- The Atlantic ran an interesting article discussing whether Central America should legalize drugs or not, in an effort to reduce the drug related violence in the region. Al Jazeera also took a look at rising drug related violence in Central America in the wake of a recent UN report.
- A bill aimed at outlawing abortion by granting individual rights to an embryo died on Thursday in the Virginia state Senate in the United States when lawmakers returned the bill to committee. On Friday, Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking classified information to WikiLeaks was formally charged with 22 counts, including “aiding the enemy”, after declining to enter a plea in a military trial; while gay marriage was set to be legalized in Maryland after the state Senate gave its final approval to a bill that will now be sent to the Governor. The Pentagon notified lawmakers of plans to boost American strength in the Persian Gulf in response to alleged Iranian threats close to the Straits of Hormuz on Saturday. On Monday, it was reported that millions of dollars of White House money helped to pay for a New York Police Department program that put entire American Muslim neighbourhoods under surveillance since 9/11; while a student in a high school in Ohio opened fire in the cafeteria with a handgun, killing one student and wounding four others before giving himself up to authorities (the death toll rose to 3 the following day). WikiLeaks published more than five million emails stolen from an Austin, Texas-based intelligence firm Stratfor that is now being called the Enron of private intelligence. On Wednesday, a Pakistani national in Guantanamo Bay plead guilty to five charges related to terrorism, murder, conspiracy and spying, reaching a plea deal that he provide “full and truthful cooperation” with the US government that limits his prison sentence.
- The Prime Minister of Haiti offered his resignation to the President on Saturday after days of political tension between the premier and government ministers over issues of dual nationality. On Wednesday, several thousands of supporters of former President Aristide filled the streets of Port-au-Prince on the eighth anniversary of his toppling, demanding that President Martelly prove he does not hold dual citizenship and that the UN peacekeeping mission leave the country.
- On Friday, five disabled protesters began a hunger strike in Bolivia in their campaign demanding that the government pay an annual subsidy to disabled people; while scores of disabled people fought police in La Paz after ending their 1,000 mile, 100-day trek through the country.
- Police in Puerto Rico were alerted to a 6-foot-long military torpedo at a metal recycling centre along the north coast on Friday.
- An American immigration judge ruled on Thursday that there are sufficient grounds to begin deportation proceedings against a former defense minister of El Salvador for his alleged involvement in torture and extrajudicial killings in the 1980s.
- Protesters in Bahrain are angered at riot weaponry from Brazil that has reportedly been used on them in recent months, killing some 35 people and injuring hundreds of others. Protesters allege that the Brazilian tear gas has more chemical substances that has made people foam at the mouth and caused other symptoms, even causing the death of babies.
- The PM of Canada announced he was unaware of allegations that his Conservative party had used dirty tricks to suppress votes to help them win by a narrow margin in last year’s federal election, after an Elections Canada investigation revealed that voters in several constituencies had received automated phone calls designed to prevent them from casting their ballots. On Monday, it was revealed that all the calls weren’t robo, automated pre-recorded voice messages, but rather real-time calls made into ridings across the country; a move that Liberal leader Bob Rae said definitely affected the election results, specifically in 27 ridings that were hotly contested.
- Two British cruise liners were reportedly turned away from a port in Argentina as tensions mounted over the future of the Falkland Islands. On Wednesday, the British government accused Argentina of pursuing a policy of confrontation over the Falklands, after reports suggested they were calling on companies to stop importing goods from the UK.
- FARC rebels in Colombia vowed to free 10 remaining police and military hostages and end its practice of kidnapping civilians on Sunday, calling the practice “nothing but a disaster”. The government greeted the announced with caution, as an “important and necessary step” for peace and that they would like to see an end to armed attacks, not merely a ceasefire. On Wednesday, at least 11 Colombian oil workers were reportedly seized by an unidentified armed group as they worked on a pipeline near the Venezuelan border.
- A Pentagon legal official refused to extend an important deadline to file motions for defense lawyers of the five Guantanamo Bay prisoners charged in the September 11th attack on Friday. Dozens of riot police cleared the last remaining Occupy encampments in the United States on Saturday, saying they were banned under park rules; while members of the hacker group Anonymous made a statement on the website of the law firm Puckett and Faraj claiming to have published three GB of private email messages of the attorneys who defended the US Marine who faced charges in the 2005 killing of 24 Iraqi civilians in the Haditha massacre and recently had his charges dropped. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court struck down a California law that strips gay couples of the right to marry, stating it violated principles of due process and equal protection under the law. On Wednesday, lawmakers in Washington State voted to approve gay marriage; while the authorities agreed with Japan to proceed with plans to transfer thousands of American troops out of the southern Japanese island of Okinawa, leaving behind a stalled discussion about closing a major US Marine base there. On Thursday, the Pentagon unveiled a new policy that intends to expand job opportunities for women in the military, but will shift them closer to combat fighting, in an effort to begin eliminating some of the gender-based discrimination in the military. Al Jazeera ran an interesting article asking whether democracy in the US is being bought and sold by corporations, unions and political action committees.
- An article in the SF Chronicle discussed the recent mass evictions in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in preparation of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, with some 170,000 people reportedly facing threats to their housing or already removed. The army reportedly clashed with striking police officers in the city of Salvador over the weekend. The police officers are striking over pay and poor benefits amid rising crime rates, with some 78 people murdered in only 5 days. On Thursday, the striking police officers agreed to leave the state assembly house they had occupied for several days, but have not yet indicated that the strike was over.
- An ageing peace activist in Ecuador has built a haven for young local gang members called the Barrio de Paz or the “Neighbourhood of Peace”, becoming a grandmotherly figure to the gang members and helping to guide them into a life of non-violence. The activist believes that gang organizations can be transformed to be used for good, as a support system for other members and has had some great successes in her process.
