Global Security Update - Intermicronational World

GLOBAL
SECURITY UPDATE
May 2015
Global Security Update
Global Security Update – Executive Summary
April 1 - 30, 2015
Africa
The threat of kidnap and terrorism remained high over the past month in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad,
Democratic Republic of Congo Kenya, Libya, Mali, Niger, Somalia, Tunisia and Uganda. Violent protests have
occurred in a number of countries, including South Africa, Burundi, Gabon and Guinea. Further violence and
demonstrations over the coming weeks are likely to take place in these countries.
In East Africa, al-Shabaab militants carried out a deadly attack in Kenya. On 2 April, gunmen launched an attack on
Garissa University, in Garissa County, killing 148 people. OBS currently advises against all but essential travel to
areas within 60 kilometres of the Kenya-Somali border; Garissa County; the Eastleigh area of the capital Nairobi; and
Lamu County. Al-Shabaab has pledged to carry out further attacks in Kenya. In neighboring Somalia, al-Shabaab
militants have carried out a string of attacks in the southern region of the country and in the capital, Mogadishu. On
20 April, at least six United Nations workers were killed when a large bomb placed by al-Shabaab militants destroyed
a bus in the northeastern town of Garowe, the capital of the semi-autonomous Puntland region. Al-Shabaab has
vowed to carry out further attacks against UN officials working in Somalia. The ongoing conflict in Yemen has affected
countries in the Horn of Africa region, particularly Djibouti, which remains one of the main routes for those fleeing the
conflict. Dozens of refugees have also arrived in Somalia. As the situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate,
refugees will make attempts to cross the Gulf of Aden in a bid to seek refuge in Eastern Africa. Violent clashes have
taken place in Burundi, with officials reporting that at least seven people have been killed and dozens left injured
over the past week. On 26 April, the ruling CNDD-FDD party nominated President Pierre Nkurunziza as its candidate
in the upcoming presidential elections, effectively dismissing opposition protests that the president is not allowed to
stand for a third term in office. Since then, violent protests have occurred in Bujumbura, with on the ground sources
and eyewitnesses reporting that police have fired at protesters and have used water cannons in a bid to disperse
demonstrators. Protests are likely to continue in the coming days and weeks as a series of elections (local,
parliamentary and presidential) are due to take place between April and September 2015. OBS advises against all
but essential travel to Burundi, including the capital city. Anyone currently in the capital is advised to avoid all large
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political demonstrations as they may become violent with minimal notice. We advise that you avoid key government
buildings in Bujumbura, including the CNDD-FDD Party headquarters, as demonstrations near these buildings are
likely to take place. Pre-election tensions are also possible across the remainder of the country. We advise that you
restrict your movements to essential travel only, particularly in the provinces of Cibitoke and Bubanza.
Over the past month, South Africa has been affected by serious anti-immigration violence. There have been reports
of localized disturbances and violence in Johannesburg, Durban and other parts of Kwa-Zulu Natal province. OBS
advises all travellers in South Africa to monitor the local media for more information and to avoid the affected areas.
In recent months, a series of strikes and demonstrations have occurred across Gabon. Over the weekend of 11 –
12 April, demonstrators held violent protests after officials announced the death Gabonese politician Andre Mba
Obame. Demonstrators burned cars and buildings, including Benin’s embassy, in the capital Libreville. Funerals for
Andre Mba Obame will be held during the week commencing 27 April. OBS advises that demonstrations are likely
to take place, particularly in Libreville, and there is a potential for violence. Police checks over the following days are
likely to increase, therefore we advise all travellers to ensure that you have all the required documentation with you.
We also advise that you follow local media reports and that you avoid all large gatherings. The threat of kidnapping
in the Democratic Republic of Congo remains high, particularly in the eastern and northeastern regions of the country.
This year, there has been a series of kidnappings in North Kivu, particularly in the area around Goma. Additionally,
military operations against armed groups in the region are taking place. OBS advises that all travellers to this region
should exercise a heightened level of vigilance. We advise that you travel in convoy on trips outside Goma and
Bukavu and that you avoid journeys that involve travel after dark.
Security across Western Africa remained fragile throughout this month. On 4 April, an armed group abducted a
western national in the Tambau region of Burkina Faso. The current whereabouts of the kidnap victim remain
unknown. The threat of kidnapping remains high in Burkina Faso, particularly near the border regions with Mali and
Niger. The security situation across Guinea continues to be challenging. Violent clashes between the government
and opposition supporters have recently erupted as the opposition is protesting the timetable for the presidential
elections. The opposition is maintaining that President Alpha Conde is using the Ebola outbreak as an excuse to
postpone voting. Protests have occurred in Conakry, Kindia as well as in Mamou. On 28 April, the opposition
announced that a nationwide “peaceful march” will take place on 4 May. Further violent demonstrations are likely to
take place, particularly in the run up to the presidential elections, which will be held in October. OBS advises all
travellers to Guinea to maintain extreme vigilance, to monitor local media and to avoid large gatherings, as they may
turn violent with minimal notice. In Nigeria, Gubernatorial and State Assembly elections were held on 11 April, with
officials reporting minimal disruptions and violence. President elect Muhammadu Buhari is due to take over the
presidency at the end of next month. Officials have confirmed an outbreak of meningitis and measles in Niger.
According to officials, in the first quarter of this year, over 2,000 cases of measles were reported in the country, with
the region of Zinder being the most affected. In the first quarter of this year, Niger also reported 345 cases of
meningitis, including 45 deaths. Cases have been reported in all regions with the exception of Diffa. Togo held
presidential and legislative elections on 25 April. While the country’s electoral commission announced that incumbent
Faure Gnassingbe won the election, Togo’s main opposition party has rejected the official presidential election
results, with the Combat for Political Change (CAP 2015) candidate Jean-Pierre Fabre rejecting the results, and
stating that he considers himself to be the West African nation’s new president-elect. The results are provisional and
are subject to confirmation by Togo’s Constitutional Court. Once the court confirms the results, the opposition may
call for protests.
The Ebola outbreak continues to impact Western Africa, particularly Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, however the
outbreak seems to be declining as fewer numbers of new Ebola cases are being reported. Over the past month,
Guinea has recorded 90 new cases of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). A total of 22 confirmed cases were reported in
the 7 days leading up to 26 April, compared with 19 cases that were reported the previous week. Seventeen of the
cases that were reported during this period occurred in the western prefecture of Forecariah, which borders the
district of Kambia in Sierra Leone. The western prefectures of Boffa (1 case); Dubreka (1 case); Fria (2 cases) and
Kindia (1 case) also reported new cases. No new cases have been reported in the capital, Conakry. Over the past
month, Liberia has not reported any new cases of EVD. The last confirmed case died on 27 March and was buried
on 28 March. In the 4 days leading up to 23 April, 194 new laboratory samples were tested for EVD, with no confirmed
cases. Heightened vigilance is being maintained across the country. No counties, except Montserrado, have
reported a new confirmed case in over 8 weeks. On 9 May, after 42 days will have elapsed since the burial of the
last confirmed case, Liberia will be declared Ebola free. Officials however have warned that no country will be safe
until the region is declared free of the deadly disease. Case incidence nationally in Sierra Leone continues to be on
the decline. Over the past month, there have been 41 new cases of EVD reported. In the seven days leading up to
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26 April, a total of 11 confirmed cases were reported, compared with 12 the previous week. Eight of the eleven
cases reported during this period occurred in the northwestern district of Kambia, which borders the Guinean
prefecture of Forecariah. The Western Rural Area reported 2 cases during this period while the Western Area Urban,
which includes the capital Freetown, reported 1 confirmed case.
Asia Pacific
In Southern Asia, the threat of terrorism and kidnapping is high, particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In
Afghanistan, the start of the summer fighting season has seen an increase in militancy, with attacks taking place in
Nangarhar, Kunduz, Sar-e-Pul, Kandahar, Maidan Wardak, Logar, Farah, Helmand, Baghlan, Takhar, Kunduz,
Ghazni, Paktia, Parwan, Balkh, Kunar, Uruzghan, Nimroz Kunduz, Zabul, Ghazni, Badghis, Takhar, Faryab, Jawzjan
and Laghman provinces. The extent of Islamic State (IS) terror presence in Afghanistan remains a subject of debate.
While President Ashraf Ghani was quick to blame the IS for a suicide attack on 18 April that left thirty three people
dead, this assertion was publicly disputed by members of Afghanistan’s military and intelligence services. While
sectarian loyalties appear to have prevented the IS from enjoying the same degree of success in Afghanistan that it
has elsewhere, their continued presence is likely to remain a source of concern for the Ghani’s government. In
Pakistan, the security situation is similarly turbulent, with regular attacks taking place in the Tirah Valley, North and
South Waziristan and Baluchistan. It is, however, the deteriorating situation in Yemen which has been the biggest
hurdle to overcome. After five days of debate, Pakistan’s lawmakers decided against offering military support to Saudi
Arabia’s campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen, increasing tensions with the Gulf States, who have been critical
of what they describe as Pakistan’s “ambiguous stance” towards the conflict. Given the extent to which Pakistan has
been forced to depend on Saudi Arabia, both politically and financially in the past, it remains to be seen whether or
not this position is revised in the near future. OBS advises against travelling to these two countries.
In South East Asia, government forces in Myanmar and the Philippines continue to battle rebel groups. In Myanmar,
an army offensive against Kokang rebels has resulted in the deaths of 126 troops, with more than 350 injured.
Shelling of the rebels has been continuous, with mortar rounds continuing to land on the Chinese side of the border.
Once again, China has lodged representations with the Myanmar government, asking them to take all necessary
precautions to ensure that the conflict does not spread across the border. Despite this ongoing conflict, an historic
draft ceasefire agreement has been signed by the representatives of sixteen rebel groups. Whether or not the
agreement goes any further than the drafting phase remains to be seen. In the Philippines, government forces
continue to engage in battles with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Abu Sayyaf militants in the
country’s restive south. Meanwhile in Malaysia, dozens of IS sympathisers have been arrested for plotting attacks
on landmarks and government installations. The timing of these attacks is particularly significant, as they would have
come just before a meeting of the Association of South East Asian Nations. OBS continues to advise against
unnecessary travel to these conflict regions.
In Eastern Asia, tensions remain high along the Korean Peninsula. In anticipation of the arrival of the US Secretary
of State, North Korea test fired four missiles off its west coast in what the South is describing as a deliberate attempt
to ignite further tension on the Peninsula. While provocative, this has not stopped the United States and South Korea
from taking part in further joint military exercises. OBS advises that normal security precautions be taken by visitors
to China, Japan and South Korea.
In Oceania, an IS inspired terrorist attack in Melbourne was thwarted by members of the Australian Federal Police.
Five teenagers were arrested for plotting an attack during Anzac Day Celebrations. These arrests came days after a
series of violent demonstrations broke out between anti-Islam and anti-racist groups in a number of Australia’s capital
cities. Tensions in the country remain high. OBS advises that normal security precautions be taken by visitors to
Australia and New Zealand.
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Global Security Update
Europe
The European Union struggles under the weight of the migratory flows using the Mediterranean to enter Europe,
especially after the recent tragedy that resulted in 900 migrants losing their lives in the Mediterranean. The
Mediterranean countries are calling for measures that will help them control the situation, with Italy being in the
gravest position since it had to rescue some 6,000 migrants in two days, a feat that it has to repeat frequently as the
weather conditions in the region improve, resulting in increasing the migrants’ attempts to cross the sea borders from
North Africa to Europe. Since the beginning of 2015, migrants’ arrivals have surpassed 15,000 making it extremely
difficult to cope. In face of that challenge, EU leaders agreed to triple the funding allocated to Triton, the EU’s search
and rescue mission in the Mediterranean.
The threat of terrorism in Europe has pushed the majority of the European countries to increase their security budget
and adopt new legislations that provide security services with greater surveillance capabilities. There are fears that
terrorist sleeper-cells have been activated across Europe. At the same time, fears of Russian aggression has pushed
the states in the Baltic region and in central Europe to keep their armies at a high state of preparedness, with some
countries introducing compulsory military service. France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Denmark are on high
alert and expect extremist attacks by radicalized individuals. France, Germany and Italy claimed that they foiled
terrorist attacks that if not detected would have caused severe casualties. The Netherlands, Belgium and Italy are on
the second highest level of alert, having increased their security. Italy increased its security preparedness across the
country, but especially in Vatican City where a foiled attack was supposed to take place. There is currently a low
threat from terrorism in the following countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Hungary, Moldova,
Czech Republic and Finland. There is currently general threat from terrorism in the following countries: Ireland,
Belarus, Slovakia, Romania, Austria, Norway, Luxembourg, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain. Despite the
ceasefire agreed in February regarding the Ukrainian crisis, there are reports of resurgence of violence in the Donetsk
and Luhansk areas, but according to OSCE the fighting has decreased significantly. OBS advises against all travel
to Crimea, Donetsk oblast and Lugansk Oblast; and all but essential travel towards Kharkiv oblast. Currently, events
in Ukraine are fast moving and should be monitored frequently before any travel to the area. OBS advises against
all travel to Chechnya, Inigushetia and Dagestan and the districts of Budyonnovsky, Levokumsky, Neftekumsky,
Stepnovsky and Kursky in Stavropol Krai; and all but essential travel to North Ossetia, Karachai-Cherkessia and
Kabardino-Balkaria. There are protests scheduled in Russia during the first week of May.
The security situation across the Balkans has remained generally stable this month. However, protests are on going
across the Balkans, particularly, in Kosovo, Albania, Greece, Macedonia, and Serbia. Security measures have been
increased in Kosovo’s northern city of Mitrovica following a series of violent incidents between the strained
populations of ethnic-Albanians and ethnic-Serbians in the area. In Bosnia, an attack by an alleged radical Islamist
on a police station in the Serb-dominated entity of Republika Srpska, in the eastern town of Zvornik, has left one
policeman dead and two injured.
Elsewhere this month, Croatia and Kosovo have signed a European partnership agreement, designed to help Kosovo
reform its institutions. The Croatian and Kosovo foreign ministers met in Zagreb where they signed a major European
partnership agreement that formalizes the framework of cooperation aimed at reforming the institutions of Kosovo,
according to the European standards.
There is currently a general threat from terrorism in the following countries: Albania, Kosovo, Serbia, Macedonia,
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Greece, and Bulgaria. Attacks could be indiscriminate and can occur
in places that are frequented by foreign travelers and expatriates. There have been several arrests of drugs and
human traffickers in the Balkans this month, as police and security forces continue to fight against organized crime
in the region. The Balkan countries continue to intensify co-operation, law enforcement agencies, and judicial
authorities, whilst taking additional measures to combat organized crime and suppress terrorist threats, particularly
those emanating from Islamic State (IS).
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Latin America
This month, across the Latin American region, the threat of political unrest, criminal organization’s activities, terrorism
and kidnaping remained high.
The threat from both short and long-term kidnappings remains high and one of the most common threats in the
region. There is a high threat from kidnappings in countries like Mexico, Mexico city and Guadalajara; Buenos Aires,
Argentina; Quito, Ecuador; Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, Honduras; San Salvador, El Salvador; Rio de Janeiro
and Sao Paulo, Brazil; La Paz, Bolivia and Caracas, Venezuela. Moreover, there is a general to high threat from
terrorism in countries like Colombia, Venezuela, Chile, Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina. There is a low threat from
terrorism in countries including Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, El Salvador, Guatemala, Uruguay, Guyana, Mexico,
Costa Rica and Bolivia.
The security situation in El Salvador has deeply worsened due to the failure of a truce between the Mara Salvatrucha
and Barrio 18 street gangs and their increased attacks against police and military forces. The country suffered its
bloodiest month in a decade and is considered one of the most violent countries in the world outside a war-zone. As
a response to this growing threat to El Salvador’s domestic security, President Salvador Sanchez Ceren announced
the creation of four new rapid response battalions, one for the police and three for the army in order to strengthen
the efficiency of current forces involved in the fight against street gangs. Several hundreds of gang member inmates
have been displaced to maximum-security prisons as well, but yet no improvement can be noticed. Therefore, OBS
advises against all but necessary travel to El Salvador and advises the importance of avoiding wearing expensive
jewellery or displaying valuable items, mobile phones and cash because short-term abductions and robbery are
frequent.
This month in Mexico the security risks have increased due to more frequent attacks against civilians and police and
military forces, and roadblocks set up by drug cartels in a response to the government’s recent arrests of several
drug kingpins notably from the Gulf cartel, the Juarez cartel and the Knights Templar cartel. Drug cartels have
organized retaliative actions by attacking military and police forces, resulting in open shootouts in cities located
principally in the states of Tamaulipas, Guerrero and Michoacán. Additionally, violent demonstrations are still being
reported across the country and could result in clashes with police forces. Hence, OBS advises against all night
travel, and if possible travel by air. It is also important to avoid all demonstrations. Lastly, the level of street crime
remains high and people traveling to Mexico should be taking all security measures against kidnapping, robbery,
assault and vehicle hijacking.
In Guatemala and Peru the security situation has worsened as well due to major political unrest amid corruption
scandals and social demands that have rocketed current governments in both countries. Major protests have been
organized across those countries and have resulted in clashes with police and military forces, which engendered the
death of one person in Peru. It is highly likely that such demonstrations will continue over the next few weeks. Thus,
it is important for every traveller to avoid taking part in public gatherings in both countries.
The security situation in Brazil remains complicated. Anti-government demonstrations gathering hundreds of
thousands of Brazilians have been taking place across the country, sparked by anger over a massive corruption
scandal at the state-run oil company Petrobras. Protesters continue to demand President Dilma Rousseff’s
impeachment, whose party has been accused of involvement in large-scale money laundering as well as bribery at
the company. The number of such violent demonstrations has escalated, resulting in repetitive clashes with police
forces using tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters. Despite the measures already taken by President
Rousseff’s party in order to tackle corruption, it has not succeeded in calming down the anger over the Brazilian
population. No short-term improvement can be forecasted for the moment.
Lastly, this month in Colombia the security risks due to terrorism have increased. Colombia’s FARC rebels have
launched several deadly attacks against military forces resulting in the death of several dozens of soldiers. Rebel
activities have been reported in a number of different areas across the country. Hence, it is highly advised to avoid
remote areas where there is a greater potential threat from guerrilla groups and drug-trafficking organizations.
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Middle East
Security risk in the Middle East remains extremely high due to ongoing political polarization in many countries and
the increasing threat of terrorism. There is an extremely high risk of terrorism in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and Egypt’s
Sinai Peninsula. The majority of terrorist attacks in the Middle East in 2014 occurred in Iraq and Syria. Terrorism was
dominated by two groups: ISIL of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and al Qaeda. In all cases, terror attacks can be
indiscriminate, and can occur in crowded places, at high-profile events (particularly events involving government
officials), and in places that are frequented by foreigners. The Middle East has experienced a considerable increase
in the number of kidnappings. Kidnapping in Yemen has escalated in recent months. Ongoing conflict has created a
power vacuum, allowing criminal organizations and terrorist groups to operate with relative ease. Foreigners and
locals working for international organizations and companies in the Middle East are at a particularly high risk of
kidnapping. On 26 March, criminal elements kidnapped a French national, along with her interpreter, in Yemen. In
Syria, the targeting and kidnapping of foreign journalists and aid workers has reached an alarming rate. In Iraq, ISIS
militants have targeted residents of villages, kidnapping them en masse. Militant groups have used kidnapping as a
fundraising technique and as a means to publicize. There is also a high threat of crime including theft, robbery, violent
or sexual assault across the region.
Intense Fighting in Yemen has caused the displacement of thousands of people, and forced evacuation of both
Yemen nationals and foreign expats. The rebel Houthi group has advanced on Aden, and has taken control of key
ports in the region. President Hadi, exiled in Riyadh with other members of the Yemeni government, issued a plea
for help. A Saudi-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen. Air and ground fighting
is intense in the western half of Yemen, including the capital Sana’a and the central city of Taiz. A 13 April blockade
on vessel traffic from Bab Al Mandab to Yemeni territorial water remains in effect; commercial and military vessels
cannot enter designated zones without authorization from the Yemeni government. In late April, Saudi Arabia bombed
the runway at Sana’a airport to make it unusable to Iranian airplanes. However the move has dangerously crippled
the ability to deliver urgent aid including food, water and medical supplies. The power vacuum in Yemen has created
an opening for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In mid-April, AQAP took control of the port city of Mukalla. In
addition, a video released by Islamic State affiliates in late April suggests that their presence in the region is steadily
increasing. The conflict between the radicalised Sunni fighters of ISIS and the Shi’ite Houthis could turn the fighting
in Yemen into a sectarian war.
In Egypt, militant fighters continue to target security forces in north Sinai, but have increasingly targeted electricity
infrastructure throughout Egypt. Last month, two new militant groups announced presence; the Popular Resistance
Movement (PRM) claims to have cells in Minya and elsewhere, but it is most active in Giza. In addition, chatter has
emerged regarding another group calling themselves "Revolutionary Punishment." Very little is known about the
organization or its affiliations. On 31 January, the group reportedly declared the formation of an armed militia with
1,000 members throughout Egypt. This number has not been confirmed; however it is believed that the group does
have some members across the nation. Sinai-based terrorist group Ansar Beit al Maqdis, now known as Islamic State
in the Sinai, and Cairo-based Ajnad Misr, continue to be the most significant terrorist threats to Egypt. Tensions
fluctuate in response to court cases pertaining to members of the Egyptian faction of the Muslim Brotherhood, or
other actions taken by President Sisi or the military, whom all the groups appear to oppose.
In Syria, the situation remains critical as al Qaeda affiliate al Nusra Front has been battling with forces loyal to the
Syrian President, Bashar al Assad, and ISIL militants are targeted by coalition forces via airstrikes and Kurdish
Peshmerga ground forces. As ISIS faces increasing losses in Iraq, they have been redoubling efforts in Syria, seeking
to achieve a greater stronghold in the north.
In Libya, protracted peace talks have been stifled by fighting between the rival governments. Fighting continues
between the Tobruk-led Libyan National Army (LNA) and the Tripoli-supporting militia coalition Fajr Libya. Neither
government appears likely to succeed in making significant strategic gains, or to defeat the other militarily. Air and
seaports are already approved targets for airstrikes. Air and sea ports controlled by the LNA, particularly Benghazi
and Labraq, will be highly vulnerable to asymmetric tactics including IEDs and Grad-type rockets. On the coast,
fighting for control of oil infrastructure is likely to centre on Libya's major oil terminals in the Gulf of Sirte. There is a
likelihood that infrastructure and assets will be purposefully destroyed if captured by an opposing force. Amid the
chaos, terrorism is becoming a greater threat. In mid-April, ISIS militants released a video showing the execution of
thirty Ethiopian Christians. In the absence of a diplomatic solution, the security situation in Libya is likely to further
deteriorate.
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North America
The U.S. has been shaken by more violent protests this month following the death of a young black man in police
custody. The protesters marched in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered life-ending spinal injuries
whilst in police custody and died one week later in hospital. Protests turned into full-scale riots, which resulted in the
declaration of a state of emergency in the city of Baltimore. The National Guard was called in to help police deal with
the situation, and a weeklong curfew was issued. Gray's death follows a series of deaths of unarmed black men by
white police officers. The incidents have launched a national outcry over the treatment of minorities by U.S. law
enforcement. Also this month, President Obama has issued an official apology after a CIA drone strike in January,
which was aimed at a suspected al-Qaeda compound in Pakistan, accidentally killed two hostages, including a
kidnapped American. U.S. officials stated that they did not realize until weeks later that two civilians had died in the
attack
Canada has continued its efforts to fight Islamic State this month as it launched its first air strikes on Syria, as a part
of as the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State militants. Canada is the first NATO country, other than the US, to
strike inside Syria. Elsewhere, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has announced that Canada will join a training
mission to help Ukraine's military in its struggle against Russian-backed rebels, following months of requests
for assistance from Ukraine's government.
There continues to be an elevated threat alert in the U.S to indicate that there is a significant risk of terrorist attacks
on U.S. soil. The warning also applies to U.S. travelers and expatriates abroad. The general threat from terrorism
across Canada remains this month. Terrorism remains in the foreground of the security challenges facing Canada.
Terrorist attacks could be indiscriminate and can occur in places that are frequented by tourists. OBS continues to
advise all travelers to Canada and the United States to exercise normal safety precautions.
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Table of Contents
Africa ........................................................................................................ 14
North Africa .................................................................................................................................. 14
Algeria ................................................................................................................................................. 14
Egypt.................................................................................................................................................... 17
Libya .................................................................................................................................................... 24
Morocco & Western Sahara ................................................................................................................ 31
Sudan .................................................................................................................................................. 33
Tunisia ................................................................................................................................................. 38
West Africa ................................................................................................................................... 41
Benin ................................................................................................................................................... 41
Burkina Faso ........................................................................................................................................ 42
Gambia ................................................................................................................................................ 44
Ghana .................................................................................................................................................. 44
Guinea ................................................................................................................................................. 45
Guinea-Bissau ...................................................................................................................................... 48
Ivory Coast........................................................................................................................................... 48
Liberia .................................................................................................................................................. 48
Mali...................................................................................................................................................... 49
Mauritania ........................................................................................................................................... 55
Niger .................................................................................................................................................... 55
Nigeria ................................................................................................................................................. 57
Sahel Region ........................................................................................................................................ 64
Senegal ................................................................................................................................................ 65
Sierra Leone ........................................................................................................................................ 65
Togo ..................................................................................................................................................... 66
Central Africa ................................................................................................................................ 68
Angola ................................................................................................................................................. 68
Cameroon ............................................................................................................................................ 68
Central African Republic (CAR) ............................................................................................................ 69
Chad .................................................................................................................................................... 71
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).................................................................................................. 72
Equatorial Guinea................................................................................................................................ 75
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Gabon .................................................................................................................................................. 75
Republic of Congo ............................................................................................................................... 77
Sao Tome and Principe........................................................................................................................ 77
East Africa..................................................................................................................................... 77
Burundi ................................................................................................................................................ 77
Djibouti ................................................................................................................................................ 80
Eritrea .................................................................................................................................................. 80
Ethiopia ............................................................................................................................................... 80
Kenya ................................................................................................................................................... 82
Madagascar ......................................................................................................................................... 86
Malawi ................................................................................................................................................. 86
Mauritius ............................................................................................................................................. 87
Mozambique ....................................................................................................................................... 87
Rwanda ................................................................................................................................................ 87
Somalia ................................................................................................................................................ 88
South Sudan ........................................................................................................................................ 90
Tanzania .............................................................................................................................................. 93
Uganda ................................................................................................................................................ 94
Zambia ................................................................................................................................................. 95
Zimbabwe ............................................................................................................................................ 95
South Africa .................................................................................................................................. 96
Lesotho ................................................................................................................................................ 96
Namibia ............................................................................................................................................... 96
South Africa ......................................................................................................................................... 96
Swaziland............................................................................................................................................. 98
Asia Pacific ................................................................................................ 99
Eastern Asia .................................................................................................................................. 99
China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region ............................................................................... 99
North Korea ....................................................................................................................................... 100
Japan ................................................................................................................................................. 101
South Korea ....................................................................................................................................... 101
Southern Asia ............................................................................................................................. 101
Afghanistan ....................................................................................................................................... 101
Bangladesh ........................................................................................................................................ 104
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India ................................................................................................................................................... 105
Pakistan ............................................................................................................................................. 105
Nepal ................................................................................................................................................. 108
Sri Lanka ............................................................................................................................................ 109
South - Eastern Asia .................................................................................................................... 110
Cambodia .......................................................................................................................................... 110
Indonesia ........................................................................................................................................... 110
Malaysia ............................................................................................................................................ 111
Myanmar ........................................................................................................................................... 112
Philippines ......................................................................................................................................... 112
Thailand ............................................................................................................................................. 113
Singapore .......................................................................................................................................... 114
Vietnam ............................................................................................................................................. 114
Oceana ....................................................................................................................................... 114
Australia ............................................................................................................................................ 114
New Zealand...................................................................................................................................... 115
Europe..................................................................................................... 116
Eastern Europe............................................................................................................................ 116
Belarus ............................................................................................................................................... 116
Bulgaria ............................................................................................................................................. 116
Czech Republic .................................................................................................................................. 116
Hungary ............................................................................................................................................. 116
Moldova ............................................................................................................................................ 116
Poland................................................................................................................................................ 116
Romania ............................................................................................................................................ 117
Russian Federation ............................................................................................................................ 117
Slovakia ............................................................................................................................................. 119
Ukraine .............................................................................................................................................. 120
Northern Europe ......................................................................................................................... 126
Denmark ............................................................................................................................................ 126
Estonia ............................................................................................................................................... 127
Finland ............................................................................................................................................... 127
Ireland ............................................................................................................................................... 127
Latvia ................................................................................................................................................. 128
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Lithuania ............................................................................................................................................ 128
Norway .............................................................................................................................................. 128
Sweden .............................................................................................................................................. 128
United Kingdom ................................................................................................................................ 129
Southern Europe ......................................................................................................................... 132
Albania............................................................................................................................................... 132
Bosnia and Herzegovina .................................................................................................................... 133
Croatia ............................................................................................................................................... 134
Greece ............................................................................................................................................... 135
Italy .................................................................................................................................................... 136
Kosovo ............................................................................................................................................... 138
Malta ................................................................................................................................................. 140
Montenegro ...................................................................................................................................... 140
Portugal ............................................................................................................................................. 140
Serbia................................................................................................................................................. 141
Slovenia ............................................................................................................................................. 141
Spain .................................................................................................................................................. 142
Macedonia......................................................................................................................................... 143
Western Europe .......................................................................................................................... 144
Austria ............................................................................................................................................... 144
Belgium.............................................................................................................................................. 144
France ................................................................................................................................................ 144
Germany ............................................................................................................................................ 146
Netherlands ....................................................................................................................................... 148
Switzerland ........................................................................................................................................ 149
Latin America .......................................................................................... 150
Central America .......................................................................................................................... 150
Costa Rica .......................................................................................................................................... 150
El Salvador ......................................................................................................................................... 150
Guatemala ......................................................................................................................................... 152
Honduras ........................................................................................................................................... 153
Uruguay ............................................................................................................................................. 153
Mexico ............................................................................................................................................... 154
Nicaragua .......................................................................................................................................... 157
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Panama.............................................................................................................................................. 157
South America ............................................................................................................................ 158
Argentina ........................................................................................................................................... 158
Bolivia ................................................................................................................................................ 159
Brazil .................................................................................................................................................. 160
Chile ................................................................................................................................................... 161
Colombia ........................................................................................................................................... 162
Ecuador ............................................................................................................................................. 164
Guyana .............................................................................................................................................. 164
Paraguay ............................................................................................................................................ 164
Peru ................................................................................................................................................... 165
Venezuela .......................................................................................................................................... 166
Caribbean ................................................................................................................................... 168
Haiti ................................................................................................................................................... 168
Middle East ............................................................................................. 169
Bahrain .............................................................................................................................................. 169
Iran .................................................................................................................................................... 172
Iraq .................................................................................................................................................... 175
Israel & Palestine............................................................................................................................... 181
Jordan ................................................................................................................................................ 187
Kuwait................................................................................................................................................ 191
Lebanon ............................................................................................................................................. 195
Oman ................................................................................................................................................. 198
Qatar ................................................................................................................................................. 200
Saudi Arabia ...................................................................................................................................... 202
Syria ................................................................................................................................................... 206
Turkey ................................................................................................................................................ 214
United Arab Emirates ........................................................................................................................ 217
Yemen ............................................................................................................................................... 220
North America ......................................................................................... 230
Canada............................................................................................................................................... 230
United States of America .................................................................................................................. 230
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Global Security Update
Africa
North Africa
Algeria
29 April
Algeria's army killed five militants on Tuesday in the region of Tizi Ouzou east of Algiers, the
Defence Ministry said. The militants were ambushed in Akerrou village some 60 miles to the
east of the capital, the ministry said in a statement. Weapons and ammunitions were seized in
the operation. The ministry gave no further details but the region is home to Islamic State's local
branch known as Jund Al Khilafa, whose leader Abdelmalek Gouri was killed there in December.
27 April
Mauritania and Algeria were embroiled in a diplomatic row Monday after the tit-for-tat
expulsions of diplomats over a contentious news article on drugs being smuggled from Morocco.
Mauritanian online news portal Al-Bayan has angered the authorities in Nouakchott by
publishing an article claiming they had complained to the United Nations that Morocco was
flooding Mauritania with drugs. The website’s editor, Moulaye Brahim Ould Moulaye M’Hamed,
has been questioned by police, accused of damaging Mauritania’s relationship with Morocco by
spreading “lies and false allegations”, a Mauritanian security source said. Belkacem Cherouati - the chief adviser in the Algerian embassy in Nouakchott -- was accused of being the article’s
main source and expelled last week. A Mauritanian envoy of a similar rank was then declared
“persona non grata” by Algeria and returned home on Sunday, Mauritanian diplomatic sources
said. Both expulsions were confirmed on Monday by the Algerian foreign ministry, according to
the national APS news agency, which said Algeria’s announcement came “in response to the
unjustified decision of Mauritania”. Mauritanian authorities say the article published by AlBayan misrepresents a report on Western Sahara presented by UN Secretary General Ban Kimoon to the Security Council on April 10. Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony controlled
by Morocco, is claimed by the pro-independence Polisario Front, supported by Algeria, a dispute
in which Mauritania affirms its “positive neutrality”. Morocco is one of the world’s leading
cannabis producers, but the authorities insist they are battling the trade, which supports more
than 700,000 Moroccans, according to the interior ministry.
23 April
Algerian naval and coast guards started on Tuesday implementing a security plan aimed at
deterring secret migration. The implementation of the plan came days after a number of boats
with hundreds of migrants drowned off the Italian coast. A security source who spoke on
condition of anonymity said: "Algerian air and naval forces started a wide-range security plan
on Tuesday aimed at curbing the number of boats that infiltrate Algerian waters heading for
Europe." According to the source, these forces are supplied with helicopters in addition to the
other naval facilities in order to improve the monitoring process along the country's 1,200
kilometre coastline. The coast will be monitored 24 hours a day. Meanwhile, Izzidine Biswar,
member of the Harraga Association, which helps migrants, said: "It seems that the Algerian
authorities have activated a preventive plan to stop future troubles." "The number of migrants
who set off from Algeria has reduced for many reasons, mainly because of strict security
monitoring. They prefer to set off from Libya," he explained.
22 April
Algerian troops killed three armed Islamists and recovered weapons and ammunition west of
Algiers on Wednesday, the Defense Ministry said. The three were killed at around 1:00 am in an
ambush close to the town of Hamman Righa, around 62 miles from the capital, said a statement
on the ministry website. The operation seized three automatic rifles, ammunition and several
hand grenades, as well as binoculars and mobile phones.
20 April
Spanish Oil Company Repsol has found more gas in south-eastern Algeria, a region made
infamous by a 2013 attack on a gas complex by al-Qaida-linked militants. Repsol’s consortium,
which included Enel, GDF-Suez and Algerian state oil company Sonatrach, said Monday they
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found gas at 1,307 meters with a flow rate of 175,000 cubic meters per day in the southeast Illizi
block. An al-Qaida splinter attacked the nearby Ain Amenas gas plant in January 2013, holding
hundreds hostage before they were overwhelmed by Algerian forces, resulting in the death of
40 plant workers, mostly foreigners. The plant, which once processed more than 11.5 percent
of Algeria’s gas, only resumed full operation in September 2014. Despite new security
procedures, many foreign workers have yet to return. Nearly all of Algeria’s income comes from
its rich oil and gas reserves. The southeast Illizi bloc was awarded to Repsol in 2009. Sonatrach
will hold a 51 percent stake in the new find once operations start.
Algeria is reported to have threatened to halt cooperation with the Azawad political factions
involved in negotiations with the Malian government if they refuse to sign a peace agreement
with the Malian government on 15 May. "Algerian officials told Azawad political leaders that
Algeria will have to reconsider its cooperation with them if they insisted on refusing to sign the
peace agreement with the government of Mali," an anonymous source was quoted as saying.
"The decision affects a lot of facilities granted to Azawad political movements in the fields of
representation in Algeria and freedom of movement. Algeria will not change its stance on the
issue of humanitarian aid to the civilian population in the Azawad region, which will continue
no matter what the situation is." The international mediation team in the Malian crisis
announced 15 May as the date on which peace agreement between Mali and Tuareg-led
separatist rebels in the capital Bamako must be signed, following a new round of negotiations
hosted by Algeria few days ago. A statement by the Algerian foreign minister on Saturday night
said that: "The mediation team calls and insists on all political and military movements... to sign
the agreement on 15 May in Bamako during a ceremony that will be held for this purpose." The
statement did not refer to the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) rebel group, which
announced that it has reservations regarding the content of the agreement that was signed in
March in Algiers after eight months of talks. The Algerian diplomatic source said that "CMA still
has reservations on the issue of security arrangements in the territory of Azawad and the Malian
army role in the region despite signing the agreement." CMA has not issued its final position on
the international mediation team call to sign the agreement on 15 May in Bamako.
18 April
Speaking on condition of anonymity, an Algerian official said the business of government has
been paralyzed because ministers cannot submit new laws to parliament without the president.
The absence of Algeria’s stricken president from daily life is being felt more keenly than ever as
the basis of this oil-rich North African nation’s stability, its oil money, is under threat. “This
situation was totally predictable,” said Soufiane Djalili, the young leader of the opposition New
Generation Party. “Before last April’s election, we said that once Bouteflika is elected, he will
return home and the country will fall apart – and that’s what’s been happening.” U.S. intelligence
agencies have concluded that the country is vulnerable to unrest because of the sclerotic, aging
government, a young population with few job prospects and rising threats along its desert
borders. Algeria is a major supplier of natural gas to Europe and a lynchpin of stability bordering
Mali and Libya, two hotbeds of radical Islamic groups. Bouteflika, who was re-elected April 17
last year with more than 80 percent of the vote, was credited with bringing the country out of
its brutal civil war in the 1990s and overseeing a period of prosperity supported by high oil
prices. But these days the leader rarely leaves his residence in Zeralda, to the west of the capital
Algiers, where he receives foreign leaders in brief televised appearances. Djalili, who warned
that the president was not physically capable of running the country, said he feared that it was
his entourage running the show. The president’s supporters counter that he is in fine health.
“Bouteflika is in total possession of his faculties and follows all the issues with the members of
the government who give him daily updates,” according to Said Bouhadja, the ruling party’s
spokesman. Oil revenues make up 97 percent of the country’s hard currency earnings and 60
percent of the government’s budget. It once had currency reserves of $200 billion, but these are
slipping away as the government tries to maintain its spending on imports and subsidies in the
face of declining oil revenues. The country needs to curb its spending and diversify its economy
– in other words dramatically change its economic model. But there appears to be no one able
to make the necessary decisions. Two months ago, a cabinet meeting chaired by Bouteflika
announced substantial cuts for all ministries. But economist Omar Allam said none of them has
been implemented.
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Global Security Update
14 April
The Algerian army has discovered a weapons cache near its border with Libya, the Algerian
Defense Ministry said on Tuesday. The cache was found in a remote southern corner of the
country, bordering Libya and Niger. It included two mortars, two rocket launchers, 45 rockets
of different types and 225 kg of explosives and landmines, the ministry said in a statement.
Algerian officials worry that militants from al Qaeda and Islamic State are building up a presence
in lawless southern Libya to move fighters and weapons across porous borders with Algeria,
Chad and Niger.
An Algerian diplomat says his country's foreign ministry has been working for almost a week
on the formulation of a new initiative to be presented to Yemen's rival factions in order to launch
peace talks to put an end to the current crisis. The source added that the most important item
in the new initiative is holding "a direct dialogue between the two main factions of the Yemeni
crisis", namely the legitimate government and the Houthi group and its allies. He said, "Algeria
has offered to host the factions of the Yemeni crisis, including the legitimate government and
the Ansar Allah movement [also known as the Houthi movement]... in order to restore peace in
this country," but he did not clarify whether or not the two Yemeni sides have agreed on the
proposal. The dialogue would occur between the parties to the internal crisis in Yemen only,
"and it should be based on the principle of respecting the constitutional legitimacy and the
participation of the Yemeni arena's actors in power." The new Algerian initiative takes into
account the evolution of the military situation on the ground in Yemen. According to the
diplomatic source, Algeria is monitoring "the evolution of the military situation in Yemen, and
Algerian military experts submit daily reports to the state's senior officials on the development
of the military situation in Yemen."
8 April
Italy, Egypt and Algeria have agreed to “intensify” joint efforts to fight the growth of terrorist
forces in Libya and to pool information as part of the move. The decision was taken at a meeting
in Rome this afternoon of the three countries’ ministers dealing with Libya. They also agreed to
continue backing the UN bid to create a Libyan national unity government. “We have decided to
intensify our efforts and our work together to promote the activities of UN envoy Bernardino
Leon trying to stabilise the situation in Libya,” Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said at a
press conference attended by his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukri, and Algeria’s Minister
for Maghreb and African Affairs, Abdelkader Messahel. Algeria’s Messahel said that it made
sense to coordinate policy and strategy on the terrorist threat from Libya, warning that the
situation in Libya had to be brought under control otherwise it would impact on his own
country’s security. The Egyptian Foreign Minister also underlined the urgency of stabilising the
situation in Libya, but also stressed that his country was committed to supporting the House of
Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk as the legitimate authority in Libya. Cairo would, he said,
happily accept a National Unity Government but it had to be one approved by the HoR. It also
had to be one that genuinely represented the Libyan people and reflected the different
“components of Libya”. All three ministers said that they believed by coordinating on Libya, they
would limit threats in their own countries from terrorists.
6 April
Algeria has evacuated 160 of its citizens from Yemen as a Saudi-led coalition continued a
bombing campaign against rebel targets in the Arabian Peninsula. President Bouteflika called
for the operation after monitoring the deteriorating security situation in Yemen in recent days,
foreign minister Ramtane Lamamra said. Algeria has refused to provide manpower from its
powerful armed forces for the coalition carrying out air strikes against Shiite Houthi rebels.
Forty Tunisians, fifteen Mauritians, eight Libyans, three Moroccans and a Palestinian were also
flown out of the capital, Sanaa, to Cairo on a plane provided by Algerian national carrier Air
Algerie.
Algeria said that about 500 illegal migrants from various African countries were intercepted by
the government troops in Tamenrasset province. "Army troops arrested, in two separate
operations, 496 illegal immigrants from various African nations, in addition to two smugglers
in possession of four metal detectors and mobile phones," the defence ministry said. The illegal
migrants and the smugglers were intercepted in the locality of In Guezam in Tamenrasset. Due
to insecurity prevailing in the sub-African Sahel region, Algeria would face a ceaseless flow of
illegal migrants, warned Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal recently, who also said the North
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African nation has on its soil some 20,000 illegal immigrants. Algeria sent 2,536 Nigerien
refugees back to their home countries since last December, at the request of their governments.
2 April
Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said the phenomenon of clandestine immigration towards
Algeria may "ensue" because of the insecurity prevailing in the Sahel countries, indicating that
so far, 20,000 immigrants are staying in Algeria. The Premier said that the public authorities
seek to repatriate clandestine immigrants “in line with the improvement of security situation in
their countries and in coordination with the diplomatic representation of their countries and in
compliance with the human dignity." Sellal said that nationals from neighbouring countries and
Syria, have fled their countries because of insecurity and crises, adding that the phenomenon is
a "source of concern for Algeria, notably on the security and health level, and on the level of
illegal labour."
Egypt
29 April
The leaders of Cyprus, Egypt and Greece agreed Wednesday to step up cooperation on
combatting terrorism amid fears that worsening security conditions in neighbouring countries
such as Libya could threaten the region. This would involve boosting defence and security ties
and "discussing relevant information" to counter terrorist threats, said Cypriot President Nicos
Anastasiades, his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi and Greek Prime Minister Alexis
Tsipras. The three leaders made the pledge in a joint declaration during a summit in the Cypriot
capital of Nicosia. In the declaration, the leaders urged all countries to "effectively confront this
menace" by boosting security cooperation to expose extremist groups' political and financial
supporters. The leaders expressed "grave concern" over a growing terrorist threat in Libya that
may destabilize neighbouring countries, adding that they support putting in place a counterterrorism strategy that would run in tandem with the on-going political process. The Egyptian
president said he's saddened that "horrible crimes" are being committed because of the victims'
identity and faith and offered his country's condolences for the recent killings of dozens of
Ethiopian Christians by Islamic extremists in Libya. The leaders also expressed strong support
for the legitimate government of Yemen where fighting continues between a Saudi-led coalition
and Shiite rebels. They said the worsening situation in the impoverished Arab country threatens
to destabilize the Gulf area, the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea and the wider Middle East. The
leaders also agreed to closer economic and trade ties in the energy, tourism and maritime
sectors. Egypt said it wants to buy quantities of Cyprus' offshore gas and Anastasiades repeated
that the discovery of mineral deposits in the eastern Mediterranean can act as a catalyst for
wider regional cooperation.
Mike Coupe, head of the British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, has been convicted in a court in
Giza of allegedly trying to seize cheques from Egyptian businesses during Sainsbury’s attempts
to crack the region 16 years ago. The Egyptian court chose to convict Coupe because he’s
Sainsbury’s most senior employee, according to reports. Coupe failed to go to a trial over the
issue in September and has been convicted in absentia. He could be arrested if he travels to
Egypt. Sainsbury’s said that not only was Coupe not employed by Sainsbury’s at the time of the
deal in 2001, but that he has never met the complainant and was in London carrying out his
normal duties on July 15, 2014, when the event is supposed to have taken place. “We have taken
all necessary steps to appeal against these groundless claims and will continue to do so,” a
spokeswoman said. The claims come from Sainsbury’s attempt to crack the Egyptian market in
the early 2000s, which ended in disaster after it was forced to take a £111 million hit to
withdraw the heavily-loss making venture of 100 stores. Shares in these stores were sold to Amr
El Nasharty. He has accused the UK chain of selling him shares in a business that was insolvent.
Sainsbury's claim he paid for them with cheques that bounced. “Mr El Nasharty is now claiming
that Mike was in Egypt on 15th July 2014 and seized these cheques, which is an impossibility.
Mike Coupe was in London carrying out his normal duties that day,” the spokeswoman said. El
Nasharty could not be reached.
Sixty-nine suspected Muslim Brotherhood supporters were each sentenced to 25 years in prison
in Egypt on Wednesday for attacking and burning a church in a village near Cairo in 2013,
judicial sources said. The church in the village of Kafr Hakim, near Kerdasa just outside Cairo,
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was burned in August 2013 in a wave of violence that rocked the country after the army toppled
elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi following mass protests against his rule. Judge
Mohamed Nagi Shehata also sentenced two other juvenile defendants to 10 years in jail each
without parole, the sources said. All the defendants were convicted on charges that included
deliberately setting fire to a church and looting it, they added. The 69 were also fined 20,000
Egyptian pounds ($2,623) each. "There is no proof against the defendants... even the church's
priest said he didn't see any of the defendants after the incident," Hany El-Sayed, a defence
lawyer for some of the defendants, said. The verdict can be appealed.
26 April
Egypt's president said that the country's delayed parliamentary elections will take place before
the end of 2015. "I give my word — they will be held before the end of the year," President
Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi said. The parliamentary vote initially was set to take place in phases
beginning on March 22. It is the final phase in a transition period following the 2013 ouster of
Islamist President Mohammed Morsi by the military. The vote was delayed because of
constitutional appeals. Egypt has not had an elected legislature since 2012, when the Supreme
Constitutional Court ruled that parliament's lower chamber was not constitutionally elected.
The trial of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, deposed by the army and sentenced to
20 years in jail, was "badly flawed" and appears to have been politically motivated, Human
Rights Watch said on Sunday. A court on April 21 convicted Morsi and 12 other Muslim
Brotherhood members of violence, kidnapping and torture over the deaths of protesters in
2012. They were acquitted of murder, which carries the death sentence. Human Rights Watch
said Morsi’s detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office
violated Egyptian law, and it criticized the prosecution's heavy reliance on the testimony of
military and police officers. “Whatever political responsibility (Morsi) may have, the
prosecution didn't establish his criminal guilt in this case,” the rights group said in a statement
entitled “Egypt: (Morsi) Trial Badly Flawed.” It also cited a spokesman for the defence team
saying the lawyers were only allowed to visit Morsi once in November 2013. Another lawyer
was cited as saying the defence did not call witnesses out of fear for their safety. A government
statement last week rejected criticism of the Morsi’s sentencing as “unacceptable interference
in (Egypt’s) internal affairs, let alone disrespect of the rulings of the Egyptian judiciary.” HRW
also said the authorities had not investigated the killings of Morsi supporters at the 2012
demonstrations, creating “an appearance that the case was politically motivated against the
Brotherhood.”
25 April
Egypt has extended a state of emergency imposed on parts of northern Sinai in October after
Islamist militants stepped up attacks in the peninsula bordering Israel, Gaza and the Suez Canal.
The extension is for three months. The decision, announced in a statement from the presidency,
will be implemented in Rafah, al-Arish, Sheik Zuweid and surrounding areas starting on Sunday.
It also extends a night-time curfew in place in the same areas. The measure was first introduced
after 33 security personnel were killed in an attack in late October at a checkpoint in northern
Sinai. It was extended for another three months in January. The attack was claimed by Sinai
Province, an affiliate of Islamic State, which earlier changed its name from Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.
The group, which aims to topple the government in Cairo, has mainly focused on targets in Sinai.
21 April
Mohamed Morsi, the deposed president of Egypt, was sentenced to 20 years in prison by an
Egyptian court on Tuesday, in the first verdict handed down in any of the four significant
criminal cases brought against him since the military ousted him in 2013. Morsi and a dozen
other defendants were convicted of inciting violence and directing illegal detentions and
torture. The charges stemmed from a night of bloody street fighting between Mr. Morsi’s
supporters and opponents outside the presidential palace in December 2012. All of the
defendants were members of his administration or Islamists from the Muslim Brotherhood.
Prosecutors also accused Morsi of premeditated murder and had sought the death penalty, but
the court acquitted him of those charges. Lawyers for Morsi may appeal, although he has
maintained that the new military-led government is illegitimate and that he does not recognize
the authority of the courts. Morsi may also face the death penalty in the other cases against him.
The street fight at the centre of the criminal case was a turning point in the failure of Morsi’s
presidency. Fearing that the courts were about to strike down the constitutional convention his
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government had organized, just as they had dissolved a previous constitutional committee and
Parliament, Morsi stunned Egypt by decreeing that his own decisions would be immune to
judicial oversight until a new charter could be adopted. His move prompted a huge public
reaction, bringing together for the first time his left-leaning and liberal opponents and the old
conservative elite that had ruled under his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak. Protesters threatened
to storm the palace, and the military and police forces, still dominated by the old guard, refused
to protect it. Mr. Morsi’s allies in the Muslim Brotherhood responded by rallying their civilian
supporters to protect the palace instead. The result was a battle of mobs using rocks, sticks,
gasoline bombs and at least a few firearms on both sides. At least 10 people were killed; most
were supporters of Morsi, but at least one was an opponent of the Brotherhood, the journalist
Al Husseiny Abu Deif. By the next morning, Morsi’s civilian supporters had detained and beaten
several of their opponents, accused them of various crimes and turned them over to
prosecutors, who promptly released them. It was unclear what evidence the court might have
found that would tie Morsi or the other defendants to the actions of their supporters in the
streets that night. Most of the trial sessions were closed to the news media, and Judge Ahmed
Sabry Youssef, who read the verdict on Tuesday for the three-judge panel that heard the case,
did not elaborate. Morsi’s supporters said the verdict was itself a crime. Amr Darrag, a
Brotherhood leader and co-founder of its political arm, said in a statement from Istanbul on
Tuesday that the trial was “a travesty of justice, which has been scripted and controlled by the
government and entirely unsupported by evidence.”
Egypt's Irrigation Minister Hossam Moghazi declared a state of extreme emergency at his
ministry due to the capsizing of a barge carrying 500 tons of phosphate in Upper Egypt's Qena.
The ship capsized after colliding with the foundations of the city's Dandara Bridge, reported
Egypt's official news agency MENA. Irrigation ministry spokesman Khalled Wassef said that the
ministry and army are overseeing dredgers removing the material from the riverbed.
"Phosphate is not soluble in water so there is little risk of poisoning drinking water, though the
ministry has nevertheless notified Qena's potable water station to take necessary precautions,"
Wassef said. Wassef said the measure is the primary emergency action being taken, adding that
the environment ministry is taking samples from the water to evaluate the effects of the
incident. An operations room at the ministry was set up to follow up on the situation and to
coordinate between different administrative, policing and environmental bodies in the city to
control the situation, MENA said. The barge's captain and his deputy were able to flee to safety.
Egypt's is vastly dependent on the Nile Rver for its water supply. The country's annual water
quota from the Nile is 55 billion cubic metres.
16 April
An Egyptian soldier was killed and five wounded on Thursday when roadside bombs hit two
military armoured vehicles in the Northern Sinai region, medical and security sources said. Two
bombs hit an armoured vehicle in the town of Sheikh Zuweid killing a non-commissioned officer
and wounding three other soldiers, an army spokesman said in a statement on his official
Facebook page. In response, a military helicopter killed three "terrorist elements" in a car while
fleeing the scene, he added. Later on Thursday, two soldiers were wounded when a roadside
bomb targeted an armoured vehicle in a village in the area of Rafah. There was no immediate
claim of responsibility for the bombings. Sinai Province, a militant group that has declared
allegiance to Islamic State, has claimed such attacks in the past.
15 April
Two students from an Egyptian military academy were killed and six were wounded on
Wednesday when a bomb targeting a minibus exploded in the northern city of Kafr al-Sheikh,
two health ministry officials said. While members of Egypt's security forces have regularly been
targeted in attacks claimed by Islamist militant groups in a wave of violence since 2013, this
appeared to be the first such attack on young students linked to the army. The bomb exploded
as the minibus stopped near the city's stadium, a witness said. Kafr al-Sheikh is about 80 miles
north of Cairo in the mostly agricultural Delta region. There was no immediate claim of
responsibility for Wednesday's attack.
Egypt's cabinet on Wednesday ordered the demolition of an abandoned, burnt-out building that
had housed the headquarters of former President Hosni Mubarak's political party, which was
disbanded four years ago. The National Democratic Party (NDP) building, a concrete tower
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Global Security Update
block that looms over the River Nile in Cairo, was gutted during the uprising against Mubarak's
rule in 2011, and served as a potent symbol of the revolt. Successive governments have
discussed plans to knock down the building since the NDP was dissolved. Some activists who
took part in protests have said the headquarters should be preserved as a monument to the
uprising. The statement did not give any reason or timing for the demolition. Since a major
economic summit last month in the coastal resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, one side of the building
has been covered in a large banner promoting investment in Egypt. The NDP was dissolved by
a court order in April 2011. It had dominated Egyptian politics since it was founded by
Mubarak's predecessor, Anwar Sadat, in 1978.
Border troops arrested 25 Egyptians allegedly attempting to cross into Libyan territory illegally
on Wednesday south of the Salloum border crossing. The arrested citizens include six from
Baheira, eight from Qena, three from Fayoum, seven from Sohag and one from Sharqiya. On 7
April, 35 citizens were arrested while attempting travelling to Libya; 33 were arrested April 3,
75 on March 30, and 45 on March 26 were also arrested on the same charges. Many from Upper
Egypt, which has some of Egypt’s highest unemployment rates, have attempted to travel to Libya
in search for work, usually in manual labour, despite the western neighbour’s deteriorating
security conditions. In February, the Islamic State group in Libya beheaded 20 Egyptians; Cairo
responded to the execution with airstrikes against selected IS targets. The Egyptian government
subsequently called for Egyptians in Libya to leave, and thousands have since fled the oil-rich
country.
13 April
Two bloody bombings in Egypt's North Sinai province on Sunday killed 13 army and police
personnel and one civilian, as well as injured some 47 others. A suicide bomber driving a car
packed with explosives hit a main police station in North Sinai city of al-Arish, killing eight
people, critically injuring at least 45 others and damaging a number of neighbouring houses,
security and medical sources said on condition of anonymity. The Interior Ministry said the
eight killed people included seven policemen and one civilian. Rescue workers and firefighters
rushed to the scene, while police officers sealed off the street where the attack happened. The
attorney general also ordered an investigation into the attack in order to uncover the
perpetrators. The bombing came a few hours after six army soldiers were killed when a roadside
bomb in a military zone in North Sinai city of Sheikh Zuweid hit an army armoured vehicle
carrying off-duty soldiers from their camp. Earlier in the day, a booby-trapped car exploded near
a Coptic Church in Zagazig city, north of the capital Cairo. No injuries or damages were reported.
Sunday's explosions came one day after an Egyptian court delivered death sentences to the chief
leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood (MB) group Mohamed Badie and 13 other MB
members and life imprisonment terms to 37 MB members over violence charges. The MB
spiritual leader and the other defendants are charged with running an operational room to
mobilize group members to target security forces and spread disorder after the dispersal of two
major sit-ins in Cairo August 2013.
12 April
An Egyptian court sentenced the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie, on
Saturday to death by hanging, along with 13 members of his group. The sentences will be
appealed. The criminal court sentenced 36 other defendants to life in prison on charges of
plotting terrorist attacks against state facilities. They faced charges that include "funding the
Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in" -- a mass protest in Cairo in August 2013 that was forcibly dispersed
by security personnel -- and spreading "false information" to destabilize Egypt. They were
arrested in a sweeping crackdown on supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi, the
country's first democratically elected president, who was overthrown in 2013 in a military coup
that bitterly split Egyptians. One of those sentenced to life in prison was Mohamad Soltan, a 27year-old U.S.-Egyptian activist. He has been languishing in Cairo's notorious Tora Prison, where
he has been on a hunger strike for more than 14 months. The U.S. State Department released a
statement condemning Soltan's sentence and calling for his release on humanitarian grounds.
10 April
Militant group Ajnad Misr “soldiers of Egypt” appointed a new senior leader called “Ezz Al Din
Al Masry”, instead of the former leader Hammam Atteya, who was killed by Egyptian security
forces in Al Haram district in Giza on Sunday. Hammam Atteya was the co-founder of the militant
group as he committed dozens of terrorist attacks against Egyptian army and police. Ajnad Misr
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(Soldiers of Egypt) is a Sinai based jihadist group that targets what they refer to as “criminal
elements” in the Egyptian Government. The group came to attention on 23 January 2014 with a
media statement in which they claimed credit for attacks on security forces in Cairo, during
January 2014.
9 April
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Egypt should free ousted Islamist president Mohamed
Morsi from jail and lift death sentences against his supporters before Ankara could consider an
improvement in relations with Cairo. Ties between the two former allies have been strained
since then Egyptian army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi toppled elected President Morsi of the
Muslim Brotherhood in 2013 after mass protests against his rule. Egyptian security forces then
mounted one of the fiercest crackdowns against the Islamist movement, killings hundreds of
supporters at a Cairo protest camp, arresting thousands and putting Morsi and other leaders on
trial. "Mr Morsi is a president elected by 52 percent of the votes. They should give him his
freedom," Erdogan was quoted by Turkish newspapers as telling reporters traveling on his
plane as he returned from an official visit to Iran. An official from Erdogan's office confirmed his
comments. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood has close ties with Turkey's ruling AK Party, which
Erdogan co-founded and which has emerged as one of the fiercest international critics of Morsi's
removal, calling it an "unacceptable coup" by the army. Erdogan added other conditions before
relations could thaw: "Secondly, doesn't the West say it is against the death sentence? There are
3,000 people there sentenced to death. This should be lifted." Erdogan said there were around
18,000 political prisoners who should be retried and bans on political parties in Egypt, which
he says are arbitrary, should be removed. "They say 'Turkey should not interfere with our
domestic affairs'. We are not interfering. If something happens in a country against freedoms,
we should speak up," Erdogan said. Egypt has complained about previous comments made by
Erdogan against Sisi and rejected Turkey's criticism of the government.
8 April
An Egyptian procurement of 356 AGM-114K/R3 Hellfire II missiles has been cleared by the State
Department, the first new procurement since the White House lifted a freeze on weapon sales
to that nation. The sale also comes as Egypt takes part in anti-militant operations in Yemen,
which the US is indirectly aiding with logistical support. If the sale is given the OK by Congress
and details are worked out between the two governments, it would represent the first sale of
the R model of Hellfire to Egypt. Egyptian military forces currently operate the F and K variants.
The sale, with a projected cost of $57 million, would occur under a Foreign Military Sales
agreement. Lockheed Martin would be the prime contractor, with work occurring at its Orlando,
Florida, facility. The announcement of the sale, posted on the Defense Security Cooperation
Agency's website, noted that it would help "improve the security of a friendly country that has
been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic progress in the
Middle East. “Egypt will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to
strengthen its homeland defense," the notice reads. While the justification statement on weapon
sales notifications are usually bland, those two statements are notable, given current events.
Egypt's public prosecutor referred a further 379 alleged members of the banned Muslim
Brotherhood to court on Wednesday over sit-ins in August 2013 that were broken up by security
forces who killed hundreds of protesters. The 379 are accused of causing the deaths of two
policemen at al-Nahda Square in Giza, one of two sites where supporters of ousted Islamist
President Mohamed Morsi gathered in the weeks following his overthrow by the military. They
face charges including murder and vandalism. The government accuses the Brotherhood of
fomenting an Islamist insurgency since Morsi's removal. Militant attacks have killed hundreds
of Egyptians, mostly soldiers and police. Security forces have killed hundreds and detained
thousands of members of the group, which says it is committed to political change through
peaceful means only. Prosecutor Hisham Barakat said in a statement that two police officers had
also been referred to court, accused of torturing a lawyer to death at a Cairo police station last
month. Prosecutions against members of the security forces are rare in Egypt where the police
have reasserted powers eroded since the 2011 popular uprising that ousted autocrat Hosni
Mubarak. Critics say the police now act with impunity, an accusation the Interior Ministry
denies. Four policemen were charged last month in separate cases involving the deaths of a
female protester and a suspected Brotherhood member. Foreign governments and rights
groups have condemned the use of force to disperse demonstrations at Nahda and Rabaa
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squares, the bloodiest event in Egypt's recent history. Cairo has defended its actions, saying it
had given protesters the opportunity to leave peacefully and that armed elements within the
Brotherhood initiated the violence. Barakat also ordered a former provincial governor to stand
trial for violating a strict protest law that has landed many of the leaders of the 2011 uprising
behind bars.
Military officials say 11 civilians and two soldiers have been killed in three attacks in Egypt's
restive northern Sinai. The officials said a mortar landed Wednesday on a residential area south
of Sheik Zweid, a town in northern Sinai, hitting a house and killing nine of its residents.
Separately, officials said a missile landed on a house in another village, killing two civilians. In a
third attack, outside the provincial capital el-Arish, officials said an explosive detonated as a
military vehicle drove past, killing two police officers. The officials spoke anonymously because
they were not authorized to speak to the media. Northern Sinai has been a longtime hotbed of
Islamic insurgency. Egyptian officials said the military had no operations in the area.
7 April
Egyptian security officials foiled a plan to smuggle 3.5 tons of hashish from Lebanon to Libya on
Monday, according to a statement by Lebanon’s Anti-Drug bureau of the Judicial Police. The
drugs were being transported from Lebanon to a ship called “Mare Ta Queen,” which was
docked just outside Lebanon’s regional waters, according to Beirut-based newspaper An-Nahar.
