This week in conflict… February 5th-11th, 2011.

Hello all! Hope all is well with you!

Just a quick, WOW, to express my feelings over the happenings in Egypt this week. Our brothers and sisters in Tunisia and Egypt have given me great hope that a determined group of people really are capable of making change. It’s a great lesson for us all. I hope that the transitions come peacefully and that the people can find a new government that better represents them in the coming months. We are all very proud of your sacrifice! If there are any Egyptian or Tunisian readers out there who would like to share their personal stories of the events of the past few weeks with us, please feel free to send them my way! We’d be delighted to hear your thoughts and experiences.

As always, 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.

Peace!
Rebecca

World

  • The World Social Forum kicked off this week in Senegal. The World Social Forum defines itself as an open space where those “opposed to neo-liberalism and a world dominated by capital or by any form of imperialism come together to pursue their thinking”. 
  • Former colleagues of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have created an alternative website for leaks to be governed by what they characterize as a revised vision of radical transparency. The organization OpenLeaks, will begin work this summer.

Africa

  • On Saturday a series of mass resignations of the leadership of the leading party including Mubarak’s son Gamal did not shake the protesters in Egypt, who said it would not distract them from their core demand of Mubarak’s resignation. Mubarak resigned as the head of the ruling party, though announced he would be staying on as President until elections could be held.  An explosion rocked a gas terminal in the northern Sinai Peninsula, with mixed reports as to the cause, though the regional governor told the media he suspected “sabotage”. Another explosion hit a church in Rafah, although the cause was unclear. Egyptian opposition groups met with the VP on Sunday, stating that the meeting was positive, but yielded nothing specific to meet their demands. The government pledged to form a committee to propose political reforms and that it would not harass those protesting. US Secretary of State Clinton warned that removing the President too hastily could threaten the country’s transition to democracy. Protests continued with thousands of demonstrators camping out overnight in Tahrir Square on Monday, some barring access to the square’s administrative building and others sitting in the path of military tanks to prevent their retreat. The government announced a 15% increase in salaries and pensions for government employees and a date for opening the stock market, while Google executive and activist Wael Ghonim was released from prison. The leading opposition groups said they are standing by their demand that President Mubarak resign before there can be a political agreement to end the protests, and the Muslim Brotherhood said it would quit talks if demands were not met. A two hour battle ensued in Rafah between security forces and attackers with rocket-propelled grenades, after the security forces barracks were attacked. On Tuesday, the demonstrations swelled to hundreds of thousands, the largest to date. A few hundred Telecom Egypt workers protested for higher wages about a km from the square; while tens of thousands marched in Alexandria; thousands took to the streets of Nile Delta city; around 6,000 protested in central Suez; 3,000 in Ismailia; 2,000 outside a petroleum company demanding jobs; 3,000 Suez Canal company workers demanding better wages and conditions; and around 1,300 employees from a steel firm began a strike over pay. Authorities released 34 political prisoners from jail in the face of the uprising. Hundreds of government employees, musicians and university professors staged separate protests demanding better pay and conditions in Cairo on Wednesday, along with thousands of others from different state owned and private companies in several other cities. Thousands kept the demonstrations alive in Tahrir Square, Christians and Muslims protesting as one, while tens of thousands marched along the corniche in Alexandria and other protesters blocked parliament. A protester was killed and several suffered gunshot wounds after clashes erupted between security forces and protesters in a western province, while around 3,000 protesters demanding cheaper housing set ablaze the governorate headquarters in Port Said. The Foreign Minister warned of a possible army crackdown if protests continued. Four people were killed and several suffered gunshot wounds in clashes between security forces and protesters in a western province.  A member of the Muslim Brotherhood said he feared the army was staging a military coup on Thursday, but later retracted the comment. Thousands remained in Tahrir Square, joined by workers and union members who staged strikes, sit-ins and protests at firms and government agencies. Unidentified assailants attacked security force barracks in the border town of Rafah, opening fire and using rocket-propelled grenades. The Supreme Council of Egyptian Armed Forces met to discuss the ongoing protests, announcing that they would support the “legitimate demands of the people”, pledging to guarantee democratic elections and to lift emergency laws once the arrest was over. Mubarak addressed the nation with many suspecting his upcoming resignation, and instead announced he would hand over some power to his deputy, but would not stand down until elections could be held. Protesters were enraged and began planning even bigger protests in response.  On Friday, VP Suleiman announced that Mubarak was stepping down and handing over power to the armed forces, as jubilant demonstrators celebrated in the streets.
  • A riot broke out in a small Tunisian town, after police opened fire on demonstrators, killing four and wounding around 15 people. The next day, young protesters set a police headquarters on fire and tried to break open the local prison in the town in retaliation. In a west-central town, the new governor was forced to leave office in an army vehicle in the face of protests, while a young man was killed after he was hit by a tear gas canister during overnight clashes with security forces in another small town on Sunday. On Monday, the interior minister announced the suspension of ousted President Ben Ali’s Constitutional Democratic Assembly party, saying all meetings and gatherings by its members would be banned and offices throughout the country be shut down. On Tuesday the government asked military reservists to report for duty in a new drive to help restore order. The EU announced its targeted sanction measures had come into effect against persons responsible for embezzling Tunisian public funds, including the ousted Ben Ali and his wife, and 46 others. Authorities announced on Friday that they had detained an armed group linked to ousted President Ben Ali, suspected of involvement in a recent wave of violence.