- The ruling centre-right political party in Mexico announced that they had chosen a woman to run for the Presidency. Josefina Vazquez Mota, a former writer of self-help books, economist and former education minister, is currently around 20 percentage points behind Enrique Pena Nieto, the Institutional Revolutionary party candidate. A drug cartel in Ciudad Juarez threatened to kill an officer a day until the city’s police chief steps down, forcing officers into hiding around the city. On Wednesday, a suspected Zeta drug gang member led authorities to a mass grave site at two ranches in the state of Veracruz.
- The United Kingdom dismissed Argentina’s new threat to complain to the UN over what Argentina called the “militarization” of the disputed Falkland Islands, although as a permanent member of the Security Council, they could veto any potential resolution. The British Foreign Office said that the people of the island are British citizens “out of choice”. On Wednesday, Britain ruled out the possibility of talks with Argentina.
- President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela celebrated the 20th anniversary of the failed coup that helped launch his political career with a lavish military parade, angering opposition leaders who see the coup attempt as a blemish on the country’s democracy. Two brothers believed to be the leaders of a rightwing paramilitary group were arrested on Tuesday on crimes including murder, kidnapping, and drug trafficking. On Thursday, the Guardian ran an article about the opposition candidates joining together in coalition to oust Hugo Chavez in the upcoming Presidential elections.
- The federal government of Canada is defending its recent decision to direct CSIS, the Canadian spy agency, to use information that may have been extracted through torture in cases where public safety is at stake.
- The most important leader of the Shining Path insurgency has reportedly been wounded in a clash in Peru. President Humala has vowed to step up efforts to catch the group.
- The UN pre-talks for the world climate summit in China ended in disappointment as negotiators from 177 countries fought over the main aspect of how to finance climate protection and the legal form of a future global climate agreement. The six days of negotiations were marred by open conflicts between the US and China, with the Chinese holding the US and other developed nations responsible for the apparent deadlock in negotiations.
- The top UN official fighting to end the recruitment of child soldiers appealed to governments to provide the necessary resources to ensure the reintegration of children into civil society once they have been freed. A new report released this week outlines some of the successes over the past year, and some of the major challenges facing children in war zones.
- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon outlined measures to strengthen the UN’s role in helping countries emerging from conflict to maintain peace and entrench stability in a report released on Thursday. He also spoke of the need to provide UN staff deployed in crisis situations with proper training to enable them to perform the full range of their responsibilities.
- India, Germany, South Africa, Colombia and Portugal will all take their place on the UN Security Council for their term after being elected to two-year terms. The council is made up of 5 permanent veto-holding members — France, Russia, China, the UK and the US, as well as 10 non-permanent members. Brazil, Gabon, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria and Lebanon are all on the council until 2011. Canada abruptly withdrew from the contest allowing Portugal to take its place, after neither won the required votes (128 votes) for victory (Portugal with 113 votes and Canada with 78 votes).
- NATO’s secretary-general has urged member states to endorse a proposed anti-missile system that would link alliance members into a common network, saying it was NATO’s responsibility to build “modern defenses against modern threats”. NATO defense and foreign ministers held a rare joint session in Brussels on Thursday to discuss a draft of a new “strategic concept” for the alliance, which is expected to focus on new threats including missiles from hostile states, terrorism and cyberattacks ahead of the Lisbon summit in November.
- The UN is owed $4.1 billion by member nations with the US accounting for more than a quarter of that figure, officials announced on Thursday. Chile, Iran, Mexico, and Venezuela accounted for 9% of the arrears, and another 68 countries made up 3% of the arrears. Only 13 countries out of 192 have paid their contributions.
- French authorities have arrested a leader of the FDLR who is accused of carrying out mass rapes in the DR Congo. ICC chief prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo said the arrest was a “crucial step in efforts to prosecute the massive sexual crimes committed in the DRC. On Thursday, a senior UN official said the UN Security Council should consider sanctioning Lieutenant Colonel Serafim of the FDLR over the rapes of hundreds of villagers in the east in August as well. Those who were raped by rebels over the summer are said to now be facing the same abuse from Government troops.
- The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is reported to have ambushed a town in northern Central African Republic, abducting young girls, looting and setting shops on fire in what the UNHCR has described as intensified attacks since September. The group is said to have committed more than 240 deadly attacks this year, displacing thousands.
- A new school to train soldiers of about a dozen African countries in peacekeeping operations has been launched in the Congo (Brazzaville) with financial support from France. The school is set to train hundreds of students a year.
- The former deputy leader of Niger’s ruling military government was arrested on Wednesday, just days after his post as the junta’s number two leader was eliminated. It was not immediately clear why the leader was arrested.
- Sudan’s president has accused the country’s southern autonomous leadership of breaching terms of a peace deal and warned that civil war could re-erupt if the two sides did not settle their disputes before the secession referendum. On Friday, a UN panel said that plans for the referendums are being hampered by delays, poor funding and negatively charged atmosphere of threats and accusations. The latest round of talks between the north and the south over the oil-producing Abyei region have failed to reach an agreement just 90 days before the referendum to decide its fate. South Sudan independence supporters clashed with riot police and northern pro-unity campaigners in Khartoum on Saturday, highlighting the risk that simmering tensions might boil over. The president in South Sudan has asked the UN Security Council to send peacekeepers and set up a buffer zone along the north-south border ahead of the independence vote to help keep the peace and on Wednesday, the UN Security Council announced that peacekeepers could create limited buffer zones in hotspots along the north-south border, but were not capable of patrolling the entire border. On Tuesday, the UN-supported disarmament drive in the far south began, as the first of some 2,600 people set to be disarmed were disarmed, registered and issued certificates. On Thursday it was announced that the vote on whether the district of Abyei should be part of the north or the south will be delayed, as feared. Local residents responded by saying that a delay is unacceptable and that they may hold their own vote without the government. On Thursday, a renegade army commander began reconciliation talks with the president of South Sudan, as part of a new push to end southern divisions.
