chile, Iran, Mexico, and Venezuela accounted for 9% of the arrears, and another 68 countries made up 3%  of the arrears. Only 13 countries out of 192 have paid their contributions.

Africa

  • French authorities have arrested a leader of the FDLR who is accused of carrying out mass rapes in the DR Congo. ICC chief prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo said the arrest was a “crucial step in efforts to prosecute the massive sexual crimes committed in the DRC. On Thursday, a senior UN official said the UN Security Council should consider sanctioning Lieutenant Colonel Serafim of the FDLR over the rapes of hundreds of villagers in the east in August as well. Those who were raped by rebels over the summer are said to now be facing the same abuse from Government troops.
  • The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is reported to have ambushed a town in northern Central African Republic, abducting young girls, looting and setting shops on fire in what the UNHCR has described as intensified attacks since September. The group is said to have committed more than 240 deadly attacks this year, displacing thousands.
  • A new school to train soldiers of about a dozen African countries in peacekeeping operations has been launched in the Congo (Brazzaville) with financial support from France. The school is set to train hundreds of students a year.
  • The former deputy leader of Niger’s ruling military government was arrested on Wednesday, just days after his post as the junta’s number two leader was eliminated. It was not immediately clear why the leader was arrested.
  • Sudan’s president has accused the country’s southern autonomous leadership of breaching terms of a peace deal and warned that civil war could re-erupt if the two sides did not settle their disputes before the secession referendum. On Friday, a UN panel said that plans for the referendums are being hampered by delays, poor funding and negatively charged atmosphere of threats and accusations. The latest round of talks between the north and the south over the oil-producing Abyei region have failed to reach an agreement just 90 days before the referendum to decide its fate. South Sudan independence supporters clashed with riot police and northern pro-unity campaigners in Khartoum on Saturday, highlighting the risk that simmering tensions might boil over. The president in South Sudan has asked the UN Security Council to send peacekeepers and set up a buffer zone along the north-south border ahead of the independence vote to help keep the peace and on Wednesday, the UN Security Council announced that peacekeepers could create limited buffer zones in hotspots along the north-south border, but were not capable of patrolling the entire border. On Tuesday, the UN-supported disarmament drive in the far south began, as the first of some 2,600 people set to be disarmed were disarmed, registered and issued certificates. On Thursday it was announced that the vote on whether the district of Abyei should be part of the north or the south will be delayed, as feared. Local residents responded by saying that a delay is unacceptable and that they may hold their own vote without the government. On Thursday, a renegade army commander began reconciliation talks with the president of South Sudan, as part of a new push to end southern divisions.
  • Gunmen in northern Nigeria shot and killed an Islamic scholar on Saturday after he had been openly critical of a radical sect behind a series of recent killings. Recent killings of police officers, traditional leaders and politicians in the area have raised fears that a radical Islamic group Boko Haram, are staging a comeback. Late Monday night, a police station was destroyed in an attack blamed on the group, after attackers deployed home-made bombs. On Wednesday, Boko Haram gave the government five conditions to be implemented for peace to be restored to their region: that the government stop arresting, intimidating and detaining their members; release all their members that are currently in detention unconditionally; allow their fleeing members to return home unmolested; give back all their places of worship, and denounce all forms of injustice. On Friday, a militant group announced it planned to carry out another bomb attack in Abuja this month, giving seven days of notice of the attack.
  • A Ugandan court has dismissed treason charges against Kizza Besigye, an opposition leader, paving the way for him to run against the president in the 2011 election. The opposition leader had gone into exile after losing to President Museveni in the 2001 presidential polls.
  • Guinea’s presidential hopeful, Cellou Dallein Diallo is still opposed to taking part in a run-off election on October 24th, despite having agreed to share power with his opponent whoever wins. Last week, Diallo announced that he would not participate in the election unless the head of the electoral commission was removed. The two main political rivals agreed to share power regardless of who wins, by including the loser in government.
  • Ethiopia has signed a peace deal on Tuesday to end 20 years of war with a rebel faction in the Ogaden region, however, the deal remains unsure, as a spokesman for a rival wing of the rebel group called the deal “irrelevant”. Ethiopian authorities have said that the deal represents 80% of the fighters.
  • Heavy fighting in Somalia’s capital left more than 20 dead on Wednesday as soldiers clashed with al-Shabaab fighters. A mortar hit the main Bakara market killing 5 civilians, as the fighting escalated. The Somali President named a Somali-American to replace the Prime Minister who resigned last month on Thursday. The previous PM is said to have resigned after intense pressure from the president following a long-standing dispute. A Briton working for Save the Children in Somalia was kidnapped by masked Somali gunmen on Thursday, along with a Somali native who was later released. Witnesses say heavy fighting between government troops and al-Shabaab rocked the capital on Friday with civilian casualties.
  • Egypt’s telecommunications regulator has imposed new restrictions on mobile text messages just ahead of the legislative elections that prohibit companies from sending out text messages en masse without obtaining licenses. Opposition activists say the new regulation stifles their ability to mobilize voters, as they have come to rely increasingly on the internet and mobile phones to organize and mobilize their supporters to sidestep government harassment.
  • Rwanda’a leading opposition leader Victoire Ingabire was re-arrested on Thursday after allegations that investigations into a former rebel commander facing terrorism charges also implicate her. Ingabire had returned to Rwanda to contest the presidential elections this year, but was barred from standing, after being accused of crimes linked to genocide denial.
  • A top rebel leader in Cote D’Ivoire announced that the identity cards being issued to voters ahead of the October 31st election end once and for all the dispute which split the nation in two. The 2002-3 rebellion was largely driven by a row over citizenship rights.  The UN Security Council renewed its arms, financial and travel sanctions to the country for six months on Friday, as well as a ban on trade in rough diamonds.
  • Eleven miners at a coal mine in Zambia were shot after protesting over what they said were poor pay and conditions on Friday. Police are said to be investigating the Chinese owners of Collum Mine Ltd. but have yet to arrest anyone.
  • Seven presidential candidates are to take part in the October general elections in Tanzania. The current president warned candidates to run peaceful elections campaigns and avoid any action that could cause chaos.
  • The Zimbabwean Prime Minister and his deputy boycotted cabinet this week, in escalating political tensions in the shaky inclusive government. Sources say the PM is angry over the President’s unilateral decision to appoint new governors and other arbitrary appointments, triggering a constitutional crisis.