  • The Nigerian Army has vowed to rise up to tackle the growing security concerns in the country and attempt to nip them in the bud. The rebel group Boko Haram gave conditions this week to enable its members to stop slaughtering innocent Nigerians in the North, which include the State Governor stepping down from office immediately and allowing its members to reclaim their mosque in the state capital. Voter registration has been wrapped up with more than 70 million Nigerians eligible to register and campaigning is now underway for April’s election.
  • Religious leaders in the Acholi region of Uganda have expressed concerns over alleged irregular deployment of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces ahead of the elections. An army captain suggested that the movements were tactical to counteract problematic candidates and their supporters who could cause commotions after the polls. The police have suggested that they believe terrorists are targeting Kampala before the elections, saying they have received “credible information” of a plan. The Chief of the Defense Forces said the army will respect the poll results and uphold constitutional provisions.
  • The UN said it would be investigating claims that Zimbabwe sent weapons to Cote d’Ivoire last month as part of an arms-for-oil exchange agreement. Several thousand pro-Gbagbo youths took to the streets on Saturday in Abidjan to protest the presence of Burkina Faso’s president on the AU mediation team, who they accuse of abetting the 2002 rebellion. On Monday, a scuffle broke out at a police station in a northern Abidjan district after demonstrators took to protest alleged abuses by security forces,  ransacking two police stations. Witnesses suggest as many as six were killed by paramilitary gunfire, though authorities claimed to have no information about any deaths. On Wednesday, Gbagbo’s government officially banned UN radio broadcasts, though the broadcasts could still be heard on unofficial frequencies.
  • A ZANU-PF mob is said to have destroyed property worth thousands of dollars, mainly those belonging to foreign owned companies on Monday in Zimbabwe. Police are said to have stood by watching as shop owners and civilians were being abused and brutalized. On Thursday, Mugabe purported that the official time for the government of national unity had ended, in his continued plot to force early elections.
  • Some 66 people were killed in fighting between factions of Sudan’s northern army in Southern Sudan on Saturday over whether they and their weapons should transfer to the north or mutiny. The semi-autonomous regional government in South Sudan has started to make its preparations to declare its independence, following the final result announcement on Monday. Northern Sudan’s president al-Bashir has said he accepts the results of the referendum and that he is committed to good relations with the south.  Experts are still concerned however, of the unresolved crisis in Abyei that continues to pose a major security threat in the contested borderlands, as the promised referendum could not be held due to a heated debate between the north and south over which populations should be eligible to vote. A coalition of Sudanese opposition parties has voiced its support for the ongoing protests in Egypt on Wednesday. On Thursday, a government force backed by local militias is said to have launched attacks against villages in Dar es Salaam in North Darfur, carrying out searches, beatings, torture, pillage, looting and widespread destruction of the villages. A south Sudan minister and his bodyguard were shot dead in an apparent personal dispute. Security forces are said to have briefly detained and beaten an opposition leader while she traveled to petition for the release of protesters detained two weeks ago.  At least 16 people were said to have been killed in clashes between rebels and the army in south Sudan’s Jonglei state on Wednesday, breaking a ceasefire agreed upon last month. On Friday, the death toll from these clashes rose to 105 fighters and civilians reported as killed. On Thursday, the Khartoum government announced that it will return to Doha to resume constultations to reach a peace in Darfur with rebel groups one month after it had withdrawn from negotiations.
  • Kenyan PM Odinga demanded on Saturday that investigations be conducted on politicians who encourage ethnic politics, fearing that it could spark fresh violence in the country. Land conflicts continue to simmer in the Rift Valley, as plans to resettle IDPs has led to a standoff between the government and Maasai leaders who oppose the resettlement. Authorities have launched their campaign at the UN to defer prosecution of the Ocampo Six (those believed most responsible for crimes against humanity during the 2007-8 post-election violence) by the International Criminal Court, citing that the transformation of key institutions have renewed confidence in the domestic prosecuting capabilities .
  • Cape Verde held its parliamentary elections on Sunday, with voters optimistic of a smooth outcome. The nation has long been a haven of stability in a region prone to coups and wars. On Monday, the main opposition party conceded defeat, but technical problems prevented official results from being published.
  • A suspected al-Qaeda member blew himself up in southern Mauritania on Saturday, after being cornered by security forces. A second suspect was captured alive.
  • Charles Taylor’s lawyer stormed out of his war crimes trial this week after judges refused to accept a written summary of the former Liberian President’s defense because it was filed 20 days after the January 14th deadline. Taylor is the first former African head of state to be tried by an international court on 11 charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder, torture and using child soldiers. Taylor and his defense lawyers then boycotted the final stage of the proceedings, contending that the court was unfair and driven by politics. Judges were forced to adjourn the trial on Wednesday and have threatened to take action against the defense counsel for storming out of the courtroom. On Thursday, the judges issued an order for the lawyer to appear before them on Friday and that unless he apologizes for his actions they will impose sanctions on him. On Friday, Taylor and his lawyer were granted the right to appeal over key documentation.
  • The Rwandan Hutu FDLR in the DR Congo is said to be weakening and the threat it poses could ultimately disappear. A UN envoy said that for the first time the outlines can be seen of an eventual resolution. The pioneering “mobile gender court” in the DRC has gone to trial with 11 government soldiers accused of raping more than 60 women on New Year’s Day in Fizi. The court travels to remote communities that have little access to conventional courts and has so far recorded 94 rape convictions and trained 150 judicial police officers, 80 lawyers and 30 magistrates.
  • More than 3,000 people were displaced following a five-hour-long battle on Monday between the Somaliland National Army and militia groups in Hargeisa, Somalia. The clashes are said to have killed at least 32 and injured as many as 60.

