Palestinian Authority

This Week in Middle Eastern Conflict… February 2nd-10th, 2012.

  • 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.
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This week in conflict… December 4th- 10th, 2010

World

  • In an attempt to reduce the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation, the International Atomic Energy Agency voted to set up a global nuclear fuel bank that aspiring nations could turn to for reactor fuel instead of making it themselves. Billionaire Warren Buffett pledged $50 million towards the project. 
  • December 10th was Human Rights Day, a day for the promotion and protection of human rights that marks the anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • December 9th was International Anti-Corruption Day at the UN headquarters. Recent reports suggest that one in four people in the world paid a bribe over the past year to government institutions.
  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange turned himself in and was arrested on Tuesday following an Interpol arrest warrant for sexual crimes. Assange denies the charges and has so far been denied bail. So-called “hactivists” have began a cyber war attacking MasterCard, PayPal, Visa and a Swiss bank for blocking payments to Wikileaks.
  • Nineteen countries have declined invitations to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Norway on December 10th, which is allegedly tied to Chinese pressure over the awarding of political dissident Liu Xiaobo. Afghanistan, China, Colombia, Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sudan, Tunisia, Ukraine, Venezuela and Vietnam were all absent. The Nobel committee left a symbolic empty chair for Xiaobo on stage during the ceremonies.
  • Canada, Russia and Japan were under intense pressure to soften their opposition to the Kyoto Protocol during the Cancun climate summit, which ended this week. Details of a deal are to be released shortly.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Yukio Takasu of Japan as the special adviser on human security this week, after the General Assembly issued a resolution to continue discussions on the issue earlier this year.

Africa

  • The African Union (AU) has appointed Guinea’s outgoing military leader Sekouba Konate to head its standby  military force, it was announced on Tuesday. Konate would be put in charge of peacekeeping and intervention for a proposed African Standby Force.
  • The UN mission in Chad and Central African Republic (MINURCAT) is wrapping up by the end of the year at the request of the Chadian government. The 5,550 peacekeepers in the area were charged solely with protecting civilians.
  • Seven people were killed in a fresh attack in Nigeria late Friday. The attack was reported to be a suspected reprisal of the alleged killing of a Fulani herdsman. On Sunday, the Borno State police command said five people including two suspected Boko Haram gunmen died in a gun battle on Saturday night. The Nigerian military acknowledged on Monday that civilians died in recent battles with criminal gangs in the oil-rich south and parts of the north in the military offensive against the Niger Delta Liberation Force.
  • WikiLeaks brought to light evidence that two companies, drugmaker Pfizer and oil-giant Shell, are both collecting information on the Nigerian government in an effort to ensure their respective activities go on in the country without interference following major scandals. Shell took it one step further with it’s Wikileaks cable claiming the company to have actually inserted staff into the main ministries in the government.
  • Unrest continued in Cote D’Ivoire following last week’s elections results that left the country’s constitutional court announcing separate results from the electoral commission that resulted in two Presidents being sworn in by separate bodies. South African leader Thabo Mbeki was called in to mediate, but left days later without success. The AU and ECOWAS have suspended incumbent Gbagbo from activities and several international bodies are preparing sanctions. By Friday, Gbagbo gave hints that he might be willing to talk.
  • Egypt faced its second round of parliamentary elections on Sunday, a week after the first round was condemned for alleged fraud. The National Democratic Party is said to have won with a massive majority, amid allegations of fraud, after the Muslim Brotherhood and Wafd party pulled out. The UN refugee agency is urging Egypt to intervene to secure the release of about 250 Eritreans who have been held hostage for at least a month by human traffickers in the Sinai. The hostages are said to be bound by chains around their ankles, deprived of adequate food, tortured and branded like cattle.
  • At least 22 people were killed and more than 35 others wounded in two days of fighting between the African Union and the al-Shabaab fighters in Mogadishu, Somalia. The AU backed government troops claimed to kill some 43 fighters as well.
  • In 2008, Somali pirates discovered a Ukrainian freighter packed with weapons, including 32 Soviet-era battle tanks, headed for the regional government in southern Sudan. The Ukrainian and Kenyan governments both insisted that the tanks were intended for the Kenyan military. WikiLeaks documents have just confirmed that the pirates were telling the truth.
  • Kenyan police announced that they have arrested 346 foreigners after two separate grenade and gun attacks last week that killed three policemen. The suspects are allegedly of Ethiopian and Somali origin.
  • Opposition MPs have claimed the government is arming people in northern Uganda, and the the Inspector General of the Police is recruiting 100 youths from each village to form brigades to aid cheating in the upcoming elections. The government denies all allegations.
  • Local leaders in southern Sudan are calling on the government to arm the local Arrow Boys militia to protect civilians from attacks by the LRA during the January referendum. The militia promises they will return the weapons once the “job” is done. The Sudanese army clashed with troops loyal to a former Darfur rebel leader in southern Sudan on Thursday. The rebel leader is accused of moving his troops to southern Sudan in order to prepare for war. The Sudanese government is claiming that Darfur’s largest refugee camp, protected by the UN and the AU forces, is hiding rebel fighters. The military has threatened to take action. On Friday, the South Sudan army accused the north of bombing its territory in three air attacks in a week, dropping some 18 bombs.