- Gunmen in northern Nigeria shot and killed an Islamic scholar on Saturday after he had been openly critical of a radical sect behind a series of recent killings. Recent killings of police officers, traditional leaders and politicians in the area have raised fears that a radical Islamic group Boko Haram, are staging a comeback. Late Monday night, a police station was destroyed in an attack blamed on the group, after attackers deployed home-made bombs. On Wednesday, Boko Haram gave the government five conditions to be implemented for peace to be restored to their region: that the government stop arresting, intimidating and detaining their members; release all their members that are currently in detention unconditionally; allow their fleeing members to return home unmolested; give back all their places of worship, and denounce all forms of injustice. On Friday, a militant group announced it planned to carry out another bomb attack in Abuja this month, giving seven days of notice of the attack.
- A Ugandan court has dismissed treason charges against Kizza Besigye, an opposition leader, paving the way for him to run against the president in the 2011 election. The opposition leader had gone into exile after losing to President Museveni in the 2001 presidential polls.
- Guinea’s presidential hopeful, Cellou Dallein Diallo is still opposed to taking part in a run-off election on October 24th, despite having agreed to share power with his opponent whoever wins. Last week, Diallo announced that he would not participate in the election unless the head of the electoral commission was removed. The two main political rivals agreed to share power regardless of who wins, by including the loser in government.
- Ethiopia has signed a peace deal on Tuesday to end 20 years of war with a rebel faction in the Ogaden region, however, the deal remains unsure, as a spokesman for a rival wing of the rebel group called the deal “irrelevant”. Ethiopian authorities have said that the deal represents 80% of the fighters.
- Heavy fighting in Somalia’s capital left more than 20 dead on Wednesday as soldiers clashed with al-Shabaab fighters. A mortar hit the main Bakara market killing 5 civilians, as the fighting escalated. The Somali President named a Somali-American to replace the Prime Minister who resigned last month on Thursday. The previous PM is said to have resigned after intense pressure from the president following a long-standing dispute. A Briton working for Save the Children in Somalia was kidnapped by masked Somali gunmen on Thursday, along with a Somali native who was later released. Witnesses say heavy fighting between government troops and al-Shabaab rocked the capital on Friday with civilian casualties.
- Egypt’s telecommunications regulator has imposed new restrictions on mobile text messages just ahead of the legislative elections that prohibit companies from sending out text messages en masse without obtaining licenses. Opposition activists say the new regulation stifles their ability to mobilize voters, as they have come to rely increasingly on the internet and mobile phones to organize and mobilize their supporters to sidestep government harassment.
- Rwanda’a leading opposition leader Victoire Ingabire was re-arrested on Thursday after allegations that investigations into a former rebel commander facing terrorism charges also implicate her. Ingabire had returned to Rwanda to contest the presidential elections this year, but was barred from standing, after being accused of crimes linked to genocide denial.
- A top rebel leader in Cote D’Ivoire announced that the identity cards being issued to voters ahead of the October 31st election end once and for all the dispute which split the nation in two. The 2002-3 rebellion was largely driven by a row over citizenship rights. The UN Security Council renewed its arms, financial and travel sanctions to the country for six months on Friday, as well as a ban on trade in rough diamonds.
- Eleven miners at a coal mine in Zambia were shot after protesting over what they said were poor pay and conditions on Friday. Police are said to be investigating the Chinese owners of Collum Mine Ltd. but have yet to arrest anyone.
- Seven presidential candidates are to take part in the October general elections in Tanzania. The current president warned candidates to run peaceful elections campaigns and avoid any action that could cause chaos.
- The Zimbabwean Prime Minister and his deputy boycotted cabinet this week, in escalating political tensions in the shaky inclusive government. Sources say the PM is angry over the President’s unilateral decision to appoint new governors and other arbitrary appointments, triggering a constitutional crisis.
- The wife of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, has been placed under house arrest in China following Liu’s win late last week, along with more than 30 other intellectuals. Censors blacked out any foreign broadcasts of the win, and police were mobilized to quell any sign of domestic support. China also canceled its meeting with the Norwegian fisheries minister, living up to its promise that the move to award the dissident Liu the Prize would harm relations between the countries. On Tuesday, the government canceled another meeting with Norwegian officials, claiming that the award was an affront to the Chinese people and a ploy to try and change the country’s political system. Also on Tuesday, a group of retired Communist Party officials and intellectuals issued an unusually blunt demand for total press freedom in China, stating that the current censorship and control violated China’s Constitution. More than 100 Chinese Christians seeking to attend an international evangelical conference in South Africa have been barred from leaving the country because their churches are not sanctioned by the government.
- Police sealed off residential areas and reimposed the round-the-clock curfew in Kashmir again on Tuesday in an attempt to pre-empt the first anti-India rally since authorities announced concessions to end violent protests. The hardline separatist leader in Kashmir called on residents to defy the curfew and go into the streets.
- Detained Myanmar/Burma pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has announced that she will not vote in the upcoming elections, even though authorities have told her she is on the electoral roll. Suu Kyi’s party was dissolved because it declined to reregister for an election it considered unfair and undemocratic and she has said that her ability to vote is unlawful, as convicted people are prohibited from voting.
- North Korea put on the largest military parade it has ever had on Sunday in front of Kim Jong-il and his successor son Kim Jong-un. Kim Jong-il’s oldest son, Kim Jong-nam announced his opposition to the hereditary transfer of leadership to his younger brother on Tuesday. It is suspected Kim Jong-nam, who fell out of favor after an embarrassing attempt to enter Japan to visit Disneyland in 2001, will not likely return to the country. On Friday North Korea vowed to attack South Korea if it resumed its propaganda war along the border, which was recently resumed.
- Militants set fire to at least 29 fuel tankers in Pakistan in the latest assault on NATO supply routes to Afghanistan, which were reopened by Pakistani authorities on Saturday. Another truck was ambushed on Friday, killing two people. On Sunday, two US drones fired four missiles into a house, killing seven militants. Militants are said to have blown up three school buildings late Saturday, with no reported casualties. Pakistani security forces began a fresh military operation in the northwestern part of the country on Tuesday to comb for militants believed to have fled from the nearby Swat region. On Thursday, Pakistani police arrested a group of Islamist militants who were allegedly plotting to kill the prime minister and other top government officials.