Asia

  • Fighting continued this week along the Thai-Cambodian border, near an 11th century temple that has been caught in the crossfire. The temple belongs to Cambodia under a 1962 World Court ruling, but is highly disputed among many Thais. Thailand announced a ceasefire on Saturday after clashes killed at least 5 people, while Cambodia called for UN peacekeepers to help end the fighting on Monday. Thailand announced plans on Tuesday to invoke special security laws in Bangkok to cope with political rallies, which include curfews, checkpoints, and restricting movements of protesters. “Yellow Shirt” protesters are currently gathered outside the PM’s office and have called an anti-government rally for Friday.  On Thursday, suspected Muslim separatists shot and killed three Buddhists in the south. Around 20,000 stateless people living along the southern Thai-Burmese border may receive Thai nationality after nearly 20 years without when the amendments to the Thai nationality bill are reviewed by parliament on February 15th.
  • Bangladesh’s main opposition party has called a general strike against the government’s alleged failure to run the country effectively. Schools, businesses and transportation are said to have been disrupted. Police say that at least 8 buses were set on fire Sunday night, and that a homemade bomb exploded on a university campus, injuring two people. The strike continued on Monday, with scores wounded, and at least 70 activists detained.
  • Myanmar/Burma’s pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has urged the west to maintain sanctions on the country, saying the embargo affected the military more than the general population.
  • Six civilians were killed in a feud between two rebel groups in the southern Philippines, police announced on Monday. 19 are said to have died since the clashes erupted a month ago as rival groups battle for control of valuable rice farming land on Mindanao island. Police say the emergence of a splinter group in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) separatist movement is a serious risk to sustaining a ceasefire ahead of peace talks to be held in Kuala Lumpur.  On Thursday, the government resumed peace talks with MILF, amid reports of dissent and some fighters eager to leave the ranks. The Philippino armed forces allegedly illegally diverted some $55 million in UN payments for peacekeepers to an account at a private bank.
  • Kazakh police detained two Al-Jazeera journalists, confiscating their videotapes that recorded interviews of the wives of jailed Uzbek refugees. On Wednesday, it was reported that the wives of two young Uzbek asylum seekers face imminent deportation from Kazakhstan, while their husbands are held in jail.
  • Three people were killed and two wounded in a car bomb attack near the Afghan border in Pakistan on Saturday; while authorities found the bodies of four men killed by militants on the suspicion of spying for the US. On Monday, two separate explosions at police stations caused damage, but no injuries in Karachi; gunmen attacked five NATO fuel supply trucks near the Afghani border; and militants are said to have opened fire on a police patrol in the northwest, wounding 8 policemen. On Tuesday, a policeman was killed and three others wounded in a bomb attack in Peshawar; four NATO fuel supply trucks caught fire after small bombs planted underneath exploded in a market near Peshawar; and two paramilitary soldiers were killed and another two wounded in a roadside bomb attack near Bannu. On Wednesday, a bomb killed one person and wounded five others in the northwest; four low-intensity bombs exploded near police stations and government buildings in the central city of Gujranwala with no reported casualties; and a Greek national was found dead in a hotel in Karachi.  On Thursday, a teenage suicide bomber in a school uniform blew himself up at an army training camp in the northwest, killing at least 27 soldiers and wounding up to 40; Taliban militants shot and killed two policemen, a school teacher and a construction worker alleged by the killers to be American spies; and India and Pakistan announced that the two countries would resume peace talks that have been stalled since 2008.
