This week in conflict… December 18th-24th, 2010

World

  • The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty between the US and Russia appears it will be approved and ratified in both countries shortly. The treaty is said to enhance leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them.

Africa

  • Disputes between senior members of the Somali insurgent group al-Shabaab escalated as the leaders condemned each other publicly on Saturday. On Thursday, the group announced they would increase attacks on Uganda and Burundi.
  • Fresh fighting between the Sudanese army and Darfur rebels that are moving towards overcrowded camps and settlements have caused as many as 12,000 people to flee. On Thursday, Darfur rebels clashed with government troops, only days after announcing they had resumed ceasefire negotiations. Forces loyal to a renegade south Sudanese general clashed with government troops, killing at least 14 people on Tuesday.
  • Zimbabwe’s President, Robert Mugabe, threatened to act against companies from Western countries that have imposed sanctions on his party over suspected elections fraud and human rights abuses with retaliation. Companies such as Anglo American, Rio Tinto, Barclays Plc, Standard Chartered and Nestle are some of the companies in the country.
  • The DR Congo has passed a law seeking to reform its underfunded and corrupt police force. The DRC has appealed to the international community for donations to implement standardized training across the force. The funding appears necessary for the army as well, as a new report implicated army officers of forcibly recruiting hundreds of youths and boys in an effort to bolster their ranks.
  • An unknown armed group attacked the Nigerian embassy in Cote D’Ivoire on Tuesday. Sanctions and assets freezing have begun against Laurent Gbagbo and ECOWAS threatened to use force against the country if incumbent Gbagbo does not surrender power to his rival. Gbagbo has invited an international committed to re-examine the results of the disputed election, a move his opposition rejected, calling it a political “game”. Opposition leader Ouattara asked the Hague to investigate claims of serious human rights violations happening throughout the country.
  • One civilian was killed and several other injured after Tunisian police opened fire on protesters on Friday. The clashes broke out a week ago after a man committed suicide in a protests about unemployment. Tunisian government did its best to downplay the clashes and rioting during the week by claiming its opponents were blowing the disturbances out of proportion.
  • Lawmakers in Kenya passed a motion on Wednesday urging the country to withdraw from the Rome Statute that established the International Criminal Court in an effort to block trials at the Hague of post-election violence suspects. The PM said that he was opposed to the idea, reminding them even if they pull out, the process takes one year and does not affect cases that are ongoing. On Monday, a Uganda-bound bus exploded injuring dozens of people. Somali nationals now say they are fearing increased harassment by the police, as the explosion was linked to Somalian group al-Shabaab.
  • Four bombs went off in Jos, Nigeria on Friday, killing some twenty people and injuring at least seven. Leaders confirmed rumours of the plan to disrupt Christmas celebrations in the state.

Asia

  • On Friday, an ISAF service member was killed by suspected insurgents in Kabul, Afghanistan. A suicide bomb killed at least two civilians and wounded some 11 more on Saturday in the outskirts of Kandahar. At least 10 members of the Afghan army were killed on Sunday after Taliban militants launched two coordinated attacks. On Tuesday, an ISAF service member was killed in a roadside bomb in Kabul. On Wednesday, a ISAF service member was killed by a roadside bomb in Kabul.  On Thursday, a suicide bomber blew himself up near a police station in the north, killing one officer and wounding three civilians; an air strike led by NATO killed a Taliban leader and two suspected insurgents in Kabul. Security forces killed a suspected al Qaeda militant and arrested another one on Friday after one of them opened fire at a checkpoint.  Hamid Karzai announced on Friday that his government would be willing to join in talks with the Taliban facilitated by Turkey, after “dignitaries” close to the Taliban suggested Turkey could become a viable venue for talks. Foreign troops were accused of raiding a compound belonging to a private security firm in Kabul and killing two Afghan guards and seizing weapons on Friday. Civilian casualties rose by 20% this year compared to 2009.
  • A series of CIA drone missile attacks killed at least 54 people in Pakistan on Friday, making them among the bloodiest so far this year. The CIA has recalled its top officer from the country after his cover was blown by the man who has threatened to sue the CIA over the death of his son and brother in a US missile strike. On Friday, insurgents attacked five security checkpoints in the northwest, killing 11 soldiers and some 24 militants.
  • South Korean troops prepared to launch a live-fire drill on a small island close to the North, despite warnings of by the North fierce retaliation if the military exercises are carried out between December 18-21. The South wrapped up its live firing drills on Monday without incident. It is suspected North Korea will probably carry out a third atomic test next year in an effort to improve its nuclear weapons production capability, keep tensions high and promote Kim Jong-un’s status, after nuclear threats were made in the current standoff.
  • Thailand lifted the state of emergency on Wednesday after eight months following the Red Shirt protests. The government will still retain broad powers to detain suspects and impose order. On Thursday, two paramilitary rangers in the deep south were shot dead by suspected separatist insurgents during a patrol.
  • Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to hold joint military exercises this week that will be staged in April 2011.