Asia

  • The wife of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, has been placed under house arrest in China following Liu’s win late last week, along with more than 30 other intellectuals. Censors blacked out any foreign broadcasts of the win, and police were mobilized to quell any sign of domestic support. China also canceled its meeting with the Norwegian fisheries minister, living up to its promise that the move to award the dissident Liu the Prize would harm relations between the countries. On Tuesday, the government canceled another meeting with Norwegian officials, claiming that the award was an affront to the Chinese people and a ploy to try and change the country’s political system. Also on Tuesday, a group of retired Communist Party officials and intellectuals issued an unusually blunt demand for total press freedom in China, stating that the current censorship and control violated China’s Constitution. More than 100 Chinese Christians seeking to attend an international evangelical conference in South Africa have been barred from leaving the country because their churches are not sanctioned by the government.
  • Police sealed off residential areas and reimposed the round-the-clock curfew in Kashmir again on Tuesday in an attempt to pre-empt the first anti-India rally since authorities announced concessions to end violent protests. The hardline separatist leader in Kashmir called on residents to defy the curfew and go into the streets.
  • Detained Myanmar/Burma pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has announced that she will not vote in the upcoming elections, even though authorities have told her she is on the electoral roll. Suu Kyi’s party was dissolved because it declined to reregister for an election it considered unfair and undemocratic and she has said that her ability to vote is unlawful, as convicted people are prohibited from voting.
  • North Korea put on the largest military parade it has ever had on Sunday in front of Kim Jong-il and his successor son Kim Jong-un. Kim Jong-il’s oldest son, Kim Jong-nam announced his opposition to the hereditary transfer of leadership to his younger brother on Tuesday. It is suspected Kim Jong-nam, who fell out of favor after an embarrassing attempt to enter Japan to visit Disneyland in 2001, will not likely return to the country. On Friday North Korea vowed to attack South Korea if it resumed its propaganda war along the border, which was recently resumed.
  • Militants set fire to at least 29 fuel tankers in Pakistan in the latest assault on NATO supply routes to Afghanistan, which were reopened by Pakistani authorities on Saturday. Another truck was ambushed on Friday, killing two people. On Sunday, two US drones fired four missiles into a house, killing seven militants. Militants are said to have blown up three school buildings late Saturday, with no reported casualties. Pakistani security forces began a fresh military operation in the northwestern part of the country on Tuesday to comb for militants believed to have fled from the nearby Swat region. On Thursday, Pakistani police arrested a group of Islamist militants who were allegedly plotting to kill the prime minister and other top government officials.
  • Fourteen suspected terrorists were captured during a special operation in a northern area of Tajikistan on Tuesday.  The Tajik government offered an amnesty to armed groups fighting government troops in the east on Tuesday if they declare a cease-fire. Two field commanders and 27 members of armed groups reportedly took the amnesty, agreeing to lay down their weapons and join forces with government troops to hunt down foreign militants on Friday.
  • Four Italian soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan on Saturday. The British PM announced on Monday that a British hostage who had been reported killed by captors, may have been accidentally killed by troops attempting to save her. On Tuesday, an unknown explosion of a grounded helicopter resulted in the death of at least one ISAF member, an air strike in a northern province killed two insurgents, an ISAF member died following an IED attack in the south, six Afghan civilians died in a rocket attack by insurgents, and two Afghan soldiers were killed in separate attacks. On Wednesday, seven NATO troops were killed in three separate attacks. On Thursday, at least 8 NATO troops were killed in five separate insurgent attacks. On Friday, NATO-led forces are said to have facilitated the passage of a senior Taliban commander to Kabul to hold talks with the Afghan government.
  • Five parties are said to have won seats in Kyrgyzstan’s new Parliament following last week’s election. The results would mean that the ruling nationalist party will be unable to govern on their own after winning just 8.69% of the votes. Twenty-nine parties contested the polls. On Tuesday, the United Kyrgyzstan party announced that it will hold nationwide protests to challenge the official results after it failed to clear the threshold to get into parliament. On Wednesday, an angry crowd attacked a defendant and three relatives of another defendant in trials related to the June violence in the south, following a series of similar attacks earlier in the week on other defendants.
  • Thousands of Thai anti-government activists gathered in Bangkok on Sunday to demand the release of protesters detained for their role in demonstrations and military clashes, breaking the state of emergency rules. Riot police surrounded the site, but there were no reports of violence amid the protests. On Thursday, four people were shot dead in the restive deep south in separate attacks. Police blamed the Malay Muslim rebels for the attacks.
  • Azerbaijan is said to be boosting its military defense spending next year by 90%. The country is in talks with neighbouring Armenia over Nagorno-Karabkh, which it lost to Armenian-backed forces in conflicts in 1991 and the President has claimed that his country should get the region back one day.