Asia

  • A blast in eastern an Afghanistan army base killed at least two coalition troops and two civilians on Sunday.  On Monday, the ISAF announced they were investigating a possible “friendly-fire” incident in Helmand province from Sunday where an ISAF service member had been killed; and 2 ISAF service members were killed in alleged separate insurgent attacks in Kabul. On Wednesday, two ISAF service members were killed in an attack by insurgents in Kabul; and an air strike by international forces in southern Kabul killed two Afghan soldiers and wounded five more. On Friday, an ISAF service member was killed by a roadside bomb in Kabul.
  • Thousands of people were dispersed by tear gas and a water canon on Sunday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia following an opposition-backed rally against the federal government’s involvement in a dispute over drinking water. Some 48 people were arrested.
  • Russian airplanes are said to have flown in the region of a joint US-Japanese military drill this week, heightening tensions between Tokyo and Moscow. Military exercises between the US and Japan took place from December 3rd to 10th, with some 44,500 personnel.
  • Land tensions in the Indonesian half of Timor island have recently led to outbreaks of violence. Large numbers of former refugees complicate the issue, as access to precious little cultivable land is in short supply.
  • Wikileaks cables have brought to light the possibility that Myanmar/Burma might be building missile and nuclear sites with North Korean support. Surface-to-air missiles are said to be being built and Burmese workers are constructing a concrete-reinforced underground facility. One of the largest rebel groups in the country say that fighting will escalate if the new government fails to start talks with major ethnic groups, following the recent problematic elections that say the military-backed party win with an overwhelming victory.
  • Sri Lankan rights groups reported that a five-minute video clip that showed blindfolded, naked men being shot dead at close range last month warranted a UN investigation. The government denies that the video, leaked by a Tamil Tiger rebel tv station, is authentic.
  • The International Criminal Court announced on Monday that they have opened a preliminary investigation into possible war crimes by North Korea regarding the recent clashes with South Korea. South Korea began live-fire artillery drills on Monday, ignoring the North Korean warning of war. The North Koreans in return launched apparent artillery drills.
  • Hundreds of protesters in Hong Kong protested this week for China to free dissident Liu Xiaobo so that he can formally be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Norway. The award was denounced by the Chinese, who had their own peace prize to award on December 9th.
  • Two suicide bombers attacked a meeting of pro-government elders in northwest Pakistan on Monday killing at least 40 people and injuring dozens more. US drone missile attacks are said to have killed another at least five people on Monday. On Tuesday, suspected twin suicide blasts killed at least 50 people and injured many more at a government compound in northwest Pakistan and police say another suicide bomber attacked a convoy carrying the top official in a southwestern province. On Wednesday, a suicide bomber blew himself up beside a crowded bus, killing some 14 people, and wounding many others in Kohat.  On Thursday, four suspected militants were killed after insurgents attacked a check post killing a paramilitary soldier.  On Friday, a suicide bomber blew up a trailer packed with explosives outside a hospital in northwestern Pakistan, killing at least 15 people and wounding many others; and Pakistani security forces are said to have killed 5 suspected militants in a clash.
  • A bomb hidden in a metal canister exploded as thousands gathered for a Hindu ceremony in India, killing a toddler and triggering a stampede that left many wounded. The Indian Mujahideen allegedly sent a five-page claim of responsibility for the attack.