  • Two ISAF service members are said to have been killed in separate homemade bomb attacks on Saturday in Kabul, Afghanistan. A teenage suicide blew himself up near a group of US soldiers and Afghan officials inside a customs office near Kandahar on Monday, killing an interpreter and wounding five others, while a gunmen shot dead a district chief in the east. Also on Monday, an ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul; and an Afghan child was killed in a NATO airstrike in Helmand. A NATO official announced on Monday that nearly 900 militants are said to have quit fighting and enrolled in an Afghan government program. On Tuesday, an ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul; one person was killed and another 9 wounded in two separate bomb attacks in Jalalabad; and a mine attached to a police car exploded in Kabul with no injuries. The Afghanistan Rights Monitor released a report on Wednesday claiming that of the 2,421 civilians the group registered as casualties in conflict-related incidents last year, about 739 were under the age of 18– approximately 2 a day. President Karzai urged the US to release a Taliban official being held at Guantanamo Bay back to Afghanistan to join in reconciliation talks, while the US expressed reluctance to release the prisoner. Also on Wednesday, two ISAF service members were killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul; and a retired US Customs and Border Protection officer working in a civilian capacity was killed alongside an Afghan interpreter in a suicide bombing at a customs office in Kandahar, while three other retired CBP officials and two ISAF service members were wounded. On Thursday, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a government building, killing a district governor and two other people; while NATO-led troops killed a man identified as a Taliban militant in Kabul.  A cell of suicide bombers active in Kabul is said to have been run for three years by a Taliban commander operating from inside the city’s main prison. New evidence of offers by the Taliban leadership to reconcile with the Karzai government after the fall of the Taliban in 2001 released this week challenged the central justification for the US-NATO war inthe country.
  • A gruesome video depicting hundreds of shouting villagers carrying machetes and sticks, then killing at least 3 people and wounding half a dozen others while police officers look on has created great controversy in Indonesia. Advocates say that the attack, in full view of the authorities is a clear sign that the government is turning a blind eye to mob violence against a range of religious minorities. On Tuesday, hundreds of radicals set two churches on fire and attacked a court in central Java, calling for harsh punishment for a Christian on trial for blasphemy.
  • Senior military officials from the two Koreas met for talks this week in a border village. The talks, the first meeting since tensions escalated in November, are supposed to lay the foundations for higher-level discussions later in the year.  On Wednesday, it became clear that the talks were to end in failure, after North Korea allegedly refused Seoul’s demands to apologize for shelling Yeonpyeong island and both parties simultaneously walked out without scheduling further talks. On Thursday, North Korea reacted angrily to the breakdown of talks, calling the South “scoundrels” and “traitors” who were not interested in genuine dialogue, and releasing a statement that they would no longer participate in military talks with the South.
  • Eight alleged members of the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir organization were detained in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyz and Tajik defense ministers met this week to discuss regional security, days after the Kyrgyz President expressed concern that terrorists could cross into the country from Tajikistan. The Kyrgyz President replaced the controversial chief of the National News Agency on Thursday following a strike of journalists who refused to work with him.
  • A leading figure in the Tajikistan Islamic opposition party was hospitalized after being beaten up on his way to work this week. The leader is an outspoken critic of the government. The main opposition party in Tajikistan accused the government on Wednesday of violating civil rights and neglecting its people.
  • Taiwan has detained a major general on charges of providing classified military information to rival China. The alleged spy was supposedly recruited in 2004 and many worry that China may have intensified its espionage despite the recent reconciliation between the two countries.
  • A few thousand opposition supporters marched in Colombo, Sri Lanka on Wednesday to demonstrate against higher food prices. Protesters say that most eat only one meal a day because they cannot afford more.
  • A high-profile Chinese grassroots lawyer and his wife were allegedly severely beaten after secretly filming a video documenting their house arrest. Chen Guangcheng describe their experience of being smuggled out of his family’s village and being held in house arrest for the past five months, but are now said to be beaten so severely they cannot move from bed and are not allowed to go to a hospital.

