The African Union summit in Addis Ababa ended in deadlock after the group failed to chose a new chairman for the executive commission. A new election was then scheduled to be held in June or July, though they managed to elect President Boni Yayi of Benin as the new overall chairperson of the AU. The summit witnessed the inauguration of the new headquarters built in Addis Ababa. The summit is also expected to conclude a deal on bolstering trade between African nations. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told African leaders that they must respect gay rights during the opening of the summit meeting. It was reported over the weekend that the AU is turning to China to fill in the funding gap left by the demise of Libyan Moammar Gaddafi, who was the organization’s biggest donor.
On Saturday, at least 200 young boys were reportedly abducted near Mogadishu, Somalia by alleged al-Qaeda affiliated militants of al-Shabaab; while a director of a media network was gunned down outside his home in Mogadishu, the third director of the network to be killed. On Sunday, at least nine people, including women and children were killed as militants firing vehicle-mounted anti-aircraft guns clashed with AU forces in Mogadishu. On Monday, shells landed on the property of a Red Crescent Society hospital, though thankfully, no one was injured in the attack; while the President of the UN General Assembly held talks with the Deputy PM to discuss the security situation in the country. On Tuesday, an alleged al-Shabaab suicide bomber blew himself up at an Ethiopian army base in central Somalia, killing as many as 33 Ethiopians; and the UN envoy for Somalia formally moved their office back to Mogadishu after a more than 17 year hiatus in neighbouring Kenya. The al-Shabaab rebels ordered the International Committee of the Red Cross out of the areas they control for “falsely” accusing the group of hindering food distribution. On Wednesday, the American Special Forces commandos who killed Osama Bin Laden reportedly rescued two hostages who had been held for three months, killing nine pirates in the process. On Monday, the Nairobi Star reported that two majors and four lieutenants were among 15 Kenya Defence Forces officers killed in the last 100 days since Kenya sent its troops into Somalia.
President Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire is set to sign a new “defence and security agreement” with France during a trip to Paris this week. The UN envoy to Cote d’Ivoire reported that the security situation in the country is stabilizing, but that the underlying causes of instability and unrest have not been fully addressed. On Sunday, dozens of Gbagbo supporters were reportedly attacked and injured during a rally in Abidjan, after opponents began throwing stones.
On Sunday, the deputy head of the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) in Libya submitted his resignation in the face of large and angry protests in Benghazi with crowds storming the government office. On Monday, the ICC announced that it had accepted that Saif al-Islam Gaddafi could be tried in Libya instead of at The Hague. Late Monday, hundreds of well-equipped and highly trained Gaddafi loyalists reportedly seized control of the western city of Bani Walid, causing some four deaths. On Tuesday, reporters who visited the town said militias loyal to the NTC were driven out and that town elders were appointing their own local government. On Wednesday, the UN human rights chief reported that detainees from the civil war that are being held by revolutionary brigades continue to be subjected to torture despite efforts by the provisional government to address the issue; while the defense minister reportedly held talks with leaders from the overrun town of Bani Walid. On Thursday, UN officials issued a warning over the activities of militias and people being held in detention centres, while Doctors Without Borders announced it had stopped work in detention centres in the city of Misrata because it alleged some patients were being brought in for care between torture sessions, a claim the Libyan government vehemently rejected. On Sunday, the government announced it would be reassessing its ambassadors worldwide and dismiss any who had ties with ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi; while the PM called for a regional security conference to tackle proliferation of weapons by exiled Gaddafi supporters that could have possibly wound up in the hands of Boko Haram or al-Qaeda.
The government of Sudan announced on Sunday that it will continue to allow only limited access to UN agencies and aid groups in the warring South Kordofan and Blue Niles states. On Monday, the UN stressed that the best way to protect civilians in South Sudan’s Jonglei state is through military deterrence urging the government to deploy more troops and police into the area; they also denounced the bombing of a camp housing some 5,000 refugees near the Sudanese border. Ethnic clashes in recent weeks have left hundreds dead and more than 120,000 homeless and hiding in the bush. On Wednesday, at least one person was killed by security forces after protesters in the Darfur region burned government buildings and threw rocks at security forces angered at the removal of the state governor. On Saturday, Sudan announced it would free tankers carrying cargoes of South Sudanese crude oil it had seized earlier this month, in an alleged effort to defuse the ongoing conflict between the two nations. On Sunday, it was reported that a group of 700 military officers from Sudan’s Armed Forces (SAF) confronted the President and his defence minister with demands on military and political reforms, appalled at the prospect of war with South Sudan; South Sudan reportedly totally shut down their oil output in the dispute with Sudan over export transit fees, demanding a border deal before restarting; at least 74 people were reportedly killed in fresh ethnic clashes between rival communities near the border; rebels in South Kordofan state captured 29 Chinese workers after a battle with government forces; while Sudan’s security forces prevented an independent newspaper from publishing after returning from a four-month ban. On Monday, the South Sudan government said it would not restart oil production until the two sides reached an agreement on a host of issues; UN officials requested the need for adequate financial resources, strong political will and strengthened operations to help the population of Darfur after a six-day visit to the region; efforts were reportedly underway to rescue the 29 Chinese workers captured in the previous days by Sudanese rebels; South Sudan accused the government of Sudan of arming gunmen alleged to have killed dozens of people in a cattle raid; while the World Food Programme warned of as many as half a million refugees fleeing to South Sudan in the next couple of months if Khartoum does not allow aid agencies more access to its border regions, as more than a thousand refugees have been crossing per day over the last weeks.
On Thursday, National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (NMLA) rebels in Maliopened a fifth front, attacking two towns in the northwest of the country. The rebels opened their first major offensive in three years almost a week ago, but denied allegations by the Malian government that al-Qaeda gunmen were fighting alongside them.
The ousted President of Madagascar Ravalomanana tried to end his exile in South Africa on Saturday, but the government closed the main airports to prevent his re-entry. On Wednesday, mediation talks on the political crisis sponsored by the regional body SADC attempted to get the government to allow Ravalomanana to return by the end of February, with little success.
On Friday, scores of people were arrested by police in South Africa to prevent them from setting up a planned three-day summit on Jobs, Land and Housing on Rondebosch Common to highlight inequality in society.
