Bangladesh

This Week in Asian Conflict… March 7th-14th, 2012.

  • The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace released a new report discussing the threat of the terrorist group Lashkare-Taiba (LeT) in South Asia. The report suggests that the group is the second most dangerous terrorist group in the region, after al-Qaeda.
  • The United States named an Iranian General as a key figure in drug trafficking from Afghanistan on Wednesday. On Thursday, eleven people were wounded in a roadside bomb in the eastern city of Jalalabad; while American authorities announced they are looking into allegations that some Afghan Air Force officials have been using aircraft to transport narcotics and illegal weapons across the country. On Friday, the main US foreign aid agency in the country announced it is preparing to switch from private security contractors to Afghan government-provided security this month under a new policy mandated by President Karzai. On Saturday, the foreign minister announced he will visit Qatar to meet government officials to discuss reconciliation with the Taliban; five Taliban detainees held in Guantanamo Bay have reportedly agreed to be transferred to Qatar, a move Afghanistan believes will boost a nascent peace process; four civilians were killed and one more wounded by a NATO air strike in the northeastern Kapisa province; Afghan and foreign troops killed two insurgents and detained 27 more during joint operations around the country; while Al Jazeera ran a report documenting the change over one in one district following the Afghan army taking control of the area. On Sunday, an American service member allegedly walked out of a military base in a rural district in the south and opened fire on three nearby houses, killing at least 16 civilians, including several children, undermining stability and triggering angry calls for the immediate departure of American soldiers; the Pentagon’s chief spokesman announced that the basic war strategy in the country will not change despite the “isolated” incident; American President Obama offered condolences to the families killed by the American, calling the attack “tragic and shocking”; while President Karzai said he is nearly ready to sign a general Strategic Partnership Agreement with the US. On Monday, an American official leaked that the American Army member accused of Sunday’s massacre was treated for traumatic brain injury in 2010; while American President Obama said he was “heartbroken” over the massacre, called upon a thorough Pentagon investigation and expressed his determination to get American troops out of the country. On Tuesday, British PM Cameron arrived in Washington ahead of talks with American President Obama to discuss the transition of security in Afghanistan; gunmen attacked a senior Afghan government delegation investigating Sunday’s massacre, killing at least one soldier; hundreds of students took to the streets of Jalalabad in anger over Sunday’s killings; while a senior Afghan banking official said that wealthy Afghans are carrying an estimated $8 billion—almost double the state budget—in cash out of the country each year. On Wednesday, two bomb explosions in Helmand Province killed at least nine people; three Polish soldiers facing war crimes charges over the killings of civilians in Afghanistan were acquitted in Poland’s highest court, but will face a retrial in connection with the case; Afghan soldiers arriving at a meeting with the US Defense Secretary were told to disarm before arriving; and the US soldier accused with Sunday’s massacre was allegedly taken out of the country on legal recommendation.
  • Lawmakers in Uzbekistan have reportedly declared war on toys that harbour foreign values, as they proposed a bill to protect the “moral health” of children and teenagers by limiting the import of foreign-made toys.
  • Amnesty International accused Sri Lanka of illegally holding hundreds of detainees who are vulnerable to torture and execution and urged the UN to investigate allegations of serious abuses during and after the country’s 26-year civil war. On Monday, the Defense Ministry reportedly ordered news outlets to get prior approval before sending mobile phone alerts about the military or police, a move press freedom groups decried as another step towards greater censorship.
  • Tens of thousands gathered in the capital of Bangladesh to demand the government step down and hold elections, in the biggest opposition demonstration since the Bangladesh Nationalist Party suffered a landslide defeat in 2008 polls.
  • A village in western India reportedly hosted a mass wedding and engagement ceremony of 21 girls on Sunday aimed at breaking a tradition of prostitution in the region.
  • A former chief of the spy agency in Pakistan was forced to admit to spending millions of military dollars to influence an election during a court hearing on Thursday; one child was killed and a woman and a child injured when a mortar shell hit a house in the Bara area of Aka Khel in the northwest Khyber region; the interior minister announced that three of Bin Laden’s widows had been charged by authorities with illegally entering and living in the country; while militants allegedly attacked a Pakistan Army post in the Sarwakai area of the South Waziristan region, killing one soldier. On Friday, the PM named a new head of the ISI spy agency to take over for the outgoing spy chief who was due to retire March 18th; the Pakistani Taliban warned it will attack government, police and military officials involved if three of the late Bin Laden’s widows are not released from custody; a US drone fired missiles at a house in the Saraogha area of South Waziristan, killing at least 13 people; a militant shot dead the head of a local pro-government militia in the Kalaya area of the northwestern Orakzai region; the army announced it is in the process of handing over the Swat Valley to civilian leaders three years after 30,000 troops were sent to fight the Taliban; while security officials said that at least seven soldiers and eight suspected Islamist militants were reportedly killed in a clash in the North Waziristan region.   On Saturday, six members of a pro-government militia were reportedly killed when they were ambushed by militants in Dera Bugti; a clash between Pakistan army troops and militants in the Bara area of Khyber killed two soldiers and three militants; a mortar shell landed on a house in Aka Khel of Khyber region killing three people and wounding two others; and Pakistani fighter jets bombed four militant hideouts in the Khadezai and Mamozai areas killing 21 militants and wounding 23. On Sunday, 15 people died after a suicide bomber attacked a funeral attended by an anti-Taliban politician on the outskirts of Peshawar; while a homemade bomb exploded in the North Waziristan region, killing two people. On Monday, two people were killed and another 17 others wounded when a homemade bomb exploded next to a bus on the outskirts of the northwestern town of Sadda. On Tuesday, two missile strikes by suspected US drone aircraft reportedly killed at least 15 suspected militants close to the Afghan border; while militants allegedly threw a grenade and then opened fire at a meeting of tribal elders and local officials in a town in the North Waziristan regions, killing at least 3 people. On Wednesday, at least four people were reportedly killed and two others injured in a roadside bomb explosion near the Afghan border; while the government announced that the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has “no more interest” in funding a project to build a natural-gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan.
  • The authorities in Azerbaijan reportedly arrested 22 Azeri citizens on Wednesday suspected of spying for Iran and plotting to attack western embassies and companies; while an investigative journalist says she was allegedly blackmailed by authorities to stop her investigations into corruption and the financial dealings of the President and his family, and will not let the video released on the Internet purporting to show her engaging in sexual activities stop her.
  • The Parliament of China unveiled legislation on Thursday solidifying police powers to hold dissidents in secret, prompting outcry from rights campaigners. A young Tibetan man died and two others were reportedly injured in a shooting at a police station in western China on Friday, after complaining about the arrest of another man for taking part in a mass protest; while a prominent Tibetan writer under virtual house arrest in Beijing plead for an end to self-immolations in protest against Chinese rule, saying such measures do nothing for the cause of Tibetan rights. On Saturday, reports suggested that police in western China had shot dead a Tibetan man and wounded two others amid protests against Chinese rule the previous Tuesday; another teenage Tibetan monk set himself on fire on the 53rd anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule; while three men started a hunger strike outside the UN headquarters in New York, calling for action over Tibet. On Sunday police announced they rescued more than 24,000 abducted women and children across the country in 2011 as nearly 3,200 human trafficking gangs were broken up. On Monday, it was reported that a controversial reality-TV show “Interviews Before Execution”, that interviewed death row criminals right before their death, was cancelled after 6 years on the air. On Tuesday, the outgoing Premier called for reducing growth to 7.5%, reportedly signaling that the days of GDP worship need to end; while authorities are reportedly set to pass a landmark legislation granting more rights to detainees and other political reforms, but human rights organizations and relatives of some of those already being held are concerned that it will have little effect on the activities of so-called secret “black jails”.
  • Facebook and several independent new websites remained blocked in Tajikistan on Friday, and an official suggested the cut-off may be linked to potential national security concerns.
  • Four soldiers were killed and one critically wounded when insurgents reportedly detonated a roadside bomb in the south of Thailand on Wednesday. On Thursday, a rubber farmer was shot dead and his wife seriously wounded when two unknown gunmen opened fire on them while they were working at their farm. On Friday, two soldiers were killed and 12 wounded in a series of insurgent attacks on military bases and checkpoints across the southern region, the latest outbreak of separatist unrest.
  • The government of Myanmar/Burma announced that peace negotiations had reopened with Kachin rebels on Thursday in a bid to settle a stubborn conflict that could impact tentative Western efforts to lift sanctions on the country. On Sunday, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said that government censors are not allowing her party to criticize the previous military-run governments when it promotes its policies on state-run radio and television before next month’s elections. On Tuesday, a court sentenced a top leader of the ethnic Karen rebel group to life imprisonment for high treason, a move that could complicate a government-led peace process aimed at settling decades-old separatist conflicts.
  • Some 1,500 people took to the streets to protest in the southern Kyrgyzstan city of Osh on Wednesday to dispute local election results and demanding more seats for their political party on the city council.
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This Week in Asian Conflict… February 29th- March 7th, 2012.