Judicial Police say the ship was headed to Tobruq, a port city on Libya’s eastern Mediterranean
coast, but was stopped by Egyptian officials near the coast of Damietta. Authorities confiscated
the ship’s cargo and detained all those on board. Investigations are underway to locate the drug
gang in Lebanon, which sources say most likely originates from the Bekaa Valley. The latest
smuggling operation comes just a few hours after drugs were found on two Venezuelan
nationals who were attempting to travel to Lebanon with four kilograms of cocaine. Security
officials say they were arrested at Turkey’s Istanbul airport before arriving in Lebanon.
Lebanon’s feuding militias are still using drugs as a source of income. Under international
pressure, the Lebanese government is cracking down on smaller cannabis farmers, while drug
lords continue to act with impunity.
Egyptian Customs arrested a Libyan national at Salloum border crossing, near Egypt’s Western
border with Libya, who was trying to smuggle $1.9 million outside Egypt. Heading to Libya, the
arrested man was driving a truck when security services at the border stopped him and found
$1.9 million in his possession. He said he was transferring the money to another person living
in Libya per a request from another Libyan man. There is an on-going intensive operation along
the border with Libya to prevent any infiltration or illegal immigration. A number of persons,
have been arrested at the border for attempting to illegally cross into Libya. The Salloum border
has received thousands of Egyptians flocking back from war-torn Libya after the beheading of
20 Egyptian Copts in Libya in mid-February 2015 by the hands of the Islamic State (IS) group.
The Egyptian army responded to the murder by launching airstrikes, along with the Libyan
army, against suspected militant bases in Derna. According to official numbers, the total
Egyptian arrivals through the land border have reached 35,439 so far. The government has
exempted the arrivals from having to pay entry fees at the border until the end of crisis. It is also
operating daily flights to carry Egyptians from Tunisian and Algerian airports after they cross
the Libyan borders with Tunisia and Algeria.
6 April
Islamist militants hit Egypt's two largest cities Sunday with a bombing in Cairo and an attack on
a church in Alexandria, killing a police officer and wounding seven other people, security
sources said. In a separate incident, the leader of a militant group that has targeted police and
soldiers around the capital was killed in a firefight with security forces early Sunday, the Interior
Ministry said. A bomb explosion on a bridge leading to the upscale Cairo district of Zamalek,
which hosts many embassies, killed a police officer, the Interior Ministry said. Two other officers
and a civilian were injured. The force of the bomb, which the sources said was planted in or near
a car, left a shallow crater and pools of blood on the May 15 Bridge. In Alexandria, militants in a
microbus shot at the Church of the Angel Rafael, wounding a police officer and three civilians,
before fleeing, security sources said. Sunday's bombing was claimed on Twitter by Ajnad Misr,
a militant group that emerged in January 2014 and has targeted security forces in and around
Cairo. In a separate incident, the founder and leader of Ajnad Misr was killed by security forces,
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security sources said. The Interior Ministry said in a statement that under his leadership, the
group had launched 26 attacks on police and soldiers.
5 April
An Egyptian prosecutor has referred to a military court 187 alleged Muslim Brotherhood
supporters who are accused of killing police officers in a 2013 attack on a police station. The
187 are accused of storming Maghagha police station in the southern province of Minya in
August 2013, weeks after Morsi's removal, North Minya public prosecutor Abdelraheem Malik
said. He did not specify how many of the 187 were already in custody. They face charges of
murder and attempted murder of members of the police, possessing weapons, and joining a
banned group, Malik said. The government has accused the Brotherhood of fomenting an
Islamist insurgency after Morsi's removal, and has killed hundreds and jailed thousands of
members of the group. The Brotherhood says it is committed to political change through
peaceful means only. Military courts in Egypt tend to process cases more quickly than civilian
ones.
4 April
The head of an Egyptian human rights organization said Saturday he is being held in a central
Cairo police station following a police raid on the group's online radio station. Ahmed Samih,
director of the Andalus Institute for Tolerance and Anti-Violence Studies, says police told him
he is under investigation for broadcasting without a license on the web radio platform Horytna.
"One of the main questions was around our political affiliation," he said in a phone call from the
police station, adding that the radio station is not affiliated with a political party and is focused
on human rights. An evolving crackdown on dissent has landed thousands of government critics
behind bars and silenced many dissenting voices. Authorities contend they are fighting a violent
wave of Islamic militancy that aims to destabilize the country. Also on Saturday, Human Rights
Watch urged Egypt to halt the execution of six men condemned to death by a military tribunal
for killing security forces, citing lawyers and family who contend some of them were in jail at
the time of the attack. The New York-based rights group said in a statement that the men are
accused of being members of the insurgent group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. It said the men were
part of a group of nine convicted of killing two officers in a 2014 shootout north of Cairo, and
that they should be given a retrial before a civilian court.
Egypt Saturday referred to trial 48 suspects accused of shooting dead a journalist, a boy and a
Christian woman during clashes last year between Islamist protesters and police. Mayada
Ashraf, who worked for privately owned Al-Dustour newspaper, was shot in the head while she
was covering clashes in Cairo's northern Ain Shams neighbourhood on March 28 last year. A
Coptic Christian woman and a 13 year-old boy were also killed in the unrest. The state
prosecutor ordered the trial of 48 people in connection with the deaths of Ashraf and the two
other civilians. A statement said they were all members of the blacklisted Muslim Brotherhood
of ex-president Mohammad Morsi who was ousted from power in July 2013 by the army. The
defendants, 35 of who are behind bars while 13 are on the run, face several charges, including
premeditated murder and membership in "an armed wing of the terrorist Brotherhood aimed
at targeting media personnel," the statement added. No date has yet been set for the start of the
trial. Ashraf is among 10 Egyptian journalists killed in Egypt since the 2011 uprising that ousted
former president Hosni Mubarak, according to New York-based Committee to Protect Journalist
(CPJ). The army's ouster of Morsi, who had succeeded Mubarak, sparked widespread clashes
between his supporters and security forces prompting a deadly government crackdown against
his Islamist backers. The Brotherhood itself has been blacklisted as a "terrorist group."
2 April
Egyptian Authorities postponed Thursday the implementation of a controversial decision to end
the visa upon arrival system for individuals. “The Foreign Affairs Ministry has postponed the
implementation of the new visa system following extensive consultations and discussions
between the state’s stakeholders and chairmen of several travel agencies,” according to a
foreign ministry statement Thursday. On March 17, the Foreign Affairs Ministry announced that
all travellers planning to enter Egypt, whether it be for business or tourism, would be required
to obtain a visa from an Egyptian consulate or Embassy prior to departure from their home
countries. It added the decision would enter into force May 15, 2015. The proposed e-visa
system would enable applicants to obtain their visas electronically after entering required
information. Currently, those arriving for tourism from most European countries as well as the
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United States are able to purchase visas valid for one month at the Cairo Airport, which may
then be extended in-country. “The application of the new visa system will coincide with the
implementation of the electronic visa system,” the ministry said Thursday, without mentioning
any further details about the timeline of implementation.
Libya
29 April
Islamic State militants in Libya have killed two Tunisian journalists kidnapped last year, Libyan
officials said on Wednesday, following the murder of five television reporters discovered this
week. The Tunisian government will immediately send a delegation to Libya to discuss the case,
said a Tunis official, declining to confirm the deaths of Sofian Chourabi and Nadhir Ktari who
were kidnapped about eight months ago. A spokesman for Libya's official government based in
eastern Libya said an arrested militant h ad admitted that his group had killed the two reporters.
The spokesman said that was the same group of Islamic State militants that had killed five
journalists - an Egyptian and four Libyans - working for Libya Barqa TV channel. Their bodies
with slit throats were found in eastern Libya on Monday. A statement by the rival self-declared
government in Tripoli also said the two Tunisians had been killed, citing its investigations with
suspects. The journalists working for Barqa TV had been missing since August, when they set
off for Benghazi from the eastern city of Tobruk after covering the inauguration of the country's
elected parliament there. Their route took them through Derna, a militant Islamist hotspot.
Militants loyal to Islamic State have exploited a security vacuum in Libya, where two
governments and parliaments allied to host of various armed groups are fighting each other on
several fronts four years after the ousting of strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
27 April
Five journalists belonging to a Libyan TV crew have been found dead, eight months after they
were kidnapped. A government spokesman said the bodies were found near the city of al Bayda,
close to the site of the kidnapping. The crew was taken in August while travelling through
territory largely controlled by extremist militants. Faraj al-Barassi, a district army commander
in eastern Libya, said that militants loyal to Islamic State (IS) were responsible for the killings.
IS-affiliated militants have established a strong presence in parts of Libya, including Derna
where the kidnapping is believed to have taken place. The journalists were travelling from
Tobruk to Benghazi when they were captured near Derna. Parts of Libya have descended into
lawless chaos following the overthrow of Gaddafi, allowing extremists to gain ground. A
February report by Human Rights Watch said there was a "climate of impunity" in the country
that "allowed militias to assault, threaten, kidnap, or even kill journalists". Libya's
internationally recognised government has fled from the capital Tripoli to the eastern city of
Tobruk, while a rival parliament has been established in Tripoli itself.
26 April
Striking workers have shut down an important Libyan oil field in a dispute over wage payments,
a Libyan official said Sunday. The job action by guards at the el-Feel oil field comes as the
country's petroleum industry has been disrupted by armed conflict between two rival
governments, terrorist attacks and sabotage. The field is jointly run by Italian energy giant Eni
SpA and Libya's National Oil Co. The el-Feel field is an important part of what remains of Libya's
oil industry, producing about 100,000 barrels a day of the country's output of less than 600,000
barrels a day. The country is capable of producing about 1.5 million barrels a day. A National Oil
Co. spokesman said he expects el-Feel's production to resume "soon" and that the interruption
was "only temporary." Eni referred calls to the Libyan government.
25 April
Smuggled gold artefacts worth 7.6 million EGP, and to a shipment of cosmetics, were seized by
the Salloum border crossing customs authorities. The goods were hidden in 81 crates inside a
car driven by a Libyan national. The gold pieces had been stored in 51 smaller plastic boxes, and
the cosmetics were inside 302 cartons. A police report was filed over the incident, which was
referred to the prosecution. The Salloum crossing, Egypt’s western border with Libya, has been
witnessing strict measures to combat attempts of smuggling and illegal immigration. Dozens of
Egyptians and foreigners have been frequently arrested at the border for attempting to illegally
enter into Libyan territory. Despite the flow of Egyptian returnees fleeing the deteriorated
security situation in the oil-rich country, many Egyptians are still trying to enter the country
through the western border in search of work.
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24 April
The fighting that is ravaging Libya has displaced more than a half a million people since last May,
the Red Crescent said Thursday. "The escalation of armed violence in Libya has driven more
than half a million people from their homes" from May 14, 2014 until the beginning of April, a
report said. The largest number of them, more than 126,000, have fled to the capital, with second
city Benghazi taking another 110,000. While these are the first figures published by a reliable
source, one activist said they exclude those people who have moved in with relatives rather than
in registered camps, schools and other refuges. At the same time, the report covers those who
have left the country, which the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has estimated at about
100,000.
A militia alliance that controls Libya's capital has carried out air strikes against ISIS positions in
the coastal city of Sirte, an official said. "A Fajr Libya warplane launched several raids on
Thursday evening against sites where there were members of the Libyan branch of the Islamic
State," an official in the town, who did not want to be named, said. The targets included an ISIS
command base set up in a conference centre where the late leader Moammar Gadhafi once
hosted international summits in what was his hometown, the official said. Fajr Libya is a
coalition of militias, including Islamists, which controls Tripoli, where it has installed a
government and a parliament opposed to the internationally recognised legislature and cabinet.
Heavy fighting has raged between ISIS and a Fajr Libya battalion in Sirte, located 450 kilometres
(280 miles) east of the capital, since Wednesday evening, according to a spokesman for the
militia. There have been sporadic clashes for about two months between ISIS and the battalion,
tasked by the Tripoli parliament with restoring security in the coastal city. The internationally
recognised government fled to the far east of the country after Fajr Libya seized the capital in
August. The turmoil has allowed ISIS to gain a foothold in the oil-rich North African state, where
the extremist group has executed dozens of Christians.
23 April
A Libyan television journalist involved in coverage of fighting between Islamist militias and progovernment forces in the second city of Benghazi has been assassinated, officials and witnesses
said Thursday. Muftah al-Qatrani, director of the private production company Al-Anwar, was
killed by a gunshot to the head on Wednesday, an interior ministry official said. "Friends who
visited his office found him dead on a chair, covered in blood," the official said, adding that an
inquiry had been launched into the killing. A witness, who declined to be named, said the
producer's office was in the centre of Benghazi. "No neighbours or surrounding businesses had
any idea what had happened and no weapon was found near the body," the witness said.
As European Union leaders convened an emergency meeting following a spate of mass migrant
drownings in the Mediterranean Sea, experts warned that the recent deaths of 900 people off
the coast of Libya is unlikely to result in a comprehensive immigration policy that resettles
refugees attempting to reach European shores. EU leaders emerged from meetings in Brussels
with the promise to commit extra ships and helicopters to save lives in the Mediterranean. They
also agreed to use law enforcement to collect intelligence on smugglers. But their most
important commitments, say analysts, is the promise to triple funding for Triton, the EU border
operation that patrols the sea — to $9.7 million monthly — and to set up a refugee resettlement
program that would offer housing to 5,000 asylum seekers. The United Nations criticized the
EU's draft proposal as a missed opportunity to help people fleeing war and poverty. Rights
group Amnesty International slammed the Brussels meeting for not doing more to help refugees
resettle. A proposal that attracted particular scorn would allow the EU to destroy vessels in
Libya before they are used to traffic humans. The EU proposals “are a woefully inadequate and
shameful response to the crisis in the Mediterranean and will fail to end the spiral of deaths at
sea," Amnesty said in a statement. The EU draft’s four major points focus on strengthening
Triton’s presence at sea, fighting human traffickers in Libya and along North African smuggle
routes, boosting border control — a measure that would include beefing up return programs
for migrants whose asylum application were rejected — and distributing the burden of
resettlement and processing asylum applications more equally across European member states.
The draft refrains from expanding Triton’s mission to performing search-and-rescue operations
like its predecessor, Mare Nostrum, which was credited with saving up to 100,000 people from
the often harrowing journey by employing a fleet of helicopters, boats and planes at a cost of
$10 million per month. Shutting down the program six months ago, following criticism it was
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encouraging migrants to reach Europe, primed the EU for “a crisis of its own making,” said Justin
Gest, public policy professor at George Mason University and co-founder of the Migration
Studies Unit at the London School of Economics. On Wednesday, the Dutch parliament, in a vote
reflective of populist pressures against immigration, chose to deny shelter to asylum seekers
who refuse to cooperate when their cases are rejected, prompting protest from Amnesty
International, which called the regulation a violation of European human rights law.
22 April
The head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) Bernardino León has
strongly condemned the latest terrorist attack in the Libyan capital of Tripoli in which the
Spanish Embassy was targeted. According to media reports, a bomb detonated outside the
Spanish Embassy on 20 April damaging part of the compound's exterior wall but incurring no
casualties. The incident is also the most recent in a series of attacks against foreign embassies
including those of the Republic of Korea and Morocco. In a statement released yesterday
evening, UNSMIL said the attack against the Spanish embassy should serve as “a reminder that
the continuing fighting and political instability contribute to providing the safe ground for
terrorists to operate and expand” throughout Libya. “UNSMIL urges the Libyans to press ahead
with their efforts to reach a political agreement to restore peace and stability, as well as
strengthen the State institutions to combat terrorism,” the statement added. The bombing
comes at a time when national stakeholders are gathered to reach a mediated settlement to
Libya's continuing fighting.
21 April
Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso said Tuesday Europe and Africa must work together
to solve the chaos in Libya if they want to curb the migrant flow that has seen thousands drown
in the Mediterranean. "Nearly 1,000 Africans at the bottom of the Mediterranean (in one week):
silence is no longer possible," Nguesso told French radio Europe 1. He said Africans were the
worst affected by the long list of shipwrecks that have claimed over 1,700 lives this year. "The
fundamental question that must be addressed is Libya," he said, adding the crisis in that country
must be "seriously taken in hand. Europe and Africa must work together to solve the problem."
The latest sinking of a migrant ship, in which 800 are feared to have drowned, left from Libya
on Saturday. A week earlier another 400 died when their vessel capsized off the Libyan coast.
The chaos in Libya has provided fertile ground for people smugglers who lure migrants from all
over Africa with the promise of getting them to Europe -- a perilous boat ride away. "The Libyan
State must exist. If it existed and functioned normally I think we would better contain these
criminals," said Nguesso, urging the African Union to meet on the immigration crisis.
One of the leading smugglers at the main departure point for Mediterranean migrant crossings
in Libya has scoffed at plans to launch a military campaign against people traffickers, and
recommended that the EU provide more support for his marginalised ethnic minority instead.
The smuggling kingpin, who organises about 60% of the boat trips from Zuwara, according to
claims by his associates, questioned how European navies would be able to break the sprawling
spider’s web of smuggling networks that span several countries in North Africa. The 33-yearold law graduate, known simply as “Hajj”, said the EU would be better off investing in local
infrastructure for the long-marginalised Amazigh minority, the Berber tribe whose members
run the smuggling networks in Zuwara. Despite the apparent risks to his livelihood, Hajj also
advised the EU to combat his business by directly investing in Zuwara’s underfunded local
coastguard, creating stability in Libya and doing more to deplete the dwindling stocks of fishing
boats used by smugglers to take refugees to Italian waters. “What are they going to do, put two
frigates here? Two warships? In Libyan waters? That’s an invasion.” Hajj - who claims to have
successfully sent 1,000 people to Italy last week - did not appear worried by the EU’s threats to
end his trade. “They’re just lying,” he said. “They’re liars. And it’s not the first time. Last year the
same thing happened when these tragedies occurred. Human rights people came out and started
talking, and politicians met and said they’d take action. But nothing happened. It’ll be the same
thing.” Rather than pursuing vague military options, Hajj suggested providing more support for
the Amazigh, an indigenous ethnic group that settled on the Libyan coast long before the arrival
of the Arabs who would later form the country’s majority. The Amazigh were heavily oppressed
under Muammar Gaddafi and relied on smuggling profits because of a lack of economic
alternatives.
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Global Security Update
ISIS operatives have executed two groups of prisoners, believed to be Ethiopian Christians, in
Libya, according to a video released Sunday by the terror network's media arm. The Ethiopian
government confirmed Monday that 30 of its citizens were among the two groups, according to
the Ethiopian News Agency. The al-Furqan Media video -- which is highly produced and titled
"Until There Came to Them Clear Evidence" -- shows two groups of men, one in orange
jumpsuits and the other in black, being killed at different locations in Libya, according to the
video's narrator. One group is beheaded on a beach along the Mediterranean Sea, while the
other group is shot in Southern Libya, hundreds of miles away. Earlier in the video, a speaker
says Christians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul were given the choice to embrace Islam or
maintain their Christian faith and pay a tax. "The Islamic state has offered the Christian
community this many times and set a deadline for this, but the Christians never cooperated,"
the speaker says.
19 April
As many as 700 migrants were feared dead on Sunday after their boat capsized in the
Mediterranean, raising pressure on Europe to face down anti-immigrant bias and find money
for support as turmoil in Libya and the Middle East worsens the crisis. If the death toll is
confirmed, it will bring to 1,500 the total number of people who died this year seeking to reach
Europe - a swelling exodus that prompted Europe to downsize its seek and rescue border
protection program in a bid to deter them. International aid groups strongly criticized the
decision. After news of Sunday's disaster several government leaders called for emergency talks
and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said foreign ministers would discuss the
immigration crisis at a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday. European Council President Donald
Tusk said he was considering calling a special meeting of EU leaders, a summit that Renzi had
called for earlier. Meanwhile Italian and foreign ships and helicopters worked into the night to
find possible survivors. So far 28 people have been rescued and 24 bodies recovered, Italian
authorities said. The 20 meter-long vessel sank 70 miles from the Libyan coast, south of the
southern Italian island of Lampedusa, as a large merchant ship approached it. A survivor told
the United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR that 700 people on board, hopeful the ship would
save them, moved to one side, toppling the boat.
18 April
At least 21 people have been killed in fighting on the outskirts of the Libyan capital Tripoli,
military sources said, as sticking points emerged in talks between the country’s rival
parliaments in Morocco. Pro-government forces clashed with fighters from the Islamist-backed
Fajr Libya militia alliance in Tajoura, 30km east of Tripoli, on Friday as the forces of the
internationally recognised government launched a new attempt to regain control of the capital.
“Fourteen soldiers, four fighters from Fajr Libya, and three women were killed today in
Tajoura,” a pro-government military source said, adding that the women were killed
accidentally in rocket fire on a militia camp. Another 24 people were wounded, he said, without
giving a breakdown. A Fajr Libya spokesman in Tripoli, Mohamad Shami, confirmed the attack
but said 32 people were killed. “Fajr Libya is in full control of Tajoura, and there are minor
clashes near a camp called the 101 camp where some of the attackers are still there and Fajr
Libya forces are surrounding them,” he added. A second pro-government military source said,
“there are on-going fierce battles in Tajoura, with the help of our airforce launching air strikes”.
The UN said on Friday it was trying to narrow differences between the rival parliaments over
an agreement aimed at forming a unity government to end the unrest. The differences emerged
in written observations by the two sides on the agreement envoy Bernardino Leon is trying to
clinch in talks at the Moroccan resort of Skhirat, said Samir Ghattas, spokesman for the UN
mission in Libya (UNSMIL). The fresh fighting marks a new front as forces loyal to the
internationally recognised government try to re-enter the capital, under the control of Fajr
Libya since August. The country has had two governments and parliaments since the alliance of
Islamist militia seized Tripoli in August and the internationally recognised government fled to
the country’s east. On March 24, the UN mission in Libya (UNSMIL) unveiled a six-point plan to
end the crisis, including the formation of a transitional unity government until a new
constitution is adopted and elections held.
17 April
Italian navy personnel on Friday boarded a Sicilian fishing boat and took custody of a Libyan
soldier on board after the vessel was seized overnight off the coast of the North African state,
the defence ministry said. The Mediterranean has grown increasingly deadly as hundreds of
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thousands of people put themselves in the hands of migrant traffickers for harrowing journeys
on overloaded boats to Europe to escape conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East. A defence
ministry statement said a tugboat apparently belonging to Libyan security forces had stopped
an Italian trawler early on Friday, around 90 km (55 miles) from the port of Misrata. Italy's navy
subsequently intercepted and took control of the vessel, encountering no resistance from the
sole Libyan soldier on board, who was transferred to an Italian ship. One fisherman suffered
minor injuries, the ministry said. A spokesman for a Sicilian fishing trade association had said
earlier that the incident was likely the work of pirates. No such attacks have been reported
before. "This is probably an act of piracy because the tugboat that approached the trawler had
no Libyan governmental insignia," the spokesman, Francesco Mezzapelle, said. He said the
trawler was manned by three Italians and four Tunisians.
16 April
UN envoy Bernardino Leon shuttled between delegates of Libya's rival parliaments in Morocco
Thursday as he pushed for a unity government to end the growing unrest in their country. Libya
has been divided since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Dictator Moamer Gadhafi, with
rival governments and parliaments and armed groups now battling for control of its cities and
oil wealth. The talks started a day after an air strike blamed on the internationally recognised
government hit an air base controlled by the rival administration. Leon has repeatedly urged
both sides to set aside differences. "The patience of Libyans is finished and the patience of the
international community is finished," he warned Wednesday. He called on the negotiating teams
to thrash out the full details of a unity government, including the names of ministers, to replace
the rival administrations. On Thursday morning, he met delegates from the elected parliament
and was later due to meet their rivals. "We are trying to adopt a positive approach," said Issa
Abdelkayoum, spokesman for the elected parliament. "There are people from the other side who
don't have much to propose and who are playing for time," he added, without further details.
The rival parliament was due to submit later Thursday written "observations" to Leon
concerning a six-point UN proposal to end the conflict, said one of its members, Mohamed
Maazab. On March 24, the UN mission in Libya UNSMIL unveiled the plan, which namely calls
for setting up a transitional unity government until a new constitution is adopted and elections
held. Leon warned Wednesday as delegates gathered in the Moroccan resort of Skhirat that this
round of talks would be the last. "I really hope that the negotiators that are coming today are
understanding that we cannot wait any more and this will really be the final round," Leon said.
15 April
Clashes have been reported in Tripoli’s eastern suburb of Tajoura following an accusation by
Libya Dawn that local forces there, including its Brigade 101, were supporting Khalifa Hafter
and the Libyan National Army. Dawn issued an ultimatum yesterday for the brigade to hand
over its weapons and headquarters – an ultimatum rejected by 101. Today’s clashes, near the
101 H, are said to have pitted neighbouring Suq Al-Juma forces and those from Misrata against
Tajoura. Casualties are as yet unknown. Tajoura has been split over support for Libya Dawn.
The local municipal council, now firmly in the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood after
independent members, including the former mayor, were pressurised into resigning, backs
Dawn, as does a group of the local fighters. The main militias are, however, said to support
Hafter and the LNA. There have already been a number of clashed between Tajoura forces and
Dawn. Most recently in February, local fighters grabbed weapons from Dawn forces.
Nonetheless, the area is seen to be firmly in the hands of pro-Islamist militias based at Mitiga
Airport, which Tajoura includes. According to some analysts, though, today’s clashes between
Tajoura and Dawn are a pre-emptive move, triggered by concerns that if and when Libya
National Army (LNA) forces enter the capital, fighters in Tajoura could cut off lines between the
airport and Dawn fighters elsewhere in the city. Meanwhile, there have been conflicting reports
about LNA air strikes on Mitiga today as the plane carrying General National Congress
negotiators to Morocco for UN-brokered peace negotiations was about to take off. Pro-Libya
Dawn media, the GNC’s dialogue team and the UN Special Envoy himself, Bernardino Leon, have
stated the claim, with Leon saying that “we have never seen air strikes at the moment when one
of the delegations is taking off on its way to the talks.” He has demanded an investigation. The
GNC dialogue team has accused the House of Representatives of deliberately trying to
undermine the dialogue with the attack. The GNC would have to “reconsider participation in the
dialogue” as a result, it said. LNA spokesman Mohamed Al-Hejazi also said that jets had had
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attacked Mitiga airport. However, other reports state that the target was a military base some
10 kilometres away, which had once housed SAM missiles.
14 April
Talks between Libya's rival parliaments on forging a unity government for the violence-wracked
country have been a "great success," the UN envoy said on Tuesday, but there were no signs of
a major breakthrough. "The result of the second round of dialogue is a great success,"
Bernardino Leon said in Algiers. "The Libyan parties have succeeded in finding a common
position on most of the points of a draft accord presented by the United Nations."
Representatives of the two sides are to resume the UN-brokered talks in Morocco on Thursday.
That is a day later than planned by the United Nations and comes despite a statement adopted
unanimously by the Security Council late on Monday saying it awaited the resumption of talks
"with impatience". The Tripoli parliament - the General National Congress - confirmed that it
would attend the talks in Skhirat outside Rabat. "Our delegation will arrive on Wednesday to
start a new round of negotiations," GNC member Mohammed Saleh al-Makhzum said.
Meanwhile, former GNC vice president Abdelhafid Ghoka said in Algiers that the sides had agree
in principle on forming a unity government but that differences remained over the future
parliament. "The government will consist of people who have no other nationality than the
Libyan one," he said, adding that the fate of parliament "will be at the heart of the talks." Ghoka
said the GNC had ceased to exist with the election last June of a new parliament. That was
disputed by Abdelhakim Belhadj, head of the nationalist El Watan party and former military
commander of Tripoli. "To say the [General] National Congress is finished is unacceptable," he
said. "That is the view of one person, and the question remains open." The Security Council,
which has threatened sanctions over spiralling violence, has called on the rival sides to "agree
on arrangements on the formation of a national unity government to end Libya's political,
security and institutional crisis." It also warned it was "prepared to sanction those who threaten
Libya's peace, stability or security or that obstruct or undermine the successful completion of
its political transition."
Survivors of a capsized migrant boat off Libya have told the aid group Save the Children that an
estimated 400 people are believed to have drowned. Even before the survivors were
interviewed, Italy's Coast Guard said it assumed that there were many dead given the size of the
ship and that nine bodies had been found. The coast guard had helped rescue some 144 people
on Monday and immediately launched an air and sea search operation in hopes of finding others.
No other survivors or bodies have been recovered. On Tuesday, Save the Children said its
interviews with survivors who arrived in Reggio Calabria indicated there may have been 400
others who drowned. The UN refugee agency said the toll was likely given the size of the ship.
13 April
Italian coastguards have recovered nine bodies from the sea after a boat carrying more than 150
migrants sank off the coast of Libya, they said on Monday. Rescuers managed to save 144 of the
migrants and were still searching for others after their vessel overturned 80 miles off the Libyan
coast. The total number of passengers on the boat and their nationalities was not yet known.
Late Sunday, the Italian coastguards said they had rescued a total of 2,782 people over the
weekend from the Mediterranean, with the good weather prompting an increased number of
migrant boats to set off for Italy. The number of migrants entering the EU illegally in 2014 almost
tripled to 276,000, according to Frontex, nearly 220,000 of them arriving via the Mediterranean.
The chaotic situation in Libya has sparked a rise in migrant boats setting out for Europe from
its unpoliced ports carrying refugees fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.
A bomb exploded at the gate of the Moroccan embassy in the Libyan capital early on Monday,
causing some damage but hurting nobody, a security official said, only hours after gunmen
attacked South Korea's mission in Tripoli. Militants claiming loyalty to ISIS said on twitter they
were responsible for both attacks, the latest strikes against foreigners, embassies or oilfields in
Libya. It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the claims. The bomb damaged the gate
and a residential building next to the Moroccan embassy located in the up market Ben Ashour
district, a security official said. Nobody was hurt by the blast.
12 April
Gunmen fired shots at the South Korean embassy in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Sunday killing
two local security guards, South Korean and Libyan officials said. Militants claiming loyalty to
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Islamic State said they were behind the attack, according to a statement on social media. It was
not possible to verify the authenticity of the claim. The gunmen fired from a car at the embassy
compound, killing two security officers who were Libyan government employees and wounding
another, Tripoli security spokesman Essam Naas said. A South Korean foreign ministry official
in Seoul said there were no Korean casualties, adding the embassy was staffed by two Foreign
Service officials and one administrative staff member. He said the government was considering
relocating it, but did not elaborate. South Korea is one of the few countries, which still has an
embassy in Tripoli. Libyan militants professing loyalty to Islamic State have claimed several
high-profile attacks on foreigners in Libya this year, including several attacks on embassies such
as Egypt or Algeria in Tripoli, attacking mostly empty buildings as most countries have pulled
out diplomatic staff due to the security situation. In a separate attack, gunmen in Tripoli killed
a half-brother of Mahmoud Jibril, prime minister during the 2011 uprising and head of the
National Forces Alliance (NFA), which opposes Libya dawn, a senior NFA member said.
11 April
Ten people have been killed in Benghazi in fighting between army forces and Islamist groups,
medics said on Saturday. A tank battalion and armed youths fought with forces belonging to the
Majlis al-Shura, a collection of armed groups including Islamist militants, in a southern district
for much of Friday, army officials said. As well as the 10 soldiers killed, some 55 were wounded,
medics said on Saturday, when much of the city was quiet after gunfire had been heard in several
districts the day before.
9 April
Sudan's foreign ministry said it had summoned the Libyan ambassador in Khartoum to protest
against the arrest of a Sudanese consul in Benghazi. Sudanese diplomat Abdelhalim Omer was
detained and then released, after making visits to sites in eastern Libya without permission, an
official with Libya's internationally recognized government said. "The Sudanese consul ...has
been freed. He was detained because he visited a military prison without a permission to see
Sudanese prisoners who are detained for different reasons," Hatem Al-Oraibi, the Libyan
government spokesman said. Relations between the two governments have soured since
September when Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, Libya's internationally recognized leader,
accused Khartoum of trying to airlift weapons and ammunition to a rival government in the
western city of Tripoli. Khartoum denies that charge, saying the weapons were meant for a joint
border force under a bilateral agreement. Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman Ali al-Sadiq
said the ministry had summoned the Libyan ambassador on Wednesday and was contacting
Libyan authorities to secure the consul's release. In January, the official Libyan government
banned Sudanese citizens, Syrians and Palestinians from entering the war-torn nation, accusing
their countries of undermining Libya's security.
7 April
Libyan state firm Arabian Gulf Oil Company (AGOCO) is producing 317,000 barrels per day
(bpd), the highest level in the last two years, the company’s spokesman said on Monday. Libya
now produces around 600,000 barrels of crude per day, less than half the 1.6 million bpd it
produced before the fall of strongman Muammar Qaddafi in 2011. Several oil ports and major
fields have been closed by fighting but the two biggest ports, Ras Lanuf and Es Sider with a
combined capacity of 600,000 bpd, may open soon, officials say. Gas production was over 2
billion cubic feet per day last week. Crude revenues are at the heart of a battle for control of the
North African OPEC producer that has pitted the two rival governments against each other in a
growing conflict. Libya’s internationally recognized Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni said on
Sunday his government would run its own oil sales and deposit revenues abroad in a bid to
divert proceeds away from a rival self-declared administration in Tripoli. But the Tripoli-based
National Oil Company (NOC) still handles all oil sales and revenues, and AGOCO - although
located in eastern Libya - is an NOC subsidiary. NOC has tried to stay out of the conflict between
the rival governments. Ports and oilfields are also the favourite target of both militants loyal to
the Islamic State group and local protesters with their own specific demands. A source from the
Brega oil point near Benghazi said on Monday that the port and Sirte Oil Company, located in
the port area, have been closed by protesters over the past week. “The port and Sirte company
have been shut down since a week ago as all the promises made by the officials were not kept”
one protester said. Brega port is used mainly for crude shipments to the refinery in Zawiya, near
Tripoli in the western part of the country.
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6 April
A hostage from Ghana was released last month after militants attacked an oilfield in Libya and
took foreigners prisoner, but six staff are still unaccounted for, their employer said on Monday.
Disclosure of the Ghanaian's release follows reports on March 25 that two Bangladeshi citizens
among the group had been released after more than two weeks in captivity. All three were freed
at the same time, Malta-based Value Added Oilfield Services (VAOS) said, confirming their
release by an unknown armed group that seized them in a raid that killed 11 guards. "All three
are in good health and have reported that they were treated well during their captivity," a
company statement said, hailing the "fantastic news" of their release but reiterating its
commitment to get the six others out as well. They include four Filipinos, a Czech, and an
Austrian. "The three workers now released have been separated from their other six colleagues
on the second day of their captivity and hence could not provide any further information as to
the whereabouts and the well-being of their colleagues," VAOS said, but expressed hope the
information they provided may help secure the others' release.
5 April
The official media agency for Libya's milita-backed government says a suicide car bomb killed
6 people near the western city of Misrata. It says that the dead from Saturday's bombing
included a mother and her two sons, and that 21 others were injured. A security official from
Misrata says that most of the wounded were militiamen guarding a gate to the city, the apparent
target of the attack. Militias from Misrata serve as a key power base for Libya's Tripoli-based
government. Misrata has recently sent its militias to battle Islamic State-affiliated militants who
control the central Libyan city of Sirte.
4 Egypt
Two Egyptians were killed in a district in the Libyan city of Benghazi on Friday, after their
houses were shelled. Egypt has been evacuating Egyptians residing in Libya since the
beheadings of 20 Coptic Egyptians in Sirte in February, which was claimed by “Islamic State”
(IS) affiliates. In response to the attack, Egypt coordinated with Libya’s internationally
recognised interim government in Tobruk in attacks on the city of Derna, which is known to be
an Islamist location. So far, the number of Egyptians flowing from Libyan territories since midFebruary has exceeded 35,000. Families of 46 Egyptians missing in Libya since September 2014
have been in contact with Egypt’s Foreign Ministry for more information on their whereabouts.
Egypt has repeatedly issued travel warnings to its citizens in Libyan territories due to the ongoing violence Libya has been witnessing since the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in
2011.
At least four people were killed and more than 20 wounded by a suicide bomb attack on a
security checkpoint east of the Libyan city of Misrata, a local official news agency reported on
Sunday. One woman and her two children were among the victims of the suicide blast at the
checkpoint in Es Dada, east of Misrata, the LANA news agency associated with the Tripoli
government said. Misrata is a power base for the Libya Dawn forces who took over the capital
Tripoli in the summer and set up their own self-declared government and parliament in a
challenge to Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni's recognized administration. Misrata forces have
also been fighting on a second front with militants tied to Islamic State in the city of Sirte, where
extremists and local Islamist militants have been expanding. In a separate incident, warplanes
from the recognized government carried out air strikes on Tripoli's outskirts on Sunday,
targeting Libya Dawn positions, an air force spokesman said. There were no immediate reports
of damage or casualties.
Morocco & Western Sahara
28 April
Morocco arrested four people Tuesday in the Western Sahara after they allegedly issued a fatwa
authorising the burning alive of a person they accused of rejecting Islam, the interior ministry
said. It said the four members of a "terrorist cell" detained in the disputed territory's main city
of Laayoune had planned to "carry out dangerous terrorist crimes" in Morocco. The ministry, in
a statement carried by the MAP news agency, said they had issued a fatwa, or decree, ordering
the kidnap and "burning alive" of someone they accused of apostasy -- the act of rejecting Islam
or any of its main tenets. It said an investigation had revealed the suspects' "total acceptance"
of the Islamic State group's agenda. The interior ministry statement said the cell leader had
"great experience" in making explosives and wanted to use this "in carrying out terrorist plans
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against sensitive targets" in the kingdom. There are an estimated 1,500 Moroccans in the ranks
of radical groups such as IS, and last year the country passed special legislation to better able it
to combat the phenomenon. The authorities have announced that several "terrorist cells" have
been broken up over the past month.
Times are getting tougher for journalists in Morocco as Interior Minister Taoufik Bouchrine
initiates legal proceedings against Arab newspaper Akbar Al Yaoum, accused of disseminating
"false news under the headline: 3,200 migrants drowned off the coast of Morocco". According
to the article, quoted by many other local and international outlets, "Moroccan beaches have
become the largest cemetery in the world for illegal migrants." The minister objected that the
article is devoid of any truth "it has been made up" - he argued - "as its author meant to harm
the country's reputation and undercut initiatives undertaken by the authorities which have
been recognised by the international community." A similar fate befell online newspaper Hiba
Presse, accused by the Governor of Marrakesh, Abdessalam Bikrat, of dissemination of
"unfounded information with the intent of defaming regional authorities". In this instance, the
report at the centre of the controversy, put a spotlight on the methods employed by the police:
according to the paper, citizens under questioning for disparate reasons were beaten by police
officers. Freedom of the press is enshrined in the Constitution granted to Morocco by the king
in 2011. Following the path of more mature constitutions, which shield journalists from prison
in defamation suits, the provision should have been upheld by a law protecting weaker parties,
but the measure has always been side-lined by Parliament in favour of "more urgent" matters.
A consortium of Moroccan associations launched a permanent observatory on press-freedom
co-financed by the European Union. Within the first 6 trial-months, more than 143 complaints
were brought forward and "29 of these claims possessed all the relevant criteria," said Aziz
Idamine, from Adala, one of the organisations, which established the body. The list of journalists
expelled from Morocco is long. Reporters without Borders stressed that the situation is
worsening in its latest annual report on press-freedom. With its red lines on reporting issues
dealing with the monarchy, Islam, the territorial integrity of the country, and the ban on
publication for blasphemy, Morocco secured the 130th place out of 180 countries surveyed. In
the region, it was surpassed by Mauritania (55th), Algeria (119th) and Tunisia (126th). JeanLouis Perez and Pierre Chautard, two France 3 journalists reporting on the economic and social
situation in Morocco four years after the Arab spring, were expelled from the country in
February and all their material was confiscated.
21 April
The UN Security Council is set to push for more intensive negotiations to settle the decades-old
dispute over Western Sahara, at the centre of tensions between Morocco and African countries.
A draft resolution under discussion this week extends the mandate of the MINURSO peace
mission for a year and calls for a political solution, diplomats said. But the council will not amend
MINURSO's mandate to include human rights monitoring as demanded by the African Union.
The council is due on Wednesday to hear a closed-door briefing by UN envoy for Western Sahara
Christopher Ross and the draft resolution is due to come up for a vote next Tuesday. It remains
unclear if the measure due to be discussed in meetings with all 15 members later this week will
gain support from the three African countries at the council. The United Nations has been trying
to broker a settlement for Western Sahara since 1991 after a ceasefire was reached to end a war
that broke out when Morocco sent its forces to the former Spanish territory in 1975. Local
Sahrawi people are campaigning for the right to self-determination, but Morocco considers the
territory as part of the kingdom and insists that its sovereignty cannot be challenged. The
African Union, which recognizes the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic as a member, views the
dispute as an example of unfinished decolonization on the continent. The draft resolution calls
on Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front representing the Sahrawi to "enter into a
more intensive and substantive phase of negotiations" with a view to reaching a political
solution. This solution "will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara,"
the resolution says, in an apparent reference to demands by the Polisario Front for a referendum
on statehood.
16 April
The Moroccan government expelled on Thursday a French citizen “known for her hostility to
the territorial integrity of the Kingdom,” a common description of activists fighting for the
independence of Western Sahara and the Sahrawi indigenous community as seen by Moroccan
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authorities. According to an official statement issued by the MAP news agency, French woman
Marion Martane was behaving suspiciously, and was inciting acts to “to undermine public
order.” A spokesman for the French Embassy in Morocco confirmed on Thursday the expulsion
to Efe, but declined to comment further except to say that she enjoyed consular protection. The
government claimed Martane had breached legal requirements for entry and residence for
foreigners in Morocco, without giving further details and without specifying if she had travelled
to the Saharawi territories. Activists for the Sahrawi cause call for the end of Moroccan
occupation, claiming that Morocco exploits natural resources in the Western Sahara and
sacrifices the interests of the indigenous people and lands. The expulsion of foreign activists by
Morocco is relatively common, and often occurs at the airport upon arrival, when police
immediately put them on a flight without allowing them out of the airport.
11 April
Rabat on Saturday expressed "astonishment" after a Spanish judge upheld genocide charges
against 11 former Moroccan officials accused of killings and torture in the disputed Western
Sahara. A foreign ministry statement said Rabat "noted with astonishment" this "unprecedented
Spanish judicial decision." It was "a new attempt to revive an old issue after that of 2007, which
proved futile and was riddled with serious factual errors and inconsistencies bordering on the
ridiculous." A Spanish court investigation was launched in 2007 by former human rights judge
Baltasar Garzon after rights groups brought a case alleging 500 Sahrawis had disappeared since
1975. Spain accuses the 11 Moroccan ex-security officials and governors of taking part in
ethnically motivated torture, killings and detentions in the former Spanish colony between 1975
and 1991. Judge Pablo Ruz at Spain's National Assembly ruled on Thursday there was a case to
answer in court. He called for the arrest and extradition of seven of the accused and asked the
Moroccan courts to find and notify the other four. Victims cited in the ruling claimed they were
beaten, burnt, electrocuted and sexually assaulted while held by Moroccan security forces.
Relatives of others said their loved ones simply disappeared. "The facts mentioned date back
more than 25 years, some nearly four decades, and concern a specific historical period and
circumstances tied to armed hostilities from another time," Morocco's foreign ministry said on
Saturday. "To unearth them today is primarily a political tool," the statement said ahead of
"annual UN deadlines relating to the Western Sahara issue."
10 April
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling for an "independent and impartial understanding"
of human rights in the disputed North African territory of Western Sahara. Ban's annual report
on Western Sahara stopped short of recommending the UN peacekeeping mission in the
territory (MINURSO) monitor rights, which the African Union has urged. Rather it suggests that
the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) should do it. He offered no
details. "I call on the Parties to continue and further enhance their cooperation with United
Nations human rights mechanisms and OHCHR, including by facilitating OHCHR missions to
Western Sahara and the refugee camps near Tindouf, with unrestricted access to all relevant
stakeholders," Ban said in the report. "These missions and other future forms of cooperation ...
should contribute to an independent and impartial understanding of the human rights situation
in both Western Sahara and the camps, with the goal of ensuring protection of all," he added.
The Security Council is expected to renew MINURSO's mandate this month.
Sudan
27 April
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has been re-elected with 94% of the vote, according to official
results. The country's main opposition parties boycotted the elections, saying they would not be
free and fair. Turnout was officially 46% but many believe the real figure was even lower. Mr
Bashir, who has been in power since 1989, denies International Criminal Court (ICC) charges of
ordering genocide in the Darfur conflict. Western countries, including the US, Britain and
Norway, criticised the polls for not being free and fair. The African Union monitors said that
basic freedoms and human rights would have "enhanced" the polls. Most Western countries will
not accept the elections as meaningful, but 71-year-old President Bashir can count on support
from the likes of the Arab League, and Russia. The ICC arrest warrant for Mr Bashir relates to
the Darfur conflict, which began in 2003, and in which the UN estimates 300,000 people died
and more than two million displaced. The African Union (AU) has rejected the ICC's attempts to
have him arrested, arguing that Mr Bashir enjoys presidential immunity and therefore cannot
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be tried while in office. In December 2014, the ICC dropped its investigation into the crimes,
blaming inaction by the UN Security Council.
26 April
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement - North (SPLM-N) reported renewed clashes with the
Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) saying they cleared a mountainous area in South Kordofan from the
government troops. The SPLM-N fighters "attacked and dislodged NCP forces from Kululu hills
south Kadugli city on (Saturday) 25 April 2015” said Arnu Ngutulu Lodi in a statement released
on Sunday. Lodi said the government soldiers fled the areas abandoning 15 dead bodies on the
battle field, adding they captured a number of weapons including two heavy machine guns
Dshka, seven anti-tank launchers RPG, nine machine guns PKM, and one Hawn mortar 60 mm.
The rebel group further vowed to continue its attacks to defeat the government forces. "Leave
campaign shall continue to disarm and overpower the mercenary forces that defend ethnic
cleansing and genocidal regime," the statement further said. The opposition alliance, Sudan Call
forces, which includes the SPLM-N said they will continue Leave campaign, initially launched to
boycott the election, to overthrow the government of president Omer al-Bashir. Darfur rebel
groups which were operating in South Kordofan state seemingly decided to return to western
Sudan region. A joint rebel force composed of Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan
Liberation Movement - Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM) during the weekend clashed with the
government troops in South Darfur state for the first time since more two years.
25 April
The director of Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS), Mohmaed Atta, has
vowed that this year will see an end to the rebellion in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony for the NISS agents on Saturday in Sudan’s twin capital city
of Omdurman, Atta pledged to continue the “Decisive Summer” military campaign to crush
rebellion this year. According to the pro-government Sudan Media Centre (SMC), he said that
the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) militiamen are carrying out intensive operations in Darfur,
adding the Sudanese army also began a new phase of the “Decisive Summer” campaign in South
Kordofan to end rebellion and protect people in the area. “Some people thought that few pockets
of rebellion are still present to destabilize security and stop development but this time is over
and the “Decisive Summer” is ongoing and NISS is able to end rebellion,” he said. Sources say
Sudanese army and SRF fighters deployed in Western Kordofan and Eastern Darfur along the
border with the South Sudan repelled several rebel attempts to carry out attacks in western
Sudan during the recent weeks. Atta pointed to the attacks carried out by the Sudan People’s
Liberation Movement/North (SPLM-N) rebels to disrupt the elections in South Korodfan, saying,
“those people wouldn’t stop Sudanese people march towards renaissance and greatness.” “We
tell those who dreamed of sabotaging elections and oilfields that oilfields are secure and
elections were held peacefully,” he added. The Sudanese army (SAF) has been fighting SPLM-N
militants in Blue Nile and South Kordofan since 2011 and armed groups in Darfur since 2003.
21 April
Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) admitted Tuesday to a low voter turnout in the
recent elections, less than a week after the Sudanese government dismissed remarks about poor
participation at the polls due to voter apathy. The NCP’s secretary for political affairs, Mustafa
Osam Ismail, attributed the small amount of ballots cast compared with the number of
registered voters to Sudan’s old electoral register, which still contains names of the deceased
and former citizens. “There were millions of names that were not revised such as names of the
dead and citizens who have become South Sudanese nationals,” Ismail told Radio Tamazuj, an
independent news service for Sudan and South Sudan. “Many electorates have changed their
residences, besides students who have graduated as well as military posts that have been
changed.” However, the NCP said last week the Sudanese government was pleased with the
turnout during the four days of voting, which concluded Friday. “We can confirm that we are
satisfied about the people’s participation. For those who are talking about low turnout, we
believe they are not aware of what is happening or deliberately intending to talk about low
participation,” the NCP’s deputy chairman, Ibrahim Ghandour, said. Ghandour’s remarks came
after electoral observers estimated two-thirds of Sudan’s 13.3 million registered voters did not
cast ballots in the elections. Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who led the African
Union’s observation mission for Sudan’s polls, said the low turnout was likely due to the lack of
electoral competition. “I believe 30-5 percent of voter cast their votes,” Obasanjo told Sudan’s
state-run SUNA news agency. The election results are expected to be announced April 27.
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19 April
The rescue operation at the collapsed gold mine in Jebel 'Amer, El Sareif Beni Hussein locality,
was called off this morning, because the safety of the local rescue workers cannot be guaranteed
anymore. Speaking to Radio Dabanga from the mining area in Jebel 'Amer, activist El Sadig
Daoud reported that continuing the operation has become too dangerous. He said that the
workers managed to rescue only two of the estimated 80 to 100 miners who were working at
the well, when a tunnel collapsed on Tuesday. 40 bodies have been recovered so far. "The rescue
workers also found a site where other bodies are buried under the rubble, but they could not
start digging, as it is deemed too risky." Daoud explained that the well "looked like a cave. It was
almost entirely closed from the outside world. People think that the doors were bolted by the
collapse. Most probably the well collapsed because former miners had dug holes at random in
the walls. "The rescue workers first found three dead mine workers. Then, 30 bodies were
recovered, and a little later seven others. Only two mineworkers could be rescued. They were
in critical condition." The activist attributed the collapse to the haphazard way the people are
working in the mine, and the neglect of safety measures by the overseers. "The mine workers
work, drink, and take their meals in the excavation pit. No precautions are taken. The
supervising committee has still a lot to correct."
17 April
A total of eighteen students from the University of El Fasher in North Darfur were arrested after
they went out in a protest against the election on Tuesday and Wednesday. The security service
has filed criminal charges against the students, including 'undermining the constitutional order'.
It suspects peacekeepers of the UNAMID of attempting to support the protest by providing
"supplies and weapons". The other charges against the eighteen students are 'calling for
opposition against the public authority by violence or force' and 'criminal damage'. Meanwhile
in Ed Damazin, the capital of Blue Nile state, security forces have detained five students who
study in El Tadamon locality. A witness said that the names of three of the students are Ali
Dafallah, Saleh Eisa, and Hussein Yousif. State suspects UNAMID of aiding protest. The North
Darfur state yesterday accused the hybrid African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission,
Unamid, of attempting to provide support for the protesting students. According to the official
Radio El Fasher, a security official said they barred the peacekeepers for more than three times
from entering the University of El Fasher. He claimed that the peacekeepers came with "supplies
and weapons" to the protesters. The local station further said that State Governor Osman Kibir
summoned the head of the UNAMID sector in North Darfur, Mohamed El Swaiffy; to explain the
peacekeepers' attempts to support the rioters. During a meeting on Thursday with state security
committee members, Kibir pointed to the political character of the protest, which he described
as an internal matter. He rejected the behavior of the peacekeepers, which lead him to believe
that they are "accomplice" in the events at El Fasher University, according to Radio El Fasher in
a report by Sudan Tribune. On Tuesday and Wednesday, students of the University of El Fasher
gathered at the campus to stage a demonstration against the election and the incumbent regime.
A student told Radio Dabanga that the security and police forces used "tear gas and live bullets"
to disperse them. Two students were reportedly injured. According to the student on
Wednesday: "The security forces reinforced their presence in and around the premises of El
Fasher University, and prevented us from reaching the campus. Yet, many students managed to
enter the university anyhow."
16 April
Evidence indicates that Sudan dropped cluster bombs on civilian areas of Southern Kordofan’s
Nuba Mountains in February and March 2015, Human Rights Watch said today. Cluster
munitions are indiscriminate weapons banned under the Convention on Cluster Munitions that
Sudan has yet to join. “The evidence that Sudan’s army has used cluster bombs in Southern
Kordofan shows the government’s total disregard for its own people and civilian life,” said
Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Sudan should immediately stop using
these horrendous weapons, destroy its stockpiles, and respect the prohibition on cluster
munitions by joining the Convention on Cluster Munitions.” Sudan’s air force has repeatedly,
indiscriminately bombed civilian areas, often killing or maiming civilians, destroying homes and
crops, and damaging schools, clinics, and other civilian property, in the four years since the
beginning of the conflict in 2011, Human Rights Watch research has found. Human Rights Watch
researchers visited Southern Kordofan in the first week of April 2015 and found evidence of six
cluster bombs, including remnants of the weapons such as dud explosive submunitions,
apparently dropped by government aircraft on villages in Delami and Um Durein counties.
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Global Security Update
Witnesses said that government aircraft dropped two bombs in the village of Tongoli, in Delami
county on March 6, and four others on the village of Rajeefi, in Um Durein county, in late
February 2015. The attacks destroyed homes and other civilian property where they dropped
in populated areas. Human Rights Watch also confirmed that Sudan has continued to bomb
civilian areas indiscriminately throughout the region. On April 4, Sudanese monitors reported
that government Antonov aircraft had bombed Tongoli, killing seven people and injuring four,
and that no rebel forces were in the area. Researchers also documented more than 15 bombings,
some of them apparently purposefully directed onto civilian targets, which have killed or
injured civilians and humanitarian workers since early 2014.
At least nine passengers travelling in a commercial truck from Sudan to NBGS of South Sudan
were robbed at the Sudanese border near Merham (Sudanese town bordering NBGS) by
unidentified gunmen. Among the nine passengers robbed three were South Sudanese. The other
six were Sudanese businessmen who were bringing their goods to NBGS following the shortage
of goods in the state. According to one of the South Sudanese passengers they were beaten by
the robbers as they demanded for their money and goods. William Rafael, one of the South
Sudanese passengers caught up with Gurtong in Aweil and explained the incident. “We had
arrived at Merham safely. We started to leave Merham around 4 pm proceeding to Aweil here.
On our way we found a murram road, there we saw in front of us more than 200 heads of camels,
and that’s when the driver tried to hoot to scare them but they did not move. At last we saw
people coming with guns. We were told to come out of the vehicle and they began removing
everything we had especially new ones. There after they began beating us. Lastly they asked
where we were from and we told them that we are South Sudanese and we were told to go on
foot. We told them not to hurt the other colleagues we left behind the Sudanese. We moved a
few kilometres when we saw them ordering these businessmen to move with them, we don’t
know what happened to them.” Meanwhile Northern Bahr el Ghazal Member of Parliament, Hon.
Santino Mayuat Ngong registered his disappointment over the incident blaming the Sudanese
government for not putting security measures on the road bordering the two neighbouring
countries. “We are not happy if our neighbors mistreat the citizens like that. Since the
independence, we haven’t had such cases between us here. We don’t have cases of robbing the
Sudanese citizens, they are here in Aweil like our brothers, but when our people come from the
North, I don’t know what happens.”
15 April
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) resumed mortar attacks on the
capital of South Kordofan state, Kadugli, on Wednesday, while the government said four civilians
were killed as a result of the shelling. In a statement extended to Sudan Tribune on Wednesday,
SPLM-N spokesperson Arnu Ngutulu Lodi confirmed that rocket fire on Kadugli began on
Monday, saying it comes in retaliation for the heavy bombardment carried out by Sudanese
regime against civilians in the rebel controlled areas to “impose its elections in the war areas.”
Kadugli commissioner Abu Albashar Abdel Gader told Ashorooq TV that seven rockets fell in
civilian areas in the town, resulting in the death of four people, with several others, including
children, also injured. However, Lodi said their rocket attacks only target military sites and
denied attacks on civilian areas describing it as “lies” fabricated by the government to cover up
its own failure. “We appeal to the civilians to move away from military targets and war zones,”
said the rebel spokesperson. He added that strict instructions have been issued by the SPLA
chief of staff to only target the government forces and work to protect civilians that the regime
continue to deprive them from humanitarian assistance and used it as weapon of war. In
Khartoum, interior minister Ismat Abdel Rahman said the rebels failed to hinder the elections
in some areas of South Kordofan despite their “miserable” attempts. Speaking about a military
operation carried out in Blue Nile state, Lodi said the SPLM-N had killed nine government
soldiers in an ambush carried out in Khor Damir near Geissan, located in the south-east of the
state, although he did not provide the exact date of the attack.
13 April
The rebel Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) launched a rocket attack on
Dilling town in South Kordofan state in conjunction with the start of voting in the general
elections. In March, SPLM-N general chief of staff, Abdel Aziz Adam el-Hilu, announced a
campaign to sabotage elections in South Kordofan state. Last week, the SPLM-N said it has seized
a vehicle loaded with ballot boxes in the state. Eyewitnesses told Sudan Tribune that Dilling’s
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Global Security Update
southern neighbourhoods of Al-Rahmaniya and Al-Toumat were shelled by Katyusha rockets on
Monday morning. Dilling commissioner, Adam Al-Khalil, said the polling centers opened on
Monday morning in the presence of political parties and candidates representatives, saying that
rebels fired five Katyusha rockets to undermine security. He added that two baby girls from AlToumat neighbourhood sustained minor injuries from the rockets, which fell away from the
polling stations. Sudanese defence minister Abdel-Rahim Hussein told the official news agency
SUNA that the security situation is generally stable in the whole country. He further said that
there is no problem in Darfur and the other conflict areas. The SPLM-N spokesperson was not
reachable for comment.
6 April
At least 24 civilians were killed and over 60 wounded in an attack on Sunday in Lakes state’s
Rumbek North County. Local youth in Rumbek North County said the Pamker and Pan-Nyang
cattle camps were attacked by pastoralists allegedly liked to rebels led by the country’s former
vice president, Riek Machar. “Twenty-four youth from Rumbek North died and 65 sustained
gunshot wounds,” said Mading Adol, a youth who took part in the clashes. The attackers, he said,
suffered heavy losses as a result of the gruesome incident. “We did our best by killing 132 Nuer
pastoralists affiliated with rebels and managed to rescue our cows that they were aiming to
raid,” Adol said. He said the attacker mainly came with the aim of raiding Pamker and Pan-Nyang
cattle camps, which borders South Sudan’s Unity state.
Rebels say they have seized a lorry carrying ballot boxes for polling stations in the South
Kordofan region of Sudan, triggering debate within opposition ranks on whether the upcoming
presidential and legislative elections should be disrupted. Vowing to stop the elections slated
for 13 April, the Sudan People's Liberation Army-North (SPLA-North) reportedly captured an
electoral commission vehicle at the weekend on the road linking Kadugli, the South Kordofan
regional capital, to the town of Dilling. SPLA-North says it seized up to 30 ballot boxes, and that
images of the electoral material will be put online in coming days. "Our intention is clear," said
Kamal Kambal, an official with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North, the SPLANorth's political wing. "Our intention is to stop the election in South Kordofan and we will be
carrying out military operations in all the regions." The Sudanese army told AFP, the French
wire service, it was not aware of the incident. "They always deny," said Kambal. "We capture a
certain number of vehicles from them. They say they're not aware and then later on they
acknowledge the loss." The SPLM-North believes the elections are a mere ploy by Sudan's ruling
party, the National Congress Party, to rig the elections in a bid to hang on to power.
4 April
Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir has accused South Sudan of mistreating Sudanese
pastoral tribes who enter southern territory during the dry season. Several Sudanese pastoral
tribes enter South Sudan territory along the 2000 km borderline between the two countries to
feed their cattle during the dry season. Speaking in an electoral campaign rally in the capital of
White Nile state Rabak on Saturday, Bashir praised the state’s efforts to protect the southern
borders, accusing South Sudan of mistreating Arab nomadic tribes. “Southerners have not
treated Arab tribes of Nazza, Sabha and Salim in a decent manner but [our government]
wouldn’t treat them likewise, it will respect southerners living in Sudan because its actions are
driven by Sudanese ethics,” he said. He pointed that Sudanese people in the bordering White
Nile state have harbored South Sudan’s refugees, fed them and made them safe. “Although they
[southerners] chose secession, they came back to you in the White Nile after they were driven
out of their home country and you respected them, fed them and made them safe,” he said.
According to UN agencies, there are nearly 500,000 South Sudanese in Sudan among them over
127,000 arrived since the eruption of the inter South Sudanese conflict in December 2013. The
refugees reside mainly in Khartoum and the White Nile states. Bashir further vowed to meet the
demand of the White Nile people including completion of electricity, drinking water, paved
roads projects and electrification of agricultural schemes. “We will complete the renaissance
and the roads network. The highway will link Jebel Al-Migainis in the south with Sudan’s capital
twin city of Omdurman in the north, and we will electrify the entire agricultural schemes besides
all villages and neighbourhoods,” he said Bashir has called for the need to put more emphasis
on education saying they want to eradicate illiteracy in the White Nile state.
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Global Security Update
Tunisia
28 April
The Daily Beast reports that there are increased signs that the self-proclaimed Islamic State has
sets its sights on expanding its caliphate to Tunisia next. In the last two weeks, ISIS has published
videos taunting the government, shared pictures of some its fighters brandishing guns and made
fun of a Tunisian tourism campaign in the wake of a March bombing at a museum that was
reportedly carried out by ISIS. ISIS also announced that it is creating the Islamic State of Afrikah,
an antiquated name for the region that is now Tunisia. If successful, it will be the furthest West
that ISIS in North Africa has pushed to date. Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring of 2011,
was largely seen as the most successful country to emerge from that period. That said, the
country is one of the biggest providers of fighters to the Islamic State. According to one estimate,
roughly 4,000 Tunisians have joined ISIS in Libya and another 3,000 are part of ISIS in Syria.
The messages indicating ISIS’s expansion into Tunisia are appearing on Twitter accounts and
websites affiliated with ISIS. Some of the messages have since been deleted. “Afrikah for the
world,” reads one message. Another mocks an online campaign that emerged after a deadly
March attack on a Tunisian museum called “Yes, we will Visit Tunisia.” A man whose face is
covered entirely in a black mask and carrying an AK-47 holds a sign in his other hand that reads:
“I will come to Tunisia next summer.” Two U.S. officials told The Daily Beast that they are
watching to see how the relationship evolves but could not say whether the recent messages
from ISIS suggested the caliphate was moving into Tunisia. Tunisia “is definitely is an
environment that ISIS can excel in,” one U.S. official explained. “At some point in the future I
could see a [jihadist] contingent saying, ‘We are aligned’” with ISIS. But unlike its past campaigns
to expand the caliphate into new states, ISIS’s push into Tunisia is more tepid. Rather than bold
announcements or suggestions that ISIS has co-opted an existing local terror group, in Tunisia,
ISIS appears to be making a series of suggestive announcements to inspire Tunisians to join
them. “There are signs they are pushing toward making it official,” said Aaron Zelin, a fellow at
the Washington Institute for Near East Affairs who studies jihadi movements. “They want to
build up momentum and excitement.” Tunisia poses a couple of challenges that ISIS has not
faced in other efforts to expand the caliphate outside its main bases of Iraq and Syria. It has
neither a clear existing group or territory in Tunisia to latch onto, experts said.
