This week in conflict… December 25th-31st, 2010

Hello all! Hope everything is well with you!

Just a reminder that if you have any information about conflicts (or efforts towards peace) happening each week, I would love your feedback and inclusions. As the weekly conflict update is done on a volunteer basis, I cannot independently verify all reported stories. Therefore my scope is limited to what is found in outside news sources. If you disagree with any of the information provided, or have any stories to submit, please use the comments below or email me to let me know! I will happily retract inaccurate information or provide alternative reports when necessary.

Wishing a happy and peaceful New Year to all my readers!

Peace!
Rebecca


World

  • Reporters Without Borders put out their annual report, noting that fewer reporters were being killed in war zones and more were being targeted by criminals or traffickers. The death toll was down 25% from 2009’s 76 journalists killed; while kidnappings are up to 51 from 33 in 2009. Pakistan was the deadliest country with 11 killed; seven in Mexico, seven in Iraq and four in the Philippines.
  • Debate over the governing of the internet flared this week as officials from 18 countries held an impromptu meeting at the UN to staff a working group on the future of Internet Governance Forum. The UN hopes to create a “cyber peace treaty” to prevent the Internet from becoming another domain for countries to wage war against each other, while techies fear that the UN could become a forum where authoritarian governments work to stop the free flow of information.
  • The Global Food Security yearly review highlighted that the number of the world’s hungry decreased in 2010 from approximately 1.023 billion to 925 million. They discussed the humanitarian crises in Haiti, Pakistan and the Sahel which put great stress on global food security.

Africa

  • Clashes between armed Christian and Muslim groups in Jos, Nigeria broke out on Christmas, following  Christmas Eve bombings that killed more than 80 people. On Monday, the Special Task Force charged with maintaining security in Jos reportedly intercepted a group trying to plant another explosive. Some thirty suspected Boko Haram armed members are said to have attacked two churches in Maiduguri, killing at least six people on Friday. On Monday, youths from two communities clashed leading to the deaths of 18 people in what is believed to have been ignited over a premiership football match. On Tuesday, Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the series of Christmas Eve bombings, though experts are skeptical of the claim, as the group has never attacked outside the country’s north and three more people were killed in a fresh attack in Borno State after armed assailants fired shots into a teaching hospital. On Wednesday, two bombs exploded during a political rally in Bayelsa State, resulting in several injuries. On Thursday, seven people were killed after suspected Boko Haram militants attacked a police vehicle in northeastern Nigeria.
  • Opposition president Ouattara called on his supporters to participate in a general strike on Monday, that was largely a failure; while some 20 supporters took over the Ivorian embassy in Paris for 6 hours. Gbagbo supporters torched a UN convoy car and injured one soldier, chanting “ONUCI out!” on Tuesday. Several African leaders threatened Gbagbo with military action should he not leave peacefully, a move that would surely only result in greater bloodshed. On Thursday, ECOWAS suspended the option of using military force to overthrow Gbagbo, and instead declared the option of using dialogue. The UN vowed to protect Ouattara and his government, as Ouattara’s newly appointed UN ambassador described the country as “on the brink of genocide”.
  • On Sunday, delegations from the Sudanese government met with the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) to discuss areas of difference in a draft agreement for a ceasefire to be signed before peace talks. The Sudanese government claimed to have killed 40 rebels in clashes in northern Darfur on Friday. The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) are preparing to rule a potential new state in Southern Sudan and are apparently having second thoughts about the whole referendum. On Wednesday, a high-profile Muslim cleric called on Muslims in southern Sudan not to vote for secession in the January 9th polls. On Thursday, the government announced that they had withdrawn from peace talks with Darfur rebels, insisting however, that they are still committed to the peace process. JEM responded by calling the announcement “a declaration of war”.
  • A senior al-Shabaab rebel leader in Somalia threatened on Monday to attack the US, calling on Obama to join Islam. The al-Shabaab rebels have allegedly merged with Hizbul Islam, parties that previously battled. The merged parties are now said to control most of central and southern Somalia, and much of the capital, leaving the UN backed government only a few blocks of control. The groups announced they would increase attacks on Uganda and Burundi. On Tuesday, fighting between Somali government forces backed by AU peacekeepers and al-Shabaab fighters resulted in three dead and seven injured in Mogadishu. Later reports cited as many as 17 dead during Tuesday’s clashes. On Thursday, a Somali soldier and a civilian were said to have been injured in clashes between the transitional government and Ethiopian military troops in central Somalia.
  • Six Russians were charged and sentenced to jail in Somaliland for illegally entering the country and landing a plane carrying illegal military supplies, including military uniforms and other equipment destined for Puntland. The Russians are said to have an option to buy out their prison terms.
  • Police in Tunisia used force to disperse a rare demonstration calling for jobs in the capital. Protests have spread to several cities over the past week and resulted in two public suicide attempts, one successful.
  • The Senegalese army said that seven soldiers were killed in a firefight with suspected separatists on Tuesday. Officials say that the MFDC (Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance) is much more heavily armed that previously thought, with rocket launchers, mortars and machine guns.
  • At least 64 billion CFA (approx. $128 million) was stolen from Niger’s state coffers under the government of former President Mamadou Tandja it was announced this week by the junta launched to investigate potential graft. Tandja was overthrown by a military coup last February.
  • The UN is concerned about Congolese still being expelled from neighbouring Angola back into the DRC, many reporting mistreatment including sexual violence and torture. Over the last several months there have been reports of thousands arriving after facing severe attacks on their human rights and dignity.
  • Protests in Algeria over inadequate housing led to at least 53 injuries and dozens of arrests on Wednesday. Protesters are said to have burnt tires, thrown stones and Molotov cocktails at police, who responded with tear gas and arrests.
  • Political rallies were banned in the Comoros Islands on Thursday, following a disputed presidential vote that saw the ruling party candidate handed victory. The opposition has claimed that the elections were marred with irregularities.