Central and North America

  • Suspected drug hitmen in Mexico have ambushed a group of traffic police patrolling a highway on Monday, killing eight officers. Thirteen more people were killed between Tuesday and Thursday in the border city of Tijuana, including several decapitated bodies found hanging upside down from bridges. More than 2,000 police have been killed since 2006, and more than 29,000 in drug violence in Mexico. 
  • Canada has lost the use of a United Arab Emirates military camp near Dubai from which it supported its troops in Afghanistan in an escalation of a dispute over landing rights. The decision has been tied with the failed efforts of UAE to convince Canadian authorities to allow its two major airlines to increase flights to Canada.
  • The Haitian UN peacekeeping mission voiced concern at reports that arms are being distributed in advance of next month’s elections. The MINUSTAH peacekeeping mission called on all candidates in the election to think of the country’s future and programmes that will restore hope to the people. Demonstrators have blocked the entrance to the UN military headquarters in Haiti, spraying anti-UN slogans on vehicles trying to enter on Friday, calling it an “occupation” and angry at the lack of security and assistance they offer to average Haitians. This violence comes the day after the UN announced it would keep its force in Haiti for at least another year.
  • An American Federal judge ordered a halt to the enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which bans gay men and women from serving openly in the US military. Critics worry that the order may not make it through a Congressional vote, as an earlier attempt was defeated in the Senate this year. In a separate case, a judge ruled that the government cannot coerce a detainee to provide information for intelligence purposes and then use the evidence in criminal proceedings, in the first civilian trial of a Guantanamo Bay detainee. The judge did not express an opinion on the constitutionality of government agents using coercive methods to gain intelligence. The US is also in the process of reviewing its position on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, that lays out the fundamental rights and freedoms of the world’s indigenous populations.

South America

  • The Argentinian government has condemned a planned British military exercise in the Falkland Islands, calling the plan an “unacceptable provocation”. The Argentinian deputy foreign minister demanded that the exercises be canceled. 
  • An Ecuadorean court issued an order authorizing the jailing of 12 police officers for their role in the police uprising last week, that the President has called an attempted coup. The lawyer for the police officers said that his clients were being swept up in a “witch hunt”.
  • Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez has begun a tour of seven nations, including Russia, Iran and Libya to discuss issues ranging from nuclear power and tanks to olive oil. In the past three years Chavez has bought at least $5 billion in weapons, including fighter jets, anti-aircraft missile systems and tanks from Russia.
  • Peruvian police have arrested a top commander of the Maoist Shining Path guerrilla group in an operation that also killed two rebel fighter on Wednesday. Police raids in the coca growing regions are part of an effort by the government to stamp out the remnant bands of Shining Path fighters and eradicate crops of coca, the raw material for cocaine.