  • Two NATO soldiers were reportedly shot dead in southern Afghanistan by two Afghans, including a man believed to be a soldier on Thursday. On Friday, the country’s top religious council demanded that those responsible for the burning of Qur’ans at the NATO base be put on public trial; negotiations between the US and Afghanistan on a potential long-term military presence has stalled over Karzai’s demands for Afghan control of prisons and an end to night-time raids on Afghan homes, two points the US say are impractical and compromise the effort; and the US government slapped sanctions on an Afghan national it says helped manufacture IEDs for the Taliban. On Saturday, a roadside bomb killed four civilians in a car in eastern Nangarhar province; while Afghan police reportedly killed six insurgents, with two insurgents killed while trying to plant a roadside bomb. On Sunday, a Western official reportedly released that the joint investigation by senior Afghan and US military officials determined that there was no intent to desecrate the Qur’an in the February 20th incident, but that it could lead to a disciplinary review of the American personnel involved, a move that Afghans apparently will never accept. On Monday, Afghanistan’s top clerics issued new guidelines in a statement that asserted that women are subordinate to men, should not mix in work or education and must always have a male guardian when they travel, and also called upon insurgents to join peace talks; a suicide bomber killed at least two civilians at a US military base where copies of the Qur’an was burned last month; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed four alleged insurgents, wounding one and detained four more across the country; while two separate suicide attacks killed at least six people. On Tuesday, President Karzai endorsed the clerics’ guidelines that activists criticize as a giant step backwards for women’s rights. On Wednesday, the human rights director for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan urged the government to implement laws to eliminate violence against women on the eve of International Women’s Day; four alleged insurgents were killed by NATO air strikes in Kunar and a 12 year old killed by the insurgent’s gunfire; a roadside mine killed two civilians in Kunar; a homemade mine killed two insurgents and their two children in Kabul; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed four insurgents, wounded one and detained 8 more around the country; while six British soldiers were reported killed by an explosion that hit their armored vehicle in Helmand Province. On Wednesday, four civilians were reportedly killed and some 10 others injured in an explosion near the Pakistani border.
  • Security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a protest rally in the northeastern city of Quba in Azerbaijan on Thursday, wounding four people; while authorities dismissed Iranian protests over its reported deal to buy arms worth $1.5 billion from Israel. On Friday, the Governor of the district of Quba was reportedly fired over the rioting.
  • Authorities in Uzbekistan allegedly installed security cameras in about 30 mosques in the eastern city of Namangan to prevent “theft”, inflaming locals who insist it’s another move to curb Islamic practice in the country.
  • The United States unveiled their new food aid program to North Korea in return for new nuclear moratorium agreement on Thursday, a move that China, South Korea and Japan welcomed and Reuters said helps to establish the credibility of Kim Jong-un. On Sunday, North Korea threatened “sacred war” against the South in a huge rally that reportedly attracted tens of thousands in the capital. On Monday, the UN nuclear watchdog announced it is preparing for a possible return to the country three years after it was expelled, a move welcomed by the United States.
  • A Saudi diplomat was reportedly shot dead in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka on Tuesday. The circumstances are still unclear.
  • The ruling Congress party in India suffered a major election setback in crucial state polls, winning clearly in just one of five states contested on Tuesday.
  • Supporters of the former President of the Maldives clashed with police and stopped the new leader from opening Parliament on Thursday, three weeks after he says he was forced to resign in a coup. Police announced 14 officers were rounded in the clashes, and that at least 34 people were arrested.
  • Thousands took to the streets in an opposition protest on Thursday in the southern city of Osh in Kyrgyzstan ahead of local elections in the city. On Sunday, polls closed and vote counting began in Osh to select members for the 45-seat city council, in an election that reportedly drew some 75.2% of voters.  On Monday, the leading local NGOs recognized the municipal elections, citing that they were confident that reported electoral violations did not affect the general outcome of the election.
  • Six mortar shells landed in North Waziristan in Pakistan on Thursday, wounding six people, four of them children; and fighter jets bombed five militant hideouts, killing some 18 militants and wounding 26. On Friday, at least 10 soldiers and 23 anti-state fighters were reportedly killed after militants attacked a security checkpoint in the northwest; a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest at a camp of the Lashkar-e-Islam militant group in the northwest, killing seven militants and wounding five; Pakistani fighter jets bombed two militant hideouts in the Orakzai region, killing 15 militants and wounding 12 others; gunmen opened fire at a car in Peshawar, killing an intelligence official; three militants were killed and two soldiers wounded when militants attacked a paramilitary convoy in the southwestern Baluchistan province; while lawmakers voted for 45 new members of the Senate.  On Saturday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest next to a police vehicle in the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa province, killing one policeman and wounding four others. On Sunday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest next to a police vehicle in the northwest, wounding one policeman. On Monday, the military announced that it had successfully tested a short-range ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear and conventional warheads; three militants from the TTP were killed in fresh clashes with another militant group Lashkar-e-Islam in the Tirah Valley; a soldier was killed by a homemade bomb during a clearing operation in Bara; a group of militants reportedly ambushed a Pakistani paramilitary convoy in the Uch area of Baluchistan province, killing three militants; unknown gunmen shot and killed a former local politician in the Charsadda district; while the number two commander in the Pakistani Taliban was reportedly fired.  On Tuesday, a homemade bomb exploded and another defused on the outskirts of Dera-Ismail Khan, wounding two children; one Pakistani soldier was killed and two others wounded in a homemade bomb explosion in Bazai; and seven alleged militants were killed and nine others injured in a gun battle after they ambushed a convoy of Frontier Corps troops in the Uch area of Baluchistan.
  • Forty-seven people charged with terrorism are expected to face trial in Kazakhstan in relation to two explosions last October. On Tuesday, police said they arrested three activists of the unregistered opposition Algha party in Almaty in connection with violence last December. On Wednesday, the wives of two jailed leaders of the opposition Republican Social Democratic Azat Party led a protest outside the National Security Committee’s detention centre in Almaty to condemn a government crackdown on activists and also claiming they have not been allowed to see their husbands or send them clothes or food since they were detained more than a week ago.
  • China’s top official in Tibet urged authorities to tighten their grip on the Internet and mobile phones on Thursday, reflecting the government’s fears about unrest ahead of its annual parliamentary session; while the village of Wukan gave up their violent standoff over corrupt land grabs to vote for a new village committee. On Sunday, a Tibetan woman set herself on fire in the south-west the latest to protest against Chinese rule; residents in the southern village of Wukan elected a reformist leader to run a new administrative authority that many hail as a model for greater democracy following an uncompromising standoff over land grabs and abuses of power; while China apparently announced it is boosting its defence spending by 11.2% in 2012. Another Tibetan youth burned himself to death in the southwest on Monday, the third self-immolation in three days. On Wednesday, the government dismissed those self-immolating Tibetans as “criminals”.
  • Authorities in Tajikistan reportedly blocked access to Facebook and two Russian-language sites that published an article critical of the long-serving President on Saturday.
  • President Sein of Burma/Myanmar urged government troops and Kachin rebels on Thursday to end hostilities and take part in talks, but ruled out independence for any ethnic minority groups.
  • The Guardian ran an article on Sunday about a student facing 15 years in prison in Thailand for speaking out against the monarchy.
  • The Philippines ratified the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture on Tuesday by a unanimous resolution in the Senate.