Americas

  • Dozens of people were injured on Easter Island after evicted islanders clashed with riot police. About a dozen buildings are being occupied by native Rapa Nui who say Chile illegally took their family’s ancestral homes. 
  • Protesters in Haiti clashed on Sunday with riot police demanding the annulment of last week’s elections. The police responded with tear gas that left stinging gas clouds blowing over a large camp of homeless survivors from the Jan 12 earthquake. By Wednesday, the violent protests had essentially shut down the country, closing businesses, schools and shops. On Thursday, election officials announced they would review the disputed results in an effort to diffuse the violence.
  • Gunmen ambushed and killed four policemen in their patrol car on Saturday in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. On Wednesday, an 8 month old, a 16 year old girl and federal officer were gunned down in a series of shootouts between police and suspected La Familia gunmen. On Thursday, gunmen forced drivers from their cars, and set vehicles on fire in the middle of major intersections in Morelia. The suspected leader of La Familia is thought to have been killed in a resulting shootout.
  • An Argentine energy company operating in Brazil has suspended production at several sites after labor protests are said to have gotten violent over the weekend.
  • San Diego demolition teams burned down a house on Thursday that is said to have the largest cache of homemade bomb-making materials ever found in the US. The occupant of the home has so far pleaded not guilty to all charges, and police are unsure what plans he had with the explosives.
  • Guatemala’s Congress passed a bill that would allow the government to confiscate property from convicted criminals in an effort to tackle the wealth of drug traffickers. The bill will allow the state to use, donate or auction seized goods.

Middle East

  • Several Iranian pilgrims were killed in Baghdad on Saturday in separate bomb attacks, with some reports saying at least 16 were dead and more than 100 injured. On Sunday, gunmen killed a couple in their home in eastern Baghdad; gunmen in a speeding car killed a civilian in west-central Baghdad; and gunmen attacked a police checkpoint and killed two policemen in Mosul. On Monday, a roadside bomb exploded in central Baghdad wounding two civilians and another roadside bomb exploded killing two and injuring several others in Baquba. On Wednesday, a bomb targeting Iraqi army patrol killed two civilians and wounded 17 others in Taji; seven Iranian pilgrims were wounded in a roadside bomb attack near Baghdad; a roadside bomb near a police patrol wounded two policemen in southwestern Baghdad; and gunmen opened fire on the home of an Iraqi interior minister, killing his daughter and wounding two other family members. On Friday, a roadside bomb targeting Iraqi police wounded two policemen in southern Baghdad; another roadside bomb killed one civilian and wounded five others in southern Baghdad; and gunmen in a speeding car opened fire at an Iraqi police checkpoint, killing two policemen and wounding two others in Tikrit.
  • Mahmoud Abbas, the President of the Palestinian Authority, announced that his governing body may be dissolved if a peace deal cannot be agreed upon with Israel and the international community. US-brokered peace talks have been deadlocked since September. Brazil has decided to recognize a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, much to Israel’s disappointment and days later Argentina followed suit. It appears the US has given up its effort to persuade Israeli PM Netanyahu to renew the expired freeze on Jewish settlement construction, leaving Middle East peace talks in limbo.
  • Iran claimed on Sunday that it was now able to use domestically mined uranium to produce nuclear furl, giving it complete control over its process. The move would allow Iran to bypass UN sanctions on import of the material. Nuclear talks began on Monday between Iran and several other global powers, and ended on Tuesday with no agreement but the parties agreeing to meet again in Istanbul next month. Iran, however, is refusing to talk about stopping its enrichment of uranium at the next meeting. On Tuesday, three journalists and the financial manager of a leading Iranian daily were arrested in Tehran with unknown charges, after releasing a special edition containing articles and interviews by critics of the government.
  • Syria’s interference in Lebanon and alleged increasingly sophisticated weapons shipments to Hezbollah have prompted Israel’s military to consider a strike against a Syrian weapons depot. Israel has said they have tracked nighttime missile shipments by Syrian personnel to the Lebanese border.
  • A rally west of Kuwait City on Wednesday injured at least five people, and has put the Prime Minister under questioning. Opposition MPs accuse the government of trying to undermine the status of the constitution in a bid to suppress freedom and democracy.
  • A football game turned violent in Amman between two Jordanian clubs on Friday. Some 250 people were injured after a metal fence collapsed during clashes, and eyewitnesses say that several people were beaten to death by police trying to prevent an escalation of violence.