25 April
Tunisian naval forces have rescued 80 African refugees off the country's southeastern coast, an
aid worker said Friday. "Naval forces rescued 80 refugees whose boat broke down while en
route to Europe," Monji Selim, head of the Tunisian Red Crescent in the southern Madnin
province said. The boat broke down near Tunisia's coastal town of Zarzis, Selim added, noting
that the rescued migrants' nationalities had yet to be determined. Tunisia is a transit hub for
would-be immigrants hoping to cross into Europe illegally. Last October, Tunisia's Interior
Ministry said the country's security apparatus had managed to dismantle 412 illegal
immigration networks over the past 17 years. In 2014, roughly 219,000 migrants and asylum
seekers crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, resulting in some 3,500 lives being lost at sea.
Earlier this week, a boat carrying around 700 migrants – en route to Italy from Libya – capsized
in the Mediterranean. Officials believe that most passengers on board drowned. The incident
came only days after a double-decked boat with around 550 people on board overturned about
120km south of Italy's Lampedusa Island, leading to the death of some 400 migrants. If the latest
death toll is confirmed, the number of deaths by drowning in the waters between Libya and Italy
will surpass 1,500 this year alone, according to the International Organization for Migration
(IOM). IOM Director-General William Lacy Swing said the figure represented a tenfold increase
compared to the same period last year.
24 April
Tunisia's Defence Ministry says 10 militants have been killed in fighting along the border with
Algeria. Three soldiers were also killed in the fighting in the mountainous Kasserine region, and
seven others wounded, ministry spokesman Belhassen Oueslati said. The fighting began
Wednesday when Islamic extremists opened fire on a military patrol, killing one soldier. The
violence took place near Mount Chaambi, a stronghold of the al-Qaeda-linked Oqba ibn Nafaa
group that has carried out numerous attacks on soldiers and police in the region. Since its 2011
uprising against autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali swept the country to democracy, Tunisia's
armed forces have been fighting a low-level Islamist militant insurgency by several armed
groups. Most attacks have focused on armed forces and police roadblocks. The Bardo massacre,
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Global Security Update
where at least two gunmen killed 21 foreign tourists at the national museum, highlighted
Tunisia's vulnerability to militant violence as Islamist extremists use the chaos in neighbouring
Libya for shelter.
18 April
Tunisian Authorities have banned more than 12,000 Tunisians from travelling to tension spots
in Iraq, Libya and Syria in the last two years. In parliament, Tunisian interior minister Najem
Gharsalli said that his ministry is still exerting efforts to dismantle the "sleeping nets of
terrorists" which facilitates and liaises the travel of Tunisians to "tension spots like Syria and
Iraq." Gharsalli said that his ministry prevented "12,490 Tunisians from leaving Tunisian
territory to travel to tension zones" in Iraq, Libya and Syria since March 2013. As part of his
ministry's efforts to restrict travelling to these three countries, he said that new intelligence
equipment estimated to cost $27m is to be installed. Regarding fears of human rights bodies
that autocracy could return back to the country after the ratification of anti-terror bill, Gharsalli
reinstated that "unlike the 2003 bill, this bill includes positive factors." During the parliament
meeting, the minister spoke about the terrorist attack on Bardo Museum, which took place last
month and killed 21 tourists. He said that his ministry has carried out 1,072 inspection mission
and has arrested 158 people so far. Meanwhile, Tunisian defence minister said that there is a
shortage of equipment needed to facilitate their counter-terrorism requirements.
17 April
Tunisian authorities have released a blogger handed six months in prison for defaming the
army, after he served more than half his sentence, his brother said Friday. Yassine Ayari was
prosecuted over blogs he wrote alleging financial abuses by army officers and defence ministry
officials in a case Human Rights Watch described as "not worthy of the new Tunisia." The
military prosecution released him late on Thursday after initially rejecting a request by his
family to free him. His brother Moutiaa Ayari said the family had argued that Yassine had already
spent three months in jail, had no prior criminal record and should be released for good
behaviour. Ayari was initially tried in absentia in November and sentenced to three years in
prison. In December, he was arrested on his return from Paris and a retrial was ordered. He was
sentenced the following month to one year in jail but a military appeals court later reduced the
sentence to six months. Ayari has alleged that he was punished for blogs critical of Nidaa Tounes,
the anti-Islamist party of President Beji Caid Essebsi. "What happened during my trial was a
farce," Ayari said as he left prison, media reported. "Everything I said on Facebook is true and I
will say it again, and they can jail me again if they wish," he reportedly said. Ayari, the son of an
army colonel killed in clashes with jihadists in 2011, was an outspoken activist even before the
revolution the same year that toppled veteran strongman Zine El Abidine Ben.
16 April
Tunisian troops have captured a large arms cache including Kalashnikov rifles, grenades and
explosives, a security source said on Thursday, as the government struggles to keep track of
militants after a bloody attack last month. Last month gunmen stormed the national Bardo
museum in the capital Tunis, killing 21 foreign tourists in the deadliest militant attack in more
than a decade, for which Islamic State claimed responsibility. "Special troops arrested on
Thursday a dangerous terrorist in possession of a Kalashnikov and an explosive belt in Sidi
Bouzid," a security source said, without giving details. After this Special Forces found an arms
cache in the central town of Sidi Bouzid including Kalashnikovs, grenades and explosives, he
added. Tunisia has launched a campaign against hardline Islamist groups who emerged after a
2011 uprising against autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali that put the North African country on
track to democracy. After the Bardo attack, Tunisian police arrested dozens of jihadists and
killed militants including Lokman Abou Sakhr, a senior Algerian militant. Last month, Tunisia
seized two large arms caches, including Kalashnikovs, rockets and landmines, in the southern
city of Ben Guerdan near the Libyan border. Tunisia is worried that violence will spill over from
neighbouring Libya, where Islamic State has expanded, exploiting widespread turmoil as two
rival governments battle for control. U.S. deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken said last week
the United States will increase military aid to Tunisia threefold this year and help train its troops
in border management, the first time it has been involved in training Tunisian soldiers.
14 April
South Korea has temporarily relocated its Tripoli embassy staff to Tunisia, following an attack
by gunmen this week that killed two local security guards, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
Two embassy staff members, and one family member, were flown to Tunisia from the Libyan
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Global Security Update
capital. A temporary office will continue to provide consular service to the 32 South Korean
nationals who remain in Libya, the ministry said in a statement. Gunmen fired shots at the South
Korean embassy in Tripoli on Sunday, killing two local security guards and wounding another.
There were no South Korean casualties. The ministry said the decision to relocate its mission
was prompted by the heightened risk to its diplomats. It will later review the possibility of reestablishing a presence in Tripoli, it added. South Korea was one of the few countries that still
had an embassy in Tripoli.
13 April
Tunisia's coastguard and navy Monday rescued almost 180 African migrants from two boats,
which broke down as they headed from Libya to Italy, the Red Crescent said. The migrants -- 94
on one boat and 84 on the other -- sent out a distress call from off the coast of southeast Tunisia
as they headed for the Italian island of Lampedusa. A previous count had said 174 were rescued.
The 178 migrants from Africa were evacuated to the Tunisian port of Zarzis and provisionally
lodged in a warehouse. They were mostly from Somalia, Ghana, Gambia, Sudan and Niger, said
Dr Riyadh Belhaj of the Zarzis Red Crescent, which took them in, adding that all passengers on
the two boats were rescued. In Italy, coastguards said Monday they recovered nine bodies from
the sea after a boat carrying more than 150 migrants sank off the Libyan coast. Rescuers
managed to save 144 people and were still searching for others after their vessel overturned 80
miles off Libya. Late Sunday, Italian coastguards said they had rescued a total of 2,782 people
over the weekend from the Mediterranean, with good weather prompting an increase in the
number of migrant boats. The precarious security situation in Libya has sparked a rise in boats
setting out for Europe from its unpoliced ports carrying refugees fleeing conflict and poverty in
the Middle East and Africa. The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says that at least 3,500 people died
in 2014 out of more than 218,000 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean, making it the most
deadly migrant route in the world.
10 April
The United States will increase military aid to Tunisia threefold this year and help train its
troops, a senior U.S official said on Friday, weeks after the country suffered its deadliest militant
attack in more than a decade. The U.S. government aimed to provide Tunisia with more
equipment, weapons and technical support, U.S. deputy secretary of state Antony Blinken said.
"Our goal is to enhance their ability to defeat those who threaten the freedom and safety of the
nation," he told a news conference after meeting Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid. Since a
2011 uprising that toppled Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, Tunisia has, in contrast to much of North
Africa and the Middle East, experienced a comparatively trouble-free transition toward
democracy. But it has also seen a rise in Islamist militancy, and last month gunmen stormed the
national Bardo museum in the capital Tunis, killing 21 foreign tourists in an attack for which
Islamic State claimed responsibility. Tunisian authorities are concerned that violence will spill
over from Libya too, where two rival governments and several armed groups are embroiled in
a bitter power struggle four years after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi. Blinken said the
Obama administration would offer the Tunisian army training in border management, the first
time it will be involved in training Tunisian soldiers. Blinken gave no figure for military aid,
which he said would rise 200 percent in 2015. Another U.S. official said last year's package
amounted to $60 million. Japanese, Polish, French and Colombian tourists were among those
killed in the museum attack, which Tunis said fighters from the Okba Ibn Nafaa militant group,
concentrated in the Chaambi Mountains bordering Algeria, were also involved in.
8 April
A shadowy militant group on Wednesday claimed responsibility for an attack on an army patrol
in western Tunisia one day earlier that left five soldiers dead. The "Ajnad al-Khilafa Bil
Kairouan" ("Soldiers of the Kairouan Caliphate") said on Twitter on Wednesday that its fighters
had "successfully struck a patrol of the apostate army" in the city of Sbiba in Tunisia's western
Kasserine province on Tuesday. Africa Media, a Jihadist website, describes Ajnad al-Khilafa as
an "independent Jihad group" with established links to other militant groups active in the
Maghreb region, including Tunisia's Daesh-affiliated Uqba Ibn Nafi group. Earlier Wednesday,
Tunisia's Defense Ministry said the death toll from Tuesday's attack had risen to five troops.
Ministry spokesman Belhassen Oueslati said in a Wednesday statement that 13 suspects had
been arrested near the site of the attack and referred to interrogation. Since late 2012, Tunisia
has suffered several militant attacks that have left scores of Tunisian security personnel dead.
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Global Security Update
Last month, at least 24 people, mostly foreign tourists, were killed in an attack on Tunis' Bardo
Museum that was later claimed by the Uqba Ibn Nafi group.
2 April
At his meeting, Thursday, with interim Charge d’Affaires of Libya’s Embassy in Tunis (Tobruk
Government) Mohamed Maaloul, Secretary of State for Arab and African Affairs Touhami
Abdouli expressed Tunisia’s indignation at the violation of its airspace by a Libyan fighter
aircraft. “This is a violation of Tunisia’s sovereignty and its national security,” he said, inviting
the Libyan sides to shoulder their responsibility in preventing that such violations re-occur.
“Tunisia will no longer tolerate further violations of its airspace,” he cautioned, according to a
Foreign Ministry press release. The Libyan diplomat offered his government’s apology after this
incident, saying he will convey the oral message of the Tunisian government to the concerned
Libyan sides. Minister of Foreign Affairs Taieb Baccouche on Thursday said he had asked the
Secretary of State for Arab and African Affairs to summon the Charge d’Affaires of the East Libya
government to tell him of Tunisia’s rejection of any violation of its airspace. The Tunisian Air
Force had intercepted an unidentified plane that entered the Tunisian airspace on Wednesday
at 8:30 am and ordered it to leave the national airspace.
Tunisia said on Thursday it plans to reopen a consulate in Syria and offered to invite the Syrian
ambassador back to Tunisia in part to help track an estimated 3,000 Tunisian militants fighting
in Iraq and Syria. Last month, two Tunisians who trained with militants in neighbouring Libya,
stormed the Tunis Bardo museum and shot 21 foreign tourists, one of Tunisia's worst such
attacks. "We will not have an ambassador there, but Tunisia will open a consulate or put in place
a Charge d’Affaires, and a Syria ambassador is welcome to Tunisia, if Syria wishes so," Foreign
Minister Taieb Bakouch told reporters. He gave no dates. A consular presence in Syria would
help Tunisia glean information on Tunisians fighting alongside Islamist militants in Iraq and
Syria and who officials fear will return to carry out attacks at home. Tunisia would also reestablish diplomatic relations with neighbouring Libya, Bakouch said. In the four years since its
Arab Spring uprising, Tunisia completed a mostly peaceful transition to democracy but has
struggled to clamp down on Islamist militants who have been carrying out regular attacks. After
withdrawing their envoys after the start of the uprising against Syrian President Bashar alAssad in 2011, some European Union countries have started to privately support more
communication with Damascus. Several countries including China, Indonesia and top allies
Russia and Iran have envoys or charge d'affaires in Damascus.
West Africa
Benin
26 April
On Sunday, Benin went to the polls to vote in legislative elections that are seen as a key test for
President Thomas Boni Yayi, whom the opposition accuses of planning to stay beyond his
second term in office, which is due to end next year. About 4.4 million voters are eligible to cast
their ballots to elect 83 lawmakers. The president has announced plans for constitutional
reforms that are aimed at targeting corruption by strengthening the justice system. However
the opposition has insisted that his real motive for the constitutional amendment is to remove
the two-term limit on presidential mandates so that he can run for office in 2016. Nine hours of
voting had been scheduled to begin at 0600 GMT however polling stations in several districts in
Cotonou were still closed at mid-morning because of delays in the distribution of election
materials. The African Union envoy for the election, Mali’s former interim president
Dioncounda Traore, indicated that while he had seen “large crowds,” he confirmed that there
were numerous delays at the polling stations that he had visited.
24 April
Benin’s land borders with its neighbors will be closed between 25 – 27 April in order to ensure
peaceful legislative elections, which will take place on 26 April. Over 4.5 million Beninese voters
are expected to cast their votes Sunday to elect 83 members of parliament. Benin shares land
borders with Nigeria on the west, Niger to the north, Burkina Faso to the northwest and Togo
to the west.
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Global Security Update
13 April
On Monday, Benin demanded an “official explanation” of the torching of its embassy in Gabon
during unrest that erupted after the announcement of the death of a senior Gabonese opposition
leader. On Sunday, opposition supporters set fire to cars and buildings in Gabon’s capital city
Libreville after officials announced the death of Andre Mba Obame. Benin’s embassy was
amongst those buildings that had been affected however it was not immediately clear why it
was targeted during the unrest. In a statement released Monday, Beninese officials indicated
that the fire was “an unacceptable act and of a rare seriousness in a relationship between
nations,” adding “the safety of diplomatic missions and the protection of their personnel are the
responsibility of the receiving government.” In the statement, Benin demanded “an official
explanation from the Gabonese government.” Benin’s government has also called on all its
citizens living in Gabon to “take shelter from the acts of vandalism and violence orchestrated by
uncontrolled groups of protesters.” Update (14 April) - Diplomatic sources in Cotonou
disclosed Tuesday that Gabon’s government has apologized to Benin’s government and has
strongly condemned Sunday’s destruction of the latter’s embassy in Libreville. A letter issued
from the Gabonese government to Beninese authorities indicated, “Gabon’s government wishes
to express its support to Benin’s Embassy in Libreville and would wish to assure Beninese
authorities that these acts will not be repeated.” According to the letter, Gabon’s government
has promised that an investigation into the incident has been launched in order to identify those
responsible for the attack so that they can be charged before competent authorities. In regards
to Beninese nationals living in Gabon, the letter noted that the Beninese community in Gabon
had totally integrated, with a source stating “Gabon’s government, in its desire to maintain peace
and security across the national territory, calls on Beninese nationals living in Gabon to remain
calm and support all measures taken to safeguard their physical integrity and safety of their
properties.”
Burkina Faso
7 April
The United States and French militaries are assisting in the search for a Romanian mineworker
who was kidnapped over the weekend and believed to have been taken across the border into
Mali. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Burkinabe security minister Auguste Denise Barry
stated, “investigations are continuing…with our strategic partners, the French and the
Americans, who have in-depth surveillance capabilities.” Both France and the US have drones
based in neighboring Niger as part of efforts to combat Islamist militants operating in the region.
Barry further indicated that officials are in regular contact with the authorities in Mali and Niger
in regards to the search, noting that while there had been speculation that the kidnappers had
taken the security officer from the mine into Mali before moving into Niger, the site of the
abduction was “much closer to the Niger border.”
On Tuesday, just hours after several of ex-president Blaise Compaore’s allies were arrested, the
interim parliament voted to bar figures linked to the deposed leader from running for office. In
effect, the new electoral bill makes those who had publicly backed the former leader’s efforts to
change the constitution in a bid to extend his 27-year rule ineligible to stand in the 11 October
presidential and legislative elections. Compaore’s party Congress for Democracy and Progress
(CDP) has denounced the bill, saying that it is illegal and that it has to be validated by the
Constitutional Council before it can become law. The party also warned that it will “vigorously”
oppose the legislation while civil society groups on both sides of the divide have called for
demonstrations over the law.
In a statement released Tuesday, seven of Compaore’s political allies, including three former
ministers, were arrested for “alleged embezzlement,” adding that an eighth person linked to
former foreign minister Djibrill Bassole was also held for “illegal political activities” and for
“incitement to public disorder.” According to Leonce Kone, from the CDP party, former interior
minister Jerome Bougouma, infrastructure minister Jean-Bertin Ouedraogo and mining minister
Salif Kabore were taken into custody on Monday and Tuesday. Kone further indicated that two
former mayors, including the current secretary-general of the CDP party, were arrested in Bobo
Dioulasso. The head of a pro-Compaore association was arrested last Thursday, also over
alleged embezzlement.
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Global Security Update
5 April
A Burkinabe government minister disclosed Sunday that Burkinabe authorities are planning to
cross into Mali and Niger in search for the kidnappers of a Romanian mineworker who was
seized in the far north region of the country on Saturday. On Saturday, five armed men
kidnapped the security officer after they attacked the manganese mine in Tambao. According
to security officials in both Burkina Faso and Mali, the unidentified gunmen took off in the
direction of the nearby border with Mali. The Burkinabe minister disclosed Sunday “search
operations are continuing. We are talking to our neighbors Mali and Niger to obtain rights to
their territory in order to get our hands on the kidnappers… This is an area which borders the
two countries, so the sweep will roll out in both directions.” Burkina Faso’s Regiment of
Presidential Security, which is an elite secret service that specializes in anti-terrorism, has been
deployed to Tambao in a bid to strengthen an army detachment, which arrived in the town on
Saturday. Residents in Tambao have disclosed that security forces have begun “intensive
searches” of vehicles in towns across the north, adding, “police are systematically searching
vehicles.”
4 April
On Saturday afternoon, unidentified gunmen kidnapped a Romanian security officer from a
manganese mining project in northern Burkina Faso, near the border with Mali’s northern
desert region. According to security officials, the kidnapping took place at the Tambao project.
Souleymane Mihin, Burkina Faso managing director for Pan African Minerals, confirmed the
incident, stating, “there was an attack on one our patrols… They kidnapped the Romanian
leading the patrol. The driver was wounded in the foot. A gendarme was seriously injured.”
The Romanian foreign ministry later issued a statement also confirming the kidnapping of a
Romanian national and disclosing that a crisis cell had been set up in order to handle the case.
A Burkinabe security source has revealed that five gunmen were involved in the attack and that
they were heading towards the nearby border with northern Mali with the hostage. Reports
have suggested that the kidnapped man may also have French citizenship however the French
foreign ministry has indicated that they have no information to suggest that any French national
was involved. No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. The Tambao mine is
located some 350 kilometres (220 miles) from Mali’s main northern city of Gao, where on
Monday, a Red cross worker was killed in a jihadist attack.
2 April
Hundreds of Burkina Faso truck drivers and public transport drivers held a protest on Tuesday
in the capital city, demanding better working and living conditions from their employers.
Operating under the auspices of Union of Truck Drivers in Burkina Faso (UCRB) the protesters
are demanding an increase in salary as well as subscription to the National Social Security Fund
in conformity with their global bargaining agreement. UCRB president Brahima Rabo has
indicated that the union is seeking an increase of members’ salaries to 74,800 CFA Francs (about
US $150) as had been agreed between the two parties in 2011. According to Rabo, “majority of
the drivers earn between 80 to 120 US dollars.” On Monday, the drivers issued a 48 hours work
stoppage across the national territory. The work stoppage severely affected the main highway,
which links Ouagadougou to Bob-Dioulasso, the commercial capital.
Burkina Faso’s prime minister has accused groups involved in labor strikes of creating “a
climate of anarchy.” In a television interview that was broadcast late Wednesday, Isaac Zida,
who became prime minister soon after the 2014 uprising that ousted president Blaise
Compaore, branded the activists as “disorganized strike movements…(who) clearly want to stop
the government from working and holding an election” in October, adding that the government
was trying to attract foreign investment in a bid to boost the economy, while protesters “want
to undermine those efforts by creating a climate of anarchy, openly defying the authority of the
state.” Over the past several months, strikes have been frequent in Burkina Faso. On Monday
and Tuesday, truck drivers stopped oil supplies from reaching power stations, which caused
outages across the country. The truck drivers are demanding better pay and work conditions.
Burkina Faso’s main union, the General Workers Confederation, has also called for a general
strike on 8 April in order to demand the reduction of fuel prices.
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Global Security Update
1 April
Burkina Faso’s government confirmed Wednesday an outbreak of the H5N1 avian flu, with
officials disclosing that the disease was responsible for the deaths of large numbers of chickens
in two regions of the country in recent weeks. Jean Paul Rouamba, minister for livestock,
disclosed that United Nations experts had carried out tests after a wave of deaths that occurred
in traditional and modern poultry farms in February and March in Kadiogo province in Centre
region and Sanguie in Centre-West region. Rouamba further indicated that strict measures have
since been put in place by the authorities in a bid to control further infections. Burkina Faso
was last affected by an outbreak of avian flu in 2006, with the disease also detected in other
countries in the region, including Benin, Cameroon, Ghana and Nigeria. Earlier this year, Nigeria
confirmed an outbreak of H5N1 bird flu on poultry farms that has now reached 11 states
nationwide. In Egypt, four people have died from bird flu this year.
According to a civil society source, senior officials in the regime of deposed president Blaise
Compaore are facing charges over the assassinations, attempted assassinations and complicity
in assassinations during last year’s protests which ousted Compaore. The source has disclosed
that Burkina Faso’s Human and People’s Rights (MBDHP) as well as the Association of
Democratic Organizations and Political Parties have filed the cases against the former senior
officials. Those facing charges include Blaise Compaore, his brother Francois Compaore, exprime minister Adolphe Tiao, ex-territorial administration minister Jerome Bougouma, former
chief of staff at the president’s officer Gilbert Diendere and head of the army Nabere Honore
Traore.
Gambia
19 April
On Friday a magistrates’ court in the Gambian capital Banjul issued an arrest warrant for an
exiled Gambian politician who allegedly assaulted a close associate of President Yahya Jammeh.
According to officials, Sheikh Sidia Bayo, leader of the National Transitional Council of the
Gambia (NTCG) and the Gambian Alliance Democratic Party, is alleged to have ordered his
security team to target Gambian businessman Amadou Samba in a hotel elevator in the
Senegalese capital Dakar earlier this year. While the incident occurred in Senegal, and is being
investigated by Senegalese authorities, President Jammeh’s regime is seeking to have Mr Bayo
extradited to the Gambia to stand trial for the assault. Since launching his National Transitional
Council of the Gambia in September 2012, which is seeking a regime change in Banjul, many
have seen Mr Bayo as a problem for the President’s regime. Mr Bayo, a French national of
Gambian descent, was recently expelled by the Senegalese government after he was accused of
complicity in an attempt to topple President Jammeh’s regime in December 2014.
1 April
Six soldiers have been convicted for their role in a failed attempted coup aimed at ousting
President Yahya Jammeh. On 30 December 2014, several assailants mounted an early morning
assault on the presidential palace in the capital Banjul. The attempt was put down by forces
loyal to the president. Modou Njie, a former private in the Gambian army, was captured at the
scene, while the others directly involved in the attack were either killed in the clashes or
managed to flee. Njie, along with five military officers who were arrested in the wake of the
failed coup, was put on trial before a closed-door military court. Relatives of the accused have
disclosed that the charges include treason, mutiny and conspiracy. Njie, along with LieutenantColonel Saikou Jarju and Lieutenant Buba Sanneh, were also charged with assisting the enemy.
On Monday, they were sentenced to death. Captain Buba Bojang, Lieutenant Amadou Sowe and
Captain Abdoulie Jobe have been sentenced to life in prison. A judicial source has disclosed that
the men have the right to appeal the verdicts within one month. In January, United States federal
prosecutors charged Texas businessman Cherno Njie with conspiring with former US Army
sergeant Papa Faal and others to orchestrate the coup attempt.
Ghana
26 April
An international tribunal has ordered Ghana not to carry out new oil drilling activities in waters
disputed with Ivory Coast, until a final judgment in the case. After months of negotiations, the
two West African countries took their case to the Hamburg-based International Tribunal for the
Law of the Sea. Abidjan had initially asked the body to suspend all ongoing oil exploration and
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Global Security Update
exploitation by Ghana, however the interim body ruled that Ghana must “take all necessary
steps to ensure that no new drilling…takes place in the disputed area.” The maritime border
between the two countries cuts through offshore oil fields and there are claims that the
boundary has not been properly demarcated. The disputed area is believed to hold the largest
hydrocarbon resources that have been discovered in West Africa in the past decade. Ahead of
the final ruling on precisely where the maritime border lies, the tribunal has ordered both
parties to “pursue cooperation and refrain from any unilateral action that might lead to
aggravating the dispute.” Both Ghana and the Ivory Coast have denied that the lawsuit signaled
a change in relations between the two nations.
Guinea
29 April
On Wednesday, President Alpha Conde appointed a moderate opposition leader to head the
country’s industry ministry. The country’s state television reported late Wednesday that
Boubacar Barry, a former minister and candidate in the 2010 presidential elections, was
appointed in a cabinet reshuffle, which saw several ministers change jobs. No reasons for the
reshuffle were provided, however the changes come as the country’s main opposition leaders
have continued to launch protests throughout this month in a bid to put pressure on the
President to hold elections before the presidential polls, which are due to take place in October.
28 April
Guinea’s opposition has announced that it will delay a demonstration against the country’s
disputed election timetable in a bid to widen the rally into a nationwide show of defiance.
According to a coalition statement, the “peaceful march,” which was originally planned for
Thursday and limited to the capital Conakry, will now take place across the country on Monday.
The statement further urged activists to mount a large show of support “to express by their
massive presence on roads and public places, their rejection of current practices in political,
economic and social governance.” Meanwhile Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the United Nations’ chief
envoy to Africa, disclosed Tuesday that he has held talks with Guinean politicians and has urged
all sided to priorities dialogue “in the best interests of Guinea” to address the deadlock. In a
statement, he indicated that Guineans had a responsibility to work together, given “the need to
organize elections and the urgency of strengthening efforts to eradicate the Ebola epidemic.”
26 April
After days of deadly clashes between activists and security forces, Guinea’s opposition has called
for renewed protests. In a statement issued late Saturday, the coalition of the main opposition
parties stated that it was planning “another peaceful march” in Conakry on Thursday followed
by a nationwide demonstration next week. The call for renewed protests follows two weeks of
clashes that erupted between anti-government activists and security services, which have left
several people dead and dozens wounded. A delegation of the European Union (EU) in Conakry
has called for an end to the bloodshed, noting that it is “a very worrying signal at a time when
all political actors should be working together to eradicate Ebola.” In a statement released
Saturday, the delegation called on both sides to “exercise the utmost restraint in their
statements and political actions and resume political dialogue without delay,” adding that it
urged the Guinean government and opposition to “work constructively in order to reach a
consensual solution for organization elections and preserving peace in the country.”
23 April
Witnesses reported Thursday that security forces killed a protester and wounded four others
as opposition supporters clashed with police in a series of anti-government rallies in Guinea’s
largest towns and cities. On the ground sources have reported that clashes broke out around
midday between demonstrators and police in the suburbs of the capital Conakry. Youths
gathered in large crowds on the main streets in Conakry where they faced off against security
forces who had deployed in large numbers in the capital and across the country. Local media
reported that demonstrators clashed with police in Kinda, Guinea’s third-largest city and the
head quarters of the country’s military. A policeman and a protester were wounded. In the
central town of Mamou, security forces blocked the road leading to the headquarters of the main
opposition party. Earlier this week, around a dozen police officers were wounded in clashes.
According to a hospital source in Labe, which is Guinea’s second-largest city and an opposition
stronghold, the victim “was beaten with batons by security forces.” At least five civilians
sustained minor injuries. The opposition had called for a nationwide day of protest against a
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disputed election timetable. Thursday’s protests come as the president has ruled out any review
of the election timetable despite two weeks of violent clashes that have affected the capital
Conakry. Over the past two weeks, violence between opposition activists and police in Conakry
have left several dead however demonstrators have vowed that they will continue unauthorized
rallies against President Alpha Conde. Ahead of Thursday’s protests, Conakry governor Soriba
Sorel Camara criticized sections of the opposition in a statement read on public radio, for having
“chosen the street” to make their case. He also accused activists of “acts of rare barbarity”
including “stoning public and private vehicles, seriously wounding public order officials.” He
urged the public to go about their normal business.
22 April
President Alpha Conde stated Wednesday that the country’s constitution ruled out the kind of
changes to the election timetable that are currently being sought by opposition supporters.
Speaking to reporters shortly after meeting with French President Francois Hollande in Paris,
President Conde stated “the Guinean constitution requires that presidential elections take place
on a precise date… We will do everything possible to maintain order in the republic.” Under the
current timetable, presidential elections are scheduled for October ahead of the local elections,
which are set to take place next year.
20 April
Guinean security forces took to the streets of the capital Conakry on Monday as new protests
were launched. Calling for a disputed election timetable to be dismissed, hundreds of youths
burnt tyres and barricaded roads across the capital city. Police officers responded with tear gas,
which led to brief clashes erupting between the protesters and policemen. In a statement
released late Monday, the government disclosed that a trainee policeman, who was apparently
shot by protesters, had been seriously wounded, adding that two demonstrators were arrested
after they caused extensive damage. Former Prime Minister Sidya Toure, of the Union of
Republic Forces (UFR), however claimed “another very successful day for the opposition, which
has paralyzed the entire city.” UFR officials indicated that police had fired tear gas at their
headquarters as the protesters got underway, with one official indicating that pro-government
demonstrators threw stones at the UFR building while police stood by. Toure later stated that
“as soon as demonstrations start in Conakry, they always start by hitting the UFR headquarters
with tear gas to prevent us from mobilizing and going out.” He further indicated that the
authorities were desperate to avoid demonstrations on the nearby Fidel Castro highway as “if
this route is blocked as well as the Prince highway, its finished for Conakry.” In a statement
released early Monday, Governor Soriba Sorel Camara stated that he expected that the Guinean
opposition would be “throwing stones, dumping garbage and burning tyres on public roads,”
noting that protests were going ahead despite the capital city still being affected by the Ebola
outbreak. Camara called on residents of Conakry to “go about their usual activities,” adding that
the state would ensure their safety and secure their property. Schools, shops and petrol stations
remained closed across the capital on Monday, with the Prince highway, which is the main route
from the suburbs into central Conakry, almost deserted. Update (21 April) – According to an
opposition leader and an eyewitness, at least five people were wounded by gunfire in the capital
on Monday during violent opposition protests. On the ground sources disclosed Monday that
as early as 0300 GMT, some opposition supporters had erected barricades and burned tyres on
the streets while youths fought street battles with the police and gendarmes. Monday’s clashes
intensified in the evening and regular gunshots were heard in several neighborhoods.
According to judicial sources, a prosecutor has called for the death penalty for fifteen people
accused of the murders of a nine-member Ebola team in southern Guinea. The victims, including
journalists and local health officials, went missing after angry locals attacked their delegation
during an outreach visit in the southern town of Womey in September 2014. Two days after the
attack, officials recovered eight bodies from the septic tank of a nearby primary school. Williams
Fernandez, prosecuting at the trial, which is taking place in the southern city of N’Zerekore,
indicated that twenty-six defendants have been accused of a number of offences, including
murder, criminal conspiracy, robbery, assault and theft. He has called for fifteen of the accused
to be sentenced to death while the remaining eleven to be acquitted. The five-week trial is due
to conclude at the end of this week. The deadly Ebola outbreak first emerged in Guinea in
December 2013 and quickly spread to neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone. The outbreak also
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sparked fear and paranoia amongst villagers, who felt that the government and the international
community could not be trusted. Many Guineans believe that local and foreign healthcare
workers were part of a conspiracy to deliberately introduce the outbreak. Update (22 April) –
Eleven people have been sentenced to life in prison for murdering eight Ebola workers while
another fifteen have been acquitted.
19 April
Ahead of new protests, which are due to take place Monday in order to call for a disputed
electoral timetable to be dismissed, a Guinean government delegation has met with opposition
leader Cellou Dalein Diallo. According to a statement released Sunday by the delegation, which
was headed by justice minister Cheick Sako, their first meeting in almost eighteen months had
“relaunched a dialogue” with former prime minister Diallo, adding “this step was intended to
reiterate to the opposition the government’s willingness to review the dialogue (which is) the
only route that ends with a calmer political climate and inclusive elections.” Diallo confirmed
that he had received the group of senior officials however he warned that cancelling Monday’s
planned protests was “out of the question” without the guaranteed implementation of a 2013
agreement that stipulates that local elections take place before the presidential polls. On
Monday, protesters are due to march to the headquarters of the country’s national electoral
commission. In recent days, supporters of Diallo’s Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea have
rallied over the electoral timetable, which they claim has been pushed through without
consultation and which gives the ruling party an unfair advantage. They are also concerned
about the fragile security situation in Guinea, which they blame on President Alpha Conde’s
regime.
16 April
Guinean authorities have confirmed at least nine new cases of Ebola in the southwestern region
of Forecariah, which is located near the border with Sierra Leone. As part of an emergency 45day drive to tackle the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, on 12 April authorities launched a four-day
door-to-door campaign in Forecariah in a bid to improve community participation in reporting
suspected cases. Sakoba Keita, national coordinator for the fight against Ebola in Guinea,
disclosed that authorities had also detected deaths in the community however only one of them
has been confirmed as Ebola. Officials have indicated that the community’s reluctance to curb
traditional burial practices, which involve touching the dead, remains to be the main reason for
the continued spread of the deadly disease.
15 April
In a bid to end two days of violent clashes, which have left two dead, including a young girl, and
wounded several, Guinea’s government and opposition protesters offered concessions on
Tuesday. Since Monday, hundreds of youths have been protesting in the capital Conakry,
throwing stones at police who have responded with tear gas and warning shots. The protests
have brought traffic in the capital to a standstill. The government indicated Tuesday that at least
seven anti-government demonstrators were shot Monday, one fatally, while a young girl also
died in the violence “after a fall.” However the government has denied claims made by the
opposition and medical sources that police had fired at protesters. In a statement released
Tuesday, the prime minister disclosed that he had “given firm instructions on maintaining law
and order, in strict compliance with the law and hopes that light be shed on the gunfire recorded
during the clashes and the circumstances that caused injuries.” After an appeal by Prime
Minister Mohamed Said Fofana for talks, Guinea’s opposition indicated that it was calling off the
protests until next week. Opposition leader Cellou Dalein Diallo indicated “we have decided to
suspend the demonstrations until Monday to allow our members and the population space to
breathe.” Diallo’s announcement followed a government statement, which indicated that the
prime minister had “set up a small committee to make concrete proposals for the rapid
resumption of dialogue with the opposition parties,” adding “ahead of these proposals, the
prime minister formally asks the leaders of political parties to agree to come to the discussion
table so that the debate can be held in an atmosphere of serenity.” While the statement further
disclosed that the government remained “open to any suggestion that respects the law” in order
to end the crisis, Diallo has indicated that any dialogue with the government could only take
place if the election commission cancelled the current electoral timetable.
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Global Security Update
14 April
Violent clashes erupted for a second day on Tuesday between security forces and opposition
parties. On the ground sources reported witnessing security forces mobilizing in large numbers
in a bid to prevent opposition activists from gathering for unauthorized rallies. Government
sources have indicated that police had arrested fifteen people, while ten wounded were being
treated in hospital, including seven that were admitted on Tuesday. Shops remained closed
across the capital city while the Marche Madina, which is the one of the largest markets in West
Africa, was closed for most of the day.
13 April
Guinean police opened fire on anti-government protesters on Monday, killing one protester and
wounding several others during violent clashes that erupted in the capital Conakry. On the
ground sources have disclosed that rioting broke out around 9:30 AM in several suburbs of the
capital city, including in Simbaya and Hamadallaye. The opposition had called for
demonstrations in all parts of the capital against the ongoing lack of security, for which it blames
the regime of President Alpha Conde. In March, the opposition also boycotted parliament in
protest over the timetable for the presidential elections. They have accused the president of
using the Ebola outbreak as an excuse to postpone voting. Former Prime Ministers Cellou Dalein
Diallo, Sidya Toure and Lansana Kouyate have accused the president of repeated rights
violations, stating that he had “lost all legitimacy.” They have called on supporters to back
several demands, including a call to bring forward local elections, which are due to take place in
March next year.
Guinea-Bissau
No major incidents reported during this period
Ivory Coast
26 April
The ruling coalition has nominated incumbent President Alassane Ouattara for re-election in
the upcoming presidential elections, due to take place in October. Ouattara had won the backing
of his Rally of Republicans (RDR) party at a congress in March. Its ally, the Democratic Party,
opted not to field its own candidate in a bid to ensure Ouattara’s victory. On Saturday, the proGbagbo Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) party announced that it will put forward a candidate to run
against Ouattara. The FPI however remains divided between those who are demanding that
Gbagbo, who is currently awaiting trail in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity, be
released before elections are held, and those in the party who back Pascal Affi N’Guessan, the
party’s head.
2 April
The Ivory Coast is banning the import of poultry from avian flu-hit Burkina Faso in a bid to
prevent the disease from spreading. According to Kobenan Kouassi Adjoumani, Ivorian minister
for animal and fishing resources, “the measure will be applied at our borders, and at all poultry
shops. On Wednesday, Burkina Faso’s government announced that cases of H5N1 bird flu had
been detected in poultry farms in two provinces, including Kadiogo, which includes the capital
Ouagadougou and its suburbs. According to Bernard Vallat, director general of the World Health
Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the outbreak in Burkina Faso “threatens” Ivory Coast
given that the two countries are important trading partners, adding that the H5N1 virus “is not
only spread via poultry but is also transmitted through wild birds that migrate,” noting that
avian flu is also “communicable to humans and that warrants action on a large scale.” In January,
Nigeria confirmed the spread of the virus in 11 states.
Liberia
30 April
With Liberia set to be declared Ebola-free within two weeks, if no new cases are reported, on
Thursday the United States decommissioned its treatment unit for Liberian healthcare workers
infected with the deadly disease. Officers from the US Public Health Service Commissioned
Corps staged a parade at the Monrovia Medical Unit (MMU) as President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson
urged Liberians to learn lessons from the worst outbreak of the virus in history. The clinic,
located 55 kilometres (35 miles) outside Monrovia at the international airport, treated 42
patients from nine nations, 18 of which tested positive for Ebola. According to the World Health
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Organization (WHO) three Ebola treatment units in Liberia closed this week, effectively leaving
13 clinics that are operational but empty. The West African nation is close to recovery, with 9
May earmarked as the day it will be declared Ebola-free as 42 days have past since the last
known case was buried.
28 April
Protesters gathered in front of the US Embassy in Monrovia on Tuesday, asking the American
government to put pressure on Liberian officials to bring back some sixty Liberian young
women who were allegedly trafficked into Lebanon between 2011 and 2012. According to the
protesters, the women, aged between 22 – 34, were reportedly lured to Lebanon in the belief
that they were going to attain good-paying jobs, however they ended up being housemaids and
“slaves” for Lebanese landlords. A statement released by the protesters further disclosed, “it is
our hope that the government of the great United States of America will act on this petition and
save our girls from the nightmare they are going through in Lebanon.” US Embassy Public
Affairs director Sally Hodgson confirmed Tuesday that the embassy had received the petition,
adding that officials were already engaged with Liberian authorities on the matter. The Liberian
government has indicated that some of the girls have already been brought home.
18 April
On Saturday, seven hundred Liberian Ebola workers protested in the streets of the capital city
for a second day, demanding promised hazard pay. Protests were held Friday in Monrovia,
where demonstrators disrupted a ceremony during which French medical charity Medecins
Sans Frontieres (MSF) was due to hand over management of Liberia’s main Ebola unit to the
government. On Saturday, the workers, who were hired by MSF, again blocked the entrance to
Liberia’s largest Ebola facility. The Ebola Treatment Unit, known as ELWA 3, has more than 400
beds and a work force that includes 700 healthcare workers who were hired by MSF. A
spokesman for the workers stated that they “…were told that we would receive risk benefits at
the end of the epidemic. MSF wants to turn over (ELWA 3) to the government and the
government has not yet given us our risk benefit.” The protesters have not disclosed the amount
of the hazard pay they say is owned by the government and MSF officials present at the protests
declined to comment. Saye Bawuo, Liberia’s assistant health minister has apologized for the
cancellation of Friday’s event and has indicated that the health ministry will “look into this issue,
to see how redress can be attended to.”
8 April
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has named new ministers for health and education as
her government seeks to end the Ebola outbreak and begins to focus on reconstruction. The
president has promoted Bernice Dahn to be the new minister of health after she gained praise
for her role in tackling Liberia’s Ebola outbreak as chief medical officer. George Werner, the
former head of the civil service agency, was appointed as minister of education. The president
also dissolved the board of the Liberia Airport Authority, stating that it would shortly be
reconstituted, as part of its efforts to modernize the country’s airports. A statement released by
the government late on Tuesday announced the changes and indicated that “President Ellen
Johnson Sirleaf…asks for all Liberians’ continued trust and confidence to help as the government
tackles the next challenges and embarks on the difficult road for post-Ebola economic recovery.”
According to the World Bank, Liberia’s economy is expected to grow by 3 percent this year. On
27 March, Liberia’s last known case of Ebola died and the country is currently conducting the
42-day countdown to be officially declared free of the disease.
Mali
30 April
At least three civilians were killed and twenty-eight wounded Thursday when their minibus set
off a landmine in northern Mali. According to a source, the bus had been on its way to a weekly
market, located 25 kilometres (16 miles) from Gao, when the landmine exploded. The
Coordination of Azawad Movement (CMA) has indicated that one of its members staged the
attack.
At least ten militants and nine soldiers have been killed after clashes erupted between the
Malian army and a Tuareg rebel alliance on Thursday. Mali’s defense ministry confirmed the
incident, which came a day after fighters from the Tuareg-led CMA ambushed military positions
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in the central town of Lere. A statement released by the ministry disclosed “the provisional toll
of the clashes is: armed forces – nine dead, six injured, six hostages, on damaged vehicle. Enemy
side: 10 dead and 16 injured, two vehicles destroyed; one vehicles, arms and ammunition
recovered.” Defense Minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly has confirmed that Lere was under
control. A foreign security source also confirmed that fighting had ended, adding that the rebels
controlled the south of the town while the army was in control of their positions elsewhere.
29 April
Security sources have reported that militants opened fire on troops at a national guard camp in
northern Mali on Wednesday, killing two soldiers and a child. According to a Malian security
source, the gunmen launched the attack at 5:00 AM and targeted the town of Goundam, which
is located 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Timbuktu. No group has claimed responsibility. A
source from MINUSMA, the UN mission in Mali, confirmed Wednesday’s attack, stating that the
militants appeared to have come from the east.
Armed insurgents exchanged fire with soldiers in Mali on Wednesday. According to a Malian
army colonel, fighters from the Tuareg-led Coordination for the Movements of Azawad (CMA)
ambushed military positions in the town of Lere, located near the Mauritanian border. The
attack occurred around 4:00 PM, with troops fighting back and defending their positions. A
statement released by the CMA warned that after it came under attack from a pro-government
militia on Tuesday, it had “no other choice than to use its right to exercise legitimate self-defense
to protect civilians, its people and its positions.” An army source has disclosed that the militants
arrived in several vehicles from the west of the town. This week’s violence comes amidst
assurances by the CMA that it is committed to a peace agreement that would bring stability to
Mali.
28 April
Officials from the UN mission in Mali disclosed Tuesday that Tuareg rebels shot at peacekeepers
outside the city of Timbuktu. In a statement, Mongi Hamdi, UN special envoy in Mali, disclosed,
“early this morning near Timbuktu, MINUSMA vehicles were targeted by the CMA (Coordination
of Azawad Movements). There are no victims. The CMA says it was a mistake and is calling for
the departure of the army.” According to a local resident, Malian government forces also came
under gunfire outside Timbuktu. These two events are becoming worrying for officials as they
may endanger the peace process. France’s foreign ministry has urged all parties to respect the
ceasefire agreement.
27 April
Late on Sunday, rebels from northern Mali told mediators that next month, they will initial a
long-delayed UN brokered peace agreement on the future of the country’s north. According to
the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) spokesman Moussa Ag
Acharatoumane, “we have finally given our agreement to initial the document following efforts
employed by international institutions and powers.” He however noted that a final deal would
only be possible if immediate negotiations resume on the rebel coalition’s additional demands
that were listed during a meeting that was held last month in the stronghold of Kidal. A meeting
is due to take place in Algiers on 15 May.
On Monday, a pro-government militia seized key positions in northern Mali from separatists,
effectively breaking a fragile regional ceasefire and increasing fears that major fighting may
break out. According to an official with the UN mission in Mali, the Imghad and Allies Tuareg
Self-Defense Group (GATIA) took over parts of the desert town of Menaka from fleeing rebel
fighters. The source disclosed, “there wasn’t any fighting… Currently UN peacekeepers still
occupy their camp in Menaka and the Malian army is stationed in its barracks, but GATIA has
taken all the positions of the fleeing” fighters. The incident comes shortly after the main Tuareg
rebel alliance, known as the Coordination for the Movements of Azawad (CMA) announced that
it was committed to signing a peace agreement aimed at bringing stability to the region. It
currently remains unclear if GATIA’s action in Menaka will jeopardise progress in the peace
process.
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Global Security Update
24 April
Seven UN peacekeepers have been seriously injured in a landmine blast in northern Mali.
According to a source, a UN vehicle struck a landmine on a road that links Kidal and Gao late
Thursday, leaving seven peacekeepers injured. Olivier Salvador, spokesperson for the UN
mission in Mali, confirmed that attack however he provided no details on the incident.
22 April
In a statement released Wednesday, Mali’s Tuareg-led rebellion reaffirmed its refusal to sign a
peace deal that has been agreed by the Malian government and other armed groups and which
is due to be officially recognized on 15 May. While the UN Security Council had urged the main
Tuareg rebel alliance, known as the Coordination for the Movements of Azawad (CMA), to agree
to the deal or face sanctions, the Coordination on Wednesday reiterated its position, stating that
it “shall not commit” to the document in its current form. The alliance has previously stated that
it could not accept the accord without “amendments,” including one that recognizes “Azawad,”
the name that is used by the Tuaregs for the northern part of Mali, as a “geographic, political and
juridical entity.” International and African diplomats as well as the Bamako government have
rejected this amendment. The Coordination’s statement did add that the CMA “reaffirms its
commitment to respect the ceasefire of May 23, 2014 signed in Kidal and the declaration of
cessation of hostilities of July 24 2014 in Algiers.”
The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali disclosed Wednesday that it had arrested three people in
the town of Aguelhok, which is located in the Kidal region, on Monday after discovering
landmines. According to UN officials, since 2013, around 325 civilians, security personnel and
peacekeepers have been wounded or killed by explosive ordnance in Mali.
20 April
On Monday, UN officials in Mali reported that a driver was killed in an ambush on a
peacekeeping supply convoy in northern Mali in what is the third deadly assault on the mission
in less than a week. A statement released by the UN’s MINUSMA peacekeeping mission indicated
that the civilian contractors were targeted at 11:30 AM, around 30 kilometres (20 miles) west
of Gao, adding “initial reports indicate that at least one driver was killed, his truck was later set
on fire.” MINUSMA chief Mongi Hamdi has condemned the attacks, stating that the UN “…will
adjust our security arrangements so that such crimes are not repeated. MINUSMA cannot
tolerate this.” He has called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice and has urged the
Malian military and police to increase security in the area. It was not immediately clear how the
victim was killed however Monday’s attack comes just days after two drivers were shot dead as
a MINUSMA supply convoy was ambushed nearby.
18 April
The UN mission in Mali reported Saturday that two drivers have been shot dead after a
peacekeeping supply convoy was attacked in northern Mali. According to a statement released
by MINUSMA, two assailants stopped the convoy some 15 kilometres (9 miles) from the main
city of Gao and “coldly killed two drivers” in the attack which occurred late Friday. They later
set the vehicles on fire. Officials have disclosed that a third person was wounded in the attack.
No group has claimed responsibility for Friday’s attack, however the incident comes just days
after an attack on the UN peacekeeping base in the same region as Gao, in which three civilians
were killed and sixteen people were wounded. Al-Mourabitoun has claimed responsibility for
that attack.
According to a statement released Saturday, international mediators in the ongoing conflict in
Mali have invited all parties to sign a peace and reconciliation agreement at a ceremony due to
take place in Bamako on 15 May. The statement disclosed that mediators meeting in Algiers in
order to review progress on the accord “invite and encourage all political-military
movements…to proceed by signing the agreement.” Peace talks, which were launched in Algiers
last July, resulted in last month an agreement between the Malian government and some armed
groups that operate in the region. However the main Tuareg rebel alliance has not signed the
agreement, stating that they want several amendments to be made before they can sign. On 10
April, the UN Security Council urged the Tuareg rebel alliance to sign the agreement or face
sanctions. The agreement, which was negotiated under UN auspices, provides for greater
regional autonomy for the north in line with long-standing demands by Tuaregs and other
groups.
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Global Security Update
15 April
A suicide bomber attacked a United Nations barracks in northern Mali on Wednesday, killing
three civilians and wounding sixteen people, including several peacekeepers. According to UN
officials, the militant was attempting to drive into a camp used by the UN’s MINUSMA
peacekeeping mission in Ansong, in the northern region of Gao, when the explosives went off. A
statement released by MINUSMA disclosed, “the attack left nine injured, two seriously, among
the peacekeepers from the Niger contingent. In addition, the explosion has killed at least three
civilians. Seven (civilians) were also injured.” The UN mission in Mali has not disclosed whether
the bomber was acting alone or if there were others in the vehicle. Militants operating in
northern Mali have staged a number of deadly attacks on UN forces, with at least 35
peacekeepers killed and over 140 wounded since MINUSMA was deployed in July 2013. The
camp targeted on Wednesday is situated near the scene of the killing of a Red Cross worker two
weeks ago. That attack was claimed by the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa
(MUJAO). Last month, a Chadian peacekeeper and two children died when militants fired more
than thirty rockets at a UN barracks in the northern city of Kidal. Update (17 April) – In a
recording released Friday, an al-Qaeda-linked group, led by Algerian militant Mokhtar
Belmokhtar, has claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide attack that targeted the UN mission
in Mali. In an audio message that was sent to Mauritanian news agency Alakhbar, which
frequently publishes statements attributed to extremist groups that operate in the region,
Belmokhtar’s al-Murabitoun group indicated that it had carried out the attack. The group
disclosed that it had targeted Nigerien nationals because their president, Mahamadou Issoufou,
had taken part in the mass Paris rally over the jihadist attack on French satirical weekly Charlie
Hebdo in January. They further added that the attack was also an act of revenge for Niger
allowing French and American troops on its soil, and described Wednesday’s attack as “the
second operation to avenge insults against the Prophet,” referring to Charlie Hebdo’s cartoon
depictions of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed. While the Malian government had initially reported
that a civilian MINUSMA worker and a child were killed in the attack, adding that the suicide
bomber was also killed and 21 people, including several peacekeepers, were wounded, alMurabitoun has denied that any civilians were killed, arguing that this would not have been
possible “given the distance between the camp and the town.” It appears that al-Murabitoun is
increasingly gaining strength and ability to carry out deadly attacks in Mali, with the militant
group most recently claiming responsibility for the 7 March attack on a Bamako nightclub. AlMurabitoun was formed in 2013 from the merger of Belmokhtar’s Signatories in Blood group
and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). Belmoktar, a former al-Qaeda
in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) chief, is wanted by the security services of several countries after
allegedly masterminding a siege in January 2013 of an Algerian gas plan, in which thirty-eight
hostages were killed. He is also believed to have been behind twin car bombings that occurred
in Niger in May of that year and which killed at least twenty people. Belmokhtar, who is thought
to be based in Libya, has been designated a foreign terrorist by the United States, with the State
Department offering a US $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.
14 April
According to a newly released report compiled by Human Rights Watch (HRW), armed groups
operating in Mali are carrying out an increasing number of attacks, with violence taking place
closer to the capital Bamako. The new report has indicated that while the French-led military
operation, which was launched in early 2013, helped to dislodge radical Islamic militants from
power in northern Mali, many of these security gains are now being reversed as militants are
increasingly becoming active further south from their northern strongholds where they have
targeted civilians accused of supporting the French and UN forces. Corrine Dufka, West Africa
director for the rights group, has warned that the Malian government must move quickly to
restore order. Sources have disclosed that much of the violence in central Mali has been blamed
on a new radical group, known as the Macina Liberation Movement. It is believed that this
militant group has links to the same jihadists who gained control of northern Mali between 2012
– 2013. According to the HRW report, armed men have been attempting to recruit boys and
young men to join the new extremist group. Over the past few months, attacks in Mali have
increased, however militants have also begun to target areas in central and southern Mali. On
Sunday, at least two Malian soldiers were killed when their vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Segou
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region while last month, a masked gunman opened fire inside a popular restaurant in the capital
city. Five civilians, including two foreigners were killed.
13 April
According to officials, a Malian military vehicle struck a roadside bomb in the southern region
of Mali on Sunday, killing two soldiers and wounding three others. According to Col.
Souleymane Maiga, the attack took place Sunday in Mali’s Segou region, which is located
between Niono and Diabally. While there was no immediate claim of responsibility, suspicion
has fallen on armed groups that are aligned with Islamic militants from the Timbuktu area of
northern Mali.
12 April
Two Malian soldiers were killed and several others wounded on Sunday when their vehicle
struck a landmine in the center of Mali. According to defense ministry spokesman Diaran Kone,
the incident occurred in the morning near the town of Diabaly, around 500 km (310 miles)
northeast of the capital Bamako. No additional details pertaining to the incident have been
released.
9 April
On Thursday, Mali’s foreign minister asked the United Nations Security Council to increase
pressure on one of the rebel groups, which has not yet signed a landmark peace agreement
aimed at ending ongoing violence in northern Mali. Abdoulaye Diop urged the Council to
endorse the Algerian-brokered draft peace accord and to threaten sanctions against those who
block it. Last month, the Malian government signed the peace agreement along with several
armed groups however the main Tuareg rebel alliance, known as the Coordination, has yet to
sign on. While Algeria has scheduled a ceremony on 15 April, during which the Coordination’s
representatives are due to initial the accord, with a formal signing to follow soon after, Mali’s
foreign minister has warned caution about the prospects for that event. Diop has warned that
failure to complete this peace agreement would have “enormous risks for peace in Mali, in the
region and even beyond,” adding that hopes for peace were being “held hostage by a group of
radicals and extremists… Those who, despite everything, choose to block the path to peace will
leave the international community with no other choice but to isolate them and treat them as
such by imposing sanctions.” Violence in Mali has continued, with attacks targeting UN
peacekeepers deployed in the northern region of the country and a deadly attack on a Bamako
nightclub last month that killed five civilians. The accord provides for greater regional
autonomy for the northern region of the country, in line with long-standing demands by Tuaregs
and other groups in the region. The peace agreement would in effect bring an end to a conflict
that culminated with an Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012.
6 April
French Special Forces have rescued a Dutch civilian kidnapped nearly four years ago in Mali by
al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) militants. France’s defense ministry confirmed that
Sjaad Rijke, who was kidnapped in Timbuktu in November 2011, was freed during “military
action carried out by the French army’s special forces,” adding that “this combat action has also
led to the capture of several individuals.” Rijke has been reported “safe and sound.” Sources
have disclosed that the operation occurred near Tessalit, in Mali’s far north region, near the
border with Algeria, with a source in the UN military mission in Mali disclosing, “at least three
jihadists died during the operation.” Gunmen had stormed into Rijke’s hotel in Timbuktu in
2011, capturing him along with a South African and a Swedish national, both of who are still
being held. In November 2014, AQIM released a video of Rijke, making a statement on the 1000 th
day of his captivity. Update (7 April) – Dutch and Malian diplomatic sources have disclosed
that Rijke is due to arrive in the capital Bamako on Tuesday. According to a source in the Malian
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the former hostage will be travelling from Gao and “an official
delegation will welcome him at the airport.” While no timetable has been provided for Rijke’s
arrival, a presidential source has disclosed that President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is due to
receive the freed hostage when he reached Bamako. Dutch media have reported that Rijke is
due to return to the Netherlands on Tuesday evening, however the ministry has not confirmed
these reports.
5 April
Militants on Sunday shelled the largest city in northern Mali, killing a civilian and wounding
three relatives as they slept. According to a police official in Gao, the rocket strike hit a
household in the northern region of the city, while two more landed near a clinic in the city
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center and in a field to the south. A security source in MINUSMA confirmed the attack, which
comes six days after a Red Cross worker was killed by jihadists in Gao. Security forces in the
area have been on high alert after unidentified men on motorcycles opened fire on the village of
Boni, located some four hours by road from Gao. On Saturday, the Malian government
announced that a “large-scale search operation is underway throughout the area to bring these
terrorists out of harm’s way.” Boni and Gao are located near the border with northern Burkina
Faso, where on Saturday, gunmen kidnapped a Romanian security officer at a mine. Reports
have indicated that the gunmen, along with the hostage, were travelling towards Mali.
3 April
Detectives have uncovered plans for a “major attack” after investigating an explosion at a house
in the capital city that killed a security guard on Friday. Sources have disclosed that security
forces were alerted after a blast occurred at a private residence in Sirakoro Meguetana, on the
southeastern outskirts of Bamako, around 8:00 AM. According to a police source, the Burkinabe
owner of the house was arrested at the scene, adding that police officials found detonators in
the wrecked property. Police have indicated that explosives at the house had been mishandled,
however they were not able to indicate immediately what type of material was behind the
explosion. Government spokesman Choguel Maiga confirmed the incident, stating “the intensity
of the explosion also caused the injury of four people, the destruction of a part of the residence
and considerable damage to neighboring houses,” adding that the owner was a “Burkinabe
citizen engaging in the trade of chemical components used in gold mining activities who has a
criminal record in Mali.” Nearby residents have disclosed that the house was situated opposite
the property of a French national, who was unhurt in the incident. It remains unclear whether
the expatriate was the intended target.
On Friday, unidentified men on motorcycles opened fire on the village of Boni, which is located
some four hours by road southwest of Gao. On the ground sources have reported that the
assailants fired shots at the police station and town hall. According to security forces in the area,
two civilians were killed in the attack.
2 April
The United Nations disclosed Thursday that UN police peacekeepers “used unauthorized and
excessive force” that killed three people and injured four others during a protest that was held
in the town of Gao in January. Speaking shortly after briefing the UN Security Council, UN
peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous disclosed that a UN inquiry into the incident found that
members of a police unit shot the protesters during a demonstration on 27 January. Ladsous
indicated that four police were involved in the incident. While he did not identify their
nationality, Gao residents have accused Rwandan police from the peacekeeping operation of
firing on the protesters. The police unit commander and police officers involved in the incident
will be returning home. Earlier on Thursday, UN spokesman Farhan Haq had indicated that the
inquiry had “…also established that some protesters and organizers of the demonstration bear
responsibility for the violence of the protest, which included Molotov cocktails, stone throwing
and attempts to breach the perimeters (of the UN regional headquarters).” Five UN police
officers were injured during the protest, with the inquiry finding that UN peacekeepers “were
left to face the protesters on their own” after Malian security forces departed from their
positions around the UN base. The late January protests were linked to attempts by the UN to
broker a peace agreement between armed groups that operate in the region. At the time, the
UN mission had indicated that only warning shots had been fired.
The United Nations peacekeeping force MINUSMA disclosed Wednesday that a child was killed
and another person was injured when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded in the
town of Ansongo, which is located 100 kilometres (60 miles) southeast of Gao. According to
spokeswoman Radhia Achouri, “an IED was detonated by a shepherd and his herd 5 km
northeast of Ansongo, around 1.5 km from the MINUSMA camp.”
Tuareg-led rebels reported Thursday that they are meeting with Algerian mediators in Algiers
in order to discuss the terms of the preliminary peace agreement that they rejected last month.
Tuareg sources familiar with this week’s talks have indicated that they were initiated by the
Algerian government and are aimed at finding an acceptable version of the original proposal.
The proposal, which came after eight months of talks, aims to tackle decades of rebellion in
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Mali’s northern region. While it was signed by the Malian government and a number of other
armed groups in early March, after consulting with their supporters, the Tuareg rebels stated
that the agreement did not go far enough towards granting autonomy for a desert region which
they call Azawad. Diplomats have stated that unless mediators are able to break the current
impasse in talks, the question of the north’s political status may remain open indefinitely, with
many fearing that Islamist militants who remain active in the region may exploit this status.
1 April
Unknown assailants fired shells at a United Nations based located on the outskirts of a town in
northern Mali early on Wednesday. Residents of the town of Ansongo reported seeing
helicopters flying over the town. The MINUSMA peacekeeping force has denied that there was
shelling, with officials disclosing that the base had not been targeted.
Three attackers were killed in a firefight and two others captured after they carried out an
assault on a Malian army base in Boulkessi on Wednesday. According to Malian officials, the
dawn raid occurred in the Mopti region near the border with Burkina Faso. Souleymane
Dembele, a military spokesman, disclosed, “our soldiers pushed them back, killing three and
taking two prisoners.” Officials have not identified which group that attackers came from.