This Week in Asian Conflict… December 14th-21st, 2011.

  • Relatives of inmates on a hunger strike in Kyrgyzstan picketed a pretrial detention centre on Wednesday to demand their relatives’ demands be met. The protesters are calling upon reviews for the inmates’ cases, who they claim have been sentenced for crimes they didn’t commit. On Tuesday, the Kyrgyz Parliament elected a new speaker, Asylbek Jeenbekov, who announced he is against dissolving Parliament and would resist any calls for its dissolution, and supports the law that prohibits any review or amending of the constitution prior to 2020.
  • On Tuesday, violent clashes occurred between residents of the town of Sulutepe, Azerbaijan who were protesting the demolition of their homes and a state oil company’s employees and police. The security regime claims the lands were illegally occupied and should be evacuated. On Wednesday, residents of a coastal village clashed with police after border guards tried to prevent local fishermen from casting their nets beyond a two-mile limit and arrested them.
  • Last Monday the government of Nepal decided not to renew the mandate of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the only branch of the UN watchdog in South Asia. Rights groups are claiming that the Nepali government’s constitutional promise to constitute a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate grave violations of human rights has failed to materialise and that impunity is widespread.
  • Kim Jong Il, leader of North Korea since the mid-nineties, died on the weekend after reportedly suffering a stroke on his private train amid much speculation of a future without the “Dear Leader”. The country appeared to enter what many called an “enforced mourning” period, publicly grieving in the streets at his death. His 27 year old son, Kim Jong Un has been named as his successor with quick Chinese endorsement, though some speculate that the military may not support him. On Monday, the North test-fired a missile off its eastern coast, as South Korea’s government went into “emergency mode” amid fears that Kim’s death could further destabilise relations; the United States announced it remained open to engagement with North Korea if it took steps towards denuclearization; while Kim Jong-un visited his late father’s body to pay respects and the state media began pledging loyalty to the new leader. By Wednesday, many humanitarian groups began voicing their concern that the death of Kim Jong-Il could worsen the dire food situation in the country, after the US postponed a decision on potential aid.
  • On Wednesday, police allegedly sealed off the village of Wukan in China, including cutting off all food supplies, in an attempt to quell an uprising of protesters demonstrating over government land seizures and the death of a village leader in police custody last week. The protests continued for the rest of the week. On Friday, the Beijing city government announced that it would tighten control over popular micro-blogs, giving users three-months to register with their real names or face legal consequences; while the government reportedly sent human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, whose whereabouts have been unknown for the last year, back to jail, after allegedly withdrawing his probation. On Sunday, protesting villagers in Wukan demanded that central leaders defuse their grievances and vowed to take the protests into a second week unless those leaders step in. On Monday, the villagers threatened to march on a local government office in protest, and hunkered down with rocks and rice at makeshift barricades to block police. On Tuesday, thousands besieged a government office and blocked a highway to demand a halt to a planned coal-fired power plant over concerns of pollution in the town of Haimen in Guangdong province; while officials offered concessions to the villagers in Wukan if they would give up their protesting, as talks were scheduled for Wednesday morning.
  • Cambodia and Thailand agreed on Wednesday to withdraw their troops from a disputed border region near the Preah Vihear temple. The International Court of Justice ordered both sides to remove their troops in July after earlier fighting left 18 dead and tens of thousands displaced, but neither side complied.
  • The sodomy trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia officially closed this week, with the judge setting January 9th for the verdict. The trial, which many allege was brought about only after the Anwar-led opposition won historic gains in the March 2008 parliamentary elections, is expected to have major implications in the expected upcoming elections.
  • On Wednesday, the US defence secretary announced that US troops in Afghanistan were winning the conflict against the Taliban as he addressed the troops in an operating base in the country; international forces remained concerned about the country’s depleting security forces, who have a reported 30-40% non-re-enlistment rate at the end of their 3 year contracts; and an ISAF service member was killed in a bomb attack in the south. On Thursday, officials re-opened the notorious Ghazi Stadium, home to executions, stoning and mutilations by the Taliban from 1996-2001, to sports after a US-funded refurbishment; while President Karzai called upon Afghans to lead any peace negotiations to end the war in their country after reports that Qatar had agreed to set up an unofficial Taliban embassy; and Human Rights Watch called upon the American military to halt plans to expand the Afghan Local Police force program until significant reforms were made in training, supervision and accountability. On Friday, a series of explosions rocked western Kabul after a police station was targeted by attackers with no reported injuries. On Saturday, an ISAF service member was killed by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan; and four armed insurgents were reportedly killed during operations by the police, National Army and coalition forces in Kabul, Kunduz, Kandahar, Helmand and Maidan Wardak provinces. On Sunday, a key government negotiator announced that the Taliban is willing to open a political office outside the country, in a step towards holding face-to-face peace talks with the government; two militants opened fire on a bus carrying Afghan army training officers, killing five and wounding nine; an ISAF service member was killed by a roadside bomb in Kabul; three Afghan soldiers and two policemen were killed in an attack by at least three suicide bombers on an army recruitment centre in Kunduz; and ISAF air strike killed at least three alleged insurgents in eastern Nangarhar province as they were laying a roadside bomb overnight; and Afghan and coalition forces killed or detained several alleged insurgents in northern Kunduz. On Monday, a senior Taliban commander denied that the group held secret talks with American officials after the United States announced that talks had reached a turning point. On Tuesday, Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed two alleged insurgents and detained another nine during operations in several provinces.  On Wednesday, a roadside bomb killed five Polish soldiers in Ghazni City; a suicide bomber was killed by Afghan National Police in Khost province; four armed insurgents were killed in a police operation in Helmand Province; and one civilian was killed by a homemade mine in Helmand.
