This Week in Asian Conflict… February 22nd-29th, 2012.

  • US Secretary of State Clinton announced she had a “constructive discussion” of common concerns with her counterpart in Pakistan on Thursday; new details about American drone strikes were revealed by Reuters; Pakistani jets bombed four alleged militant hideouts in the Mela area, killing at least 15 militants; while at least 15 people were killed and more than 30 injured in a bomb explosion near a bus station in Peshawar. On Friday, four police officers were killed and at least five others injured in a suicide attack on a police station in Peshawar; while seven militants were killed when Pakistani forces shelled their hideout in Bara.  On Saturday, a mortar shell landed on a house in the northwestern Khyber tribal region, killing three people and wounding three others; fourteen small homemade bombs planted on railway tracks exploded in the southern Sindh province, disrupting railway traffic; an American drone reportedly crashed in North Waziristan, though the US denied Taliban claims that they had shot it down; while Pakistani forces began to demolish the house where Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces in the city of Abbottabad. On Sunday, a homemade bomb exploded next to a military patrol in the South Waziristan region, killing two soldiers and wounding another; while militants fired RPGs at a military checkpost in the Sarwakai, killing two soldiers. On Monday, at least five people were reportedly killed and 15 others wounded in a bomb explosion at a political rally in the North West. On Tuesday, at least 18 people were reportedly killed after gunmen opened fire on a passenger bus in a northern village; a homemade bomb exploded in the Bara area of the Khyber tribal region, killing two people and wounding another three; while the Stratfor WikiLeaks email release suggests that Pakistani army officials may have known where Osama Bin Laden was hiding.
  • Sri Lanka rejected UN involvement in probing allegations of army atrocities in the long war against Tamil rebels that ended in 2009 on Monday, saying UN calls to prosecute soldiers guilty of misconduct were “unwarranted incursions”. On Tuesday, Chatham House released a report on breaking the cycle of continued impunity for war-time abuses in the country.
  • The government of India clarified on Tuesday that it accepts a recent ruling by the Supreme Court that would legalize gay sex in the country; while millions of workers reportedly staged a 24-hour strike to demand improved rights for employees and to protest over rising prices.
  • China is reportedly softening on its strict family planning laws, as older threatening slogans are being replaced by more upbeat ones. On Tuesday, at least 12 people reportedly died in riots in Yecheng County, with police allegedly killing two of the attackers. The cause of the riots was unknown at the time of reporting. On Wednesday, twenty people were reportedly killed when a group of men wielding axes and knives attacked a market in the western Xinjiang Uyghyr Autonomous Region.
  • The Atlantic ran a report on the worsening violence in Tibet, as at least 22 people have self-immolated in protest at the Chinese government’s rule.
  • A group of villagers in the south of Myanmar/Burma are speaking out against a massive industrial estate that is reportedly being built on their land, in a way that would have been unthinkable for years, for fear of consequences; while the Guardian reported that the censors are in retreat and that a new era of a (partly) free press and (some) freedom of expression is  now permissible. On Friday, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said that developing the country will be impossible without peace in the restive Kachin regions.
  • A court in Kazakhstan reportedly sentenced two opposition leaders to 15 day prison terms on Saturday for organizing a rally for democratic change. Around 300 protesters were vastly outnumbered by riot police, who detained a handful of speakers and later blocked a group that attempted to march to a police station where six activists were being held.
  • The Commonwealth suspended the Maldives from its democracy and human rights watchdog on Wednesday, calling upon elections to be held before the end of the year.
  • A court in northern Tajikistan gave jail sentences to seven people for being members of the banned Islamist Tablig-i-Jamaat organization on Thursday.  On Wednesday, the ambassador to Russia announced his country expects Russia to start to pay rent for bases it uses on Tajik territory.
  • The UN Security Council extended the mandate for the UN peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste on Thursday to the end of 2012 so that it can continue to help promote peace, stability and development.