Americas

  • The US Senate voted to repeal the ban on gay people serving openly in the military on Saturday. The bill passed by a vote of 65-31. The US Senate also voted this week (by 67 to 28) to limit the debate on ratification of the US-Russian treaty to reduce nuclear arsenals. It was reported this week that the US Treasury Department approved nearly 10,000 exceptions for American companies to do business with Iran over the past decade, despite trade embargoes.
  • Three laws were approved by the Venezuelan legislature that pose serious threats to free speech and the work of civil society. The laws include sweeping restrictions on internet traffic, reinforcing existing restrictions on radio and tv content, allowing the government to terminate broadcasting licenses on arbitrary grounds, and prohibit human rights groups from receiving foreign funding.
  • Armed men kidnapped about 50 Central American migrants in southern Mexico after holding up a cargo train they were riding on. El Salvador’s foreign ministry condemned the acts and demanded investigation, but Mexico’s interior ministry said it found no evidence backing the claims of disappearance.
  • Guatemala declared a “state of siege” in a remote state as it sent in troops and police to fight Mexican drug gangs that are running rampant. The siege will result in a limiting of the freedom of movement and assembly in the region for a month.
  • Former Argentine dictator Jorge Videla was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday for the torture and murder of 31 prisoners in the months following his military coup. Videla led the military coup that installed his dictatorship that ran from 1976-83.
  • The Organization of American States (OAS) has requested Haiti postpone announcing the election results until an international panel of experts can review the vote. The first poll on November 28th resulted in mass violence and allegations of fraud and irregularities and the runoff round between the top three candidates is scheduled for January.

Middle East

  • Some 38 people were arrested in Medina, Saudi Arabia  after violent clashes broke out near Islam’s oldest mosque. Several people are reported injured in the clash between Sunnis and Shi’ites. 
  • At least four suspected Palestinian militants were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Central Gaza on Saturday. On Tuesday, a rocket out of Gaza had a near miss as it exploded near an Israeli kindergarten without killing or severely injuring anyone. Israeli officials are claiming an increase in the rate of rocket fire out of Gaza in the past three months. The Israelis retaliated by conducting a series of 14 air strikes into the Gaza Strip. Palestinians have prepared a draft resolution condemning Israel’s West Bank settlement activity for the UN Security Council. The resolution is expected to be put to a Security Council vote in February after the US ends it presidency of the council. The Israeli army announced it will deploy tanks with a miniature missile defense system near the Gaza border in response to the alleged use of Russian-made Kornet tank-piercing missiles used by Palestinian fighters.
  • Iraq’s parliament has lifted the ban on three Sunni Muslim politicians who have been kept from running for national elections for their suspected ties to Saddam Hussein’s government. Nouri al-Maliki was sworn in on Tuesday for his second term as PM and named 29 ministries. On Sunday, Iraqi army forces found the bodies of 11 badly decomposed bodies in a mass grave in Mosul; three policemen and three Iraqi soldiers were wounded by two roadside bombs in western Baghdad; gunmen stabbed a policeman to death outside his southern Baghdad home; a sticky bomb wounded a driver in northeastern Baghdad; gunmen killed a security guard in Abu Ghraib; and four people were wounded by a roadside bomb in central Baghdad. On Monday, a roadside bomb wounded three police officers and two civilians in eastern Baghdad; a roadside bomb wounded four policemen and one civilian in southeastern Baghdad and another roadside bomb wounded three civilians in central Baghdad. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded three people in central Baghdad and armed men opened fire on an employee of the Shi’ite Endowment, seriously wounding him in northwestern Baghdad. On Wednesday, a bomb attached to the car of a senior official at the Ministry of Health wounded him in Baghdad; and gunmen killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded three others in an attack on a military checkpoint in central Baghdad. On Thursday, a roadside bomb exploded near an Iraqi army vehicle, wounding two soldiers in Shirqat; gunmen killed a Kurdish civilian in Kirkuk; gunmen killed a surgeon in Baghdad; gunmen shot a prominent leader in Abu Ghraib; a roadside bomb targeting an army patrol wounded an Iraqi soldier in Kirkuk; armed men opened fire on the car of an Iraqi army brigadier, killing him and wounding his daughter in Baghdad; armed men wounded a policemen in western Baghdad; two roadside bombs exploded near a fuel station, wounding a policemen in northeastern Baghdad; and armed men shot and killed a policeman in Mosul. On Friday, suspected al Qaeda militants bombed the home of a family, killing five people and wounding four others in Haswa; and a roadside bomb struck a police patrol, killing two policemen in Samarra.

Europe

  • A minister in the former Greek conservative government was attacked in broad daylight during the country’s biggest ever anti-austerity demonstrations. The situation prompted the Greek PM to call an emergency session of his MPs on Saturday. 
  • The killing and beating of immigrants in Russia has increased since the shooting of a football fan during a brawl on December 6th. Racist and anti-Semitic graffiti is said to have proliferated and made the atmosphere tense. Police in Moscow detained dozens of people in order to prevent a race riot. Some reports say as many as 500 people were detained.
  • Belarusians went to the poll this week on December 20th, amid allegations of fraud that is expected to extend current President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s hold on power. By Sunday, at least 600 opposition activists and 7 or the 11 presidential candidates were arrested following the announcement of Lukashenka’s win by the Electoral Commission after erupting into violent protests. On Thursday it was announced that the police had detained five of the presidential candidates on suspicion of organizing protests.
  • An anarchist group claimed responsibility for parcel bombs that injured two people at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome, Italy on Thursday. The country remains on alert for new attacks.


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