Europe

  • Thousands of supporters of Macedonia’s leading opposition protested in the capital on Sunday to call for early elections. They accuse the conservative government of mismanaging the economy and criticize its failure to bring the country closer to the EU and NATO. 
  • Police and demonstrators clashed in Greece, after thousands of people gathered to mark the anniversary of a police shooting.
  • Protests in Britain over drastically increasing university tuition fees got violent this week. Police have been accused of “kettling”, a practice that hold demonstrators in small periods of space for long periods of time.
  • All the top police officials in a town east of Moscow, Russia were fired after locals complained of police ignoring crimes. The prosecutor-general announced that four criminal cases were opened against policemen suspected of intentionally obstructing the investigation of numerous crimes.

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

World

  • The UN called upon governments to expand their efforts to ensure the protection for the world’s 43 million forcibly displaced people in the face of  “never-ending” conflicts that are creating new semi-permanent refugee populations. More than 5.5 million refugees are stuck in protracted situations.
  • China began hosting its first UN climate conference this week aimed at building momentum and finding areas of agreement ahead of the annual summit of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Climate change is said to highly affect global conflicts. China said at the conference that rich nations must vow greater cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and warned of lost trust in talks, while rich countries accused China of undercutting progress.
  • UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a report on Friday calling for equal participation by women in post-conflict peacebuilding. He laid out a seven-point action plan aimed at changing practices among all actors and improving outcomes on the ground.

Africa

  • At least nine civilians were killed after al-Shabab fighters in Mogadishu, Somalia attacked an African Union’s peacekeeping position on Saturday and another eight were killed on Sunday. On Wednesday it was announced that over 30 people had been killed in the past three days and at least 51 wounded in this continued fighting. Uganda announced it could raise an entire 20,000 troop force for the African Union to defeat Somalia’s Islamist rebels and pacify the country in a statement released on Monday. Uganda’s President has been urging greater urgency in regional and international efforts to stabilize Somalia since the twin bomb blasts that rocked Uganda’s capital in July that were led by the al-Shabab militia. Uganda is also the site for the new UN regional peacekeeping hub for the Great-Lakes region.
  • The UN Security Council traveled to Sudan this week to discuss the scheduled referenda on self-determination. Southern Sudan will vote on whether to secede from the rest of the country on January 9th, while the central area of Abyei will vote on whether to be part of the north or south. Sudanese officials announced on Tuesday that the long-awaited timetable for the referendum has been released, but that unforeseen circumstances could still delay the vote. Voter registration is to start in mid-November, with the final voter list ready by December 31st, leaving just 8 days before the January 9th deadline for the vote. Armed men abducted a civilian peacekeeper in Darfur on Thursday.
  • Ethiopia’s best-known opposition leader was released after five years in jail for treason related to the 2005 election dispute on Wednesday. The move was seen as a placatory gesture by the newly sworn in Prime Minister, who had refused to let her out for the parliamentary elections, in which the ruling party won 99.6% of the seats.
  • Nigeria’s government admitted it was warned of the parade attack last week that killed at least 12 people by foreign agencies and did the best it could to secure the area. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) also suggested that it gave the security forces five days notice of the attacks. South African police invaded the Johannesburg home of the leader of MEND on Saturday, apparently acting on the request of Nigerian authorities who claimed he was stockpiling weapons and re-arming fighters in the Niger Delta region. No weapons were found after a 10 hour search. Nigeria’s secret service detained an aid to one of President Goodluck Jonathan’s election rivals on Monday in connection to the bomb attacks, raising concern over violence in next year’s election polls. The former MEND leader announced that he received a phone call from a “close associate” of Goodluck Jonathan urging him to tell MEND to retract its claim of the bombings, so that they could blame them on northerners who are opposing the President. The next day, the former leader was being described as the main suspect in the bombings. On Wednesday, the Northern Political Leaders Forum declared that President Jonathan should immediately resign from office or they will take take steps to impeach him because he has proved he is incapable of leading the nation justly and fairly, amid another bomb scare. On Friday, inmates at a prison in northeastern Nigeria torched a part of the building, raising fears that a radical Islamic sect, who has many members incarcerated in the jail, are attempting a comeback. The sect previously staged an uprising that resulted in the deaths of hundreds.
  • Guinea’s already postponed runoff presidential elections may be delayed even further due to technical issues such as production and supply of voters’ cards. The originally scheduled September 19th election was delayed because of election violence. On Wednesday, the government announced it will hold the delayed second round on October 24th. On Wednesday, the first place winner of the first round of elections insisted that a run off could only be possible if the “controversial” election commissioner is changed and threatened to boycott the elections if he was not.
  • Suspected al-Qaeda militants killed five Algerian soldiers and wounded another 10 in an attack on their convoy on Saturday. Around 200,000 people have died in the country since violence broke out in the early 1990s between Islamist rebels and government forces.
  • According to a leading survey, governance standards have improved significantly in Angola, Liberia and Togo over the past four years but have decline in Eritrea and Madagascar. Mauritius was revealed as Africa’s best-governed country, while Somalia was listed as the worst-governed nation.
  • The Egyptian Journalists’ Union has accused the government of cracking down on media that is critical of the authorities in advance of an upcoming November parliamentary election. Two popular talk shows were recently closed down.
  • UN peacekeepers say they have captured the rebel commander they accuse of being behind the rape of hundreds of villagers in eastern DR Congo in August on Tuesday. The UN peacekeeping force was largely criticized for failing to prevent the mass rape of over 300 people, which took place just 20 miles from their base. Recent budget cuts to the newly scaled back MONUSCO peacekeeping mission, mean that the mission lacks sufficient helicopter strength to operate effectively in the country’s unstable east. The UN announced that the crisis in the DRC is beyond their capacity. ICC appeals judges ruled on Friday that Thomas Lubanga, accused of war crimes, should not be released and ordered that his trial resume following a two month stay after the prosecutor failed to comply with the trial chamber’s orders.
  • The first of 500 additional UN peacekeeping troops arrived in Cote D’Ivoire on Thursday in advance of the October 31st election. The UN is distributing voter and identity cards across the country.
  • Recent attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has shown that the group has extended its reach to vulnerable communities in the Central African Republic. Four LRA rebels are said to have been killed in a clash on Monday with the UDFR.

