- A new report in the Atlantic this week suggests that a barely perceptible shift occurred in recent months that make the possibility of Israel attacking Iran’s nuclear sites more possible, as the benefits outweigh the costs. NBC reported last week that Israel used an Iranian opposition group, designated as terrorist group by the United States, to carry out much-publicized assassinations of Iranian scientists. On Friday, China announced it would be sending a senior official to the country for talks on their nuclear program; ; while the PM of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip arrived in Tehran for a three day visit to mark the 33rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution. On Saturday, President Ahmadinejad addressed tens of thousands of supporters in Freedom Square, saying that the country will soon announce “very important” achievements in the nuclear field. On Sunday, a Palestinian prisoner being held without charge who has been on a hunger strike for more than 8 weeks is reportedly being kept shackled to a hospital bed, despite warnings that he may be close to death. On Monday, Israeli PM Netanyahu accused Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah of being behind twin attacks on Israeli targets in India and Georgia that injured four people; the Iranian media reported that President Ahmadinejad’s press advisor was sentenced to six months in jail for insulting Supreme Leader Khamenei; China urged authorities to do more to end the standoff over its disputed nuclear program; while the international community accused authorities of misleading them with their claims to have abandoned the death penalty for juvenile offenders and execution by stoning of those convicted of adultery. On Tuesday, Israel again accused Iran of being behind three blasts in Bangkok, Thailand that injured some five people. On Wednesday, authorities unveiled their nuclear progress, claiming their success in manufacturing fuel rods and advanced centrifuges and also indicated that they were on the verge of imposing an oil embargo on European countries in retaliation for their sanctions; Thailand arrested two Iranians charging them with plotting the recent bomb attack in Bangkok and linking them to recent attacks in India and Georgia; while Israeli PM Netanyahu said that Iranian “terror activities” must be halted. On Wednesday, Russia said global powers must work harder to win concessions from Iran over its nuclear programme; Iranian authorities denied any role in Tuesday’s bomb blasts in Thailand, while Thai police held three Iranian nationals in connection; Iranian authorities also told world powers they were ready to resume stalled nuclear talks at the “earliest” opportunity; the US Treasury Department slapped sanctions on Iran’s main intelligence organization, accusing it of supporting terrorist groups, committing human rights abuses and backing the Syrian government’s crackdown on citizens; Israel’s defense minister dismissed Iran’s announcements of major nuclear advancements as exaggerations; and Iranian censors allegedly blocked access to a number of news websites sympathetic to President Ahmadinejad ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections in March.
- State-run media in Syria reported that at least 28 people were killed on Friday and 200 others injured in two car-bomb explosions perpetrated by “armed terrorist gangs” in Aleppo; Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister said that Assad’s assurance to Russian officials that he will hold a constitutional referendum means that the opposition now “bears full responsibility” for ending the violence there; a firefight broke out in a poor district of Damascus between loyalist forces and rebels; and the EU foreign policy chief called on Russia to reconsider its position on Syria after last week’s veto on Syrian violence. A video uploaded to YouTube on Saturday allegedly shows an anti-aircraft tank firing directly into an urban neighbourhood in the city of Douma; Syrian forces reportedly continued their bombardment of districts of the city of Homs, killing some 10 people; security forces entered the besieged town of Zabandani near the Lebanese border after agreeing to a ceasefire with rebels; authorities told Libya and Tunisia to close their embassies in Damascus within 72 hours; while the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported that gunmen had assassinated an army general in Damascus. Security forces reportedly eased their week-long bombardment of Homs with only sporadic shelling on Sunday and let a few families leave opposition districts while thousands of protesters crowded the streets overnight; Tunisia announced it would host a meeting of the “Friends of Syria” which seeks to build an international agreement on how to end violence in the country on February 24th; the Arab League reportedly wants the UN to form a joint peacekeeping force and appoint a special Arab envoy to try and end the violence, a move Russia made clear it would not support; al-Qaeda’s leader called for the ousting of Assad and urged all Muslims to help the rebels; while the head of the Arab League’s observer mission to Syria resigned during a meeting of ministers in Cairo. On Monday, authorities flatly rejected the call by the Arab League to deploy peacekeepers in the country, while Britain said no western troops could be involved in such a mission; British PM Cameron and French President Sarkozy announced that they will be meeting in Paris on Friday to discuss a possible increase in help to the rebels, including giving them military advice; Russia allegedly signaled a new-found willingness to consider international intervention when it abandoned its absolute defence of the Syrian regime and announced that it does not rule out its participation in a potential UN peacekeeping mission as long as there was a ceasefire between government and opposition forces first; security forces reportedly resumed their offensive by shelling areas of Homs and Rastan and storming areas near Damascus; and the UN human rights chief warned that failure by the UN to take action has emboldened the Assad regime to mount an all-out assault on his opponents and accused the government of an “indiscriminate attack” on civilians and other grave human rights violations. On Tuesday, government forces again clashed with protesters across the country, with some 20 people killed; and government troops shelled the city of Homs for a 10th day, killing at least 7 people and wounding more than 20; Arab officials confirmed that regional governments would be ready to arm the resistance if bloodshed did not cease; while France announced it had created an emergency fund for aid agencies helping the Syrian people. On Wednesday, President Assad ordered a referendum on a new constitution to be held on February 26th with a parliamentary election to be held within 90 days of the constitution’s approval; Syrian forces reportedly launched an offensive on the city of Hama, bombarding residential neighbourhoods with armoured reinforcements; Egypt called for change in the country that met the demands of the people, but ruled out supporting a military intervention into Syrian territory; an Arab delegation dismissed Russian amendments aimed at weakening a draft UN General Assembly resolution plan to get President Assad to step down as unacceptable; while Libya invited the Syrian opposition National Council to open an office in Tripoli. On Thursday, the UN General Assembly strongly condemned the continued “widespread and systematic” human rights violations by the Syrian authorities and demanded that the government immediately cease all violence and protect its people; at least 22 people were reportedly killed in a military assault on opposition strongholds and several activists were arrested; the American embassy in Damascus posted a supposed satellite image of an oil pipeline fire in Homs to make a statement on China and Russia’s vetoes of a UN resolution demanding Assad step down; while the Director of American National Intelligence blamed the Iraqi al-Qaeda for a series of recent bombings against Syrian government targets.
- Police in Bahrain reportedly used force to break up a peaceful anti-government march in the capital on Saturday, using tear gas and stun grenades to disperse hundreds of protesters and arresting two American rights activists. On Sunday, King Hamad dismissed the country’s opposition movement as disunited and said the threat of Iran had compelled him to call in foreign troops to crush last year’s uprising. On Monday, security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades at protesters trying to occupy a landmark roundabout in the capital ahead of the one-year anniversary of the uprising. On Tuesday, the Guardian reported that Britain has continued to sell arms worth more than 1 million pounds to the country despite continuing political unrest, including gun silencers, weapons sights, rifles, artillery and components for military training aircraft; while a massive police presence in the capital kept protesters from gathering in Pearl Roundabout to mark the one-year anniversary, arresting at least 30 people. On Wednesday, more than 120 protesters were reportedly wounded in clashes with police.
- Security forces in Saudi Arabia reportedly shot one person dead and injured three others during an anti-government demonstration in the Eastern Province on Friday.
- Thousands of people rallied in the capital Sanaa in Yemen on Friday to back a single-candidate Presidential election planned later this month. On Sunday, militants in the south said they had executed three men for giving the US information used to carry out drone strikes in the area; while southern separatists set fire to a tent camp housing anti-government protesters in Aden in opposition to an election this month to replace outgoing President Saleh. On Tuesday, the Nation ran an article on how American plans in Yemen are backfiring. On Thursday, security officials announced that a leading al-Qaeda operative had been killed in a family dispute that left at least 16 other tribesmen dead; while militants reportedly shot dead five people, including a military officer and regional head of the country’s election committee in al-Baydah province.