Asia

  • India is on a state of alert following warnings that Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group, is planning an attack over the New Year weekend. Police have been searching since Friday for four men believed to have entered Mumbai to commit terrorist attacks.
  • At least 43 people were killed in a suicide bombing in northwestern Pakistan on Sunday near an aid distribution centre where a large crowd was waiting for World Food Program food rations. The program was shut down for part of the week because of the attack. On Monday, five missiles fired by suspected US drone aircraft killed at least four suspected militants (some reports say as many as 15), and authorities found the body of a tribesman killed by suspected militants with a not lying near the body that said “anyone found to be spying for America will meet the same fate”. On Tuesday, two suspected US missile strikes killed another at least eight people in the northern Waziristan region, including civilians who went to collect the bodies of dead in between strikes. On Thursday, gunmen attacked two NATO fuel trucks in Quetta, killing a driver; and military helicopter gunships attacked Taliban positions in the northwestern region, killing 13 suspected militants and destroying one hideout.
  • A bomb in a church during a Christmas mass in the southern Philippines on Saturday wounded 11 people. An al-Qaeda linked group was blamed for the attacks. On Sunday, a Maoist group threatened more attacks, despite looming peace talks with the government.
  • Four reporters in Palu, Indonesia were injured after members of an ethnic youth group allegedly attacked them over an “unfavorable report” against their leader. A new report indicated that law enforcement officials from police to prison wardens routinely torture suspects and convicts to extract confessions and obtain information. Torture is said to be so commonplace that they are considered the norm.
  • A Chinese journalist died from injuries sustained in a gang beating that is suspected to be linked to his investigative work. The reporter had linked a demolition of a dairy company’s building to the building of government officials’ homes. A Chinese man was crushed to death by a truck, in what many are saying was an attempt to silence his six-year campaign to protect his fellow villagers in a land dispute.
  • On Saturday, Afghan and coalition forces killed two suspected insurgents in two separate night raids in Kabul, and two men in another raid after receiving a “credible threat” to attack the US embassy in the capital. Afghan authorities later accused foreign troops of violating a security deal by conducting the raid, which they say was done without their knowledge and approval. On Sunday, four Turkish engineers were kidnapped in Kabul by unidentified gunmen. On Monday, a car bomb exploded near a police compound in Kandahar, Afghanistan killing a man and wounding some 26 others and an ISAF service member was killed by a roadside bomb in Kabul. On Tuesday, an ISAF service member was killed by a roadside bomb in Kabul. On Wednesday, three suicide bombers stormed a police headquarters killing the commander in Mosul. On Thursday, more than 10 civilians were killed in a roadside bombing in Helmand province; and an Afghan civilian and one suspected insurgent were killed in a clash between militants and ISAF troops. Experts warn that the inauguration of a new Parliament in a few week’s time threatens to worsen ethnic tensions and instability and drive part of President Karzai’s political base into the arms of insurgency.
  • A car bomb exploded in southern Thailand on Wednesday, injuring at least seven people, a day after the government moved to end emergency rule in another part of the restive region. In a separate incident, suspected militants detonated a roadside bomb, trying to ambush patrolling security officials, with no injuries.
  • South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called for a renewal of international negotiations to shut down North Korea’s nuclear weapons program on Wednesday. The talks broke down in April 2009 after the North ejected inspectors and withdrew from the process. A report has stated that the 1.1 million strong North Korean military has bolstered its special-forces units during the past two years, deployed a new battle tank, and expanded its tank brigades.
  • The UN is winding down its Nepalese mission despite concerns over issues that could lead to fresh conflict. 19,000 Maoist army personnel are still remaining to be integrated in the country which has been working towards a peace process with the UN since 2007.