Asia

  • Two suspected US missile strikes into northwest Pakistan reportedly killed at least 12 militants on Saturday and another five militants of German nationality were thought to have been killed in drone strikes on Tuesday. On Monday, gunmen attacked seven more fuel tankers in revenge for last week’s NATO incursions into the country, and on Tuesday at least 20 trucks were targeted, resulting in the deaths of at least 3 people. Two Pakistani troops were said to have been killed in the incursion. The attacks continued, with another dozen tankers attacked on Wednesday, resulting in the death of at least one man. On Thursday, two suspected suicide bombers hit a crowded Muslim shrine in Karachi, killing at least 7 people. At least four people were said to have been killed in more NATO drone attacks on Thursday, bringing the death toll from drone attacks to over 150 in the past month alone. On Friday, three drone missiles killed at least five suspected militants, and two soldiers were killed in a roadside blast in the northwest. NATO’s Secretary-General has spoken out against the continued blockage of the main NATO supply routes into Afghanistan by Pakistan, saying that the incursion was “obviously… unintended”. Meanwhile, former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf has decided to form a new political party in an effort to “introduce a new democratic political culture” to his people. An ironic choice of words from a man who led a coup in 1999 to overthrow an elected civilian government because he was fired.
  • Eight private security firms have been disbanded and hundreds of weapons confiscated in Afghanistan as the government moves towards taking full responsibility for the country’s security. Afghanistan is set to take over security from foreign troops by 2014. At least 3 Afghan civilians were killed alongside 17 insurgents in a NATO air strike targeting senior Taliban commanders in the south on Sunday. The US military later apologized for the civilian deaths. At least eight people were killed after two explosions rocked Kandahar on Monday. On Tuesday, an Afghan soldier fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a French and Afghan outpost, but missed the target. The soldier has fled and has yet to be caught. Following the barrage of complaints of election fraud, a provincial head of the Independent Election Commission was arrested on Monday. The officer was accused by candidates and observers of taking bribes in exchange for important election posts. Peace talks were supposedly underway between Taliban reps, Afghan officials and a Pakistani government delegation in Kabul this week aimed at setting the ground for negotiations on ending the Afghan war, although participants denied that the talks involved Afghan and Pakistani officials meeting with the Taliban, calling them instead “brainstorming sessions”.  NATO claimed that a Taliban leader and seven of his associates were killed in an air strike and ground operation on Wednesday, and that the Taliban “shadow governor” of a northwestern province was killed in a separate operation on the same day. On Thursday, a German soldier was killed in a suicide attack in a northern province. On Friday, a British soldier was killed in an explosion in the southern Helmand province and at least 15 people were killed in a separate bomb blast in a mosque in a northern town. Also on Friday, two other ISAF soldiers were killed in two separate incidents in the south; Taliban insurgents burned eight NATO supply trucks and killed six Afghan guards; one senior Taliban commander was captured with four others and one insurgent was killed in Kabul; and Afghan forces killed four suspects in a firefight in Kabul.
  • Police in Bangladesh arrested three militants from the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in their continuing crackdown on militancy. Police claim that LeT followers have regrouped and are trying to launch fresh attacks.
  • Fiji’s former prime minister Chaudry was arrested on Friday for allegedly violating public emergency regulations that outlawed holding public meetings. Chaudry is thought to be a real contender to overthrow the current military government in the next election. The current President, who seized power in a 2006 coup, imposed the ban and scrapped plans for an election after saying conditions were not right.
  • Three Thai soldiers were killed after an ambush by suspected Muslim separatists in south Thailand on Sunday. The soldiers were said to be patrolling a road near the Malaysian border when gunmen opened fired from a nearby hill. On Tuesday, at least three people were killed after an explosion hit a residential building north of Bangkok. On Wednesday at least four people were said to have been killed in drive-by shootings by separatist rebels in the south.
  • Government troops continued their operations against militants in eastern Tajikistan resulting in the death of four soldiers, a police officer and two insurgents. Meanwhile, official press centres in the area are virtually closed and communication lines remain blocked making it extremely difficult for media representatives to get any information about the ongoing events. In retaliation, Tajik troops killed at least 5 rebels between Monday and Tuesday. On Thursday, a land mine blast killed six soldiers in an operation on the Afghan borders.
  • Police in Sri Lanka have been ordered to arrest activists who put up posters that criticize the President’s backing of a prison term for a former army chief who ran against him. The former army chief, once a national hero, was ordered to serve 30 months for corruption charges. Police have claimed that the order was intended to prevent posters from being placed in prohibited areas.
  • Authorities in Indian Kashmir began scaling down security as part of its efforts to defuse tensions. More than 100 people have been killed since June. Kashmiris remain angry about the widely-hated security law that gives the military sweeping powers to search, arrest or shoot protesters that are still in place.
  • Disturbing pictures of Nepali police carting off ballot boxes in Nepal, following the primary election held among some 80,000 Tibetan exiles to pick candidates for polls for a new parliament-in-exile and prime minister next year, have raised concern of continued repression of political activities by the Chinese. China objects to the election for a government in exile which it does not recognize.
  • The offices of the Ata-Jurt (Fatherland) party in Kyrgyzstan were attacked on Wednesday after some 100 members of two local movements forced their way into the offices. The two movements had staged a protest in Bishkek’s central square early that day. Kyrgyzstan is scheduled to hold an election on Sunday amid fears of increasing violence.
  • South Korea’s defense minister announced that his military would initiate a new and expanded propaganda war if provoked by the North and has reinstalled 11 sets of psychological warfare loudspeakers along the border. The North has warned that if undertaken, it will fire across the border and destroy the loudspeakers. The South also suggested that the North’s nuclear programme has reached an “alarming level” and poses a serious threat to the South. North Korea confirmed on Friday that Kim Jong-Un, Kim Jong-Il’s youngest son will succeed him as the next leader.
  • The announcement of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner angered the Chinese authorities, who see Liu Xiaobo as a criminal. Liu Xiaobo is currently serving time in a Chinese prison for “incitement to subvert state power” and co-authoring Charter 08, a call for democratic reforms in the country. The Chinese warned that awarding Liu the prize would damage Sino-Norwegian relations. Liu is a long-time activist for human rights and democracy.

