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.
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