- Fourteen suspected terrorists were captured during a special operation in a northern area of Tajikistan on Tuesday. The Tajik government offered an amnesty to armed groups fighting government troops in the east on Tuesday if they declare a cease-fire. Two field commanders and 27 members of armed groups reportedly took the amnesty, agreeing to lay down their weapons and join forces with government troops to hunt down foreign militants on Friday.
- Four Italian soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan on Saturday. The British PM announced on Monday that a British hostage who had been reported killed by captors, may have been accidentally killed by troops attempting to save her. On Tuesday, an unknown explosion of a grounded helicopter resulted in the death of at least one ISAF member, an air strike in a northern province killed two insurgents, an ISAF member died following an IED attack in the south, six Afghan civilians died in a rocket attack by insurgents, and two Afghan soldiers were killed in separate attacks. On Wednesday, seven NATO troops were killed in three separate attacks. On Thursday, at least 8 NATO troops were killed in five separate insurgent attacks. On Friday, NATO-led forces are said to have facilitated the passage of a senior Taliban commander to Kabul to hold talks with the Afghan government.
- Five parties are said to have won seats in Kyrgyzstan’s new Parliament following last week’s election. The results would mean that the ruling nationalist party will be unable to govern on their own after winning just 8.69% of the votes. Twenty-nine parties contested the polls. On Tuesday, the United Kyrgyzstan party announced that it will hold nationwide protests to challenge the official results after it failed to clear the threshold to get into parliament. On Wednesday, an angry crowd attacked a defendant and three relatives of another defendant in trials related to the June violence in the south, following a series of similar attacks earlier in the week on other defendants.
- Thousands of Thai anti-government activists gathered in Bangkok on Sunday to demand the release of protesters detained for their role in demonstrations and military clashes, breaking the state of emergency rules. Riot police surrounded the site, but there were no reports of violence amid the protests. On Thursday, four people were shot dead in the restive deep south in separate attacks. Police blamed the Malay Muslim rebels for the attacks.
- Azerbaijan is said to be boosting its military defense spending next year by 90%. The country is in talks with neighbouring Armenia over Nagorno-Karabkh, which it lost to Armenian-backed forces in conflicts in 1991 and the President has claimed that his country should get the region back one day.
Central and North America
- Suspected drug hitmen in Mexico have ambushed a group of traffic police patrolling a highway on Monday, killing eight officers. Thirteen more people were killed between Tuesday and Thursday in the border city of Tijuana, including several decapitated bodies found hanging upside down from bridges. More than 2,000 police have been killed since 2006, and more than 29,000 in drug violence in Mexico.
- Canada has lost the use of a United Arab Emirates military camp near Dubai from which it supported its troops in Afghanistan in an escalation of a dispute over landing rights. The decision has been tied with the failed efforts of UAE to convince Canadian authorities to allow its two major airlines to increase flights to Canada.
- The Haitian UN peacekeeping mission voiced concern at reports that arms are being distributed in advance of next month’s elections. The MINUSTAH peacekeeping mission called on all candidates in the election to think of the country’s future and programmes that will restore hope to the people. Demonstrators have blocked the entrance to the UN military headquarters in Haiti, spraying anti-UN slogans on vehicles trying to enter on Friday, calling it an “occupation” and angry at the lack of security and assistance they offer to average Haitians. This violence comes the day after the UN announced it would keep its force in Haiti for at least another year.
- An American Federal judge ordered a halt to the enforcement of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy which bans gay men and women from serving openly in the US military. Critics worry that the order may not make it through a Congressional vote, as an earlier attempt was defeated in the Senate this year. In a separate case, a judge ruled that the government cannot coerce a detainee to provide information for intelligence purposes and then use the evidence in criminal proceedings, in the first civilian trial of a Guantanamo Bay detainee. The judge did not express an opinion on the constitutionality of government agents using coercive methods to gain intelligence. The US is also in the process of reviewing its position on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, that lays out the fundamental rights and freedoms of the world’s indigenous populations.
- The Argentinian government has condemned a planned British military exercise in the Falkland Islands, calling the plan an “unacceptable provocation”. The Argentinian deputy foreign minister demanded that the exercises be canceled.
- An Ecuadorean court issued an order authorizing the jailing of 12 police officers for their role in the police uprising last week, that the President has called an attempted coup. The lawyer for the police officers said that his clients were being swept up in a “witch hunt”.
- Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez has begun a tour of seven nations, including Russia, Iran and Libya to discuss issues ranging from nuclear power and tanks to olive oil. In the past three years Chavez has bought at least $5 billion in weapons, including fighter jets, anti-aircraft missile systems and tanks from Russia.
- Peruvian police have arrested a top commander of the Maoist Shining Path guerrilla group in an operation that also killed two rebel fighter on Wednesday. Police raids in the coca growing regions are part of an effort by the government to stamp out the remnant bands of Shining Path fighters and eradicate crops of coca, the raw material for cocaine.
- It was reported this week that at least 10 Palestinian children have been shot and wounded by Israeli troops over the past three months while collecting rubble in or near the border. Israeli soldiers are routinely shooting at Gazans well beyond the unmarked boundary of the no-go area. The Israeli Prime Minister is said to have offered to renew a partial settlement construction freeze in exchange for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state on Monday. The offer was met with swift rejection from senior Palestinian officials, calling the two issues unrelated. Palestinians, backed by Arab powers, have given the US one month to persuade Israel to halt the building of settlements or risk the complete collapse of peace talks. On Wednesday, Palestinian authorities requested a map from the US showing where Israel sees its final borders and making clear whether they include Palestinian land and homes. Israel issued the building tenders for 238 new housing units in East Jerusalem on Thursday, which many called choosing “settlements over peace”. Lawyers representing relatives of those who died in the Israeli raid of the Gaza-bound aid flotilla in May are urging the ICC to pursue those responsible, citing that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed.