Central and North America

  • An armed gang kidnapped at least 20 tourists in Mexico on Saturday near the resort city of Acapulco, in what is thought to be the latest bout of drug related violence in the country. On Saturday, assailants tossed a live grenade into a square in Monterrey, injuring 12 people.
  • The controversial and notorious security contractor Blackwater (now renamed Xe) is said to have received a new contract in the $10 billion range. Two former Blackwater employees are currently on trial in the US for murdering civilians in Afghanistan, and in 2008, give Blackwater guards were charged with the deaths of 17 Iraqis civilians, which were ultimately dismissed. The group also has been charged with weapons export violations. The first civilian trial of a Guantanamo Bay detainee was delayed on Wednesday after the judge told prosecutors they could not call their star witness, because they had learned of his identity only through harsh interrogation at a secret CIA camp.
  • The controversial and much protested “Ground Zero mosque” scheduled to be built in New York City turns out not to be a mosque after all, but a multi-faith community centre that includes a gym, playground and childcare area. It’s Muslim prayer area does not even satisfy the stringent requirements for a sanctified mosque.
  • The US State Department issued a travel alert to Europe on Sunday following the threats of a possible terrorist plot in several European countries.
  • The US midterm elections are to become the most expensive in history, and nearly five times as much as the last Presidential election, at an estimated $5 billion. This is the first year in which all donation limits were removed, allowing corporations to get involved.
  • A Canadian army captain convicted of shooting an unarmed Taliban fighter in Afghanistan after a battle avoided a jail term this week and instead will be kicked out of the Canadian forces. The killing has been dubbed a “mercy killing”, citing that the Captain only shot the gravely wounded enemy to end his suffering as he believed he was not going to receive treatment from Afghan forces. Mercy killing is not a defense in Canada. The Supreme Court in Canada ruled on Friday that suspects in serious crimes do not have a right to consult their lawyer during a police interrogation, essentially reversing the Canadian Charter’s right to counsel in specific cases.

South America

  • Ecuador’s President Correa vowed to punish and purge his enemies after last week’s police rebellion. He suggested the axe would also swing towards opposition politicians whom he accused of attempting a coup. Days later, the government agreed to raise the pay of its police and armed forces by $35 million annually, calling the announcement a “coincidence”. Debate has been ensuing over whether the police tried to kill the President during the riots or were simply protesting against pay cuts and conditions. On Wednesday it was announced that at least 46 police officers were detained for their alleged participation in the revolt.
  • Former guerrilla Dilma Rousseff won the first-round Presidential election in the Brazilian  polling with 46.7% of the votes, and will do battle in the October 31st runoff against Social Democrat Jose Serra who won just under 33% of the votes. Green party activist Marina Silva gained far higher than pollsters had expected with 19% of the vote.
  • Bolivian President Evo Morales is said to have kneed a political opponent in the groin during a friendly football match of political rivals. A bodyguard of Morales tried to arrest the kneed opponent after the match, but he was quickly ordered to be released by the opposition leader.

Middle East

  • The Palestinian leadership confirmed that it will not return to direct peace negotiations with the Israelis without an extension to the now-expired freeze on settlement construction, a move endorsed by the Arab League. The Israelis have begun deflecting blame for the breakdown of talks, with expectations of the Palestinians “to show some flexibility”. The Syrian President said that the peace talks were only aimed at “bolstering domestic support” for Obama during a meeting with Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Two Israeli soldiers were convicted on Sunday of using a nine-year old Palestinian boy as a human shield during the three-week Gaza war in 2008-9. The soldiers will face prison sentences of up to three years. Israeli paramilitary border police killed a Palestinian on Sunday after he