Mauritania
20 April
A court in Mauritania has sentenced a senior al-Qaeda leader, who has been accused of planning
attacks on the United States, Europe and Australia, to twenty years in prison for “terrorist
activities.” According to a judicial source, Younis al-Mauritani, who was arrested in the
southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta in 2011 along with two other high-ranking jihadists in a
joint operation carried out by US and Pakistani intelligence agencies, was jailed Monday in a
closed hearing in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott. Officials have disclosed that alMauritani’s arrest was a serious blow to the global terror network and came four months after
al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan by US forces. At the time, Pakistani army
officials disclosed that bin Laden had instructed al-Mauritani to focus on economic targets in the
US, Europe and Australia, including “…gas/oil pipelines, power generating dams and strike
ships/oil tankers through explosive-laden speed boats in international waters.” Western
intelligence officials from two separate countries confirmed that al-Mauritani was part of alQaeda’s top team and that he was linked to threats against Europe. He was extradited to
Mauritania in May 2013 after Mauritanian authorities had issued an international warrant for
his arrest, accusing him of participating in a deadly 2005 attack on an army barracks and
shootout with police in Nouakchott in 2008.
Niger
27 April
Witnesses reported Monday that Boko Haram gunmen massacred residents who tried to jump
into Lake Chad in a bid to seek safety and burnt others alive after overpowering soldiers in a
weekend attack. On Sunday, the military and a local official in Niger confirmed the 25 April raid
on Lake Chad’s Karamga Island. While an official in the town of Diffa disclosed that the Nigerien
army had suffered “very heavy” casualties, precise figures have not been release. After
launching the attack shortly before sunrise, the militants remained on a rampage until roughly
midday, only withdrawing when a military jet began bombing the area. Update (28 April) – On
Tuesday, the Nigerien government disclosed that around 230 people were killed, including at
least 74 from Niger, at the weekend in what is the country’s heaviest loss since it joined the
regional offensive against Boko Haram. According to Interior Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou,
“on the side of our forces: 46 dead, 9 injured, 32 missing. On the enemy’s side, 156 terrorists
were killed. In addition, 28 residents of the island were assassinated by the terrorist.” Nigerien
authorities have declared three days of national mourning, which is due to begin Wednesday.
26 April
Suspected Boko Haram fighters in motorized canoes attacked a Niger army base on an island in
Lake Chad. According to a source, the Nigerien army may have suffered “heavy losses” in the
attack on Karamga Island however casualty figures have not been released. A statement by the
defense ministry, which was broadcast Saturday night on state television, indicated that the
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assailants approached at dawn on Saturday in about ten motorized canoes, adding “operations
are ongoing with the aid of allies” to put an end to the insurgent movement.”
22 April
Since Monday, all schools in and around the capital, Niamey, have been closed because of a
meningitis outbreak that has killed 85 people this year. Officials have indicated that a shortage
of vaccines to treat the current strain has caused the outbreak to spread, adding that a campaign
to vaccinate all children between two and 15 will begin on Friday however only half of the 1.2
million doses needed are currently available. Niger’s prime minister indicated Wednesday, “for
the rest of the needed vaccines, we are appealing to all our partners to come to our aid to
supplement the stock of vaccine doses we direly need.” According to Niger’s health minister,
905 cases have been recorded in seven of the country’s eight regions however most of the cases
are in Niamey and Dosso. Update (24 April) – The death toll in a meningitis epidemic that
broke out in Niger in January has reached 129. According to Health Minister Mano Aghali, as of
22 April, “there are a total of 1,150 cases and unfortunately 129 deaths.” On 19 April, the
government released data, stating that 85 deaths and 908 cases had occurred, however it noted
that the cases were multiplying fast.
The World Health Organization for Animal Health (OIE) disclosed Wednesday that Niger has
confirmed an outbreak of the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu. Earlier this month, authorities
in Niger had reported a suspected case of H5N1 bird flu at a chicken farm in Maradi, which is
located near the border with Nigeria, where several cases have been confirmed. According to a
statement released by the OIE, out of 2,440 poultry birds on the farm in Maradi, 2,290 died from
the disease. The cause of the outbreak remains unknown.
20 April
Niger’s defense ministry reported late Monday that Nigerien soldiers intercepted a shipment of
nearly three tonnes of cannabis being escorted by a group of heavily armed smugglers in the
mountains of northern Niger. In a statement released by the ministry, the seizure occurred on
Sunday in the Air Mountains, an area that is regularly traversed by criminal gangs, some with
links to Islamist militant groups, in a bid to smuggle drugs and migrants into northern Africa
and then onward to Europe. Officials have disclosed that ten people were arrested and that
three vehicles as well as machine-guns, assault rifles, a grenade launcher and ammunition were
seized during the operation, which was carried out by Nigerien troops and a partner nation.
While the ministry statement did not name the partner country, France has deployed troops to
northern Niger however French military sources have not commented on Sunday’s operations.
18 April
According to Niger’s agriculture minister, more than 2.5 million people in the West African
nation are suffering from food insecurity because of a shortfall in the cereal harvest caused by
poor weather and crop pests. On Saturday, Nigerien minister Maidagi Allambeye disclosed, “a
survey conducted since December 2014 indicated that 15.7 percent of the population, or
2,588,128 people, are in a situation of food insecurity, including 410,297 in severe insecurity.”
He further indicated that the situation has been aggravated by the presence of some 200,000
refugees who have fled Boko Haram attacks in neighboring Nigeria. Officials have indicated that
the food insecurity in Niger is linked to a cereal deficit of more than 230,000 tonnes at the end
of the 2014 crop year, with the government attributing the shortfall to drought, floods and
caterpillar attacks. The presence in southeastern Niger of more than 150,000 refugees, who
have fled attacks by Boko Haram, along with more than 50,000 refugees in the western region
of the country, who have fled the ongoing insecurity in northern Mali, have further impacted the
food situation. In an attempt to reduce this cereal deficit, the Nigerien government has already
launched a programme to irrigate 130,000 hectares of land in order to produce 500,000 tones
of food.
16 April
Niger’s health minister revealed Thursday that a meningitis epidemic, which broke out in Niger
in January, has killed 75 people so far. According to minister Mano Aghali, the total number of
nationwide cases currently stands at 697, adding that while the epidemic has spread to nearly
all of the regions of the country, with the exception of southeastern Diffa near the border with
Nigeria, more than half of the deaths have occurred in the capital Niamey. A previous report
released at the end of March had indicated that the epidemic had affected 345 people between
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1 January and 29 March, with 45 fatalities. The health minister has indicated that a vaccination
campaign is due to begin next week in the most affected zones, adding that authorities have
already distributed 13,500 dozes of the vaccine.
9 April
Niger has identified a suspected outbreak of H5N1 bird flu on a chicken farm in the southern
town of Maradi, which is located near the border with Nigeria, which has also confirmed cases
of the virus in several northern states. Late Wednesday, Nigerien authorities disclosed that they
had isolated the farm and banned the transport of all poultry out of the town as they waited for
samples to be tested in Italy. Bangana Ibrahim, Niger’s livestock minister, disclosed that
authorities suspected bird flu on the Maradi farm after more than a half of the 2,440 chickens
on it died. Ibrahim further indicated that all poultry imports from any nation that had confirmed
bird flu had been banned as of 7 April.
7 April
Workers at French nuclear group Areva’s Somair mine in Niger have launched a three-day strike
over what they say is the company’s failure to pay bonuses. According to Moussa Moutari,
spokesperson for the SYNAMIN union, 90% of the roughly 1,000 workers at the mine, which is
located near the northern town of Arlit, are observing the strike, which was launched Tuesday,
noting “output is practically paralyzed…Somair does not want to pay out bonuses related to
financial targets reached in 2014. They are saying they are recording losses, which isn’t true.”
A spokesperson for the company has not commented on the strike. Last year, Areva agreed to
a reduction in tax breaks and an increase in royalty rates at its uranium mines in Niger. Update
(9 April) – Company and union officials disclosed Thursday that a court in Niger has declared a
strike by workers at French nuclear group Areva’s Somair uranium mine illegal and has cut
short the planned 72-hour walk out half a day early. SYNAMIN spokesman Moussa Moutari
confirmed that workers “…returned to work this Thursday 1 pm (1200 GMT).” Salifou Yaye,
communications officer for Areva Niger, also confirmed the end of the strike, which had been
due to continue until midnight. He also rejected the unions’ claims that workers were owned
bonuses, stating, “the union contested the company’s 2014 financial result, which was
established according to accounting standards in place and never before disputed. The court
proved us right.”
4 April
Niger’s health minister reported Saturday that a meningitis epidemic, which broke out in Niger
in January, has killed 45 people. According to minister Mano Aghali, “from January 1 to March
29, 2015, some 345 cases of meningitis, including 45 fatalities, have been reported, which is a
fatality rate of 15.3 percent.” The capital Niamey has been one of the hardest hit areas, with 18
deaths amongst 119 cases that have been reported. Neighboring Dosso has also recorded 18
deaths from 157 cases. All regions, except Diffa in the southwest, have reported cases however
Minister Aghali has indicated, “the situation is under control.” Niger has distributed 13,500
doses of the vaccine and medicines are being administrated free of charge within zones affected
by the epidemic.
Nigeria
29 April
Relief workers in northeastern Nigeria reported Thursday that deteriorating sanitary
conditions have resulted in an increasing risk of disease in camps for people displaced by Boko
Haram violence. According to Abba Yerima, who runs a camp in Borno’s state capital Maiduguri,
more than 6,500 people are currently living at the facility, which is meant to house only 2,000.”
Speaking at a meeting with the national emergency agency, which called for urgent action to
prevent a potentially deadly disease outbreak, Yerima stated that officials are appealing the
government for an increase in supplies. Boko Haram’s conflict has forced 1.5 million people
from their homes, with hundreds of thousands forced to seek refuge in several camps that have
been set up in the northeastern region of the country. While the military has liberated scores of
towns and has called on people to begin returning home, local leaders maintain that the security
situation across the region remains fragile, and have cautioned people to wait before trying to
resettle. As a result, overpopulation in some camps in the region is likely to continue for the
next several months.
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Nigeria’s army has vowed to free more hostages held captive by Boko Haram after nearly 500
were released this week after being held in atrocious conditions in the group’s Sambisa Forest
stronghold. Speaking to reporters in Abuja Thursday, defense spokesman Chris Olukolade
stated that the army would “comprehensively” clean out the forest, adding, “there is great hope
for recovery of more hostages of the terrorists.” On Thursday, the army disclosed that about
160 hostages were rescued from the forest just days after 200 girls and 93 women were freed.
Former female hostages have described being subjected to forced labour, sexual and
psychological abuse as well as being forced to fight on the frontline alongside the militants. The
rescues this week had raised hope that some of the 219 girls who were kidnapped from a school
in Chibok last year would be amongst those freed, however ambry spokesman Sani Usman has
indicated that those girls were not part of the group.
28 April
Hundreds of people, believed to be victims of Boko Haram’s insurgency, have been found dead
in the northeastern Nigerian town of Damasak. According to local government spokesman
Babagana Mustapha, a committee sent to Damasak at the weekend found the town littered with
bodies of women, children and some adult men, adding that the men appear to be Boko Haram
fighters who were killed when troops from neighboring Chad and Niger reclaimed the town in
March. Speaking to reporters on Monday, Mustapha stated that Chadian forces had told him
that hundreds more bodies of insurgents remain in surrounding bush.
According to the military, Nigerian troops have rescued nearly 300 women and girls during an
offensive carried out Tuesday against Boko Haram militants in the northeastern Sambisa Forest,
however officials have warned that those rescued likely do not include any of the schoolgirls
kidnapped from Chibok a year ago. The army made the announcement on Twitter and stated
that officials were screening and interviewing the abducted girls and women. Army spokesman
Col. Sani Usman confirmed that Nigerian troops destroyed and cleared four militant camps and
rescued 200 abducted girls and 93 women “but they are not the Chibok girls.” In April 2014,
Boko Haram militants kidnapped nearly 300 schoolgirls from the northeastern town of Chibok.
Officials have indicated that the militants took the schoolgirls in trucks into the Sambisa Forest.
While dozens managed to escape, 219 are still missing. Since last year’s mass kidnapping, Boko
Haram militants have continued to kidnap girls, women and young men, in a bid to use them as
fighters. In the wake of a multinational offensive launched in January, Boko Haram has
increasingly been using these hostages as human shields, effectively using them as their first
line of defense. Boko Haram has also used women and girls as suicide bombers, sending them
into crowded market places and bus stations. Amnesty International has reported that some
2,000 women and girls have been kidnapped by Boko Haram militants since the start of last
year.
An audit has found that Nigeria’s state oil company overpaid the government US $750m (£490)
however it noted that it had not properly accounted for US $1.4bn. The financial report follows
allegations in 2013 made by then-central bank chief Lamido Sanusi who at the time stated that
the firm had failed to account for about US $20bn. The accusations led to President Goodluck
Jonathan ordering an independent audit. The audit into the accounts of the Nigerian National
Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was carried out by PwC, which stated, “it could not vouch for
the integrity of the information it was given when it conducted the audit.” PwC further indicated
that the oil company should be overhauled and pay the government about US $1.5bn arising
from duplicate claims and accounting errors. While sources have indicated that the findings
suggest that Mr Sanusi’s claims were exaggerated, many Nigerians believe that corruption in the
oil sector industry runs deep. President Goodluck Jonathan’s office has released the findings as
he prepares to step down at the end of next month.
27 April
A local health commissioner disclosed Monday that a total of 23 people have now died from
ethanol poisoning that has been blamed on locally brewed gin in southwestern Nigeria. Ondo
state health commissioner Dayo Adeyanju confirmed, “the total number of deaths is 23,” up from
eighteen that were reported last Monday. According to Adeyanju, the five additional deaths
were those taken to hospital when all the victims fell ill in the town of Ode-Irele earlier this
month, adding that there are no new cases. The state government is currently investigating the
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source of the batch of gin as well as trying to improve the production of locally made alcohol in
a bid to improve the safety of consumers.
While Aisha Jummai Alhassan lost her bid to become the first woman to be elected governor in
a Nigerian state, her party indicated Monday that it will challenge the results of the election in
court. Election officials in the eastern state of Taraba declared Darius Dickson Ishaku of the
ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) the winner, with 369,318 votes. The first election on 11
April was cancelled because of widespread irregularities and in Saturday’s re-run vote, Ms
Lahassan, the candidate for the party of Nigeria’s incoming president Muhammadu Buhari, won
275,984 votes. On Monday, Abubakar Gambo Umar, the returning officer in Taraba for Buhari’s
All Progressives Congress (APC) party stated “we don’t accept the results declared by INEC
(Independent National Electoral Commission) which is why I refused to sign the results sheet,”
adding “there were numerous cases of fraud and irregularities in many polling centers when the
re-run election was conducted… We recorded many incidents of violence and intimidation.” The
APC has won several historic victories in the 2015 elections, including Buhari’s win over
President Goodluck Jonathan last month. The APC has also claimed a majority of governorship
seats in the country’s 36 states, and the party had hoped that Ms Alhassan’s win could have
broken a gender barrier. While a number of women currently hold powerful posts within
government, including the positions of ministers of finance and oil, there is an absence of female
leaders at the executive level.
On Monday, Nigeria’s foreign minister attempted to calm South African anger pertaining to the
recall for consultations of its top two diplomats over the recent wave of anti-immigrant attacks,
stating that the decision is nothing out of the ordinary. On Sunday, just one day after Abuja
announced that it had summoned its acting high commissioner to Pretoria and consul-general
in Johannesburg for talks on the issue, South Africa issued an angry statement. However on
Monday, Foreign Minister Aminu Wali said in a statement, “this is a usual practice in the conduct
of diplomacy.” He further disclosed “for the avoidance of doubt, we wish to reiterate that the
two senior diplomats have been invited to come for consultation after which they would return
to their duty posts,” adding “they have, therefore, not been recalled, as erroneously portrayed
in the media.” Over the past several weeks, at least seven people have been killed in violence
targeting immigrants in South Africa. The violence has forced many to flee their homes and has
resulted in the South African government to deploy its army in a bid to calm the situation. While
Nigerian officials have indicated that they are “deploy concerned” about the situation, they
noted that there were “satisfactory indications that the South African authorities have taken
firm measures to stem the tide of attacks.”
25 April
Local officials and witnesses reported Friday that suspected Boko Haram insurgents have forced
hundreds of soldiers to flee Marte, a border town in Nigeria. According to a local community
leader, “the terrorists, numbering over 2,000, appeared from various directions on Thursday
and engaged the soldiers in Kirenowa town and adjoining communities in Marte,” adding “they
fought with soldiers over the night and the fight continued today (Friday), forcing hundreds of
soldiers to flee.” This is the third time that Boko Haram has seized control of Marte, which is
located in Borno State. The town is amongst several that were retaken by Nigeria’s military in
recent weeks.
23 April
Security sources reported Thursday that Nigerian troops have been forced to retreat from Boko
Haram’s Sambisa Forest stronghold after a landmine blast killed one soldier and three
vigilantes. In a statement released Thursday, Defense spokesman Chris Olukolade disclosed
that a senior Boko Haram commander was killed as well as a number of militants who attacked
a patrol, however progress has been severely hindered because of improvised explosive devices.
One source has disclosed that “Boko Haram have buried landmines all over the routes leading
to their camps in the forest, which is no doubt a huge obstacle regarding the military offensive
against them.” Troops have withdrawn just five kilometres from Boko Haram’s main camp in
the densely forested area because of the landmines. The retreat comes just one day after
Nigeria’s top military brass indicated that soldiers were conducting offensives “in some forest
locations” in the area after it was announced last week that operations were imminent. The
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Sambisa Forest is located in the state of Borno, some 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the town of
Chibok.
21 April
In a surprise move less than six weeks before leaving office, outgoing President Goodluck
Jonathan on Tuesday dismissed Nigeria’s police chief, a decision that has raised questions of a
political motive. A State house press released carried the headline “President Jonathan sacks
Suleiman Abba,” adding that the police chief had been relieved of his duties “with immediate
effect.” President Jonathan has named deputy police chief Solomon Arase as the acting head of
the force. While no reason has been given for his dismissal, the wording in the statement was
unusually strong compared to similar past statements, which have typically thanked outgoing
security chiefs for their services. The Nation newspaper, which is pro-opposition, ran a frontpage story on Saturday claiming that the president was facing pressure from his loyalists to fire
Mr Abba over his handling of the elections. According to Debo Adeniran of Coalition Against
Corrupt Leaders lobby group, “the timing of (Abba’s) sacking, especially a few weeks after a
general election in which Jonathan lost, is food for thought,” adding “it is even more intriguing
because Abba still has some 10 years to go before retirement.” Mr Adeniran has suggested that
the former police chief may have made enemies by refusing “to carry out the bidding of Jonathan
and the (ruling) Peoples Democratic Party to rig the election.” Nigeria’s police spokesman has
not commented on the removal of Mr Abba, who was only appointed in August last year. Buhari,
who won the elections in March, will be sworn in on 29 May and is widely expected to nominate
his own choices to fill Nigeria’s top security posts.
18 April
According to police officials, at least twenty-three villagers were killed after clashes erupted
between two mainly fishing and farming communities in Nigeria’s central Benue state. State
police spokesman Austin Ezeani confirmed, “some 23 corpses have been recovered following
the fighting between Ologba and Egba communities in Agatu local government area of the state.”
He indicated that several villagers were also injured adding, “the two neighbors were fighting
over ownership of a fish pond. The violence broke out on Friday and continued until
Saturday….” Ezeani also disclosed that the Egba people were also accusing the Ologba villagers
of aiding Fulani herdsmen in attacking them last month, which resulted in the deaths of 82
villagers. Police have been deployed to the area in a bid to ease tensions. Over the past few
years, hundreds of people have been killed in attacks and reprisal attacks between farmers and
ethnic Fulani herdsmen in the state.
Government officials disclosed Saturday that a “mysterious” disease, which kills patients within
24 hours, has claimed at least seventeen lives in a southeastern Nigerian town. According to the
government spokesman for Ondo state, Kayode Akinmade, “seventeen people have died of the
mysterious disease since it broke out early this week in Ode-Irele town,” however he noted that
“outside a total of 17 deaths recorded, in the past 72 hours we have not recorded any new cases.
There is no patient of the disease in any hospital and the disease has not spread beyond the
town.” Officials have indicated that the disease, which has symptoms including headache,
weight loss, blurred vision, and loss of consciousness, killed the victims within 24 hours of their
falling ill. Laboratory tests have so far ruled out Ebola or any other virus. Health officials and
experts from both the government and aid agencies, as well as World Health Organization
(WHO) epidemiologists, have arrived in Ode-Irele. Update (20 April) – Nigerian health officials
disclosed Monday that ethanol poisoning from a local gin may have been responsible for the
sudden death of 18 people last week. According to Ondo state health commissioner Dayo
Adeyanju, “we strongly suspect ethanol poisoning and in view of this, we have ordered another
toxicology test for the surviving victims,” adding “our investigations revealed that five of the
victims took local gin mixed with herbs. Three of them died while the other two have been put
under close observation.” In total, 23 people have been affected, eighteen of which have died.
The five others have been referred to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, where they will
under go further tests and monitoring. Mr Adeyanju has indicated that the disease is not
contagious and that no new cases have been reported over the past four days however he noted
that officials “…will continue to monitor the situation. We are appealing to our people to report
any case of sudden illness or death to the health authorities for immediate action.” On Sunday,
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officials from the WHO disclosed that pesticide poisoning may have been the cause of the
mysterious deaths.
17 April
On Friday, Nigerian air traffic controllers suspended a strike that had grounded all domestic
flights, however they have warned that a more damaging work stoppage would be launched
next week if their demands were not met. Yakubu Dati of the Federal Airports Authority of
Nigeria (FAAN) confirmed, “normal flights have now resumed,” adding, “the strike was a
warning strike.” International carriers were not affected by Thursday’s strike. The work
stoppage by the National Association of Air Traffic Controllers resulted in chaos and frustration
at airports across the country. On Friday, local media quoted union chief Victor Eyaru as saying
that a more protracted strike would be launched on 20 April if their calls for better pay and
improved working conditions were not met. Due to the poor conditions of many roads and
relatively limited train work, coupled with attacks by roadside bandits who target motorists,
domestic air travel in Nigeria has developed into a crucial means of transport across the West
African nation.
16 April
On Thursday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan told the United Nations that his country
would not need the help of an international force in the fight against Boko Haram. In a statement
to the UN, the outgoing president indicated that in recent months, the support of troops from
Cameroon, Chad and Niger, along with the Nigerian military, had resulted in regaining most of
the towns and villages seized by the militants in the northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno and
Yobe, noting that he wanted the UN to instead focus on helping to rebuild communities and to
assist those who have been affected by the militant group’s six-year insurgency. The statement
further indicated that the Nigerian military has now “commenced a final push to take the last
stronghold of the insurgents in Sambisa forest” in Borno state, where 219 schoolgirls who were
abducted by Boko Haram from Chibok over a year ago are believed to be held. President
Jonathan made the remarks shortly after meeting with the special representatives of the UN
secretary general for West and Central Africa, Mohammed Ibn Chambas and Abdoulaye Bathily.
13 April
Official election results on Monday showed that the party of Nigeria’s president-elect
Muhammadu Buhari has won governorship elections in a majority of the West African country’s
thirty-six states, effectively allowing it to build its strength nationwide after a historic
presidential win. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC),
following Saturday’s regional polls, the All Progressives Congress (APC) party held at least 21
governor’s seats however more seats could be added as results from several states were still
pending. The INEC described the regional vote as “relatively peaceful,” despite the 66 separate
incidents of violence that had occurred. Buhari is due to be sworn in on 29 May and his
administration will benefit from having a majority of loyalist governors, including in the
economic capital Lagos.
12 April
Voting in Nigeria’s key regional elections has been extended into Sunday in Rivers state after
irregularities were reported at some polling stations. The Independent National Electoral
Commission’s (INEC) top official in Rivers state, Gesila Khan, indicated Sunday that voting has
been extended in nine wards where election materials were never delivered to polling stations,
adding that results from Saturday’s vote have been thrown out in other parts of the state after
ballot papers were openly stolen. The INEC has stated that it was broadly satisfied with the
polling process, with the exception of Rivers state, where local INEC officials conceded that
malpractice had tainted the vote in some areas.
According to Nigeria’s election agency, the INEC, sixty-six violent incidents marred the country’s
regional polls, with the restive oil-producing Rivers state the worst affected. The INEC did
however praise the nationwide voting, saying that it was “relatively peaceful.” A statement
released by the INEC on Sunday indicated that electronic voter identification devices, which
were used for the first time in last months’ general election, broadly worked in the regional vote
despite problems in some areas. The commission however highlighted the “significant number
of violent incidents” recorded across the country. Officials have not commented on the number
of causalities that resulted from the unrest, the statement did however indicate that the
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southern Rivers state reported 16 incidents of violence while the remaining 50 incidents were
spread throughout the country.
11 April
On Saturday, Nigerians began voting to choose new state governors and local assemblies. Some
760 candidates are in the running for 29 governor and deputy governor positions while some
5,290 hopefuls are in the running for local assembly seats in Nigeria’s thirty-six states. The main
opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) is expected to benefit from Muhammadu Buhari’s
presidential win against incumbent Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP currently has 21 governors while the APC has 14.
There was a heavy police presence on the streets of the city of Port Harcourt on Saturday as the
country went to the polls to elect state governors and assembly members. While the state
capital of Rivers was calm on Saturday, officers were out in force, screening vehicles and keeping
watch, after large protests erupted shortly after the presidential election two weeks ago. In the
Rumuola area of the city, about fifty members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) staged a
protest alleging fraud on the part of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The APC claimed that
the PDP rigged the results of the presidential election, which saw the state vote nearly 95
percent in favor of President Goodluck Jonathan. Police spokesman Ahmad Muhammad has
indicated that there has been sporadic incidents of violence. Part of the local electoral
commission office in Buguma was burned down. There were also reports of shots being fired in
some places.
9 April
The United Nations on Thursday launched an appeal for US $174 million in what it called “lifesaving aid” for almost 200,000 Nigerians who have fled the country due to Boko Haram’s
ongoing insurgency. According to the UN, the insurgents have killed up to 15,000 people since
2009. Liz Ahua, the West African representative for the UNHCR, which is the UN’s refugee
agency, has indicated that “displaced people in northeastern Nigeria and across borders are in
a vary dramatic situation… They continue to fear for their lives, and are at this point unable to
return to their homes.” According to the UNHCR, some 192,000 people have fled the West
African country, crossing into neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger in a bid to seek refuge
from the violence. A further 1.2 million have been displaced internally. Staff and volunteers in
twenty-three aid organizations and UN agencies say that they are increasingly struggling to
provide food, shelter, education and sanitation for the refugees.
6 April
Witnesses disclosed Monday that suspected Boko Haram gunmen opened fire on villagers and
torched a number of buildings in northeastern Nigeria. According to a resident of the town,
roughly two-dozen assailants stormed the village of Kwajaffa at dusk on Sunday and ordered
the residents out of their homes, adding that some of the locals had believed that the insurgents
“were going to preach and leave,” instead they “opened fire on the crowd… They then went on
setting fire to homes, burning half of the village before they left.” The village is located in the
southern part of Borno state.
5 April
At least four people have been killed after suspected Boko Haram fighters raided a local market
in a village near the city of Maiduguri on Saturday. On the grounds sources have disclosed that
scores of Boko Haram gunmen stormed the village of Kayamla, which is located 20 kilometres
(12.5 miles) from Maiduguri in Borno state. They opened fire on the weekly market and killed
four traders. The attackers also looted food stores and took away livestock before fleeing.
Sources have disclosed that the militants likely attacked the market in a bid to replenish their
supplies. The attackers fled before troops and local vigilantes had mobilized from the nearby
town of Konduga.
Two al-Jazeera television journalists, who had been detained by the Nigerian military since 24
March, have been freed. According to a statement released Sunday by the Qatar-based
broadcaster, Ahmed Idris and Ali Mustafa have been allowed to leave the Maiduguri hotel where
they were detained and return to the network’s Abuja office. Officials have not disclosed any
further details on the conditions of their release. The men, both Nigerian nationals, were
detained in the northeastern region of Nigeria, where troops are currently carrying out military
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operations targeting Boko Haram militants. At the time, Nigerian defense spokesman Chris
Olukolade had stated that the pair was “found to have been loitering around areas where
military operations are ongoing in the northeast and have been restrained in Maiduguri.” AlJazeera officials however later disclosed that the pair were taken from their hotel room after
having “finished filming a story on the military with their cooperation,” and that their camera
equipment was confiscated.
4 April
Police officials disclosed Saturday that gunmen have stormed two communities in Nigeria’s
southern oil state of Rivers, killing at least nine people and injuring two others a week ahead of
the gubernatorial election. According to police spokesman Ahmad Muhammad, “it was about
19:30 hrs (1830 GMT) of yesterday (Friday). Some unknown armed men invaded Obrikom and
Obor communities and went on a shooting spree,” adding that the assailants had also set ablaze
the house of a local politician, Vincent Ogbagu, who is a state parliament candidate in the 11
April election. The police spokesman disclosed that the initial death toll of six had since risen to
nine.
Militants of the Urhobo minority ethnic group blew up a natural gas pipeline in Nigeria’s Delta
state early on Friday. According to Isa Ado, spokesman for the Pulo Shield Taskforce, which is
composed of members of various Nigerian security forces investigating oil theft in the country’s
oil-producing delta region, “the Urhobo militants who carried out the attack have claimed
responsibility,” adding that the militants were trying to draw attention to their exclusion from
lucrative pipeline protection contracts with the state oil company.
3 April
An explosion near a bus station in the northeastern city of Gombe has killed at least five people
and injured 15 others. Muhammad Garkuwa, a drivers’ union official, disclosed Thursday “we
had an explosion outside the motor park (bus station) this evening around 8:30 pm (1930 GMT)
which killed five people and injured 15 others,” adding “the explosion was from an explosive
left by a woman in her handbag beside a bus waiting to convey passengers to Jos.” While no one
has claimed responsibility for the attack, the incident bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram, which
in recent weeks has increasingly carried out a string of similar explosions against so-called “soft
targets,” including bus stations and markets in northeastern Nigeria. Update (4 April) – The
death toll from an explosion near a bus station in Gombe has risen to 10.
The electoral commissioner for Kano state has died in a house fire along with his wife and two
children. According to his office, resident electoral commissioner Mukaila Abdullah had
presided over the elections last weekend. Lawan Garba, spokesman for the Independent
National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Kano confirmed the incident. Police officials have not
yet commented on the cause of the fire.
2 April
The Chadian army disclosed Thursday that nine Chadian soldiers were killed and sixteen
wounded after Boko Haram fighters in northeastern Nigeria ambushed them. According to a
military spokesman, fighting took place on Wednesday about 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the
town of Malam Fatori, which was retaken by regional forces earlier this week. Colonel Azem
Bermandoa Agouna disclosed, “elements of the Chad-Niger (military alliance) were killed in a
pocket of resistance… After heavy fighting, the armed forces of Chad and Niger totally cleaned
up the zone.” According to a statement released by the military, the allied troops killed “more
than 100” members of Boko Haram, adding that large quantities of equipment were also seized
by the soldiers. While regional forces captured Malam Fatori on Tuesday, and were met with
no resistance as Boko Haram fighters had already fled the town, some insurgents remained in
the vicinity, launching an attack on Wednesday between Malam Fatori and the border town of
Bosso in Niger. The capture of Malam Fatori is crucial for the regional coalition as the town,
which is located close to Nigeria’s northeastern border, had become known as the militant
group’s main refuge in the region whenever its fighters fell back after defeats. Chadian and
Nigerien troops had made the town a primary target when they entered Nigeria on 8 March.
A curfew in the southern Rivers state, which was put in place in a bid to contain unrest after the
opposition disputed results from the weekend’s general elections, has been lifted. A statement
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released by secretary to Rivers government George Feyi disclosed, “the general public is hereby
informed that the dusk-to-dawn curfew declared by the state government early in the week is
lifted with immediate effect.” While former president Goodluck Jonathan was declared the
winner in Rivers, receiving nearly 95 percent of the vote, thousands of opposition supporters
descended on the electoral office in the state capital Port Harcourt on Sunday and Monday,
demanding a rerun of the vote. Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi, a member of the
opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) party, had earlier issued a statement indicating that
there had been “no election” in the Rivers state, claiming that supporters of Jonathan’s People’s
Democratic Party (PDP) and its loyalists in the security forces had rigged the results.
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman Attahiru Jega later certified the
results in Rivers state. While a major crisis was averted during the general election, the state
remains on edge with governorship and state legislative polls due to take place on 11 April.
1 April
Challenger General Muhammadu Buhari has won Nigeria’s presidential election by 2.57 million
votes, defeating incumbent Goodluck Jonathan. On Wednesday, Nigeria’s Independent National
Electoral Commission (INEC) announced that Gen Buhari, of the All Progressives Congress
(APC), won 15,424,921 votes (53.95 percent) of the 28,587,564 total valid ballots case. Rival
Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) won 12,853,162 votes (44.96) in the elections,
which was held on Saturday and Sunday. In a statement released Wednesday, INEC chairman
Attahiru Jega stated, “Muhammadu Buhari, of the APC, having satisfied the requirement for the
law and scored the highest number of votes, is hereby declared the winner and is returned
elected.” In an unprecedented step, which will likely help to defuse anger amongst disgruntled
supports of the former president, Mr Jonathan called Gen Buhari at 5:15 PM (1615 GMT) on
Tuesday, prior to the final results being declared, to concede defeat. A spokesman for Gen
Buhari’s APC party praised Mr Jonathan, stating, “he will remain a hero for this move. The
tension will go down dramatically,” adding “anyone who tries to foment trouble on the account
that they have lost the election will be doing so purely on his own.” In a statement released late
Tuesday, Jonathan stated, “I promised the country free and fair elections. I have kept my word.”
He urged disputes over the results to be settled in court rather than on the street, adding,
“nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian.” Jonathan will officials hand over power
to Buhari on 29 May. Gen Buhari’s move is a significant moment in Nigeria’s history, as never
before has a sitting president lost an election. Jonathan had led Nigeria since 2010. While he
won elections in 2011, over the past year, Nigeria has suffered a series of major attacks carried
out by Boko Haram militants, with many believing that Gen Buhari is better positioned to defeat
the militant group after Jonathan failed to maintain his promise of ending the six-year
insurgency. While military gains against the militant group in recent weeks were welcomed,
they were also seen as too little too late, particularly by those who have lived under constant
threat. This was reflected in Borno state, which has been the worst-affected region by the
Islamists rampage. Initial results indicated that Buhari won 94 percent of the vote in the state
as hundreds of thousands of people defied threats of suicide attacks and bombings to vote.
While Buhari has acknowledged that the task of completely defeating Boko Haram will be
challenging, along with other challenges, including dealing with widespread poverty, his
military background resulted in many believing that the former leader is better equipped to
fight the insurgents.
Sahel Region
5 April
On Sunday, West African bloc ECOWAS withdrew a statement it had released earlier that day,
which announced that a regional summit on 8 April would discuss the Boko Haram threat. In
the new statement, organizers indicated that they considered the earlier announcement “void.”
ECOWAS did not specify whether the summit had been cancelled or postponed. Earlier on
Sunday, ECOWAS had disclosed that leaders of Central and West African states will hold a
summit on 8 April in a bid to draw up a joint strategy against the threat posed by Boko Haram
militants. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic
Community of Central African States (ECCAS) were jointly organizing the meeting, which was
due to be held in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea.
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Senegal
28 April
As pressure is mounting on European nations to take action over the recent sinking’s in the
Mediterranean that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of migrants, on Tuesday officials
from the Senegalese and Malian governments disclosed that more than 300 of their nationals
have died in the sinking’s. In a statement released by the Malian ministry for overseas nationals,
156 Malians have perished in recent Mediterranean accidents, noting that most were from the
western region of Kayes, which is located near the border with Senegal. Senegalese officials
have disclosed that they are setting up a crisis center and a hotline to enable families to get in
touch with the authorities who are “working hard to give people reliable and credible
information.” This year, some 1,750 migrants have died while attempting to cross the
Mediterranean to reach Europe. This figure is thirty times more than during the same period
last year. On 19 April, at least 700 migrants died after their trawler sank between Libya and
southern Italy however the number of migrants continuing to cross from Africa to southern
Europe has shown little sign of easing since the disaster.
Sierra Leone
27 April
On Monday, Sierra Leone marked its 54th anniversary of independence by setting out a four
point “post-Ebola plan” that aims to put the country on the road to recovery in the wake of the
deadly epidemic. In a nationwide televised address to mark the anniversary, President Ernest
Bai Koroma stated that the government’s strategy will focus on “health, education, social
protection and economic recovery through private sector development” to drive the country’s
rehabilitation. He added that the government would also set aside a national day of
“thanksgiving” to honor the victims of the epidemic. While almost 4,000 deaths have been
registered in Sierra Leone since the epidemic spread from Guinea a year ago, health authorities
have admitted that the real toll is likely significantly higher.
22 April
Police in the capital Freetown are searching for seven people who fled an area of the city that
was placed under quarantine when a member of their family died of Ebola. Officials from the
National Ebola Response Centre (NERC) indicated earlier this week that part of the denselypopulated Moa Wharf township was sealed off after a youngster, who had tested positive for the
deadly virus, died on Tuesday. According to the NERC, a group of seven people from the same
household, including his mother, are believed to have gone into hiding in the Goderich fishing
community, which is located around 30 kilometres (20 miles) west of Freetown. NERC
spokesman Sidi Tunis has confirmed that another six people who had been in contact with the
youngster have been transferred to a clinic for observation.
14 April
On Tuesday, Sierra Leone reopened its schools, more than eight months after classes were shut
in a bid to end the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. Classrooms have been empty since the
government announced a state of emergency in July last year in response to an outbreak that
has killed around 10,000 people in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. While the reopening of
Sierra Leone’s schools had been initially set for 30 March, as the rate of new infections had
slowed, the date was pushed back to 14 April after a sharp rise in new cases, mostly around the
capital Freetown and in three other western districts. According to the latest figures released
by the World Health Organization (WHO), only nine confirmed cases were reported in the seven
days leading up to 5 April, compared with 25 in the previous week – effectively a fifth
consecutive weekly decrease and the lowest weekly total in almost a year.
7 April
Police in Sierra Leone raided a funeral on Tuesday and arrested thirteen people suspected of
organizing an unsafe burial and risking the spread of the disease. According to police
superintendent De Samah, “heavily armed” police arrived to prevent a 50-year old man from
being interred on the outskirts of the capital of Freetown after they were tipped off about the
ceremony. Mr Samah confirmed that police were able to stop the burial and that they “…have
put out an alert for an ambulance which eyewitnesses said brought the corpse to the
cemetery…We arrested those present because there was no burial permit nor any documents
relating to the burial.” Palo Conteh, the national Ebola response chief, has disclosed that
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traditional funeral rights, which involve contact with the body, remain the biggest driver of
Ebola transmission in the West African nation. While unsafe burials were common at the
beginning of the epidemic, latest figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO)
show that in the week leading up to 29 March, there was just one reported unsafe burial in Sierra
Leone. Alimamy Kamara, head of the Ebola Response Centre in charge of Freetown and the
surrounding area, stated last week that people organizing unsafe burials risked two years in jail,
adding, “people should adhere to the government policy of safe and dignified burials so that we
can end the high rate of transmission of the Ebola virus.”
4 April
Sierra Leone’s eastern district of Kailahun has recorded its first case in nearly four months.
According to officials, a 9-month-old boy tested positive for Ebola after dying in Kailahun, the
Sierra Leonean district located on Guinea’s border, which recorded the country’s first Ebola case
last May and which was for months the epicenter of the crisis. Kailahun went from recording
up to eighty infections per week in June to no cases by the end of last year. Winnie Romeril, a
spokeswoman for the World Health Organization (WHO) has indicated that local and foreign
experts have been dispatched to investigate the case. While Alex Bonapha, the Kailahun district
council chairman has indicated that it remains unclear how the boy may have contracted the
deadly disease as both his parents are healthy, sources have disclosed that the boy underwent
a blood transfusion before dying and that he may have contracted the disease during the blood
transfusion. Update (7 April) – On Tuesday, Sierra Leonean officials disclosed that they had
mistakenly reported an Ebola positive case in Kailahun, a former hotspot for the deadly virus
that had not seen a case for nearly four months. According to National Ebola Response Centre
spokesman Sidi Yahya Tunis, a nine-month-old baby was pronounced Ebola positive last week
however he was later found to have died from other causes. The spokesman blamed the mistake
on a “lapse” by health officials who took the blood sample from the corpse.
1 April
According to an official, Sierra Leone has recorded ten new Ebola cases during a three-day
nationwide shutdown, declaring that the West African nation is now at the “tail end” of the
deadly epidemic. Alfred Palo Conteh, the head of the country’s Ebola response, has indicated
that while hundreds of sick people were identified as health teams went door-to-door on Friday,
Saturday and Sunday, only ten of the sick eventually tested positive for the disease. This figure
indicates that there were not that many hidden Ebola cases across the country, as had been
feared. By contrast, during the three-day shutdown in September, more than 260 new cases
had been identified.
Togo
29 April
On Wednesday, despite the electoral commission pronouncing victory for incumbent Faure
Gnassingbe, Togo’s opposition leader Jean-Pierre Fabre claimed victory in the weekend
presidential elections. Fabre has denounced the results, stating that they are “fraudulent,” and
a “crime against national sovereignty.” His party, the Combat for Political Change (CAP 2015),
has stated that it “categorically” rejects the results, adding that they bore “no resemblance to
those compiled from reports collected in polling stations by its representatives.” While the
election results, which were announced on Tuesday, are provisional and still subject to
confirmation by the Constitutional court, the CAP 2015’s campaign director Patrick LawsonBanku has called for protests, asking people to turn out in force “using all legal means to ensure
that this latest takeover fails.”
27 April
According to election commission figures released Monday, incumbent President Faure
Gnassingbe appeared set to win a third term in office, as partial results from weekend elections
gave him a strong lead. The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) indicated that
Gnassingbe had won 62 percent of the vote, far ahead of his nearest rival Jean-Pierre Fabre, who
gained 32 percent. If Gnassingbe win’s Saturday’s election, this will extend his family’s almost
50-year rule over the West African Nation. The head of the ECOWAS election observation
mission, which deployed 100 observers to monitor the polls nationwide, indicated that there
had been no major incident “likely to affect the integrity of the voting process.” Speaking to
reporters, the West Africa bloc’s Amos Sawyer disclosed, “overall, the election of 25 April 2015
was free, transparent and organized in an acceptable manner.” In a statement, the spokesman
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for United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that the Secretary welcomed the
smooth vote and urged “all political leaders and segments of society to continue to maintain the
peaceful atmosphere that has prevailed throughout the electoral process.” Currently there are
not limits to the number of times a president can stand for re-election in Togo. Update (29
April) – The electoral commission announced late Tuesday that President Faure Gnassingbe has
won a third term with 58.75 percent of the vote in Saturday’s election, with his main rival JeanPierre Fabre taking 34.95 percent. According to the commission’s head Taffa Tabiou, “the
national electoral commission states that Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe has been elected based
on provisional results, which are subject to confirmation by the Constitutional Court.”
Togo’s main opposition candidate has complained of widespread irregularities in Saturday’s
presidential election and has called for the announcement of the results to be halted. Results
that were issued earlier on Monday from six of the 42 voting districts showed that President
Faure Gnassingbe was ahead with 64 percent of the vote and that Jean-Pierre Fabre, his nearest
rival, had 33 percent. The remaining votes were shared between the other three candidates.
While officials have not released the finalized results, Jean-Pierre Fabre’s CAP 2015 coalition
sent a letter to the head of the election commission, Issoufou Taffa Tabiou, highlighting a series
of complaints pertaining to the electoral process. According to the letter, the initial figures
produced by the election commission did not match the results Combat for Political Change
(CAP 2015) members had recorded at polling stations. According to Fabre’s party, the number
of votes cast exceeded the number of registered votes in at least nine constituencies – Binah,
Tone, Cinkasse, Kozah, Bassar, Tchamba, Blitta, Sotouboua and Plaine de Moin – in the northern
region of the country, which is a stronghold for the president. The letter also indicated that
voters were being intimidated and that many people were voting without election cards. Fabre
stated, “all these irregularities are serious enough to undermine the credibility of the results in
the (districts) mentioned above. As a result, I call on the election commission to cancel the
results in the districts where fraud is proven,” adding that any further publication of results
would be a provocation.
26 April
According to Togo’s electoral commission, turnout for Saturday’s elections was low. The
Independent National Electoral Commission indicated early Sunday that of some of the 3.5
million voters called to polling stations on Saturday, only 53 – 55 percent took part in the
election. While counting began as soon as the polling stations closed on Saturday, by Sunday
afternoon, no results had been announced however the CENI has another five days in order to
announce the outcome. Officials have indicated that the turnout was significantly lower than in
2010, when nearly two thirds of registered voters took part.
21 April
Amnesty International (AI) has called on the Togolese government to respect the right to
demonstrate ahead of the country’s presidential elections on 25 April. On Tuesday, the
international rights group warned against the excessive use of force, stating that in March, police
had used live rounds during a demonstration to support a teachers’ strike. According to
Amnesty officials, around thirty people were wounded in the town of Glei, which is located 160
kilometres (100 miles) north of the capital Lome. Officials further indicated that the police had
arrested twenty people and that one man died after his release. In November 2014, thousands
demonstrated in a failed bid for term limits aimed at barring President Faure Gnassingbe from
running for a third term in office.
19 April
The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will deploy 100
poll observers to Togo on Monday ahead of the 25 April presidential elections. According to a
statement released Sunday, the sub-regional bloc has indicated that the long-term mission will
be made up of experts in conflict prevention, elections analysis, and gender and media
management. Former Liberian interim president Professor Amos Sawyer will head the election
observer mission. Once they arrive in Togo, the ECOWAS poll observers will meet with officials
of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) as well as officials from the
Department of Foreign Affair. A technical team of the Togolese Political Affairs Department and
Early Warning Commission of the ECOWAS Commission will also support the poll observers.
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Central Africa
Angola
27 April
Angolan opposition party UNITA disclosed Monday that more than 1,000 civilians were killed
when Angolan police clashed with members of a Christian sect last week, rather than the 22 that
were reported by the police. There has been no comment from any independent groups on the
death toll as the area around the incident has been cordoned off, effectively making it difficult
to speak to any witnesses or officials in person. Both the government and police officials did not
comment on the opposition’s death toll.
22 April
While police in Angola have denied reports that some 200 members of a sect have been killed,
officials have confirmed 22 deaths, including nine officers. The main opposition party in Angola,
Unita, has indicated that police carried out a massacre in revenge for the officers’ deaths.
Sources have disclosed that the clashes occurred on 16 April in the central Huambo province
when police raided a camp in search for sect leader Jose Julino Kalupeteka, who is accused of
inciting civil disorder. He is currently in police custody. Unita and human rights activists have
indicated that the Angolan army has now sealed off the area around the town of Caala. Police
spokesman Paulo Gaspar de Almeida confirmed that thirteen of Mr Kalupeteka’s private guards
had been killed because they were “snipers” who had opened fire, killing nine officers however
he has denied that some 200 members of the sect were killed stating that the opposition parties
were exaggerating the number of deaths for political reasons.
Cameroon
24 April
According to Cameroon’s state radio, a suspected group of armed rebels from the neighboring
Central African Republic (CAR) has killed three people in a village in Cameroon and kidnapped
seven others. Residents in Mbeng village have disclosed that the attack took place early on
Thursday when masked assailants entered the village. They shot three women and took away
five others. Officials have disclosed that the same group is suspected to have seized two other
people the following day. Since the CAR descended into chaos in March 2013, armed groups
have carried out a number of cross border raids. While a transitional government is now in
place in the CAR, the attacks have continued and have prompted Cameroonian officials to deploy
Special Forces along the border. In March, fifteen people, including a mayor and local
government officials, were kidnapped in a similar attack.
18 April
Nineteen people were killed Thursday night after Boko Haram militants attacked a
Cameroonian village. According to a security source, “the final toll from this attack is 19 dead,
with the majority of the victims decapitated.” Security sources had previously indicated that
ten civilians were killed in the cross-border attack on the village of Bia, which is located in
Cameroon’s Far North region, however officials had warned that the death toll was likely to rise
in the coming days. Security forces had previously identified Bia, which borders Lake Chad, as
a recruiting ground for Boko Haram militants.
Sources have disclosed that during the night from Thursday to Friday, Boko Haram militants
attacked a Cameroon army position in Amchide, which is located on the border with Nigeria.
According to a security source, “they burned houses in Amchide, but without losses on our side.
The attack was repulsed. We don’t know yet about casualties on the enemy side.”
6 April
Cameroonian officials have reported that over the several weeks, suspected Boko Haram
militants have been seizing food and livestock from farmers and cattle ranchers in the northern
region of the country, near the border with Nigeria. According to Midjiyawa Bakari, Governor
of the Far North region, the militants carried out raids in groups of 5 – 10. They seized cattle,
food and money from residents living along Cameroon’s border with Nigeria’s northeastern
Borno state, adding that the long and porous border with the West African country has made it
possible for the insurgents to attack crop farmers, cattle ranchers and small businesses and to
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make a quick getaway. Such attacks have forced many food producers in the area to relocate to
safer areas further away from the border. Sali Dairou, a member of the National Assembly from
northern Cameron, confirmed these incidents, stating that some of the farmers who refused to
cooperate with the insurgents were killed.
Central African Republic (CAR)
30 April
On Thursday, President Francois Hollande vowed to “show no mercy” if French peacekeepers
in the CAR were found guilty of raping children in exchange for food. A statement from the
president came as an internal UN report suggested that troops from France, Chad and Equatorial
Guinea were implicated. The UN report suggests that at least 13 French soldiers, two soldiers
from Equatorial Guinea and three Chadian troops were involved in the alleged abuse, which took
place between December 2013 and June 2014. According to a French judicial source, some of
the French soldiers have been identified however none have been questioned on the matter.
Officials from Chad and Equatorial Guinea have not yet commented on the allegations.
29 April
The French government confirmed Wednesday that authorities in France are investigating
claims that French peacekeepers sexually abused children in the CAR. A statement released by
the defense ministry disclosed that the French government “was made aware at the end of July
2014 by the UN’s high commission for human rights of accusations by children that they had
been sexually abused by French soldiers.” The statement further disclosed that Paris
prosecutors opened an investigation shortly afterwards, adding, “the defense ministry has taken
and will take the necessary measures to allow the truth to be found… If the facts are proven, the
strongest penalties will be imposed on those responsible for what would be an intolerable
attack on soldiers’ values.” Officials at the ministry have disclosed that the abuse was alleged
by around ten children and reportedly occurred at a center for internally displaced people near
the airport of the capital Bangui between December 2013 and June 2014. Sources have reported
that children as young as nine were involved and that some were abused in exchange for food
and money. UN spokesman Farhan Haq has confirmed that its rights investigators conducted a
probe last year after “serious allegations” of child abuse and sexual exploitation by French
troops had emerged, adding that it has suspended a staff member for leaking the report in July.
27 April
The United Nations warned Monday that it has received only a fraction of the funds needed in
order to address the CAR’s humanitarian crisis, forcing it to cut desperately needed aid. Claire
Bourgeois, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the country, warned, “we must prevent the
Central African Republic from becoming a forgotten crisis.” According to the UN, about half of
the CAR’s 4.6 million people live in severe poverty and need humanitarian aid, while 1.5 million
are considered food insecure. Since December, continued lawlessness across the country has
forced some 50,000 people to flee to neighbouring countries and has displaced more than
20,000 inside the CAR. Despite the massive crisis, the UN humanitarian agency OCHA has so far
received only 14 percent of the US $613 million it says it requires to address the crisis inside
the CAR this year. Meanwhile the UN refugee agency UNHCR has pulled in only nine percent of
the US $331.2 million it has appealed for to help refugees and host communities in neighbouring
countries in 2015. This lack of funds effectively means that UN agencies are unable to address
all of the numerous needs.
26 April
Reports surfaced on Sunday that four people, including a 65-year-old woman, were buried alive
in a village outside the capital Bangui, after they were accused of witchcraft. Yves Sadanga, chief
of Begoua village, confirmed the incident, stating that he has informed the authorities in Bangui.
22 April
The CAR’s transitional government has postponed a peace forum involving two factions in the
two-year-old conflict. According to a statement released by parliament, the forum was
postponed because the Republic of Congo’s President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has served as
mediator in the crisis, is unable to attend next week, therefore the forum will be held from 4 –
11 May. CAR officials have indicated that the delay will also allow the government to raise
additional funds for the talks. Some 680 representatives from armed groups, political parties,
civil societies and religious communities were due to arrive next Monday in order to attend the
nationwide forum.
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20 April
According to a United Nations official, UN peacekeepers have liberated twenty-one nomadic
Muslim herders, most of them women and children, who were enslaved by militia groups in the
western region of the CAR. However officials have disclosed that up to 100 more remain in
captivity. A spokesman for the UN refugees agency, UNHCR, confirmed that the two men, six
women and and thirteen children had been freed after negotiations, which involved local
authorities and the UN peacekeeping mission in the CAR, MINUSCA. Officials have disclosed that
the herders, who are from the Fulani ethnic group, were captured about a year ago near the
town of Yaloke.
14 April
The head of the UN mission in the CAR has called on member states to better fund preparations
for the country’s upcoming elections and humanitarian relief. According to Babacar Gaye, head
of the UN’s MINUSCA mission, the UN still lacks half the US $44 million it says it requires in order
to help the CAR move forward with presidential and legislative elections, which are due to take
place in July and August. Speaking to the UN Security Council, Gaye stated “the success of the
electoral process depends on one-time payment of the funds and we urge member states to
respond quickly to this call.” He further indicated that the CAR’s humanitarian situation remains
serious, with the UN only attaining 13 percent of the funds necessary in order to supply
humanitarian assistance in 2015. Since January, 50,000 people have been displaced while the
fragmentation of armed groups across the country has limited humanitarian access. The
Security Council also held consultations ahead of its annual vote to renew MINUSCA’s mandate,
which is due to expire at the end of this month. In late March, the Council unanimously adopted
a resolution that effectively provides for an increase of 750 military personnel ahead of the
upcoming elections. The new additions, which include 280 police and 20 corrections officers,
effectively means that a total of 10,750 military personnel and more than 2,000 police officers
are serving in MINUSCA.
The United Nations is currently in the process of assessing the Rwandan National Polices’
readiness as the country prepares to deploy a special peacekeeping unit to the CAR. According
to Assistant Commissioner of Police Jimmy Hodari, who is also the commissioner for the Peace
Support Operation, evaluators from the UN’s peacekeeping operation and field support
departments launched a five-day assessment on Sunday. They are seeking to review the
Rwandan National Polices’ contingent-owned equipment and officers’ operational capability in
order to ensure that they meet the UN requirements. The unit, which is also known as the
Specialized Protection Support Unit, is set to serve under the UN’s multi-dimensional integrated
stabilization mission in the CAR and will be responsible for “providing personal protection
including static, mobile and rapid intervention response to ensure the safety and security of CAR
high-level officials.” Rwanda already has a contingent of Formed Police Unit that is deployed in
the CAR.
On Tuesday, despite the CAR’s transitional government and foreign partners dismissing the
process, former CAR presidents Francois Bozize and Michel Djotodia signed a peace agreement
in the Kenyan capital Nairobi. According to a statement, the signing of the agreement, which
was witnessed by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, effectively endorses a deal that was signed
in Nairobi last week by the mainly Muslim former Seleka rebels and the largely Christian antibalaka militia. While the Kenyan President has indicated that the agreements effectively lay out
the foundation for lasting peace in the CAR, the Central African nation’s interim president
Catherine Samba Panza has dismissed the initiative and is seeking to organize her own peace
forum in Bangui later this month. Diplomats, led by France, have also dismissed the agreement.
10 April
One protester was killed and several dozen were injured Friday when a demonstration turned
violent outside a United Nations base in the CAR. According to UN spokesman Stephane
Dujarric, peacekeepers fired warning shots in a bid to push back some 400 protesters, some of
whom were armed with knives, who tried to set fire to the base in Kaga-Bandoro, which is
located about 350 km (220 miles) north of the capital Bangui. Sources have indicated that the
protesters are angry that the UN MINUSCA mission in the CAR has failed to stop raids carried
out by ethnic Peuhl pastoralists.
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9 April
A peacekeeper from Bangladesh died Thursday in a traffic road accident on the road to Boali,
which is located 95 kilometres northwest of Bangui. According to the UN mission in the CAR,
twelve people were injured in the incident, including three who are in critical condition.
In an effort to provide the CAR with a political solution, rival militias in the Central African
nation have signed a ceasefire agreement. According to a statement released by Kenya’s State
House, where the agreement was signed, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted the signing
of the accord on Wednesday between anti-balaka leader Joachim Kokate and former president
and ex-Seleka leader Michel Djotodia. According to the statement, the agreement includes a deal
“to stop hostilities” and another to “open a new chapter of political stability in their country” by
adhering to the transitional road map. The talks, which have been held in Kenya since
November 2014, are considered to be controversial, as they do not have the backing of the CAR’s
transitional government. In response to Wednesday’s agreement, the CAR’s Communications
Minister Georges Adrien Poussou has stated that, “its not a real accord, it’s a series of grievances
from two armed groups which hold the country hostage.” The agreement aims to end years of
fighting between the former Seleka and anti-balaka groups. Both sides have been accused of
carrying out mass atrocities against civilians, with the UN and other international aid groups
documenting the use of child soldiers and ethnic cleansing across the country. It currently
remains unclear what impact Wednesday’s agreement will have in the CAR as in the past, both
leaders have disclosed that rebel fighters on the ground cannot be controlled. Sources have
indicated that the fact that the CAR government is not involved in this agreement jeopardises
its legitimacy. Previous agreements signed between other rebels, including those that were
signed in neighbouring Brazzaville, Congo last July, have also been rejected by officials in the
CAR who have indicated that such agreements are not fully representative of the groups that
are fighting in the CAR. A second round of talks between the leaders is due to be held in Nairobi
however a timeframe for these talks has not been released.
Chad
10 April
Chadian army officials disclosed Friday that seventy-one Chadian soldiers have been killed and
416 have been wounded in less than three months of fighting Boko Haram militants. Speaking
to reporters in the Chadian capital of N’Djamena, Chad army chief General Brahim Seid stated
that the “valiant soldiers” had died since February 3 in the “just and noble cause of bringing
peace and security” to the region, adding “they (troops) have liberated 11 communities in
Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria from the hands of Boko Haram… Chadian forces will continue to
hurt the terrorists of Boko Haram wherever they are found.” Chad has deployed about 5,000
troops to fight alongside soldiers from neighboring Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria in a bid to end
Boko Haram’s six-year insurgency in Nigeria, which has increasingly spilled over into
neighboring states. After three months of an aggressive campaign to force the militants out of
the towns and villages that they have captured in northeastern Nigeria over the past year,
regional military leaders now believe that Boko Haram’s military capacity has been significantly
weakened. They have claimed that they have inflicted heavy casualties on Boko Haram however
the numbers have been impossible to verify independently. Despite the military operations,
Boko Haram militants have continued to stage attacks, often targeting busy markets and bus
stations. This fact has been highlighted by Nigerien army chief Seyni Garba, who indicated that
even if Boko Haram is weakened, it continues to have the capabilities to carry out “massive
assaults,” including suicide bomb attacks.
7 April
Officials disclosed Monday that seven civilians were killed in an attack in Chad that has been
blamed on Nigerian Boko Haram insurgents. According to Dimouuya Souapebe, the deputy
prefect of Baga Sola, on Friday the militants ambushed several civilians who were on their way
to a market in Tchoukou Telia, which is located near Lake Chad, adding that some of the victims
had their throats cut while others were shot. Sources reported that improvised mines were
later discovered along the road between Tchoukou Telia and Ngouboua, which is located close
to the border with Nigeria.
3 April
Security sources revealed Friday that Boko Haram fighters fleeing an offensive by soldiers from
Chad and Niger launched an attack on Chadian soil, killing seven people. According to a Chadian
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security source, “some Boko Haram militants fleeing Malam Fatori towards Lake Chad attacked
Maidogo, near Ngouboua, on Thursday, killing seven people.” The attack on Maidogo, which is
located on an island in Lake Chad, was confirmed by other military sources.
2 April
The Chadian army disclosed Thursday that nine Chadian soldiers were killed and sixteen
wounded after Boko Haram fighters in northeastern Nigeria ambushed them. According to a
military spokesman, fighting took place on Wednesday about 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the
town of Malam Fatori, which was retaken by regional forces earlier this week. Colonel Azem
Bermandoa Agouna disclosed, “elements of the Chad-Niger (military alliance) were killed in a
pocket of resistance… After heavy fighting, the armed forces of Chad and Niger totally cleaned
up the zone.” According to a statement released by the military, the allied troops killed “more
than 100” members of Boko Haram, adding that large quantities of equipment were also seized
by the soldiers. While regional forces captured Malam Fatori on Tuesday, and were met with
no resistance as Boko Haram fighters had already fled the town, some insurgents remained in
the vicinity, launching an attack on Wednesday between Malam Fatori and the border town of
Bosso in Niger. The capture of Malam Fatori is crucial for the regional coalition as the town,
which is located close to Nigeria’s northeastern border, had become known as the militant
group’s main refuge in the region whenever its fighters fell back after defeats. Chadian and
Nigerien troops had made the town a primary target when they entered Nigeria on 8 March.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
30 April
The DRC has granted amnesty to around 375 ex-members of the defeated M23 rebel movement.
According to decrees from the DRC’s justice ministry, which were read out on public television,
the amnesty law covers “insurgent acts,” “acts of war” as well as “political offences” and requires
the rebels to sign a promise that they will not re-offend. The amnesty however does not include
offences such as crimes against humanity, war crimes, terrorism, torture, sexual violence, use
or conscription of children, looting and the embezzlement of public funds. In February 2014,
President Joseph Kabila announced the amnesty as part of a deal to end the conflict with the
rebels, however by August, the rebels had complained that only thirty-one members of M23 had
been granted amnesty out of the 3,657 people who had signed a pledge not to take up arms
again. At the time, the insurgents also complained that “dozens” of their comrades had been
arrested after returning to the DRC.
28 April
The United Nations has confirmed that three subcontractors for the UN’s anti-landmine service
who were kidnapped in the eastern DRC were released uninjured on Tuesday. UN secretary
general spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York, “they are unharmed and have
arrived safely in Goma,” adding “they will return to their home locations over the coming days.”
No one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.
24 April
According to a United Nations source, three members of the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the
DRC were kidnapped in the eastern North Kivu province. The source disclosed that they were
kidnapped in Kibumba, which is located 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of the provincial capital
Goma. Two of those seized are Congolese members of a demining team while the other is part
of the international UN team. A Congolese army officer has disclosed that a UN vehicle had been
recovered near the presumed site of their abduction, adding, “the motor was turning and the
car was empty.” According to the UN source, the circumstances surrounding the abduction
remain unclear. While officials have indicated that the trio were abducted around 5:30 PM local
time, no details on who was behind the kidnapping or where the trio may have been taken has
been released. The incident comes as UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous is in the DRC in
order to resolve differences between the UN mission and the government in Kinshasa. Update
(25 April) – According to the UN mission in the DRC, the three men who were kidnapped earlier
this week in the DRC work for a specialized private firm subcontracted by the UN anti-mine
service. According to Charles Bambara, information director at the mission in the DRC,
MONUSCO, “these are not UN personnel, they are private agents employed by a private company
hired by (the UN Mine Action Service) UNMAS.” So far, no one has claimed responsibility for
Thursday’s abduction.