- Two apparently synchronized bombs exploded in southern Yemen on Monday, killing 2 people and wounding 12 others. The leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula announced the formation of a new army that would free the country of “crusaders and their apostate agents”. On Tuesday, police arrested 19 al-Qaeda members who were accused of Monday’s attacks. On Thursday, the governor of Abyan escaped an assassination attempt by suspected al-Qaeda mlitants, and the chief of police in an Abyan district was killed in an attack.
- Iran has announced that it is ready to hold talks with six major powers over its nuclear programme in late October or early November. The US and its European allies fear Iran’s declared civilian nuclear energy programme is a cover to develop the capability of producing nuclear weapons.
- Iranian President Ahmadinejad arrived in Lebanon on Wednesday to visit the southern region near the Israeli border in a trip said to emphasize Iranian support for Hezbollah’s fight with Israel. Both the US and Israel called his trip intentionally provocative.
- Gunmen wearing Iraqi military uniforms broke into the homes of their own clan members on Monday and killed four people for informing on al Qaeda. Also on Monday, a senior police officer was wounded in a roadside bomb attack in Baghdad, a group of gunmen opened fire on a currency exchange office in Baghdad which killed five people, and three gunmen stormed a policeman’s house and killed him in Falluja. On Tuesday, gunmen launched coordinated attacks on three Iraqi army security checkpoints in western Baghdad that killed one soldier, Iraqi forces killed a civilian by mistake in near Mosul as they chased smugglers near the border, and a roadside bomb wounded two Iraqi soldiers as it exploded during their patrol near Mosul. On Wednesday, four bombs exploded in western Baghdad, at least four policemen were wounded when a roadside bomb hit their patrol, a bomb attached to a government car wounded two of its passengers and gunmen in a speeding car opened fire at an employee of a state-run oil company. New US military statistics have placed the death toll for Iraqi civilians and security forces at 77,000 from January 2004-October 31, 2008, well below the count by the Iraqi Human Rights Ministry figure of 85,694 for the same period.
- Twenty-three Shia activists were charged in Bahrain on Wednesday with terrorism and conspiring against the government, who are among hundreds of Shia opposition figures and activists rounded up in recent months ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections. Shias are the majority in Bahrain, but have long complained of discrimination from the Sunni government.
- A dramatic rise in violent attacks on small town mayors in Sardinia, Italy has been linked to soaring job losses due to factory closures and the sheep market slump. A social services office was bombed, a shotgun was fired at the home of a mayor, a car belonging to a council official was burned, and a horse of a mayor was shot dead with its ears and tongue cut off.
- Riot police clashed with protesting Culture Ministry workers who barricaded the ancient Acropolis in Greece on Thursday. Workers complained that they were owed up to 24 months’ worth of back pay and faced dismissal when their contracts expire at the end of the month.
- Clashes between far-right supporters and gay pride marchers rocked Belgrade, in Serbia on Sunday. Thousands of police officers sealed the streets and clashed with the rioters who were attempting to break through the security. Rioters also fired shots and hurled petrol bombs at the headquarters of the ruling Democratic party, along with the state TV building and other political parties’ headquarters. Serbia’s Appeals Court removed a war crimes conviction against a Bosnian official on Monday in a move that is said could ease ties between the two former Yugoslav states. Official relations worsened in 2007 after Serbia arrested Ilija Jurisic on charges that he ordered an attack on a column of the Yugoslav People’s Army that killed at least 50 soldiers. On Tuesday a soccer match between Serbia and Italy ended in clashes and the hospitalization of 16 people after Serbian fans threw flares and fireworks onto the pitch and at Italian fans.
- One man was killed after a group of Muslims were attacked as they left a mosque in Abkhazia on Monday. The attackers opened fire from a passing car. This is the third attack against Muslims in Abkhazia in the last two months.
- Russia’s main pro-Kremlin party are said to have won an overwhelming victory in local elections across the country on Sunday, but observers say the results are unsurprising as the vote was rigged. Claims of buying votes, ballot-stuffing, increased pressure on journalists and human rights activists from authorities during the campaign and the refusal of registration faced by independent candidates marred the results. On Tuesday, Russian authorities detained around 30 people for holding an unsanctioned rally to demand an end to naming mayors and regional governors instead of by elections.
- Russia and Georgia have resumed internationally mediated talks in Geneva aimed at preventing another flare-up of violence following their brief 2008 war. The talks also include representatives from the two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and is set to last one day.
- Three members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and two soldiers in Turkey were killed in two days of fighting. The fighting comes despite a one-sided ceasefire declared by the PKK.
- Moldova has become the latest country to ratify the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court on Tuesday. The treaty enters into force in January.
- The UN called upon governments to expand their efforts to ensure the protection for the world’s 43 million forcibly displaced people in the face of “never-ending” conflicts that are creating new semi-permanent refugee populations. More than 5.5 million refugees are stuck in protracted situations.
- China began hosting its first UN climate conference this week aimed at building momentum and finding areas of agreement ahead of the annual summit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Climate change is said to highly affect global conflicts. China said at the conference that rich nations must vow greater cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and warned of lost trust in talks, while rich countries accused China of undercutting progress.
- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a report on Friday calling for equal participation by women in post-conflict peacebuilding. He laid out a seven-point action plan aimed at changing practices among all actors and improving outcomes on the ground.
- At least nine civilians were killed after al-Shabab fighters in Mogadishu, Somalia attacked an African Union’s peacekeeping position on Saturday and another eight were killed on Sunday. On Wednesday it was announced that over 30 people had been killed in the past three days and at least 51 wounded in this continued fighting. Uganda announced it could raise an entire 20,000 troop force for the African Union to defeat Somalia’s Islamist rebels and pacify the country in a statement released on Monday. Uganda’s President has been urging greater urgency in regional and international efforts to stabilize Somalia since the twin bomb blasts that rocked Uganda’s capital in July that were led by the al-Shabab militia. Uganda is also the site for the new UN regional peacekeeping hub for the Great-Lakes region.