entered East Jerusalem from the occupied West Bank without a permit. On Monday, arsonists, suspected to be radical Israeli settlers, damaged part of a Palestinian mosque in the West Bank, scrawling the word “revenge” in Hebrew on a wall. On Monday, a video of an Israeli soldier dancing around a blindfolded, bound prisoner provoked more anger from Palestinians. The Israeli army condemned the video, calling it an “isolated incident” and opened a criminal investigation on the matter on Tuesday. Many see this as the continued degrading treatment and mentality of the occupier in the country, remembering the degrading photos from an Israeli guard that surfaced on facebook in early August, among others. On Wednesday, Israeli PM Netanyahu announced he would push for legislation requiring all those who want to become Israeli citizens to pledge a loyalty oath to the “nation-state of the Jewish people” in an attempt to win back angry settlers. On Thursday, the Israeli military said it had carried out an air strike in the Gaza Strip against Palestinian militants planning an attack in Israel. Witnesses say the strike targeted a car traveling in the central Gaza Strip. The ICC is being urged to prosecute members of the Israeli defense force for its role in the Gaza flotilla killings, however, Israel is not a party to the Rome Statute, meaning it can only be possible after a reference from the UN Security Council.  On Friday Israel signed a deal with the US to buy $2.75 billion worth of radar-evading Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jets. The F-35 is said to be the most-advanced fighter in the world.
  • Hamas announced on Wednesday that it would retaliate against the Western-backed Palestinian Authority if it continued to take actions against their members in the West Bank. The PA has recently been cracking down on Islamist activists, with Hamas claiming that nearly 750 of its activists have been arrested since August 31st. On Friday, Israeli forces killed two senior Hamas militants in the West Bank.
  • Iran has detained several western “spies” it claims were behind the recent cyber attacks on its nuclear programme. The number of jailed students in Iran has been reported to be the highest in decades with over 73 students currently being held in jails over their activism. Student opposition to the government report that the government has been using a new militarization strategy on campuses to stop opposition political activism there. On Thursday, at least four police officers and one bystander were killed after a gunman opened fire on a police patrol in Iran’s Kurdish region. On Friday, Iranian security forces killed two people suspected in Thursday’s attack.
  • Britain’s deputy ambassador to Yemen and her colleagues survived a rocket propelled grenade attack on their car on Wednesday. It is thought that the attack was carried out by al-Qaeda.
  • Tensions have increased in Lebanon and Syria after Syria issued arrest warrants for more than 30 people accused of misleading the investigation into the assassination of Lebanon’s former PM in 2005. Syria’s wanted list includes senior Lebanese judges, politicians and journalists who are said to have been “false witnesses”.
  • Iraq postponed its first full census in more than two decades until December on Sunday to avoid triggering open conflict between Arabs and Kurds locked in a fight over oil-rich land in the north. The survey is crucial because it will determine who has the greatest percentage of the total population in the region, and can therefore claim it as its own under the constitution. Two senior security officials in the north were arrested in connection with a plot to bomb the provincial government building on Sunday. Also on Sunday, gunmen using silenced weapons– increasingly the weapon of choice of insurgents–opened fire on a police checkpoint, killing one policeman in Falluja. At least one person was killed in Baghdad in a roadside bombing that targeted a deputy minister in the Iraqi government on Monday, at least one other person was killed in a separate bombing within the city and at least three people were killed in a bomb attack in Jalawlah. On Wednesday a civilian was wounded in a rocket attack in Kirkuk, while a roadside bomb targeting police patrol in a northern city wounded two policemen. On Friday, armed men in two boats wounded seven security guards when they attacked a prison in Basra, causing a riot in the prison. Also on Friday, a policeman was killed by a sniper in Baghdad.