- A roadside bomb targeted an army patrol, wounding three soldiers on Friday night in Abu Ghraib, Iraq. On Saturday, a car bomb went off targeting a police convoy, wounding the police station chief and at least three other policemen in Mahaweel; while gunmen shot dead a teacher in front of his house northeast of Baghdad. On Sunday, Turkish warplanes carried out air strikes on suspected Kurdish militant targets in the north; a sticky bomb killed a gas station manager and his driver in Baiji; a roadside bomb went off and wounded two soldiers in Baquba; a roadside bomb wounded three people in central Baghdad; and another roadside bomb blew up and wounded six people, including three policemen in northern Baghdad. On Monday, a sticky bomb attack wounded a teacher and two other passengers in his car in Kirkuk; another sticky bomb wounded a police captain in Kirkuk; and a sticky bomb attack wounded a government-backed Sahwa militiaman in Muqdadiya. On Tuesday, a car bomb explosion killed two people, including one soldier and wounded 14 others in Mosul; gunmen opened fire from a car, wounding an off-duty security officer in Kirkuk; a roadside bomb near a police patrol killed one civilian and wounded six others, including three policemen in eastern Baghdad; police found the body of a strangled woman in Baquba; and police said they found the decayed bodies of two men buried in 2006 near Baquba after an insurgent confessed to the killing and revealed the burial place. On Wednesday, gunmen wearing army uniforms attacked a policeman’s house using grenades and machineguns, killing his wife and two daughters and wounding him seriously in Jurf al-Sakhar; while a roadside bomb wounded two people in Baquba. On Thursday, an investigation panel said that death squads under the command of the Sunni Vice President were behind years of fatal attacks on security officials and Shi’ite pilgrims, a claim the VP denied as a smear campaign to consolidate power; while the leader of the exiled Iranian opposition group called the Mujahedin-e Khalq agreed to start relocating residents of the long disputed dissident camp Ashraf after receiving assurances from the US about their safety.
- The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process called upon Israel to do everything in its power to preserve the health of a Palestinian detainee reportedly close to death on a hunger strike on Friday. Hundreds of other Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails reportedly joined in on the hunger strike, and Human Rights Watch called upon Israel to “immediately charge or release him” on Saturday; while a Palestinian in Gaza died after being wounded during a series of Israeli airstrikes. On Monday, Israel rejected an appeal by the prisoner on a hunger strike, prompting a furious reaction from the Issa Qaraqa, the Palestinian Authority’s prisoner affairs minister, who said the rejection was tantamount to murder; while Israeli embassies in Georgia and India were targeted by bomb strikes that Israel is blaming on Iran, who has denied any involvement. On Tuesday, the Gaza Strip’s only power station has reportedly been shut down, cutting already problematic electricity flows in the area by almost two-thirds, allowing each household only six hours of electricity at a time.
- Two people were reportedly killed and several soldiers and others wounded in Tripoli, Lebanon on Saturday as supporters and opponents of Syria’s al-Assad fought in the street.
- Human Rights Watch alleged that authorities in Iran are intimidating and arresting relatives and friends of Persian-language journalists working abroad on Friday; while American spy chiefs told Congress that they believed Iran’s leaders are now more willing to attack the US in response to real or perceived American actions that threaten their government. The Revolutionary Guards reportedly began carrying out military exercises in the south on Saturday amid rising tensions over their nuclear programme and rumours of a possible strike by Israel or the US. On Sunday, authorities warned that any country used to launch airstrikes against its nuclear bases would face retaliation. On Monday, American President Obama signed an executive order imposing tougher sanctions on Iran and its central bank and also said he does not think Israel has decided whether to attack Iran over its alleged nuclear program, though American Defense Secretary Panetta reportedly believes there is a growing possibility that Israel will attack Iran as early as April. On Tuesday, lawmakers reportedly summoned President Ahmadinejad to respond to a long list of complaints, particularly his handling of the economy; the Foreign Ministry denounced the new US sanctions as “psychological war” and said they will have no impact on the course of the country’s nuclear program; while authorities reportedly made a new deal on oil payments with India, who will make 45 percent of payments for Iranian crude in rupees in the face of disrupted regular payment channels. On Wednesday, the ambassador to Russia announced that Iran is capable of striking US military forces around the world if attacked by the US and that Russia is to resume arms exports to the country under a recent understanding, but will comply with international law in doing so; a regime-linked website, Alef, allegedly produced an article calling on Iran to use its missile arsenal to kill all of Israel’s Jews, describing how it could be done; while the country’s energy minister announced that it should invest in renewable energy to preserve its hydrocarbon reserves in the face of tightening sanctions that are making it increasingly difficult to sell oil. On Friday, Amir Oren reported that an Israeli Strike on Iran would be less likely than some people would think. The Atlantic ran two articles that discussed whether military action is justified against Iran, or whether diplomacy is the better option, especially in light of the fact that the US intelligence community said they were not even sure that Iran was trying to build a nuclear weapon.
- Two people were reportedly wounded in Palestine in the Gaza Strip on Friday following Israeli airstrikes only hours after a visit by UN SG Ban Ki-moon, five other airstrikes are said to have targeted tunnels and fields; while an Israeli soldier stranded after a raid in occupied territory was allegedly escorted to safety by a Palestinian man in the same village that troops had targeted. On Monday, Hamas endorsed a proposal by Qatar in which Palestinian Authority President Abbas will assume the role of PM and lead an interim national consensus government in preparations for elections in the West Bank that unites Fatah and Hamas factions; while Israeli PM Netanyahu said that President Abbas had chosen to “abandon the way of peace” by reaching a power-sharing deal with Hamas and that he had to choose between “peace with Hamas, or peace with Israel”. On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon urged President Abbas not to abandon talks with Israel. On Wednesday, the Gaza-based leadership of Hamas challenged the reconciliation deal signed by the group’s political chief in exile, threatening to split the peace between the two groups. On Thursday, banks, ports and the stock market remained closed for a second day in Israel as half a million workers continued a general strike while the government and main labour union held talks over the status of contract workers.
- Human Right Watch released a new report on Thursday that claims that security forces in Yemen stormed and shelled hospitals, evicting patients at gunpoint, and beating medics during an assault on the protest movement that killed at least 120 people in Taizz last year and called upon the US, the EU and the Persian Gulf states to publicly acknowledge that the domestic immunity granted to Saleh and his aides has no legal effect outside the country. On Friday, one militant was allegedly killed in an attack on an army base in the southern Abyan province. On Saturday, Al Jazeera filed a report on the growing power of the Houthis group not that Saleh is set to leave power. On Monday, authorities began a publicity campaign to get citizens to vote in the upcoming Presidential election that has only one candidate, the current VP. On Tuesday, outgoing President Saleh said he will return to the country before the election to install his successor finishes, raising concerns about his commitment to the peal deal that would oust him from power. On Wednesday, at least 10 tribesmen were reportedly killed in the north during clashes with Shi’ite rebels, after the tribesmen accused the Houthis of trying to grab more territory; while army defectors and protesters are continually calling upon leading military officials, including Saleh’s half bother who is commander of the air force, to also give up power. On Thursday, Yemeni troops reportedly killed two people when they opened fire at a protest in the southern province of Dalea that was calling for a boycott of the upcoming election.
- Israel’s deputy foreign minister announced on Friday that President al-Assad of Syria will fall from power eventually, but that the process could be “long and bloody” as he had outside support from Iran and “no real challenge” from the international community; while Human Rights Watch alleged that the Syrian government forces have been torturing children as young as 13 in a new report. On Saturday, both Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that called upon al-Assad to step down, citing a potential violation of the country’s sovereignty—a move that provoked massive international condemnation; Tunisia began the procedure to withdraw its recognition of the Syria leadership, expelling the Syrian ambassador; American President Obama called upon the UN Security Council to stand up against Assad’s “relentless brutality” and act as a credible advocate for human rights, pledging support to the Syrian people; more than 200 people were reportedly killed by Syrian forces in the city of Homs, claims that Syrian state media vehemently denies; French President Sarkozy said it was consulting with Arab and European countries to create a contact group on Syria to help find a resolution; the head of the Arab Parliament called for Arab countries to expel their Syrian ambassadors and sever all diplomatic relations with Syria over the crackdown on protesters; a crowd of Syrians stormed their embassy in Cairo, while protests broke out outside Syrian missions in Britain, Germany and the US. On Sunday, Islamists in Jordan called upon the world’s Muslims and Arabs to boycott Russian and Chinese products following their veto of the UN resolution; while US Secretary of State Clinton called upon “friends of diplomatic Syria” to unite against Assad. On Monday, the United States vowed to block funding and arms supplies to the country and talked about offering support to the Free Syrian Army, ranging from medical supplies and weaponry to intelligence and reconnaissance surveillance; the US closed its embassy in Syria; China’s leading party newspaper defended their country’s rejection of the UN resolution, citing the failures of western campaigns in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq and the error of forced regime changes; Syrian and Libyan protesters hurled rocks, eggs and tomatoes at the Chinese embassy in Tripoli; Russia expressed its anger about what it called Western “hysteria” over their use of the veto; the bombardment of Homs continued, allegedly killing at least 50 people; an explosion ripped through an oil pipeline in the city of Homs; Syrian army defectors announced the formation of a higher military council to “liberate” the country from Assad’s rule; while the Free Syrian Army announced they have no other choice now but to fight to free the country from Assad’s grips after China and Russia’s veto. On Tuesday, attacks on Homs reportedly continued; German police reportedly arrested two men on suspicion they were spying on Syrian opposition groups within their country; Russia’s Foreign Minister is set to lead a Russian diplomatic mission to Syria and hold talks with Assad; and many major European states, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Britain and the US all recalled their Syrian ambassadors in protest. On Wednesday, reports suggested that the neighbouring Lebanese army was arresting anyone trying to cross the border, regardless of whether they were injured or not; the bombardment of Homs continued as tanks reportedly moved into the Inshaat neighbourhood and shelled the district with more than 200 rockets, with at least 47 civilians allegedly killed in the attacks, including three unarmed families; the American Pentagon was reportedly drawing up contingency plans for intervention into Syria that include military action with allied NATO countries such as Turkey; Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister said that 11 kidnapped Iranians in Syria were released, but that 18 others were still being held hostage; Doctors Without Borders alleged that authorities are using access to medical care as a weapon of persecution; the Turkish Foreign Minister announced his country is ready to host an international conference on the Syrian crisis; while the French Foreign Minister called Assad’s promises to Russia to implement reforms and end the crackdown against protesters a “manipulation”. On Thursday, Syrian troops reportedly sealed off the population of a rebel stronghold within Homs and continued to bombard it using tanks, helicopters and artillery, killing as many as 110 people; both Germany and Libya expelled Syrian diplomats from their respective countries; UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the UN’s failure to agree to a resolution on the country is disastrous and is encouraging the Syrian government to “step up its war on its people”; the Turkish ambassador warned the EU that Assad still has support from the middle class and that the opposition is fragmented, raising the risk of a slide into full-scale civil war that could inflame the whole region; Russian President Medvedev and French President Sarkozy reportedly had a phone conversation over the Syrian crisis; while the UN and Arab League were considering sending a joint observer mission to the country. The Atlantic ran an interesting article by Daniel Serwer that suggested that the Syrian rebels would be better to put down their guns and continue with a non-violent strategy if they want to unseat the Assad regime.