Americas

  • Former US President George W. Bush has been indicted for torture by the Berlin-based European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights and the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights, who prepared a 2,500 page torture case against him for deciding the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply to “enemy combatants”. Some Vermont towns have also followed suit by voting to arrest Bush or Cheney for “crimes against the Constitution” should they visit the region. 
  • Haitian President Preval announced on Monday that he would stay in office for three extra months, until after the March 20th runoff can choose his successor. His term had been scheduled to end Monday. Several hundred protesters clashed with riot police on Monday to demand that Preval leave office immediately. On Tuesday, Haitian officials issued a diplomatic passport for former President Aristide to return to the country after years in exile.
  • Hundreds of indigenous Brazilians have been protesting the capital, Brasilia, against the construction of a hydro-electric dam in the Amazon river basin. Environmentalists say the dam will harm the rainforest. Leaders delivered a petition signed by more than 600,000 people demanding the government scrap the $10 billion project.
  • Amnesty International has petitioned the government of Puerto Rico to investigate the use of excessive force against students protesting against a special tuition fee at the University of Puerto Rico by police. On Thursday, the Puerto Rican Association of University Professors held a walk out in protest against the police’s occupation of the campus. Protests have been ongoing on campus for several weeks.
  • Legislators from the socialist party of President Hugo Chavez and their rivals exchanged punches in parliament on Thursday in Venezuela after the Socialist party legislator tried to remove an opposition member from the speaker’s podium. The brawl was broadcast live on television and radio stations, but was pulled abruptly from most networks after the violence began.

Middle East

  • A parked car bomb exploding wounding nine civilians in Samarra, Iraq on Saturday; while gunmen wounded four Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint in Abu Ghraib; a car bomb wounded two civilians north of Baghdad; a roadside bomb targeting a provincial council member wounded two of his guards north of Baghdad; and a roadside bomb wounded an Iraqi soldier in Mosul.  On Monday, a roadside bomb wounded two government workers in Taji; a roadside bomb wounded two security guards and a civilian in Baquba; two policemen were wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Mosul; two roadside bombs exploded south of Baghdad, killing an Iraqi army officer and a woman; a roadside bomb wounded two soldiers and two civilians in northeastern Baghdad; and two people were wounded in a roadside bomb in western Baghdad. On Tuesday, two bombs went off near a police patrol, wounding two people in Mosul; police found the body of a man with a gunshot wound to the head in Kirkuk, while another was found seriously wounded; and a roadside bomb killed a Brigadier General outside his house in western Baghdad, while a second bomb exploded at the scene when police and army arrived, wounding two soldiers, one policeman and one civilian. On Wednesday, car bombs are said to have killed at least 7 and wounded as many as 80 in Kirkuk; a roadside bomb killed two Iraqi soldier and wounded two others on patrol in the northwest; a bomb wounded six people in eastern Baghdad; and a bomb wounded two people in northern Baghdad. On Thursday, hundreds of lawyers took to the streets in cities across the country to protest widespread corruption and unemployment; a car bomb exploded near a procession of Shiite pilgrims in Samarra, killing nine and wounding some 39; the body of a tortured man was found in northern Baghdad; a roadside bomb exploded near an Iraqi army patrol, wounding one soldier in Mosul; another roadside bomb went off near a police patrol wounding a policeman in western Mosul; and a girl was wounded in a roadside bomb attack in western Mosul. Amnesty International released a new report where they allege that Iraqi security forces use torture and other ill-treatment to extract confessions when detainees are held incommunicado, and that dozens of detainees have died as a result.
  • Syrian authorities have announced they will be lifting a five-year ban on Facebook in an apparent “appeasement” measure aimed at staving off unrest. The President also said he would push through political reforms this year aimed at initiating municipal elections, granting more power to NGOs and establishing a new media law.
  • The Palestinian Authority has set July 9th as the date for their local elections. No elections have been held since 2006.
  • Iranian opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi was placed under house arrest after he allegedly called for renewed street protests against the government. Demonstrations were to be held Monday in solidarity with Egypt and Tunisia.
  • Jordanian King Abdullah swore in a new government on Wednesday, led by a former general who has promised to widen public freedoms in response to anti-government protests. The new 27-minister cabinet is dominated by conservative politicians and tribal loyalists as opposed to western leaning, pro-business reformists who held sway in previous administrations.
  • Ten moderate Saudi Arabian scholars say they’ve formed the first political party within the country and have asked the king for recognition. Following the turmoil in Egypt and Tunisia, there have been demands for reforms in the country which follows strict Islamic rule.  The group has stated that it’s time to endorse political rights, including the right to elect a government, promote the role of women in society and preserve women’s rights.