  • A senior monk, who is a vocal critic of the government in Burma/Myanmar, has reportedly been ordered to leave his monastery in Rangoon because of a speech he gave at a pro-democracy event for Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy. The monk has allegedly refused to obey the order and said that he will stay until forced out. The International Atomic Energy Agency is again seeking access to sites in the country, which rejected allegations by an exile group last year that it was trying to develop atomic weapons. On Saturday, the government announced plans to bring an end to a series of conflicts with ethnic rebels within three years, ordering troops to halt all offensives against Kachin militias and discussing ceasefire agreements with numerous groups. On Thursday, a local aid group in the north reported that tens of thousands of displaced ethnic Kachins are facing food shortages and health problems, and that some of the displaced who attempted to cross into China were ordered to return to the conflict zone. On Wednesday, a woman was killed and another injured in an unknown explosion at the country’s biggest university.
  • The government of Bangladesh has reportedly announced an inquiry into a recent spate of killings and disappearances in the country, after at least seven bodies were found in the last eight days, and more than 40 people disappeared between January 2010 and November 2011. Local human rights groups allege that most victims are opposition political activists. On Sunday, a violent clash broke out between police and opposition party activists gathered to mark the 40th Independence anniversary, killing at least one person in Dhaka.
  • Officials in Pakistan alleged this week that NATO forces knew they were opening fire on Pakistani forces, even apologizing to Pakistani officers, throughout the friendly fire incident that killed 24 Pakistani troops in November; though the two forces have officially re-established military contact with each other. On Wednesday, gunmen on a motorcycle killed three Shi’ite Muslims in a suspected sectarian attack in Quetta; helicopter gunships attacked three suspected militant hideouts in Orakzai, killing six insurgents; and gunmen set fire to a NATO tanker in Kalat. On Friday, a pro-Taliban religious group in the north announced that it is mediating between the government and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan group. On Sunday, tens of thousands protested in support of the military and condemning the US for the NATO attacks in Lahore; while militants set off explosives at a girls’ high school in Khyber, partially damaging the building. On Monday, a senior government official reported that the President had returned home after nearly two weeks overseas seeking medical treatment.
  • Police in Indonesia’s Aceh province raided a punk-rock concert and detained 65 fans, cutting off Mohawks and stripping away body piercings and any other “inappropriate” clothing or accessories because of the perceived threat to Islamic values in the conservative region. Those detained are reportedly to receive 10 days of “rehabilitation”, training in military-style discipline and religious classes.
  • On Thursday, the Philippines declared a 19 day unilateral Christmas truce with Maoist guerrillas despite intensified attacks, including some 6 from that day alone. On Wednesday, the government asked the United States to give it at least a squadron of second-hand F-16 fighters to help upgrade its territorial defences and plans to spend 40 billion pesos ($941 million) over the next five years to upgrade its military.
  • On Friday, at least 13 people were killed in violent clashes between police and demonstrators in an oil town in western Kazakhstan after police tried to clear the town’s main square, where workers have been protesting for higher wages and better working conditions for more than six months. An opposition activist was arrested for 15 days for protesting against the violence the following day. On Saturday, police allegedly opened fire on rioters who stopped a train, killing one person in the central city of Shetpe. The President responded by declaring a 20-day state of emergency in the province, amid mounting pressure on him to relax the rigid authoritarian system he has built. On Sunday, journalists were stopped from travelling to the region, and all telephone connections were reportedly cut. On Tuesday, many again took to the streets demanding to know who ordered police to fire on protesters in Aktau, the capital of the western Mangistau region. On Wednesday, it was reported that members of a newly established public commission set to investigate the deadly shootings in the region have been prevented from visiting the cities of Zhetibai and Zhanaozen by police; while the Kazakh ambassador to the US said that amateur video showing the police shoot at unarmed protesters as they flee is “shocking” and that the government is planning an investigation.
  • On Friday, Russia signed a deal to provide India with 42 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets that will be assembled locally in India. On Monday, politicians forced the closure of Parliament in protest against a Siberian trial calling for a version of the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad Gita, to be banned. On Tuesday, the cabinet approved a landmark anti-corruption bill draft that had been the focus of nationwide demonstrations, though the draft was already rejected by anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare. A new report released by the country’s Human Rights Commission claims that more 1,500 people have died in official custody in the country over the past year, a large number from torture while in custody.
  • One of the two rival PMs in Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill, has announced that he has the support of the country’s parliament, following last week’s decision by the governor-general and Supreme Court to reinstate Michael Somare. O’Neill had Somare removed from office by a parliamentary vote in August while he was outside the country seeking medical treatment. On Monday, a historic bill aimed at guaranteeing seats for women in Parliament failed to get the required 73 votes to become law, after less than 70 of the 109 MPs attended the sitting; while the Governor-General reversed his decision to reinstate Michael Somare, claiming he received bad legal advice. On Tuesday, O’Neill claimed his government was in total control of the country, though Somare issued a statement saying he remained the PM, despite O’Neill’s parliamentary control.
  • The panel probing the end of Sri Lanka’s 25 year war has concluded on Friday that the military did not deliberately target civilians, even though a “considerable” number were killed in the crossfire and urged the prosecution of soldiers found guilty of misconduct. The panel said it could not establish the number of civilian casualties, nor could it determine who was responsible for shelling hospitals, and urged that the families of those hurt or killed be compensated for their loss. A new report by the International Crisis Group claims that more than two years after the end of the civil war, women in the north and east of the country still suffer from sexual violence, poverty, and displacement.