- The Islamist-led opposition in Kuwait won a landslide majority in snap polls this week, securing 34 seats in the 50-member Parliament. Parliament was dissolved in December over alleged corruption and bitter disputes between the opposition MPs and the government. On Monday, the emir asked the outgoing PM Sheikh Jaber to form a new cabinet, after his caretaker cabinet resigned following the election.
- Thousands held a peaceful anti-government protest in the capital of Bahrain on Friday, demanding the release of political prisoners and political reforms. On Saturday, a rare political forum was held to try to bridge the deep rifts in the country; while Al Jazeera reported that almost a year since the crackdown on demonstrators began, little has changed in the country and protests are actually growing. On Sunday, thousands began a week-long rally in a Shia village, 10 days ahead of the first anniversary of the start of pro-democracy protests. Violence and protests reportedly escalated over the week, with masked teenagers wielding iron bars and petrol bombs facing off against riot police. On Thursday, a jailed rights activist has allegedly gone back on a hunger strike until he is released; while a senior American official said the country has taken important steps towards reform, but still needs to do more to heal the rifts, however, it seems they have little problems with continuing their arms sales to Bahrain.
- Prosecutors in Jordan have ordered the detention of a former intelligence chief over corruption related charges stemming from his time in office from 2005-2008 in the latest step in an anti-graft campaign.
- A sticky bomb attached to the car injured one man in central Baquba, Iraq on Friday; four militants attacked an Asiacell equipment building, knocking out service to the mobile phone operator with explosives in Mosul; gunmen in a car opened fire, killing a civilian in Muqdadiya; and a roadside bomb exploded near a police patrol in south-western Baghdad, killing two civilians and wounding seven others. On Saturday, two teenagers were killed while trying to plant a bomb in western Mosul; police found the bodies of two men who had been shot in the head in Mosul; a bomb exploded on a bus, wounding one passenger in northeastern Baghdad; a sticky bomb attached to a car killed a member of a government-backed Sahwa militia in central Baquba; and a bomb planted in front of the house of a Sahwa member went off and wounded him and one of his family members in Udhaim. On Monday, three mortar rounds hit buildings housing displaced Kurds, killing one and wounding 13 in Balad Ruz; a roadside bomb exploded next to a car, injuring the driver in Abu Saida; a roadside bomb wounded three in Mahmudiya; and a sticky bomb attached to a police lieutenant-colonel’s car seriously injured him in Jalawla. On Tuesday, the American State Department announced it is preparing to slash the enormous diplomatic presence it had planned for the country by as much as half. On Wednesday, Iraq’s Justice Ministry announced that 14 Iraqis, most of them al-Qaeda members, were executed for terrorism and criminal offenses. Human Rights Watch sharply criticized the Iraqi authorities for their executions, now numbered at over 65 since the beginning of the year.
- On Saturday, the Sunni-backed bloc suspended its participation in Iraq’s Parliament after accusing PM al-Maliki’s Shi’ite led government of concentrating power. On Sunday, the last of the US combat troops in Iraq crossed the border into Kuwait after nearly nine years of war, and handed over the last remaining prisoner in their custody; while a sticky bomb wounded a woman in central Kirkuk; bombs planted near the house of a judge wounded his son and two of his neighbours in southern Kirkuk; gunmen killed a man near his home in western Mosul; and a sticky bomb attached to a car wounded the drive and two others in Mussayab. On Monday, the government issued an arrest warrant for the country’s Vice President, citing antiterrorism laws; gunmen in a speeding car opened fire at an army checkpoint, killing one soldier in Mosul; gunmen killed a grocer while he was shopping in Mosul; police wounded a wanted man after a foot chase in western Mosul; a roadside bomb went off near a bus carrying Iranian pilgrims, wounding three in Balad; gunmen in a speeding car used silenced weapons to wound two Sunni Sahwa militia members in their vehicle in Kirkuk; and gunmen using silenced weapons opened fire at a police checkpoint, wounding two policemen in Mosul. On Tuesday, two leading members of the largest and most powerful Sunni tribe in Iraq warned of imminent sectarian chaos, claiming that the government is promoting an anti-Sunni agenda. On Wednesday, PM al-Maliki warned of problems if Kurdish authorities in the north refuse to hand over Vice President Tariq al-Hasimi for trial on terrorism charges, a charge al-Hasimi vehemently denies as he told journalists he will not return to Baghdad to face trial, but would be willing to go before court in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region; a sticky bomb attached to the car carrying a Sunni Sahwa militia member killed him in Abu Ghraib; a gunman carrying a silence weapon opened fire at a local mayor, wounding him in a market in Baquba; two sticky bombs attached to cars carrying a judge and his son killed the judge and his guard and wounded his son and two pedestrians in Kirkuk; and gunmen in a car opened fire at a police checkpoint, wounding two policemen in Samarra. On Thursday, at least 63 people died and more than 170 people were injured in 12 bombings across Baghdad, leaving some concerned that the pullout of American troops has left massive instability; gunmen using silenced weapons killed a local bodyguard in Baquba; police found the body of a young man with gunshot wounds to the head in western Mosul; a sticky bomb seriously wounded an off-duty policeman in central Mosul; a roadside bomb wounded a woman in western Mosul; gunmen opened fire on a police checkpoint , seriously wounding a policeman in Mosul; gunmen stormed a house, killing a family of five in Baquba; police found the body of a man with a slit throat in Kirkuk; a roadside bomb went off near a crowd of Sunni Sahwa members, wounding three in Jurf al-Sakhar; gunmen attacked a Sunni Sahwa checkpoint, wounding two in Mussayab; and gunmen killed a woman in a market in Mosul. Some analysts mentioned that although the US have officially marked the end to the war in Iraq, it leaves behind the world’s largest embassy, a large mission from the State Department and thousands of armed private military contractors, as well as holds a massive database full of retinal scans, thumb prints and other biometric data identifying millions of Iraqis.
- On Sunday, the opposition in Syria claimed that at least six army soldiers had been killed in clashes with deserters in Homs, amid heavy shelling by government forces. On Monday, Syria signed an Arab League initiative to allow Arab observers into the country, with an advance team of seven officials arriving on Thursday to lay the groundwork for monitors to implement their peace plan; a move the United States said they were skeptical of, citing past broken promises. On Tuesday, the army was reportedly hunting down deserters near the northern city of Idlib after troops killed over a hundred deserters who had fled the base. On Wednesday, loyalist forces were accused of killing at least 160 defecting soldiers, civilians and anti-government activists over the past three days, while the UN estimated that more than 5,000 people have been killed since March; and five Iranian technicians working on a power plant project in the country were reportedly abducted by an unidentified group of people. On Thursday, a British human rights group Avaaz said it had evidence that more than 6,237 deaths of civilians and security forces had occurred, at least 600 under torture, and 400 of them children; with the government announcing that more than 2,000 of its security forces had been killed in the unrest. On Friday, two explosions rocked Damascus, killing more than 40 people and injuring more than 150. Some analysts were concerned that the US was gearing up to take action in the country after it released an unusually strong statement calling upon al-Assad to step down.