  • Protests continued over the burning of copies of the Qur’an at a NATO base in Afghanistan, with demonstrators setting fire to part of a housing compound used by foreign contract workers on Wednesday; the US Embassy in Kabul announced it was on lockdown and all travel suspended; while Pakistan announced it will give its full support to any clear effort by the Afghan government to achieve a political settlement with the Taliban, but does not want to lead a peace process that would impose a solution. The Attorney General alleged on Thursday that a female Senator has links with a criminal group involved in kidnapping in the country; Amnesty International released a new report about displaced people living within the country; at least 2 US soldiers and 2 Afghans were killed in separate incidents after the Taliban urged Afghans to target foreign troops in retaliation over reports that copies of the Qur’an were burnt at a NATO airbase; an Afghan soldier reportedly shot dead two American soldiers; US President Obama sent a letter of apology to the President, stating that the incident was not intentional; while protests continued reportedly killing some 5 Afghan protesters. On Friday, Pakistani PM Gilani publicly called on the Taliban and other militant groups in Afghanistan to join peace talks with the Afghan government; while protests over the burning of the Qur’an at the US-led base in the country were held in several regions, resulting in the death of at some 23 people. Protests continued on Saturday, resulting in at least six deaths; a remote controlled mine killed six Afghan army members and wounded some 12 others; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed some 12 alleged insurgents and detained six more in several provinces across the country; while two American officers were reportedly shot dead at close range in the Afghani Interior Ministry allegedly by an Afghan police intelligence officer, and another seven US military trainers were wounded in protests, resulting in NATO pulling all of its advisors out of ministries across Kabul and the US Defense Secretary calling on the Afghan government to protect NATO forces. On Sunday, President Karzai renewed his calls for calm, after protests continued for a fifth day; the Canadian department of foreign affairs suspended all meetings with Afghan ministries; while France announced it is making preparations to withdraw non-military personnel from the country and condemned the fatal shooting of the two Americans. On Monday, the American Obama administration announced it has no plans to accelerate their withdrawal from the country in the wake of violent attacks against their countrymen; the UN announced it is temporarily relocating its international staff from its office in the northern Kunduz province which was attacked over the weekend; nine people were reportedly killed in a car-bomb explosion at the airport in Jalalabad, with the Taliban claiming responsibility; the Taliban claimed to have infiltrated an international military base in the east and poisoned food supplies; Afghan security forces and foreign troops reportedly killed six insurgents and detained three more near the Pakistani border; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed another five insurgents and detained some 22 in eight separate operations; while the Atlantic reported that the recent anti-American protests and violence suggest that Afghans see Americans more as occupiers than liberators. On Tuesday, an explosion at a residential compound in the southern Helmand Province killed four women and three children. On Wednesday, the top American military transport commander said that overland cargo routes through Pakistan must be reopened to NATO for the US to complete its pullout from Afghanistan by the end of 2014; Afghan police killed four alleged insurgents during operations in Helmand and Kandahar provinces; while at least 20 people were injured in two explosions, one targeting a NATO supply convoy and the second targeting a bank in the northeast. The Atlantic ran an article on how Afghanistan hasn’t changed since the invasion of Western forces eleven years ago.
  • Israeli defense officials confirmed a deal to sell drones, antiaircraft and missile defense systems for some $1.6 billion to Azerbaijan. The deal has reportedly been in the works for some time and is not in response to Iran’s nuclear development program.
  • The former President of the Philippines, Gloria Arroyo plead not guilty to charges of electoral fraud on Thursday. The charges include rigging the results of 2007 congressional polls to favour her candidates.
  • The Atlantic ran an article about the how Thailand is looking increasingly fragile and prone to conflict again, as the military and civilian governments clash.
  • The United States and North Korea reportedly met for their first talks on the North’s nuclear program since the death of Kim Jong-Il. On Friday, the American co-ordinator for policy on North Korea said that there was some progress, but that he had a “better understanding” of the North’s position on its controversial nuclear programme after the talks. On Saturday, North Korea threatened to wage a “sacred war”, launching a powerful retaliatory strike against the South if provoked, a day before the start of annual South Korean-US military drills. On Monday, South Korea and the US began their military exercises, despite the threats from the North of possible retaliation. On Tuesday, South Korean activists gathered outside the Chinese embassy in Seoul to protest against the country’s policy of repatriating North Korean defectors. On Wednesday, North Korea reportedly agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, implement a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests and allow IAEA inspectors in to verify and monitor in exchange for American food-aid shipments.
  • Three state-owned television channels in Uzbekistan removed Turkish soap operas because the material was deemed “inappropriate” by authorities. The soap operas are widely popular across Central Asia and the Middle East. On Tuesday, the British Defense Secretary arrived in Tashkent to reportedly discuss facilitating the withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan via other Central Asian states.
  • The media-freedom representative for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called upon the government of Kyrgyzstan to immediately lift its block on the fergananews.com news website to ensure Internet freedom in the country. The sites were blocked in mid-2011 by the Kyrgyz parliament over their coverage of the June 2010 violence in the south of the country. On Monday, the Russian defense minister says that Russia will fully pay overdue rental fees for a military facility in the Kyrgyzstan by the end of February; and the PM announced he decided to fire all customs officials, border guards and police at the country’s two international airports in a bid to tackle corruption. On Tuesday, the Atlantic ran a report about a previously unheard-of group allegedly declaring jihad against the Manas Transit Center in the country. Security measures are reportedly being increased in the southern city of Osh ahead of a planned demonstration on March 1st and weekend local elections.

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