The ruling MPLA party in Angoladefended the re-appointment of the electoral commission chief on Wednesday, accusing the opposition of spreading criticism that the appointment violated the new election law in an effort to cause instability. UNITA lawmakers and other opposition parties walked out of parliament in protest. The government announced that it does not plan to request a new from the IMF after the end of its $1.4 billion standby agreement later this year.
Are women in war-torn countries faring any better today than they did a decade ago? The UNFPA’s 2010 State of World Population report, released on Wednesday attempted to answer this question inconclusively. The report suggests taking a broader look at the relationships between women and conflict, paying special attention to the role of women in preventing conflict and the role of women in rebuilding after conflict.
The African Union, with support of the European Union and Canada, launched non-combat military exercises in Addis Ababa on Wednesday to improve the continent’s capacity to respond to conflict and enhance peace-keeping operations. The exercises will last ten days and will be attended by more than 200 senior military officers from across Africa.
The Chinese government is fighting hard to prevent the publication of a report showing the flow of weapons it sold into Darfur last year despite a ban imposed by the UN Security Council. China has responded angrily to the revelations, insisting that they will block the public release of the report unless its finding are rewritten. Russia and Belarus were both also reported to be supplying weaponry, using signed end-user agreements with both governments guaranteeing that the weapons would not be used in Darfur. The Sudanese army was angered with the UN peacekeeping chief’s announcement last week that they intend to deploy peacekeepers in the south to Abyei and other hotspots along the border ahead of the referendum to create limited buffer zones. The UN announced on Monday that it is sending 100 more troops to the Abyei region to step up security. South Sudan’s army complained on Tuesday that the UN failed to report a massive build-up of northern troops around sensitive border areas, warning that war could erupt. One senior official of the Sudanese government said that it is “not possible” to hold a referendum on Abyei on time. The Sudanese government removed the special prosecutor for Darfur crimes on Sunday in an apparent bid to deflect the ICC case against President Al-Bashir for war crimes. On Wednesday it was announced that the Doha peace talks on Darfur peace are moving from negotiations to decision-making in order to finalize a peace agreement. The government announced that they are willing to continue peace talks with other rebel groups that currently boycott the peace process in Doha, but stressed that they must join the negotiation before the end of the year. UN Security Council diplomats visiting the country witnessed the sight of ground attack jets in Sudan that are a clear violation of the arms embargo. Though the presence of the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot jets does not prove they have been used in attacks on Darfuris, their presence was highly suspicious. Sudanese security officials have also been accused of arresting two Darfuri refugees who were seen speaking to the UN envoys during their visit to the region, although, the Sudanese Foreign Ministry denies the claims.
Heavy clashes between Somali forces and insurgent fighters left at least 20 people dead on Saturday, but resulted in the government forces defeating the insurgents and taking back the town of Bulo Hawo on Sunday. Al-Shabaab banned the transfer and receipt of cash by mobile phone this week in an effort to weaken Western capitalism in the country, a move that the government said would stifle the economy and hurt entrepreneurs in a country where few hold bank accounts. On Monday, the government security forces initiated an operation of searching for al-Shabaab in the Galgala hills in northern Somalia, apparently seizing four prisoners and two trucks. On Wednesday, the parliamentary speaker postponed a vote to endorse the newly appointed PM after the nation’s assembly descended into chaos with lawmakers shouting at each other whether the vote should be conducted in secret or in the open. It has been announced that the vote will be held on Saturday in secret. On Friday, the African Union asked the UN Security Council to approve a no-fly zone and naval blockade of Somalia in an effort to deter pirates and prevent fighters and shipments from reaching al-Shabaab and other rebel groups. They also announced that Somali soldiers killed at least 27 al-Shabaab militants in clashes along the Kenyan border.
Nigerian security forces have arrested the brother of Henry Okah, who was arrested in connection to the deadly October 1st bombings in Abuja, for his suspected funding involvement. Nigerian authorities have also announced that they are beefing up their efforts to contain a radical Islamic sect in the north by launching joint army and police exercises and using attack helicopters with patrols.
Guinea’s scheduled October 24th run-off elections remained uncertain for most of the week due to political fighting and violence in the streets. Police opened fire on people in Conakry on Tuesday, killing at least two, after supporters of Presidential candidate Diallo reportedly threw stones at police. The electoral body was said to have lost all credibility and needed to be rebuilt before an election could be held. On Wednesday it was announced that the run-off would be delayed until October 31st, but then later in the day the two candidates announced that they were ready to take part in the vote after authorities named a new election body chief. On Thursday, they again announced that they would not be ready by Sunday as planned.
Thousands of women have taken to the streets in eastern DR Congo on Sunday against rising sexual violence in the country. The UN Population Fund reported that there had been more than 17,507 cases of sexual violence attacks in 2009, including more than 9,000 in North and South Kivu. Despite increasing violence, the UN’s pleas for helicopters to patrol the impassable areas of the country, have fallen on deaf ears.
Western Sahara’s Polisario independence group sought UN protection from alleged Moroccan repression on Monday as a UN envoy toured the region. Several human rights organizations have expressed concern over the fate of Polisario’s police chief, who was arrested on allegations of treason and espionage.
President Robert Mugabe from Zimbabwe has threatened retaliation if the European Union countries heed the advice of this political rival PM Tsvangirai to expel diplomats that the ruler appointed unilaterally. The current political impasse is threatening the inclusive government formed last February.
The government of Ethiopia released leaders and members of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the country’s most active rebel movement on Saturday as part of the peace accord signed last week in Addis Ababa. The peace deal represents only one part of the fractured ONLF group, with the other rebel faction calling it “irrelevant” and vowing to continue its armed struggle against the government. The Canadian government announced that it was deeply concerned over a report that found that its foreign aid to Ethiopia was being used as a weapon to crush political dissent and bolster the power of the ruling party. Canada provided more than $150 million to Ethiopia in 2008 and is now calling for a full investigation. Ethiopia rejected these claims on Thursday, saying that “Aid is not wasted in Ethiopia and is distributed effectively to all who require it”.