- On Saturday, a Palestinian was killed and at least two others injured by Israeli gunfire in the Gaza Strip. On Sunday, Israel reportedly released 550 Palestinian prisoners in the second stage of a deal with Hamas; while Hamas confirmed it will shift away from violent attacks on Israel as part of a rapprochement with the Palestinian Authority. On Tuesday, all the regional and political groupings on the UN Security Council criticised Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories and pointed their fingers at the US for refusing to condemn the settlement building, saying the continued settlement threaten chances of a future Palestinian state; while a senior UN official warned that the realization of a two-State solution has not advanced. On Wednesday, the UN Security Council agreed to extend the mandate of the peacekeeping force monitoring the ceasefire between Israel and Syria in the Golan Heights for another six months; while rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have agreed to form a unified government to be sworn in by the end of January.
- On Thursday, the United Arab Emirates were reported as revoking the citizenship of six men over alleged security concerns, though the men say they are being unjustly targeted for their political views.
- On Saturday, the Intelligence Ministry of Iran said it had arrested an Iranian-American man working for the American CIA, and later he was seen on a state tv program “confessing” to his alleged “mission” to infiltrate the intelligence ministry. On Tuesday, the government says it invited the International Atomic Energy Agency to visit for talks and would be ready to discuss concerns over its disputed atomic ambitions, a move the agency welcomed; while the US state department called upon Iran to release the American man arrested in Tehran and accused of being a CIA spy. . On Thursday, Iran reportedly blocked access to a British government website aimed at Iranian audiences, the latest in the escalating tensions between the two countries.
- On Sunday, a dissident army general in Yemen said he backed a peace accord signed last month to pull the country away from the brink of war, while officials reported the deaths of ten militants in attacks by government forces in the south. On Tuesday, soldiers battled al-Qaeda-linked fighters outside the city of Zinjibar, killing at least sixteen fighters and four soldiers, with intensive artillery shelling took place in the city overnight; while mobile operator Sabafon said that its facilities had come under repeated attack by state forces because of its chairman’s support for anti-government protests. On Wednesday, the UN envoy in the country announced that outgoing President Saleh was in need of medical treatment that will require him to leave the country; while clashes between an ultraconservative group and former Shi’ite rebels in the north reportedly killed nearly 200 people over the last few weeks. On Thursday, thousands of people marched toward the capital to demand President Saleh face trial for killing protesters during the 11 months of demonstrations against him and to denounce the new government for sparing him prosecution. On Friday, loyalists reportedly attacked demonstrators gathered south of the capital, while seven soldiers and three militants were killed near Zinjibar in an ambush by al-Qaeda suspects.
- On Sunday, security forces in Bahrain dispersed several hundred Shia demonstrators who gathered outside Manama for the fourth day in a row. On Tuesday, Zainab al-Khawaja, daughter of a prominent activist who was detained last week during anti-government demonstrations, was released pending trial.
- Clashes broke out between armed factions in the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon on Sunday, after the bodyguard of an official was killed. The clash at Ain el-Hilweh resulted in an unknown number of injuries.
- On Sunday, Kuwait’s ruler called for an early Parliamentary election for February 2nd, nearly two weeks after he dissolved the chamber in a power struggle that had paralyzed the country’s politics. On Monday, riot police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse hundreds of stateless Arabs who staged a protest to pres the government to grant them citizenship rights.
- The New Economics Foundation found that the earth is using up resources faster than ever. The study monitors nature’s capital and concluded that this year the earth was using up its own natural resources to support itself a full month earlier than in the previous year.
- August 19th was World Humanitarian Day. The once respected profession that aids those affected by war, natural disasters, sickness and malnutrition, is now facing increasing attacks in the field. The world thanks you for your tireless sacrifices!
- A cheap and effective filtering device developed in South Africa could provide safe drinking water for millions of people around the world. Commercial production of the tea bag like device could begin as early as this year.
- A Thai court has ordered the extradition of Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout, the “Merchant of Death”, to America to face charges of supplying weapons to terrorist groups. Viktor Bout, who was the inspiration for the movie “Lord of War”, is said to have fueled civil wars in South America, the Middle East and Africa.
- Clashes between Somalia’s Puntland forces and militants led to the death of 9 people and a Somali journalist received a six year jail sentence for interviewing warlords there. South Africa is looking into the possibility of deploying troops to the war torn country following an African Union request. Another 9 people were killed and at least 53 others were wounded following renewed fighting in the capital on Monday. Most of the dead and injured came from a nearby displacement camp. Kenya has also complained of increased cross-border raids of hardline Somalian Islamists in the northern part of their country.
- Jailed Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire has called on the international community to reject the recent Rwandan election, saying that “endorsing the results of this masquerade would be to reward violence as a means to access and maintain power in Rwanda”. Graphic pictures of a beheaded opposition leader have been released. The US, a long-time supporter of Kagame, expressed concern over the “disturbing events” which surrounded the election but neglected to take any further actions. In good news, many FDLR militia members have volunteered to put down their arms and return home in a repatriation program.
- UN humanitarian chief John Holmes urged Sudanese authorities to allow humanitarian aid workers into the Kalma camp in Darfur, home to approximately 50,000 refugees, only to instead have five UN and ICRC workers expelled from the country days later for failing to respect Sudan’s authority and two more abducted by armed men and later set free. Aid agencies have been bared from the camp since August 2nd in a stand-off between international peacekeepers and the Sudanese government. Sudan’s electoral body has announced that the independence referendum vote for next January might be delayed. Voter registration problems and escalating tensions are cited as the reasons for the stall.
- Ethiopian troops clashed with Somalis on Tuesday morning in an Ethiopian controlled area of Somalia. The Ethiopian troops are said to have opened fire on Somali civilians, resulting in the deaths of at least 10 people.
- Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina signed a deal with dozens of minor parties in Madagascar aimed at ending political crisis, however the main opposition leaders rejected the deal. Rajoelina took the country through coup nineteen months ago.
- A new wave of violence erupted in Chimanimani in Zimbabwe on Sunday after ZANU PF militias attacked MDC activists.
- Ugandan President Museveni’s son along with the commander of the elite Special Forces Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba have been accused of leading the Ugandan army to a massacre of approximately a dozen people in Karamoja, while many more were branded, abused or tortured.
- The Shell Petroleum Development Company in Nigeria has claimed 3 sabotage attacks on its pipelines so far in August, causing increasing spills in the region. The company has less than an attractive environmental record in the region with oil spill quantities that exceed that of the Exxon Valdez disaster on a yearly basis for the past 40 years. Shell is currently facing charges at court in the Hague over spills in Nigeria.
- Six children under the age of two have recently been reported raped or sexually molested in the Lubumbashi region of the DR Congo as part of black magic rituals aimed at increasing fortune. Many believe that fetishists (witch doctors) in the region have been encouraging this practice for some time, but that it is only now emerging because authorities are stepping up their efforts to protect women from sexual violence. Three Indian UN peacekeepers were killed in a surprise attack at their base in the DRC by 50 fighters armed with machetes, spears and traditional weapons on Wednesday. Three people were killed on Tuesday night after clashes between Rwandan FDLR, Mai Mai Cheka and some Mubi persons and at least 150 women are believed to have been targeted for mass sexual violence in a remote village in the east.
- The youth leader of the Union for Peace and Development was arrested and tortured by Burundi intelligence after being accused of being a security threat to the state in the run-up to the recent election. At least 200 member of opposition parties have been arrested, tortured or threatened in the country according to human rights organizations. There have also been several recorded political murders and disappearances of opposition members, and many are simply in hiding or exile. The legislature is now dominated 95% by the presidential party, the CNDD-FDD. The last areas suspected to be contaminated by landmines or unexploded ordnance in north-west Burundi will be surveyed thanks to funding from the Swiss government.
- Insecurity in the Niger regions led to the evacuation of Western staff of several aid groups. This evacuation comes days after the World Food Programme had launched its operations to feed nearly a quarter million children.
- The Central African Republic pledged that it would arrest Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony, leader of the LRA. Kony has been charged with war crimes but has evaded prosecution and capture since 2008.