- The UN Security Council traveled to Sudan this week to discuss the scheduled referenda on self-determination. Southern Sudan will vote on whether to secede from the rest of the country on January 9th, while the central area of Abyei will vote on whether to be part of the north or south. Sudanese officials announced on Tuesday that the long-awaited timetable for the referendum has been released, but that unforeseen circumstances could still delay the vote. Voter registration is to start in mid-November, with the final voter list ready by December 31st, leaving just 8 days before the January 9th deadline for the vote. Armed men abducted a civilian peacekeeper in Darfur on Thursday.
- Ethiopia’s best-known opposition leader was released after five years in jail for treason related to the 2005 election dispute on Wednesday. The move was seen as a placatory gesture by the newly sworn in Prime Minister, who had refused to let her out for the parliamentary elections, in which the ruling party won 99.6% of the seats.
- Nigeria’s government admitted it was warned of the parade attack last week that killed at least 12 people by foreign agencies and did the best it could to secure the area. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) also suggested that it gave the security forces five days notice of the attacks. South African police invaded the Johannesburg home of the leader of MEND on Saturday, apparently acting on the request of Nigerian authorities who claimed he was stockpiling weapons and re-arming fighters in the Niger Delta region. No weapons were found after a 10 hour search. Nigeria’s secret service detained an aid to one of President Goodluck Jonathan’s election rivals on Monday in connection to the bomb attacks, raising concern over violence in next year’s election polls. The former MEND leader announced that he received a phone call from a “close associate” of Goodluck Jonathan urging him to tell MEND to retract its claim of the bombings, so that they could blame them on northerners who are opposing the President. The next day, the former leader was being described as the main suspect in the bombings. On Wednesday, the Northern Political Leaders Forum declared that President Jonathan should immediately resign from office or they will take take steps to impeach him because he has proved he is incapable of leading the nation justly and fairly, amid another bomb scare. On Friday, inmates at a prison in northeastern Nigeria torched a part of the building, raising fears that a radical Islamic sect, who has many members incarcerated in the jail, are attempting a comeback. The sect previously staged an uprising that resulted in the deaths of hundreds.
- Guinea’s already postponed runoff presidential elections may be delayed even further due to technical issues such as production and supply of voters’ cards. The originally scheduled September 19th election was delayed because of election violence. On Wednesday, the government announced it will hold the delayed second round on October 24th. On Wednesday, the first place winner of the first round of elections insisted that a run off could only be possible if the “controversial” election commissioner is changed and threatened to boycott the elections if he was not.
- Suspected al-Qaeda militants killed five Algerian soldiers and wounded another 10 in an attack on their convoy on Saturday. Around 200,000 people have died in the country since violence broke out in the early 1990s between Islamist rebels and government forces.
- According to a leading survey, governance standards have improved significantly in Angola, Liberia and Togo over the past four years but have decline in Eritrea and Madagascar. Mauritius was revealed as Africa’s best-governed country, while Somalia was listed as the worst-governed nation.
- The Egyptian Journalists’ Union has accused the government of cracking down on media that is critical of the authorities in advance of an upcoming November parliamentary election. Two popular talk shows were recently closed down.
- UN peacekeepers say they have captured the rebel commander they accuse of being behind the rape of hundreds of villagers in eastern DR Congo in August on Tuesday. The UN peacekeeping force was largely criticized for failing to prevent the mass rape of over 300 people, which took place just 20 miles from their base. Recent budget cuts to the newly scaled back MONUSCO peacekeeping mission, mean that the mission lacks sufficient helicopter strength to operate effectively in the country’s unstable east. The UN announced that the crisis in the DRC is beyond their capacity. ICC appeals judges ruled on Friday that Thomas Lubanga, accused of war crimes, should not be released and ordered that his trial resume following a two month stay after the prosecutor failed to comply with the trial chamber’s orders.
- The first of 500 additional UN peacekeeping troops arrived in Cote D’Ivoire on Thursday in advance of the October 31st election. The UN is distributing voter and identity cards across the country.
- Recent attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has shown that the group has extended its reach to vulnerable communities in the Central African Republic. Four LRA rebels are said to have been killed in a clash on Monday with the UDFR.
- Two suspected US missile strikes into northwest Pakistan reportedly killed at least 12 militants on Saturday and another five militants of German nationality were thought to have been killed in drone strikes on Tuesday. On Monday, gunmen attacked seven more fuel tankers in revenge for last week’s NATO incursions into the country, and on Tuesday at least 20 trucks were targeted, resulting in the deaths of at least 3 people. Two Pakistani troops were said to have been killed in the incursion. The attacks continued, with another dozen tankers attacked on Wednesday, resulting in the death of at least one man. On Thursday, two suspected suicide bombers hit a crowded Muslim shrine in Karachi, killing at least 7 people. At least four people were said to have been killed in more NATO drone attacks on Thursday, bringing the death toll from drone attacks to over 150 in the past month alone. On Friday, three drone missiles killed at least five suspected militants, and two soldiers were killed in a roadside blast in the northwest. NATO’s Secretary-General has spoken out against the continued blockage of the main NATO supply routes into Afghanistan by Pakistan, saying that the incursion was “obviously… unintended”. Meanwhile, former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf has decided to form a new political party in an effort to “introduce a new democratic political culture” to his people. An ironic choice of words from a man who led a coup in 1999 to overthrow an elected civilian government because he was fired.