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According to a source, five people were hacked to death overnight in the Beni region of the DRC.
Amisi Kalonda, the administrator of the territory, confirmed the deaths, which took place in
Kalong, near the town of Oicha, about 280 kilometres (174 miles) north of Goma. A series of
massacres of civilians, mainly with machetes, has affected the region in recent months, with
local officials blaming the attacks on rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF)
22 April
The DRC’s army has indicated that its forces have faced incursions onto their territory by
Rwandan troops. On Wednesday, officials reported that one Congolese soldier was wounded in
an exchange of fire that occurred close to the border. According to government spokesman
Lambert Mende, Congolese forces fired warning shots at Rwandan troops who entered Rushuru
territory in the DRC’s eastern North Kivu province. Julien Paluku, governor of North Kivu
Province indicated that officials “…have been informed of the infiltration of about 100 Rwandan
troops” who crossed the border on Wednesday afternoon. He added that a team from the
International Conference on the Great lakes Region was being deployed in order to investigate
the incident. Authorities in Rwanda have not commented on these claims.
21 April
After a break of almost two years, on Tuesday, a military court in the DRC resumed an appeal
hearing in the murder of leading human rights activist Floribert Chebeya. The trial opened at
the high military court, which is located in Kinshasa’s Makala prison. It was attended by five of
the initial eight defendants, all of whom are police officers. Mr Chebeya, who was the founder
of the association Voice of the Voiceless (VSV) was found dead in his car on the outskirts of
Kinshasa on 2 June 2010, just one day after he was driven to police headquarters for an
appointment with the chief of police, General John Numbi. While General Numbi denied that he
had held a meeting with Mr Chebeya, he was suspended from duty over the affair. In 2011, a
military court convicted the deputy chief of police services, Colonel Daniel Mukalay, and three
other officers of murder. Colonel Mukalay was sentenced to death. A fifth policeman was jailed
for life however three of the convicted men remain on the run. Mr Chebeya’s chauffeur, Fidel
Bazana, also vanished and his body has never been found however during the first trial, the
court concluded that Mr Bazana had also been murdered.
20 April
Opposition parties in the DRC have threatened to boycott this year’s provincial elections unless
voting rolls are updated. The DRC’s election commission (CENI) has scheduled six separate
election days over a period of thirteen months. They will begin with polls for local and
provincial representatives in October and will end with the presidential and legislative
elections, which are due to take place in November 2016. While President Joseph Kabila is
constitutionally barred from standing for a third term in office, the opposition is claiming that
he intends to use electoral delays in a bid to remain in power, claims, which the government has
repeatedly denied. Last week, the commission began accepting candidacies for provincial
elections, however the opposition told its members not to participate until the CENI addresses
its demand that more than 5 million Congolese nations who have turned 18 since voting rolls
were last updated in 2011 be allowed to vote. In a statement, the parties stated “we call on the
parties and groupings of the political opposition, civil society organizations and other
independent candidates across the nation to abstain from all participation in the process.”
Martin Fayulu, president of the Engagement for Citizenship and Development (ECIDE)
confirmed that the parties will boycott the provincial elections if the voting rolls are not
updated. While the DRC’s main opposition party, the Union for Democracy and Social Progress
(UDPS), was not represented at the statement’s signing, its secretary-general, Bruno Mavungu,
disclosed Monday that he agreed with the other parties’ position. If a boycott of the provincial
elections is to take place, this will effectively exclude the opposition from the senate and
governorships as these positions will be chosen by the newly elected provincial deputies and
local representatives in indirect polls, which are set to take place in early 2016.
16 April
Security sources in the region revealed Thursday that thirty-seven people were kidnapped
Wednesday by rebels from Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in the
Rushuru territory of eastern DRC. According to sources, the 37 people were taken to the bush
by their kidnappers. Officials have indicated that they do not know where the hostages have
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been taken. Despite North Kivu deputy governor Feller Litachichirwa indicating that a decision
had been taken during a recent meeting of the provincial security committee to bolster security
in the region, multiple kidnappings have been reported in the past few months. This has led to
the Congolese army in deciding to escort all public vehicles using the Goma-Kanyabayonga
route.
15 April
An official disclosed Wednesday that at least five people were beheaded in a machete attack in
the eastern area of the DRC. According to Amisi Kalonda, the area administrator of the town of
Beni, “five civilians were killed by machete in the Mbau area,” adding that the victims were killed
“as they were going to work in the fields this morning.” Mbau lies around 30 kilometres (20
miles) from Beni in the North Kivu province. Residents of the village who managed to escape
the attack had alerted the army. Officials in the region have blamed the attack on Uganda
Islamist rebels from the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Update (16 April) – Officials have
updated the death toll, stating that nineteen people, including a pregnant woman, were killed in
a machete attack in eastern DRC.
On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch urged DRC officials to release seven political activists held
by intelligence services and police. In a statement, the New York-based international watchdog
stated, “authorities should immediately release seven peaceful activists who have been
wrongfully detained, some since March 15, 2015,” adding “security forces in the eastern city of
Goma beat and otherwise mistreated demonstrators protesting government repression,
including with water torture.” On 15 March, the DRC’s National Intelligence Agency (ANR)
arrested dozens in the capital Kinshasa, seizing people who had just attended a US-sponsored
workshop of the Filimbi project, which aims to help young civilians become involved in
democratic citizenships. At the time, security agents arrested French journalists, a US diplomat,
the French owner of the venue and visiting opposition activists from Burkina Faso and Senegal
as well as dozens of DRC nationals. They were all taken to the ANR headquarters. While the
French and American detainees were released the same night, and the Burkinabe and
Senegalese activists were expelled days later, Human Rights Watch has indicated that three
people remain detained in Kinshasa, including Fred Bauma, leader of the opposition Gomabased movement Struggle for Change (LUCHA). Four LUCHA members have been held in Goma
since a rally that was held on 7 April to protests the arrests in the capital city. The HRW has
noted that according to the DRC’s constitution, “security forces may not hold suspects without
charge for more than 48 hours and should then let them go or turn them over to the appropriate
judicial authorities.”
8 April
According to an army source, Rwandan rebels in the eastern region of the DRC killed around ten
soldiers in an ambush earlier this week, in what is now the insurgent’s deadliest attack since the
start of a military campaign against them, which was launched in February this year. The
military source disclosed that the ambush took place on Monday in the Masisi region of North
Kivu province, adding that two colonels were amongst those killed. Several other soldiers were
also injured in the attack, which was carried out by rebels from the Democratic Forces for the
Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
7 April
In an attempt to put an end to rumours that the bodies of opposition supporters were buried in
a recently discovered mass grave in the capital Kinshasa, DRC authorities indicated Tuesday
that the grave contained mainly stillborn babies and foetuses. Speaking to reporters, Kinshasa’s
interim governor Luzolanu Mavema stated “the bodies of 421 people were buried on March 19
in the capital’s Maluku district,” and that amongst these, there were “around 300 stillborn babies
and foetuses abandoned in streams, rivers and even hospitals.” He added that the rest of the
bodies included 23 that were abandoned, 34, which were drifters, and 64 that are yet to be
identified. Mavema stressed that the government has “absolutely nothing to hide,” adding that
a number of the bodies had been handed over by the Red Cross. Rumours have been circulating
that the mass grave may hold the bodies of government opponents who were killed during
protests and mass arrests that took place in January. At the time, protesters had denounced
moves, which they claimed were aimed at delaying presidential elections in an attempt to allow
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President Joseph Kabila to remain in power despite the constitution’s limit on presidential
terms. At the time, upwards of forty-two people died during the violent protests. According to
an official, a judicial enquiry into the mass grave has been opened at the request of the United
Nations Joint Office for Human Rights (BCNUDH) in the DRC. Update (16 April) – A minister
disclosed Thursday that the DRC’s government is ready to exhume the bodies of more than 400
people buried in a mass grave in March. According to Justice and Human Rights Minister Alexis
Thambwe Mwamba, police, judiciary and the administration have opened inquests into the
burial of 421 bodies in rural Maluku, adding that magistrates will determine whether or not an
exhumation is needed.
Police arrested five members of a pro-democracy group in the eastern DRC on Tuesday as they
demonstrated against the illegal detention of activists in the capital Kinshasa. According to
members of the youth movement Lucha, police in the city of Goma arrested the members as they
encouraged residents to participate in five minutes of protest. The increasing number of
detentions of activists in the DRC comes as the country’s political climate is intensifying ahead
of the presidential elections, which are due to take place next year, when President Joseph
Kabila’s mandate is set to end. Civil society leaders have warned that the government is
targeting activists in a bid to silence critics of the government. On 15 March, some forty activists,
musicians and journalists were detained in the capital city during a news conference that was
organized by Congolese and West African pro-democracy advocates. A US diplomat was
amongst those who were detained. While he was released shortly afterwards, officials have
indicated that are least three of those who attended the meeting, including a member of Lucha,
remain in the custody of the Congolese National Intelligence Agency (ANR). Rights groups
however have warned that the total number who remain detained is likely higher, with officials
holding them despite the detainees not having been charged with a crime or given access to a
lawyer.
Authorities in the DRC have warned residents in the town of Zongo to inform security officials
in the region if they find any refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) carrying
weapons. The appeal comes shortly after a CAR refugee was recently found with a grenade and
comes at a time when refugees continue to enter the DRC in a bid to escape the ongoing violence
in the CAR. Zongo mayor Michel Siazo stated Monday that he is appealing “…to the local
population, especially host families, to inform the security forces of any refugee who has a
weapon,” adding that “some refugees are selling a grenade for as low as 0.5 US dollar.” The
mayor warned the town’s residents that members of the CAR’s Seleka and anti-Balaka militias
are likely to have mixed in with the refugees fleeing the CAR. Officials in the region have
reported that over the past few days, over 250 refugees have arrived in Zongo after fleeing
violence in the CAR’s capital Bangui.
Equatorial Guinea
No major incidents reported during this period
Gabon
29 April
Authorities in Gabon on Wednesday were unable to transfer the body of long time opposition
figure Andre Mba Obame from Libreville to his stronghold in the north after large crowds of
supporters gathered throughout the capital. According to a source, Obame’s remains were due
to have been transferred by plane to the town of Oyem in his native region of Woleu-Ntem,
however while security forces in Libreville attempted to prevent crowds from reaching the
airport tarmac, they were later forced to return Obame’s body home in the capital. Obame, 57,
had been plagued by serious health problems. He died in Cameroon on 12 April, just five years
after he mounted a major challenge to Gabon’s President Ali Bongo Ondimba in the 2009
presidential elections. A former interior minister, Obame joined the opposition after the death
of former president Omar Bongo Ondimba. He left Gabon in 2011 after declaring himself elected
head of state and refusing to recognize current President Ali Bongo Ondimba’s 2009 election
victory. After he became sick, some of his supporters claimed that he had been poisoned, with
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many believing that the president’s cabinet director, Maixent Accrombessie, who comes from
Benin, was responsible. When his death was announced earlier this month, opposition
supporters protested in the capital, setting fire to cars and buildings including Benin’s embassy.
20 April
Following reports of the presence of weapons at the country’s borders, Gabonese security forces
have been deployed nationwide. According to a statement released by Gabon’s ministry of
defense on Monday, the operation involves the defense and security forces, adding that it was
launched following reports by the intelligence services of friendly countries. The ministry of
defense has urged those living along the border regions to remain cautious and to alert security
authorities of any suspicious movement.
17 April
A Gabonese delegation, led by Foreign Minister Emmanuel Issoze Ngondet, arrived in Benin on
Wednesday to deliver a personal apology from President Ali Bongo Ondimba to his Beninese
counterpart President Boni Yayi over last Sunday’s attack on Benin’s Embassy in Libreville.
Speaking shortly after meeting with the President, Foreign Minister Ngondet disclosed that
Gabon’s government had “strongly condemned the destruction and burning of Benin’s Embassy
in Libreville by some individuals on April 12, 2015,” adding “we are in Cotonou to express our
solidarity and apologies of our president to his Beninese counterpart and brother, over this
unfortunate incident.” The Gabonese chief diplomat has stated that last Sunday’s incident had
violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, noting, “the acts that led to the burning
of Beninese Embassy in Libreville were isolated acts. The protests were not meant to oppose
Beninese interests in Gabon.” He further indicated that Gabonese authorities have taken
additional measures to not only secure Benin’s embassy in Libreville, but to also protect
Beninese nationals and their properties across the entire national territory.
13 April
On Monday, Benin demanded an “official explanation” of the torching of its embassy in Gabon
during unrest that erupted after the announcement of the death of a senior Gabonese opposition
leader. On Sunday, opposition supporters set fire to cars and buildings in Gabon’s capital city
Libreville after officials announced the death of Andre Mba Obame. Benin’s embassy was
amongst those buildings that had been affected however it was not immediately clear why it
was targeted during the unrest. In a statement released Monday, Beninese officials indicated
that the fire was “an unacceptable act and of a rare seriousness in a relationship between
nations,” adding “the safety of diplomatic missions and the protection of their personnel are the
responsibility of the receiving government.” In the statement, Benin demanded “an official
explanation from the Gabonese government.” Benin’s government has also called on all its
citizens living in Gabon to “take shelter from the acts of vandalism and violence orchestrated by
uncontrolled groups of protesters.” Update (14 April) – Diplomatic sources in Cotonou
disclosed Tuesday that Gabon’s government has apologized to Benin’s government and has
strongly condemned Sunday’s destruction of the latter’s embassy in Libreville. A letter issued
from the Gabonese government to Beninese authorities indicated, “Gabon’s government wishes
to express its support to Benin’s Embassy in Libreville and would wish to assure Beninese
authorities that these acts will not be repeated.” According to the letter, Gabon’s government
has promised that an investigation into the incident has been launched in order to identify those
responsible for the attack so that they can be charged before competent authorities. In regards
to Beninese nationals living in Gabon, the letter noted that the Beninese community in Gabon
had totally integrated, with a source stating “Gabon’s government, in its desire to maintain peace
and security across the national territory, calls on Beninese nationals living in Gabon to remain
calm and support all measures taken to safeguard their physical integrity and safety of their
properties.”
12 April
Opposition supporters have burnt cars and set fire to the embassy of Benin in the capital city
Libreville. Reports have indicated that the violence erupted after the announcement of the
death of senior opposition figure Andre Mba Obame, 57, who died after a prolonged illness in
neighbouring Cameroon earlier on Sunday. While Mba Obame had served as an adviser to
former President Omar Bongo, he broke with the ruling party and ran for the presidency as an
independent after Bongo’s death in 2009. While the official results had indicated that the late
leader’s son Ali Bongo had won the elections, Mba Obame had declared himself the winner, a
move that led to authorities accusing him of treason. In a statement released by Mba Obame’s
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National Union political party, which he joined shortly after the 2009 presidential elections,
officials confirmed his passing however no cause of death has been released. On the ground
sources have reported that a group of supporters, who have accused the government of
poisoning Mba Obame, burned government service cars in the capital Libreville before arriving
at Benin’s embassy. Gabon’s Interior Minister Guy Bertrand Mapangou has stated that
everything will be done in order to find the perpetrators of the violence.
Republic of Congo
No major incidents reported during this period
Sao Tome and Principe
No major incidents reported during this period
East Africa
Burundi
30 April
A US envoy warned Thursday that the crisis in Burundi over President Pierre Nkurunziza’s
controversial bid to remain in power for a third term is “very dangerous.” Speaking shortly after
holding talks with the country’s president, senior US diplomat Tom Malinowski, who is the US
assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, disclosed that Washington
could impose targeted sanctions over the crisis, adding “the position of the United States on this
issue of a third term is one that is clear. We made it known publicly many times before and I
reiterated it in front of president Nkurunziza this morning.” He further disclosed “the current
situation is very, very dangerous, and that some of the measures that have been taken, including
in recent days, to shut down social media, to suspend radio stations not only are wrong as a
matter of principle but very counter-productive,” adding that Washington hopes for “a stepping
back from repressive measures,” as it is “still not too late to resolve these problems and to move
forward on a path of dialogue and democracy.” So far, at least seven people have been killed in
the protests.
A Burundian soldiers was shot dead Thursday by an intelligence officer while at least nine
protesters were hurt after renewed clashes erupted in the capital city. According to a senior
police officer, the soldier died and a civilian was injured when an intelligence officer opened fire
near a barricade that was erected by protesters in Bujumbura. A source further disclosed that
the officer was “at a spot where the demonstrators had built a barricade. He felt threatened. He
shot and hit a soldier who was killed.” The Red Cross has reported that nine protesters have
been hurt in the clashes in the capital city, with officials indicating that prior to the soldier’s
death, the overall toll from days of violent protest stood at six dead. Three were killed on the
first day of protests on Sunday, when police were accused of firing at demonstrators. Three died
later that night in an alleged attack carried out by ruling party militia forces. The nine people
who were wounded on Thursday included several who suffered gunshot wounds, with a
military source confirming that police had again fired on groups of demonstrators. Witnesses
reported Thursday that the authorities have closed university accommodations, effectively
forcing thousands of students to leave their campus in a move that is apparently aimed at ending
the wave of protests. On the ground sources reported late Thursday that large numbers of
students, many of whom come from rural areas, were seen evacuating the University of Burundi
in the capital after the government order was issued overnight.
29 April
According to a telecoms official, authorities on Wednesday cut mobile access to several social
networks and messaging applications. Networks including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp,
which have been used to organize protests, were no longer accessible via mobile telephone in
the capital on Wednesday, with officials providing no explanation for the service cut. A telecoms
source confirmed that operators had been ordered in writing by Burundi’s telecommunications
regulator, ARCT, to block mobile access to certain sites.
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Burundi’s Senate announced Wednesday that the country’s constitutional court will examine
the legality of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term in office. Venant Barubike,
private secretary to the Senate president, confirmed that a motion has been submitted to the
court, which seeks an interpretation of key articles relating to a possible presidential third term.
Opposition leaders however have dismissed this, stating that the court is loyal to the president.
They vowed that protests will continue. African Union Commission Chief Nkosazana DlaminiZuma has welcomed the decision, stating that she was “pleased to note that the Burundi Senate
has taken the third-term question to the constitutional court,” and adding that the court “…must
decide responsibly.” President Nkurunziza has been in power since 2005 and his supporters
say that he is eligible to run for office again as he was elected to his first term by parliament and
not directly by the people. Under the constitution, the president is elected by universal direct
suffrage, “for a mandate of five years renewable one time.”
28 April
Anti-government protests continued for a third day in the capital on Tuesday, with police
reinforcements boosting the numbers of security forces deployed on the streets. While
protesters remained defiant, most were contained in the side streets and were blocked from the
city’s center. On the ground sources have reported that protesters burned tires and erected
street barricades in the capital Bujumbura. On Monday, the ruling party indicated that the
protests in the capital are “nothing short of rebellion.” Officials have accused the opposition of
trying to make the country ungovernable.
A spokesman for President Pierre Nkurunziza stated Tuesday that the president will continue
his bid for a third term in office effectively dismissing calls by protesters who have clashed with
police over the past three days. Presidential communications chief Willy Nyamitwe stated that
“we wont back down, that is out of the question,” adding that he blamed demonstrators for the
violence. The government has banned all protests and has deployed large numbers of police
and troops onto the streets, with on the ground sources reporting that police have fired live
ammunition, tear gas and water canons at protesters. Hundreds of stone-throwing protesters
have been arrested. Officials have indicated that at least five people have died since clashes
broke out Sunday a day after the ruling CNDD-FDD party designated Nkurunziza its candidate
in the presidential elections, which are due to be held on 26 June. Sources have disclosed that
some of the protesters killed were shot at close range. Police officials have indicated that at
least 37 officers have been wounded.
According to the United Nations, more than 5,000 Burundians have fled to Rwanda over the
weekend, effectively bringing the total number of arrivals in April to nearly 21,000. The
Rwandan government has warned that the number of arrivals could increase to 50,000 as
tensions in neighboring Burundi continue to rise. Ariane Rummery, spokeswoman for the UN
refugee agency UNHCR, has disclosed that most of the new arrivals in Rwanda are women and
children, noting that the refugees have reported facing intimidation and threats of violence that
are linked to the upcoming elections. According to the UNHCR, since the beginning of this month
3,800 Burundian nationals have also fled to the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic
of Congo.
27 April
Police have arrested leading human rights activist Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, with sources
indicating that an arrest warrant has been issued for Vital Nshimirimana, head of a prominent
NGO forum and leader of the campaign that aims to block President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for
a third term in office. Mbonimpa’s lawyer, Armel Niyongere disclosed that he had not been
informed of the charges against his client, adding that he believed “the arrest is linked to his call
for demonstrations today.” According to an eyewitness, Mbonimpa was arrested “brutally”
during a police raid on the headquarters of a media association.
Opposition activists held a second day of protests on Monday against a bid by the country’s
president to seek a controversial third term in office. On the ground sources have reported that
police used tear gas in Cibitoke, in the northern area of the capital, in a bid to prevent around
1,000 demonstrators from reaching the city center. Several other demonstrations were
reported across the capital. The government has banned all protests and on Sunday, it halted
nationwide broadcasts by Burundi’s three main independent radio stations, which have been
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accused of encouraging an “uprising” against the government. Monday’s demonstrations came
a day after at least two protesters were shot dead during clashes with police in the capital
Bujumbura and after two further deaths were reported overnight in alleged attacks by ruling
party militia.
26 April
Police on Sunday clashed with small groups of protesters, with witnesses reporting that two
demonstrators were shot dead. On the ground sources reported that despite a government ban,
there were small demonstrations in several parts of the capital with at least one outbreak of
stone-throwing and anti-riot police beating back around 100 protesters who were attempting
to reach the city center. Sources have disclosed that in the Cibitoke area, protesters pelted police
with stones after they arrested a demonstrator. At least two police officers were wounded and
two youths arrested, with police later firing live rounds in the air in a bid to disperse the crowd.
Witnesses reported similar small-scale clashes in two other districts of the capital city. One
person was shot dead in the capital’s Ngagara district while another in Musaga after police used
live ammunition to disperse crowds. Fears are growing that the worsening crisis may plunge
Burundi, which emerged from a long and bloody civil war in 2006, back into violence.
25 April
On Saturday, Burundi’s president was nominated as the ruling party’s candidate for a third term
in office, a move that has prompted complaints from the opposition and drawn criticism from
the United States. Security was tightened across the capital city as the ruling CNDD-FDD opened
a special party congress, during which President Nkurunziza was officially designated as the
party’s candidate. Opposition figures have indicated that the move is unconstitutional and have
warned President Nkurunziza that his efforts to remain in power will push the country back
into violence. They have vowed to defy a nationwide ban on demonstrations and warnings that
the army could be deployed. Washington has also condemned Nkurunziza’s candidacy, warning
that the central African nation “is losing an historic opportunity to strengthen its democracy.”
20 April
Burundi’s government warned Monday that it might call out the army if protests escalate over
controversial plans by President Nkurunziza to defy the country’s two-term limit and seek reelection. Defense Minister General Pontien Gaciyubwenge stated Tuesday that “one of the
missions” of the army was to help maintain security in the event of worsening civil unrest,
adding “at the request of the Supreme Commander (the president) or another authority, I am
ready to accompany the other security actors in resisting the detractors of peace, and together
seek peace for the people of Burundi.” Gabriel Nizigama backed the warning, stating that when
it comes to any “disturbance of public order and public safety, we say to you: ‘the defence and
security forces are united.’” The warning comes after clashes erupted on Friday between
demonstrators and police. On Saturday, prosecutors disclosed that 65 protesters were arrested
and charged with rebellion. President Nkurunziza has not yet confirmed whether he intends to
stay in power however his supporters say that he has the right to do so.
According to officials, nine parties forming the Participatory Opposition Coalition in Burundi
(COPA) have named Jean de Dieu Mutabazi as the Coalition candidate for the country’s
forthcoming presidential election. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Jean de Dieu
Mutabazi, who has been the chairman of the COPA since its creation in September 2014,
confirmed his selection, adding that the coalition does not “…fear any candidate including
President Pierre Nkurunziza if his party (the CNDD-FDD) designates him as a candidate.”
According to Dieu Mutabazi, the platform for the Coalition will focus on two main pillars,
including adapting the National Constitution and eradicating poverty in Burundi.
19 April
According to a prosecutor, 65 protesters have been charged with rebellion after they were
arrested during clashes with police while calling for the president not to seek re-election. State
prosecutor Arcade Nmubona disclosed late Saturday that on Friday, police arrested scores of
protesters and on Saturday 65 were charged with “participation in an insurrectionary
movement.” Those charged face a possible life sentence if found guilty of armed insurrection.
18 April
The United Nations Security Council has warned that upcoming elections in Burundi may turn
violent, with the Council vowing that it will take action against those who are fomenting unrest.
The 15-member Council has called on the Burundian government and the opposition to refrain
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from acts of violence and intimidation ahead of the upcoming parliamentary vote and the
presidential polls. On Friday, the UN refugee agency disclosed that over the past two weeks,
more than 8,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo and
Rwanda in a bid to escape the violence. The UNHCR has expressed concern that the numbers of
refugees could swell “with more political tension rising and more acts of violence being
reported.”
17 April
On Friday, police fired tear gas and water cannon in a bid to disperse protesters calling for the
president not to run for a third term in office. On the ground sources have disclosed that around
a thousand opposition activists attempted to gather in the center of of the capital Bujumbura,
however they were blocked by police, who detained several protesters. Some of the protesters
threw stones, to which the police responded with tear gas and water cannon. Calm was
eventually restored in the capital city however at least two policemen were injured in the
clashes. Burundi’s opposition parties are concerned that incumbent President Pierre
Nkurunziza will bid for a third term in the upcoming June presidential elections, despite the
constitution stating that a president can only be elected twice. In the wake of Friday’s unrest,
Chauvineau Mugwengezo, president of the opposition UPD party, has criticized the security
clampdown and has called for more demonstrations. Deputy police chief Godefroid Bizimana
has defended the police actions, stating that the rally was not authorized and that the police
were just “doing their job.”
11 April
Some 10,000 ruling party supporters marched in Bujumbura on Saturday in what is a show of
unity ahead of the June presidential elections. According to on the ground sources, some 10,000
activists marched in four different processions through the capital city in support of the ruling
National Council for the Defense of Democracy-Defense Forces of Democracy (Cnd-FDD) party
and the Youth League. Referring to several top party members who have publicly opposed
President Nkurunziza’s bid to stay in power, Cndd-FDD President Pascal Nyabenda stated
“recently, some activists took…a party debate that should have remained internal into the public
realm,” adding “we organized this march for peace to show that our party is still united despite
these trouble-makers, who were only looking out for their own interests.” Recently, some 140
top party members signed a petition calling on the president not to run for a third term in office.
As a result of this petition, some thirty party members were expelled. The Cndd-FDD is likely to
name its presidential candidate at a conference that is due to take place later this month.
10 April
A UN spokesman announced Friday that the UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad
Al Hussein, will begin a three day visit to Burundi on Sunday. According to UN spokesman
Stephane Dujarric, “he is expected to meet with the president as well as a number of top
officials,” adding “the high commissioner is expected to take part in a roundtable discussion on
human rights and elections in Burundi next Wednesday.”
Djibouti
No major incidents reported during this period
Eritrea
No major incidents reported during this period
Ethiopia
28 April
The Ministry of Justice announced Tuesday that in an attempt to stem a wave of dangerous
migrations to Europe, Ethiopian officials are drafting new laws to strengthen punishments for
human trafficking. Ethiopian officials have disclosed that they are currently working through
their embassies in Khartoum, Sudan and in Cairo in order to bring migrants back home.
According to the Ethiopian ambassador in Egypt, Mohammed Dirir, more than 190 Ethiopian
migrants in the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi have registered to return home. Mr Dirir
further disclosed, “we are also working with local authorities to secure the release of 40
Ethiopian migrants that are currently in a prison called Koyfiya around Benghazi.” Last week,
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Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom told Parliament that most smugglers of Ethiopian
migrants are Ethiopians, adding that the smugglers have established networks along different
migration routes. The ministry has warned that despite previous measures carried out by the
government, which targeted people involved in human trafficking, human smuggling is
increasing at an alarming rate, with Minister of Justice Getachew Ambaye stating, “the main
reason for this is measures taken against individuals that are involved in human smuggling have
not been severe enough.” Under Ethiopia’s current laws, prison terms for crimes related to
human smuggling range from five to 20 years and a maximum fine of US $2,500.
22 April
On Wednesday, tens of thousands of Ethiopians marched through the capital city in a
government-organized rally that condemned the murder of a group of Ethiopian Christians by
Islamic State (IS) militants in Libya. On the ground sources have reported that a large crowd
began to gather in Addis Abba’s Meskel Square shortly after dawn, adding that rally was aimed
at channeling public anger sparked by the killings.
21 April
Hundreds of Ethiopians protested against the killings of dozens of Ethiopian Christians by
Islamic extremists in Libya as the country’s parliament began discussions on how to respond to
the killings. Hundreds of protesters in the capital Addis Ababa departed from the homes of two
of the victims on Tuesday in an attempt to reach Meskel Square, which is the main gathering
place in the capital. Police however blocked their attempts to enter the square. Officials have
indicated that most of the dozens of Ethiopians who were shot or beheaded by extremists linked
to Islamic State (IS) were migrants. On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Tedros Adhanom told
lawmakers that the government will take “all necessary action” to protect citizens and will start
repatriating those who wish to come home. While Ethiopian lawmakers on Tuesday were
debating a possible response to the killings, it remains unclear if military action is an option.
20 April
Ethiopia will hold three days of national mourning for Ethiopian Christians killed by Islamic
State (IC) militants in Libya. According to Communications Minister Redwan Hussein, the
mourning period will begin Tuesday.
19 April
On Sunday, Ethiopia condemned the reported killing of Ethiopian Christians captured in Libya,
with officials vowing to continue fighting against Islamist extremists. Ethiopian Minister of
Communications Redwan Hussein stated Sunday that officials “…strongly condemn such
atrocities, whether they are Ethiopian or not,” adding that Ethiopia’s embassy in Egypt is
working in order to verify whether those killed were indeed Ethiopians. On Sunday, the Islamic
State (IS) released a video purportedly showing the executions of some thirty Ethiopian
Christians who were captured in Libya. The 29-minute video purports to show militants holding
two groups of captives, with a text describing them as “followers of the cross from the enemy
Ethiopian Church.”
16 April
On Thursday, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame held talks with Ethiopia’s Prime Minister
Hailemariam Desalegn in Addis Ababa during his official visit to the East African nation.
Speaking to reporters shortly after the meeting, Prime Minister Hailermariam disclosed that he
discussed with President Kagame and agreed to share experiences as well as best practices on
increasing economic growths in their respective countries. He further indicated that they
discussed issues of regional integration and electricity interconnection between the two
nations, stating, “the issue of integration in the region was our agenda item. And we decided
that there will be energy, electricity interconnection between our two countries through the
regional pool and that integration will help us to boost, to transform our economies into
industrial economy.” The Prime Minister also disclosed that they have agreed to share
experiences in agriculture and rural development, adding, “and again, we agreed that we will
cooperate on peace and security in our region. You know that Ethiopia and Rwanda contribute
to peace and security of both in Eastern Region and we have also experience in the Great Lakes
region. So, both of us we want to exchange our views and cooperate in pacifying our region as
well as the continent.” President Kagame also expressed his country’s commitment, stating
“Rwanda and Ethiopia collaborate, work together not only for the benefit of only the two
countries and our peoples, but also for regional integration, the strengthening and building our
our continent.”
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Kenya
30 April
Kenya’s Interior Minister has admitted that intelligence was ignored and that the security
response was slow in responding to al-Shabaab’s attack on Garissa university earlier this month.
On Thursday, Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery told a parliamentary committee that security
should have been “beefed up” but was not and once the attack began, a “lack of coordination”
undermined the response,” adding “there was lack of coordination on the side of the officers,
there was intelligence that this place was going to be attacked.” Nkaissery, who was appointed
to the position in December after his predecessor was dismissed following a series of deadly alShabaab attacks, has defended his ministry and instead has blamed regional and county security
officials for the failings. On 2 April, four al-Shabaab gunmen killed 148 people during the assault
on the university in northeastern Kenya, in what is the group’s deadliest attack to date. Days
after the attack, students reported that notices had been put up around the campus warning
that such an attack was possible. According to one student, these notices were not taken serious
as they were posted on April Fool’s, the day before the attack. These intelligence and security
failings are reminiscent of Kenya’s failed response to the 2013 attack on Nairobi’s Westgate
mall, when prior intelligence was also ignored.
24 April
Suspected al-Shabaab militants have abducted and killed a traditional chief in northern Kenya.
According to locals, Chief Muktar Otieno was seized early on Thursday morning on the road to
Mandera town, which is located close to the border with Somalia. While a group of local elders
had managed to track down the assailants, they were unable to pay a ransom of 4m Kenyan
shillings (US $42,000; £28,000). Assistant chief Abdinoor Dakane has disclosed that Mr Otieno
was tied to a tree and shot dead by the militants after locals failed to pay a ransom. Mr Otieno
was kidnapped 10 kilometres (5 miles) from the place where al-Shabaab gunmen killed 28
people travelling on a bus in Mandera county last November.
21 April
Seven top Kenyan policemen have been suspended following an inquiry into security failings
during the attack on Garissa’s university earlier this month. Two civil servants were also
suspended, including Garissa Country Commissioner Njenga Miiri, who was previously in
charge of Lamu county when al-Shabaab militants last June killed anyone who was unable to
recite verses from the Koran. Kenya’s Interior minister disclosed Tuesday that a further
investigation would establish possible criminal culpability of those suspended. The suspensions
come after reports surfaced that police had ignored warnings that the campus in the
northeastern town could be raided. In the wake of the deadly attack, there has been public
outrage and calls for action over the alleged security failings. On the ground sources have
disclosed that universities across Kenya had posted memos warning students of possible
violence before the attack occurred.
23 April
Kenya’s top anti-corruption officials have been suspended following a standoff with parliament
after they alleged widespread graft in the east African nation. Officials have disclosed that
President Uhuru Kenyatta has removed the chairman and deputy chairwoman of Kenya’s Ethics
and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) after MP’s voted to sanction the pair, who have been
accused of incompetence and abuse of office. Presidential spokesman Manoah Esipisu indicated
shortly after the decision that while EACC bosses had also been suspended, this “in no way
hinders the work” of the anti-corruption body. The decision comes less than a month after
dozens of top Kenyan politicians and civil servants were named in an EACC report that indicated
a high scale of corruption in the country. The EACC report named a total of 175 people, including
five cabinet members, 13 governors and a number of civil servants, MP’s and members of the
judiciary. President Kenyatta has ordered those named in the report to step aside while they
are under investigation.
22 April
A court in Kenya has granted police 15 days to hold and interrogate a man who is suspected of
carrying out surveillance on President Uhuru Kenyatta’s rural home in preparation for an attack.
Prosecutor Daniel Karuri told a court that police require more time to question Said Mire Siyad,
who was found in the president’s home in Gatundu South, in central Kenya. Mr Karuri disclosed
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that additional time is required in order to extract mobile phone data from the suspect’s phone.
According to the prosecutor, preliminary investigations have shown that the suspect has other
associates who are yet to be arrested, adding “the respondent is believed to have been sent to
the presidential residence to carry out surveillance for a terrorist attack.”
According to reports, Kenya has appealed to donors after its plan to closedown its refugee camp
and send Somalis back home ran into funding problems. While earlier this month, Kenya
threatened to close the Dadaab camps and send home more than 360,000 Somali refugees
within 90 days, amidst growing security fears in the wake of the attack on Garissa University,
Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed has backtracked on the plan, stating that there was no
timeline for closing the camp and that sending the refugees home “will depend on available
resources.” According to Kenyan media, the foreign minister has proposed to hold a pledging
conference at which Kenya will request international donors to provide funds for relocation.
16 April
Reports have surfaced that Somali-based al-Shabaab is heavily recruiting in northeastern
Kenya. The news comes just days after the militant group targeted Somalia’s higher education
ministry in the capital city, Mogadishu. On the ground sources have reported that in the town
of Isiolo in northeastern Kenya, twenty-six young men have disappeared, with officials
suspecting that they have joined the militant group. Sources have indicated that here are
similar concerns in other parts of the country. Al-Shabaab’s recruitment in Kenya marks a
change of tactic for the group and highlights fears voiced by Kenyan intelligence services and
MP’s that the Somali-based militant group is increasingly threatening Kenya and the wider Horn
of Africa region. In the wake of a recent string of deadly attacks in northeastern Kenya, alShabaab has warned Kenyan officials that this is just the beginning, and that they will carry out
further deadly attacks in the coming months. With al-Shabaab militants increasingly being force
out of key areas in central and southern Somalia, increasing recruitments of militants in Kenya
is likely to be seen as a way for them to not only replenish the group’s numbers, but for them to
more power to stage deadly attacks.
Unconfirmed reports have indicated that all four al-Shabaab gunmen who carried out the attack
on a university in Garissa earlier this month were Kenyans themselves. One of the four gunmen
killed by Kenyan Special Forces has already been named as Abdirahim Abdullahi, an ethnic
Somali Kenyan national, however sources have indicated that the other three gunmen killed
were also Kenyan, believed to be from the port city of Mombasa and the far western district of
Bungoma. The fact that all four gunmen are reportedly Kenyan nationals highlights al-Shabaab’s
abilities to recruit militants within Kenya.
Despite critics stating that the project is infeasible, on Thursday, Kenyan youths began
constructing a security barrier along the vast and porous border with neighboring Somalia in a
bid to prevent al-Shabaab militants from crossing the border and carrying out deadly raids in
northeastern Kenya. On the ground sources have reported that members of a government youth
training scheme began digging a ditch this week in Kiunga, which is located in Kenya’s coastal
Lamu district – an area that has repeatedly been targeted by the militant group. Kenyan officials
have indicated that the security barrier will stretch some 700 kilometres (435 miles), with
Immigration Services director Gordon Kihalangwa stating, “the fence will consist of various
obstacles including a ditch and a patrol road.” The Kenyan government has released no details
pertaining to the construction of the security barrier, the cost and how long it will take in order
to complete the fence, which will effectively separate the country’s northeastern region from
Somalia. Since the deadly attack on a university in Garissa earlier this month, the Kenyan
government has introduced a number of initiatives aimed at tackling the threat from Somalibased militant group al-Shabaab. Amongst these initiatives, Kenya has demanded that the
United Nations refugee agency close down the world’s largest refugee camp in Dadaab, and
repatriate hundreds of thousands of Somalis by July. Nairobi has also frozen key money transfer
companies, which are vital for those living in Somalia, and has suspended two key Muslim civil
society organizations over their suspected links to al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab claimed
responsibility for the 2 April attack on Garissa university, which killed almost 150 people. Since
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the attack, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has warned his country that the masterminds are
“deeply embedded” inside Kenya, not just Somalia.
13 April
According to Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto, the United Nations High Commission for
Refugees has been given three months to close a refugee camp located in eastern Kenya and to
send the more than 400,000 Somalis living there back to their country adding that if the UNHCR
fails to meet this deadline, the Kenyan government will relocate the refugees. Ruto has indicated
that the Kenyan government firmly believes that the Dadaab refugee camp has become a center
for recruitment for al-Shabaab. In a statement distributed by his press office, Ruto indicated
“we have asked the UNHCR to relocate the refugees in three months, failure to which we shall
relocate them ourselves. The way America changed after 9/11 is the way Kenya will change
after Garissa.” In the wake of the recent attack in Garissa, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta has
vowed a sharp response. Earlier last week, Kenyan warplanes targeted al-Shabaab training
camps in eastern Somalia. The government has also announced that it was freezing the accounts
of organizations and individuals suspected of financing Islamic extremists. While the opposition
has called for Kenyan troops to official withdraw from Somalia, the government has dismissed
this call. Update (14 April) – On Tuesday, the UNHCR urged Kenya to reconsider its demand
for the closure of a vast camp for Somali refugees. According to spokeswoman Karin de Gruijl,
the UNHCR is concerned that abruptly closing the Dadaab camp and forcing the refugees back
to Somalia “would have extreme humanitarian and practical consequences, and would be a
breach of Kenya’s international obligations,” adding that the agency is now urging that the
Kenyan government consider the matter further, noting that the agency is ready to intensify
work with Kenyan officials in order to strengthen law enforcement at the camp. While Ms Gruijl
indicated that the UNHCR is already working with Kenya and the Somali government on a pilot
programme that was launched in December, and which effectively supports people who want
to return to three relative safe areas in neighboring Somalia, she noted that the agency believes
that “large-scale returns are still not possible in many parts of the country.”
12 April
One student was killed and 150 others injured in a stampede on Sunday at a Kenyan university
campus after a pre-dawn electrical blast sparked fears of a new Islamist attack. According to on
the ground sources, some panicked students threw themselves out of the building from as high
as the fifth floor at the University of Nairobi campus. Kenya’s Education Minister Jacob
Kaimenyi indicated that Sunday’s explosion occurred at around 4 am while students were
sleeping at the university’s Kikuyu campus, which is located about 20 kilometres (12 miles)
west of the capital city. According to the university’s vice-chancellor Peter Mbithi, “a power
cable blew up outside the student hostel. The hostel itself was not affected, but the students
thought it was an attack.”
8 April
On Wednesday, Kenya’s police chief issued a list of eighty-five people and companies, including
at least thirteen key money transfer companies, of having suspected links to Somali-based alShabaab. On the top of the list is alleged al-Shabaab commander Mohamed Mohamud, said to
be the mastermind behind last week’s university massacre that killed almost 150 people,
however the list also includes several money transfer companies that provide a crucial way for
relatives to send lifeline remittances to war-torn Somalia. Amongst the money transfer
companies included on the list is Dahabshill, which is one of the most important transfer
companies across the wider Horn of Africa region. The suspension of such companies in Kenya
would have a major impact on money transfers. In the past, aid agencies have warned that their
suspension would hit some of the poorest people. The notice, which was issued under Kenya’s
prevention of terrorism act and which was signed by Kenya’s police chief Joseph Boinett, gives
the names listed 24-hours to demonstrate why they “should not be declared a specified entity.”
The move comes just days after Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta warned al-Shabaab fighters
that his government will respond to the attack in the “severest way” possible. While on Monday,
Kenyan warplanes targeted Islamist bases in southern Somalia, President Kenyatta has warned
that the masterminds behind last Thursday’s attack were inside Kenya, not Somalia, stating, “the
planners and financiers of this brutality are deeply embedded in our communities… We will not
allow them to continue their lives as normal, the full force of the law will be brought to bear with
even greater intensity that has been the case in previous years.”
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7 April
A court in Nairobi Kenya has ordered that five Kenyans and a Tanzanian be detained for a period
of thirty days while police investigate possible connections to last week’s massacre at a
university in Garissa. The court agreed to state lawyers’ request for the extended detention
period, which usually would last 24 hours before the detainee has to be presented in court. The
Tanzanian suspect is still being held in the northeastern town of Garissa, where 148 people were
killed in a day-long siege that was claimed by Somali-based al-Shabaab. Lawyers for the police
have disclosed that the five Kenyans are currently being investigated for supplying weapons to
the attackers who carried out the raid last Thursday. Amongst those arrested is a security guard
who was detained on the university’s campus. The others were arrested while trying to cross
the border into Somalia. The Tanzanian man was found “hiding in the ceiling” of the university
campus holding grenades. Police officials are also examining phone records of the men as
officials believe that they show that the men were in contact with the four gunmen who carried
out the attack. Authorities late on Sunday named one of the four gunmen killed by Kenyan
troops as a fellow Kenyan citizen, which has highlighted al-Shabaab’s abilities of recruiting
militants within the country. According to interior ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka,
Abdirahim Abdullahi, an ethnic Somali, was a university law graduate and “a brilliant upcoming
lawyer.” He is the son of a Kenyan government official from Mandera county, which borders the
Gedo region in Somalia. He was previously reported missing by his father after he crossed into
Somalia to join al-Shabaab. Kenyan officials have also offered a US $215,000 bounty for alleged
al-Shabaab commander Mohamed Mohamud, a former Kenyan teacher believed to now be in
Somalia. Officials believe that he is the mastermind behind the attack. On Saturday, President
Uhuru Kenyatta disclosed that the planners and financiers of Islamist attacks were “deeply
embedded” within Kenyan society. He urged the Muslim community to do more in order to root
out radicalization. Meanwhile on Monday, a government source disclosed that governors,
members of parliament and security officials from regions that border Somalia will compile a
list of people suspected to have either joined al-Shabaab or been radicalized by the militants.
On the final day of mourning for the 148 people killed last week, Kenyans marched on Tuesday,
demanding greater national security. Hundreds of demonstrators marched on the streets of the
capital Nairobi and the northeastern town of Garissa, where the attack was carried out. In
Garissa, several hundred people gathered at a rally where both Muslim and Christian leaders
called for unity while in Nairobi, some 200 students attended the march. A vigil is planned for
the early evening on what is the third and final day of national mourning. The massacre, Kenya’s
deadliest attack since the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, claimed the lives of 142
students, three police officers and three soldiers.
4 April
The Kenyan interior ministry disclosed Saturday that Kenyan police have arrested five men in
connection with the university massacre of 148 people, including at least two men who were
seized on campus. According to interior ministry spokesman Mwenday Njoka, “five people have
been arrested, they are in custody and under interrogation,” noting that the four gunmen in the
university were killed on Thursday at the end of the day-long siege.” He further disclosed that
officials suspect that the the five men are likely “…accomplices of the attackers.”
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta declared three days of national mourning Saturday after
Somali-based al-Shabaab militants killed almost 150 people in one of the country’s worst
massacres. In a televised national address from the capital Nairobi, President Kenyatta stated,
“I declare three days of mourning during which our flags will fly at half mast.” In his first address
since the attack, which ended on Thursday, the president also condemned the “barbaric
medieval slaughter,” as he warned al-Shabaab that his government will respond to the attack in
the “severest way” possible.
On Saturday, Somali-based al-Shabaab threatened Kenyan citizens with “another bloodbath”
just two days after their gunmen killed 148 people at a university. In a statement, al-Shabaab
stated “we will, by permission of Allah, stop at nothing to avenge the deaths of our Muslim
brothers until your government ceases its oppression and until all Muslim lands are liberated
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from Kenyan occupation… And until then, Kenyan cities will run red with blood… this will be a
long, gruesome war of which you, the Kenyan public, are its first casualties.”
2 April
On Thursday, al-Shabaab gunmen stormed a university in Kenya, killing at least 147 people in
what is now the worst attack to occur on Kenyan soil since the 1998 bombing of the United
States Embassy in Nairobi. The siege ended nearly fifteen hours after the Somali-based group’s
gunmen shot their way into Garissa University campus in the pre-dawn attack. According to
police chief Joseph Boinet, the attackers “shot indiscriminately” when they entered the
university compound. Police later surrounded the campus and exchanged gunfire with the
attackers however they were repeatedly repelled. According to Interior Minister Joseph
Nkaissery, four gunmen strapped with explosives were behind the attack – the same number of
gunmen that killed 67 people during the 2013 attack on the Westgate Shopping Centre in
Nairobi. On the ground sources have disclosed that the militants spared the lives of Muslim
students and took many Christian hostages. Officials have indicated that the death toll stands
at 147 however they have warned that this toll is likely to increase in the coming days as officers
search the campus. At least 79 people were injured, with many airlifted to hospitals in Nairobi.
More than 500 students managed to escape. Troops continued to search the campus for any
possible insurgents until the siege was declared over late on Thursday, with the national
disaster operations center disclosing that the raid had “ended with all four terrorists killed.”
Officials have offered a US $215,000 bounty for the capture of alleged al-Shabaab commander
Mohamed Mohamud, a former Kenyan teacher believed to now be in Somalia. He is said to be
the mastermind of the Garissa attacks. Hours into the raid, al-Shabaab spokesman claimed
responsibility for the attack on the campus in Garissa, a town located 200 kilometres (120 miles)
from the Somali border. The attack comes days after the Australian government warned that it
had intelligence that the militant group was planning to carry out attacks in crowded places in
the capital city Nairobi. The latest attack in Kenya has prompted officials from that country, and
neighbouring Somalia, to call for closer cooperation. On Friday, Somali President Hassan Sheikh
Mohamud stated that Somalia and Kenya must boost security cooperation between them.
Madagascar
No major incidents reported during this period
Malawi
24 April
South African-owned shops in Malawi have remained closed after calls for a boycott from
activists angered by the recent xenophobic attacks that have erupted in South Africa. On the
ground sources have reported that in the commercial capital Blantyre, armed police guarded a
number of South African chain stores. Outlets of the popular South African PEP, Shoprite and
Game stores are closed in all major cities across the country. Several hundred Malawians have
been evacuated from South Africa after the recent wave of xenophobic violence, which has left
at least seven people dead and 5,000 homeless since the attacks began last month.
13 April
On Monday, the Malawian government said that it will repatriate its citizens from South Africa
after an outbreak of violence targeting foreigners erupted in the eastern port city of Durban,
leaving four people dead. Speaking to reporters on Monday, Information Minister Kondwani
Nankhumwa stated, “the situation is really tense as about 360 Malawians are stranded in South
Africa following Xenophobic attacks there,” adding that Malawians targeted in these attacks had
“lost everything,” including their passports. The attacks on immigrant-owned shops and homes
in Durban’s townships come three months after similar attacks on foreign-owned shops in
Soweto, near Johannesburg. In both cases, shops have been looted and foreign traders ordered
to close. Since this recent violence erupted, over 1,000 foreigners in Durban have fled their
homes and are now living in temporary camps under police guard.
6 April
Police in Malawi have been ordered to shoot “dangerous criminals” who attack albinos in a bid
to sell their body parts for witchcraft. According to local media, Malawi’s police chief Lexen
Kachama told officers at the weekend to “shoot every criminal who is violent when caught redhanded abducting people with albinism.” Sources have disclosed that Mr Kachama, who was
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appointed by President Peter Mutharika last month, ordered his forces to not be afraid to use
“live ammunition” after criminals shot a police officer in the commercial capital Blantyre last
week.” The Association of Persons with Albinism in Malawi has reported that six albinos have
been killed in the southern region of the country since December 2014.
Mauritius
No major incidents reported during this period
Mozambique
No major incidents reported during this period
Rwanda
22 April
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has held its final hearings into crimes
that were carried out during the 1994 genocide. The last defendant to appear before the court,
which is based in Arusha, Tanzania, was former Rwanda women’s minister Pauline
Nyiramasuhuko, who was appealing against her 2011 conviction for genocide and incitement to
rape. The verdict in her case along with five other appeals is expected later this year. In over
twenty years, the UN-backed court has indicted 93 people for their roles in the violence.
17 April
Rwanda is increasingly becoming concerned about a recent massive influx of Burundian
refugees in the country allegedly fleeing the eruption of violence as Burundi prepares for
parliamentary and presidential elections which are due to take place in May and June this year.
According to the Rwandan Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, as of
Wednesday evening, the number of Burundian refugees in Rwanda reached 6,571, up from
about 4,000 last weekend, with officials indicating that the majority are children. Speaking to
reporters on Friday, Antoine Ruvebana, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Disaster
Management and Refugee Affairs, disclosed that the number continues to rise despite Rwandan
officials putting in place measures to accommodate them.
8 April
On Wednesday, Rwanda’s justice minister welcomed France’s declassification of documents
relating to the 1994 Rwandan genocide however he indicated that Paris should ensure that the
documents released are “total.” According to a source close to French President Francois
Hollande, a decision to declassify the documents was signed on Tuesday and concerns
“documents in the Elysee relating to Rwanda between 1990 and 1995,” effectively spanning the
genocide, which claimed at least 800,000 lives. According to the French presidency, the papers,
which include documents from diplomatic and military advisers as well as minutes from
ministerial and defense meetings, will be available to both researchers and victims’ associations.
Ties between France and Rwanda remain strained as Rwandan President Paul Kagame
continues to accuse Paris of complicity in the genocide over its support of the Hutu nationalist
government that carried out the mass killings, mainly of ethnic Tutsis. Paris however has
repeatedly denied these accusations.
3 April
Rwandan President Paul Kagame stated Thursday that while he opposes a limit being lifted on
how many terms a leader can serve, he is open to staying on if people wanted to convince him
to run. Rwanda’s constitution limits presidents to two seven-year terms. President Kagame,
who was reelected in 2010, has indicated that the constitution has been drawn up by the people
and that they will determine any changes to the charger. Members of the president’s Rwanda
Patriotic Front party, which holds an absolute majority in parliament, along with other small
parties, have called for the president to stay on after the 2017 election however the opposition
Democratic Green party has rejected an extension of Kagame’s rule. A number of long-standing
African leaders approaching their term limits have effectively thrust the issue into the spotlight
in several countries. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, President Joseph Kabila has failed to
win support for legal reforms to extend his rule. In the neighboring Republic of Congo, the ruling
coalition has called for constitutional change in a bid to remove a two-term limit. Burundian
President Pierre Nkurunziza is also considering running for a third term in office.
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Somalia
30 April
Local media reports have indicated that explosions occurred in the Lower Shabelle region of
Somalia on Thursday. According to on the ground sources, several were reported dead and
others sustained serious injuries after a blast erupted at a khat market in the town of Janale,
which is located 96 kilometres (60 miles) outside the capital city. A second explosion reportedly
occurred at a Somali police station nearby. Abdikadir Mohamed Nur Sidi, the regional governor,
confirmed the attack at the market, however additional details about the incidents have not
been released.
Unidentified gunmen killed a radio journalist in Baidoa late Wednesday. According to sources,
Daud Ali Omar was killed along with his wife after the assailants broke their way into his
residence in Baidoa’s Bardaale neighborhood. Sources confirmed that the attackers also shot
and killed a male carpenter on a nearby street as they were fleeing the scene. The journalist,
who had been working for Radio Baidoa as a programme producer, is the latest media worker
to be killed in a string of assassinations that have occurred in city, which is the capital of Bay
region in southwestern Somalia. In the past two months, suspected al-Shabaab gunmen have
killed at least three clerics.
28 April
A former UNOCHA officer has survived an explosion after a bomb placed under his car seat was
detonated by remote control in the town of Galkayo on Tuesday. According to local police
officers, the bomb was detonated as the target was getting out of the car. Two persons sustained
injuries. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which targeted the car
of Mohamed Abdirahman, who currently heads an electricity company in Galkayo.
24 April
According to witnesses, al-Shabaab has for the first time publicly killed a man for “insulting the
prophet Muhammed.” On the ground sources have reported that crowds watched as the man
was shot by a firing squad in the southern town of Jamame in the Lower Jubba region. Witnesses
have disclosed that the man was shot by firing squad after he pleaded guilty in a Sharia court.
Al-Shabaab has previously killed people accused of spying.
23 April
Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the shooting death of a senior military officer killed
Thursday in the capital Mogadishu. In recent weeks, al-Shabaab has stepped up gun and bomb
attacks in Somalia. On Monday, the militant group killed six people in an attack on a vehicle
carrying UN staff members in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland while on Tuesday, a
suicide bomber killed ten people in a restaurant in Mogadishu.
21 April
At least three people were killed and six wounded Tuesday when a car bomb exploded outside
a popular restaurant in the center of Mogadishu. Police officer Ahmed Warhere confirmed the
attack, stating, “there are at least three dead, and six others have been injured,” adding “a vehicle
loaded with explosives was parked outside the restaurant.” Security forces have secured the
area around the Banoda restaurant. Al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab claimed
responsibility for the attack, stating that the lunchtime attack was targeted at officials from
government ministries and the presidential palace who eat at the restaurant. Nick Kay, the UN
envoy to Somalia who was visiting colleagues in the northeastern town of Garowe a day after alShabaab militants killed six people in an attack on a UN bus there, has condemned the attack,
stating that the “killing needs to stop.” Despite loosing some of its top leaders in US air strikes
and being pushed by African Union (AU) forces out of the capital city and into rural regions in
central and southern Somalia, al-Shabaab continues to have the capabilities to carry out deadly
bombings against government targets and public places in Mogadishu. Update (22 April) –
Officials have indicated that that the death toll from Tuesday’s attack has risen to ten, with a
dozen wounded.
On Tuesday, the United States blacklisted two top al-Shabaab leaders a day after the Islamist
group killed at least ten people, including four UN workers, in a huge bus bombing. According
to officials, Ahmed Diriye, who took over as the militant group’s leader in September 2014, and
intelligence chief Mahad Karate have been designated as terrorists by the State Department.
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20 April
Police officials have confirmed that at least six UN workers were killed in Somalia on Monday
when a huge bomb placed by al-Shabaab militants destroyed a bus in the northeastern town of
Garowe, the capital of the semi-autonomous Puntland region. Somali police official Abdullahi
Mohamed disclosed Monday “we have confirmed the death of six UN staff, including a foreign
national,” adding “the bomb is believed to have been attached to the minibus and was detonated
near the UN office.” While officials are currently carrying out an investigation into the attack,
witnesses and security officials have suggested that the explosion may have come from a
roadside bomb that was detonated as the minibus, which is used to transport staff from a
guesthouse to the UN compound, was passing. Mr Mohamed has indicated, “investigations are
still ongoing to establish how it happened but I can confirm you that the UN compound was not
affected.” The head of the UN in Somalia, Nick Kay, has condemned the attack, stating that he
was “shocked and appalled by (the) loss of life.” Shortly after the attack, al-Shabaab insurgents
claimed responsibility, stating that the UN is a “colonization force in Somalia.” The militant
group has in the past targeted the UN. In December 2014, four people were killed when a suicide
bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a UN convoy in the capital Mogadishu.
Update (21 April) – On Tuesday, the UN’s children agency mourned four staff members killed
in what UN chief Ban Ki-moon condemned as a “barbaric attack” in Somalia. Four UNICEF
workers were killed in Monday’s bombing in the northeastern town of Garowe. UNICEF has
named the two Kenyans killed Monday as Woki Munyui, who worked in education, and
administrative officer Stephen Oduor. Payenda Gulf Abed, from Afghanistan, had been working
to vaccinate children against police, along with Ugandan citizen Brenda Kyeyune. Two Somali
guards were also killed in the attack and eight UNICEF staff members, including one American,
one Sierra Leonean, one Ugandan, one Kenyan and four Somalis were wounded.
African Union officials confirmed Monday that al-Shabaab militants killed three AU soldiers in
Somalia on Sunday. AU envoy to Somalia Maman Sidikou condemned “the cowardly ambush”
on a convoy of troops. The incident occurred Sunday as the convoy was travelling in the
southern Lower Shabelle district, between the settlements of Lego and Balidogle. Al-Shabaab
spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab confirmed that the militant group was responsible for the
attack, adding that five AU soldiers had been killed and that several vehicles were destroyed.
While he indicated that the soldiers were from Burundi, AU force officials have not released any
details pertaining to the nationalities of the victims.
18 April
On Saturday, al-Shabaab militants shot dead a lawmaker in the capital Mogadishu in what is the
latest in a string of assassinations of politicians in the Horn of Africa nation. According to an alShabaab spokesman, Adan Haji Hussein, an MP in the semi-autonomous northern region of
Puntland, was killed in Mogadishu during a visit to the capital city. Abdulaziz Abu Musab
confirmed “our commandos shot and killed Adan for being a member of the apostate
administration,” warning “all MPs, whether they are regional or so-called national MPs, we will
kill them.” Omar Dalha, a fellow MP, confirmed the death and has called on the government to
investigate the murder.
14 April
On Tuesday, al-Shabaab militants attacked the higher education ministry in Mogadishu, Somalia.
They used a car bomb before storming the building, killing at least fifteen people and wounding
twenty others. Police officer Mohamed Dahir disclosed that troops backed by African Union
(AU) forces regained control of the building after around an hour-long attack, which began when
“a car loaded with explosives rammed the gate.” Police and eyewitnesses reported that the car
bomb caused a huge explosion that effectively allowed the gunmen to force their way into the
fortified building. According to Mohamed Yusuf Osman, the internal security ministry
spokesman, six al-Shabaab gunmen were killed in the attack, “the security forces and AU
peacekeepers shot and killed four of the attackers, while the other two blew themselves up.” AlShabaab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab claimed responsibility for the attack, indicating that
al-Shabaab gunmen had been “fully in control” of the ministry and that they were also able to
enter a neighbouring building that houses the oil ministry. Both buildings are located in the
capital’s K5 district, which has been targeted by a string of similar attacks in recent months, with
a car bombing to force entry into fortified buildings followed by an armed raid becoming the
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militant group’s trademark tactic. Last month, al-Shabaab gunmen stormed the fortified Maka
al Mukurama hotel in Mogadishu. While earlier this month, the militant group carried out its
deadliest attack yet, when al-Shabaab gunmen killed 148 people in a day-long siege at a
university in neighbouring Kenya’s northeastern town of Garissa.
10 April
The Somali government has issued bounties for eleven top al-Shabaab leaders, with US
$250,000 offered for the extremist group’s chief, Ahmad Umar. Umar, also known as Abu
Ubaidah, has led al-Shabaab since Ahmed Abdi Godane was killed by a US air strike in September
2014. Other rewards include US $150,000 for the capture of Mahad Karate, who runs the
Amniyat, a special internal security wing that deals with intelligence and carrying out
assassinations. Rewards of US $100,000 are being offered for the capture of nine other
commanders, including al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage. Several other
nations have also issued rewards for information on the whereabouts of al-Shabaab’s
commanders. Washington is offering cash rewards of up to US $5 million for three al-Shabaab
commanders while Kenya this week offered US $215,000 for alleged al-Shabaab commander
Mohamed Mohamud, a former Kenyan teacher believed to now be in Somalia and said to be the
mastermind behind last week’s attack in Garissa, which left 148 dead.
6 April
Kenyan fighter jets targeted camps belonging to al-Shabaab in southern Somali on Monday as
anger grows in neighboring Kenya over allegations that critical intelligence warnings were
missed. The Kenyan army disclosed that Monday’s airstrikes destroyed two Islamist bases in
the Gedo. The strikes follow a promise by Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta that he would
retaliate “in the severest way possible” against al-Shabaab militants. There is growing criticism
in the media about the manner in which the attack was handled by authorities. Reports have
surfaced that Special Forces units took seven hours to reach the university in Garissa last
Thursday, some 365 kilometres (225 miles) from the capital city, as al-Shabaab gunmen
stormed the dormitory buildings.
4 April
Security forces in Somalia ordered Shabelle Radio off the air on Saturday after the radio station
broadcast a claim by al-Shabaab that it had carried out an attack on a university in neighboring
Kenya that killed almost 150 people. According to Mohamed Yusuf, a spokesman for Somalia’s
security ministry, “Shabelle Radio breached an agreement between the independent media and
the security ministry in which they agreed not to air any propaganda from al-Shabaab.”
According to the spokesman, Mohamed Bashir Hashi, an editor with Shabelle Radio, along with
a number of staff members were arrested during the shut-down.