Central African nations affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have agreed to form a joint military force to strengthen the fight against the group. The region also agreed on the steps required to declare the LRA a terrorist group, instead of a rebel group, in line with the relevant instruments of the African Union.
A Ugandan newspaper published a story featuring the names and photographs of 100 homosexuals under the headline: “Hang Them”. Many of those on the list have since faced violence.
Ivorian newspapers are reporting rumours of attack in Cote D’Ivoire from ex-fighters of the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL) who are demanding what they say is their war allowance from Gbagbo’s government. Some reports detailed that the militiamen in the western part of the country were threatening to sabotage the political campaign and the October 31st elections.
The Rwandan government dismissed a media watchdog report by Reporters without Borders (RSF) on Thursday which ranked press freedom within the country alongside authoritarian states such as Burma and North Korea. Rwanda placed 169 out of 178 nations, its worst position since the founding of the index.
On Saturday, a Swedish soldier was killed in an IED attack and a NATO service member was killed in a separate IED attack in Kabul. Gunmen killed nine Afghan workers who were guarding a NATO supply convoy in south Afghanistan on Sunday night. On the same evening, collation forces killed four suspected Taliban fighters in an air strike. A series of explosions killed at least two civilians in Kandahar, and two coalition troops were said to have been killed in separate attacks on Sunday. On Monday, eight Afghan security guards were killed when insurgents attacked their compound in Helmand; three civilians were killed after homemade bombs exploded under a bridge in Herat; three more civilians were killed in a roadside bomb in Ghazni; 10 insurgents were reported killed and several more detained after they fired on a joint NATO and Afghan army patrol; and insurgents kidnapped 20 employees of a construction company in Farah, resulting in the death of two insurgents. On Tuesday, three NATO service members were killed in militant attacks; four Taliban commanders were reported killed in three separate incidents; and 40 Taliban fighters are said to have deserted to the government. Afghan elections officials have announced that ballots from 571 different polling stations in last month’s parliamentary elections may now been disqualified by fraud. On Wednesday it was announced that nearly one-quarter of the ballots were thrown out due to fraud. Also on Wednesday at least nine people, including eight children, were killed when a school bus was hit by a roadside bomb in Nimroz; an ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul; and Afghan and foreign troops killed more than 10 insurgents during an operation in the Ziruk district. On Thursday, a NATO service member was killed in an insurgent attack in the east; four Afghan policemen were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in Herat; and insurgents ambushed a group of Afghan border police in Herat, resulting in the death of one insurgent and one policemen. A detainee being held by NATO troops was found dead in his holding cell on Sunday, and by Tuesday a US soldier was in custody in regards to his death. Top Taliban commanders are said to have continued in peace talks with Afghan leaders with the help of NATO troops who brought them from their sanctuaries in Pakistan this week, although some claimed that the negotiations were exaggerated, believing that the peace talks were a ploy to sow distrust among the insurgents.
US drone attacks in Pakistan killed nine suspected militants in Pakistan on Saturday. A special election held on Monday to replace a lawmaker who was gunned down in August resulted in the death of between 25-30 people as violent clashes rocked Karachi. The rival party is boycotting the elections saying they are rigged. On Tuesday at least 27 people were killed in shootouts in Karachi and militants on motorcycles attacked and torched three NATO fuel tankers destined for Afghanistan. On Wednesday, Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial hub, was shut down for a day of mourning; while six soldiers were wounded after their vehicle hit a landmine in Kalaya; six Taliban were killed by security forces; security forces killed a militant who threw a hand grenade at a police checkpoint in Peshawar; two suspected militants and one police officer were killed in a shootout in Bannu; and a roadside bomb killed two soldiers on the Afghan border. On Thursday, Pakistani police in Quetta rounded up nearly 50 people on suspicions of links with militants and a roadside bomb in the northwest killed six suspected militants. Nearly 150 members of the Pakistani parliament have been suspended by the election commission for not declaring their assets, removing them from attending sessions or voting, in the growing tensions between the government and the judiciary. On Friday, the US announced a $2 billion arms sale with Pakistan to help boost the fight against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The deal would be spread out over the next five years and represents about a 30% increase in US funding for weapon sales to the country. Also on Friday, a roadside bomb killed six paramilitary soldiers in Kalaya and a bomb blast in a mosque killed two people just outside of Peshawar.
Tajik security forces claimed to have killed three suspected Islamist militants near the Afghani border on Monday. Tajik government forces have been carrying out operations targeting militants since a September attack on a military convoy. The Tajik government has been accused of increasing repression against independent media in the country.
Indian troops in Kashmir shot and killed two separatist militants on Thursday in a fierce nine-hour firefight. There has been a recent spike in violence after a period of relative decline, and security agencies suspect that it may signal a new rebel strategy to back popular street protests with increased militant attacks on Indian forces. Five policemen were killed in India when Maoist rebels blew up a security patrol on Friday.
Thousands of Chinese joined in on sometimes violent protests over a simmering territorial dispute with Japan on Saturday. Chinese authorities are said to have allowed the rowdy demonstrations to prevent the frustrations from being turned against the Chinese regime itself. China’s one child policy has resulted in the forced abortion of many fetuses, with an estimated 13 million reported abortions each year. Women who violate the policy usually pay a fine, but are often sterilised to prevent them from having another child. Activists in China are attempting to create a Chinese “WikiLeaks” project to share secret government documents in an attempt to increase transparency and lead to political reform. Critics worry that project is naive given China’s strict secrecy laws.
Thousands of Tibetan students in western China peacefully protested this week against proposals to curb or eliminate the use of the Tibetan language in local schools. The protests are said to be the largest in Tibetan areas since the March 2008 uprising.
Officials announced on Monday that foreign journalists will not be allowed into Myanmar/Burma to cover the country’s first election in 20 years. The election is widely criticized as a sham.
Thousands of anti-government “red shirts” demonstrated in Thailand on Sunday demanding the release of their leaders and comrades detained since the April and May protests. The capital is still under a state of emergency, following the deaths of 91 people in the earlier protests.