Europe

  • The leader of Russia’s Islamist rebel movement vowed to make 2011 “a year of blood and tears” by stepping up attacks on the Russian heartland. A new US-Russian nuclear arms control treaty, known as START, went into effect on Saturday. The treaty is said to be the first major revamping of nuclear disarmament deals since the late Cold War era and marks significant progress towards a world without nuclear weapons. A journalist at the Guardian was expelled from the country after reporting on the WikiLeaks cables that Russia had become a “virtual mafia state” under the rule of Putin. Russian police say they have arrested the leaders and a few dozen members of two organized criminal groups in the eastern region. President Medvedev ordered the deployment of additional weaponry on the disputed Kurile Islands claimed by both Japan and Russia on Wednesday; while a blast of unknown origins was heard in Grozny, Chechnya.
  • Tens of thousands of nationalist supporters in Serbia protested on Saturday against their pro-Western government, demanding early parliamentary elections. The opposition leaders announced they would “blockade” the capital if their demands are not met within the next two months.
  • Thousands of Albanian opposition supporters are said to have taken to the streets last Friday, demanding that the government step down over corruption and electoral fraud allegations. The opposition has vowed to demonstrate every Friday. A protester shot in the head during protests died in hospital on Saturday, bringing the death toll to four.
  • Experts warn that escalating violence, a spiraling arms race and a slowdown of peace talks have increased the risk of war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The International Crisis Group reported that skirmishes could easily spiral out of control, causing devastating regional consequences.
  • The banned political wing of the Basque separatist group ETA announced it had formed a new political party that rejects the use of violence and that it intends to contest upcoming municipal elections. The group has not carried out an attack since its announcement of a ceasefire in September.
  • Turkish police detained 35 suspected members of the outlawed Turkish Islamist militant group Hizbullah on Monday. The group (not connected to the Lebanese Hezbollah group) emerged in the late 80s and is said to have killed scores of people, targeting mainly Kurdish separatist rebel sympathizers.
  • Greek police clashed with residents protesting a planned landfill dump close to an archaeological site on Tuesday. Police fired several rounds of teargas at residents, who hurled petrol bombs and stones at them. More protests happened on Wednesday in Athens, as Greek doctors, health workers and pharmacists walked off the job and marched to parliament to protest against an EU/IMF reform aimed at reducing debt by cutting health care spending.
  • The KGB in Belarus searched the office of a lawyer representing a jailed opposition leader on Thursday, demanding to see all documents pertaining to his professional activities. The search is said to be in violation of Belorussian law.
  • The Ukrainian President is said to be overseeing a broad crackdown on the pro-Western opposition, and carrying out investigations into opposition leaders. Opposition leaders are calling the inquiries a political witch hunt, as former PM Tymoshenko was barred from leaving Kiev, even though she has not been arrested.
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