Middle East

  • It was reported this week that at least 10 Palestinian children have been shot and wounded by Israeli troops over the past three months while collecting rubble in or near the border. Israeli soldiers are routinely shooting at Gazans well beyond the unmarked boundary of the no-go area. The Israeli Prime Minister is said to have offered to renew a partial settlement construction freeze in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state on Monday. The offer was met with swift rejection from senior Palestinian officials, calling the two issues unrelated. Palestinians, backed by Arab powers, have given the US one month to persuade Israel to halt the building of settlements or risk the complete collapse of peace talks. On Wednesday, Palestinian authorities requested a map from the US showing where Israel sees its final borders and making clear whether they include Palestinian land and homes. Israel issued the building tenders for 238 new housing units in East Jerusalem on Thursday, which many called choosing “settlements over peace”. Lawyers representing relatives of those who died in the Israeli raid of the Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May are urging the ICC to pursue those responsible, citing that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed.
  • Two apparently synchronized bombs exploded in southern Yemen on Monday, killing 2 people and wounding 12 others. The leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula announced the formation of a new army that would free the country of “crusaders and their apostate agents”. On Tuesday, police arrested 19 al-Qaeda members who were accused of Monday’s attacks. On Thursday, the governor of Abyan escaped an assassination attempt by suspected al-Qaeda mlitants, and the chief of police in an Abyan district was killed in an attack.
  • Iran has announced that it is ready to hold talks with six major powers over its nuclear programme in late October or early November. The US and its European allies fear Iran’s declared civilian nuclear energy programme is a cover to develop the capability of producing nuclear weapons.
  • Iranian President Ahmadinejad arrived in Lebanon on Wednesday to visit the southern region near the Israeli border in a trip said to emphasize Iranian support for Hezbollah’s fight with Israel. Both the US and Israel called his trip intentionally provocative.
  • Gunmen wearing Iraqi military uniforms broke into the homes of their own clan members on Monday and killed four people for informing on al Qaeda. Also on Monday, a senior police officer was wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad,  a group of gunmen opened fire on a currency exchange office in Baghdad which killed five people, and three gunmen stormed a policeman’s house and killed him in Falluja. On Tuesday, gunmen launched coordinated attacks on three Iraqi army security checkpoints in western Baghdad that killed one soldier, Iraqi forces killed a civilian by mistake in near Mosul as they chased smugglers near the border, and a roadside bomb wounded two Iraqi soldiers as it exploded during their patrol near Mosul. On Wednesday, four bombs exploded in western Baghdad, at least four policemen were wounded when a roadside bomb hit their patrol, a bomb attached to a government car wounded two of its passengers and gunmen in a speeding car opened fire at an employee of a state-run oil company. New US military statistics have placed the death toll for Iraqi civilians and security forces at 77,000 from January 2004-October 31, 2008, well below the count by the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry figure of 85,694 for the same period.
  • Twenty-three Shia activists were charged in Bahrain on Wednesday with terrorism and conspiring against the government, who are among hundreds of Shia opposition figures and activists rounded up in recent months ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections. Shias are the majority in Bahrain, but have long complained of discrimination from the Sunni government.

Europe

  • A dramatic rise in violent attacks on small town mayors in Sardinia, Italy has been linked to soaring job losses due to factory closures and the sheep market slump. A social services office was bombed, a shotgun was fired at the home of a mayor, a car belonging to a council official was burned, and a horse of a mayor was shot dead with its ears and tongue cut off.
  • Riot police clashed with protesting Culture Ministry workers who barricaded the ancient Acropolis in Greece on Thursday. Workers complained that they were owed up to 24 months’ worth of back pay and faced dismissal when their contracts expire at the end of the month.
  • Clashes between far-right supporters and gay pride marchers rocked Belgrade, in Serbia on Sunday. Thousands of police officers sealed the streets and clashed with the rioters who were attempting to break through the security. Rioters also fired shots and hurled petrol bombs at the headquarters of the ruling Democratic party, along with the state TV building and other political parties’ headquarters. Serbia’s Appeals Court removed a war crimes conviction against a Bosnian official on Monday in a move that is said could ease ties between the two former Yugoslav states. Official relations worsened in 2007 after Serbia arrested Ilija Jurisic on charges that he ordered an attack on a column of the Yugoslav People’s Army that killed at least 50 soldiers. On Tuesday a soccer match between Serbia and Italy ended in clashes and the hospitalization of 16 people after Serbian fans threw flares and fireworks onto the pitch and at Italian fans.
  • One man was killed after a group of Muslims were attacked as they left a mosque in Abkhazia on Monday. The attackers opened fire from a passing car. This is the third attack against Muslims in Abkhazia in the last two months.
  • Russia’s main pro-Kremlin party are said to have won an overwhelming victory in local elections across the country on Sunday, but observers say the results are unsurprising as the vote was rigged. Claims of buying votes, ballot-stuffing, increased pressure on journalists and human rights activists from authorities during the campaign and the refusal of registration faced by independent candidates marred the results. On Tuesday, Russian authorities detained around 30 people for holding an unsanctioned rally to demand an end to naming mayors and regional governors instead of by elections.
  • Russia and Georgia have resumed internationally mediated talks in Geneva aimed at preventing another flare-up of violence following their brief 2008 war. The talks also include representatives from the two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and is set to last one day.
  • Three members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and two soldiers in Turkey were killed in two days of fighting. The fighting comes despite a one-sided ceasefire declared by the PKK.
  • Moldova has become the latest country to ratify the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court on Tuesday. The treaty enters into force in January.

This week in conflict… October 2nd- 8th, 2010.

World

  • The UN called upon governments to expand their efforts to ensure the protection for the world’s 43 million forcibly displaced people in the face of  “never-ending” conflicts that are creating new semi-permanent refugee populations. More than 5.5 million refugees are stuck in protracted situations.
  • China began hosting its first UN climate conference this week aimed at building momentum and finding areas of agreement ahead of the annual summit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Climate change is said to highly affect global conflicts. China said at the conference that rich nations must vow greater cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and warned of lost trust in talks, while rich countries accused China of undercutting progress.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a report on Friday calling for equal participation by women in post-conflict peacebuilding. He laid out a seven-point action plan aimed at changing practices among all actors and improving outcomes on the ground.