Europe

  • Russian forces killed as many as five people as they besieged two housing blocks in Daghestan on Saturday in a counterterrorism raid.
  • The leader of Russia’s opposition Yabloko party was detained along with several environmental activists after protesting in the North Caucasus. The protesters were later released by police without charge. Russia announced on Thursday that it had successfully tested a long-range missile seen as a mainstay of its nuclear forces, after a series of failures which had raised doubts about its viability.
  • Roma and other migrants leaving France will soon be required to be fingerprinted, in an attempt to discourage them from coming back to France after being expelled. The fingerprinting is scheduled to begin October 15th, and will include anyone over the age of 12. Nearly a million protesters demonstrated on Saturday, pressing President Sarkozy to drop plans to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62. This was the third day of protests in a month. A French blogger who filmed himself burning a Qur’an and urinating on it to put out the flames will face charges of incitement to religious hatred on Tuesday. He faces up to five years in jail. France’s highest court has approved the law banning full-facial veils in public. In six months time, women wearing the veil will face arrest and a $195 fine or “citizenship lessons”, while a man who forces a woman to wear the veil will be fined $42,000 and serve up to a year in prison.
  • The far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders has gone on trial this week on charges of inciting anti-Muslim hatred. Wilders released a short film in 2008 that denounced the Qur’an as a fascist book, urging Muslims to tear out “hate-filled” passages. Wilders is appealing to have the case dismissed invoking freedom of speech.
  • Bosnians went to the polls on Sunday to vote in general elections. Voters complained that the elections were dominated by issues of nationalism and ethnicity instead of the economy and necessary political reforms. Preliminary election results indicated that the current tripartite government is likely to remain deadlocked over Bosnia’s future, with two of the leaders advocating unity and a third pushing for the country’s breakup. The Bosnian state prosecutor indicted four Bosnian Serb police officers on Thursday on charges of mass killing, detention and torture during the 1992-5 war.
  • Teachers in an eastern Ukrainian city complained this week that the ruling Party of Regions is putting pressure on them, and that it is no longer possible for any to become a school director and not be a member. Many parents of students complain that the Party has started using secondary schools for its election campaign with pictures of the local Party candidate on display.
  • England and France may soon find themselves cooperating defensively on everything from nuclear warheads to transport aircraft, helicopters and aircraft carriers. The two countries are set to hold a summit in three weeks to discuss collaboration.