This week in conflict… October 23rd-29th, 2010

World

  • Vincenc Fisas of the School for a Culture of Peace released his report on the progress of peace processes in the third quarter of 2010. Sudan, Chad, the Western Sahara, Myanmar talks with the NLD, China-Tibet talks, Israeli-Palestinian talks and Yemen were all listed as progressing poorly in their respective peace processes.
  • Negotiators are working on a treaty to share genetic resources between countries and companies, a step that could unlock billions of dollars for developing nations from drug, agri-resources and cosmetic firms. The access and benefit-sharing protocol aims to create a legal framework that would give nations much better control over their natural resources that can lead to potentially valuable discoveries.
  • The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report for 2010 came out this week. The report increased this year to cover 134 countries, up from only 115 countries in 2006 and considers factors such as gender dimension in economic participation and opportunities, educational attainment, access to basic and higher education, and political empowerment.
  • The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced the launch of a training programme to help war-torn countries and those vulnerable to disputes over the use of natural resources prevent strife. UNEP research suggests that natural resource disputes account for some 40% of the world’s internal conflicts. Training will begin in four countries, Timor-Leste, Liberia, Peru and Guinea, next year.
  • Transparency International released its annual report on Tuesday on corruption and transparency. Somalia was listed as the most corrupt country in the world, followed by Afghanistan, Myanmar/Burma and Iraq. Nearly three quarters of the 178 countries fell below an index score of 5 on a scale where 0 is the most corrupt and 10 is the least.