A video allegedly showing Indonesian soldiers torturing indigenous Papuans, including burning the genitals of one man, were released on Monday. The chief of the Indonesian military said the military would investigate, but given that soldiers cannot be tried in civilian courts and military courts only give lenient sentences, those responsible are unlikely to be punished. On Friday, the Indonesian government confirmed that the video was authentic and that the soldiers involved had been “unprofessional”.
An opposition party in Kyrgyzstan rallied in Bishkek on Tuesday accusing authorities of cheating it of seats in last week’s parliamentary elections and warning of possible upheavals and violence. The central election commission has yet to announce the final official results after calls for verification delayed the announcement.
South Korea announced on Wednesday that they have arrested a North Korean spy who posed as a political defector with the intention of assassinating a former member of the ruling North Korean regime. South Korean officials announced on Thursday that there have been continual movements of personnel and vehicles at North Korea’s main nuclear test site, however, they ruled out the possibility that the country is preparing for its third atomic bomb test soon.
At least ten people were killed after a bomb exploded on a passenger bus in the southern Philippines on Thursday. The bomb comes just two weeks ahead of the local village elections and is thought may be part of an attempt at extortion. The government named a human rights lawyer to head peace talks with Maoists to end more than 40 years of conflict that has killed about 40,000 people. New President Aquino has said his government would negotiate in good faith as peace was needed to lift economic growth and investor confidence.
Central and North Americas
Ten people were killed in the latest drug violence in Mexico. Six people were killed after armed men opened fire at a family party in Ciudad Juarez and another four people died in a shootout between marines and drug cartel members in Monterrey.
The Pentagon experienced a temporary lockdown on Tuesday after shots were fired at the building. Authorities are still investigating. The nearly four year long murder and violent crimes case against private security firm Blackwater Worldwide is in collapse. Federal prosecutors are said to have failed to overcome a series of legal hurdles, including the difficulties of obtaining evidence in war zones, gaining proper jurisdiction for prosecution in American civilian courts, and overcoming immunity deals given to defendants by American officials at the scene.
Bolivian President Evo Morales signed a deal on Tuesday with Peruvian President Alan Garcia allowing Bolivia to build and operate a small port, making landlocked Bolivia a new maritime nation. The 1.4 sq. mile patch of sand will be leased from Peru for 99 years.
As you can see, my South American section is always a little under-reported. I would love suggestions on media sites covering South American news available in English! If you have a suggestion, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or write it in the comments below. Thanks!
Israel’s coalition government appears to be in danger of collapse following the failing peace talks and controversial “loyalty law”. On Sunday, Israel supposedly resumed talks with Hamas rulers on the swapping of about 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for a captive Israeli soldier who has been held for more than four years. Two Palestinians were killed in a pre-dawn Israeli air raid north of Gaza City on Sunday, in the latest target of alleged terror operatives. The proposed loyalty oath, deemed racist by many critics, will now apply to all new citizens and not just non-Jews. The redrafting of the oath will have little impact, as it does not address the objections of the Palestinians.
The Palestinian leadership is increasingly focusing on how to get international bodies and courts to declare a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The Palestinians complain that the two-state peace process solution is disappearing, while Israel rejects the move as unacceptable and a violation of the 1993 Oslo accords. Israeli settlers are said to have begun building new homes at an extraordinary pace since the government lifted its moratorium on housing starts, more than four times faster than the last two years. Many of the new homes are also said to be in areas that would more than likely become part of a Palestinian state in any peace scenario.
Iran is said to have brokered a critical deal with its Iraqi neighbours that could see a pro-Iranian government installed in the country. The deal involved Syria, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the highest Shia authorities. On Monday, the Iranian city of Esfahan announced that it was now a crime for women to bicycle, roller-skate, or play volleyball in public.
The United Arab Emirates has upheld a law allowing a man to “discipline” his wife and children providing that he does not leave physical marks on their bodies. Scholars differ on what constitutes a “beating” but agree it must not be severe.
On Saturday, two mortar rounds landed in southern Baghdad, wounding four; a bomb attached to a vehicle exploded in Balad, wounding four; and two people were wounded when a sticky bomb went off in Baghdad. At least 12 people are said to have been killed after gunmen stormed gold shops in Baghdad and ended up in a gunfight with security forces, police and military on Sunday; a man was killed after a sticky bomb attack on a car in Baghdad; at least six people were wounded, including three government employees, in separate sticky bomb attacks; a roadside bomb killed one soldier in Baaj; a mortar round wounded a father and son in Mosul; and a sticky bomb attack wounded a teenager in Mosul. A roadside bomb in Baghdad, Iraq on Monday morning killed a member of Baghdad’s Provincial Council. Also on Monday, a suicide car bomb exploded near a security patrol west of Mosul, killing one Iraqi soldier and wounding three others; two separate shootings in Diyala Province killed a man and one woman; a magnetic bomb in Baghdad killed one person; and a gunmen opened fire on an army checkpoint, killing one soldier in Mosul. On Tuesday, at least 11 people were killed after blasts ripped through the home of a senior Iraqi police commander in Tikrit; a roadside bomb hit a UN convoy, killing one policement in Najaf; gunmen opened fire on a speeding car killing an off-duty bank guard in Kirkuk; a roadside bomb killed three on a police patrol in Samarra; and a roadside bomb killed two policemen on a roadside patrol in Baghdad while two other bombs planted in buses wounded 15 Iranian pilgrims. On Wednesday, an off-duty border guard, his wife and three other relatives were killed after armed men forced their way into their house in Mosul; police found the body of an unknown man with bullet wounds in Daquq; armed men in a speeding car opened fire and killed a district mayor of Kirkuk; a bomb next to a railway in Mosul wounded two train drivers; a roadside bomb in Baghdad wounded five people; and three people were wounded by a second roadside bomb in Baghdad. On Thursday, a roadside bomb killed a member of a government-backed militia 100 km north of Baghdad and another roadside bomb went off near a police patrol in Baghdad, wounding one policeman and two civilians. On Friday, a sticky bomb killed a militia leader in Garma; gunmen opened fire at a checkpoint wounding two policemen and one soldier in Baghdad; a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed one civilian in Mosul, while a second roadside bomb killed a soldier; gunmen opened fire at a police checkpoint, killing one policeman in Mosul; and a roadside bomb wounded a young girl west of Mosul.