South Sudan
30 April
South Sudan's leaders have failed their people by putting their personal ambitions first and if
they do not show a willingness to compromise in peace talks they have to face consequences
such as sanctions, says United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In his latest report to
the U.N. Security Council, Ban said the warring parties are recruiting children to fight and
restricting the work of U.N. peacekeepers, who are sheltering some 118,000 people at
protection sites. South Sudan plunged into civil war in December 2013 when a political crisis
sparked fighting between forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and rebels allied with his former
deputy Riek Machar. The conflict has reopened ethnic fault lines that pit Kiir's Dinka people
against Machar's ethnic Nuer forces. Ban said that 16-months of peace talks led by East African
bloc IGAD broke down last month "due to the continued intransigence of South Sudan's political
leaders and their failure to see beyond their personal ambitions and put the people of South
Sudan first." "Should the parties fail to show willingness to compromise, and continue giving
priority to military confrontation, those responsible will have to face the consequences," Ban
wrote, noting that the U.N. Security Council in February established a sanctions regime for South
Sudan. The Security Council threatened to blacklist anyone undermining security or interfering
with the peace process in South Sudan, but it has not yet imposed worldwide travel bans and
asset freezes on any officials in the conflict-torn country. He called on "President Kiir and Riek
Machar to cease all military operations immediately, release all children mobilized within their
ranks and engage in meaningful dialogue on all outstanding issues towards the establishment
of a transitional government of national unity." South Sudan's parliament voted last month to
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extend Kiir's term in office by three years, and Ban said this should not disincentivise the
government to make the necessary compromises to reach a peace deal. Ban said more than 1.5
million people had been displaced in South Sudan, while a further 500,000 have fled to
neighbouring countries. Some 2.5 million people do not have enough to eat and more than 4
million need water, sanitation and hygiene services. The United Nations has more than 12,000
peacekeeping troops and police in South Sudan. Thousands of people have been killed during
the renewed conflict in the country, the world's youngest.
28 April
Heavy fighting between the two rival armies in South Sudan has reached Bentiu town, capital of
the oil rich Unity state, United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has confirmed. Both
the rebel group led by former vice president, Riek Machar, and UNMISS blamed government
forces loyal to president Salva Kiir for initiating the recent upsurge of fighting in the area. The
rebel governor press secretary, Captain Weirial Puok Baluang, said on Monday that forces loyal
to president Kiir attacked three positions, which were under rebel held areas, about 10
kilometres outside the twin towns of Bentiu and Rubkoni. He explained that the opposition
forces were intercepting and monitoring unusual movement of pro-government troops since
last week in preparation for imminent multi-front attacks on their controlled areas. Baluang
said the government troops were targeting to recapture the oilfields, which have been under
the control of the opposition forces in south and north of the state capital Bentiu, which resulted
to reduction of oil production and near economic collapse in the country. “The main target for
Kiir forces was to advance towards oil fields which were under our control since crisis broke
out in mid-December [2013],” he said. Pro-government forces on Monday attacked Kaljak, west
of Rubkotna town, Kuergueyni, in the east and Dhorbor, south of Bentiu town but were all
repulsed and pursued the government troops into the heart of the capital. Baluang said fighting
was still ongoing around the state capital, Benitu, as opposition forces came closer to five
kilometres north and south of the town. Another rebel military deputy spokesman, Dickson
Gatluak Jok, in a statement on Monday also warned that the rebel fighters would be forced to
retake Bentiu capital, accusing the government of violating the ceasefire and using the town as
a launching pad to attack rebel positions. He accused the government of trying to regain more
territories before the beginning of the rainy season in June. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)
who have been sheltered in the United Nation camp in Rubkotna County also confirmed that
fighting erupted on Monday morning until evening but could not determine which side won the
battles.
24 April
An opposition leader in South Sudan said on Friday that government troops had surrounded his
house in the capital, raising fears of insecurity in the city where a fight among the armed forces
sparked a nationwide rebellion in 2013. Lam Akol said that security operatives closed the two
roads leading to his house in Juba, although they had not forced their way into his property. "I
don't feel threatened but definitely this is not pleasant. It is a scary situation if security people
surround your house," he said by phone from inside his house. "I spoke to the minister
concerned and he said he will ask his directors but up to now I have not heard back from any of
them." The allegations were denied by Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth, who said
Akol was free to leave his house if he wanted. "He is a free citizen and if he claims to be under
house arrest that is a different thing. Why should he be put under house arrest? If we want to
arrest him we would just take him to the prison," Lueth said. Akol heads the Sudan People's
Liberation Movement-Democratic Change party and is a frequent critic of the government and
one of President Salva Kiir's major political rivals. Akol has recently criticized both Kiir and
Machar for lacking the political will to make the necessary compromises needed to reach a final
peace agreement. Fighting appears to be resuming in the oil-rich Upper Nile state, where
government forces are reportedly fighting for control of the capital, Malakal, after it was taken
by forces loyal to a local general.
22 April
The U.N. World Food Programme said on Wednesday that it is suspending operations in some
areas of South Sudan after three South Sudanese staff members disappeared in a volatile state.
The agency said in a statement Wednesday that it is "extremely worried" about the fate of the
missing workers, who disappeared on April 1 while traveling in a convoy to distribute food from
Malakal, the Upper Nile state capital, to a place called Melut. Contact with the men was lost after
"intercommunal fighting" erupted along the road, according to the statement. "We regret that
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we must temporarily suspend food assistance in Akoka and Fashoda counties," said Eddie Rowe,
the WFP deputy director for South Sudan. "We hope to resume as soon as we have the necessary
assurances that our staff and partners can work safely." Despite safety concerns, WFP says its
goal is to assist roughly 3 million people throughout the country in 2015.
13 April
South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir has issued decrees sacking interior minister, Aleu Ayieny
Aleu and Northern Bahr el Ghazal’s caretaker governor, Kuel Aguer Kuel. According to the
decree, the deputy governor, Salva Chol Ayat replaces Kuel while the interior minister’s position
remained unoccupied. The decrees, read on the state-owned SSTV, did not give reasons for these
changes. A former deputy minister of interior in the Sudanese government, Aleu was appointed
South Sudan’s interior minister in July 2013. Meanwhile, unknown gunmen shot and killed two
officers from the presidential protection unit just hours before the new decree was read. It is
now clear that the interior minister’s sacking was linked to the killing of the officers, who are
yet to be identified. Ateny Wek Ateny, the spokesperson for the presidency, confirmed Monday’s
incident. “The wild announcement on social media that the shooting occurred in the presidential
palace are not correct,” Ateny said. “The two security guards were killed while off duty in Nimera
Talata, very far from the presidential palace,” he added. Police have reportedly launched
investigations into the motive being the officers’ killings.
9 April
Heavyweight international powers will pressure South Sudan’s leaders to end civil war,
diplomats said Thursday, with the African Union, United Nations, United States and China to
kickstart stalled peace talks. Over a year of talks mediated by East Africa’s eight-country IGAD
bloc have failed to make headway, with the last attempt breaking down last month, and rebel
forces accusing regional nations of bias. The U.N. Security Council has passed a resolution paving
the way for targeted sanctions. Now diplomats plan a boosted “IGAD-plus” to bring in extra
powers to add pressure. “The new IGAD-plus formula will bring African peer pressure on the
parties, as well as on the IGAD countries to close ranks,” a diplomat said. South Sudan won
independence from Khartoum in 2011, but civil war broke out in December 2013 after its
president, Salva Kiir, accused his sacked deputy Riek Machar of attempting a coup. Kiir and
Machar “agree that they have agreed on almost everything and none of them can make further
compromises,” one diplomat said. “That is why a broad international alliance would help the
parties make the last difficult choices.” While IGAD-led talks in Ethiopia brokered a string of
ceasefire deals, all swiftly collapsed. Now, alongside the U.N., extra nations to be brought in
include five representing the African Union - Algeria, Chad, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa.
China is also to join. Beijing is the largest investor, operator and buyer of South Sudan’s oil, and
some 700 troops of its troops are in the U.N. peacekeeping force. Washington, who played a key
role in South Sudan winning independence from Khartoum in 2011, will also take part,
alongside former colonial power Britain and Norway, a key long-time aid donor to South Sudan.
The three nations are often dubbed “The Troika” in peace efforts.
2 April
Officials in Jonglei and Central Equatoria states said Thursday they have begun recovering the
bodies of a group of South Sudanese merchants who went missing last month while traveling on
the River Nile between Bor and Terekeka. Relatives said they have not heard from them since
March 28 when they left Terekeka by boat to return to Bor with several head of livestock that
they had bought. Bor County Commissioner Mamer Ruuk said the body of one of the victims was
fished from the Nile in Bor on Wednesday. His hands were tied and he had been shot several
times. Ruuk identified him as Bor county resident Chol Makuei. The body of another victim
identified as Malek Deel Maluo was found later Wednesday in the river near Pariak. Deel had
been stabbed and shot before his body was dumped in the river, Ruuk said. Officials believe the
group was ambushed somewhere between Terekeka and the nearby village of Gemeza. The boat
and the livestock they had bought in Terekeka are still missing. "The boat was attacked and all
the passengers were killed, and animals were taken away -- both goats and cows,” he said.
Residents of Bor County said they saw eight bodies floating in the river but it was unclear how
many people were on the boat. Ruuk said one of the victims was a woman from Central
Equatoria. He said he name was Keji. Terekeka County Commissioner Jacob Gore Samuel said
he believes the boat was attacked near the village of Gemeza. He said the Gemeza boma's chiefs
and sub-chiefs have been arrested and are being questioned by the authorities.
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Tanzania
18 April
According to a local government official, at least nineteen Tanzanian gold miners were killed
when the pit they were working in collapsed in the northwestern Msalala district. Local district
commissioner Benson Mwampesaya disclosed, “the pit collapsed and buried several people who
were working in it, efforts are going on to dig out more bodies.” Tanzania is Africa’s fourth
largest gold producer.
16 April
The European Union (EU) has released 53.26 million euros (US %56.7 million) in aid to
Tanzania as part of a budget support package that had been suspended over corruption
allegations in the East African country. The EU is part of a donor group, which withheld nearly
US $500 million in budget to support Tanzania last year over corruption allegations tied to the
government’s payments to independent power producer IPTL. According to a statement
released by the EU this week, “this disbursement follows the recent decision by budget support
development partners to resume disbursements before the end of the current financial year,”
adding “the majority of these payments had so far been withheld pending the developments on
the IPTL case. The EU welcomes the steps the government of Tanzania and all relevant
institutions have taken to handle this case.”
15 April
Security forces in Tanzania have arrested ten suspected members of al-Shabaab, seizing
explosives and military uniforms that were hidden at a mosque. Police Commissioner Paul
Chagonja disclosed Wednesday that the suspects had been arrested on Tuesday in a region east
of the commercial city Dar es Salaam.
2 April
Tanzania’s parliament has adopted a new law to help authorities cope with emergencies and
shield vulnerable communities from disaster risks. The new legislation, which will attempt to
bridge gaps in the country’s ability to deal with both natural and human-made disasters,
effectively creates a new agency that will manage disasters. The Disaster Management Agency
(DMA) will “over see efforts to prevent damage and deal with the impacts of floods, drought,
hail, storms and hunger, as well as managing the stocking of supplies to aid effective response.”
Jenister Mhagama, a Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office that is responsible for policy
coordination, has indicated that the new law will improve the government’s ability to anticipate
and deal with disasters, specifying “we would have in place efficient early warning systems at
regional and district levels so that local authorities can prepare for and respond to disasters
timely and effectively.” According to the minister, the new agency will have the power to order
evacuations of people from disaster-prone areas as well as suspend or limit sale of transport of
alcohol, firearms and other products in disaster areas. The government has on several occasions
stated that criminals have often taken advantage of disasters by engaging in looting and
preventing essential supplies from reaching the disaster-affected communities. This new law
aims to deal with this issue and will also pave the way for the establishment of a Disaster
Management Fund, which will help finance relief services and help disaster-affected
communities. Tanzania’s disaster management activities are currently coordinated by the
Disaster Management Department (DMD) under the Prime Minister’s office. Three years ago, a
study by the UN Development Programme revealed widespread weaknesses in disaster
prevention and managed strategies, including failing to earmark land where flood waters could
be diverted or introducing technological solutions to avert flooding.
Tanzania has postponed a referendum on a new constitution after delays in registering voters.
According to the electoral commission, it has not received enough biometric voter registration
kits in order to enable the vote on the constitution to take place as planned on 30 April. In a
statement, the commission disclosed, “the previously announced referendum…has been
postponed until the National Electoral Commission announces a new date… Since the
registration of voters has not been completed, the electoral commission will not be able to
proceed with the referendum on the new constitution.” The postponement has heightened
tensions over the charter, which the main opposition parties have rejected, and the delay may
also complicate presidential and parliamentary elections, which are due to take place in
October. The new constitution would have replaced the one that was passed in 1977, when
Tanzania was under a one-party rule.
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Uganda
30 April
Ugandan authorities are trying to verify whether a man arrested in Tanzania is Jamil Mukulu,
the leader of an Islamist rebel group that has been blamed for a string of deadly attacks in
western Uganda and in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Ugandan police spokesman
Fred Enanga disclosed Thursday that officials in Uganda received “…information from Tanzania
of someone arrested there a couple of days ago,” adding “they wanted us to provide photographs
and facial impressions of Jamil Mukulu… We have provided them with that information and
we’re now waiting.” Enanga did not disclose where exactly they believed Mukulu had been
arrested and Tanzanian authorities have not commented on the arrest.
29 April
A leader of the Ugandan rebels, who has been accused of killing over 300 people in the eastern
DRC, has been killed in a clash with government forces. Authorities disclosed Wednesday that
in overnight fighting between 24 – 25 April, DRC soldiers in the restive North Kivu province
killed Kasada Karume, who is the number three in the leadership of Muslim rebels the Allied
Democratic Forces (ADF). In a statement released Wednesday, Congolese army spokesman
General Leon-Richard Kasonga confirmed, “the body of this terrorist, member of the inner circle
of ADF, was formally identified by all the (security) services that have his photo.” He further
indicated that after soldiers seized the rebel camp, they also discovered “mass graves where
hostages were to be buried, along with wounded people and dependents unable to leave whom
the ADF would have executed.” During a press conference Wednesday, the UN peacekeeping
force in the DRC, MONUSCO, confirmed that a rebel leader, who was not named, was killed on
24 April during an ambush against a retreating “armed group,” adding that the incident occurred
at a rebel camp in Bango, which is located 100 kilometres (62 miles) from the town of Beni.
MONUSCO also stated that it has received reports of 47 bodies in five mass graves in Bango and
has deployed human rights investigators to the area.
22 April
Activists in Uganda have warned that a “dangerous” new bill, which seeks to regulate nongovernmental organizations, would silence critics and “negate the very essence of freedom of
association and expression,” and that the proposed NGO bill would grant sweeping powers to
the government, including the ability to close down activist groups and jail members. The new
bill proposes fines and up to eight years in prison for those found guilty of provisions, warning
that organizations “shall not engage in any activity which is prejudicial to the interests of
Uganda.” While Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned that the bill’s “vague and overly broad
provisions open the door to silencing peaceful government critics and activists of all sorts,”
government spokesman Ofwono Opondo has maintained that some NGO’s had “cheated the
public” in the past and that there is a need for laws to be strengthened.
17 April
On Friday, the Ugandan government urged its citizens living in South Africa to exercise caution
after a string of deadly attacks targeting foreigners. In a statement, the Ugandan Ministry of
Foreign Affairs disclosed that it is closely monitoring the situation and that Ugandans should
stay in touch with the embassy there. The statement further disclosed, “although the incidents
are reported to have led to a number of fatalities, the ministry of foreign affairs through its High
Commission in Pretoria has confirmed that none of these has so far involved any Ugandan.”
7 April
On Tuesday, Ugandan police arrested at least three people in connection with the killing last
month of a senior prosecutor who was involved in the trial of a dozen men accused of being
Islamist extremists who had participated in the 2010 bombings that killed more than seventy
people. Speaking to reporters, Ugandan police chief Kale Kayihura disclosed that the suspects,
who had lived in the Kampala neighborhood where prosecutor Joan Kagezi was killed, had
changed their home address three times, a move that lead a surveillance team to suspect that
they were involved in the killing. Kayihura indicated that police searched an apartment located
on the outskirts of Kampala, which the suspects, who have not been identified, occupied before
they were arrested. Ugandan police believe that Ms Kagezi was killed because of her public role
as a senior prosecutor who handled international crimes and terror cases. Update (8 April) Authorities in Uganda have arrested a Ugandan man who was once detained at Guantanamo Bay
on suspicion of playing a role in the killing last month of a local prosecutor. According to
Ugandan police spokesman Fred Enanga, Jamal Kiyemba was arrested along with three others
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as they held a meeting in a Kampala suburb on Tuesday. According to Enanga, “there was an
operation which we carried out with our counter-terrorism team because we suspect that Jamal
Kiyemba and his colleagues have been involved in some form of criminality,” adding that the
arrests were made with the help of US officials who aided in tracking Kiyemba down. While
there is no conclusive evidence tying Kiyemba to the 30 March killing of Ugandan prosecutor
Joan Kagezi, detectives are questioning him about his possible role in the crime as well as in a
range of other offenses. Kiyemba once lived in the UK before he traveled to Pakistan where he
was arrested as a terror suspect and later detained in Guantanamo Bay.
Zambia
13 April
According to the president’s spokesman, Zambia’s cabinet approved changes to controversial
mining royalties on Monday after the ministers of finance and mines proposed amendments. A
statement released by the presidency disclosed, “this follows extensive consultations with the
mining industry in light of significant changes in the fundamental assumptions upon which the
law was based and the sudden fall in the price of copper.” The statement however did not
disclose what the amendments are. Last month, Zambian President Edgar Lungu directed the
finance and mining ministers to change royalties on mining firms by 8 April. (Update 20 April)
– Zambian officials have reduced a controversial mineral royalty tax by more than half after
investors threatened to pull out of the country. In a statement released Monday, government
spokesman Vincent Mwale disclosed “mineral royalty tax rate for opencast mining and
underground mine operations will be pegged at nine percent,” down from 20 percent that was
imposed back in January.
Zimbabwe
29 April
On Wednesday, South African leaders met in the Zimbabwean capital Harare in order to dicuss
how to maximize profits from their countries’ national resources. Heads of state of the fifteen
nations that make up the Southern African Development Community marked the official
opening of the summit, which began Monday when cabinet ministers gathered. Prior to the
launch of the summit, officials had presented a strategy, which aims to achieve economic growth
by exploiting mineral resources through industrialization. During a 15-minute opening speech,
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe stated that while most southern African countries are
rich in minerals, including gold and diamonds, about 70 percent of southern Africa’s population
lives in poverty. He further disclosed that while Angola is the second largest oil producer in subSahara Africa, behind Nigeria, the majority of these resources are exported in their raw form.
Officially known as the Regional Strategy and Roadmap for Industrialization, the plan to
modernize southern Africa is meant to encourage economic growth until 2063.
22 April
A top European Union (EU) court has dismissed an appeal by Zimbabwe’s attorney general and
more than 100 figures linked to the Harare government, who indicated that they should not
have been targeted with EU sanctions. In a case they filed in 2012, Zimbabwe Attorney General
Johannes Tomana, along with 109 other people including top police and army officers, as well
as eleven companies, had called on the General Court of the European Union to annul the
sanctions. While a year later, Brussels took most of them off the sanctions list, the General Court
has maintained that the officials were correctly identified as close to Mugabe’s government and
its “serious infringement of human rights.” In a statement released, the court disclosed that
Tomana had been put on the sanctions list because he had “engaged in activities that seriously
undermine democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law,” adding that the inclusion
of the other individuals and companies were broadly comparable. While the EU has steadily
eased visa bans and asset freeze sanctions against Zimbabwe’s ruling elite, in the hope of
encouraging reforms, President Robert Mugabe and his wife remain on the sanctions list.
18 April
On Saturday, President Robert Mugabe confirmed that public workers will continue to receive
annual bonuses, a statement that publicly contradicts the president’s finance minister who
indicated earlier this week that the government would stop the payments for the next two years.
On Tuesday, Minister Patrick Chinamasa stated that due to the falling tax revenues, it was
unsustainable for his government to continue to pay the bonuses however the president has
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since indicated that this was not the government’s policy and that the finance minister had not
consulted him and his two vice presidents.
17 April
Zimbabwe’s ambassador confirmed Friday that his country will evacuate its nationals caught in
anti-foreigner violence in South Africa. Isaac Moyo, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa,
disclosed that Harare will on Sunday begin the repatriation of about 1,000 Zimbabwean citizens
affected by the attacks in the eastern port city of Durban, adding that “identification and
processing of repatriation documents has already been done.” On Friday, over a hundred people
marched outside the South African embassy in the Zimbabwean capital, calling for an end to the
violence, which began in Durban three weeks ago after Zulu King Goodwil Zwelithini was
reported last month to have said that foreigners should leave the country. He has since claimed
that he was misinterpreted.
8 April
President Robert Mugabe visited South Africa on Wednesday in what is his first state trip to the
country since 1994. The president, who is accompanied by his wife Grace, is seeking to increase
foreign investment in a bid to revive Zimbabwe’s economy. The country’s economy has been on
a downturn for more than a decade due to low growth, low liquidity and high unemployment.
In March, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated that the country faced a “difficult”
economic outlook, adding that its growth was set to weaken again this year. Late last year,
Zimbabwe’s finance minister led a team of officials on a visit to South Africa in a bid to convince
potential investors that the country was on the mend. The South African government has
disclosed that President Jacob Zuma and Mugabe will hold talks on Wednesday before a bilateral
business forum scheduled for Thursday.
3 April
The ruling ZANU-PF party has expelled former vice president Joice Mujuru. In a statement
released Friday, ZANU-PF spokesman Simon Khaya Moyo indicated that the ruling party’s top
decision-making organ politburo had on Thursday agreed to dismiss Mujuru. According to
Moyo, “the politburo felt that she lacked the quality of strong moral principles, honesty and
decency and therefore ceases to be member of ZANU-PF.” The party cited at least ten reasons
for dismissing her, including plotting to remove President Robert Mugabe from office, alleged
corruption and bringing the party into disrepute. Mujuru has denied all of these charges. In
December, Mujuru lost her positions in the party and government and had effectively become
an ordinary ZANU-PF member. Update (9 April) - Former vice president Joice Mujuru
disclosed Thursday that she will fight her expulsion from the ruling ZANU-PF party. In her first
public reaction to her dismissal, Ms Mujuru stated that the ZANU-PF’s decision to expel her was
based on an “unsubstantiated, malicious and hateful campaign.”
South Africa
Lesotho
No major incidents reported during this period
Namibia
No major incidents reported during this period
South Africa
25 April
According to a government statement, Nigeria has recalled its top diplomats in South Africa
because of “ongoing xenophobia targeting foreigners.” The statement further indicated that
Nigeria’s ambassador in Pretoria, South Africa’s capital city, and the consul general in
Johannesburg, the economic hub, will return to Nigeria for consultations. Nigerian legislators
have called on the South African government to pay damages while a Nigerian rights group has
complained to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Update (26 April) - On Sunday, the South
African government reacted angrily to Nigeria’s decision to recall its ambassador from Pretoria
over a wave of recent attacks targeting migrants. A statement released by the South African
foreign ministry disclosed, “we are not sure which actions or behavior of the South African
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government the Nigerian Government is protesting… If this action is based on the incidents of
attacks on foreign nationals in some parts of our country, it would be curious for a sisterly
country to want to exploit such a painful episode for whatever agenda.” Taking aim at Nigeria,
officials in Pretoria indicated Sunday that they had held off blaming the Nigerian government
when 84 South Africans were killed in the collapse of a church building in Lagos last year.
Adding that South Africa had also refrained from blaming Nigerian authorities for the “more
than nine months delay the repatriation of the bodies” or for the fact that when these bodies
eventually returned, “they were in a state that they could not be touched or viewed as required
by our burial practice.”
23 April
Thousands of demonstrators readied to march through central Johannesburg on Thursday in a
bid to protest against a spate of attacks on immigrants. The march is due to begin at 1100 GMT.
Late Wednesday, two people were attested when police, backed by soldiers, stormed a worker’s
hostel in the city’s Alexandra township. Earlier this week, the army was deployed in a bid to
support police operations against hostels housing South African men who have been accused of
targeting migrants from Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and other African nations.
22 April
President Zuma has vowed to tackle xenophobia in South Africa, as troops were deployed to
support police in a crackdown against attacks on immigrants, which have left at least seven
people dead. After meeting with business, civil and religious leaders, the president disclosed
that his government would take decisive steps in order to address “underlying” problems
behind the attacks and to ensure that foreigners are not targeted. While the president gave few
details of government plans, he did indicate that the violence was driven by “criminal elements”
as well as friction between foreigners and locals. Officials have disclosed that overnight
Tuesday, eleven men were arrested in a joint police and army raid on a hostel in downtown
Johannesburg.
18 April
Officials disclosed Saturday that police have detained more than thirty people overnight as
violence simmered around Johannesburg. According to police spokesman Lungelo Dlamini,
“more than 30 people were arrested last night. At this stage the situation is calm but we plan to
increase our deployment.” He further indicated that those attained “…are going to be charged
for public violence, malicious damage to property, house breaking and theft.” Overnight, small
groups attacked shops in several areas around Johannesburg. In Alexandria, a township north
of the city, police used rubber bullets to disperse looters. Anti-foreigner violence, which began
in the country’s eastern port city of Durban several weeks ago, has since spread to several other
towns, including Johannesburg. Violence has killed at least six people and displaced thousands.
16 April
On Thursday, President Jacob Zuma appealed for the end of attacks on immigrants as a wave of
violence that has left at least six people dead threatened to spread across the country. Speaking
to parliament in Cape Town, President Zuma stated, “we have witnessed shocking and
unacceptable incidents of violence directed at foreign nationals. No amount of frustration or
anger can ever justify the attacks on foreign nationals and the looting of their shops. We appeal
for calm, an end to the violence and restraint. Criminal elements should not be allowed to take
advantage of the concerns of citizens to sow mayhem and destruction,” adding “the police have
been directed to work round the clock to protect both foreign nationals and citizens and to
arrest looters and those committing acts of violence.” Over the past two weeks, shops and
homes owned by Ethiopians, Somalis, Malawians and other immigrants in Durban and
surrounding townships have been targeted, forcing many to flee to camps protected by armed
guards. Overnight, foreign-owned shops in the Jeppestown area of Johannesburg were attacked
while police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse anti-immigrant protesters in the
Actonville area on Thursday.
Thousands of people marched through the city of Durban on Thursday in a bid to protest against
anti-immigrant violence in South Africa. According to on the ground sources, about 4,000
people marched through Durban, chanting “down with Xenophobia!” and “A United Africa” at
an event that was attended by students, residents and local religious and political leaders. Police
have vowed to end the wave of violence, which claimed its latest victim on Monday when a 14year-old boy was killed in KwaMashu, a township located north of Durban. In a statement
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released Thursday, National Police Commissioner General Riah Phiyega stated “there are
tensions in various parts of the country between some locals and foreign nationals (but)
lawlessness will not be tolerated.” She indicated that “overnight, there was a flare-up of violent
attacks and looting in Jeppestown, Johannesburg,” adding “six male suspects have been arrested
for public violence and housebreaking. The suspects allegedly broke into foreigners’ shops.”
Police, who also reported tensions in Pietermaritzburg city, have called on community leaders
to help reduce tensions, adding that false rumors of attacks are increasing fears.
12 April
The leader of South Africa’s opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has indicated that she will
not stand for re-election at the party’s congress next month. Helen Zille stated Sunday that the
“time was right” for her to step aside. She will remain as premier of Western Cape province until
2019.
11 April
Two Ethiopian nationals suffered serious burns when their shop in a South African township
was set alight by a mob as violence against foreign immigrants continues to spread. According
to police officials, the men were in the shop in Umlazi, south of Durban, when it was petrol
bombing on Friday night. Police spokesman Thulani Zwane confirmed the attack, stating, “they
suffered severe burn wounds and are being treated in hospital.” According to Mr Zwane, three
people, including one foreigner, have so far been killed – two on 5 April and a third on Friday –
in violence between residents and foreign nationals that has been raging in townships south of
Durban over the past two weeks. According to Mr Zwane, “the situation is still tense in all
affected areas, and police are out in force to prevent further clashes.” Police officials have
disclosed that seventeen people have been arrested for various acts of violence in the eastern
port city. The violence has resulted in over a thousand mostly African foreign nationals fleeing
their township homes. Several mini grocery shops owned by foreign nationals in Isipingo and
Chatsworth, where the violence began two weeks ago, have also been looted and vandalized,
with violence now spreading to KwaMakhutha and Umlazi, which are also located in the south
of Durban. The latest anti-foreigner violence in the country has largely been blamed on a speech
last month by King Goodwill Zwelithini in which he blamed foreigners for South Africa’s high
crime rate, and stated that they must “take their bags and go.” While the king has since indicated
that his words were misinterpreted, some have indicated that he simply articulated what many
were feeling. This is not the first time that anti-foreigner violence has affected South Africa. In
January, foreign shopkeepers in and around the township of Soweto, which is located south of
Johannesburg, were forced to flee as looters targeted the area. Six people were killed at the
time. In 2008, 62 people were killed in similar violence.
6 April
A South African teenager was taken off a flight on suspicion of leaving her home in Cape Town
to join the Islamic State (IS) group. According to state security spokesman Brian Dube, the 15year-old girl was found at the Cape Town International Airport on Sunday. It is believed that
she was planning to travel to Saudi Arabia. Dube disclosed, “there was information we were
able to get that showed she might have been in contact with recruiters.” Security officials also
found documents in her home that showed she had been planning to join the militant group.
After being questioned, the girl was returned to her family’s care. The State Security department
is currently investigating how the teenager had paid for the flight and how she may have been
recruited.
Swaziland
No major incidents reported during this period
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Asia Pacific
Eastern Asia
China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
27 April
China’s military has announced that three officers from the People’s Liberation Army have been
detained on corruption charges. The specific offences for which they are being investigated have
not been revealed.
Eight people were arrested in Hong Kong after clashing with police during a pro-democracy
protest. Police used their batons and pepper spray to subdue protestors in the Mong Kok
shopping district who were trying to block a major road. The protest was sparked by the
government’s release of its controversial election roadmap, a plan which conforms to Beijong’s
ruling that all candidates for office should be vetted before the vote in 2017. Five of the
protestors arrested were charged with assaulting police officers.
25 - 29 April
Hong Kong police are hunting for six men who have escaped with HK$28 million after
kidnapping a young woman and holding her to ransom. Authorities say that the woman, an
unidentified 29-year old, was kidnapped on Saturday and released by her captors on Tuesday
after payment had been made. The suspects had initially demanded a ransom of HK$50 million
but settled for HK$28 million on Tuesday night. After securing the young woman, police erected
roadblocks on all of the major arterial roads into the financial hub in an effort to capture her
kidnappers.
21-23 April
Tensions have risen between China and the Philippines after two separate diplomatic incidents.
The first occurred when a Chinese coast guard vessel used its water cannon against Philippine
fishing boats sailing through Scarborough Shoal, damaging some of them. China took control of
Scarborough Shoal in 2012 and have since prevented Filipino fishermen from fishing in its
waters. The second event occurred when a Chinese warship aimed a powerful light at a
Philippine military plane passing near a disputed part of the South China Sea. Although the
plane’s pilots have been critical of the warship’s actions, a Philippine military spokesperson has
downplayed the incident, saying that the patrol plane had been allowed to pass more or less
unmolested.
20 April
Customs officers have arrested more than 250 people involved in smuggling 440,000 tonnes of
fuel. Fuel smuggling has increased dramatically in China since consumption taxes were
increased on a variety of oil products last year. According to customs officials, the gangs were
known to operate out of the country’s top oil ports such as Ningbo, Qingdao, Dalian, Xiamen and
Shenzhen. Using converted fishing boats, the gangs would transfer fuel from larger “mother
ships” to smaller vessels and then bring their cargo into port.
18 April
Chinese police have shot and killed two suspected terrorists who were trying to cross the border
into Vietnam. They were part of a group of people who were discovered in Dongxing city, in the
southern region go Guangxi, which lies directly opposite Vietnam’s border.
14 April
In an attempt to beef up China’s security and surveillance capability, a national population
database linked to biometric information and credit records will be established. This is the latest
in a series of measures to be adopted by the Chinese government to reduce the threat of
extremist violence. Others include the adoption of far reaching anti-terror laws that endow the
government with broad surveillance powers and the steady increase in the number of security
personnel present in public places, including buses, trains, schools and hospitals. In addition,
China will require guests to provide identification when checking into hotels, for motor refitting
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and when selling second hand goods.
11 April
A nun has died after setting herself on fire in the Kardze area of Sichuan Province. Yeshi
Khando’s act of self-immolation is believed to have been intended as a protest against Chinese
rule in Tibet. She is the second woman to set herself on fire this year
9 April
A passenger departing from Hong Kong International Airport for Jakarta has been arrested by
customs officers for smuggling 2 kgs of methamphetamine. The 38-year old man will appear
before Tsuen Wan Magistrates Court tomorrow.
8 April
A city in western Guangdong has abandoned plans to build an incinerator following two days of
protests that drew crowds of around 10,000 people and saw several police cars destroyed and
a police station ransacked. The Luoding city government made the announcement on its website
and asked residents to stop blocking roads, engaging in vandalism and disturbing the peace.
Residents of Long Town in Luoding city claim that they protested out of concern for the amount
of pollution an incinerator would add to their already polluted water and air.
7 April
Villagers protesting against the pollution caused by a nearby chemical plant in Inner Mongolia
have been forcibly subdued by nearly 2,000 police officers. Using rubber bullets, tear gas and
water cannons, police subdued the protestors, killing one and arresting fifty more. Local officials
have declined to comment on the matter.
4 April
In central Beijing, a group of more than thirty taxi drivers engaged in a dispute with the
authorities have drunk pesticide in an act of protest. Police officers patrolling the capital’s
Wangfujing shopping street discovered the taxi drivers lying on the street and immediately
arranged for them to be hospitalized. A brief statement released by the Beijing Public Security
Bureau announced that the drivers were all from Suifenhe City in Heilongjiang, a region
bordering Russia, and were involved in a dispute over vehicle renewal and contracts.
3 April
US - China relations soured slightly when when two US F-18 fighter jets were forced to make an
emergency landing in Taiwan. A spokeswoman from China’s foreign ministry said that “[w]e
require the US to abide by the “One China Policy” and the three joint communiques between
China and the US and to prudent deal with the relevant issue.” A spokesperson from the
American Institute in Taiwan - the defacto US embassy - said that the planes had been on a
routine flight when one of developed a mechanical problem, forcing them to land.
1 April
An Australian man, Ibrahim Jalloh, has been sentenced to death after being caught trying to
smuggle methamphetamine from China into Australia. It is understood that his death sentence
may be commuted is his behavior in prison is good over the next two years.
North Korea
29 April
South Korean intelligence officials have revealed that Kim Jong-un has ordered the execution of
fifteen senior officials this year as punishment for challenging his authority. An unnamed
National Intelligence Service official has revealed the one of these fifteen individuals was a vice
minister for forestry, who was executed for complaining about a state policy.
23 April
Chinese nuclear experts believe that North Korea may already be in possession of 20 nuclear
warheads and to have so far developed their nuclear enrichment capability that they may be
able to double this figure within a year. This exceeds the latest US estimates, which place North
Korea’s nuclear stockpile somewhere between 10 and 16 warheads.
3 April
A week ahead of the US Defense Secretary’s visit to Seoul, North Korea test fired four missiles
off its west coast. The South is describing it as a deliberate attempt to ignite further tension on
the Peninsula. According to South Korea’s office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the missiles flew
approximately 140 km before landing in the sea. Upon being informed of the incident, Defense
Secretary Ashton N. Carter said “if it was a welcome message for me, I’m flattered.”
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Japan
30 April
Japan and the United States have announced new rules for defence cooperation that will ensure
that Japan plays a larger role in both global and regional security matters. US Secretary of State
John Kerry and Defence Secretary Ashton Carter unveiled the new defence and security
paradigm alongside Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defence Minister Gen
Nakatani. While in the past Japan could only assist American forces in the defence of Japan, the
new guidelines allow for increased autonomy in addressing security threats.
28 April
Japanese police are currently investigating the possibility that an attack was launched against a
US Army base in Tokyo after receiving reports of an explosion in the area. Police discovered a
projectile about 800 metres away from the base two iron pipes planted into the ground, aiming
at Camp Zama. No injuries were reported as a result of the explosions.
15 April
For the first time in five years, top defence and security officials from Japan and South Korea
have met for high-level security talks. This signals a thaw in relations between the two countries,
which have long struggled to overcome their historical enmity.
South Korea
24 April
Anti-government protestors across South Korea have taken to the streets, denouncing the
labour policies of President Park Geun-hye. In Seoul, more than 10,000 people attended a rally
organised by the country’s two major labour unions. Thousands of police officers were
mobilized to try and keep the protestors in check. Minor clashes between protestors and police
have been reported but no one appears to have been seriously injured in the fray.
18 April
Thousands of South Koreans have clashed with police in Seoul while protesting the
governments response to a ferry disaster that claimed more than 300 lives last year. 13,000
police are reported to have been deployed to the area and over a hundred protestors were
arrested. In an attempt to subdue the protestors, police used water cannons and pepper spray.
A fire department official has confirmed that nine of the protestors required hospitalization
while three more received first aid at the protest site. Protestors were angered by what they see
as the South Korean government’s failure to raise the ferry by the first anniversary of the
disaster.
10 April
Amid growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, South Korea and the United States have
launched a major joint air force exercise near the DMZ. A South Korean Air Force spokesperson
said that around 1,400 servicemen and women from both countries will be involved in the two
week drill, code named “Max Thunder”. Around 100 military aircraft will be involved in the
exercise.
Southern Asia
Afghanistan
30 April
Four Romanian soldiers on patrol in Kandahar were injured when a booby-trapped car
exploded. They were subsequently transported to a hospital in Kandahar and are believed to be
in a stable condition.
28 April
A US drone strike in Kunar province has killed at least three Afghans. No further details
regarding the attack have been released.
26 April
A gunman has shot and killed General Gulab Khan, acting police chief for Uruzgan province. The
General was gunned down outside the police headquarters in Tiran Kot. A civilian was also killed
in the attack. A police officer who was implicated in the attack has since been arrested.
25 April
Insurgent mortar fire has killed a family of five in Laghman province.
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24 - 30 April
Afghan security forces carrying out cleanup operations in Kunduz, Helmand, Zabul, Kandahar,
Ghazni, Badghis, Takhar, Wardak, Kunduz, Faryab, Jawzjan, and Kunar provinces have killed at
least 120 Taliban militants and wounded sixteen others. Taliban fighters started a major
offensive in Kunduz on 24 April, prompting fears that Kunduz city would fall to the militants. A
spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said that the army had successfully stopped the advance.
At least eleven army personnel have died as a result of these operations.
Four militants were killed and two Afghan soldiers were wounded when militants attacked
security checkpoints in Kunar province.
20 April
A suicide bomber has detonated an explosive device outside a police station in Helmand
province, killing three people and wounding at least a dozen others. The Taliban have claimed
responsibility for the attack in an email to the media.
In the Bala Murghab district of Badgis province, nine border guards were killed when Taliban
militants raided their checkpoint. In the gun battle that followed, four Taliban fighters were
killed and eight others were wounded. A spokesperson for the provincial governor has
confirmed that, before leaving the scene, the Taliban fighters planted mines around the
checkpoint. Meanwhile, in Nimroz province, six civilians died when their rickshaw struck a
roadside bomb. No one has stepped forward to claim the attack.
19 April
At least a dozen Afghan bomb disposal technicians have been kidnapped by unknown assailants
in Paktia province. Provincial police chief General Zelmai Oryakhail has said that the team had
been working in the area for several weeks without a security detail, preferring instead to rely
on support from local residents.
18 April
In Jalalabad, a suicide bomber has killed at least thirty-three people and wounded one hundred
others in an attack that took place outside a bank. A spokesperson for the provincial governor
has confirmed the attack, saying that it took place while government employees and civilians
were collecting their monthly salaries. The Taliban have denied responsibility for the attack.
According to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the Islamic State (IS) terror group have claimed
responsibility for the attack, an assertion that has been disputed publicly by members of
Afghanistan’s intelligence community and ISAF forces. Update (26 April) - IS leaders in
Afghanistan have denied any involvement in the attack. In a statement, IS blamed its enemies
for “inventing lies about the Islamic Caliphate.”
17 April
Five members of the Hazara ethnic minority have been beheaded by terrorists in Ghazni
province. While no one has yet come forward to claim the attacks, district governor Ali Hedayat
has alleged that Islamic State (IS) affiliated terrorists may have been responsible.
14 April
In the eastern Afghan province of Wardak, three civilians, including two children, died when a
land mire exploded in Markazi Behsoud district.
13 April
Taliban fighters have overrun a series of army outposts in Badakhshan’s Jurm district, killing at
least eighteen soldiers in an attack marking the start of the summer fighting season. According
to Gul Mohammad Bidar, the province’s deputy governor, approximately 250 Taliban fighters
were involved in the attack. He also said that Afghan troops killed nineteen Taliban fighters,
eight of whom were foreigners. The Taliban fled once reinforcements arrived. An investigation
into the attack is being conducted by the Defence Ministry, who believe that an officer attached
to one of the checkpoints may have been guilty of unspecified negligence. Before they escaped,
the Taliban fighters looted military equipment from the army post and set fire to what they
could not carry.
12 April
The bodies of five aid workers employed by Save the Children Afghanistan have been found in
the central province of Uruzghan, thirty-nine days after their abduction by Taliban militants. A
spokesperson for Save the Children has confirmed their deaths.
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A US drone strike in Kunar province has killed three people. Their identities have not yet been
disclosed.
11 April
In northern Badakhshan province, clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban militants have
claimed twenty two lives, including five security personnel. According to a spokesperson for the
provincial police chief, forty-two others were also injured as a result of the conflict. It is believed
that a substantial proportion of the deceased militants were of foreign extraction, although
police officials have not commented on their nationalities. A Taliban spokesperson has
confirmed the attack.
An explosion in the Saigurd district of Parwan province has injured eleven people, including
three police officers. The bomb was placed in a handcart and exploded when a police vehicle
passed close by. So far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
10 April
A suicide bomber in Jalalabad has killed at least four people and wounded a dozen others. It is
believed that his intention was to target a military convoy near the Jalalabad airport. However,
hospital officials have confirmed that the victims were all civilians.
9 April
An attack in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, has left ten people dead and sixty
wounded, police officers, lawyers and civilians among them. According to Abdul Raziq Qaderi,
the province’s acting police chief, the assailants, armed with heavy weapons and suicide vests,
attacked the provincial prosecutors office. After killing a guard manning the entrance to the
office, they fought their way inside, taking more than a dozen people hostage. When Afghan
security forces arrived, a six hour-long gun battle commenced in which four of the attackers
were killed. It is not yet known how many assailants were involved in the attack or with whom
they are affiliated. Witnesses’ accounts of the siege state that the attackers wore Afghan security
force uniforms.
8 April
An Afghan soldier has shot an killed a US soldier while wounding several others in the first
“green on blue” attack to have occurred since ISAF-led combat mission ended last year. The
shooting took place after a US Embassy official left a meeting with Afghan provincial leaders at
a compound belonging to the Nangarhar provincial governor in Jalalabad. According to General
Fazel Ahmad Sherzad, the police chief for eastern Nangarhar province, American troops in the
compound returned fire, killing their assailant. His motive for launching the attack has not yet
been established.
7 April
A statement issued by the Defence Ministry claims that ten militants have died in clearance
operation in Ghazni and Paktia provinces over the past twenty-four hours. Two Afghan National
Army (ANA) soldiers died during the operation, which also recovered numerous land mines and
roadside bombs.
6 April
In Kabul, a police patrol vehicle struck a roadside IED, killing four policemen and two civilians.
Meanwhile, in Baghlan province, four more police officers were killed when their vehicle ran
over an IED. According to district governor Gohar Khan Babri, three civilians were also killed in
the attack. A Taliban spokesperson has contacted the media to claim this last attack.
5 April
In the Rustaq district of northern Takhar province, two police officials celebrating Nawroz (New
Year) were injured in an explosion. Responsibility for the blast has not yet been claimed.
4 April
A raid on terrorist hideouts in eastern Wardak province has left four militants dead, including
key Taliban commander Mullah Wazir. Arms, ammunition and 100kgs of explosives were also
recovered during the operation.
Two separate roadside bombs have killed five people and wounded seventeen others in
Afghanistan’s north. In Baghlan province, a bomb attached to a motorcycle and detonated
remotely killed five people and wounded seven others. A spokesperson for the provincial police
chief in Baghlan said that the attack is believed to have been intended for a passing army vehicle
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but missed. Meanwhile, in neighbouring Kunduz province, ten other people including a police
officer were wounded in an explosion. No one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for
either attack.
2 April
A suicide bomb attack during an anti-corruption rally in Khost has killed at least sixteen people
and wounded forty others. Prominent Afghan lawmaker, Humayoun Humayoun was wounded
in the explosion. So far, no one has stepped forward to claim responsibility for the attack.
1 April
In Afghanistan’s Saripul province, around ten people were abducted at gunpoint by suspected
Taliban militants while travelling from Saripul City to Balkhbab district.
Seven members of an Afghan family, including three children, were killed when their minivan
hit a landline in Ghazni province. Qasem Disiwal, district chief for Andar, confirmed the incident,
saying that the area had been heavily mined by the Taliban while retreating from the Afghan
army.
A statement from the Ministry of Interior claims that Afghan security forces have killed twentynine Taliban militants in operations across the country over the past twenty-four hours. A
further thirty-two militants have been injured in operations conducted in Nangarhar, Kunduz,
Sar-e-Pul, Kandahar, Maidan Wardak, Logar, Farah and Helmand provinces. No reference was
made in the report to the number of Afghan army casualties.
Bangladesh
25 April
A Bangladesh national has been killed by members of India’s Border Security Force in the
northern district of Panchagarh.
21 April
Bangladeshi police are investigating an attack against opposition leader Khaleda Zia during an
election rally in Dhaka. Attackers armed with metal rods surrounded Zia’s car and then shot at
it as it drove away. While Zia escaped from the incident unhurt, her bodyguard and at least five
other people were injured and subsequently hospitalized. Police are investigating the incident.
19 April
An alleged Jamat-ul-Majahideen Bangladesh (JMB) terrorist has been arrested in the Pakur
district of Jharkland in connection with a 2014 bomb blast in Burdwan. According to
Bangladesh’s National Investigation Agency, Lal Mohammed, alias Ibrahim Sheikh, was found in
possession of four crudely made bombs, a revolver and a USB drive containing Jihadi material
relating to JMB. Mohammed is claimed to have been a close associate of Sheikh Rahamatullah,
alias Sajid Sheikh, the JMB’s chief of operations in India, a responsibility Mohammed took on
after Rahamatullah’s arrest in November 2014. He is alleged to have been running a terrorist
training camp inside a madrasa in West Bengal.
13 April
Four suspected Islamist militants, including Mohammed Mojaher, have been arrested by
Bangladesh special forces in the southern port city of Chittagong. Lieutenant Colonel Miftah
Uddin, head of the Rapid Action Battalion, (RAB) said that RAB forces assaulted a hotel following
a tip-off from a member of the public. A cache of arms was also recovered during the operation.
In the midst of a nationwide protest against the execution of a Mohammad Kamaruzzaman, two
student activists have been shot and killed in Bangladesh. Police say that the body of a 22-year
old, who had been shot five times, was found in Rajshahi. Another victim of gun violence died in
hospital on the same day after being shot during a clash between police and protestors in
Sirajganj the night before. There have also been reports of vehicles being firebombed in Comilla,
Dhaka and Chittagong.
11 April
Bangladesh’s navy has arrested 15 Rohingya fisherman near St Martin’s Island. According to
Bangladesh authorities, the Myanmar nationals were fishing in Bangladesh waters.
7 April
Tension has risen between India’s Border Security Force (BSF) and the Border Guard
Bangladesh (BGB) over reports that an Indian citizen was dragged across the border by the BGB
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and killed. The BSF Inspector General Rajeev Krishna has written a report which claims that
BGB troops “illegally entered Indian territory” on 7 April and fired 15 - 20 rounds into a village
in West Bengal, injuring two Indian nationals. One of these individuals was subsequently
dragged into Bangladeshi territory and killed. Reports from Bangladesh have described this
individual as an “Indian smuggler”. Due to the increased animosity between the two states, the
BGB has remained on the alert and the BSF have deployed more troops to the border region.
Update (11 April) - Two Bangladesh national were killed when BSF troops opened fire at the
Jessore border. According to BGB officials, three more were injured.
India
15 April
Pakistani Rangers have broken the ceasefire and fired on Border Outposts (BoPs) along the
International Border of Jammu and Kashmir. India’s Border Security Forces returned fire. No
one from either side is reported to have been injured during the exchange.
13 April
After three years of unsuccessfully negotiating for the right to assemble the aircraft locally,
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a plan to purchase 36 Rafale jets from Dassault.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said that Modi was acting on a desire to avoid further
rounds of unsuccessful negotiations. Parrikar chose not to speculate as to whether India will ask
Dassault to fulfil its original order of 126 planes.
12 April
Maoist rebels in the Sukma district of Chhattisgarh state have killed seven policemen and
injured ten others in an ambush. A squad of sixty-one police officers were conducting training
exercises in the area when the attack occurred. Four of the eleven police officers injured were
in a critical condition and were rushed to hospital in Raipur.
7 April
A firefight has broken out between police and sandalwood smugglers in the southern Indian
state of Andhra Pradesh, resulting in the deaths of at least twenty people. Deputy Inspector
General M Kantha Rao said that his police officers shot in self defence after challenging a group
of over one hundred smugglers. This was confirmed by a forestry department official who said
that the loggers attacked police with axes, sticks and stones. Sandalwood is a highly sought after
commodity, particularly in China. Smuggling it out of India through Myanmar is common and
frequently results in these kind of clashes with police.
Pakistan
30 April
Ten men have been jailed for twenty five years each for their involvement in the shooting of
activist Malala Yousafzai in 2012. Although police have stated that none of the men charged
were actively involved in the shooting, they are all believed to have taken part in planning the
assassination attempt. The gunmen who shot Malala, all of whom are affiliated with the
Pakistani Taliban, are believed to have escaped over the border into Afghanistan.
28 April
A roadside bomb in Peshawar has killed one person and injured another. It is believed that the
bomb was meant to target a military convoy that passed through Peshawar’s Hayatabad
neighbourhood shortly before the explosion.
23 April
Drone strikes in North Waziristan have killed at least forty Taliban militants over a period of
forty eight hours. According to military officials, twenty-two militants were killed when the first
round of strikes hit Datta Khel. A further twenty militants were killed in strikes in the nearby
Tirah Valley, where Lashkar-e-Islam and the Pakistani Taliban are known to have strongholds.
Ammunition and ration dumbs were also destroyed in the attacks. In an unrelated incident in
South Waziristan, five militants were killed by Pakistani forces conducting operations in the
area.
White House officials have confirmed that two hostages, an American and an Italian, were killed
in a drone strike in Pakistan earlier this year. The attack, which occurred in January, was
launched against a suspected terrorist compound and resulted in the deaths of Dr Warren
Weinstein, an American development expert and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian aid worker. US
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President Barack Obama said that they were unaware that the hostages were being held in the
compound at the time of the attack. He went on to say: “[b]ased on the intelligence that we had
obtained at the time, including hundreds of hours of surveillance, we believed that this was an
Al-Qaeda compound, that no civilians were present and that capturing these terrorists was not
possible.” An investigation into the incident is underway. Update (28 April) - It has been
revealed that US President Obama secretly relaxed restrictions on CIA drone strikes in Pakistan,
despite having introduced more stringent rules in 2013 in an attempt to limit civilian casualties.
According to allegations made in The Wall Street Journal, the CIA was not required to provide
evidence that a target posed an immediate threat to the US and its interests. Had such
requirements been made, it is argued that the deaths of the hostages might have been avoided.
18 April
Forty seven Indian fishermen have been arrested off the coast of Karachi by Pakistani
authorities for violating their territorial waters. Eight boats were also seized in the process.
In a fierce gun battle with Pakistani authorities in the port city of Karachi, at least six members
of the Tehreek-e-Taliban, including a local commander, were killed. The commander had
previously been wounded in a drone attack and had been brought to Karachi for treatment.
Following a tip-off, police surrounded the house he was hiding in and attacked. According to
police officials, a large cache of weapons was also recovered at the scene.
17 April
An American woman has been shot and wounded in the port city of Karachi by men claiming to
be Islamist militants. Gunmen on motorcycles shot at Debra Lobo as she drove home from the
dental college where she works as a vice principal. Pamphlets gathered from her car suggests
that she was targeted because of her nationality. In English, the pamphlets read “Oh crusaders,
we are the lions of Dualat al Islamia, the falcons of the caliph. Today we killed this Kansas lady
Lobo, we shall lie and wait and ambush you and kill you wherever you may be and confined and
besiege you in America and then god willing … we will burn American.” According to Deputy
Police Superintendent Nasir Lodhi, it remains unclear whether or not the men involved wire
actually militants or simply posing as militants. Update (18 April) - Debra Lobo is conscious
and in a stable condition in a Karachi hospital.
16 April
Pakistan’s Supreme Court has issued a temporary moratorium on death sentences passed by
new military tribunals until a decision is reached on their legality.
15 April
Pakistan has conducted a successful test of its Ghauri missile system. The weapon is reportedly
capably of travelling a distance of 1,300 km and can carry both conventional and nuclear
payloads.
13 April
A fourteen-year-old Pakistani boy has been hospitalized with burns to 55% of his body after two
Muslim youths set him on fire for being Christian. The boy was set upon after leaving a shop in
Lahore, beaten, doused with kerosene and set alight. While in recovery, he has stated that he did
not know his attackers but that he would be able to recognize them on sight.
12 April
Four suspected Taliban militants have been killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan. The
strike reportedly targeted a house in the Shawal Valley, killing members of the Pakistan Taliban.
Led by Khan Said Sajna, this faction took refuge in the Shawal Valley and in other parts of North
and South Waziristan after splitting from Mullah Fazal Ullah’s Pakistani Taliban.
Ten Taliban militants attempting to cross the border from Afghanistan into the Shumkari area
of the Mohmand tribal district have been killed by Pakistani troops.
Gunmen have attacked a construction site in Baluchistan, killing twenty labourers while they
slept. Government officials claim that the raid was carried out by rebels seeking to gain control
over the gas and mineral rich province. According to three wounded survivors, between 15 - 20
gunmen arrived at the construction site on motorcycles, overpowered the eight guards then
opened fire on the workers. A spokesperson for the Baluch Liberation Front is believed to have
contacted local reporters to claim the attack.
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A spokesperson of al-Qaeda’s Indian branch has confirmed the deaths of two of its leaders in
separate drone strike in Pakistan earlier this year. Usama Mahmood identified the deceased as
Ahmed Farooq, the group’s deputy chief and Qari Imran, who was in charge of Afghan affairs. It
is believed to have been a serious setback for the group, which had only been operational for a
few months before the attacks.
10 April
In a move that has drawn condemnation from India, Pakistani authorities have freed on bail
Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Lashkar-e-Taiba
(LeT), the group held responsible for the attacks, has issued a statement confirming Lakhvi’s
release and that he is “in a secure place”. The release, which was contingent on a 2 million rupee
bond, comes after nearly four months of legal wrangling. A spokesperson for India’s home
ministry said “[t]his is a very disappointing announcement. An insult to the victims of the 26/11
Mumbai attack. The global community should take serious note of Pakistan’s double speak.”
Seventeen Indian fishermen have been detained by Pakistani authorities for illegally fishing in
Pakistan’s waters. Three boats were also seized by Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency.
After five days of debate, Pakistan’s lawmakers decided against offering military support to
Saudi Arabia’s campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Although Saudi Arabia had previously
asked Pakistan to contribute various military assets, including aircraft, troops and ships, to the
campaign, a joint session of the Senate and National assembly has instead adopted a resolution
favouring neutrality. “The parliament of Pakistan expresses serious concern on the
deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Yemen and its implications for peace and
stability of the region”, the resolution said. “[It} desires that Pakistan should maintain neutrality
in the Yemen conflict so as to be able to play a proactive diplomatic role to end the crisis.” This
decision has evoked a strong response from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In a statement
issued by UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Mohammed Gargash, “[t]he vague
and contradictory stands of Pakistan and Turkey are an absolute proof that Arab security —
from Libya to Yemen — is the responsibility of none but Arab countries.” He went on to warn
Pakistan that it may pay a “heavy price” for taking this “ambiguous stand”.
8 April
A Pakistani high court judge has ruled that former CIA station chief in Islamabad, Jonathan
Banks, should be tried for murder and for waging war against the country. Criminal charges
have been laid against him in relation to a US drone attack in 2009 which is alleged to have killed
at least three people. Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad high court, has also issued
a ruling against John A. Rizzo, a former CIA lawyer who provide legal sanction for the attacks.
As neither Banks nor Rizzo currently work in Pakistan for the American government, the
charges were issued in absentia. Update (30 April) - Pakistani police have dropped the court
case against Banks and Rizzo, on the grounds that “the drone attack did not take place in our
jurisdiction.”
The Islamic State (IS) terror group have claimed responsibility for the deaths of three Pakistani
soldiers who were shot by snipers while en route from a garrison in Kohtat to the Orakzai
Agency.
Five Taliban militants have been killed in an encounter with Pakistani special forces in the port
city of Karachi. After receiving a tip off from a local resident, a detachment of Pakistani Rangers
approached a house in Karachi’s Kaemari Town and were fired upon by militants. Local media
reported that the militants were members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and that Illyas
Kashmiri, its Karachi commander, had been killed in the raid. This has not yet been confirmed.
According to a spokesperson for the Rangers, explosives, weapons and ammunition were
recovered during the operation.
7 April
Sunni rebels from Pakistan have crossed the border into Iran and killed eight Iranian border
guards. Militant group Jaish-ul Adl (Army of Justice) has claimed responsibility, saying that its
fighters carried out the attack in Negur district. Ali Asghar Mirshekari, deputy governor of
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Sistan-Baluchistan province, has confirmed the incident while urging the Pakistani government
to arrest the terrorists and hand them over to Iran. Update (13 April) - Iran has offered to help
Pakistan secure lawless areas along Pakistan’s side of their shared border. Iran’s Interior
Minister Abdul Raza Rehmani has suggested that joint surveillance with Pakistani forces could
help to prevent events like this happening again.
6 April
An airstrike in Pakistan’s Khyber agency has resulted in the deaths of at least ten suspected
militants, while injuring several more. Five militant hideouts were targeted during the Tirah
Valley operation. Officials have so far been unable to confirm the identities of the deceased
militants.
4 April
Two bomb disposal technicians have died in an explosion in the Barwand area of South
Waziristan. A Pakistani security official has said that the two men were clearing a route for troop
movement when an improvised explosive device at the roadside exploded, killing them both.
Pakistan’s military has confirmed its involvement in a recent series of air trikes and ground
assaults in the Tirah valley. Officials claim that the purpose of the operation is undermine the
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in the area,
3 April
In the restive southwestern province of Baluchistan, at least six militants have died in clashes
with Pakistan’s Frontier Corps. According to a spokesperson for the military, the incident
occurred in Loralai district, around 300 km east of Quetta, the provincial capital. Two militants
are alleged to have blown themselves up while at least four others were killed in a firefight with
Pakistani forces. A large cache of ammunition was seized during the operation, as well as suicide
vests and explosive materials. The militants, known to have been involved in kidnap for ransom,
had hidden in the area to escape from an ongoing military operation.
1 April
A member the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a major Pakistani political party, was
arrested in London on Wednesday as part of an ongoing investigation into money-laundering.
Five other men have previously been arrested in connection with the investigation, including
the party’s leader, Altaf Hussain, who has been living in exile in Britain in since 1992. MQM is
the most influential political party in the port city of Karachi and has issued a statement denying
any involvement in money laundering.
Nepal
25 April
A 7.8 magnitude earthquake has hit Nepal, killing hundreds of people, destroying office blocks
and towers in Kathmandu and setting off an avalanche at Mt Everest base camp. At least 680
people are known to have died in Nepal but officials say the death toll could be much higher. In
neighbouring India, China and Bangladesh, dozens of people are also reported to have been
killed. Emergency workers have been deployed across Nepal to assist in recovery efforts and to
rescue those trapped beneath rubble.
17 April
Three more people infected with the H1N1 virus have died in Nepal. Although they were all
undergoing treatment at the time of their deaths, inadequate health facilities and lack of medical
personnel prevented is believed to have accelerated their decline. So far, the disease has claimed
the lives of twenty four people, with Paink, Sakla, Nayabada, Talegaun, Rami Danda,
Rokayagaun, Laha, Kortang and Majkot being the regions most effected. Nepal’s police and
armed forces will send medical teams assist in the provision of primary care. 2000 people have
been admitted to health posts to be treated for the disease.
7 April
Nepalese Maoists seeking to divide Nepal into federal states based on ethnicity have clashed
with police in Kathmandu. Calling for a nationwide shutdown, the Maoists took to the streets of
the Nepalese capital. On the first of what strike leaders initially planned to be three days of
action, opposition activists spread throughout Kathmandu, waving hammer and sickle flags. As
the strike became more violent, police fired tear gas at the opposition activists to subdue them,
but this did not prevent three cars from being set alight and nine other vehicles from being
damaged. By the end of the first day, the disruption to daily life caused the strikers to abandon
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their protest. According to Maoist leader Dinanath Sharma “[w]e have withdrawn the strike due
for Wednesday and Thursday. There were suggestions from all sides including the media that
the strike should be withdrawn because it hurts the common people.” At least eleven people,
including six police officers, were injured as a result of the protests.
Sri Lanka
30 April
Tamil Nadu police have broken a Sri Lankan gang involved in smuggling refugees across the
border through Nepal to a variety of destination countries including Australia. A squad of Tamil
Nadu police arrested four members of the gang in Chennai and seized ten fake passports that
had been prepared for two families preparing to depart.
In Columbo, two university students have been arrested for vandalizing state property and
assaulting police officers during a demonstration held in front of the University Grants
Commission. The protest had been staged by the Inter University Bhikki Federation who were
angered by the curtailment of university placements for student monks. As the situation grew
increasingly tense, police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowd. Five monks
and a police officer sustained injuries during the clash.
27 April
Sri Lankan security forces have killed three Taliban terrorists including one who was wanted
for the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team. Acting on a tip-off, security forces raided the
terrorists’ hideout in the Bhanhwanpura area, killing them all. It is alleged that the terrorists
were planning to launch an attack in Lahore.
23 April
Basil Rajapaksa, the younger brother of Sri Lanka’s former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, has
been arrested on corruption charges. He has been accused of misappropriation of state funds in
a construction deal while serving as minister for economic development under his brother. The
former president, who is also facing corruption charges, has said that his family has become the
victim of a witch hunt. According to Rajapaksa, “[n]either I nor any member of my family has
any ill gotten money.”
10 April
China and Sri Lanka have taken part in a joint training exercise, code-named “Silk Road
Cooperation - 2015”, specially designed to enhance their counter-terror capabilities. The first
phase of the training exercise was completed in Guangzhou while the second is due to take place
in Sri Lanka in June this year.