Africa

  • At least nine civilians were killed after al-Shabab fighters in Mogadishu, Somalia attacked an African Union’s peacekeeping position on Saturday and another eight were killed on Sunday. On Wednesday it was announced that over 30 people had been killed in the past three days and at least 51 wounded in this continued fighting. Uganda announced it could raise an entire 20,000 troop force for the African Union to defeat Somalia’s Islamist rebels and pacify the country in a statement released on Monday. Uganda’s President has been urging greater urgency in regional and international efforts to stabilize Somalia since the twin bomb blasts that rocked Uganda’s capital in July that were led by the al-Shabab militia. Uganda is also the site for the new UN regional peacekeeping hub for the Great-Lakes region.
  • The UN Security Council traveled to Sudan this week to discuss the scheduled referenda on self-determination. Southern Sudan will vote on whether to secede from the rest of the country on January 9th, while the central area of Abyei will vote on whether to be part of the north or south. Sudanese officials announced on Tuesday that the long-awaited timetable for the referendum has been released, but that unforeseen circumstances could still delay the vote. Voter registration is to start in mid-November, with the final voter list ready by December 31st, leaving just 8 days before the January 9th deadline for the vote. Armed men abducted a civilian peacekeeper in Darfur on Thursday.
  • Ethiopia’s best-known opposition leader was released after five years in jail for treason related to the 2005 election dispute on Wednesday. The move was seen as a placatory gesture by the newly sworn in Prime Minister, who had refused to let her out for the parliamentary elections, in which the ruling party won 99.6% of the seats.
  • Nigeria’s government admitted it was warned of the parade attack last week that killed at least 12 people by foreign agencies and did the best it could to secure the area. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) also suggested that it gave the security forces five days notice of the attacks. South African police invaded the Johannesburg home of the leader of MEND on Saturday, apparently acting on the request of Nigerian authorities who claimed he was stockpiling weapons and re-arming fighters in the Niger Delta region. No weapons were found after a 10 hour search. Nigeria’s secret service detained an aid to one of President Goodluck Jonathan’s election rivals on Monday in connection to the bomb attacks, raising concern over violence in next year’s election polls. The former MEND leader announced that he received a phone call from a “close associate” of Goodluck Jonathan urging him to tell MEND to retract its claim of the bombings, so that they could blame them on northerners who are opposing the President. The next day, the former leader was being described as the main suspect in the bombings. On Wednesday, the Northern Political Leaders Forum declared that President Jonathan should immediately resign from office or they will take take steps to impeach him because he has proved he is incapable of leading the nation justly and fairly, amid another bomb scare. On Friday, inmates at a prison in northeastern Nigeria torched a part of the building, raising fears that a radical Islamic sect, who has many members incarcerated in the jail, are attempting a comeback. The sect previously staged an uprising that resulted in the deaths of hundreds.
  • Guinea’s already postponed runoff presidential elections may be delayed even further due to technical issues such as production and supply of voters’ cards. The originally scheduled September 19th election was delayed because of election violence. On Wednesday, the government announced it will hold the delayed second round on October 24th. On Wednesday, the first place winner of the first round of elections insisted that a run off could only be possible if the “controversial” election commissioner is changed and threatened to boycott the elections if he was not.
  • Suspected al-Qaeda militants killed five Algerian soldiers and wounded another 10 in an attack on their convoy on Saturday. Around 200,000 people have died in the country since violence broke out in the early 1990s between Islamist rebels and government forces.
  • According to a leading survey, governance standards have improved significantly in Angola, Liberia and Togo over the past four years but have decline in Eritrea and Madagascar. Mauritius was revealed as Africa’s best-governed country, while Somalia was listed as the worst-governed nation.
  • The Egyptian Journalists’ Union has accused the government of cracking down on media that is critical of the authorities in advance of an upcoming November parliamentary election. Two popular talk shows were recently closed down.
  • UN peacekeepers say they have captured the rebel commander they accuse of being behind the rape of hundreds of villagers in eastern DR Congo in August on Tuesday. The UN peacekeeping force was largely criticized for failing to prevent the mass rape of over 300 people, which took place just 20 miles from their base. Recent budget cuts to the newly scaled back MONUSCO peacekeeping mission, mean that the mission lacks sufficient helicopter strength to operate effectively in the country’s unstable east. The UN announced that the crisis in the DRC is beyond their capacity. ICC appeals judges ruled on Friday that Thomas Lubanga, accused of war crimes, should not be released and ordered that his trial resume following a two month stay after the prosecutor failed to comply with the trial chamber’s orders.
  • The first of 500 additional UN peacekeeping troops arrived in Cote D’Ivoire on Thursday in advance of the October 31st election. The UN is distributing voter and identity cards across the country.
  • Recent attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has shown that the group has extended its reach to vulnerable communities in the Central African Republic. Four LRA rebels are said to have been killed in a clash on Monday with the UDFR.