At least three soldiers were killed in Yemen after armed men ambushed a military convoy in the south on Saturday. The air force responded by bombing the attackers to give the convoy cover on its journey. The following day Yemeni forces bombed suspected al-Qaeda positions killing three suspected militants.
The Obama administration has formally notified Congress of an arms deal with Saudi Arabia worth up to $60 billion that includes advanced fighter jets, helicopters, missiles and other weaponry and equipment. The deal is the largest US arms deal in history.
Bahrain is tightening down security ahead of next Saturday’s elections, making it tougher for the Shi’a majority to vote. The Shi’ite population is angered because they want more inclusion in decision making and government ministry jobs.
Anti-immigration sentiment in Germany has reached a new low after German chancellor Angela Merkel claimed that attempts to create a multicultural society have utterly failed this week and that immigrants must do more to integrate. Last week, the Bavarian premier called for a halt to all Turkish and Arabic immigration following polls that suggest that one-third of Germans believed the country was overrun by foreigners and that 55% of Germans believed that Arabs are “unpleasant people”.
Massive protests continued in France this week, as workers protested the government’s plan to raise the age of retirement. The protests resulted in fuel pipeline supplies to airports and many gas stations being shut down. The protests were labeled as relatively peaceful, until Tuesday, when youths clashed with riot police in cities across the country. The EU Justice Commissioner announced that the EU will suspend its legal action threatened against France for its expulsion of Romanian and Bulgarian Roma populations.
Opposition groups and human rights activists in Russia formally applied for permission to hold a mass gathering in Moscow’s Triumph Square on October 31st in their Strategy 31 campaign. Article 31 of the Russian Federation Constitution theoretically guarantees the freedom of assembly, but previous attempts by the opposition and activist groups have been thwarted by authorities. The European Court of Human Rights slapped a fine on Russia on Thursday for banning homosexual rallies in Moscow, stating that the government had denied the right of assembly, discriminated against sexual orientation and denied activists their right to redress. Russia has announced on Tuesday that it is considering a proposal to help develop a US led anti-missile shield for Europe.
Gunmen stormed Chechnya’s parliament on Tuesday, killing at least 6 people. The insurgents detonated a bomb at the gates, killing himself, then two insurgents ran into the building opening fire. They tried to enter the main parliamentary hall, but were unable to do so, and so barricaded themselves in the ground floor, eventually blowing themselves up.
One policeman and three militants were killed on Wednesday in a shoot-out in Russia’s Kabardino-Balkaria province. An Islamist insurgency is said to have spread out of Daghestan and Chechnya.
Russian troops have pulled out of a Georgian village that has been occupied for the past two years in South Ossetia. Both Georgia and the EU had objections to the occupation. Russia said it would withdraw after the latest round of internationally-mediated talks in Geneva, calling it an act of goodwill and a test of Georgian restraint.
Turkey has began the trials of more than 150 Kurds, including a dozen elected mayors, who have suspected links with the rebel group Kurdistan Associations Union (KCK). Critics say the trial is aimed at silencing Kurds who are fighting for autonomy in the country.
The junior partner in Kosovo’s ruling coalition announced on Saturday that it was quitting the government amidst a deepening political crisis. The political stalemate will delay EU sponsored talks with Serbia, which refuses to recognize the independence of its former province.
The British military announced severe budget cuts on Tuesday to the amount of 8% cut to the annual 37 billion pound defense budget over four years. These cuts will delay the program to upgrade its nuclear defenses, reduce the number of forces it can deploy on combat missions and cut thousands of troops.
A new survey in the Ukraine found that one in five Ukrainians are willing to sell his or her vote in the upcoming local elections scheduled for October 31st. Less than one in ten believe that the local elections will be fair.
The UN called upon governments to expand their efforts to ensure the protection for the world’s 43 million forcibly displaced people in the face of “never-ending” conflicts that are creating new semi-permanent refugee populations. More than 5.5 million refugees are stuck in protracted situations.
China began hosting its first UN climate conference this week aimed at building momentum and finding areas of agreement ahead of the annual summit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Climate change is said to highly affect global conflicts. China said at the conference that rich nations must vow greater cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and warned of lost trust in talks, while rich countries accused China of undercutting progress.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a report on Friday calling for equal participation by women in post-conflict peacebuilding. He laid out a seven-point action plan aimed at changing practices among all actors and improving outcomes on the ground.
At least nine civilians were killed after al-Shabab fighters in Mogadishu, Somalia attacked an African Union’s peacekeeping position on Saturday and another eight were killed on Sunday. On Wednesday it was announced that over 30 people had been killed in the past three days and at least 51 wounded in this continued fighting. Uganda announced it could raise an entire 20,000 troop force for the African Union to defeat Somalia’s Islamist rebels and pacify the country in a statement released on Monday. Uganda’s President has been urging greater urgency in regional and international efforts to stabilize Somalia since the twin bomb blasts that rocked Uganda’s capital in July that were led by the al-Shabab militia. Uganda is also the site for the new UN regional peacekeeping hub for the Great-Lakes region.
The UN Security Council traveled to Sudan this week to discuss the scheduled referenda on self-determination. Southern Sudan will vote on whether to secede from the rest of the country on January 9th, while the central area of Abyei will vote on whether to be part of the north or south. Sudanese officials announced on Tuesday that the long-awaited timetable for the referendum has been released, but that unforeseen circumstances could still delay the vote. Voter registration is to start in mid-November, with the final voter list ready by December 31st, leaving just 8 days before the January 9th deadline for the vote. Armed men abducted a civilian peacekeeper in Darfur on Thursday.
Ethiopia’s best-known opposition leader was released after five years in jail for treason related to the 2005 election dispute on Wednesday. The move was seen as a placatory gesture by the newly sworn in Prime Minister, who had refused to let her out for the parliamentary elections, in which the ruling party won 99.6% of the seats.