- More than a million South African state workers have gone on an indefinite strike. Police responded to the protesters by firing rubber bullets and water canons in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
- NATO has claimed that more than 20 Islamic militants were killed their fire this week, as they ramp up operations in southeastern Afghanistan. They have also claimed to find and release 27 men from a Taliban prison in Helmand province. Security concerns have caused the Afghan government to decide not to open more than 900 polling stations during next month’s parliamentary elections, affecting nearly 15% of the country’s polling stations. The Taliban fighters are said to be “spreading like brush fire” into the remote and defenseless northern parts of Afghanistan, but an air strike led by NATO forces has slowed that spread slightly by killing one al Qaeda leader there on Monday. The spread of the Taliban in the north may have been eased by their apparently more just court systems. NATO will have to continue their operations without the help of private security firms, as Hamid Karzai ordered all such firms dissolved over the next four months. On Monday, a insurgent IED strike killed a child and wounded 3 others in Kunduz province. On Wednesday, hundreds of villagers blocked an eastern highway to protest a night raid by NATO and Afghan soldiers that left 2 people dead. More than 2,000 foreign troops have died since the start of the war in 2001, but alas, new found oil deposits totaling 1.8 billion barrels on top of the $1 trillion dollars of newly discovered resources should give them the incentive to continue fighting.
- The US is concerned over China’s extending military reach. The Chinese are said to have increased their military spending by roughly 7.5% from the previous year. A electric three-wheeled vehicle exploded in the Xinjiang region on Thursday killing 7 people.
- Gunmen have shot dead at least 10 people in southwest Pakistan after an attack on a passenger bus. The Pakistani president is concerned that recent flooding in the region could encourage armed groups to gain new recruits by taking advantage of the chaos and misery.
- Kashmiri residents have been again subject to curfew imposed by the Indian government and thousands of police officers, only 3 days after the original curfew was lifted. At least two people were killed on Friday after police opened fire again into protesters. At least 61people have been killed in protests in the past two months.
- Three people were killed in south Thailand in attacks blamed on Muslim separatists. More than 4,000 people have been killed in the last six years in the border region.
- Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in Turkey announced that it would begin a ceasefire against Turkish forces on September 20th conditional on Turkey stopping its military operations, releasing 1,700 political detainees and starting a peace process. Turkey has rejected the PKK’s previous unilateral ceasefire declarations.
- The US warned Turkey that it has little chance of obtaining the weapons it wants without major policy changes, although this was later denied by US officials. This comes after Turkey voted against fresh UN sanctions on Iran and concerns that weapons could wind up in Iranian hands.
- Human Rights Watch has concluded that the government of Kyrgyzstan played a role in facilitating the violent attacks against ethnic Uzbeks this past June, after a lengthy investigation. At least 400 people were killed as attacks against Uzbeks left several neighbourhoods burned to the ground.
- Cambodia’s PM has decided that multinational corporations and other local enterprises will now be able to hire out the country’s royal armed forces, in a “sponsorship” program in return for guarding of “large-scale private land concessions” or to “evict the rural poor for business developments”.
- The US and South Korea began their war drills amid North Korean threats of counter measures on Monday. The drills will last 11 days and are the largest joint exercise between the Americans and South Koreans.
- Indonesia’s president has spoken out for religious tolerance amid calls for him to act against extremists regularly attacking minorities in the country. Violence has been rising in the country between the 80% Muslim population and a minority Christian population.
- At least 2 people were killed in northern India on Saturday after clashes over poor government compensation for land erupted between police and farmers. Police are said to have opened fire on the protesters after they were attacked with stones.
- Azerbaijan refused to allow a NATO plane carrying Armenian soldiers from Afghanistan to fly over its territory. This is the second time the country has refused such an action.
- Eleven police officers in the Philippines have been relieved of duty after the release of video footage showing the apparent torture of a naked detainee, said to have later died in the hands of the police.
- Five countries, including the US, are now backing a Commission of Inquiry into war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.
- A Yemeni intelligence officer was gunned down by two men suspected to be linked to al Qaeda late Friday evening. Another five policemen were seriously injured when an attacker on a motorbike threw a grenade at them. Al Qaeda appears to now be targeting government forces instead of high-impact strikes against Western and Saudi targets.
- Al Qadea is warning its supporters and sympathizers to prepare for a new war which it says it will pit Israel against Iran.
- A tv mini-series was canceled from Lebanese television stations this week for fear of stirring up sectarian violence. The program described Jesus from an Islamic point of view, upsetting Christians. They also announced that they had set up a special account to receive donations towards supplying their country’s ill-equipped army with new weapons for defense against Israeli attack and began the process to approve the ratification of the cluster munitions treaty. Following the violence earlier this month, Israel and Lebanon have voiced interest in accelerating the process of marking the Blue Line between their two countries.
- Two mortal bombs sent from the Gaza Strip into Israel injured two soldiers. Hamas claims that they bombed after six Israeli tanks crossed into the territory with one firing a shell at a home. In retaliation, Israel carried out air strikes against the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Israel has approved the purchase of 20 US built radar-evading stealth fighters in a deal worth $2.75 billion dollars which are expected to be delivered between 2015-2017.
- Gunmen in Baghdad killed 4 policemen in shootings, burning two of the bodies in public. Attacks have escalated during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with 19 deaths from Saturday to Sunday alone, five deaths from a car bomb on Monday and another 57 or so on Tuesday after a bomber blew himself up at an army recruitment centre. The latest death tolls for Iraq are as follows: United States 4,415; Britain 179; Other nations 139; Iraqis military between 4,900 and 6,375; Iraqis civilians between 97,106 and 106,071. Sadly, it appears civilians have taken the brunt of the military intervention in the country. Hopefully, that will change as the last US combat brigade has now left Iraq as part of President Obama’s pledge to end combat operations in the country. Sadly, it appears that the withdrawal of troops will only double the number of private security contractors.
- Clashes between Shi’ite villages and government forces in Bahrain resulted in several arrests on Saturday and Sunday. Shi’ites are protesting for a larger role in governing the Sunni Muslim-led state.
- A bomb threat saw thousands of people evacuated from the shrine at Lourdes in southern France on Sunday. The threat was later determined “unfounded”. French authorities began deporting hundreds of Roma to Romania and Bulgaria in a move that many feel could spark further racism and discrimination against a vulnerable communty.
- A suicide bomber in North Ossetia killed one police officer and injured three others on Tuesday.
- Russia reportedly plans to sell two of its S-300 Favorit air-defense systems in Azerbaijan to be used to protect energy extraction projects and pipeline networks. The Russian government has also agreed to extend their lease of a military base in the South Caucasus to Armenia and assist them in updating their military hardware.
- Belarusian media has experienced increasing harassment in the lead-up to the upcoming spring presidential election. One media outlet may be shut for suggesting that the President was involved in the disappearances of several political opponents.
- Serbia is looking to renew negotiations over the future of Kosovo with the UN, after last month’s decision that the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo was within international law.
- Israel and Greece are seeking to expand their military ties including sharing military know-how and holding joint war games.
- A well-known activist journalist in the Ukraine has disappeared. Vasyl Klymentyyev frequently spoke out in criticism against the authorities, who critics claim have been increasingly oppressive of the media.
North and Central Americas
- At least 19 suspected drug gang members have been arrested in a series of raids across Mexico this week. A mayor was kidnapped, only to later be confirmed dead and at least a dozen people killed. Escalating drug violence has killed thousands in recent months and stunted tourism, commerce and investment. Mexican government ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to adopt children in Mexico City, by a vote of 9-2. This comes after last week’s ruling that the country recognize same-sex marriage.
- The west end of Kingston, Jamaica was put under new curfews after 10 people were killed in gang violence in a shootout with police. The drug trade has fueled one of the world’s highest murder rates with 1,660 homicides last year for a population of just 2.8 million people.
- Indigenous inhabitants in Rapa Nui (otherwise known as Easter Island) are protesting the Chilean government, who claimed the island as their own province in 1888, over suspected land deals that are using ancestral land to build state buildings. Police have been sent with authorization of force against the peaceful, unarmed protesters, but have so far remained as observers.
- Colombia’s air force bombed a rebel camp on Wednesday that killed seven guerrillas from the National Liberation Army (ELN).
- Luiz Antonio de Mendonca, a top election official survived an assassination attempt on Wednesday. Violence is relatively rare in Brazillian elections.
This week in conflict…
- The world’s twenty richest nations will be footing an $83 million (USD) bill for three new man-made “floating islands” in Seoul for the upcoming G20. The November meetings will be assisted by apparently more than 400,000 police.
- Rwanda’s election process saw President Paul Kagame win again by a landslide amid a climate of repression. Opposition candidates were arrested and media silenced in advance of the elections. Kagame is said to have won 93% of the votes, and even as much as 100% of the votes in some districts. His team began celebrating the victory before the polls had even closed. Two days later Kigali was struck by a grenade attack that injured at least 20 people.
- The Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir has warned the UN mission and aid missions in Darfur that they will face expulsion if they do not support his government authorities. On Wednesday, gunmen killed 23 people, including police officers in an ambush on a truck in the south. On Wednesday, an exchange of gunfire at a refugee camp in western Darfur was reported, though it was not clear who fired the shots.