Asia

  • Two suspected US missile strikes into northwest Pakistan reportedly killed at least 12 militants on Saturday and another five militants of German nationality were thought to have been killed in drone strikes on Tuesday. On Monday, gunmen attacked seven more fuel tankers in revenge for last week’s NATO incursions into the country, and on Tuesday at least 20 trucks were targeted, resulting in the deaths of at least 3 people. Two Pakistani troops were said to have been killed in the incursion. The attacks continued, with another dozen tankers attacked on Wednesday, resulting in the death of at least one man. On Thursday, two suspected suicide bombers hit a crowded Muslim shrine in Karachi, killing at least 7 people. At least four people were said to have been killed in more NATO drone attacks on Thursday, bringing the death toll from drone attacks to over 150 in the past month alone. On Friday, three drone missiles killed at least five suspected militants, and two soldiers were killed in a roadside blast in the northwest. NATO’s Secretary-General has spoken out against the continued blockage of the main NATO supply routes into Afghanistan by Pakistan, saying that the incursion was “obviously… unintended”. Meanwhile, former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf has decided to form a new political party in an effort to “introduce a new democratic political culture” to his people. An ironic choice of words from a man who led a coup in 1999 to overthrow an elected civilian government because he was fired.
  • Eight private security firms have been disbanded and hundreds of weapons confiscated in Afghanistan as the government moves towards taking full responsibility for the country’s security. Afghanistan is set to take over security from foreign troops by 2014. At least 3 Afghan civilians were killed alongside 17 insurgents in a NATO air strike targeting senior Taliban commanders in the south on Sunday. The US military later apologized for the civilian deaths. At least eight people were killed after two explosions rocked Kandahar on Monday. On Tuesday, an Afghan soldier fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a French and Afghan outpost, but missed the target. The soldier has fled and has yet to be caught. Following the barrage of complaints of election fraud, a provincial head of the Independent Election Commission was arrested on Monday. The officer was accused by candidates and observers of taking bribes in exchange for important election posts. Peace talks were supposedly underway between Taliban reps, Afghan officials and a Pakistani government delegation in Kabul this week aimed at setting the ground for negotiations on ending the Afghan war, although participants denied that the talks involved Afghan and Pakistani officials meeting with the Taliban, calling them instead “brainstorming sessions”.  NATO claimed that a Taliban leader and seven of his associates were killed in an air strike and ground operation on Wednesday, and that the Taliban “shadow governor” of a northwestern province was killed in a separate operation on the same day. On Thursday, a German soldier was killed in a suicide attack in a northern province. On Friday, a British soldier was killed in an explosion in the southern Helmand province and at least 15 people were killed in a separate bomb blast in a mosque in a northern town. Also on Friday, two other ISAF soldiers were killed in two separate incidents in the south; Taliban insurgents burned eight NATO supply trucks and killed six Afghan guards; one senior Taliban commander was captured with four others and one insurgent was killed in Kabul; and Afghan forces killed four suspects in a firefight in Kabul.
  • Police in Bangladesh arrested three militants from the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in their continuing crackdown on militancy. Police claim that LeT followers have regrouped and are trying to launch fresh attacks.
  • Fiji’s former prime minister Chaudry was arrested on Friday for allegedly violating public emergency regulations that outlawed holding public meetings. Chaudry is thought to be a real contender to overthrow the current military government in the next election. The current President, who seized power in a 2006 coup, imposed the ban and scrapped plans for an election after saying conditions were not right.
  • Three Thai soldiers were killed after an ambush by suspected Muslim separatists in south Thailand on Sunday. The soldiers were said to be patrolling a road near the Malaysian border when gunmen opened fired from a nearby hill. On Tuesday, at least three people were killed after an explosion hit a residential building north of Bangkok. On Wednesday at least four people were said to have been killed in drive-by shootings by separatist rebels in the south.
  • Government troops continued their operations against militants in eastern Tajikistan resulting in the death of four soldiers, a police officer and two insurgents. Meanwhile, official press centres in the area are virtually closed and communication lines remain blocked making it extremely difficult for media representatives to get any information about the ongoing events. In retaliation, Tajik troops killed at least 5 rebels between Monday and Tuesday. On Thursday, a land mine blast killed six soldiers in an operation on the Afghan borders.
  • Police in Sri Lanka have been ordered to arrest activists who put up posters that criticize the President’s backing of a prison term for a former army chief who ran against him. The former army chief, once a national hero, was ordered to serve 30 months for corruption charges. Police have claimed that the order was intended to prevent posters from being placed in prohibited areas.
  • Authorities in Indian Kashmir began scaling down security as part of its efforts to defuse tensions. More than 100 people have been killed since June. Kashmiris remain angry about the widely-hated security law that gives the military sweeping powers to search, arrest or shoot protesters that are still in place.
  • Disturbing pictures of Nepali police carting off ballot boxes in Nepal, following the primary election held among some 80,000 Tibetan exiles to pick candidates for polls for a new parliament-in-exile and prime minister next year, have raised concern of continued repression of political activities by the Chinese. China objects to the election for a government in exile which it does not recognize.
  • The offices of the Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) party in Kyrgyzstan were attacked on Wednesday after some 100 members of two local movements forced their way into the offices. The two movements had staged a protest in Bishkek’s central square early that day. Kyrgyzstan is scheduled to hold an election on Sunday amid fears of increasing violence.
  • South Korea’s defense minister announced that his military would initiate a new and expanded propaganda war if provoked by the North and has reinstalled 11 sets of psychological warfare loudspeakers along the border. The North has warned that if undertaken, it will fire across the border and destroy the loudspeakers. The South also suggested that the North’s nuclear programme has reached an “alarming level” and poses a serious threat to the South. North Korea confirmed on Friday that Kim Jong-Un, Kim Jong-Il’s youngest son will succeed him as the next leader.
  • The announcement of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner angered the Chinese authorities, who see Liu Xiaobo as a criminal. Liu Xiaobo is currently serving time in a Chinese prison for “incitement to subvert state power” and co-authoring Charter 08, a call for democratic reforms in the country. The Chinese warned that awarding Liu the prize would damage Sino-Norwegian relations. Liu is a long-time activist for human rights and democracy.