Nigeria’s government admitted it was warned of the parade attack last week that killed at least 12 people by foreign agencies and did the best it could to secure the area. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) also suggested that it gave the security forces five days notice of the attacks. South African police invaded the Johannesburg home of the leader of MEND on Saturday, apparently acting on the request of Nigerian authorities who claimed he was stockpiling weapons and re-arming fighters in the Niger Delta region. No weapons were found after a 10 hour search. Nigeria’s secret service detained an aid to one of President Goodluck Jonathan’s election rivals on Monday in connection to the bomb attacks, raising concern over violence in next year’s election polls. The former MEND leader announced that he received a phone call from a “close associate” of Goodluck Jonathan urging him to tell MEND to retract its claim of the bombings, so that they could blame them on northerners who are opposing the President. The next day, the former leader was being described as the main suspect in the bombings. On Wednesday, the Northern Political Leaders Forum declared that President Jonathan should immediately resign from office or they will take take steps to impeach him because he has proved he is incapable of leading the nation justly and fairly, amid another bomb scare. On Friday, inmates at a prison in northeastern Nigeria torched a part of the building, raising fears that a radical Islamic sect, who has many members incarcerated in the jail, are attempting a comeback. The sect previously staged an uprising that resulted in the deaths of hundreds.
Guinea’s already postponed runoff presidential elections may be delayed even further due to technical issues such as production and supply of voters’ cards. The originally scheduled September 19th election was delayed because of election violence. On Wednesday, the government announced it will hold the delayed second round on October 24th. On Wednesday, the first place winner of the first round of elections insisted that a run off could only be possible if the “controversial” election commissioner is changed and threatened to boycott the elections if he was not.
Suspected al-Qaeda militants killed five Algerian soldiers and wounded another 10 in an attack on their convoy on Saturday. Around 200,000 people have died in the country since violence broke out in the early 1990s between Islamist rebels and government forces.
According to a leading survey, governance standards have improved significantly in Angola, Liberia and Togo over the past four years but have decline in Eritrea and Madagascar. Mauritius was revealed as Africa’s best-governed country, while Somalia was listed as the worst-governed nation.
The Egyptian Journalists’ Union has accused the government of cracking down on media that is critical of the authorities in advance of an upcoming November parliamentary election. Two popular talk shows were recently closed down.
UN peacekeepers say they have captured the rebel commander they accuse of being behind the rape of hundreds of villagers in eastern DR Congo in August on Tuesday. The UN peacekeeping force was largely criticized for failing to prevent the mass rape of over 300 people, which took place just 20 miles from their base. Recent budget cuts to the newly scaled back MONUSCO peacekeeping mission, mean that the mission lacks sufficient helicopter strength to operate effectively in the country’s unstable east. The UN announced that the crisis in the DRC is beyond their capacity. ICC appeals judges ruled on Friday that Thomas Lubanga, accused of war crimes, should not be released and ordered that his trial resume following a two month stay after the prosecutor failed to comply with the trial chamber’s orders.
The first of 500 additional UN peacekeeping troops arrived in Cote D’Ivoire on Thursday in advance of the October 31st election. The UN is distributing voter and identity cards across the country.
Recent attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has shown that the group has extended its reach to vulnerable communities in the Central African Republic. Four LRA rebels are said to have been killed in a clash on Monday with the UDFR.
Two suspected US missile strikes into northwest Pakistan reportedly killed at least 12 militants on Saturday and another five militants of German nationality were thought to have been killed in drone strikes on Tuesday. On Monday, gunmen attacked seven more fuel tankers in revenge for last week’s NATO incursions into the country, and on Tuesday at least 20 trucks were targeted, resulting in the deaths of at least 3 people. Two Pakistani troops were said to have been killed in the incursion. The attacks continued, with another dozen tankers attacked on Wednesday, resulting in the death of at least one man. On Thursday, two suspected suicide bombers hit a crowded Muslim shrine in Karachi, killing at least 7 people. At least four people were said to have been killed in more NATO drone attacks on Thursday, bringing the death toll from drone attacks to over 150 in the past month alone. On Friday, three drone missiles killed at least five suspected militants, and two soldiers were killed in a roadside blast in the northwest. NATO’s Secretary-General has spoken out against the continued blockage of the main NATO supply routes into Afghanistan by Pakistan, saying that the incursion was “obviously… unintended”. Meanwhile, former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf has decided to form a new political party in an effort to “introduce a new democratic political culture” to his people. An ironic choice of words from a man who led a coup in 1999 to overthrow an elected civilian government because he was fired.
Eight private security firms have been disbanded and hundreds of weapons confiscated in Afghanistan as the government moves towards taking full responsibility for the country’s security. Afghanistan is set to take over security from foreign troops by 2014. At least 3 Afghan civilians were killed alongside 17 insurgents in a NATO air strike targeting senior Taliban commanders in the south on Sunday. The US military later apologized for the civilian deaths. At least eight people were killed after two explosions rocked Kandahar on Monday. On Tuesday, an Afghan soldier fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a French and Afghan outpost, but missed the target. The soldier has fled and has yet to be caught. Following the barrage of complaints of election fraud, a provincial head of the Independent Election Commission was arrested on Monday. The officer was accused by candidates and observers of taking bribes in exchange for important election posts. Peace talks were supposedly underway between Taliban reps, Afghan officials and a Pakistani government delegation in Kabul this week aimed at setting the ground for negotiations on ending the Afghan war, although participants denied that the talks involved Afghan and Pakistani officials meeting with the Taliban, calling them instead “brainstorming sessions”. NATO claimed that a Taliban leader and seven of his associates were killed in an air strike and ground operation on Wednesday, and that the Taliban “shadow governor” of a northwestern province was killed in a separate operation on the same day. On Thursday, a German soldier was killed in a suicide attack in a northern province. On Friday, a British soldier was killed in an explosion in the southern Helmand province and at least 15 people were killed in a separate bomb blast in a mosque in a northern town. Also on Friday, two other ISAF soldiers were killed in two separate incidents in the south; Taliban insurgents burned eight NATO supply trucks and killed six Afghan guards; one senior Taliban commander was captured with four others and one insurgent was killed in Kabul; and Afghan forces killed four suspects in a firefight in Kabul.
Police in Bangladesh arrested three militants from the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in their continuing crackdown on militancy. Police claim that LeT followers have regrouped and are trying to launch fresh attacks.