5 April
An inquiry into the management of Sri Lankan Airways has revealed “shocking details of
corruption running into billions of dollars”. A criminal investigation has been launched into the
corruption allegations, which have so far implicated former airline chairman, Nishantha
Wickremasinghe, the brother in law of former president Mahinda Rajapaksa. Although the
preliminary report contained no allegations of wrongdoing by Airbus, it did reveal that the
airline’s management was changed to ensure that Airbus planes were always purchased, despite
the availability of cheaper alternatives.
4 April
The Sri Lankan government has launched an investigation to determine whether the previous
administration supplied terrorist organisations with weapons and ammunition recovered from
the Tamil Tigers. Specifically, the investigation will try to determine whether arms and
ammunition made their way into the hands of Boko Haram in Nigeria and to Ukrainian rebels.
Reports have emerged which implicate the previous government in the sale of arms to a security
provider who was involved in arms deals with a number of countries including Nigeria. Despite
this, officials from the previous government deny having ever sold state weapons.
3 April
At least thirty-seven Indian fishermen were arrested and five boats were seized by the Sri
Lankan navy for violating Sri Lanka’s territorial sovereignty. The arrests come a day after Sri
Lankan President Sirisena issued instructions to seize boats that cross into Sri Lankan waters
without authorization.
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South - Eastern Asia
Cambodia
29 April
A border office manned by around 100 security officers has been established in Ratanakkiri
province, in an attempt to prevent people from crossing illegally from Vietnam into Cambodia.
17 April
A man believed to be part of a Vietnamese drug trafficking organization was arrested at Siem
Reap Airport after 5 kgs of cocaine was found in a piano keyboard he was waiting to collect. Le
Van Dang is reported to have smuggled the drugs from South America, having travelled through
Equator, Brazil, Qatar and Kuala Lumpur before arriving in Cambodia. He had previously served
at 13-year prison term in Vietnam for heroin trafficking.
10 April
Cambodia’s National Military Police Department has suspended six officer from Prey Veng and
Tbong Khmum provinces for allegedly shooting and torturing a group of villagers who were
caught driving an overloaded vehicle and tried to avoid paying a fine. National Military Police
Commander in Chief Sao Sokha made the decision to suspend the officers, one of whom was a
district police chief, after an investigation had been conducted into the allegations laid against
them. While the officers admit to having discharged their firearms, they deny having tortured
the villagers in any way.
8 April
Deputy Opposition Leader Kem Sokha has been question at length by Cambodia’s Phnom Penh
Municipal Court over his role in violent post-election protests and alleged comments about
overthrowing the government of Hun Sen. After seven hours of questioning, Sokha’s lawyer said
that no charges would be brought against her client. Outside the courtroom, hundreds of Sokha’s
supporters had gathered to protest the proceedings.
7 April
Cambodia has sent 461 military personnel, including 29 women, to join a United Nations
peacekeeping mission in Mali and South Sudan.
2 April
Two women have been charged with human trafficking after allegedly luring five other women
to China with the promise of employment, only to force them into marriage. The suspects
confessed and will be sent to the provincial prison on Thursday.
Indonesia
29 April
Australia has withdrawn its ambassador from Indonesia following the execution of Andrew
Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Commenting on this decision, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said:
"We respect Indonesia's sovereignty but we do deplore what's been done and this cannot be
simply business as usual. For that reason, once all the courtesies have been extended to the Chan
and Sukumaran families, our ambassador will be withdrawn for consultations.” Abbott stressed
that Australia’s relationship with Indonesia is very important, but that it has suffered as a result
of Indonesia’s refusal to grant Chan and Sukumaran clemency. At the same press conference,
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said “[t]he withdrawal of our ambassador is to register our
displeasure at the way our citizens have been treated.”
12 April
An individual suspected of facilitating the departure of Islamic State (IS) sympathizers from
Indonesia to Syria has been arrested by members of Densus-88, Indonesia’s anti-terror squad.
3 April
Pirates have attacked an oil tanker off the coast of West Kalimantan while it was en route from
Port Dickson to Labuan. The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency’s Sarawak operations
room have confirmed the incident, saying that a group of approximately 25 pirates boarded the
MT Dongfang while it was 52 nautical miles north of Pulau Umi. Armed with pistols, the pirates
took the crew’s personal belongings and damaged the ship’s navigation and communication
equipment. A Navy vessel in the area responded to a distress call and escorted the MT Dongfang
into Kuching. None of the crew members were harmed during the incident.
2 April
More than 300 fishermen have been rescued by Indonesian authorities from the remote island
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of Benjina where they were being used as forced labour. The group of fishermen, who came from
Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia, were freed after the Associated Press news agency
conducted an investigation into allegations of human trafficking.
1 April
In an attempt to crack down on militants suspected of involvement with the Islamic State (IS)
terror group, Indonesia has launched military exercises on the island of Sulawesi, a known
stronghold for radical Islamists. Commenting on the exercises, military spokesperson Major
General Mochamad Fuad Basya said “IS is a potential security threat…so we’re preparing our
forces to respond to that.” Similar exercises are being planned to occur throughout Indonesia.
Malaysia
30 April
Six of the seventeen men arrested earlier this month have received thirty-year sentences for
planning to commit terror attacks in the name of the Islamic State (IS) terror group. The
suspected mastermind of this operation was identified as Murad Hamimmuddin Hassas. It has
also been revealed that two of the men were Air Force personnel.
28 April
Israeli security service Shin Bet has accused Hamas of recruiting and training Palestinians
studying in Malaysia. These claims first appeared in an indictment filed against a Hebron
resident in the Judea military court earlier in the year. According to Shin Bet, once these
individuals have been trained and indoctrinated they are used to set up military networks in the
West Bank, to arrange for the secret transfer of funds and to act as messengers between Israel
and foreign countries. Malaysia’s Deputy Home Minister Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Taafar has
denied these charges, saying that “[t]his is ridiculous, they are creating reasons to oppose
Malaysia. You know this is what they (Israel) always do, when they dislike a country, this is what
they do against countries that were attacked by United States of America or Europe.”
26 April
Malaysian police have arrested twelve suspected Islamist militants who are believed to have
been plotting attacks on government installations around the country. National police chief
Khalid Abu Bakar has confirmed that the men were all Malaysian and are aged between 17 and
41. During the operation, explosives and Islamic State paraphernalia were recovered by police.
The arrests come as Malaysia prepares to host a summit for the Association of South-East Asian
Nations (ASEAN). Update (29 April) - Police have continued their search for the remaining
members of this terror cell. A counter-terrorism official has confirmed that none of their targets
have criminal records, making detection more difficult.
16 April
Three Malaysians suspected of supporting the Islamic State (IS) terror group have recently
returned home and are currently being sought by police. Very little is known about the
individuals but Deputy Home Minister Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Taafar has confirmed that they
may have undergone military training abroad. To date, Malaysia has detained 95 people with
suspected links to the Islamic State.
15 April
Three Ugandan girls working as sex slaves in Malaysia have been rescued. According to
Uganda’s High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur, the girls reported that there are at least twenty
other Ugandan women hiding from police and their recruiters in Kuala Lumpur.
6 April
Seventeen people have been arrested on charges of plotting terror attacks in Kuala Lumpur.
While it is known that two of those arrested had recently returned from Syria, no more details,
such as the suspects’ nationalities, have been forthcoming.
3 April
In an attempt to shield the country from terror attacks, Malaysia has tabled two bills in
parliament: the Prevention of Terrorism Bill 2015 and the Special Measures Against Terrorism
in Foreign Countries Bill 2015. The purpose of the first bill is to prevent any terrorist or terrorist
group from establishing themselves in Malaysia while the second bill establishes the legal
parameters for dealing with suspected terrorists in foreign countries. Specifically, it is designed
to prevent foreign terrorists, fighting outside Malaysia from using the country as a transport
hub or to train potential jihadis. Update (7 April) - Despite opposition from human rights
groups, Malaysia's lawmakers have passed the Prevention of Terrorism Bill. Described by a
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spokesperson for Human Rights Watch as a “giant step backwards for Malaysia”, the new law
permits the summary arrest and indefinite detention of individuals suspected of terrorist
activity.
Myanmar
16 - 28 April
In northeastern Myanmar, an army offensive against Kokang rebels has resulted in the deaths
of 126 troops, with more than 350 injured. It has also been reported that 74 bodies of Kokang
rebels have been recovered by government forces. It is understood that the purpose of the
operation was to retake a strategically significant hilltop. Despite the escalation of the conflict,
the rebels have not given ground. Shelling of the rebels has been continuous, with mortar rounds
landing on the Chinese side of the border. Once again, China has lodged representations with
the Myanmar government, asking them to take all necessary precautions to ensure that the
conflict does not spread across the border. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei
said in an interview that “China hopes that the relevant parties can calm the situation as soon
as possible to return the border back to normal.”
13 April
In northeastern Myanmar, near the border with China, two police officers were killed and three
others were wounded when a bomb exploded. A police official said that the explosion occurred
while the police officers were making a surprise inspection on a village near Muse, about 1,095
km northeast of Yangon. Although the reason for the explosion is not know, the village is not far
from the Kokang self-administered region, where fighting between rebels and government
forces has intensified in recent months.
8 April
Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi may boycott the upcoming election if changes
are not made to the military-drafted constitution that prevents her from becoming president. In
the capital Naypyidal, Suu Kyi met with President Thein Sein and other officials to discuss a
landmark draft ceasefire agreement and the changes that need to be made to the constitution.
Suu Kyi, who was imprisoned for fifteen years, has previously expressed her desire to reconcile
with the military.
1 April
In an attempt to bring decades of conflict to a close, Myanmar’s government - along with sixteen
rebel groups - has agreed to a draft nationwide ceasefire agreement. Hailed by the United
Nations as a “historic and significant achievement”, Myanmar President Thein Sein witnessed
the signing of the agreement after seven rounds of negotiations. The agreement, which does not
include rebels currently fighting government forces in the Shan state, will be distributed
amongst the leaders of sixteen rebel groups. The Myanmar Peace Centre, which mediated and
oversaw the process, will issue an announcement when the final agreement is ready to be
signed.
Philippines
14 April
The leader of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) Ameril Umbra Kato has died,
mere weeks after evading capture in an offensive launched by government forces on the
southern island of Mandanao. Although a spokesperson for BIFF could not be reached, Rommel
Banlaoi, the executive director of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism
Research said that Kato’s death was unlikely to bring about the death of BIFF. “They are still a
force to be reckoned with,” he said. “The death of one leader does not necessarily lead to the
death of the group. His younger lieutenants will continue the struggle.” Kato is reported to have
suffered a stroke in 2011 and has been in poor health ever since. His death is believed to have
been as a result of natural causes.
9 April
Philippine troops clashed with around 250 Abu Sayyaf militants in the country’s restive south,
leaving six militants and two soldiers dead. It is not yet clear why such a heavy concentration of
militants, led by commander Radulan Sahiron, had gathered in Sulu Province’s Patikul township.
An army spokesperson has, however, speculated that the rebels could have been planning a
large scale attack or possibly attending a social function.
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6 April
Seven people died and twenty-six were injured when former super typhoon Maysak hit the
north east of the country. Maysak crossed the northern Philippines in one day, bringing severe
winds and heavy rain with it. Thousands of people who had been evacuated from their homes
in anticipation of the super typhoon returned home once they realized how much the storm had
weakened.
4 April
A bomb has exploded outside a police station in Zamboanga, injuring four civilians. Three of
those injured are reported to be in a critical condition and were rushed to hospital after the
incident. No one has yet stepped forward to claim responsibility for the attack.
1 April
One of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists, Zulkifli bir Hir, was killed during a raid in the
Philippines in January this year. Analysts were able to confirm his death after testing DNA
evidence gathered from a raid conducted earlier this year in which 44 Philippine commandos
died.
The Philippine military has ended a five-week long offensive against a Muslim rebel group near
the town of Mamasapano. A military spokesperson has confirmed that 139 rebels were killed
during the operation and that numerous bomb-making facilities were also destroyed. Although
the rebels ranks have been splintered, armed forces chief Gregorio Pio Catapang told reporters
that “we will send army ranger to continue hunting down remnants of BIFF (Bangsamoro
Islamic Freedom Fighters). 90,000 displaced residents have been allowed to return home since
the operation ended.
Thailand
23 April
Thailand’s reluctance to fight illegal and undocumented fishing has caused the European Union
(EU) to threaten to ban imports of seafood from the kingdom. Thailand exports approximately
US$650 million worth in fish products to the EU annually and has been given six months to get
its industry in order before a trade ban is imposed. Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has
threatened to invoke controversial article 44 to stamp out this problem.
20 - 25 April
Over the past week, Thailand has seized seven tons of ivory in what customs officials describe
as the biggest busts in the country’s history. On 20 April, 739 elephant tusks bound for Laos
were seized upon arrival in Bangkok after authorities received a tip-off that the shipment had
been dispatched from the Congo. Customs Department Director General Somchai Sujjapongse
said that his office had been monitoring the shipment’s progress since it had left Africa two
months earlier. Four days later, 511 more pieces of ivory were discovered in a container shipped
from Kenya. Thai customs have confirmed that the shipment, marked “tea leaves” was also
bound for Laos.
11 April
At least seven people were injured when a car bomb exploded at a shopping mall on popular
resort island Koh Samui. Security officials have alleged that the bomb was hidden in a car
believed stolen from one of three southern provinces that has been wracked with insurgency
for the past decade. Authorities claim the bombing was intended to destabilize the military
regime that removed Thailand’s democratically elected government from office last year.
3 April
Over the past week Thailand has pledged to deepen its defence and security cooperation with
both India and China. While visiting Thailand, India’s National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval held
meetings with Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and other top ministers to discuss a wide
range of issues including piracy, human trafficking, maritime security and terrorism. According
to Doval, Prime Minister Modi is committed to improving India’s relationship with the states in
its “neighbourhood” and reaffirming security ties is the first step towards achieving that goal. A
similar desire was expressed by Chinese military officials during Thai Defence Minister Prawit
Wongsuwan’s recent visit to Beijing. In order to improve bilateral ties, China and Thailand will
continue the practice of military exchanges and defence cooperation into the future.
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2 April
Thailand’s ruling Junta has lifted martial law, which had been in effect since before the coup
occurred ten months ago. Nevertheless, the military will retain wide ranging executive powers,
including the ability to make arrests without a warrant and to detain people without charge. In
a statement issued by the National Council for Peace and Order, martial law will be replaced by
Article 44, which gives Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha power over all aspects of the
government, law and order. This has sparked protest amongst human rights groups who believe
that it will invest Prayuth with unchecked authority.
Singapore
11 April
Smuggled gold bars weighing 6 kgs have been seized by members of the Directorate of Revenue
Intelligence at Chennai Airport. Seven people, including the managing director of a private
security agency tasked with guarding the air cargo service have been arrested in relation to the
smuggling racket. The cargo was due to leave Singapore on an Air Tiger flight. Its designation
has not been revealed.
Vietnam
17 April
Customs officers at Noi Ba International Airport in Hanoi have seized a multi-million dollar
shipment of elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns arriving from France. Rhino horn is a valuable
commodity on Vietnam’s black market, selling for more that $50,000 a kilo.
Fifty Vietnamese asylum seekers have been returned home by a Royal Australian Naval vessel
after their boat was intercepted in Australian waters earlier this month.
14 April
In an attempt to stamp out corruption in Vietnam, a Vietnamese lawmaker has announced that
whistleblowers will be receive a reward of up to US$160,000 for information received.
8 April
After a meeting between China’s president and the head of Vietnam’s Communist Party, the two
countries have pledged to seek a peaceful resolution to their ongoing dispute in the South China
Sea. After a candid exchange of views, the two states agreed to "use well the Sino-Vietnam
government border negotiation mechanism, uphold friendly consultations and negotiations to
look for a basic and lasting resolution both countries can accept”.
Oceana
Australia
24 April
18 April
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed that a number of Australians have been detained in
Turkey while trying to make their way to Syria to join the Islamic State (IS). While attending
ANZAC Day celebrations in Turkey, Mr Abbott commented on the Turkish government’s
cooperation saying that “I’m confident that [it] will get stronger and stronger in the days and
weeks and months ahead.”
Five teenagers allegedly planning Islamic State (IS) inspired terror attacks at ANZAC Day events
were arrested in counter-terrorism raids across Melbourne’s southeast. Acting on information
received, officers from the Victorian state police and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) raided
several properties, seizing swords and knives. The AFP have confirmed that the five men were
associates of Abdul Numan Haider, who was shot and killed by police in Endeavour Hills last
year after stabbing two police officers. Some of those arrested are also alleged to have attended
the Al-Furqan Information Centre at Springvale, which has in the past been investigated by
counter-terror officers. Although the authorities have declined to provide specific information
relating to the targets of the attacks, it has been confirmed that police officers attending ANZAC
Day celebrations in Melbourne were in the would-be terrorists crosshairs. The attackers were
well known to the police, who have been monitoring their activities for the past month. Security
has been increased at ANZAC Day celebrations across the country as a result of these arrests.
Update (20 April) - In the UK, a 14-year-old boy has been arrested in connection to the foiled
terror attack in Melbourne. Communications between the boy and a man in Australia linked to
the Melbourne raids were uncovered by authorities in the UK. He has subsequently been
charged with “inciting terrorism overseas.”
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8 April
In response to Australia’s expanded training mission in Iraq, Prime Minister Tony Abbott has
announced that 330 additional troops will be deployed alongside 100 New Zealand military
personnel. Mr About said that Australia and New Zealand are committing extra forces to the
conflict at the “express request of the Iraqi government.”
6 April
A well-known figure in the Northern Territory Labor party has returned home after travelling
to Iraq to fight Islamic State (IS) terrorists. Authorities are still trying to determine whether or
not to charge Matthew Gardiner with any foreign-fighter offences. Although it is illegal for
Australians to fight on either side of the Syrian conflict, Gardiner has apparently spent the past
four months fighting with Kurdish forces against the IS. Upon his arrival in Darwin, he was
detained by members of the Australian Federal Police who interrogated him for several hours
before releasing him. While Attorney-General George Brandis declined to comment on the
situation, a spokesperson from his office had previously noted that: “if you fight illegally in
overseas conflicts, you face up to your life in prison upon your return to Australia.”
5 April
Violence erupted in several of Australia’s capital cities as anti-racism groups clashes with antiIslam groups at rival rallies. In Melbourne, hundreds of police officers formed barricades to
separate the two groups gathered in Federation Square. Three people were arrested but no one
was reported to have been injured as a result of the scuffles that broke out between the
protestors. Brisbane and Sydney experienced similar scenes of unrest, with protestors
gathering in King George Square and Martin Place.
New Zealand
24 April
A New Zealand national fighting for the Islamic State (IS) is Syria has released a video on
YouTube urging IS sympathizers to stage an attack on ANZAC Day. Mark Taylor, who goes by
the twitter name Kiwi Jihadi, can be heard to say in the video “now is the time to commence your
operations, even if it means you have to stab a few police officers, soldiers on ANZAC Day and
so be it.” The video was subsequently taken down. Commenting on the video, Prime Minister
John Key said “it just reaffirms what I’ve been saying; that it is a war they’ve been trying to bring
to New Zealand.” New Zealand citizens have been urged to attend ANZAC Day celebrations in
spite of these threats.
20 April
The revelation last month that New Zealand’s intelligence services are spying on China have
prompted criticism from China’s Foreign Ministry. A spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry
expressed his governments concern over the reports and urged New Zealand to stop trying to
damage China’s interests. In responding to these criticisms, New Zealand Prime Minister John
Key said that Snowden was a thief and had proven to be unreliable. He also added that every
country used its intelligence service to further their own interests, including China.
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Europe
Eastern Europe
Belarus
No major incidents reported during this period
Bulgaria
11 April
Seven men have been indicted in Bulgaria following a cigarette smuggling ring-bust. Two
customs officials have been charged with malfeasance in office and five other people, including
another two customs officials, a border police guard and two employees of a freight company,
were charged on accusations of aiding and abetting contraband. According to officials, the
smugglers shipped the cigarettes to the Turkish-Bulgarian border using paperwork claiming
that the goods would transit through Bulgaria. Once at the Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint,
the perpetrators changed the license plates and used false paperwork to cross the border,
claiming they were transporting textile goods.
Czech Republic
1 April
Thousands of Czechs welcomed a convoy of U.S. troops to Prague on their return from exercises
in the Baltics, defying expectations pro-Russian groups would protest over the country’s
alliance with the West. The convoy of 118 mostly Stryker armored vehicles has been on a 1,100
mile-path from Estonia to a base in Germany via road instead of the usual rail transport, to
demonstrate support for NATO nations in central Europe amid the Ukrainian crisis.
Hungary
30 April
Hungary’s Prime Minister claims that he wants to debate the possible reintroduction of the
death penalty with his European Union partners. Viktor Orban said that current penalties for
serious crime are not strict enough and capital punishment should be "kept on the agenda" in
Hungary. He raised the issue after the murder of a young tobacconist last week. Orban's Fidesz
party has been coming under increasing pressure as it loses ground to the far-right Eurosceptic
Jobbik party. The prime minister's comments have provoked controversy at home and abroad.
Moldova
No major incidents reported during this period
Poland
29 April
Polish authorities accused a Russian journalist working for a pro-Russian news agency of
posing a threat to Poland's national security, saying that he should lose his right to reside in
Poland and the European Union. Poland's Internal Security Agency declared him a "danger to
the Polish state" last year. The Foreign Ministry stripped him of his journalist's accreditation
and the office of the governor of Mazovia, the province where Warsaw is based, opened an
investigation. The case comes amid tensions between the West and Russia over Moscow's
actions in Ukraine. Poland is one of the most outspoken European voices in favor of sanctions
against Russia, and ties between the Slavic neighbors have been particularly strained lately.
24 April
The Polish foreign ministry banned a biker gang linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin from
entering the country. The Night Wolves had planned to enter next week as part of a ride across
Europe to commemorate the 70th anniversary of World War Two. However, the Polish Prime
Minister, Ewa Kopacz, called the plan a ‘’provocation’’. Nevertheless, the Night Wolves' vice-
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president, Felix Chernyakhovsky, has insisted the bikers still intend to make the trip. The Night
Wolves are subject to US sanctions for alleged active involvement in Crimea and for helping to
recruit separatist fighters for Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine.
23 April
Poland’s foreign minister, Grzegorz Schetyna, said that Poland along with other countries may
support Ukraine’s defence capacities if the conflict in eastern Ukraine escalates. He added that
his country has applied to become a non-permanent member of United Nations Security Council
in 2018-2019.
Romania
4 April
According to Romanian officials, the country is planning to expel seven foreign nationals
accused of recruiting members for the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda and propagating their
ideas in the eastern European country. The Bucharest court of appeal this week ruled in
separate cases that the seven should be prohibited from returning to the country for between
three to seven years, according Romania’s interior intelligence agency.
Russian Federation
30 April
Russian authorities are planning to extend a ban on Western food imports beyond an August 7
deadline, since there are no incentives given from the West to lift its embargo due to the
prospect of extended European sanctions. President Vladimir Putin is supporting several moves
to boost Russia's "food security”, and Russian officials are planning to invest more in agriculture
to make the country self-sufficient in milk, meat, fruit and vegetable production in the coming
years. The ban on most food imports from the United States, European Union and other
countries worth $9 billion was scheduled to run out on August 7, a year after it was imposed in
retaliation to Western sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine crisis. But with the European Union
suggesting it will extend sanctions on Russia until the peace deal on Ukraine is fully
implemented here is little incentive for Moscow to lift the ban.
NATO’s top commander told the U.S. Congress that Russia’s military may be taking advantage of
the recent lull in fighting after the ceasefire agreement to lay the groundwork for a new military
offensive. U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, the NATO supreme allied commander, said
Russian forces had been seeking to "reset and reposition" while protecting battlefield gains,
despite a fragile ceasefire agreed in mid-February. Pressed during the hearing, Breedlove
acknowledged he could not predict Moscow's next move but characterized its ongoing actions
as "preparing, training and equipping to have the capacity to again take an offensive.”
28 April
Russia unveiled a new-generation battle tank called Armata T-14 ahead of World War Two
Victory Day celebrations on 9 May. It is among several new weapons systems featuring in the
parade that will take place on the 9th. The Russian defence ministry posted photos of the new
military hardware taken during the rehearsal. Most Western leaders declined to attend the
celebrations due to the tension that the Ukrainian crisis has created.
Russian authorities seized the assets of a confectionery factory owned by Ukrainian President,
Petro Poroshenko, in the Russian city of Lipetsk in order to block their sale, parent company
Roshen reported. "It is safe to say the Russian side is deliberately taking all possible steps to
prevent the company selling its assets in Russia," Roshen said in a statement. It also said it would
appeal against a decision by a Russian court to seize the assets, which it valued at 2 billion rubles
($39 million). Poroshenko, nicknamed the Chocolate King, promised when he was elected last
May to sell Roshen.
21 April
A series of protests of unpaid Russian workers have created tension in Russia. In the far east of
the country the teachers went on strike. At the same time, in central Russia the employees of a
metallurgical plant also protested for being unpaid for four months. In St. Petersburg,
autoworkers stopped working altogether and at a remote construction site in Siberia labourers
painted there complains in gigantic white letters on the roofs of their dormitories. After months
of frustration with an economy sagging under the weight of international sanctions and
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decreasing oil prices, workers across Russia are starting to protest unpaid wages and go on
strike, in the first nationwide backlash against President Vladimir Putin’s economic policies.
20 April
Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, said that he believes a surge in ceasefire violations in
east Ukraine has passed. He added that Russia plans to work to prevent violence escalating
again. Fighting has increased in recent weeks despite the Minsk agreement being in full force.
Moscow stands accused by the West and Ukraine of orchestrating the pro-Russian separatist
rebellion in east Ukraine, providing it with troops and arms, training and intelligence. Moscow
denies these allegations.
Russia said its deputy Prime Minister had every right to visit a Norwegian island despite travel
restrictions imposed on him over Ukraine, dismissing Oslo’s condemnation of the trip. Oslo has
demanded Moscow explain Dmitry Rogozin’s stopover on the island of Spitsbergen in the arctic
Svalbard archipelago. The European Union imposed travel bans and other penalties after Russia
annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region. Norway is not a EU member but has adopted the same
sanctions.
17 April
The political party founded by murdered Russian dissident Boris Nemtsov is scheduled to join
forces with another opposition party ahead of Russia’s 2016 elections. RPR-Parkas will share a
joint platform with the Party of Progress, founded by opposition activist Alexei Navalny. Russia’s
political opposition has in recent years been ineffective and weak since it was riven by
infighting, thus losing its ability to effectively challenge President Vladimir Putin. It was
announced that the two parties are going to form an alliance rather than merge.
16 April
Top Russian officials accused the United States of seeking political and military dominance and
sought to put blame on the West for international security crises, including the conflict in east
Ukraine. The Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, claimed a drive by the United States and
its allies to bring Ukraine closer to the West was a threat to Russia and had forced Moscow to
react. He said that ‘’the United States and its allies have crossed all possible lines in their drive
to bring Kiev into their orbit. That could not have failed to trigger our reaction”.
13 April
U.S. officials formally complained about Russia’s interception of a U.S. reconnaissance plane. The
incident occurred over the Baltic Sea on 7 April, according to the United States European
Command, which called the interception "unsafe" and “unprofessional”. US officials say the
plane was in international airspace at the time. The Russian defence ministry denied any
wrongdoing on the part of its pilots. US officials say the fighter intercepted the US aircraft at a
high rate of speed from the rear, and then proceeded to conduct two more passes using "unsafe
and unprofessional maneuvers" in close proximity. Russia has been accused of border violations
several times by its Baltic neighbors in recent months.
12 April
Russia’s Foreign Ministry said that moves by Finland and Sweden toward closer ties with NATO
were of ‘’special concern’’. The comments were published in relation to an article in the
newspaper Aftenposten, where in a joint declaration, the defence ministers of Sweden, Norway,
Finland, Denmark and Iceland said northern Europe must prepare for possible crises or
incidents because of Russia.
Russia says its aerospace forces are scheduled to conduct eight aerial and missile maneuvers in
the southern part of the country this year. The war games will be carried out in the region of
Astrakhan and will involve firing exercises with air defence missile systems. Moreover, the
Russian aerospace force would be equipped with new radar stations, radio equipment and
missile systems. The announcement came after the Defence Ministry unveiled plans to hold at
least 4,000 military drills across Russia in 2015.
10 April
Russia held a military exercise in an international unrecognized pro-Russian separatist region
of Moldova. The exercise was hosted in the breakaway republic of Transnistria, which the
majority of the international community considers to be part of Moldova. The exercise featured
an estimated 400 Russian troops, who fired over 100,000 rounds of ammunition. This exercise
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raises fears that Russia may be planning to deepen its presence in a strategic foothold right at
central Europe’s doorstep.
NATO is downsizing the Russian delegation at its Brussels headquarters through a new rule
capping the size of any nonmember country’s mission to 30 people. The decision was taken
formally earlier this week. Since the Ukrainian crisis, and as the relationship became more and
more tense, NATO decided a year ago to put restrictions join most members of the Russian
delegation in Brussels, allowing extensive access to NATO headquarters only to the Russian
ambassador, the deputy ambassador and their immediate support staff.
9 April
Russian Interior Ministry troops are being pelted with stones and bottles during exercises to
practice putting down a Ukrainian-style revolution. The training is designed to mimic clashes
between protesters and police on Kiev’s Maidan Square, in late 2013 and early 2014, which led
to the ousting of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s President. A spokesman for the ministry told
reporters that the drills were ‘based on events that took place in the recent past in a
neighbouring country’. Russian has responded to street protests against the rule of Vladimir
Putin, with police crackdowns and prosecutions of demonstrators in recent years. During the
eight-day drills, named Zaslon 2015 and taking place in six regions including Crimea, the troops
are practicing use of water cannons and tear gas.
7 April
Russia’s parliament voted to strip the only deputy who voted against last year’s annexation of
Crimea of his immunity from prosecution as a lawmaker. The loss of his immunity will open the
way for him to face possible embezzlement charges. Ilya Ponomaryov, who is now in the United
States and one of the last remaining critics of President Vladimir Putin in the chamber, says the
case against him is politically motivated. He faces an investigation over his work for a statefunded technological foundation, and has been under increased pressure since he alone in the
450-seat Duma voted against the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
5 April
According to Russia’s Aerospace Defence Forces’ deputy chief, Russia is taking active steps
toward boosting its air and missile defence capabilities. These steps are aimed against the
potential threat of Prompt Global Strike, which U.S. ‘’under certain conditions’’ might decide to
carry out. An air and missile defence system remains one of Russia’s top priorities, PGS initiative
aims to deliver a precision-guided conventional weapon airstrike within less than one hour after
Washington deems the target to be a national security threat.
3 April
Russia expressed outrage over a ‘’frenzied anti-Russian campaign’’ by U.S. media and political
analysts, intensifying a war of words that has deteriorated during the Ukraine crisis. The
relations between Russia and U.S. have sunk to there lowest since the Cold War over the crisis
in Ukraine, and each side has accused the other of waging an information war.
2 April
Russia attacked against the ‘’unprecedented’’ NATO military build-up taking place along its
eastern border, stating that it is an ‘’unprecedented and dangerous step’’. A Russian military
spokesman said that NATO’s moves violate a Russia-NATO treaty, which forbids the alliance
from permanently stationing troops in the Baltic States, and more specifically in Estonia, Latvia
and Lithuania. The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO’s encroachment as an unprecedented
violation of the Russia-NATO founding act, which was signed in May 1997.
A Russian trawler sank near Russia’s far eastern Kamchatka peninsula, killing at least 56 of the
132 crew. Sixty-three people were rescued but 13 were still unaccounted for, hours after the
Dalniy Vostok fishing vessel sank in the Sea of Okhotsk so quickly that its captain, who drowned,
did not manage to send a distress signal. It was not immediately clear why the 26-year-old ship
had sunk but it was reported that the crew may have violated safety rules by overloading it,
affecting its balance.
Slovakia
8 April
Slovakia adopted a decision that it is necessary to introduce a new systemic measure securing
that the country will avoid any threats in association with the situation in Ukraine. The new
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Situation Centre of the Slovak Republic will provide non-stop monitoring where its employees
will collect information on events in the world that may have impact on Slovakia. Their
assessments will be promoted to top representatives of the state. It is expected to pass the
parliament’s vote and come into full force in November.
4 April
A small group of demonstrators gathered outside Slovakia’s presidential palace to denounce
Moscow’s role in the Ukraine crisis. The Ukrainian flag waving group were hoping to get their
message across to visiting Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov. Lavrov was at the palace in
Bratislava, as the city marks 70 years since its liberation by Soviet troops at the end of the
Second World War.
Ukraine
30 April
International Rescue Committee (IRC) was forced out of east Ukraine. Its offices were closed by
pro-Russian militants who accused it for spying. Staff working for the aid organization were
briefly detained as their office in the rebel city of Donetsk was raided and searched by masked
gunmen. Several employees were then put on a bus to the capital Kiev. The IRC, led by the former
British Foreign Minister David Miliband, has not commented on the incident yet.
Billionaire Ukrainian industrialist, Dmytro Firtash, declared he was innocent of bribery and
money laundering as an Austrian court began deliberating whether to extradite him to the
United States to face corruption charges. He claimed that the allegations that he had conspired
to bribe Indian government officials were "absolutely untrue”. The 49-year-old, one of Ukraine's
most influential oligarchs, was arrested in Vienna a year ago at the request of U.S. authorities,
who have been investigating him since 2006. He was released from detention in March 2014
after posting bail of 125 million euros.
28 April
Ukrainian government claims that its troops came under rebel attack with Grad rockets for the
first time since March. The intensity of clashes between government forces and pro-Russian
militants has augmented in the past 24 hours, with one soldier killed and 14 wounded. Rebels
in turn blamed Ukraine for multiple ceasefire violations, including artillery bombardments.
27 April
During the summit between EU and Ukraine, EU leaders expressed their worry about the
ceasefire’s fragility and the violations reported. However, it was decided that EU will not send
armed peacekeepers in Ukraine. The European Council President, Donald Tusk, said that there
can only be discussions about civilian mission and not military. Earlier, Ukraine’s President had
repeated his request that the EU or the UN should deploy peacekeepers to eastern Ukraine.
Donald Tusk said the EU would send a civilian ‘’assessment’’ mission to Kiev, to explore ways to
further boost security assistance for Ukraine. The Ukrainian President also said that his country
will be able to meet conditions to apply for EU membership within five years.
25 April
The Ukrainian military and pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine traded accusations
reviving the concerns about a possible collapse of the ceasefire agreed in Minsk in midFebruary. According to Kiev’s claims, one Ukrainian was killed and two were wounded when
separatists shelled Ukraine’s National Guard at Shyrokyne, a village east of the port of Mariupol
on the Sea of Azov in Ukraine’s southeast. Separatist leaders also stepped up accusations with
the rebel spokesman claiming that "today a rather explosive situation has formed, which
demands the urgent intervention of the international community’’. He added that Ukrainian
forces had fired on an aid convoy from Russia, killing one person. He later accused them of
increasingly frequent attacks and indiscriminate fire on populated areas.
24 April
The NATO Communications and Information (NCI) Agency and Ukraine signed a Memorandum
of Agreement (MoA) on Consultation, Command, Control and Communication (C4), which will
facilitate the implementation of the NATO-Ukraine C4 Trust Fund. Specific projects under the
C4 Trust Fund will be agreed in close cooperation between the Lead Nations and the
Government of Ukraine. When ratified by the Ukrainian legislature, the agreement will also
promote the further development of technical cooperation between the NCIA and the
Government of Ukraine in the future. NATO and Ukraine have long cooperated in support of
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Ukraine’s defence and security sector reforms. Since April last year, NATO and Ukraine have
stepped up their cooperation in the framework of the Distinctive Partnership through capability
development and sustainable capacity building programmes for Ukraine. Five Trust Funds,
including the one on C4, were launched at the Wales Summit and constitute an vital part of this
effort.
23 April
Ukraine plans to ask the European Union to send experts to eastern Ukraine to carry out
missions ranging from removing mines to training police. The Ukrainian ambassador in
Brussels, Kostiantyn Yelisieiev said Ukraine will bring forward the issue at a Kiev summit
between the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, the European Commission President JeanClaude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk. He added that Ukraine had
proposed 15 different tasks that a EU mission could carry out to support implementation of the
ceasefire agreement to end fighting between pro-Russian militants and Ukrainian armed forces.
22 April
According to U.S. officials, Russia is sending more troops to its border with Ukraine, where it has
built up its largest force since October last year. They added that pro-Russian militants have a
‘’large concentration’’ of command and control equipment in eastern Ukraine and have money
extra air-defence systems to the front line.
Hundreds miners gathered in Kiev breaking through police lines in a protest near the
President’s office, while banging their helmets on the ground. They are demanding the
restitution of their mines, an increase in salaries, restoration of state subsidies and the dismissal
of the Energy and Coal Minister, Volodymyr Demchyshyn, who has announced that three stateowned mines must close. At the same time, safety is another major concern, since last month 33
miners died in a methane gas explosion in the east.
21 April
Employees of the Prosecutor General’s Office in cooperation with the Security Service of Ukraine
have carried out an operation in Kharkiv to arrest three former Berkut special police force
officers who are suspected of shooting Maidan activists during a rally in Kiev on February 18,
2014. All three of the detained held senior posts within Kharkiv police. No further details were
provided.
18 April
A senior separatist leader in eastern Ukraine has said that the agreed ceasefire will collapse
unless Kiev recognises the independence of rebel-held areas. Aleksandr Zakharchenko claimed
that he wants to expand the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR). He added that
the Minsk II agreement implemented in mid-February was not being properly implemented by
Kiev.
A Ukrainian nationalist group claims it was behind the deaths of Oleg Kalashnikov and Oles
Buzyna. The group, calling itself the Ukrainian Insurgent Army claims it carried out the killings
in an email to political expert Volodomyr Fesenko. Both the victims were known for their strong
anti-government views. Kiev officials question the authenticity of the claim. The email received
by Fesenko was addressed to members of the Opposition Bloc, the successors to former
President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. In it, the group also said it was to blame for the
deaths of several other politicians and officials linked to Yanukovych, some of which are
believed to be suicides.
17 April
Russia said that the arrival of about 300 U.S. paratroopers in Ukraine to train Kiev’s National
Guard could destabilize the situation in the east of the country, where pro-Russian militants are
fighting Ukrainian government forces. He was referring to the arrival of the U.S. paratroopers in
western Ukraine this week to begin a six-month training rotation in Ukraine. Ukraine has
repeatedly asked for international help to boost its defensive capabilities. Western countries
have so far declined its requests to supply lethal force, but they have offered non-lethal military
aid and training.
Ukraine wants the International Criminal Court to investigate all alleged war crimes in Crimea
and eastern Ukraine broadening an existing probe. Ukraine has already given the global court
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the authority to investigate crimes on its territory from November 21, 2013 to February 22,
2014, the period leading up to the fall of Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovich. The
investigation so far excluded any crimes that might have been committed by Russian-backed
troops. A wider probe, including the annexation of Crimea to the present, could for the first time
consider allegations of direct Russian involvement.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatseniuk, called on law enforcement bodies to increase
security measures after a prominent journalist and former lawmaker both considered proRussian were gunned down in Kiev within 24 hours. The journalist, Oles Buzyna, was killed in a
drive-by shooting by masked gunmen, only hours after Oleg Kalashnikov, a former ally of ousted
Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich, was shot dead in similar fashion. The killings also
followed a series of mysterious deaths among former associates of Viktor Yanukovich several of
which were deemed to be suicides.
15 April
Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) head, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, claims he has information
that Russian presidential adviser Vladislav Surkov visited Ukraine during the operation of the
security forces against the activists of Euromaidan. Nalyvaichenko also confirmed previously
announced information from the Prosecutor General’s Office that the shootings on the Maidan
were ordered by former Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych. He added that during the
investigation into the crimes committed and resulted in the deaths of the activists of the Maidan
it would be necessary to investigate not only the Ukrainian officials’ involvement but also the
involvement of the officials from the Russian Federation.
Russia was expected to send another convoy into eastern Ukraine that Moscow claims will be
packed with humanitarian aid, however, Ukraine has accused Russian of loading up the convoy
with military equipment to supply pro-Russian militants. The convoy would be the 24th sent
into Ukraine from Russia since the conflict started last year. Ukraine said that the convoy carries
military equipment and upon its return the convoy is going to carry Russian soldiers who died
in battle back to Russia.
According to Ukrainian officials, pro-Russian rebels have control over approximately 300
Ukrainian prisoners of war in eastern Ukraine, some of whom were purportedly taken across
the border into Russia. Separatist forces in the region have been repeatedly accused of
mistreating captured soldiers during the conflict. The Ukrainian Defence Ministry commended
on Ukrainian media that the rebels have transported Ukrainian POWs to various major Russian
cities, including Moscow and St. Petersburg.
14 April
Fighting erupted again between government troops and pro-Russian militants in eastern
Ukraine, despite the recent diplomatic efforts to enforce the ceasefire agreement signed in midFebruary. Fighting in the region had significantly decreased but there have been some violent
incidents recorded. Heavy shelling was heard in Donetsk despite an agreement reached by the
Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers a day earlier. In the Luhansk People’s Republic,
however, the frequency of gunfire exchanges has decreased in over the past 24 hours, after a
brief flaring of the tension in the area. Andriy Lysenko, a Ukrainian military spokesman,
announced during a televised briefing that six government soldiers had been killed and 12
wounded in the past 24 hours. He added that the Ukrainian army’s positions were fired on 26
times near the separatist stronghold of Donetsk. At the same time, the pro-Russian militants
reported that the army had killed one of their fighters during an attack. Lysenko also reported
civilian casualties, including two teenagers wounded in shelling in the Horlivka area, north
Donetsk.
Canada decided to send a training mission to help Ukraine’s military against the pro-Russian
militants, following months of requests for assistance from the Ukrainian government. Starting
this summer, roughly 200 troops will be deployed, until March 2017, to help develop and deliver
training for Ukrainian forces personnel. The majority of the trainers is likely that they will be
deployed from two Canadian Mechanised Brigade Group at Garrison Petawawa. They will be
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stationed at a facility that Canada helped establish, a NATO training center in Yavoriv, near the
Polish border.
A journalist working for Russia’s military TV channel was seriously injured during a mission to
monitor the ceasefire by a team from the organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Despite pro-Russian militants’ assurances, who guided the OSCE representatives and the
journalists, that things were quiet and they were safe. However, within minutes of arriving there
were loud explosions, resulting in the injured journalist.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) appealed for an additional 34 million
Swiss francs ($34.8 million) to meet urgent humanitarian needs in eastern Ukraine, a conflict
that has killed some 6,000 people since it started. The ICRC said it needed extra money to
support health services, assist people left homeless by the conflict and help identify dead. It will
also use the money to raise awareness of unexploded devices and help emergency teams deal
with them.
13 April
The German, French, Russian and Ukrainian leaders held talks in Berlin to review the progress
made in implementing the Minsk ceasefire agreement. German Foreign Minister, Frank Walter,
commended that after the ceasefire there has been a ‘’degree of calm’’ but it is too early to judge
if the agreement will hold longterm. Also, he added that the ceasefire is not implemented fully.
Russia and Ukraine agreed to call for the pullback of smaller caliber weapons form the front
lines in eastern Ukraine in an effort to initiate a fresh push that will end the region’s yearlong
conflict. Earlier in the day, separatist spokesman Eduard Basurin informed journalists about
fresh fighting with Kiev’s forces, in which four rebel fighters were injured. The Ukrainian
Security Council also reported one soldier dying and six others getting injured in the past 24
hours. Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France called for the withdrawal of more weapons from
the frontline.
12 April
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Ukraine reported intense
fire in the east of the country. They reported that they heard a tank round being fired and what
they assessed to be intermittent to heavy mortar fire in the Berdianske-Shyrokyne area and saw
flashes indicative of such fire from that area. The OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in Ukraine is
tasked with observing and reporting on the situation in the country’s east, which has been a
scene of violent fighting between Kiev troops and the pro-Russian militants.
11 April
France’s intelligence chief has questioned NATO’s claims of Russia preparing to attack Ukraine
as their agents failed to spot any activities signaling this, either before or after the crisis began.
According to statement by the chief of France’s military intelligence, General Christophe
Gomart: ‘’NATO announced that the Russians were about to invade Ukraine. But, according to
French intelligence, there is nothing to corroborate this hypothesis – we determined that the
Russians were deploying neither command posts nor logistical facilities, including field
hospitals, needed for a military incursion”. Gomart noted that at the moment the alliance is
dominated by U.S. intelligence, while France’s intelligence is not taken into consideration so
much.
According to the Kiev’s military operations press center, 27 drones were seen flying over the
area monitoring the position of the troops. Kiev forces said there were 20 cases of ceasefire
violation by the pro-Russian militants. Several attempts had been made to maintain ceasefire in
Ukraine before peace deal was worked out in mid-February 2015 in Minsk.
9 April
Ukraine, still locked in conflict with pro-Russian militants in its east despite the Minsk
agreement, drew up a new security doctrine denouncing Russia’s ‘’aggression’’ and setting its
sights on joining the U.S. -led NATO military alliance. Oleksander Turchynov, head of the
national security council, told a session of the body that Ukraine saw Russian aggression as a
‘’long-standing factor’’ and vowed NATO membership as ‘’the only reliable external guarantee’’
of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
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Oleksandr Yakimenko, the former head of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) is suspected of
funding terrorism and delivering arms to Donbass. Yakimenko was dismissed from his post as
SBU chief by the parliament two days after the Verkhovna Rada voted to impeach President
Viktor Yanukovych. The former SBU head fled the country, following in the footsteps of ousted
president Yanukovych.
The Security Service of Ukraine has detained 29 people in Odessa accused of plotting political
assassinations part of a wider scheme to destabilize the region. Most of the suspects are
Ukrainian citizens. Four of those detained were ‘’from an illegal separatist-terrorist
organization that has begun carrying out guerrilla attacks and crimes on the territory of Odessa
and the Odessa region’’. The identities of those arrested have not been disclosed.
The Ukrainian parliament voted to ban propaganda and symbols for ‘’totalitarian Communist
and Nazi regimes’’ in the former Soviet republic. The list of prohibited items includes street
names, flags and monuments commemorating Communist leaders. At the same time, Russia says
it supports separatists in eastern Ukraine because of a ‘’fascist threat from the Kiev
government’’. Shortly after, parliamentarians voted to open up the country’s archive of Sovietera KGB files to the public, which could reveal decades’ worth of information on secret arrests,
‘disappearing’s’ and the intricate operations of Ukraine’s KGB wing. The bill passed with 261 of
the parliament’s roughly 420 members voting in favor.
Amnesty International said it has evidence pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine summarily
killed four Ukrainian soldiers in their captivity. Witnesses told the group that one government
soldier was shot at point-blank range by a separatist commander. Amnesty also said it has
videos of three others shown alive in captivity, then dead in a morgue with bullet wounds to
their heads and upper bodies. According to Amnesty, the killings are tantamount to war crimes.
8 April
The recent appointment of a nationalist leader, Dmytro Yarosh, to a high military position in
Ukraine has sparked controversy. In Russia he has become a focus of accusations that ‘’fascists’’
and extremists control the government in Kiev. The nature of his duties, and the extent of his
influence in the armed forces remains to be seen. Yarosh is the head of Right Sector, which first
claimed to prominence as an ultra-nationalist umbrella organization, battling riot police and
helping man the barricades during anti-government protests last year. After the February
revolution, Right Sector morphed into a political party.
Ukraine’s security services shut down several websites allegedly engaged in ‘acts of information
aggression on the part of the Russian Federation aimed at undermining the Ukrainian
constitution and the territorial integrity of Ukraine’. Acting on a court order, USS operatives
confiscated the servers used by the banned websites.
Ukrainian authorities exposed an attempt to smuggle military aircraft engines from the country.
The engines, having no export permit, were seized at the ‘’West’’ customs post in Kiev. The
Ukrainian Security Service has launched an investigation into the case, qualifying it as a violation
of the rules applicable to international transfers and goods.
In the villages around the port city of Mariupol in southern Ukraine, pro-Russian separatists and
Ukraine troops continue to exchange fire despite the ceasefire agreed on Minsk mid-February,
with both sides accusing the other go using heavy artillery and tanks. The Ukrainian National
Security and Defence Council said that pro-Russian militants are increasing their combat
readiness in preparation for an attack on the port city of Mariupol. Should such an attack take
place in such a strategic city the Minsk agreement keeping the current ceasefire would most
likely collapse. National Security and Defence Council spokesman, Andriy Lysenko denied
claims by pro-Russian militants that the Ukrainian military had breached the ceasefire 45 times
in the past 24 hours.
7 April
Released after eleven hours of interrogation, Ukraine’s Communist Party leader Petro
Symonenko was questioned by security chiefs on suspicions of crimes threatening national
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security. After his release, he spoke to the media and said that he was a witness in a case, but
did not specify exactly for which case he was giving testimony. Ukraine’s Justice Ministry has
also demanded an additional investigation into Symonenko’s involvement in offences related to
financing terrorism, support for militant organisations in Ukraine, recognizing the annexation
of Crimea and other activities aimed at overthrowing constitutional order.
Ukraine’s judicial authorities launched actions challenging tenders that gave big businessmen
control over key power companies under ousted President Viktor Yankovich in a new move by
the government to curb the influence of the so-called oligarchs. The legal actions targeted the
2012 and 2013 sell-offs of electricity-generating companies in eastern Ukraine to holdings of
multi-billionaire Rinat Akhmetov and a close associate, and of a power distributor in the west
of the country. State assets in Dniproenergo and Donbasenergo, which feed the national power
grid, and one of the main power distributors in the Zakarpatya region, were sold off for low
prices in non-competitive tenders in which only a few favored participants took part.
6 April
Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, publicly lifted his objections to a referendum that could
give more powers to the restive regions engulfed in more than a year of warfare, reversing his
government’s previous position. Pro-Russian militants, however, dismissed Poroshenko’s
gesture as meaningless. Poroshenko met a parliamentary commission that is drafting
amendments to the country’s main law and said that if the commission decides a referendum is
necessary, he would not stand in the way.
5 April
According to governmental officials, six Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in two separate
incidents in the east of the country. Four died after their vehicle was reportedly fired on by proRussian militants in Schastye, close to the separatist stronghold of Lugansk. Two there were
killed when their vehicle hit an anti-tank mine near the government-held port city of Mariupol.
Facing a growing humanitarian crisis, the pro-Russian separatist leaders of eastern Ukraine
wrote an open letter to German Chancellor Merkel and French President Hollande. They asked
the leaders who helped negotiate the ceasefire in Ukraine to use their ‘’influence to encourage
the Ukrainian government to begin paying out welfare services to Donbass residents once
again’'. The government in Kyiv placed an embargo on social services to the country’s eastern
residents in November following what it deemed illegal elections that gave power to the
separatist leaders.
4 April
A Russian fighter, head of separatist Sparta Battalion, confessed on tape to killing 15 Ukrainian
prisoners of war, which legal experts claim that it could be considered evidence of war crimes
if the authenticity of the recording is confirmed. The statement was made by Arseniy Pavlov,
better known as Motorola, in a telephone conversation with a journalist. The recording will form
part of an investigation into the torture and murder of Branovytsky by pro-Russian separatists
according to Vasil Vovk, head of the Ukrainian security service’s main investigative department.
A case has been opened under the country’s crimes against humanity legislation and may be
sent to the Hague-based International Court. Mr Vovk confirmed that Arseniy Pavlov was a
suspect in the Branovytsky case and might be tried in absentia.
Ukrainian army spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, said that three soldiers were killed and two
wounded in a landline explosion in the separatist east. He said the landline had gone off near
Avdiyivka, referring to a village not far from Donetsk, pro-Russian separatists’ stronghold.
There were no further details on the incident. These are the first reported army fatalities in
almost a week.
The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, announced that Russia supports the proposed
withdrawal of weapons of less than 100-millimeter caliber from the front line in eastern
Ukraine. Kyiv made a similar statement a few days ago, saying arms not covered by the Minsk
agreements, such as tanks and 80-millimeter mortars and other weapons of up to 100millimeter caliber could be pulled back.
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3 April
The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) reported that it has detained an alleged mercenary
suspected of having fought alongside the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. According
to SBU, a 26-year-old Kharkiv resident has been detained after returning to the eastern
Ukrainian city from Russia’s Rostov region. Investigators believe the man received money to
fight on the side of the pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk region, which borders Kharkiv
province. The preliminary investigations showed that he was wounded last year and treated in
the Rostov region. The suspect, if proven guilty, faces charges of threatening Ukraine’s territorial
integrity and could be imprisoned for five years.
According to reports, Russian forces in Ukraine are moving from direct participation in military
action, to training rebel fighters in the use of sophisticated weaponry. Russian forces are
augmenting their training of the separatists to ensure that they are capable of operating
sophisticated Russian weaponry and defending the territory they control. Russia has repeatedly
denied that its military forces have any kind of direct involvement in the conflict join eastern
Ukraine. Nevertheless, Western military officers and rebel officials have reported the presence
of Russian forces in the country.
2 April
Ukraine, Russia and the pro-Russian separatists are discussing possibly extending a pull-back
of weapons in east Ukraine to include tanks and smaller weapons systems. So far only weapons
of over 100 mm caliber have been withdrawn from the line of contact between the government
forces and the pro-Russian militants under the Minsk agreement that was signed in midFebruary.
According to Ukrainian energy officials, Ukraine signed an interim deal for cheaper gas supplies
from Russia for the next three months. That deal will provide breathing space for both countries
in their protracted struggle over pricing. Previous disputes between the two countries over the
gas prices have affected the European Union, where the Russian energy company, Gazprom,
covers a third of gas demand. Around forty percent of that gas travels via Ukraine. Ukraine will
buy Russian gas at $248 per thousand cubic meters during the April-June quarter. This
compares with $329 per thousand cubic meters, which has been paying under a winter package.
1 April
Ukraine’s Security Service has foiled a terror attack, when it found an explosive device on a
railway line in the region of Dnipropetrovsk. This incident was the latest in a spate of terror
threats across Ukraine’s east. The block of TNT was discovered shortly before a passenger train
was scheduled to pass that part of the track. Police is searching for those responsible for planting
the device. The device was found hours after another explosive device was detonated on a
railway line in Kharkiv, derailing several wagons but causing no injuries. In recent months, there
have been a series of explosions in cities including Odesa, Kharkiv and Kherson, targeting
military facilities and pro-Ukrainian organisations, volunteer groups and marches.
The Ukrainian Security Service has detained three people suspected of involvement in a series
of explosions in the southeastern city of Odesa. According to SBU’s spokeswoman, the suspects
identified themselves as communist activists and confessed to committing at least nine acts of
terrorism in Odesa between December and March. A shotgun, chemicals, mobile-phone parts
and timers similar to the ones used to detonate handmade explosive devices in Odesa were
found on the suspects.
Northern Europe
Denmark
18 April
Leaflets have surfaced in Copenhagen threatening a new and bigger terror attack in the same
district where filmmaker Finn Norgaard was gunned down in February, as he was participating
in a free speech event. “Denmark will soon be hit by a terror attack that will make what
happened on February 14 look like a prank - look forward to it,” the notes said. Various notes
were placed at Norgaard’s memorial. Police reportedly called the Danish Security and
Intelligence Service for help in addressing the threat.
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Estonia
No major incidents reported during this period
Finland
28 April
Finland’s navy has dropped depth charges in waters near Helsinki as a warning to a suspected
submarine. An unidentified object was spotted on 27 April within Finnish territorial waters. It
was detected again on 28 April according to the Finnish navy. The incident comes amid
increasing concern in the region over Russia’s military exercises. In October, Sweden launched
a hunt for a foreign submarine suspected to have entered waters near Stockholm.
19 April
Millionaire IT businessman Juha Sipila has been given the first chance to form a new government
following his Center Party’s election win in Finland. With all the votes counted, Sipila’s party
won 49 seats in the 200-member parliament, while the Finns won 38 seats. The center-right
National Coalition won 37 seats with the center-left Social Democrats winning 34 seats. Four
other parties took fewer than 9 percent of the votes for the remaining 42 seats. The antiimmigration Finns party’s success echoes a Nordic-wide growth in populist parties amid unease
over policies of traditional parties, especially concerning the immigration issue. Juha Sipila is
likely to need coalition support from a runner-up Eurosceptic party. His party advocates a wage
freeze and spending cuts to regain Finland’s competitiveness.
12 April
The anti-euro ‘The Finns’ party, which eight years ago got just 4 percent of the vote, is now
preparing itself up for Cabinet seats as Finnish voters are set to oust the government after four
years of economic failure. The Finns, whose support is based on equal parts of anti-euro, antiimmigrant and anti-establishment sentiment, have captured voters on the back of the euroarea’s economic crisis and a home-grown collapse of key industries. In the 2011 election, during
the height of the euro crisis, it shocked the traditional parties by winning 19 percent of the vote.
1 April
A Finnish businessman said he had been denied entry into Russia for five years and accused of
posing a threat to state security after disagreeing with the chief executive of Russia’s power
distribution grid company. Seppo Remes, who is one the board of several Russian electricity
companies, said he was not allowed back into Russia on March 22 when he was handed a
document at the airport declaring him persona non grata until March 20, 2020. The FSB, the
successor of the KGB security police, declined immediate comment and Kremlin spokesman
Dmitry Peskov said he did not know who Remes was. Remes lived in Russia for the last 20 years
and has a Russian wife.
Ireland
24 April
Ireland is to participate for the first time in a EU search and rescue mission, following the
government’s decision to send a fully crewed ship to the Mediterranean to help with the
increased migratory flows that cross the Mediterranean from North Africa. The ship is expected
to be dispatched within weeks and it will work alongside Triton, the EU’s search and rescue
mission in the Mediterranean. After the recent incidents that found hundreds of migrants
drowned in the Mediterranean, EU leaders agreed to triple the funding allocated to Triton in
order to ameliorate the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean.
14 April
A water protester was left covered in blood after Gardai broke a glass door to remove women
from a council building. A woman was seriously injured after she was showered in glass during
the water protest in Swords, Dublin. A video posted online reportedly caught the whole incident
on camera. It showed Gardai trying to remove three people, who all appear to be women, after
they refused to leave the Fingal County Council office building. Garda said the woman was
treated for minor injuries by an ambulance at the scene.
3 April
A message to the Irish government posted on the ‘Anonymous Ireland expect us’ Facebook page,
says it plans to ‘’take down’’ the encrypted IT systems next month. It claims it will then steal
highly sensitive information and distribute it to the public free of charge. The alleged hacking
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activity is due to take place on May 5. This attack is a revenge against the government’s plan to
increase the water charges, a bill that has been severely protested by the public. The Irish
Government says it has ‘’several security systems’’ in place to deal with an ‘Anonymous’ hacking
group attack.
2 April
Two suspects, Irish nationals aged 19 and 20, were arrested in a top secret operation at their
homes in Balbriggan be detectives from Leixlip and Balbriggan Garda Stations. They were
questioned for a number of hours before they were released with charges against them. The
men were arrested for the hoax bomb alert at the Intel plant in Co Kildare which
Latvia
No major incidents reported during this period
Lithuania
8 April
Lithuania plans to take Russian-language station RTR Planeta off the air for three months for
spreading Kremlin ‘propaganda’. The Ukraine crisis has rekindled fears of Russia expanding its
influence in the Baltic. Lithuania’s media regulators suspended RTR Planeta for ‘inciting discord,
warmongering and for spreading biased information’. The Russian-language broadcaster is
registered in Sweden, but it is produced by Russia-owned media company VGTRK. The
European Commission has been informed of the decision.
Norway
30 April
Norway announced that up to 5,000 NATO troops will take part in anti-submarine warfare
exercises off its coast in early May, amid growing regional tensions over suspected submarine
sightings and the Ukrainian crisis. More than 10 ships and submarines as well as aircraft and
helicopters will participate in the exercise between May 4 and 13 in the North Sea and in
Skagerrak, the strait between Norway and Denmark.
20 April
Norway is planning to send a rescue ship to the Mediterranean this summer in a move to
decrease the number of refugees killed while trying to cross the Mediterranean. A ship staffed
with civilian workers as well as justice and defence personnel was expected to be in place
around August 1st. Norway has never before committed to joining rescue teams in the
Mediterranean, but Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, said in a statement that the country would
also consider contributing to an expanded European Union rescue mission. The European Union
will hold an emergency summit on 23 April to address the issue after some 700 migrants died
when their boat capsized off Libya.
3 April
Russian ships docked at what was once a secret Norwegian naval base in the Arctic rekindling
concerns from the NATO country’s former top military leaders, anxious about its resurgent
eastern neighbor roaming nearby. Norway sold the base and ended up being rented to Russian
research vessels. Norway’s jagged Arctic coastline has regained its strategic importance since
tensions between Russia and NATO members have reached levels not seen since the end of the
Cold War.
Sweden
23 April
According to Sweden’s Security Service, Sapo, the number of Swedes estimated to have died
fighting for ISIS is now believed to be ‘’up to 40’’. Sapo confirmed that at least 150 Swedish
residents were known to have been to Syria or Iraq to fight for ISIS or other extremist groups.
20 April
Two police security guards filmed having a controversial altercation with a refugee child at
Malmo train station in southern Sweden in February will not face charges. Ulf Hansson, the
prosecutor in charge of the case told regional newspaper Skånskan that he had made a
"cumulative assessment" of the material given to him following a "solid" investigation into the
guard's actions and concluded that: "It is not a crime, what they did”. The actions of the guards
caused a nationwide stir when the video went viral.
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17 April
Sweden will raise defence spending by 10.2 billion kronor ($1.18 billion) for the period 2016 to
2020, according to the Swedish government’s announcement, due to concerns over Russia’s
military resurgence and the tension in the region. A large share of the money is to be spent on
modernizing ships that can detect and intercept submarines, and bringing troops back to the
strategically located Baltic island of Gotland for the first time in 10 years, amid fears over what
is perceived as Russian aggression.
13 April
According to the Swedish media, a photo that a retired Swedish naval officer said showed
a Russian submarine in Swedish waters last autumn was actually of a much smaller civilian boat.
"Analysis revealed that the photograph taken in Stockholm's inner archipelago was of a smaller
boat," Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper. He added that it was
a white plastic boat named the "Time Bandit.” The photo was taken by the retired naval officer
in late October, shortly after the Swedish military engaged in a weeklong search for what it
suspected was a Russian submarine illegally lurking in Swedish waters.
10 April
Five Nordic nations agreed on the expansion of military cooperation and increased solidarity
with the Baltic states, citing threats from Russia as the biggest challenge to European security.
In a joint declaration, the heads of the defence ministries of Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark
and Iceland said that Europe must prepare for possible crisis situations caused by Russia. The
five European countries are expected to expand joint military exercises and strengthen
cooperation in the sphere of defence and intelligence information sharing.
United Kingdom
30 April
A security alert began when a device was found in north Belfast. It was a substantial bomb
targeting police officers according to the police. A controlled explosion was carried out on the
device at the Crumlin Road junction with Brompton Park. The authorities are blaming dissident
republicans for the bomb and said it could have caused ‘’carnage’’.