Central and North America

  • An armed gang kidnapped at least 20 tourists in Mexico on Saturday near the resort city of Acapulco, in what is thought to be the latest bout of drug related violence in the country. On Saturday, assailants tossed a live grenade into a square in Monterrey, injuring 12 people.
  • The controversial and notorious security contractor Blackwater (now renamed Xe) is said to have received a new contract in the $10 billion range. Two former Blackwater employees are currently on trial in the US for murdering civilians in Afghanistan, and in 2008, give Blackwater guards were charged with the deaths of 17 Iraqis civilians, which were ultimately dismissed. The group also has been charged with weapons export violations. The first civilian trial of a Guantanamo Bay detainee was delayed on Wednesday after the judge told prosecutors they could not call their star witness, because they had learned of his identity only through harsh interrogation at a secret CIA camp.
  • The controversial and much protested “Ground Zero mosque” scheduled to be built in New York City turns out not to be a mosque after all, but a multi-faith community centre that includes a gym, playground and childcare area. It’s Muslim prayer area does not even satisfy the stringent requirements for a sanctified mosque.
  • The US State Department issued a travel alert to Europe on Sunday following the threats of a possible terrorist plot in several European countries.
  • The US midterm elections are to become the most expensive in history, and nearly five times as much as the last Presidential election, at an estimated $5 billion. This is the first year in which all donation limits were removed, allowing corporations to get involved.
  • A Canadian army captain convicted of shooting an unarmed Taliban fighter in Afghanistan after a battle avoided a jail term this week and instead will be kicked out of the Canadian forces. The killing has been dubbed a “mercy killing”, citing that the Captain only shot the gravely wounded enemy to end his suffering as he believed he was not going to receive treatment from Afghan forces. Mercy killing is not a defense in Canada. The Supreme Court in Canada ruled on Friday that suspects in serious crimes do not have a right to consult their lawyer during a police interrogation, essentially reversing the Canadian Charter’s right to counsel in specific cases.

South America

  • Ecuador’s President Correa vowed to punish and purge his enemies after last week’s police rebellion. He suggested the axe would also swing towards opposition politicians whom he accused of attempting a coup. Days later, the government agreed to raise the pay of its police and armed forces by $35 million annually, calling the announcement a “coincidence”. Debate has been ensuing over whether the police tried to kill the President during the riots or were simply protesting against pay cuts and conditions. On Wednesday it was announced that at least 46 police officers were detained for their alleged participation in the revolt.
  • Former guerrilla Dilma Rousseff won the first-round Presidential election in the Brazilian  polling with 46.7% of the votes, and will do battle in the October 31st runoff against Social Democrat Jose Serra who won just under 33% of the votes. Green party activist Marina Silva gained far higher than pollsters had expected with 19% of the vote.
  • Bolivian President Evo Morales is said to have kneed a political opponent in the groin during a friendly football match of political rivals. A bodyguard of Morales tried to arrest the kneed opponent after the match, but he was quickly ordered to be released by the opposition leader.