Africa

  • French President Sarkozy announced on Saturday that it was a “scandal” that Africa has no permanent seat on the UN Security Council, considering they collectively have one billion inhabitants and make up 27% of the UN Membership. Sarkozy also supported places for India, South America, Japan and Germany in the UNSC.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appealed to the international community on Saturday to find sustainable ways of supporting the African Union’s peacekeeping initiatives. Ban called for the same level of support as similar UN missions, including reimbursement of staff, saying that their current limited resources are troubling the peacekeeping efforts in places like Sudan and Somalia.
  • Twelve people were killed in fierce fighting between a pro-government militia and an insurgent group in Mogadishu, Somalia on Saturday. A separate attack killed at least 5 people after al-Shabaab attacked the presidential palace, Villa Somalia. Al-Shabaab publicly executed two young girls aged 15-17 years old on Friday in front of a crowd of some hundred residents after accusing them of spying. Recent fighting near the Kenyan border is said to have displaced some 60,000 people.
  • Cote D’Ivoire has so far deployed less than a fifth of the 8,000 troops needed to secure this coming weekend’s election. While the run-up to the poll has been generally peaceful, clashes erupted between rival candidates’ supporters in some towns over the weekend. The UN has sent an extra 500 peacekeepers ahead of Sunday’s election, bringing their numbers up to 8,000 soldiers and 1,500 police.
  • The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) rebel group in Darfur announced on Sunday that it was ready to start discussions with international mediators in the peace process. JEM previously walked out of talks in Qatar in May claiming Sudan’s government had broken a ceasefire. A meeting on the Abyei referendum has been postponed indefinitely, after delegates from the National Congress Party and Sudan People’s Liberation Movement failed to agree on who can participate. It was announced on Wednesday that Southern Sudan has prepared to offer the north a financial package to soften the blow of secession if it agrees to allow southern annexation of the Abyei region. Several children under the age of 18 face the death penalty following their sentencing of special courts in Darfur in contradiction to international laws, which Sudan is party to.
  • The Nigerian rebel group Boko Haram attacked a police station on Sunday in Yobe, Nigeria. The rebels are said to have firebombed the police station, which led to a gun fight that killed at least one person. On Sunday morning, 3 soldiers and 13 civilians were killed in a clash between two neighbouring communities over ownership of portions of an oil palm plantation located at their border. Nigerian security forces intercepted 13 containers of arms and ammunition including rocket launchers, cartridges and hand grenades at the airport on Wednesday.The containers were suspected to have been shipped from Iran but were later determined to have originated in India. Six women and children were killed in Jos on Tuesday after attackers invaded a village.
  • Freedom of the press is in jeopardy in Egypt leading up the parliamentary elections, with a string of firings and resignations that removed most of the prominent government critics from their positions. At least four private TV channels were closed in the past week, two others were issued warnings for content violations and the opposition is claiming that Egyptian state TV has refused to air their ads and print shops are refusing to print their campaign literature.
  • The Presidential run-off elections in Guinea were delayed indefinitely, resulting in a weekend of looting and rioting. The election was postponed on Friday, just two days before the election, in the third delay to the run-off since September. Human Rights Watch on Tuesday accused the Guinean security forces of using excessive force in clashes with demonstrators over the delayed elections which killed at least one person. On Wednesday it was announced that the run-off would be postponed until November 7th. Thousands of Guineans from the Peul ethnic group were forced to flee their homes in ethnic clashes following rumours that Peul businessmen tried to serve tainted water sachets at a political rally last Friday.
  • Around 50 rebels suspected to be from a Mai Mai militia group attacked a peacekeeping base in eastern Congo over the weekend, which resulted in the death of 8 assailants. The MONUSCO peacekeepers fired back on their attackers, following their rules of engagement in hostile environments. Angola deported nearly 200 Congolese citizens this week, prompting fears of a new wave of mass expulsions that saw tens of thousands displaced last year. The deported are said to come completely stripped, without clothing or even shoes, and several are injured. It was later reported that at least 30 of the deported women were kept as prisoners in a dungeon-like structure and gang-raped over several weeks at the border only to be left naked in the bush. Many men in the group were also brutalized, and at least three people were killed in the journey.
  • Human Rights Watch reported on Monday that Morocco routinely holds suspected militants in secret detention centres where they risk being coerced into making false confessions. The Moroccan government rejected the allegations.
  • Rwanda has charged the President’s main political opponent Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza with forming a terrorist organization with an aim of causing state insecurity. Ingabire has plead not guilty to all charges.
  • Two newspapers in Tanzania face being banned or deregistered for allegedly publishing material that could tarnish the government or country’s reputation. They have also been told them must stop publishing “negative articles” sent to the paper.