- Eight private security firms have been disbanded and hundreds of weapons confiscated in Afghanistan as the government moves towards taking full responsibility for the country’s security. Afghanistan is set to take over security from foreign troops by 2014. At least 3 Afghan civilians were killed alongside 17 insurgents in a NATO air strike targeting senior Taliban commanders in the south on Sunday. The US military later apologized for the civilian deaths. At least eight people were killed after two explosions rocked Kandahar on Monday. On Tuesday, an Afghan soldier fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a French and Afghan outpost, but missed the target. The soldier has fled and has yet to be caught. Following the barrage of complaints of election fraud, a provincial head of the Independent Election Commission was arrested on Monday. The officer was accused by candidates and observers of taking bribes in exchange for important election posts. Peace talks were supposedly underway between Taliban reps, Afghan officials and a Pakistani government delegation in Kabul this week aimed at setting the ground for negotiations on ending the Afghan war, although participants denied that the talks involved Afghan and Pakistani officials meeting with the Taliban, calling them instead “brainstorming sessions”. NATO claimed that a Taliban leader and seven of his associates were killed in an air strike and ground operation on Wednesday, and that the Taliban “shadow governor” of a northwestern province was killed in a separate operation on the same day. On Thursday, a German soldier was killed in a suicide attack in a northern province. On Friday, a British soldier was killed in an explosion in the southern Helmand province and at least 15 people were killed in a separate bomb blast in a mosque in a northern town. Also on Friday, two other ISAF soldiers were killed in two separate incidents in the south; Taliban insurgents burned eight NATO supply trucks and killed six Afghan guards; one senior Taliban commander was captured with four others and one insurgent was killed in Kabul; and Afghan forces killed four suspects in a firefight in Kabul.
- Police in Bangladesh arrested three militants from the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in their continuing crackdown on militancy. Police claim that LeT followers have regrouped and are trying to launch fresh attacks.
- Fiji’s former prime minister Chaudry was arrested on Friday for allegedly violating public emergency regulations that outlawed holding public meetings. Chaudry is thought to be a real contender to overthrow the current military government in the next election. The current President, who seized power in a 2006 coup, imposed the ban and scrapped plans for an election after saying conditions were not right.
- Three Thai soldiers were killed after an ambush by suspected Muslim separatists in south Thailand on Sunday. The soldiers were said to be patrolling a road near the Malaysian border when gunmen opened fired from a nearby hill. On Tuesday, at least three people were killed after an explosion hit a residential building north of Bangkok. On Wednesday at least four people were said to have been killed in drive-by shootings by separatist rebels in the south.
- Government troops continued their operations against militants in eastern Tajikistan resulting in the death of four soldiers, a police officer and two insurgents. Meanwhile, official press centres in the area are virtually closed and communication lines remain blocked making it extremely difficult for media representatives to get any information about the ongoing events. In retaliation, Tajik troops killed at least 5 rebels between Monday and Tuesday. On Thursday, a land mine blast killed six soldiers in an operation on the Afghan borders.
- Police in Sri Lanka have been ordered to arrest activists who put up posters that criticize the President’s backing of a prison term for a former army chief who ran against him. The former army chief, once a national hero, was ordered to serve 30 months for corruption charges. Police have claimed that the order was intended to prevent posters from being placed in prohibited areas.
- Authorities in Indian Kashmir began scaling down security as part of its efforts to defuse tensions. More than 100 people have been killed since June. Kashmiris remain angry about the widely-hated security law that gives the military sweeping powers to search, arrest or shoot protesters that are still in place.
- Disturbing pictures of Nepali police carting off ballot boxes in Nepal, following the primary election held among some 80,000 Tibetan exiles to pick candidates for polls for a new parliament-in-exile and prime minister next year, have raised concern of continued repression of political activities by the Chinese. China objects to the election for a government in exile which it does not recognize.
- The offices of the Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) party in Kyrgyzstan were attacked on Wednesday after some 100 members of two local movements forced their way into the offices. The two movements had staged a protest in Bishkek’s central square early that day. Kyrgyzstan is scheduled to hold an election on Sunday amid fears of increasing violence.
- South Korea’s defense minister announced that his military would initiate a new and expanded propaganda war if provoked by the North and has reinstalled 11 sets of psychological warfare loudspeakers along the border. The North has warned that if undertaken, it will fire across the border and destroy the loudspeakers. The South also suggested that the North’s nuclear programme has reached an “alarming level” and poses a serious threat to the South. North Korea confirmed on Friday that Kim Jong-Un, Kim Jong-Il’s youngest son will succeed him as the next leader.
- The announcement of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner angered the Chinese authorities, who see Liu Xiaobo as a criminal. Liu Xiaobo is currently serving time in a Chinese prison for “incitement to subvert state power” and co-authoring Charter 08, a call for democratic reforms in the country. The Chinese warned that awarding Liu the prize would damage Sino-Norwegian relations. Liu is a long-time activist for human rights and democracy.
Central and North America
- An armed gang kidnapped at least 20 tourists in Mexico on Saturday near the resort city of Acapulco, in what is thought to be the latest bout of drug related violence in the country. On Saturday, assailants tossed a live grenade into a square in Monterrey, injuring 12 people.
- The controversial and notorious security contractor Blackwater (now renamed Xe) is said to have received a new contract in the $10 billion range. Two former Blackwater employees are currently on trial in the US for murdering civilians in Afghanistan, and in 2008, give Blackwater guards were charged with the deaths of 17 Iraqis civilians, which were ultimately dismissed. The group also has been charged with weapons export violations. The first civilian trial of a Guantanamo Bay detainee was delayed on Wednesday after the judge told prosecutors they could not call their star witness, because they had learned of his identity only through harsh interrogation at a secret CIA camp.
- The controversial and much protested “Ground Zero mosque” scheduled to be built in New York City turns out not to be a mosque after all, but a multi-faith community centre that includes a gym, playground and childcare area. It’s Muslim prayer area does not even satisfy the stringent requirements for a sanctified mosque.
- The US State Department issued a travel alert to Europe on Sunday following the threats of a possible terrorist plot in several European countries.
- The US midterm elections are to become the most expensive in history, and nearly five times as much as the last Presidential election, at an estimated $5 billion. This is the first year in which all donation limits were removed, allowing corporations to get involved.