Middle East

  • The Palestinian leadership confirmed that it will not return to direct peace negotiations with the Israelis without an extension to the now-expired freeze on settlement construction, a move endorsed by the Arab League. The Israelis have begun deflecting blame for the breakdown of talks, with expectations of the Palestinians “to show some flexibility”. The Syrian President said that the peace talks were only aimed at “bolstering domestic support” for Obama during a meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Two Israeli soldiers were convicted on Sunday of using a nine-year old Palestinian boy as a human shield during the three-week Gaza war in 2008-9. The soldiers will face prison sentences of up to three years. Israeli paramilitary border police killed a Palestinian on Sunday after he entered East Jerusalem from the occupied West Bank without a permit. On Monday, arsonists, suspected to be radical Israeli settlers, damaged part of a Palestinian mosque in the West Bank, scrawling the word “revenge” in Hebrew on a wall. On Monday, a video of an Israeli soldier dancing around a blindfolded, bound prisoner provoked more anger from Palestinians. The Israeli army condemned the video, calling it an “isolated incident” and opened a criminal investigation on the matter on Tuesday. Many see this as the continued degrading treatment and mentality of the occupier in the country, remembering the degrading photos from an Israeli guard that surfaced on facebook in early August, among others. On Wednesday, Israeli PM Netanyahu announced he would push for legislation requiring all those who want to become Israeli citizens to pledge a loyalty oath to the “nation-state of the Jewish people” in an attempt to win back angry settlers. On Thursday, the Israeli military said it had carried out an air strike in the Gaza Strip against Palestinian militants planning an attack in Israel. Witnesses say the strike targeted a car traveling in the central Gaza Strip. The ICC is being urged to prosecute members of the Israeli defense force for its role in the Gaza flotilla killings, however, Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute, meaning it can only be possible after a reference from the UN Security Council.  On Friday Israel signed a deal with the US to buy $2.75 billion worth of radar-evading Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets. The F-35 is said to be the most-advanced fighter in the world.
  • Hamas announced on Wednesday that it would retaliate against the Western-backed Palestinian Authority if it continued to take actions against their members in the West Bank. The PA has recently been cracking down on Islamist activists, with Hamas claiming that nearly 750 of its activists have been arrested since August 31st. On Friday, Israeli forces killed two senior Hamas militants in the West Bank.
  • Iran has detained several western “spies” it claims were behind the recent cyber attacks on its nuclear programme. The number of jailed students in Iran has been reported to be the highest in decades with over 73 students currently being held in jails over their activism. Student opposition to the government report that the government has been using a new militarization strategy on campuses to stop opposition political activism there. On Thursday, at least four police officers and one bystander were killed after a gunman opened fire on a police patrol in Iran’s Kurdish region. On Friday, Iranian security forces killed two people suspected in Thursday’s attack.
  • Britain’s deputy ambassador to Yemen and her colleagues survived a rocket propelled grenade attack on their car on Wednesday. It is thought that the attack was carried out by al-Qaeda.
  • Tensions have increased in Lebanon and Syria after Syria issued arrest warrants for more than 30 people accused of misleading the investigation into the assassination of Lebanon’s former PM in 2005. Syria’s wanted list includes senior Lebanese judges, politicians and journalists who are said to have been “false witnesses”.
  • Iraq postponed its first full census in more than two decades until December on Sunday to avoid triggering open conflict between Arabs and Kurds locked in a fight over oil-rich land in the north. The survey is crucial because it will determine who has the greatest percentage of the total population in the region, and can therefore claim it as its own under the constitution. Two senior security officials in the north were arrested in connection with a plot to bomb the provincial government building on Sunday. Also on Sunday, gunmen using silenced weapons– increasingly the weapon of choice of insurgents–opened fire on a police checkpoint, killing one policeman in Falluja. At least one person was killed in Baghdad in a roadside bombing that targeted a deputy minister in the Iraqi government on Monday, at least one other person was killed in a separate bombing within the city and at least three people were killed in a bomb attack in Jalawlah. On Wednesday a civilian was wounded in a rocket attack in Kirkuk, while a roadside bomb targeting police patrol in a northern city wounded two policemen. On Friday, armed men in two boats wounded seven security guards when they attacked a prison in Basra, causing a riot in the prison. Also on Friday, a policeman was killed by a sniper in Baghdad.

Europe

  • Russian forces killed as many as five people as they besieged two housing blocks in Daghestan on Saturday in a counterterrorism raid.
  • The leader of Russia’s opposition Yabloko party was detained along with several environmental activists after protesting in the North Caucasus. The protesters were later released by police without charge. Russia announced on Thursday that it had successfully tested a long-range missile seen as a mainstay of its nuclear forces, after a series of failures which had raised doubts about its viability.
  • Roma and other migrants leaving France will soon be required to be fingerprinted, in an attempt to discourage them from coming back to France after being expelled. The fingerprinting is scheduled to begin October 15th, and will include anyone over the age of 12. Nearly a million protesters demonstrated on Saturday, pressing President Sarkozy to drop plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. This was the third day of protests in a month. A French blogger who filmed himself burning a Qur’an and urinating on it to put out the flames will face charges of incitement to religious hatred on Tuesday. He faces up to five years in jail. France’s highest court has approved the law banning full-facial veils in public. In six months time, women wearing the veil will face arrest and a $195 fine or “citizenship lessons”, while a man who forces a woman to wear the veil will be fined $42,000 and serve up to a year in prison.
  • The far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders has gone on trial this week on charges of inciting anti-Muslim hatred. Wilders released a short film in 2008 that denounced the Qur’an as a fascist book, urging Muslims to tear out “hate-filled” passages. Wilders is appealing to have the case dismissed invoking freedom of speech.
  • Bosnians went to the polls on Sunday to vote in general elections. Voters complained that the elections were dominated by issues of nationalism and ethnicity instead of the economy and necessary political reforms. Preliminary election results indicated that the current tripartite government is likely to remain deadlocked over Bosnia’s future, with two of the leaders advocating unity and a third pushing for the country’s breakup. The Bosnian state prosecutor indicted four Bosnian Serb police officers on Thursday on charges of mass killing, detention and torture during the 1992-5 war.
  • Teachers in an eastern Ukrainian city complained this week that the ruling Party of Regions is putting pressure on them, and that it is no longer possible for any to become a school director and not be a member. Many parents of students complain that the Party has started using secondary schools for its election campaign with pictures of the local Party candidate on display.
  • England and France may soon find themselves cooperating defensively on everything from nuclear warheads to transport aircraft, helicopters and aircraft carriers. The two countries are set to hold a summit in three weeks to discuss collaboration.