Asia

  • At least 10 alleged insurgents were killed after military helicopter gunships attacked the hideouts of Islamist militants in northwestern Pakistan on Saturday. On Sunday, military helicopter gunships attacked militant positions in the northwest, allegedly killing 13 insurgents and destroying four hideouts. On Monday, at least six people, all civilians, were killed in a bomb blast at a Sufi Muslim shrine in central Pakistan; two gunmen on a motorcycle killed a pro-Taliban politician outside his house in the southwest; and three labourers were killed in an attack by masked gunmen in Kohlu. On Tuesday, Islamist militants allegedly attacked a paramilitary checkpoint killing one soldier and at least five militants. On Wednesday, a pair of suspected US drone strikes killed at least 5 militants in northwest Pakistan; a roadside blast near a police van killed two policemen and one civilian in Quetta; and a bomb planted in a motorcycle wounded seven people in the north west. On Thursday, US missile strikes killed another seven suspected militants near the Afghan border; gunmen attacked a Japanese consular vehicle wounding two employees; a roadside blast killed on soldier and wounded five others in Kalaya; and militants cut the throats of three tribesmen and dumped their bodies on a roadside in Ghalanai.
  • Six Indian police were killed by a roadside bomb allegedly planted by Maoist rebels in the east of the country on Saturday. Officials claim the attack was aimed to disrupt the month-long polling process to elect a new government that began last Thursday.
  • Thousands of protesters were dispersed by Bangladeshi police using rubber bullets and teargas on Saturday, injuring some 50 people. Protesters are demonstrating against plans to acquire 1,000 acres of land for housing projects for the army.
  • Security forces in Myanmar/Burma have arrested five men accused of plotting to bomb public places, including an international airport on Wednesday. Investigators claim the insurgents had stockpiled explosives to plant bombs in three major cities in an attempt to derail next month’s election.
  • Two Kyrgyz politicians accused of planning mass disorder and attempting to overthrow the government in May of this year made their first court appearance on Monday. The two maintain that the charges are “absolutely groundless”. The leader of a nationalist party claimed on Monday that he was injured in an assassination attempt when some 50 men attacked his home in Bishkek. On Wednesday, a group of unknown assailants opened fire on a group of policemen, killing two and severely wounded another.
  • A Vietnamese blogger was arrested this week for allegedly defaming a senior Communist Party official and his family. Her arrest follows an increase in arrests in recent weeks of bloggers who criticize the government.
  • Human Rights Watch reported on Tuesday that freedom of the press is under attack in Azerbaijan, as the government is using criminal laws and violent attacks to silence dissenting journalists. Dozens of journalists have been prosecuted on criminal and civil defamation and other criminal charges while police have carried out physical attacks to deliberately interfere with journalist’s efforts to investigate issues of public interest. Opposition candidates in the upcoming parliamentary elections have accused authorities of preparing to fix the elections by barring candidates, censoring the media and limiting the right to campaign.
  • On Saturday, four suicide bombers dressed as police and women attacked the main UN compound in the western Herat province in Afghanistan; a Danish soldier was killed in a gunfight in the Helmand province; an ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in the east; Afghan officials accused NATO troops of killing two schoolboys after a patrol came under fire by Taliban insurgents; and a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed one civilian. On Sunday, a NATO-ISAF soldier was killed in an insurgent attack in Afghanistan; Afghan and ISAF forces killed several insurgents in an air strike and rocket fire after a foot patrol came under attack; and several insurgents were reportedly killed by an air strike in Helmand province. On Monday, Afghan forces and NATO troops killed at least 15 alleged insurgents in a raid and air strike in Helmand province; a suicide bomber detonated explosives at an Afghan checkpoint in the southeast, killing three people; two civilians were killed when their motorcycle hit an anti-vehicle landmine in the road in Helmand province; a suicide bomber killed himself near a foreign troop convoy north of Kabul; Afghan and coalition forces killed a Taliban commander and two other alleged insurgents in an overnight right in the east; and Afghan and coalition forces killed two alleged insurgents in the west. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb killed four Afghan police in western Herat; NATO forces are said to have captured a Taliban leader in Logar; and ISAF said it killed more than five insurgents in an air strike in Helmand province. On Wednesday, a NATO service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul; and Afghan and foreign forces killed several insurgents during an overnight operation targeting a Taliban commander in Baghlan. On Thursday, an improvised bomb explosion killed a NATO service member in Kabul; more than 10 suspected insurgents were captured in three operations in Kabul; and an ISAF air strike is said to have killed one suspected insurgent in the east. On Friday, more than 20 insurgents were killed in an air attack by the NATO led ISAF in Kandahar; two insurgents were killed in a NATO air strike in the south; and several insurgents were killed in an overnight operation to capture a Taliban commander in the southeast. Also this week, an Afghan refugee woman who was trying to cross the border into Iran with her four children was shot dead by Iranian border guards. The US military has been securing a vast database of biometric information of Afghans living in the southern and eastern parts of the country. They are said to have information on over 800,000 people.
  • The US has made plans to build a $12.6 billion dollar super military base in Guam in an attempt to contain China’s military build-up. The Environmental Protection Agency fears that the influx of 19,000 Marines into a population of only 173,000 could trigger some serious water shortages, and that the dredging of the harbour to allow an aircraft carrier to berth would damage 71 acres of pristine coral reefs.
  • A fire destroyed the Islamic Resistance Party’s (IRP) cultural center, widely known as the “women’s mosque” in Tajikistan on Saturday. The IRP does not think the fire is accidental, as the center served as the only mosque in Tajikistan that allowed women to pray alongside men, following the ban of women from attending mosque prayers in 2004 by religious authorities in the region.
  • UN funding has been found to be used to run a brutal internment camp for the destitute in Cambodia, where detainees are held for months without trial, raped and beaten, sometimes to death. The so-called “social affairs centre”, that is officially described as offering education and healthcare to vulnerable people is said to actually be an illegal, clandestine prison for “undesirables”, such as drug users, sex workers and the homeless. Cambodia’s ministry of social affairs has previously denied all allegations of abuse, saying that the centre offers rehabilitation and vocational training.
  • South Korea sent its first shipment of rice aid to North Korea in more than two years on Monday and announced it would consider holding monthly talks with the North if it was committed to denuclearization. South Korean media also reported that the US and South Korean military had postponed their latest military drills in the Yellow Sea to avoid creating problems with China and North Korea ahead of the G20 summit. On Friday it was announced that North Korean troops had fired across the heavily armed border into South Korea, whose soldiers fired back.

Central and North Americas

  • A series of suspected computer problems is said to have taken 50 of America’s 450 nuclear intercontinental missiles (ICBMs) off-line for a short period. Reports say sabotage or a computer virus has been ruled out, and that the missiles could still have been launched in an emergency, despite the nearly hour long communications break. US officials arrested a Pakistani-American man for plotting a series of bomb attacks on Washington’s subway system on Wednesday. The man is suspected to have ties to al-Qaeda. Washington DC experienced more shooting of military buildings this week, as several shots were fired into the Marine Corps museum on Friday. Investigators believe that this recent shooting is linked to the two previous shootings, one at a Marine Corps recruiting station and another at the Pentagon.
  • Thirteen people were gunned down at a drug rehabilitation clinic in Tijuana on Sunday just days after another 14 people were killed at a party in Ciudad Juarez.  Also on Sunday, three bystanders were killed in the cross-fire between suspected drug hitmen and federal police in Saltillo. On Wednesday, a group of suspected drug hitmen shot and killed at least 13 people at a car wash in western Mexico. Seven other people were mowed down in the street, four factory workers were killed on a bus and nine police officers were killed in an ambush on Thursday.

South America

  • Former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner died of a heart attack on Wednesday. Kirchner, who was succeeded by his wife as president in 2007, was expected to run in the 2011 Presidential elections. 
  • I am still looking for some suggestions of reliable news sources for South America that are available in English. If you have any suggestions, please write them in the comments below or email us at apeaceofconflict@gmail.com. Thanks!