- Government forces in Puntland, Somalia have made two military offensives against allies of the Shabab militant group killing at least 21. The UN warns that the long-running conflict in Somalia is spreading beyond its borders and becoming increasingly concerning.
- 2,000 illegal miners stormed a mining site in the DR Congo burning trucks and stealing copper from Tenke Fungurume mine. 32 have been arrested.
- The Central African Republic pleaded for the UN Security Council for help just as the mandate for the UN peacekeeping mission MINURCAT is coming to an end. Concerns of rebellion, banditry and inter-ethnic conflict still loom.
- The Lord’s Resistance Army has abducted at least 697 people, nearly one third of who are children, in central Africa in the last 18 months according to a human rights group investigation despite previous assurance from the government of the DRC that the LRA has been decreasing its violence. At least 255 of those abducted were killed, often by crushing their skulls with clubs. Up to 74,000 people have been forced to flee the situation in the CAR and Congo.
- North Korean soccer coach Kim Jong-hun has apparently been fired, ridiculed, expelled from the Worker’s Party, forced to work as a construction laborer and will possibly be executed after his team’s World Cup loss. The North Korean team is said to have faced reprimand and ridicule in front of a large audience of party officials upon their return. FIFA has decided to investigate these claims.
- North Korea fired 110 artillery rounds at waters near a disputed western sea border on Monday, escalating tensions between North and South Korea. South Korea has responded by saying that any North Korean shells found falling south of the border line would be considered an attack and responded to in kind. North Korea seized a South Korean fishing boat from the Sea of Japan claiming that it had intruded into their exclusive economic zone. Maybe 13-year-old Jonathan Lee’s proposal to Kim Jong-Il of a “children’s peace forest” in the demilitarized zone can create some calm in the region.
- Thousands have been displaced in rebel infighting in the Philippines. In response, the army fired artillery rounds and rockets to separate warring rebel factions, in breach of the year long ceasefire.
- Two suicide bombers killed up to five Afghans in an attack on a residential area in Kabul on Tuesday. This comes only days after a report by the UN that the number of civilians killed or wounded has soared by 31% in the first six months of this year. A crowd of about 300 Afghani villagers yelled “Death to the United States” while blocking a main road in eastern Afghanistan on Thursday as a reprisal for what they call the murder of three innocent villagers by the US forces. On Thursday at least 20 insurgents were killed in Paktia, not far from the Pakistan border and on Friday, 3 international coalition service members were killed in the south Helmand province. A problem of nearly 500 former militants rejoining the insurgency after officials failed to deliver on their aid and amnesty promises has the Afghan government scrambling.
- At least 50 protesters have been injured in Bangladesh during clashes with police on Thursday. The protest was said to have been sparked by an ongoing electricity shortage.
- British and US troops will train with Kazakh forces in mock peacekeeping operations for the next 10 days in an attempt to strengthen links between the three counties on Central Asian soil.
- India announced the development of a new Agni-II intermediate-range nuclear missile in attempt to demonstrate that it is a credible nuclear threat against Pakistan and poised as a great power in the world. The Agni-II has a range of approximate 3,000 km.
- Four people were killed and 10 wounded on Friday in Kashmir as police again fired into thousands of demonstrators over the past two months during anti-India protests.
- Myanmar (Burma) has set its first general election in two decades for November 7 of this year. Western countries are calling the election a sham for the current leaders to increase their power.
- The Sri Lankan military court has convicted its former military chief, Sarath Foneska of meddling in politics while in uniform, resulting in a dishonourable discharge. These charges fall short of accountability for what the UN, the US and many rights groups have considered possible war crimes.
- Israeli authorities have been charged with using “unnecessary force” to demolish homes of Bedouins in the southern Negev desert. Residents immediately began to rebuild all the structures as soon as police and construction crews left the village.
- Iran has begun digging mass graves in which to bury American troops in case of attack on the country. This show of force comes in response to America’s contingency plan to attack Iran in case of nuclear development. According to popular American magazine, “The Atlantic”, they have a 50% chance of being bombed by Israel over the next year. The US administration has also said that it is planning to sell as many as 209 of the latest Patriot interceptor missiles to Kuwait to bolster its defenses against Iran. The interceptors are valued at upwards of $900 million.
- The Gaza Strip’s only power station has been shut down due to a fuel dispute between Hama, the Palestinian Authority and Israel. It is the third time the plant has been shut down since January.
- Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah showed evidence of Israel’s involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese PM Hariri in a two-hour long television appearance on Monday. Israel dismissed the allegations. According to Nasrallah, a UN court probing the assassination is planning to charge Hezbollah members with the killing, a move which could bring civil violence once again to Lebanon. Nasrallah criticized the investigation of being biased, saying it “does not look into the possibility that Israel is implicated”. The court has since asked Nasrallah for copies of his evidence.
- A series of deadly explosions have killed many in Iraq this week. At least four people were killed in Baghdad, at least 8 in Ramadi, 8 soldiers in Baquba, 11 people in Sadiya and at least 20 in Basra.
- More than 1,000 Mexican journalists marched through the capital to protest the killing and disappearance of their colleagues in the escalating drug violence that is increasingly targeting reporters.
- The confessions of Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen charged with terrorism, can be used as evidence at his trial even though they may have been obtained through torture. Khadr stands to be the first child soldier to be prosecuted for war crimes in modern history, as under international law, children captured in war are to be treated as victims and not perpetrators. His trial, which was to start this week, was delayed for the next 30 days after his lawyer collapsed from illness in the courtroom and had to be medevaced out of Guantanamo Bay.
- The US appeals court has upheld a ruling that blocks Massachusetts schools from using literature that denies the mass killing of Armenians in Turkey in 1915 was a genocide.
- Colombia has sworn in a new president who has vowed that he is willing to hold talks with leaders of Farc, the country’s rebel group and reconstruct relations with Venezuela and Ecuador.
- A suspected car bomb exploded in Bogota injuring four people on Thursday.
- Suriname swore in its “new” president Desi Bouterse on Thursday. Bouterse, who was previously in power following a 1980 coup, ruled the country from 1980-7 and 1990-1. He was accused of violating fundamental human rights and the murders of 5 journalists during his time as dictator.
- Peru’s indigenous leader Alberto Pizango, who the government accuses of starting an Amazonian uprising that killed 33 people, is considering running for president next year.
- The families of 32 Mapuche prisoners have been on a month-long hunger strike in southern Chile over trial irregularities for the twenty self-declared political prisoners imprisoned over land conflicts.
- All of the major European countries are planning mass expulsions of Roma populations and demolitions of Roma settlements. Even though they are European citizens, the Roma are now threatened with expulsion, in breach of the EU basic right to free movement. Some rights group worry that such an action is tantamount to the criminalization of an entire ethnic group.
- Three Turkish soldiers were killed in an explosion in southeastern Turkey on Sunday. On Monday Turkish soldiers killed 5 Kurdish militants in a firefight after discovering guerrillas laying mines and on Tuesday another 2 people were killed after a pipeline was blown up by Kurdish militants.
- Russia has deployed an S-300 air defense missile system over the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia complained of the strengthening military control over these territories that it insists are still an integral part of Georgian territory.
- North Caucasus rebel groups have begun to split ranks after the contradictory statements of resignation of leader Doku Umarov last week. Chechen field commanders have announced that they are rescinding their oath of loyalty.
- Four former Bosnian Serb army soldiers have been charged with genocide for crimes committed during the Srebrenica massacre in 1995. The four are said to have assisted in the deaths of at least 800 people.
This week in conflict…
- The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative has recently launched its Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), a new way to measure poverty in the world. The MPI expands on the previous Human Development Index (HDI) and includes 10 indicators of health (child mortality and nutrition), education (years of schooling and child enrollment) and standard of living (access to electricity, drinking water, sanitation, flooring, cooking fuel and basic assets like a radio or bicycle).
- The UN is set to transform the way it deploys peacekeeping missions around the world to ensure field operations have the support they need and to improve efficiency and effectiveness of services.
- The Federal Court of Canada has ruled that the Canadian Security and Intelligence System cannot rely on evidence obtained through torture. Hopefully this will have an impact on the practices of CSIS and the RCMP.
- Wyclef Jean from singing group the Fugees has taken legal steps towards running for President in Haiti. Many analysts predict that Jean could easily win the election due to his overwhelming popularity, particularly amongst young people.
- The US has acknowledged plans to attack Iran if needed to prevent it from getting nuclear weapons.