Fiji’s former prime minister Chaudry was arrested on Friday for allegedly violating public emergency regulations that outlawed holding public meetings. Chaudry is thought to be a real contender to overthrow the current military government in the next election. The current President, who seized power in a 2006 coup, imposed the ban and scrapped plans for an election after saying conditions were not right.
Three Thai soldiers were killed after an ambush by suspected Muslim separatists in south Thailand on Sunday. The soldiers were said to be patrolling a road near the Malaysian border when gunmen opened fired from a nearby hill. On Tuesday, at least three people were killed after an explosion hit a residential building north of Bangkok. On Wednesday at least four people were said to have been killed in drive-by shootings by separatist rebels in the south.
Government troops continued their operations against militants in eastern Tajikistan resulting in the death of four soldiers, a police officer and two insurgents. Meanwhile, official press centres in the area are virtually closed and communication lines remain blocked making it extremely difficult for media representatives to get any information about the ongoing events. In retaliation, Tajik troops killed at least 5 rebels between Monday and Tuesday. On Thursday, a land mine blast killed six soldiers in an operation on the Afghan borders.
Police in Sri Lanka have been ordered to arrest activists who put up posters that criticize the President’s backing of a prison term for a former army chief who ran against him. The former army chief, once a national hero, was ordered to serve 30 months for corruption charges. Police have claimed that the order was intended to prevent posters from being placed in prohibited areas.
Authorities in Indian Kashmir began scaling down security as part of its efforts to defuse tensions. More than 100 people have been killed since June. Kashmiris remain angry about the widely-hated security law that gives the military sweeping powers to search, arrest or shoot protesters that are still in place.
Disturbing pictures of Nepali police carting off ballot boxes in Nepal, following the primary election held among some 80,000 Tibetan exiles to pick candidates for polls for a new parliament-in-exile and prime minister next year, have raised concern of continued repression of political activities by the Chinese. China objects to the election for a government in exile which it does not recognize.
The offices of the Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) party in Kyrgyzstan were attacked on Wednesday after some 100 members of two local movements forced their way into the offices. The two movements had staged a protest in Bishkek’s central square early that day. Kyrgyzstan is scheduled to hold an election on Sunday amid fears of increasing violence.
South Korea’s defense minister announced that his military would initiate a new and expanded propaganda war if provoked by the North and has reinstalled 11 sets of psychological warfare loudspeakers along the border. The North has warned that if undertaken, it will fire across the border and destroy the loudspeakers. The South also suggested that the North’s nuclear programme has reached an “alarming level” and poses a serious threat to the South. North Korea confirmed on Friday that Kim Jong-Un, Kim Jong-Il’s youngest son will succeed him as the next leader.
The announcement of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner angered the Chinese authorities, who see Liu Xiaobo as a criminal. Liu Xiaobo is currently serving time in a Chinese prison for “incitement to subvert state power” and co-authoring Charter 08, a call for democratic reforms in the country. The Chinese warned that awarding Liu the prize would damage Sino-Norwegian relations. Liu is a long-time activist for human rights and democracy.
Central and North America
An armed gang kidnapped at least 20 tourists in Mexico on Saturday near the resort city of Acapulco, in what is thought to be the latest bout of drug related violence in the country. On Saturday, assailants tossed a live grenade into a square in Monterrey, injuring 12 people.
The controversial and notorious security contractor Blackwater (now renamed Xe) is said to have received a new contract in the $10 billion range. Two former Blackwater employees are currently on trial in the US for murdering civilians in Afghanistan, and in 2008, give Blackwater guards were charged with the deaths of 17 Iraqis civilians, which were ultimately dismissed. The group also has been charged with weapons export violations. The first civilian trial of a Guantanamo Bay detainee was delayed on Wednesday after the judge told prosecutors they could not call their star witness, because they had learned of his identity only through harsh interrogation at a secret CIA camp.
The controversial and much protested “Ground Zero mosque” scheduled to be built in New York City turns out not to be a mosque after all, but a multi-faith community centre that includes a gym, playground and childcare area. It’s Muslim prayer area does not even satisfy the stringent requirements for a sanctified mosque.
The US State Department issued a travel alert to Europe on Sunday following the threats of a possible terrorist plot in several European countries.
The US midterm elections are to become the most expensive in history, and nearly five times as much as the last Presidential election, at an estimated $5 billion. This is the first year in which all donation limits were removed, allowing corporations to get involved.
A Canadian army captain convicted of shooting an unarmed Taliban fighter in Afghanistan after a battle avoided a jail term this week and instead will be kicked out of the Canadian forces. The killing has been dubbed a “mercy killing”, citing that the Captain only shot the gravely wounded enemy to end his suffering as he believed he was not going to receive treatment from Afghan forces. Mercy killing is not a defense in Canada. The Supreme Court in Canada ruled on Friday that suspects in serious crimes do not have a right to consult their lawyer during a police interrogation, essentially reversing the Canadian Charter’s right to counsel in specific cases.
Ecuador’s President Correa vowed to punish and purge his enemies after last week’s police rebellion. He suggested the axe would also swing towards opposition politicians whom he accused of attempting a coup. Days later, the government agreed to raise the pay of its police and armed forces by $35 million annually, calling the announcement a “coincidence”. Debate has been ensuing over whether the police tried to kill the President during the riots or were simply protesting against pay cuts and conditions. On Wednesday it was announced that at least 46 police officers were detained for their alleged participation in the revolt.
Former guerrilla Dilma Rousseff won the first-round Presidential election in the Brazilian polling with 46.7% of the votes, and will do battle in the October 31st runoff against Social Democrat Jose Serra who won just under 33% of the votes. Green party activist Marina Silva gained far higher than pollsters had expected with 19% of the vote.
Bolivian President Evo Morales is said to have kneed a political opponent in the groin during a friendly football match of political rivals. A bodyguard of Morales tried to arrest the kneed opponent after the match, but he was quickly ordered to be released by the opposition leader.