Americas

  • Mexico’s Los Zetas drug gang has threatened to launch a war in northern Guatemala, following last week’s “state of siege”. The group took over several radio stations by force to broadcast, threatening violence unless the Guatemalan president fulfills unspecified promises. Authorities say they have seized hundreds of weapons and made several arrests.
  • The only remaining police dispatcher in Mexico’s drug-plagued northern town of Guadalupe has disappeared, almost a week after a dozen gunmen burned down her house and torched two cars outside. The 12 other cops she worked with were either killed or quit over the past year. Armed men in southern Mexico are said to have kidnapped nine migrants just a week after 50 disappeared. On Monday, Acapulco officials announced they had found the decapitated bodies of two men in front of a bar where 11 men were abducted early in the month.
  • Students at the state-run University of Puerto Rico clashed violently with police, resulting in several arrests. The students oppose the imposition of a annual tuition fee and are citing increased government repression and concentration of power in the governing party.
  • Two former Presidents in the Americas have died this week. Carlos Andres Perez from Venezuela has died of a heart attack in Florida and Salvador Jorge Blanco of the Dominican died after suffering a cerebral hematoma. Both leaders faced corruption scandals during their time in office.
  • At least 45 people have been killed across Haiti by lynching, being set on fire or attacked with machetes. The spread of cholera has led to accusations of the use of “black magic” and retaliation for this suspected usage.
  • Brutal Colombian drug lord Pedro “the Knife” Oliverio Guerrero was killed in clashes with security forces on Wednesday. Guerrero had a $2.5 million bounty on his head.

Middle East

  • Nine French activists were arrested in the West Bank on Sunday for demonstrating in a pro-Palestinian protest and Israeli forces, backed by tanks and helicopter gunships killed two Islamic Jihad members allegedly trying to place a bomb along the Gaza border. Following their deaths, Israeli and Palestinian armed groups traded threats. Representatives for the Palestinians will ask the UN Security Council to condemn Israeli settlement construction, it was announced on Wednesday, in an effort to send a tough message to Israeli PM Netanyahu. Netanyahu ruled out the possibility of any apology to Turkey over the deaths of nine Turkish activists during the May Israeli flotilla raid. Israeli troops have shot dead a suspected Palestinian militant in the Gaza Strip who approached the border fence on Tuesday. At least one other person was wounded in the incident. An independent West Bank journalist is questioning the extent of freedom of speech permitted by the Palestinian Authority after being detained for five days for broadcasting about frictions within the ruling Fatah party. On Thursday, Israel’s former president Moshe Katsav was found guilty of rape and sexual harassment that took place during his terms as president and minister of tourism.
  • Iran announced it hanged an Iranian convicted of spying for Israel on Tuesday. The man was accused of providing Israel with classified information on military capabilities, including details about military manoeuvres, operational jet fighters, military flights, air crashes and missiles. Three more senior Iranian clerics have come out with criticisms of government policy, calling the current regime neither a republic nor Islamic and other violations of the Koran and Shari’a law.
  • On Saturday, a roadside bomb exploded in eastern Mosul, Iraq, wounding an army officer, a soldier and a civilian; a gunman attacked an Iraqi army checkpoint and was killed by soldiers; Iraqi soldiers mistakenly killed a civilian at a security checkpoint in Mosul; a roadside bomb went off near an Iraqi patrol in Mosul, wounding a soldier and two civilians; a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi patrol in northwestern Baghdad wounded three policemen and a civilian; and gunmen opened fire on a police checkpoint wounding two policemen in southwestern Baghdad. On Sunday, gunmen opened fire on the vehicle of the head of the Interior Ministry’s Vehicles Department, wounding him and his driver in western Baghdad. On Monday, twin suicide bombings killed 17 people and wounded some 47 others at a local government compound in Ramadi; a roadside bomb killed a woman and her husband north of Baghdad; and gunmen wounded two police officers when they opened fire on the Interior Ministry’s anti-crime department in Baghdad. On Tuesday, a US soldier was wounded when a roadside bomb hit a US military convoy in northwestern Baghdad; a sticky bomb killed an off-duty Iraqi soldier in Mosul; a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol wounded a soldier in western Mosul; gunmen shot a Baghdad municipality employee, wounding him; a bomb attached to a car wounded a foreign ministry employee in Baghdad; gunmen killed an Iraqi parliament employee in central Baghdad; and gunmen attacked an Iraqi army checkpoint, killing one soldier and wounding another in Tal Afar. On Thursday, a roadside bomb is said to have killed two people and wounded three others in eastern Baghdad; a roadside bomb is said to have wounded three people in central Baghdad; two roadside bombs exploded without casualties in southern Baghdad; Iraqi security forces arrested an al-Qaeda member who they say confessed to orchestrating a suicide attack from Wednesday on a police compound in Mosul; two Katyusha rockets landed in and around an amusement park in west-central Baghdad, wounding three people; and gunmen killed a man in northern Kirkuk.
  • The Yemeni government announced that it has released hundreds of Houthi rebel prisoners as part of a ceasefire. In return, the rebels are expected to surrender their weaponry seized during the armed conflict.