- A Canadian army captain convicted of shooting an unarmed Taliban fighter in Afghanistan after a battle avoided a jail term this week and instead will be kicked out of the Canadian forces. The killing has been dubbed a “mercy killing”, citing that the Captain only shot the gravely wounded enemy to end his suffering as he believed he was not going to receive treatment from Afghan forces. Mercy killing is not a defense in Canada. The Supreme Court in Canada ruled on Friday that suspects in serious crimes do not have a right to consult their lawyer during a police interrogation, essentially reversing the Canadian Charter’s right to counsel in specific cases.
- Ecuador’s President Correa vowed to punish and purge his enemies after last week’s police rebellion. He suggested the axe would also swing towards opposition politicians whom he accused of attempting a coup. Days later, the government agreed to raise the pay of its police and armed forces by $35 million annually, calling the announcement a “coincidence”. Debate has been ensuing over whether the police tried to kill the President during the riots or were simply protesting against pay cuts and conditions. On Wednesday it was announced that at least 46 police officers were detained for their alleged participation in the revolt.
- Former guerrilla Dilma Rousseff won the first-round Presidential election in the Brazilian polling with 46.7% of the votes, and will do battle in the October 31st runoff against Social Democrat Jose Serra who won just under 33% of the votes. Green party activist Marina Silva gained far higher than pollsters had expected with 19% of the vote.
- Bolivian President Evo Morales is said to have kneed a political opponent in the groin during a friendly football match of political rivals. A bodyguard of Morales tried to arrest the kneed opponent after the match, but he was quickly ordered to be released by the opposition leader.
- The Palestinian leadership confirmed that it will not return to direct peace negotiations with the Israelis without an extension to the now-expired freeze on settlement construction, a move endorsed by the Arab League. The Israelis have begun deflecting blame for the breakdown of talks, with expectations of the Palestinians “to show some flexibility”. The Syrian President said that the peace talks were only aimed at “bolstering domestic support” for Obama during a meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Two Israeli soldiers were convicted on Sunday of using a nine-year old Palestinian boy as a human shield during the three-week Gaza war in 2008-9. The soldiers will face prison sentences of up to three years. Israeli paramilitary border police killed a Palestinian on Sunday after he entered East Jerusalem from the occupied West Bank without a permit. On Monday, arsonists, suspected to be radical Israeli settlers, damaged part of a Palestinian mosque in the West Bank, scrawling the word “revenge” in Hebrew on a wall. On Monday, a video of an Israeli soldier dancing around a blindfolded, bound prisoner provoked more anger from Palestinians. The Israeli army condemned the video, calling it an “isolated incident” and opened a criminal investigation on the matter on Tuesday. Many see this as the continued degrading treatment and mentality of the occupier in the country, remembering the degrading photos from an Israeli guard that surfaced on facebook in early August, among others. On Wednesday, Israeli PM Netanyahu announced he would push for legislation requiring all those who want to become Israeli citizens to pledge a loyalty oath to the “nation-state of the Jewish people” in an attempt to win back angry settlers. On Thursday, the Israeli military said it had carried out an air strike in the Gaza Strip against Palestinian militants planning an attack in Israel. Witnesses say the strike targeted a car traveling in the central Gaza Strip. The ICC is being urged to prosecute members of the Israeli defense force for its role in the Gaza flotilla killings, however, Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute, meaning it can only be possible after a reference from the UN Security Council. On Friday Israel signed a deal with the US to buy $2.75 billion worth of radar-evading Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets. The F-35 is said to be the most-advanced fighter in the world.
- Hamas announced on Wednesday that it would retaliate against the Western-backed Palestinian Authority if it continued to take actions against their members in the West Bank. The PA has recently been cracking down on Islamist activists, with Hamas claiming that nearly 750 of its activists have been arrested since August 31st. On Friday, Israeli forces killed two senior Hamas militants in the West Bank.
- Iran has detained several western “spies” it claims were behind the recent cyber attacks on its nuclear programme. The number of jailed students in Iran has been reported to be the highest in decades with over 73 students currently being held in jails over their activism. Student opposition to the government report that the government has been using a new militarization strategy on campuses to stop opposition political activism there. On Thursday, at least four police officers and one bystander were killed after a gunman opened fire on a police patrol in Iran’s Kurdish region. On Friday, Iranian security forces killed two people suspected in Thursday’s attack.
- Britain’s deputy ambassador to Yemen and her colleagues survived a rocket propelled grenade attack on their car on Wednesday. It is thought that the attack was carried out by al-Qaeda.
- Tensions have increased in Lebanon and Syria after Syria issued arrest warrants for more than 30 people accused of misleading the investigation into the assassination of Lebanon’s former PM in 2005. Syria’s wanted list includes senior Lebanese judges, politicians and journalists who are said to have been “false witnesses”.
- Iraq postponed its first full census in more than two decades until December on Sunday to avoid triggering open conflict between Arabs and Kurds locked in a fight over oil-rich land in the north. The survey is crucial because it will determine who has the greatest percentage of the total population in the region, and can therefore claim it as its own under the constitution. Two senior security officials in the north were arrested in connection with a plot to bomb the provincial government building on Sunday. Also on Sunday, gunmen using silenced weapons– increasingly the weapon of choice of insurgents–opened fire on a police checkpoint, killing one policeman in Falluja. At least one person was killed in Baghdad in a roadside bombing that targeted a deputy minister in the Iraqi government on Monday, at least one other person was killed in a separate bombing within the city and at least three people were killed in a bomb attack in Jalawlah. On Wednesday a civilian was wounded in a rocket attack in Kirkuk, while a roadside bomb targeting police patrol in a northern city wounded two policemen. On Friday, armed men in two boats wounded seven security guards when they attacked a prison in Basra, causing a riot in the prison. Also on Friday, a policeman was killed by a sniper in Baghdad.
- 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.