- An annual review process by the Office of the US trade Representative has placed several countries on a “priority watch list” for failure to properly enforce intellectual property rights, specifically in regards to pharmaceutical property. This process puts the manufacture of generic AIDs anti-retro-viral treatments at severe risk, which many NGOs have complained is in violation of the international right to health.
- A military lawyer is seeking to halt the trial of Omar Khadr, held in Guantanamo Bay since 2002. Khadr was just 15 when captured. His lawyer contends that the Guantanamo war crimes tribunals are unconstitutional because it created a second-class court system that applies only to non-US citizens. Khadr’s trial is to begin August 10.
- More than 30 US billionaires pledged to give away at least 50% of their wealth to charity as part of a campaign by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates. The Giving Pledge campaign does not accept any money, but merely asks the billionaires to make a moral commitment to give their wealth away to charity.
- California’s gay marriage ban was overturned by a federal judge on Wednesday in a landmark case that could eventually force the US Supreme Court to confront the question of whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to wed. Sadly, the right has taking to calling into question the bias of the judge who has been reported as himself homosexual. They are expected to appeal the ruling.
- In a similar move, Mexico’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a law allowing same-sex marriages in Mexico City is constitutional. A car bomb exploded outside a police station in northern Mexico on Thursday, thought to be related to drug gang ambushes. There were no reported injuries.
- Colombia’s president Alvaro Uribe denied plans to launch a military attack on neighbouring Venezuela. Recent tensions were sparked by Colombia’s claims that Venezuela was harbouring nearly 1,500 Colombian rebels.
- At least one farmer died in Peru on Tuesday when police cleared a protest roadblock set by coca growers. The government is making efforts to eradicate the coca plantations, which are used to make cocaine. Other protests later in the week saw hundreds of Peruvians sabotaging facilities at a foreign-owned gas pipeline and threatening to take more radical measures.
- In a groundbreaking pact, the Ecuadorean government agreed to UNDP’s proposal to refrain from tapping three major oilfields in the Amazon jungle for at least a decade in exchange for a economic partnership to invest in other resources.
- Violent protests in Bolivia came after the government enacted a new customs law that would punish those who smuggle goods with the same severity as drug traffickers. Another wave of protests in Potosi over regional border disputes over limestone deposits stranded hundreds of foreign tourists. The mining city’s residents went on a general strike for more government investment in their region.
- A suicide bomb attack in Yemen wounded 8 soldiers on Tuesday after an attack on security forces. Al Qaeda has been held as the main suspect of the bombing. The country’s Shi’ite rebels released 100 soldiers and pro-government tribesmen captured in last month’s clashes, a second move towards cementing a fragile truce in the north of the country. Three soldiers were killed at a checkpoint on Thursday in a suspected al Qaeda attack.
- A gunmen killed five police officers at a Baghdad checkpoint on Tuesday. The attacks took place just after mortar rounds had hit the area. A roadside bomb and then a car bomb killed 12 people and wounded at least 55 in a busy commercial area of Kut.
- Israel launched a series of air attacks against the Gaza Strip injuring many Palestinians, which they say was in response to a rocket that hit the city of Ashkelon on Friday. Another rocket, possibly coming from Egypt, slammed into a Jordanian Red Sea resort on Monday. It was thought that the rocket was supposed to hit a nearby Israeli resort but went astray. Another explosion, meant to kill the senior Hamas commander in the Gaza Strip on Monday, instead wounded at least 31 people. At least five rockets were fired at the southern Israeli city of Eilat in response. On Wednesday Israeli shellfire killed a Palestinian militant and wounded another on the Gaza strip in an attempt to stop a group of Palestinians who Israel claims had approached the Gaza border fence.
- Fighting erupted at the Lebanese-Israeli border on Tuesday between the Lebanese and Israeli armies. An Israeli patrol was said by the Lebanese to cross the border unannounced in order to remove a tree that was blocking their visibility, wherein, the Lebanese army began firing rocket propelled grenades. In response, the Israelis fired two missiles at a Lebanese army post killing at least 4 people. Israel claimed they were fired upon while engaged in “routine activity” and threatened retaliations against Lebanon should violations continue.
- Recent floods in the Koreas have led land mines from North Korea to wash ashore on South Korean riverbanks, and beaches, causing at least one death.
- Government troops fired into crowds of protesters demonstrating against round-the-clock curfews early this week in Indian-administered Kashmir, resulting in the death of at least 4 people. Violence has been escalating in recent weeks, with as many as 47 protesters killed in the last week.
- At least 80 people have been injured during textile workers protests in Bangladesh this week, demanding an increase of their minimum wage (currently around $24 a month) to a livable salary. The workers make clothing for international brands like Marks & Spencer, JCPenney, Wal-Mart and H&M.
- Afghanis rioted in Kabul setting fire to two US embassy vehicles after NATO SUVs collided with a civilian car killing a number of passengers. A suicide car bomber killed at least 5 children in the southern Kandahar province on Monday and more suicide bombers attacked an air base in Kandahar on Tuesday. A deadly attack on an Afghan-NATO convoy resulted in the deaths of at least 7 police officers. July was hailed as the deadliest month for American forces with a death toll of 66. The Dutch mission in Afghanistan has officially ended and their withdrawal has begun.
- Nepal’s parliament failed to elect a new Prime Minister on Monday for the third time in less than two weeks, further delaying a peace process that ended a decade-long civil war.
- Four people were killed in Turkey Monday night after Kurdish separatists attacked a police station with a rocket launcher and automatic weapons. Violence has been said to be increasing on military targets, with nearly 100 soldiers dead since calling off a unilateral ceasefire at the start of June.
- At least 70 people were killed in Karachi, Pakistan by violent mobs this week following the assassination of a member of the provincial Sindh Assembly from the Muttahida Quami Movement. A suicide bomber killed a police officer in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Wednesday, and wounded at least 4 other people; and at least six people were wounded after a grenade was hurled at a mosque during prayers later that evening.
- Another school attack in a kindergarten in China has led to the deaths of at least 4 people; one teacher and 3 children. This is the sixth in a string of school assaults this year. In an attempt to reduce crime, the poor in Beijing are being locked inside their neighbourhoods at night. Officials call the project “sealed management”.
- China is said to be developing an unprecedented carrier-killing missile called the Dong Feng 21D that could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 1,500 km.
- A battle between Indian police and Maoist fighters flared on Wednesday when a police patrol was ambushed in the central state of Chhattisgarh. No word on on the number of casualties has yet been released.
- The controversial death of Papuan activist Yawan Wayeni was broadcast over the internet, sparking outrage in Jakarta. Police officers taunted him as he lay dying from wounds they had inflicted upon him. The original story surrounding the death of Wayeni, who was killed almost a year ago, suggested that he had been shot while resisting arrest and died on the way to the hospital. Video shows that he was tied to a log and forced to chant before his abdomen was sliced with a bayonet.
- South Korea has begun naval drills of its western coast. North Korea warned that it will counter any reckless naval firing with strong physical retaliation.
- Two people died in a bombing at an airport in the Philippines on Thursday. 24 people were injured.
- Around 1,000 demonstrators were prevented from entering Bishkek to attend a rally in the capital on Thursday and another 3,000 demonstrators are said to have amassed near parliament. National Security Services said that the demonstrators planned to demand the installation of a local politician in a position of power or else seize power themselves. Later, the Kyrgyz authorities arrested opposition leader Urmat Baryktabasov and more than 20 of his supporters on suspicion of a coup plot.
- The UN extended its mission in Darfur, Sudan for another year on Friday until July 2011, while the government of Sudan responded by saying it will now monitor travel by UN/African Union peacekeepers. The South Sudan army (SPLA) recovered about 30,000 unauthorized weapons in the semi-autonomous regions. South Darfur’s government called on the peacekeepers to hand over six Darfuris, supposedly responsible for inciting last week’s violence in a refugee camp, who are sheltered in the UNAMID peacekeeping base. The government then denied all aid agencies access to Darfur’s Kalma camp on Friday. Stalled talks between Sudan’s rival northern and southern halves over the disputed oil-producing Abyei region could trigger new conflict in the region. Aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) decided to suspend its medical care to the most violent region of Sudan after experiencing three separate attacks on its staff. Cattle raids killed at least 21 people on Wednesday in southern Sudan and in a separate incident, the LRA was accused of ambushing a truck.
- The UN reported that almost 90,000 people have been displaced following recent military operations in the DR Congo, with at least 6 civilian deaths. Fighting occurred in the Beni territory of North Kivu between the national army and the Ugandan rebel group ADF-NALU.
- Presidential and legislative elections in the Central African Republic have been postponed for a third time until January 23.
- Kenya has approved a new legal framework to replace its old constitution which has been in use since independence from British colonial rule in 1963. Ushahidi software was used to track irregularities.