Europe

  • Danish and Swedish police arrested five men suspected of planning a gun attack on the Danish newspaper which printed the controversial prophet Mohammed (pboh) cartoons on Wednesday. The men had allegedly planned to storm the offices, killing as many as possible.
  • A rally against racism and ethnic violence took place in Moscow, Russia on Sunday, as protesters condemned attacks on ethnic minorities and the recent ultra-nationalist riot in the city. Two dissident journalists living in Germany are suspected to have been poisoned in a politically motivated crime committed by Moscow. German authorities have launched an investigation. France’s Sarkozy has said that Russia has agreed to purchase at least two French Mistral-class warships, that can carry up to 16 helicopters and scores of armored vehicles. The purchase has severely angered neighbouring Georgia, Estonia and Lithuania, who are concerned of the possibility of Western countries now selling Russia whatever they have to offer from high tech military equipment to rights for oil pipelines.  Russian PM Putin praised the New START nuclear arms treaty with the US, calling the pact an “unconditional success” and suggesting that it would bolster international security and help Russia develop its economy by improving the investment climate.
  • Several bomb threats at embassies in Italy have security officials on guard. Experts defused a letter bomb at the Greek embassy on Monday, days after two people were seriously wounded at two other embassies; and authorities responded to false bomb alarms at the embassies of Albania, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, Monaco, Slovenia, Sweden and Venezuela.
  • The Greek capital was on edge after an anonymous call to a newspaper warned of a second bomb attack at a tax office. A previous attack, hours earlier, had damaged several cars and buildings.
  • British police on Monday announced they had charged nine of the 12 men they arrested for engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism. The men were accused of reconnoitering targets, conspiring to cause explosions and testing incendiary material. Similarly, the Netherlands said they had arrested 12 men suspected of plotting a terrorist attack, with six later released.
  • At least four former Presidential candidates in Belarus have been arrested and are facing up to 15 years in prison after being charged with organizing mass disorder for protests over the disputed election. Supporters of the accused call the alleged crimes trumped up and an attempt to suppress dissent.

Update:

Thanks to a kind reader for the following submissions:

[Editorial] Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s disappointing end


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Korea (TRCK), which was founded with the goal of establishing ethnic legitimacy and achieving citizen unity through determining the truth of Korean history, concluded its operations yesterday with a report summarizing five years of activity. Established in December 2005 according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act, this commission has delved into the truth of incidents related to the anti-Japan independence movement, civilian massacres around the time of the Korean War, and illegal human rights infringements by public authorities.

 

 

Sri Lanka allows UN war crime visit
Colombo modifies position on UN panel of experts by allowing them to present evidence on alleged war crimes.

Sri Lanka has announced that it will allow the UN to present evidence in an investigation into war crimes alleged to have taken place during the country’s civil war. Colombo had previously said that it would not allow a three-member UN panel appointed by Ban Ki Moon to enter Sri Lanka to look into the alleged war crimes. Instead Mahinda Rajapaksa, Sri Lanka’s president, set up the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), a national body to carry out investigations. Doubts over the LLRC’s impartiality prompted major human rights groups to refuse to work with it. Doubts over the LLRC’s impartiality prompted major human rights groups to refuse to work with it. The foreign ministry on Sunday announced that foreign representatives were welcome to present evidence to the LLRC.

 

Bangladesh opposition leader faces trial for ‘war crime’

 

Dhaka, Dec 30 (IANS) Bangladesh’s war crimes tribunal Thursday began the trial of an opposition lawmaker accused of killing over a hundred people during the country’s liberation war in 1971.

The three-judge panel of the International Crimes Tribunal has fixed Jan 17, 2011, for hearing the charges against Salauddin Quader Chowdhury for committing ‘crimes against humanity’. 

 

 

Chowdhury, 58, a Standing Committee member of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), who has been under remand, was brought before the tribunal amidst tight security, the Daily Star reported.

 

The charges against him, to be read out Jan 17, include Chowdhury’s alleged involvement in the killings of Nutan Chandra Singh, an entrepreneur and philanthropist belonging to the minority Hindu community, and 106 others in different localities of Chittagong port town in April 1971.

 

Bangladesh was carved out of Pakistan in December 1971. The panel headed by Justice Nizamul Huq was constituted after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government amended a 1973 legislation and received guidance from the US, Britain and Germany on how to conduct the trial for ‘war crimes’.

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