Middle East

  • The start of the olive season in Israel/Palestine has been wrought with conflict, as Palestinians blame Israeli settlers of chopping down, burning or stealing their fruit and trees and attacking farmers who try to harvest. Damage was also said to have been done to some Israeli properties. On Monday, Israel’s hardlined Foreign Minister commissioned a report on how the country will prepare for a nuclear-armed Iran, as well as a plan on possible responses should the Palestinians unilaterally declare a state taking in all of the occupied West Bank. Violent clashes broke out between Palestinian-Israelis and Israeli police following a demonstration by a right-wing Jewish group in northern Israel. Police fired tear gas at a crowd of Palestinian-Israelis who had gathered to protest the march. A huge arms cache bound for Gaza was impounded On Friday in Egypt. The cache was said to contain more than 150 kg of TNT.
  • Bahrain’s parliamentary elections have resulted in the Shia opposition movement winning all the seats it contested, and emerging as the single largest group in a political system dominated by the Sunni minority monarchy. Al-Wifaq won 18 out of 40 seats in the chamber of deputies, while 13 were won by Sunni candidates loyal to the government, with another nine to be fought out next week in the second round.
  • Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks released nearly 400,000 classified US files on the Iraq war, detailing instances of prisoner abuse and torture that was ignored by the US military. The files revealed a shocking scale of breach of international law by American soldiers, such as the shooting of men trying to surrender, the private security firm abuses and murders, and showing a significant raise in the official civilian death tolls, among other things. On Saturday, a sticky bomb attacked to a car wounded a driver in Baghdad; gunmen attacked a police checkpoint in southern Baghdad, wounding three people; and a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi checkpoint wounded six soldiers and one officer in Abu Ghraib. On Sunday, a former Iraqi intelligence officer died after Iraqi army soldiers raided his home southeast of Mosul; and a car bomb exploded inside a public hospital complex, killing two civilians and wounding 19 others in Mosul. On Monday, a gunmen in a speeding car shot an employee of the Electricity Ministry in Baghdad; and a sticky bomb attached to the car of a Defense Ministry employee wounded him and two bystanders in south Baghdad. On Tuesday, a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed six workers north of Baghdad; two roadside bomb attacks killed one civilian and wounded another civilian in eastern Mosul; a roadside bomb targeting a deputy minister wounded two bodyguards and two bystanders in central Baghdad; and one person was wounded in a sticky bomb attack on a car in Baghdad. On Wednesday, a roadside bomb killed the head of Jalawa’s criminal investigation unit and three of his bodyguards; a sticky bomb on a car wounded two off-duty policemen in Jalawla; a bomb attached to a truck killed the driver and wounded four others in Baghdad; another bomb in Baghdad killed two guards and wounded four bystanders; a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol wounded three people in Abu Ghraib; and at least three people were wounded when a bomb exploded in Kirkuk. On Thursday, a roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi police patrol wounded three policemen in Mosul; a sticky bomb on a car in Basra wounded a South Oil Company employee; a sticky bomb on a car killed a police colonel in Baghdad; a sticky bomb on a car wounded a police brigadier general in Baghdad; another sticky bomb on a car wounded a Housing and Construction Ministry employee in Baghdad; a suicide bomber targeting a federal police base killed a policeman and wounded eight others in Mosul; and one civilian was killed and two others wounded in a car bomb explosion in Baghdad.
  • Security forces in Yemen announced on Saturday that they have foiled a planned attack on “vital installations” ahead of the 20th Gulf Football Cup in Aden. A man was arrested with 1,800g of dynamite along with 7 suspected accomplices. On Tuesday, 15 Yemenis suspected of belonging to al Qaeda allegedly turned themselves in to authorities after negotiations. On Wednesday, Shi’ite northern rebels are said to have killed one man and wounded three others in an ambush, and on Friday two rebels and one pro-government tribesman were killed in clashes between rebels and government aligned tribes.
  • Iran has sentenced an Iranian journalist who worked for a banned pro-opposition newspaper to one year in prison for writing anti-government articles. Masoud Bastani is just one of thousands who were arrested and jailed following the June 2009 elections.
  • The UN court investigating the 2005 killing of Lebanese statesman al-Hariri was allegedly attacked by a group of people on its way to a pre-arranged meeting. Tensions have escalated in the past few months. Hezbollah called on all Lebanese to boycott the international investigation on Thursday accusing investigators of sending information to Israel.

Europe

  • The Swedish police are investigating a racially motivated gunman following 18 shootings of citizens of ethnic-minority with no known ties to organized crime. Police have warned residents from ethnic-minority groups to take extra care when going out at night.
  • NATO will reduce its troops in Kosovo by half to 5,000 over the next few months. It was announced on Friday that security had improved in the area and that local institutions are increasingly capable of assuming responsibility for security.
  • A policeman was killed in Daghestan when a suicide bomber blew himself up near a police base on Saturday. The attacker was unable to enter the base, as the entrance was blocked by a truck, so he blew himself up outside of it.
  • Mikhail Gorbachev voiced sharp criticism of Russia’s current leaders Medvedev and Putin, accusing them of eroding democracy in the country in an effort for personal power. The Russian military could return to Afghanistan for the first time since being forcibly expelled in 1989 as part of a joint NATO-Russian initiative, including the contribution of Russian helicopters and crews to train Afghan pilots, assistance training Afghan national security forces, increased cooperation on counter-narcotics and border security, and improved transit and supply routes for NATO forces. Russia successfully tested its Bulava nuclear missile on Friday, after seven previous failures, in hopes that the missile will make the cornerstone of its nuclear missile programme.
  • Police and residents clashed this week in Italy over a waste disposal crisis. Hundreds of tons of trash lie uncollected in the streets in Naples and surrounding areas, and daily demonstrations have resulted in violence.
  • Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden has warned France to expect more of its nationals to be kidnapped because of it’s policy in Africa and the ban on the burka and the niqab. Bin Laden stated that “the reason why your security is being threatened..” is that “you intervene in the affairs of Muslims, in north and west Africa in particular”.

This week in conflict… October 2nd- 8th, 2010.

World

  • 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.

Africa

  • 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.

Asia

  • 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.

South America

  • 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.

Middle East

  • 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.

Europe

  • Russian forces killed as many as five people as they besieged two housing blocks in Daghestan on Saturday in a counterterrorism raid.
  • 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.