- The European Union (EU) has decided not to extend its security forces reform mission in Guinea-Bissau when its mandate expires on September 30. Failure to respect the rule of law in the country since the April army mutiny has been cited as the reason.
- The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) found a former administrator guilty of genocide on Tuesday, for transporting soldiers to kill thousands of people he had promised to feed and protect during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Dominique Ntawukilyayo was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
- Rising vigilante violence in South Africa saw the death of at least five suspects this week. Police services say that nearly 5% of the nearly 50 homicides a day are the result of vigilantism.
- Lobby group Global Witness intends to sue the British government for failing to refer its companies and citizens who are violating United Nations resolutions on Congolese conflict minerals to a UN sanctions committee.
- A new security law signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev restores Soviet-era powers to the Federal Security Service (the KGB’s main successor agency), allowing Russians to face jail time for crimes they have not yet committed in an effort to combat extremism and terrorist attacks.
- Russia’s most wanted rebel decided to step down as leader of the Islamist insurgency in the North Caucasus due to health reasons, but then later denies quitting calling the previous video a falsification. Analysts are expecting the decision to contribute to increased violence in the area.
- Videos of French police violently dragging women and babies out of their homes after being evicted made waves in France. Many of those evicted are now reported to be living on the streets.
- Drug users and doctors legally prescribing substitution drugs to addicts, in an attempt to battle the growing HIV epidemic, are facing illegal police intimidation and imprisonment in the Ukraine. The country as also announced that they plan to close their top HIV/AIDs treatment centre this month.
I decided to start a new type of post on a Peace of Conflict reviewing conflict situations in the world on a somewhat weekly basis. I figured, I read this stuff every week anyway– I might as well share it with readers in condensed form.
Here’s some of what’s happening in the world of conflict this week:
- The UN General Assembly voted to recognize the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation in a landmark victory with 122 “for”, 0 “against”, and 41 countries abstaining from the vote. How they will work to guarantee this right is yet to be seen.
- The Convention on Cluster Munitions, which completely prohibits the use, production and trade of cluster munitions, is to become binding in international law as of August 1, 2010. So far 107 governments have signed the convention, with only 37 ratifying. The law calls for all cluster munitions to be cleared within ten years, all stockpiles to be destroyed within eight years and assistance and compensation given to those affected. Brazil, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, South Korea, Russia, and the United States have yet to adopt the convention.
- The first conviction against one of the lead perpetrators of mass murder under the Khmer Rouge saw ‘Comrade Duch’ sentenced to 35 years in prison. It is said that Duch will file an appeal on the ruling.
- The notorious website Wikileaks posted 92,000 classified US military reports regarding the Afghan war. News that the Taliban has been using portable heat-seeking missiles against the US and NATO aircraft (previously undisclosed), and of tax dollars funding the bribery of protection rackets in the narcotics-trafficking industry were mostly underplayed by main-stream media who touted it as suspected “old news”. The US has vowed to track down the person responsible for the leak with full force as confidence in the war wanes across the US, the EU and other allied countries. The killing of at least another 45 innocent civilians in a rocket attack led by the NATO forces this week only serves to worsen the mission’s already poor image.
- Five men were shot and killed in a series of insurgency attacks with government security forces in southern Thailand on Wednesday. The violence is said to often target Buddhists and Muslims associated with the Thai state.
- The Philippines are set to receive $18.4 million worth of precision-guided missiles this year from the US in their fight against Islamist militants in the south. The Philippines has received more than $73 million under the US National Defense Authorization Act to help boost counter-terrorism around the world and $500 million in military and development aid. This after the main rebel group said on Tuesday that they were willing to resume peace talks.
- Four Turkish police officers were killed on Monday after gunmen opened fire on their police station. It is suspected that the gunmen were rebels from the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The following day, clashes between Turkish and Kurdish protesters surrounding the incident were barraged with tear gas by police.
- A bomb explosion in a Ukrainian church killed one person and injured 8 others. Officials are so far keeping quiet on suspected responsibility for the bomb as they investigate.
- Germany has charged a suspected former Nazi guard with helping to murder 430,000 Jews at a death camp in Poland during WWII. The 90 year old will also testify against suspected Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk. Samuel Kunz denies all charges and of ever working as a prison guard for the Nazis.
- A Russian police officer, tired of the constant corruption within the policing system, appealed to Putin for action via YouTube only to be immediately fired, arrested and charged last November. He recently gave the New York Times a tour of some luxury homes of top ranking police officers as he now regularly speaks out about the corruption within the force.
- Shootouts in Russia’s Dagestan resulted in the death of at least five people, including a village head and a policeman.
- Serbia asked the UN on Wednesday to review the independence of Kosovo, following last week’s World Court ruling that the 2008 secession from Serbia did not violate international law. A Serbian ex-policeman was indicted for crimes against civilians, including children, committed in Sarajevo during the 1992-5 war.
- The US Defense Department has apparently no trace of what happened to $8.7 billion in Iraqi oil money out of $9.1 billion (96%) that was to be used for rebuilding in the country according to a recent audit.
- Israel has demolished the homes of 300 Bedouins in the southern Negev desert claiming them as illegally built. Many more are expected to be demolished in the near future. The UN agency for Palestinian refugees suggest that Bedouins are facing tremendous suffering in the region and found that in Bedouin communities the rates of stunting are more than double those in Gaza.
- Jewish settlers clashed with Palestinians, injuring 6 people in stone-throwing and fistfights. Other violence in the region saw a rocket fired from Palestinian militants into Ashkelon on Friday. There were no reported injuries from the blast.
- The UN rights forum named a team of international experts on Friday to probe the flotilla fiasco and called for cooperation from all parties. They also told Israel it must lift its military blockade of the Gaza Strip in a non-binding recommendation.
- Four soldiers were killed in an ambush in south Yemen and Shi’ite rebels captured a north Yemen base on Monday, killing at least 10. Violence has increased in recent months in the country with separatists in the south, a fragile ceasefire with Shi’ite rebels in the north and a campaign against al Qaeda militants.
- 20,000 grenades were destroyed in Burundi by the Mines Advisory Group in an effort to reduce armed violence. Grenades are a popular choice for violence in the country involving nearly 22% of all armed violence registered in the country in 2008.
- Fighting continued in Somalia with reports of at least 17 civilians being killed in fighting between the Somali government and al-Shabab fighters in Mogadishu, 13 militia killed in clashes in Puntland and thousands displaced. The UN welcomed the African Union’s decision to send 2,000 more peacekeeping troops into the country.
- Former Congolese rebel leader Thomas Lubanga, the first person to be tried by the International Criminal Court will remain in jail after proceedings were suspended on July 15th. Lubanga is accused of enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15 to his Union of Congolese Patriots. Calls for his release, after the prosecutor failed to comply with an order to turn over information to the defense were denied.
- Mali is up in arms about the recent French-backed Mauritanian raid of an al-Qaeda base within their country, calling it an “unannounced declaration of war”.
- Sudan’s army was accused of killing at least two civilians during a raid on a refugee camp on Wednesday and burning some of the camps full of internally displaced persons.
- Discussion around the recently passed Conflict Minerals legislation in the US has avid Congo bloggers a buzz. The Enough Project and Jason Stearns take a more positive approach with Laura at Texas in Africa (see her Mineral Week posts starting July 26, 2010 for full details), Dan Fahey and Resource Consulting Services seriously critiquing the legislation. Wronging rights did a great overview of the new legislation here.
- The US House of Representatives agreed to provide $37 billion to continue financing America’s two wars by a vote of 308-114.
- A ruptured underground oil pipe in Michigan leaked more than 800,000 gallons of oil into the Tallmadge Creek and Kalamazoo River, along with another spill in the Gulf a Mexico off the coast of Louisiana after a barge slammed into an abandoned oil well.
- Senator John Kerry put the New Start arms control treaty with Russia, which would prohibit the US and Russia from deploying more than 1,550 strategic warheads and 700 launchers each, on his panel’s schedule for next week.
Central and South America
- Paraguayan police killed the leader of an armed leftist group in a shootout on Wednesday after facing pressure to track down key figures in the Paraguayan People’s Army (EPP), a small armed group active in the northern regions.
- Mexican police found at least 51 bodies in a mass grave outside of Monterrey, suspected killed in escalating drug violence, along with the kidnapping of four Mexican journalists reporting on organized crime in northern Mexico. At least 26,000 people have been killed in drug violence in Mexico in the past 4 years, at least 30 of them journalists.
- Native Brazilians took 100 workers at a hydroelectric plant in the southern Amazon region hostage this week, after occupying the plant they say was built on an ancient burial site.
- A US federal court has paved the way for Guatemalan women to claim asylum status as a “social group” on the grounds that being a women there is sufficient reason to fear for your life.