The Palestinian leadership confirmed that it will not return to direct peace negotiations with the Israelis without an extension to the now-expired freeze on settlement construction, a move endorsed by the Arab League. The Israelis have begun deflecting blame for the breakdown of talks, with expectations of the Palestinians “to show some flexibility”. The Syrian President said that the peace talks were only aimed at “bolstering domestic support” for Obama during a meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Two Israeli soldiers were convicted on Sunday of using a nine-year old Palestinian boy as a human shield during the three-week Gaza war in 2008-9. The soldiers will face prison sentences of up to three years. Israeli paramilitary border police killed a Palestinian on Sunday after he entered East Jerusalem from the occupied West Bank without a permit. On Monday, arsonists, suspected to be radical Israeli settlers, damaged part of a Palestinian mosque in the West Bank, scrawling the word “revenge” in Hebrew on a wall. On Monday, a video of an Israeli soldier dancing around a blindfolded, bound prisoner provoked more anger from Palestinians. The Israeli army condemned the video, calling it an “isolated incident” and opened a criminal investigation on the matter on Tuesday. Many see this as the continued degrading treatment and mentality of the occupier in the country, remembering the degrading photos from an Israeli guard that surfaced on facebook in early August, among others. On Wednesday, Israeli PM Netanyahu announced he would push for legislation requiring all those who want to become Israeli citizens to pledge a loyalty oath to the “nation-state of the Jewish people” in an attempt to win back angry settlers. On Thursday, the Israeli military said it had carried out an air strike in the Gaza Strip against Palestinian militants planning an attack in Israel. Witnesses say the strike targeted a car traveling in the central Gaza Strip. The ICC is being urged to prosecute members of the Israeli defense force for its role in the Gaza flotilla killings, however, Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute, meaning it can only be possible after a reference from the UN Security Council. On Friday Israel signed a deal with the US to buy $2.75 billion worth of radar-evading Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets. The F-35 is said to be the most-advanced fighter in the world.
Hamas announced on Wednesday that it would retaliate against the Western-backed Palestinian Authority if it continued to take actions against their members in the West Bank. The PA has recently been cracking down on Islamist activists, with Hamas claiming that nearly 750 of its activists have been arrested since August 31st. On Friday, Israeli forces killed two senior Hamas militants in the West Bank.
Iran has detained several western “spies” it claims were behind the recent cyber attacks on its nuclear programme. The number of jailed students in Iran has been reported to be the highest in decades with over 73 students currently being held in jails over their activism. Student opposition to the government report that the government has been using a new militarization strategy on campuses to stop opposition political activism there. On Thursday, at least four police officers and one bystander were killed after a gunman opened fire on a police patrol in Iran’s Kurdish region. On Friday, Iranian security forces killed two people suspected in Thursday’s attack.
Britain’s deputy ambassador to Yemen and her colleagues survived a rocket propelled grenade attack on their car on Wednesday. It is thought that the attack was carried out by al-Qaeda.
Tensions have increased in Lebanon and Syria after Syria issued arrest warrants for more than 30 people accused of misleading the investigation into the assassination of Lebanon’s former PM in 2005. Syria’s wanted list includes senior Lebanese judges, politicians and journalists who are said to have been “false witnesses”.
Iraq postponed its first full census in more than two decades until December on Sunday to avoid triggering open conflict between Arabs and Kurds locked in a fight over oil-rich land in the north. The survey is crucial because it will determine who has the greatest percentage of the total population in the region, and can therefore claim it as its own under the constitution. Two senior security officials in the north were arrested in connection with a plot to bomb the provincial government building on Sunday. Also on Sunday, gunmen using silenced weapons– increasingly the weapon of choice of insurgents–opened fire on a police checkpoint, killing one policeman in Falluja. At least one person was killed in Baghdad in a roadside bombing that targeted a deputy minister in the Iraqi government on Monday, at least one other person was killed in a separate bombing within the city and at least three people were killed in a bomb attack in Jalawlah. On Wednesday a civilian was wounded in a rocket attack in Kirkuk, while a roadside bomb targeting police patrol in a northern city wounded two policemen. On Friday, armed men in two boats wounded seven security guards when they attacked a prison in Basra, causing a riot in the prison. Also on Friday, a policeman was killed by a sniper in Baghdad.
The leader of Russia’s opposition Yabloko party was detained along with several environmental activists after protesting in the North Caucasus. The protesters were later released by police without charge. Russia announced on Thursday that it had successfully tested a long-range missile seen as a mainstay of its nuclear forces, after a series of failures which had raised doubts about its viability.
Roma and other migrants leaving France will soon be required to be fingerprinted, in an attempt to discourage them from coming back to France after being expelled. The fingerprinting is scheduled to begin October 15th, and will include anyone over the age of 12. Nearly a million protesters demonstrated on Saturday, pressing President Sarkozy to drop plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. This was the third day of protests in a month. A French blogger who filmed himself burning a Qur’an and urinating on it to put out the flames will face charges of incitement to religious hatred on Tuesday. He faces up to five years in jail. France’s highest court has approved the law banning full-facial veils in public. In six months time, women wearing the veil will face arrest and a $195 fine or “citizenship lessons”, while a man who forces a woman to wear the veil will be fined $42,000 and serve up to a year in prison.
The far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders has gone on trial this week on charges of inciting anti-Muslim hatred. Wilders released a short film in 2008 that denounced the Qur’an as a fascist book, urging Muslims to tear out “hate-filled” passages. Wilders is appealing to have the case dismissed invoking freedom of speech.
Bosnians went to the polls on Sunday to vote in general elections. Voters complained that the elections were dominated by issues of nationalism and ethnicity instead of the economy and necessary political reforms. Preliminary election results indicated that the current tripartite government is likely to remain deadlocked over Bosnia’s future, with two of the leaders advocating unity and a third pushing for the country’s breakup. The Bosnian state prosecutor indicted four Bosnian Serb police officers on Thursday on charges of mass killing, detention and torture during the 1992-5 war.
Teachers in an eastern Ukrainian city complained this week that the ruling Party of Regions is putting pressure on them, and that it is no longer possible for any to become a school director and not be a member. Many parents of students complain that the Party has started using secondary schools for its election campaign with pictures of the local Party candidate on display.
England and France may soon find themselves cooperating defensively on everything from nuclear warheads to transport aircraft, helicopters and aircraft carriers. The two countries are set to hold a summit in three weeks to discuss collaboration.