27 April
According to plans currently under consideration by defence chiefs, UK considers sending
drones to Mediterranean to aid the migrant crisis. The drones are going to be controlled by the
armed forces and launched from Royal Navy ships. The Navy’s ScanEagle drones could be used
to scour sea for boats filled with migrants attempting to make the dangerous crossing. Prime
Minister, David Cameron, has reportedly offered the use of three helicopters, two Border Force
cutters and the battleship HMS Bulwark to help search and rescue efforts.
22 April
Police in Northern Ireland have confirmed that one of their mobile patrols was attacked in North
Belfast with a bomb that exploded in mid-air. Dissident republicans opposed to the peace
process are thought to be behind the attack. The device was either thrown or launched at an
armored Land Rover in the republican New Lodge district. Several homes in the near vicinity
were evacuated as the security forces dealt with the device.
Marty McGartland, the only informer ever to have survived an IRA execution squad has accused
the police services in Northern Ireland of abandoning him to be killed. He escaped an IRA
interrogation in 1991 by jumping out of a window in west Belfast. His allegations will form part
of a new inquiry by the police ombudsman into one of the most controversial episodes of the
Troubles.
20 April
A 14-year-old boy has become Britain’s youngest terror suspect after being at the center of an
alleged ISIS-inspired plot to slaughter police in Australia. Detectives investigating the boy, from
Blackburn, Lancashire, found evidence on his computer or phone of an imminent plan by
fanatics in Melbourne for a terror outrage during Anzac Day celebrations. The discovery
sparked an urgent international counter-terrorism operation that saw five teenagers arrested
in dawn raids in the Australian city. The British boy was arrested at his Blackburn home on the
same day. The boy was first arrested on April 5 as part of an investigation along with a 16-yearold girl from Manchester.
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19 April
UK authorities are planning to review security ahead of First World War commemorations in
the wake of a foiled alleged terror plot on Australia and a new ISIS propaganda video calling for
attacks in the West. The new propaganda video released by ISIS, featuring the former rapper
Denis Casper from Germany, reportedly refers to sleeper cells in Britain, Australia and Germany
being activated with the message to the West: ‘’We want your blood, it tastes so wonderful!’’
17 April
Two of the UK’s most wanted fugitives were arrested in Europe on suspicion of drug trafficking,
within 24 hours of each other. Armed police detained Paul Monk, originally from Romford,
Essex, as he oversaw workmen laying out a patio at his luxury villa in the popular Spanish
seaside resort of Alicante. He was wanted on suspicion of conspiracy to supply cocaine and
conspiracy to supply cannabis, amid allegations he was involved in the handover of a kid of
cocaine in north London in May 2013. Within 24 hours of Monk’s arrest, Jayson McDonald, from
Acton, West London, was found hiding under a bed in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. He was
arrested as part of a joint investigation with the Dutch National Police. He was wanted on
suspicion of conspiracies to import and supply heroin and cocaine, and is believed to be a
member of a Europe-wide organised crime network responsible for the importation of Class A
drugs into the UK. Both men are in custody awaiting extradition proceedings.
6 April
A Russian submarine may have been responsible for almost capsizing a UK fishing trawler in
the Irish Sea according to a UK fishing organization. The crew of the County Down-based trawler
said the nets were snagged and their boat dragged backwards at speed close to the Isle of Man.
Dick James, of the Northern Ireland Fish Producers Association, said the Russian navy may have
been observing NATO marine exercises off Scotland. A Ministry of Defence spokesperson
announced that they did not comment on submarine activity.
15 April
Four people were arrested at Manchester airport on suspicion of terrorism, as part of
investigations after nine people were stopped by the Turkish authorities on the Syria border
earlier this month. Those arrested were aged between 22 and 47-year-old. Officers are working
to establish their reason for travel and apparent attempted entry into Syria. They remain under
arrest under the Terrorism Act for further questioning by the police authorities.
Northern Ireland’s police ombudsman has launched an investigation into whether the British
security forces could have prevented at least 20 murders of alleged informers by the IRA. The
inquiry by the Historical Investigations Directorate is focusing on one of the darkest episodes of
the Troubles and the role of the double agent known as Stakeknife, who ran the republican
movement’s so-called ‘’nutting squad’’ or counter-intelligence section. Relatives of those
interrogated by IRA have recently launched compensation cases against the government. In
some instances, the families of murdered informers have alleged that their relatives were ‘’setup’’ in order to provide cover for one of the British government’s most important spies inside
the IRA.
A bomb has been discovered during a security alert on the outskirts of Strabane, County Tyrone
in North Ireland. It was found by a man walking at Ballyheather Road. Police said that it could
have caused death or serious injury to anyone close if it had exploded. They believe it had been
in the area for some time but have not yet established a motive or target. The alert is now over
and the area has been reopened.
14 April
A 21-year-old man, one of nine members of the same family detained earlier this month on April
2, in Turkey on suspicion of attempting to illegally enter Syria, was arrested by British police on
his return to UK. The man, named by media as Waheed Ahmed, the son of a local councilor in
Rochdale, northern England, was held by detectives at Birmingham Airport on suspicion of the
commission, preparation on instigation of acts of terrorism. Police also announced that they had
earlier arrested a 31-year-old man in the Rochdale area for the same offence.
According to the British Defence Ministry, the UK Royal Air Force (RAF) sent Typhoon jets to
intercept Russian bombers flying near British airspace. Further details about the incident have
not been announced. It is one of the latest incidents in what NATO claims is an increase in
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Russian military flights near alliance members’ territory. In last November, NATO announced
that its members’ jet had been scrambled more than 400 times in 2014 to intercept Russian
military flights close to members’ territories, a 50 percent increase over the previous year.
10 April
Dozens of Royal Navy and NATO warships are joining Europe’s largest war games of the coast
of Scotland, amid concern Russia has stepped up naval missions in the area. The Royal Navy will
practice hunting enemy submarines months after a real Cold War-style alert when a suspected
Russian submarine was spotted in the area. Exercise Joint Warrior will feature 55 warships, 70
aircraft and 13,000 sailors, soldiers and airmen from 14 countries. The exercises are designed
to reassure Putin’s NATO neighbors, as Nordic countries announced recently their new defence
alliance against Russia.
8 April
A viable pipe bomb has been discovered during a security alert in west Belfast. It was found in
the Teeling Avenue area of Dunmurry. A resident found the suspect device outside his home
before throwing the suspected device into hedges facing the property. Army bomb experts
examined the suspicious object and have declared it to be a viable pipe bomb type device.
5 April
A 14-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl were arrested on terrorism-related charges in Britain,
according to Greater Manchester Police. The arrests were announced just days after an
unrelated investigation stopped nine British nationals at the Turkey-Syria border. The boy was
arrested on suspicion of preparing for an act of terrorism after a search warrant was executed
at an address in Blackburn, England. A counter-terrorism unit secured the warrant after it
examined ‘’a number of electronic devices’’. The girl was arrested on suspicion of engaging in
conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism following the execution of a search warrant at a
house in the Longsight section of Manchester. Both teens posted bail and were released.
4 April
The British offshoot of German anti-Islamisation group PEGIDA held its first protest in London,
marching to Downing Street. PEGIDA UK said the rally intended to ‘’raise awareness of the
detrimental affect medical Islam and slack border controls and mass immigration are having on
our country’’. Fewer than 100 supporters waving the Union Flag and St George’s cross were met
by anti-fascist counter demonstrators as the two groups were separated by a heavy police
presence.
3 April
A British woman was expelled from Russia and accused of being a spy. Laura Sumner, 25-yearold, a postgraduate student from Nottingham University was ordered to leave the country
within ten days after being found to have violated the terms of her visa. According to the Russian
media, Sumner’s PhD supervisor was financed by the ‘’council on socioeconomic development
of Great Britain’’ and working on topics ‘’very relevant for carrying out ‘color revolutions’’’. The
allegations do not appear to be backed by any evidence, and the case has been handled by
Russia’s Migration Service, rather than the FSB which would usually investigate suspected
espionage.
According to West Midlands police, six people were arrested in Dover on suspicion of Syriarelated terrorism offences. In a series of tweets, police said five men and one woman were
detained in the departure zone of the port. The group is currently being questioned at a police
station in the West Midlands while searches are continuing at a number of addresses in
Birmingham. Four of the men arrested are from Birmingham, including a man aged 25 from
Small Heath, 26 from Acocks Green, 26 from Alum Rock and 28 from Lozells. A 26-year-old man
and a woman aged 23, were also detained.
2 April
Counter-terrorism officers have launched an investigation into nine Britons arrested by Turkish
authorities for trying to cross illegally into Syria. Officers from the Greater Manchester Police
and North West Counter-Terrorism are working with Rochdale Borough Council, local partners
and faith leaders to establish why the family was trying to cross the borders to Syria. The five
adults, aged 21, 22, 22, 24 and 47, as well as four children aged one, three, eight and eleven, are
believed to be related and currently live in Rochdale.
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1 April
One of the most secretive trials held in Britain ended with two men being jailed for possession
of bomb-making manuals. Errol Incedal was jailed for 42 months for possession of a document
likely to be useful to an individual preparing an act of terrorism, while Mounir RarmoulBouhadjar, who had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing, was sentenced to three years. Incedal,
was also accused of plotting a terrorist attack on the streets of London, but was acquitted at a
retrial.
A 19-year-old man was charged with terror offences after he was arrested as he returned to
Britain from Turkey. Yahoo Rashid, a UK national from northwest London, was detained at
Luton airport after he arrived on a flight from Istanbul. He has been charged with engaging in
conduct in preparation of acts of terrorism, and with engaging in conduct with the intention of
assisting others to commit acts of terrorism. Both charges relate to the period between
November 1 and March 31.
Southern Europe
Albania
23 April
An 18-year-old Albanian national has been arrested at the Kakavia border crossing between
Albania and Greece, on charges of involvement in armed conflicts and war operations in
countries such as Syria. According to the General Police Directorate of Albania, the young man
is being investigated by the Albanian Police Counter-Terrorism Directorate, for possible links
with jihadist groups currently operating in Albania, Macedonia, and Kosovo.
21 April
The European Union has today praised the Albanian government’s commitment to its EU
integration process. Brussels’ foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, praised the Albanian
government’s efforts to create a clear European perspective on its way forward in the EU
accession process. Albania became a EU candidate country in June 2014 and Albanian PM Edi
Rama’s center-left government hopes to open accession negotiations with Brussels later this
year. However, a recent statement made during a TV interview in Kosovo, in which PM Rama
hinted at the unification of Albanians in the region, (i.e. particular unification of Kosovo and
Albania) albeit under the umbrella of the EU, has unnerved Brussels, as well as Serbia.
20 April
A new report by BIRN Albania, released today, has highlighted the level of corruption reported
by the Albanian media. The Albanian media struggles to report on corruption, which occurs on
a daily basis. What is more, the vast majority of this coverage is centered on press conferences
by government institutions and exchanges of accusations between local political parties
reporting. The report covers a three-month period from August 20 to November 20 2014,
during which reporting on corruption in three national newspapers and the news broadcasts of
three television stations was analyzed. According to the report, most print and broadcast media
usually cover corruption cases or issues with straight news reports. During the monitored
period, out of 715 articles on corruption, there were only 36 interviews or comment articles and
16 investigative reports in the print media. In television newscasts, of a total of 290 news pieces,
only 17 were interviews or comments and six were investigative reports. Levels of corruption
in Albania continue to increase and the media suffers from restrictions when reporting
corruption in the country.
17 April
The key candidates of the major municipality political parties for the June 21 local polls have
been announced today. This will be the first important test of popularity for the left-wing
Socialist ruling coalition, which came to power at parliamentary elections in 2013. The Socialists
have named the current minister of welfare and former social activist, Erion Veliaj, as its
candidate. Last year Albania reduced the number of municipalities from 373 to 61. An estimated
4.3 million Albanians are eligible to vote in June for 61 new mayors and about 1500 councilors.
9 April
Students and professors from the University of Tirana staged a march today in the center of
Tirana. They protested to urge the government to withdraw a proposed reform of higher
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education, calling it a sell-out to private sector interests and harmful for public universities. The
protesters said the new law erodes academic freedom by putting universities under control of
the government, while diverting public funds to private universities and increasing fees for
students. The government has subsequently denied this alleged interference in university
administration, claiming that the new law will offer equal treatment for all universities,
regardless of their ownership. The new law will also increase the tuition fees in public
universities.
2 April
Following a meeting between Albanian and U.S. officials in Tirana, Albania’s Interior Minister
has announced that the FBI will help set up a similar Bureau in Albania to help counter
organized crime and corruption. This development comes as a more effective fight against
organized crime and corruption is one of the top priorities set by the European Commission for
Albania in order speed up its European Union accession process. Albania is currently a EU
candidate country and hopes to continue accession negotiations with Brussels later this year.
Police have detained MP Frroku at his home in Tirana after parliament gave approval to the
second request from the General Prosecutor to arrest him. This time in connection with the
murder of Albanian citizen in Brussels in 1999. He is expected to appear in the High Court of
Albania within 48 hours. Frroku was first arrested on another charge, but was remanded under
house arrest by the High Court of Albania. The prosecutor's office then requested permission
from parliament to arrest him again, this time over murder verdict issued by a Belgian court,
which resulted in the issue of a "red" notice by Interpol early in 2015. The political unrest in
Albania is expected to continue, as Frroku is only one of five MPs facing charges in Albania.
Another, Tom Doshi, is currently under house arrest awaiting trial for three counts of false
testimony.
1 April
Albania's police chief, Artan Didi, has resigned, stating that he felt responsible for a Tirana
Interpol office's failure to forward an extradition request from Belgium to the prosecutor’s
office. The procedural breaches that resulted from the actions of the Interpol specialist and the
head of this sector caused severe damage to the credibility of the office. The police chief’s
resignation comes after two officials from Tirana's Interpol office were detained, accused of
hiding an extradition request from Belgium for MP Mark Frroku, who is wanted for murder.
Tirana Interpol Chief, Arben Bajraktari, and an officer in the Interpol office, Loreta Alla, were
arrested and charged with abuse of office for stonewalling the international arrest warrant
against MP Mark Frroku. Belgian authorities issued the warrant for the Albanian MP on charges
of premeditated murder. Frroku, who is already under house arrest on different charges, has
been convicted by a first-instance court in Brussels, for the premeditated murder in 1999 of an
Albanian citizen, Aleksander Kurti, in collaboration with three others. The MP, who was known
by the alias, Besnik Morina, in Belgium, was sentenced to ten years in prison but has appealed
against the conviction and faces new hearings if extradited. Frroku is already under house arrest
in Albania on charges of giving false testimony. He is accused of concocting a fake murder plot
together with another MP, Tom Doshi. Doshi claimed earlier this month that the speaker of
parliament, Ilir Meta, had hired a hit man to kill him and another MP, Mhill Fufi.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
27 April
An attack by an alleged radical Islamist on a police station in the Serb-dominated entity of
Republika Srpska, in the eastern town of Zvornik, has left one policeman dead and two injured.
The attacker has been identified as Nerdin Ibric, a young Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) man. He
was killed in the shootout with police officers. According to Republika Srpska officials, the local
man from Sapna, near Zvornik, parked his car in front of the police station, armed with a rifle
and other weapons, got out of the vehicle and immediately started shooting at policemen while
shouting “Allahu Akbar”, Arabic for “God is Great”. The incident has further raised tensions amid
an already strained relations in the region. Bosnian Security Minister, Dragan Mektic, has said
Bosnia must launch an unrelenting fight against terrorism and investigate any flaws in its
security system. Security levels have since been increased across Bosnia and Herzegovina.
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16 April
Bosnia’s State Court has sentenced violent gang boss, Zijad Turkovic, and four of his associates,
to a total of 95 years in prison in the single largest Bosnian criminal-case since the Bosnian war.
The five members of what has been called the country’s most violent criminal gang, led by
Turkovic, have been jailed for series of crimes that include murder, robbery, and drug
smuggling. The list of charges also includes money laundering, the smuggling of illegal
ammunition and military equipment, the production of narcotics, numerous attempted
murders, and extortion.
15 April
Bosnian police have today arrested a man suspected of fighting in Syria, as well as publicly
supporting and promoting the Islamic State’s jihadi cause in Sarajevo, accusing him of
involvement in activities related to terrorism. The arrested man, named as Kenan Krso, is
believed to have broken the law by going to fight in Syria and breaching the peace by publicly
promoting ISIS in Sarajevo. Krso was among a group of men who insulted an Imam and
promoted radical Islamism in one of Sarajevo’s mosques and caused a public disturbance by
wearing a T-shirt with Islamic State symbols in Sarajevo. According to Bosnia’s State
Investigation and Protection Agency, Krso will likely face terrorism charges. Last year Bosnia
passed a law that banned citizens from fighting in foreign countries.
13 April
The Bosnian state prosecution has indicted ten former Bosnian Serb Army troops for allegedly
abducting and murdering 20 people from a train traveling from Belgrade to Bar in February
1993. The ten men have been charged with having kidnapped the 20 passengers from the train
at Štrpci station in eastern Bosnia on February 27, 1993 where they were then taken to a school
building in Prelovo, near Visegrad, tortured and murdered. The remains of only four of the
victims were found after the war. The defendants were arrested in a joint operation by the
Bosnian state prosecution and the Serbian war crimes prosecution in 2014.
10 April
Four Bosnian men have been charged for financing terrorist activities and recruiting fighters for
Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, under the recent law designed to stop people from joining
militants in the Middle East. The courts will decide whether to confirm the charge and put the
suspects on trial. If convicted, the men could face up to 20 years in prison under the law passed
by the state parliament in 2014.
8 April
International war crimes judges at The Hague Tribunal have today upheld a life sentence against
the former senior Bosnian Serb military officer, Zdravko Tolimir, for genocide over his role in
the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys from Srebrenica in 1995. Tolimir previously
launched an appeal against his conviction on six counts of war crimes and crimes against
humanity. Whilst Tolimir’s life sentence for genocide in Srebrenica was upheld, the tribunal
acquitted him on appeal of committing genocide in Zepa. Whilst the judges did overturn some
elements of the original ruling such as the genocide ruling in Zepa, they left other convictions
for genocide in place, alongside convictions for conspiracy to commit genocide, murder,
persecution, and inhumane acts.
1 April
After six months of political wrangling, Bosnia and Herzegovina has finally got new State-level
and Federation entity governments. The leaders of Bosnia’s ruling parties finally approved new
State and Federation entity governments, as well as Federation entity budget for 2015 after
months of administrative problems, political infighting, and procedural shortcomings had
blocked the formation of new governments on different level.
Croatia
7 April
Croatian authorities have seized more than 140 kilos of heroin at a Croatia-Serbia border
crossing today. At the border crossing, the Croatian authorities searched a van with German
license plates and found hidden compartments underneath the seats containing 261 packages
of heroin. According to customs officials, the drugs, with an estimated street value of almost six
million euros, were discovered at the Bajakovo border crossing in a car. The drugs are believed
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to have been destined for Western European countries. Two alleged smugglers were arrested.
Officials believe that the two are part of a drug trafficking group that has been smuggling and
distributing drugs in Germany, Bulgaria, and other European countries. Drug smuggling through
its borders is an ongoing problem for Croatia, as its borders are situated on the Balkan route
used by organized crime groups to smuggle drugs, arms, and people into Western Europe.
2 April
Croatia’s government has withdrawn its diplomat from Serbia for few days in protest to the
burning of the Croatian flag by the Serb war criminal and politician, Vosjislav Seselj. Seselj
staged the flag-burning protest in Belgrade after the UN-backed war crimes court in The Hague
revoked his temporary release for cancer treatment and ordered him to return to detention in
the Netherlands in advance of the verdict in his trial. Serbian Radical Party leader, Seselj,
stepped up nationalist rhetoric, which he said was intended to provoke Croatia. Croatia’s foreign
ministry said on Wednesday that Seselj’s “hate speech, war rhetoric and symbols” were
damaging relations in the region. In consequence, it recalled its ambassador for consultations
and issued what it called a “strong protest” to the Serbian chargé d’affaires in Zagreb.
Greece
27 April
Greek anti-corruption prosecutors have issued charges against seven people in Greece and
Germany who are allegedly connected to the bribing of public officials over the sale of vehicles
made by Daimler, to the Greek armed forces. The charges relate to contracts that were fulfilled
while jailed ex-Defense Minster, Akis Tsochatzopoulos, and his successor, Yiannos Papantoniou,
who were in charge of the military. It is claimed that executives paid 2 million euros in bribes to
Greek officials via the company’s representative in Greece, Emmanouil Lainopoulos, who has
also been charged.
6 April
Greece has finally put a figure on the war reparations it claims to be owed for the Nazi
occupation of the country in WWII. Greece’s deputy finance minister has announced that
Germany owes Greece nearly 279 billion euros in reparations. In the past decades the Greek
governments and private citizens have pushed for war damages from Germany, but the Greek
government has never officially quantified its reparation claims. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras'
government recently set up a parliamentary panel to begin the claim on German debts of war
reparations. Furthermore, the panel is also in pursuit of a potential repayment of the occupation
loan that Nazi Germany forced the Bank of Greece to make and the return of stolen
archaeological treasures. The Greek campaign for compensation has gained momentum in the
past few years during Greece’s economic hardship under austerity measures imposed by the
European Union and International Monetary Fund.
4 April
Members of a Greek anarchist movement who have seized the central office of the left-wing
Syrizia Party in Athens last month, while demanding the closure of maximum-security prisons,
have again stormed parliament and even occupied Syriza's own Athens headquarters as the
party's new spokeswoman was on air giving her first interview. The Anarchists also took control
of Syriza's radio station, "Sto Kokkino" for nearly a week, before taking over Athens' law school
for five days. Since the beginning of April they have occupied the administration Tower of
Athens University, a prestigious building in the center of the city. The nationwide protests have
now begun to follow a ritual, with buildings occupied for long enough to grab headlines before
activists move on to new targets. And with every occupation, Syriza has been unwilling to
sanction police action against the anarchists since Syriza has been strongly criticized the brutal
way riot police have handled anti-austerity protests in the past. The anarchists are not only
demanding the closure of the controversial C-type jails, where the country's most notorious
criminals and terrorists are held, but also the repeal of anti-terror laws and the freeing of Savvas
Xiros, a bomb maker from the November 17 revolutionary group, who is said to be in poor
health. Syriza has already announced that it will scrap the prisons, where activists claim
prisoners from revolutionary groups are held under an unnecessarily harsh regime and allowed
no contact with their families.
3 April
Greek police have arrested 10 suspects and issued warrants for another 14 people who are
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believed to be part of an international gang credited with at least two murders, a bloody armed
holdup, human trafficking, gun running and 19 robberies. The multinational gang is thought to
have earned at least 2 million euros since 2006 by running multiple illegal enterprises in and
out of Greece’s borders. Their illegal activities included smuggling undocumented migrants,
narcotics, and guns from Turkey across the Evros border. As well as via the southeastern Aegean
island of Rhodes, where they kept a hideout.
Italy
28 April
The Italian government put its controversial electoral reform to a confidence vote in parliament,
forcing rebels in Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party to support him or face new
elections. The announcement by Institutional Reform Minister, Maria Boschi, angered
opposition politicians, who accused Renzi of a ‘’fascist’’ power grab and hurled abuse at
government ranks. Three separate confidence votes on different sections of the bill are
expected within the week. If they all pass, the reform will become law, ending more than a year
of parliamentary debate. However, if Renzi loses any of the three ballots, he will have to hand in
his resignation to President Sergio Mattarella, who would have to appoint a new government or
else call fresh elections.
27 April
A court in Sicily convicted twenty Somalis who had received political asylum in Italy of a role in
a vast criminal organization focused on migrant-smuggling. The prosecutors said that the
defendants were part of an international migrant-smuggling ring that demanded ‘’large sums of
money’’ from migrants from Kenya and Somalia to enter Italy. Afterwards, they helped them to
continue to the destination country of their choice, especially Sweden. They convictions bring
to 42 the number of people found guilty of involvement in the same smuggling ring, which was
operating throughout Italy.
25 April
Italy’s coastguard rescued 335 migrants in the Mediterranean bringing them to the Sicilian port
of Augusta. The groups of migrants were rescued by the coastguard about 64 kilometres from
the Libyan coast, saving them from their raft, which was in danger of sinking. All the migrants,
including 38 women and one child were alive and were provided with medical aid upon their
arrival to Italy.
24 April
Italian police arrested ten people and are looking for eight others suspected of belonging to an
armed group linked to al Qaeda who had plotted attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan and at least
at one point the Vatican. Some of the suspects, who are all Pakistanis and Afghans, were arrested
in early morning raids across Italy. Police burst into the home of the group’s suspected spiritual
leader, in the northern city of Bergamo. Though the 18 suspects were plotting attacks mainly in
their native countries, phone taps suggest the Vatican was also a target. According to the Italian
authorities the group had a large number of weapons and numerous followers willing to carry
out acts of terrorism. Police announced that wire taps had determined that two people among
the 18 targeted by arrest warrants were suspected of being part of a group that had protected
al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Officials said that there have been indications of a plan for an
attack against the Vatican in 2010 by members of the group. Due to the fact that there has been
fear about a possible suicide attack in a crowded place, Italian authorities have increased
security in St. Peter’s Square.
An Italian judge ordered that the presumed captain of the migrant boat that sank and killed
more than 700 migrants should remain in custody after prosecutors asked for him to be charged
with homicide and people-trafficking. Mohammed Ali Malek, 27, denies that he was in charge of
the heavily overloaded fishing boat the capsized off Libya on 19 April with hundreds of African
and Bangladeshi migrants locked in its lower decks, and he claims he is a migrant like the rest
on the boat. However Catania chief prosecutor Giovanni Salvi said the judge had ordered both
Malek and 25 year-old Syrian Mahmud Bikhit, who is accused of being a member of the crew, to
be detained in custody. Both men were arrested when they arrived in Sicily with other survivors
of the shipwreck.
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22 April
The Italian Coast Guard rescued 638 migrants from six rubber dinghies floating in the
Mediterranean Sea between North Africa and Sicily. One of the rubber dinghies was
overcrowded with 112 migrants. The rescue team handed over life jackets to the migrants and
appealed for calm to prevent the overcrowded dinghies from capsizing. The migrants were then
transferred to the Fiorillo Coast Guard ship.
20 April
According to the Italian authorities three other rescue operations are underway to save
hundreds more migrants in peril on overloaded vessels making the journey from North Africa
to Europe. The European Union proposed doubling the size of its Mediterranean search and
rescue operations after the previous day’s deadly shipwreck, that surpassed the estimations and
it is believed that resulted in some 900 deaths, becoming the deadliest known shipwreck of
migrants trying to reach Europe. Italian prosecutors also announced they arrested 24 suspected
migrant traffickers although it is not clear if they were linked with the latest disaster.
19 April
Hundreds of people are feared to have drowned after a boat carrying up to 700 migrants
capsized in the Mediterranean Sea according to the Italian coastguard. The vessel, thought to be
just 20m long, capsized at midnight local time in Libyan waters south of the Italian island of
Lampedusa. So far only 28 people have been rescued and 24 bodies retrieved. Italy’s Prime
Minister said it was a European tragedy and called for an extraordinary EU summit to address
the issues.
17 April
The Italian navy announced that it boarded and took control of a Sicilian fishing boat that had
been seized earlier in the day by armed men off the coast of Libya. The operation was conducted
by military personnel operating in the area on migrant rescue duty. The authorities’ statement
did not mention whether the Italian military encountered the armed men, but a Sicilian
cooperative said the seven-crew members were on their way back to port. The navy said the
fishing boat had been seized by armed men, apparently Libyan security forces, travelling on a
tugboat about 50 nautical miles northwest of the Libyan port of Misrata. The seizure was
reported to the port authorities by other fishing boats operating nearby.
A group of migrants who were severely burned in a gas canister explosion were among
hundreds of refugees to be rescued in the Mediterranean. The explosion happened several days
ago in a makeshift camp in Zuwarah on the Libyan coast where the migrants were being held.
Five people were killed by the blast. The survivors, despite having severe injuries, were forced
by smugglers to board a boat bound for Italy. The 70 refugees were two days in the boat before
they were detected and rescued by an Italian coast guard vessel ship and taken to the island of
Lampedusa.
16 April
Italian police arrested 15 African men suspected of throwing about a dozen Christians from a
migrant boat in the Mediterranean, as the crisis off southern Italy intensified. Forty-one more
deaths were reported in a separate incident. Police in the Sicilian capital Palermo said they had
arrested the men, from Ivory Coast, Mali and Senegal, after survivors reported they had thrown
12 people from Nigeria and Ghana to their deaths and threatened other Christians. The 15 were
arrested on charges of multiple homicides motivated by religious hatred.
13 April
A man has been found dead in one of many unsafe, overcrowded boats off the Italian coast, while
some 6,000 migrants were rescued the last two days. The male victim from Sub-Sahara, who is
thought to have paid between $400 and $500 for the crossing, may have been suffocated but
authorities still need to investigate the death. This was the second weekend in a row that large
numbers of migrants were rescued in the Channel of Sicily as calm seas have seen many
attempting the crossing, with total numbers of arrivals reaching over 15,000 since the beginning
of 2015.
9 April
A man on trial for fraudulent bankruptcy opened fire in a Milan courthouse, killing his lawyer, a
co-defendant and a judge before escaping amid the chaos. The suspect, 57-year-old Claudio
Giardiello, was arrested in a town nearly 16 miles away after dodging police who were combing
the Palace of Justice and fleeing on a motorcycle. The Italian Prime Minister promised a
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thorough investigation into how Giardello was able to get a gun past tight security at the court,
where metal detectors are used for visitors but not staff, magistrates and accredited lawyers.
7 April
According to the Italian Foreign Minister, military action in the fight against terrorism is
inevitable and should be done to tackle religious persecution. The Foreign Minister noted that
Italian forces are committed to training local forces in Somalia that fight against the al Qaedalinked al Shabaab militants who singled out Christians in a shooting at a university in Kenya.
Italian authorities are investigating the loss of 4,000 authentic passports that were supposed to
be destroyed but instead may have ended up on the black market. At least some of the travel
documents have turned up in the Middle East, according to investigators, triggering fears about
security as Italy continues to tighten its anti-terrorism controls. The passports were originally
ordered by the Milan police department and printed by the state stationery office. The Turkish
government contacted the Italian embassy about two Syrian citizens who tried to pass
themselves off as Italians in order to enter Turkey, but they were stopped since their passports
had serial numbers from the batch supposedly destroyed. Similar cases were reported a few
days later by U.S. authorities, and more cases brought to Italy’s attention by Turkey who
discovered at least ten.
5 April
Italian navy and coast guard ships rescued around 1,500 migrants aboard five boats in the
Mediterranean in less than 24 hours. All of the migrants were rescued in five separate
operations. Three of the migrants’ boats were in difficulty and sent rescue requests via satellite
phones. The Italian vessels spotted the other two boats while heading for the others. The
migrants were transferred to the Italian ships and taken to either the island of Lampedusa or
ports in Sicily.
Kosovo
27 April
In close cooperation with Kosovo Security Forces, KFOR units (which remain under the advisory
of NATO), have destroyed 60 artillery ammunitions in vicinity of Orahovac. The main goal of this
operation was to improve safety and security in Kosovo and to test the level of cooperation and
professional trust between Kosovo Security Forces (KSF) and KFOR’s Explosive Ordnance
Disposal operators. During 2014 KSF and KFOR teams intervened in more than 360 locations
where the local population suspected the presence of mines. More than 1050 components of
mines have since been destroyed. The presence of undiscovered mines left over from the Kosovo
war 1999-2000 remains a concern for Kosovo and International authorities.
22 April
Armed ethnic Albanians, allegedly from Kosovo, have briefly seized control of a police station
on Macedonia’s northern border. Where according to police, they demanded the creation of an
Albanian state in Macedonia. According to Macedonia police spokesman, Ivo Kotevski, a group
of some 40-armed people coming from Kosovo, attacked the Gosince post, located 500 meters
from the border. It is alleged that the men wore military fatigues and the logo of the Kosovo
Liberation Army (KLA), an ethnic Albanian group that fought for the independence of Kosovo
during the 1990s Yugoslavia wars. The men reportedly beat and insulted four policemen in the
station, handcuffing three of them, before leaving.
20 April
The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) have today released an announcement
advising against all but essential travel to the North-Kosovo municipalities of Zvečan, Zubin
Potok, Leposavic, and to the northern part of the city of Mitrovica. This announcement comes as
tensions and violence between the divided ethnic-Albanians and ethnic-Serbians in the area has
once again reached worrying levels.
18 April
Several thousand people gathered in Kosovo’s capital, Pristina, on Saturday for an antigovernment protest organized by Kosovo’s three main opposition parties - Vetevendosje
Movement, the Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK), and the Initiative for Kosovo, (NISMA).
The protesters, led by opposition party leaders, went on a peaceful march through center of
Pristina, stopping at all the institutions that they allege have been “seized” by the ruling parties,
the Democratic Party of Kosovo, PDK, and the Democratic League of Kosovo, LDK. The protest
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concluded in front of the buildings that house the government and parliament, where
demonstrators voiced their dissatisfaction with the planned formation of the Association of Serb
Municipalities, a political entity that would grant Serb-majority municipalities greater rights
and distance them from the control of Pristina. Opposition leaders gave the government two
weeks to respond to their demands, which include: the rescinding of an electricity price
increase, and the dismissal of the boards of RTK, Energy Regulatory Office, and of Justice
minister Hajredin Kuci.
17 April
Security measures have been stepped up in Kosovo’s northern city of Mitrovica following a
series of incidents and heightened tensions over the past week. The decision to step up security
was made at a meeting of the mayors of the four northern Kosovo municipalities, the regional
chiefs of the Kosovo Police, and Ljubomir Maric, a Serb minister in the Kosovo government. The
meeting was also attended by internationals from Kosovo Security Forces (KFOR), EULEX, and
the head of the EU Office in Kosovo, Samuel Zbogar. All participants of the meeting expressed
great concern for the situation in Mitrovica and unanimously decided to increase security
measures in the area.
15 April
Kosovo’s ruling government has proposed a new article in the constitution, called ‘The Specialist
Chambers and the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office’, to allow a special court to be set up within
Kosovo’s justice system that is expected to try senior Kosovo Liberation Army figures. The
amendment to Kosovo’s constitution, allowing the establishment of the new Brussels-backed
tribunal will open the way for a vote in parliament on the new legal body, which will deal with
alleged crimes during and after the war. The constitutional amendment still has to be approved
by Kosovo’s parliament, which will open the way for the draft law on the special court to be
voted on as well. However, the opposition Vetevendosje party has claimed that the new article,
constitutional amendment 24, is in breach of Kosovo’s laws because it establishes a parallel
judicial body. The draft law states that the new court’s jurisdiction will cover offences
committed between January 1, 1998 and December 31, 2000. Moreover, its judges will be
interviewed by an international panel and appointed by the head of the EU’s rule-of-law mission
in Kosovo.
14 April
It has been agreed that the recently disbanded Serbian Civil Protection Forces or “Civilna
Zastita,” be disbanded and its members integrated into the Kosovo system and institutions, with
a new Serbian protection force expected join Kosovo’s police. Belgrade is expected to hand over
the list of “premises and observation points” which are currently manned by the members of
the Civilna Zastita. The agreement was reached as part ongoing EU-facilitated dialogue between
Kosovo and Serbia in Brussels. According to a list submitted by Belgrade, the Civilna Zastita
consisted of 751 individuals. For now, Pristina will offer employment for 483 of them.
Ethic violence between Kosovo’s Serbian and Albanian populations in Mitrovica has once again
been brought to the forefront of tense relations between Kosovo and Serbia. In the past week
there has been a series of incidents involving ethnic Serbian and Albanians in the North of
Mitrovica. The latest incident occurred nearby the Kosovo-Serbia border crossing of Zubin
Potok, where unknown persons threw an explosive device, claimed as a hand grenade, into the
car park of a local police station at the Kosovo-Serbia border town. There were no injuries, but
the blast damaged four Kosovo police vehicles. This was preceded by several other incidents in
the North. One particular incident entailed the exchange of fire between members of the Serb
community, who were injured in the shoot-out. A Kosovo Police car was also hit.
9 April
Croatia and Kosovo have signed a European partnership agreement, designed to help Kosovo
reform its institutions. The Croatian and Kosovo foreign ministers met in Zagreb where they
signed a major European partnership agreement that formalizes the framework of cooperation
to reform the institutions of Kosovo, according to the European standards. The Croatian
minister, Vesna Pusic, characterized relations between the two states as good, but said that
economic cooperation needed to improve. Pusic also announced an agreement on avoiding
double taxation between the two countries, which will help companies do business. Kosovo’s
Foreign Minister, Hashim Thaci, stated that the partnership agreement would help with the
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transfer of knowledge and experience from Croatia, as Kosovo continues its EU accession
process.
7 April
Serbian parliamentarians in Kosovo, who have been boycotting the country's institutions for
months, have signaled that they may call an end to the boycott if a deal signed with Kosovo’s
ruling parties is honored in full. The deal they wish to be honored envisages the creation of a
semi-autonomous Association of Serbian Municipalities, the return of Kosovo Serb refugees and
a re-examination of post-war privatizations, amongst other things. In Kosovo’s last elections in
June 2014, Civic Initiative Srpska, the main Kosovo Serb party, won nine seats in parliament and
was given two ministries and the post of Deputy Prime Minister. However, following the attack
on a Serbian bus of pilgrims in Western Kosovo earlier this year, it began a boycott of Kosovo’s
political system. The participation of the Srpska list is crucial to Kosovo’s fulfillment of the 2013
EU-led Brussels Agreement, which aims at the "normalization" of relations between Kosovo and
Serbia.
3 April
A proposed parliamentary resolution to launch a genocide lawsuit against Serbia has been
backed by Kosovo's main political parties, but they insist it will not damage ongoing
normalization talks between Pristina and Belgrade. The resolution, drafted by one of the parties
in the governing coalition, the Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), suggests that Pristina should
sue Belgrade for alleged genocide and claim reparations. The five-point draft resolution starts
with an expression of readiness to support the continuation of the normalization of relations
between Serbia and Kosovo, then expresses concern that Belgrade's alleged genocide and war
crimes during the late 1990s conflict have not yet been punished. The resolution has been
submitted to the presidency of Kosovo’s parliament, but it remains unknown when it will be
debated and a vote held.
1 April
It has been announced today that Kosovo’s Army will need NATO approval to act in the North of
Kosovo following ongoing concerns over the divided Northern city of Mitrovica. Kosovo’s PM,
Isa Mustafa, subsequently announced that NATO would not stand in the way of Kosovo forming
its own Army, but NATO's approval would be needed before it could undertake any action in the
mainly Serbian enclave in the North of the country. At the previous meeting with NATO
representatives in Brussels, PM Mustafa stated it was agreed NATO would not prevent the
formation of regular armed forces, and the next step was ratification of a law in parliament and
adoption of constitutional amendments. Since Kosovo declared independence in 2008, the
country has not formed its own Army. The current constitution allows only a lightly armed
"Security Force", which has limited capacities. The planned creation of a small regular Army has
provoked a heated debate in the Serbian community, where some view an Albanian-majority
military force with dismay.
Malta
No major incidents reported during this period
Montenegro
17 April
Police in Montenegro have arrested 16 people suspected of smuggling 138 Syrian migrants into
Serbia in order to reach Western Europe. According to Montenegrin authorities, Police in
Montenegro have broken a human smuggling chain from Albania to Serbia that passes through
Montenegro. Tens of thousands of migrants from Africa and the Middle East have traveled
illegally through the Balkans, mostly toward Hungary at Serbia's permeable northern border.
Portugal
26 April
Portugal’s two center-right coalition parties that steered the country through a punishing
international bailout are seeking to increase their chances of staying in office by joining their
forces running together in this year’s general election. Portugal’s Prime Minister, Pedro Passos
Coehlo, said his Social Democrats, and the smaller Popular party would run a single list of
candidates in the poll, expected in September or October, in an attempt to elect ‘’a stable
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majority government’’. Coehlo acknowledged that austerity had left “social scars that need
healing”, but claimed that a second term for his coalition would avert the risk of “returning to
wrong-headed policies and dangerous illusions”.
Serbia
27 April
Several hundred people gathered in Belgrade today, in a bid to stop the Serbian government
from signing a multimillion deal with Abu Dhabi-based, Eagle Hills, to transform the city’s Sava
riverbank into a huge new complex known as Belgrade Waterfront. Police cordoned off the
protest, preventing protesters from reaching the front of the building where the contract was
due to be signed. In spite of the protest, the deal was signed and the protesters have
subsequently pledged to continue campaigning against the project.
26 April
Authorities say at least 50 people have been injured and 40 arrested after fierce clashes between
Red Star and Partizan football fans in Serbia’s capital. The riots erupted before the match
between the two biggest Belgrade rival clubs at the Red Star stadium, Belgrade. The start of the
match had to be postponed for 40 minutes when hooligans hurled stones at each other and
battled with sticks. Play was also stopped for seven minutes because of flares hurled on to the
pitch. Fans threw seats and flares at riot police, who had to retreat. Serbian police say 20 officers
were injured when they tried to separate the fighting groups.
17 April
Serbian police have arrested 15 people suspected of trafficking more than 200 migrants from
Syria, Afghanistan, amongst others, to the European Union. Police have stated that the alleged
criminal group smuggled migrants over the border from Bulgaria, using Serbia as a transit
destination to reach the European Union in Hungary. Serbia and the rest of the Balkans have
become one of the main transit routes for migrants seeking to reach the EU.
7 April
Serbian Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, has announced that negotiations with Kosovo’s new
PM, Isa Mustafa, will continue as Serbia looks to normalize relations with the partially
recognized state, Kosovo. The Serbian PM is currently in talks with Kosovo’s PM to normalize
the relations between the two countries and neutralize concerns regarding Serbia’s accession
to the European Union. Although Kosovo declared independence in 2008 and is recognized
by 108 UN member states, Serbia considers Kosovo to be part of its territory and has been
engaged in ongoing political battles in the years since Kosovo’s declaration of independence to
avoid recognition of its former territory.
1 April
Serbian war criminal and politician, Vosjislav Seselj, who is the Serbian Radical Party leader, has
staged the flag-burning protest in Belgrade after the UN-backed war crimes court in The Hague
revoked his temporary release for cancer treatment and ordered him to return to detention in
the Netherlands in advance of the verdict in his trial for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia.
Seselj stepped up nationalist rhetoric, which he said was intended to provoke Croatia following
the ruling. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, a former senior member of Seselj’s party,
has tried to play down the incident as an act without any parliamentary representation.
Slovenia
9 April
Slovenian Defence Minister, Janko Veber, was dismissed by parliamentary vote for ordering the
army secret service to analyse the security implications of the planned sale of state-owned
telecoms operator Telekom Slovenia. Veber is a deputy president of the center-left Social
Democrats (SD) but the party is expected to remain in the government coalition. Veber, who
was voted out by 68 votes to 11, had maintained the sale of Telekom might affect national
security, but most parties in parliament said he should not have used the secret service to
analyse it.
1 April
Slovenia’s Education Minister, Klavdija Markez, resigned after only five days in office following
local media reports that her master’s degree thesis was a plagiarism. Market, a member of Prime
Minister Miro Cerar’s Party of Modern Center, was confirmed as a minister after her predecessor
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resigned in March following an Anti-corruption Commission report that she received a large
amount of extra income from public institutions over the past decade. Market is the fourth
minister to leave the six-month-old cabinet, while parliament is expected to dismiss Defence
Minister, Janko Veber, in the coming weeks because he asked the army sector service to analyse
the possible security implications of the expected privatisation of telecoms operator Telekom
Slovenia.
Spain
20 April
A 13-year-old Spanish boy armed with a crossbow and a machete killed a substitute teacher and
wounded four other people at his school in Barcelona. The unidentified boy was detained by
police as a suspect in the attack that also saw two other teachers and two students injured.
Authorities claimed the boy, who was undergoing a psychiatric examination, will not face
criminal charges because he is under the age of 14.
19 April
Spain’s Interior Ministry announced that a Spanish couple has been detained by Turkish
security forces on suspicion of having links to ISIL Takfiri terrorists. Turkish forces arrested the
couple, a Moroccan man identified as Ahmed Debza and a Spanish woman named Nadia Ataich
Fernandez. The couple, residents of Spain’s North African enclave of Melilla, allegedly went to
Turkey with their 14-month-old daughter in October last year. They were arrested after
returning from a trip to Syria purportedly to wait for ‘’logistical and financial support’’ from the
ISIL terror group.
17 April
Rodrigo Rato, the former head of the International Monetary Fund, was released from police
detention, after emerging as the target of a headline-grabbing probe into possible tax fraud. Rate
was detained for seven hours while both his home and office were searched by tax investigators.
His detention on 16 April sent shockwaves through Spain’s political and media landscape.
According to Spanish media reports, prosecutors and tax inspectors are investigating the former
IMF chief for alleged tax fraud, money laundering and asset stripping. He has not been formally
charged. Rat’s detention makes him the highest-profile target yet in a series of legal probes
against top Spanish bankers and politicians.
13 April
According to the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, Europe, North Africa and the Middle
East need to cooperate more to confront illegal immigration and ‘’terrorism barbarism’’. Rajoy
made the call at a meeting of foreign ministers from the 28 European Union countries and eight
countries on the southern rim of the Mediterranean. The meeting comes as southern European
countries such as Spain and Italy press for the EU, preoccupied by the Ukraine conflict for the
past 18 months, to pay more attention to threats and problems emanating from the south, and
especially the issue of irregular migration.
Spain’s Foreign Minister announced that Spain is planning to propose that the United Nations
create an international court specialised in terrorism crimes. Jose Maria Garcia-Margallo said
such a court could be used by nations like the United States, China and Israel that do not accept
the jurisdiction of the Hague-based International Criminal Court. He offered further details
explaining his plan at a meeting of foreign ministers and representatives form 28 European
Union member states and delegations from eight North Africa and Middle East nations of the
southern rim of the Mediterranean in Barcelona that focus on how to encounter terrorism.
Spain, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, plans to make a concrete proposal
for the creation of the court when it takes over the rotating presidency of the body at the end of
2015.
12 April
Upset over a so-called ‘’gag law’’ in Spain, 2000 activists in Madrid took to the streets in
hologram form. Opponents of the Spanish Citizens Security Law, which would make it illegal to
burn the national flag and protest outside parliament starting July 1, set up a hologram protest
in front of a parliamentary building in the country’s capital. The rally looked and sounded like a
traditional demonstration, marchers toted signs and chanted, only the protesters were not
physically there.
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9 April
A Spanish judge upheld charges against 11 Moroccan ex-officials accused of atrocities in
Western Sahara, a court ruling showed, and a penultimate step towards a possible trial. Judge
Pablo Ruz upheld accusations against the 11 ex-security officials and governors of ethnically
motivated torture, killings and detentions in the former Spanish colony between 1975 and 1991,
according to the ruling.
8 April
Police in Catalonia arrested eleven people and searched 13 premises in an anti-jihadi operation.
According to the Catalan police, those arrested are allegedly involved in several crimes related
to jihadi terrorism, especially linked to others of the terrorist organization Islamic State/DAESH.
Police declined to offer any further information about the nationality, age or gender of those
arrested. The operation was coordinated by the High Court in Madrid.
6 April
Spain’s conservative Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, announced that he will seek re-election in
this year’s national polls, despite facing criticism after his party was trounced in a key regional
vote in March. Rajoy, was heavily criticised with some saying he is out of touch with the concerns
of ordinary Spaniards.
Macedonia
30 April
Political infighting between Macedonia’s government and the main opposition party, The Social
Democrats (SDSM), remains the dominant topic in Macedonia’s political life following the
opposition party’s claims that it is in possession of a list of the names of 20,000 people that the
government monitored using illegal wire tapping. The Social Democrats (SDSM) allege that
Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and other senior members of his government ordered police to
monitor the communications of targets named in the list. Leader of the opposition, Zoran Zaev,
claims that the data contained in dossiers published by his party have come from intelligence
compiled by Macedonian surveillance services. Gruevski, on the other hand, maintains that the
data was collected by foreign secret service agencies, which support the opposition and aim to
destabilize the country. Zaev has announced a mass protest to take place in Skopje with the aim
of forcing Gruevski out of office in the near future.
26 April
Deputy Minister of Interior, Ivo Kotevski, has stated that Macedonian police authorities have
conducted a large-scale raid in the area near the Kosovo border, in the villages of Gosince, Brest,
and Malina Mahala. During the raid, police searched houses in the region, mostly abandoned,
and found weapons and ammunition. The police raid follows heightened security around the
Macedonia-Kosovo border concerning the use of illegal weapons following the April 7 attack at
police watchtower in Gosince, on Macedonia’s northern border with Kosovo by disbanded
ethnic-Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army members.
14 April
14 Refugees have died in Macedonia today after they were hit by a train while walking the
railroad tracks just a few kilometers out of Veles, a small town south of the Macedonian capital,
Skopje. A group of around 100 men, women and children, all illegal migrants from Syria, Iraq,
Afghanistan and Somalia were headed north toward central Europe, when the express train
from Thessaloniki to Belgrade hit them as they took a break, seated on the train tracks. When
the police and rescue workers arrived, most of the other refugees had already disappeared; the
eight people, who had stayed behind, all of them relatives of the victims, were arrested.
7 April
A group of around 40 people wearing uniforms of the disbanded ethnic-Albanian Kosovo
Liberation Army have attacked a police watchtower in Gosince, on Macedonia’s northern border
with Kosovo, some 30 km north of the capital Skopje. The group allegedly entered Macedonia
from Kosovo, where they briefly captured four on-duty police officers and took control of the
watchtower for a short period of time. After which, the policemen were released. No injuries
were reported. However, Macedonian authorities are treating the incident as very serious,
adding that Macedonia was the target of a terrorist attack. The incident is currently being
disputed by Kosovo, which claims there is no evidence of armed men crossing the border. The
incident raises great concerns for the country as it was reminiscent of 2001 insurgency in
Macedonia, when Skopje's security forces battled rebels demanding greater rights for the
former Yugoslav republic's large ethnic Albanian minority.
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Western Europe
Austria
29 April
Austria called for banning nuclear weapons because of their catastrophic humanitarian effects,
an initiative that Austria claims is supported by 159 countries. Representatives from the 159
countries supporting the ban said the initiative was modeled on successful campaigns to ban
land mines and other weapons and could take years to move forward. However, the initiative
has virtually no support among NPT nuclear weapons countries and veto-wielding Security
Council members, the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, or the countries of NATO,
an alliance that provides a kind of "nuclear umbrella" security guarantee for its members.
Nevertheless, most of the 193 U.N. members back it. The five permanent Security Council
members signed the NPT as nuclear weapons states, although the pact calls on them to negotiate
the reduction and eventual elimination of their arms caches. Non-nuclear states complain that
there have been too few steps toward nuclear disarmament.
Belgium
No major incidents reported during this period
France
29 April
French President, Francois Hollande, announced a multi-billion euro boost to the French
military. This increase on the military’s budget is based on the Paris attacks that took place in
January and the high probability of more Islamist attacks in France in the future. The armed
patrols on French streets introduced as an emergency measure after the Paris terror attacks will
become a permanent fixture. Additionally, the defence budget is going to be increased by 3.8
billion euros over four years, starting in 2016, to make sure that the French forces will be able
to face the internal problems and, at the same time, maintain its missions abroad, especially in
Africa and the Middle East.
26 April
French police have detained three people in an investigation into the alleged plot to attack a
church near Paris. The three suspected of possible links to Sid Ahmed Ghlam, the chief suspect
in the thwarted attack. The first suspect’s DNA was found in Ghlam’s bedroom, the second
suspect’s DNA was found on a hairbrush also in Ghlam’s house and the third suspect allegedly
provided logistical support for the plot. The Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed that suspects
are in custody but wouldn’t provide further details.
22 April
According to the French Interior Minister, French police have arrested a man suspected of
planning an attack on ‘’one or two churches’’ in a Paris suburb. Sid Ahmed Ghlam, a 24-year-old
Algerian national, was detained in Paris after he shot himself by accident and called an
ambulance. He is also being questioned over the murder of a woman. Glam was known to
security services as having expressed a wish to travel to Syria to fight with Islamist fighters. In
his car and home the police found several weapons, hand guns, ammunition and bullet-proof
vests. The authorities have carried out security checks on the suspect twice in recent years but
did not uncover anything to justify further investigation. French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls,
added that French authorities have halted five terrorist attacks in recent months, without
providing further details. Update (24 April) - French prosecutors brought preliminary charges
against Ghlam who is suspected of killing a woman and plotting a terror attack. The prosecutors
have linked Ghlam to the death of 32-year-old Aurelie Chatelain, whose bode was found in a car
in the Paris suburb of Villejuif. Ballistics analysis showed that the bullet that killed the woman
was fired from a gun found in the suspect’s car. Her blood was found on his jacket while his DNA
was found in her car. Investigators are now trying to track down possible accomplices. The
suspect is also under investigation for theft, the sale of stolen goods and the use of false license
plates, all in connection with a terrorist plot. A woman identified by the prosecutor as Emilie L.
was detained as part of the investigation but after questioning was released.
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19 April
French President, Francois Hollande, said that he is looking for a viable solution to resolve the
crisis with Russia over the suspended delivery of Mistral helicopter carriers purchased by
Moscow. He said he is going to discuss the halted 1.2 billion euros contract with Russian
President when the two leaders meet in Armenia on 24 April. France suspended the delivery of
the warships last year amid tightening international sanctions against Russia over its role in the
Ukraine crisis.
17 April
The French National Assembly created an amendment that will legalize the leak of information
by intelligence employees if they want to expose an abuse of power by their own authorities.
The amendment is supposed to provide ‘’legal protection to an agent of the intelligence services
who would denounce illegal intelligence gathering or abusive supervision’’. To prevent the
uncontrolled leaving of sensitive information, the French amendment could create a new
authority to examine leaked documents. The French government, as well as the conservative
UMP party, argued against the amendment.
14 April
Seven French citizens or residents, including six converts to Islam, died while committing
suicide attacks in Iraq and Syria according to the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls. He added
that France has identified more than 1,500 French nationals who are involvement in terrorist
networks in Syria and Iraq. Intelligence services confirmed that 800 of these had traveled to the
zone, 434 are there now and 96 were killed there. Valls revealed the new number in front of the
National Assembly as debate opened on a controversial new law meant to increase the powers
of French intelligence services.
13 April
French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, called for emergency government-surveillance powers in
cease of an exceptional threat. A move justified by the series of terrorist attacks that took place
in France in January 2015. In a speech in Parliament, Valls urged a new intelligence bill for
extraordinary measures that would be used only ‘’in case of major crisis affecting the citizens’
security’’. The law would allow intelligence services to use surveillance powers without
submitting a request to an independent nine-person panel, as the standard process requires.
The proposal caused an outcry from some privacy advocates and human rights groups despite
the government’s efforts to distance itself from U.S.-style mass surveillance.
9 April
Hackers claiming allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) seized control of
TV5Monde, France’s international TV network, knocking out its 11 channels, website and social
media accounts in an attack the government dubbed an ‘’act of terrorism’’. At the same time, a
group calling itself CyberCaliphate issued a message on the website of TV5Monde, which
broadcasts to 200 countries, stating: ‘’I am IS’’, another term for ISIL.
Tens of thousands took to the streets in towns and cities across France in union-led protests
against public spending cuts that closed down the Eiffel Tower to tourists and coincided with
strikes by air traffic controllers and state radio workers. The nationwide marches, with the
biggest rally in Paris, were a test of how much support unions can muster over spending curbs
they say undermine public service and purchasing power to the general detriment of the euro
zone’s second-largest economy.
8 April
France’s far-right Front National (FN) has been hit by an ‘unprecedented crisis’, according to its
leader, Marine Le Pen, who was preparing to discipline the movement’s founder - her own
father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. She described his latest remarks on the Nazi gas champers and the
war-time Petain government as ‘political suicide’. Marine Le Pen accused her father of taking
the party hostage in an attempt to damage her and she said that she intents to stop him standing
as an FN candidate in regional elections at the end of the year.
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo and Jean-Paul Huchon, president of the Ile-de-France region,
demanded that the government draw up measures to manage the last spike in pollution,
including convening a crisis group. They called for a coordinated action between the state, the
city of Paris and the region. Ecology minister Segolene Royal also joined the call for
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preparedness. Measures such as ‘’alternating traffic’ and making public transport free are
considered but they require state authorization.
5 April
French investigators have ended their search for bodies in the Alps where a Germanwings
passenger jet crashed last month, killing all 150 people on board. Prosecutors believe German
co-pilot Andreas Lubitz deliberately flew the Airbus A320 jet into the mountainside during a
flight from Barcelona to Dusseldorf, pulverizing the aircraft and making recovery efforts
extremely complicated. The identification of victims will now continue through the analysis of
150 sets of DNA found at site.
3 April
Six people who hid in the kosher supermarket refrigerator during January’s Islamist attacks in
Paris have sued French media for broadcasting their location live during the siege. They claim
that the coverage lacked basic precautions when the media broadcasted images from the siege
when Amedy Coulibaly held several hostages in the supermarket. That resulted in endangering
those still alive inside the supermarket. The lawsuit charges media outlets with endangering the
lives of others by deliberately ignoring security protocols, which carries a maximum penalty of
a year in prison and 15,000 euros fine.
Germany
30 April
German authorities announced that they foiled what they believe have been an imminent
Boston Marathon-style attack on a professional cycling race planned on 1 May, seizing a cache
of weapons, including including a pipe bomb, and chemicals that can be used to make explosives
in a raid on a suspected Islamic extremist's home outside Frankfurt. Authorities detained a 35year-old Turkish-German man and his 34-year-old Turkish wife in the raid in the town of
Oberursel. The couple, whose names weren't released in line with Germany privacy rules, had
been under surveillance. Suspicions were heightened when police recently observed the male
suspect, a trained chemist, apparently scouting out the area where the race was due to take
place. Police said the race would be canceled in case the couple had accomplices, or they placed
as-yet undetected explosive devices along the route.
27 April
Investigative journalists from public broadcasters WDR and NDR as well as the ‘’Suddeutsche
Zeitung’’ found that the German government had conclusive evidence on threats to civil aviation
in Ukraine, which it failed to pass on to German airlines. This is according to information in
confidential reports from the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 with 298
people on board crashed on July 17, 2014, in an embattled region of eastern Ukraine. As most of
the victims were from the Netherlands, the authorities there are heading the investigation,
which has not been concluded.
23 April
A German media report has implicated Germany’s foreign intelligence agency in helping the NSA
target European interests. The revelation has prompted politicians to call for an end to the
collaboration. The BND provided signals intelligence for the NSA in more than 40,000 instances,
according to the report. One of the targets was the Airbus Group, an aerospace and defence
manufacturer. The type of information the BND is allowed to collect is said to be strictly
regulated by German law. The German spy agency has allegedly passed on Internet IP addresses
as well as mobile phone numbers to the NSA. German government spokesman Steffen Seibert
said the BND had been asked to "thoroughly clarify this complex matter." He added in a
statement that the government had no proof of "massive eavesdropping against German or
European citizens.” Update (24 April) - German politicians have expressed outrage following
reports that the German Intelligence Service aided the NSA in spying in Europe. The opposition
demanded the organization’s chief Gerhard Schindler to resign. However, Merkel's Christian
Democratic Union (CDU) warned against taken any hasty steps to remove the spy chief.
22 April
According to German officials, nearly 700 German citizens have left the country to join radical
Islamist forces. Eighty-five have died in the Middle East, but many have returned posing a great
threat to German security. In 2014, the number of people leaving to fight with jihadists was
estimated to be around 550. Most of those who were recruited and traveled abroad were part
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of Germany’s growing Salafist scene. The government estimates the number of Salafist
supporters in Germany at around 7,300, twice more than in 2011.
21 April
German parliament is debating a package of security bills to disrupt financial support for
international terrorists and prevent foreign fighters from joining conflicts in the Middle East.
The initiatives will prevent German would-be jihadists from travelling to conflict zones such as
Syria and Iraq. Security in Germany was tightened in early 2015 following a string of Islamist
attacks in Paris and Copenhagen.
18 April
Thousands of protesters marched in Berlin, Munich and other cities across Germany in protest
against a planned free trade deal between Europe and the United States that thy claim will erode
food, labor and environmental standards. In Berlin, a crowd estimated by police at 1,500 formed
a human chain winding from the Potsdamer Platz sure, past the U.S. embassy and through the
Brandenburg Gate to offices of the European Commission. In Munich, police put the crowd at
3,000. Hundreds also marched in Leipzig, Stuttgart, Frankfurt and other European cities.
15 April
The German deferral government agreed on new guidelines for data retention. In the future, the
connection data of telephone calls and online traffic should be kept up to ten weeks. Interior
Minister, Thomas de Maiziere, described the guidelines as ‘’good and wise compromise’’. The
proposal regulation would prove effective and modest at the same time, he added. The data
would only be accessible to security authorities, who will also require the permission of a judge
before accessing it. However, the opposition, as well as many privacy advocates, condemned the
government’s new guidelines, claiming that it is violating citizens’ right to privacy.
12 April
Schoenefeld International Airport in Berlin was re-opened after being briefly evacuated on
Monday after a security alarm. A piece of luggage was found in an airport toilet and its owner
could not be found. Passengers were asked to clear the terminal over the public address system
and told to move 100 meters away from the terminal. After a half an hour they were allowed
back inside.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called on Russia and Ukraine to set in
motion the next phase of the shaky Minsk peace accords aimed at stopping the fighting in east
Ukraine, ahead of talks about their implementation in Berlin on 13 April. The German minister
will host his counterparts from Ukraine, Russia and France in Berlin on Monday to study the
implementation of the Minsk accords that have stopped much of the fighting despite frequent
violations. Steinmeier said progress had been made, pointing to the "well-advanced withdrawal
of heavy weapons".
11 April
According to the newspaper ”Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger,” Germany's General Terrorism Defence
Center (GTAZ) in Berlin reacted slower to terrorist threats during weekends. The GTAZ was set
up in Berlin in 2004 in response to the terrorist attacks of 2001 in the USA, with the aim of
preventing such attacks by facilitating the collaboration of different federal and state authorities
in Germany such as the police, the Federal Crime Bureau BKA and the Federal Office for the
Protection of the Constitution. According to the report, there are no regular briefings in the
General Terrorism Defence Center on Saturdays and Sundays. In case of imminent threats, the
Defence Center's members have to be contacted separately, which would slow down the
process.
10 April
The German army plans to resurrect more than 100 inoperative tanks, a move it says will ensure
that its troops are ready to respond to the escalating Ukraine crisis at the flip of a switch. The
military will pay the defence ministry 22 millions euros to take the task out of storage and
modernize them beginning in 2017.
7 April
Neo-Nazis have reportedly threatened to behead a local politician in Germany over his support
for asylum-seekers, days after a refugee shelter was burned down in a suspected arson attack.
Gotz Ulrich, a local politician in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, told German media neo-Nazis
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threatened him with ‘’the methods of the French Revolution’’, which is being widely interpreted
as a reference to the guillotine. His family is now under police protection after renewed threats.
6 April
The German government plans to spend millions of euros on strengthening security at its
embassies and consulates in crisis regions to provide greater protection from the threat of
attacks by militants. The German media circulated thin information after they got hold of an
internal paper from the foreign ministry stating that the security situation for German
representations abroad had recently worsened.
4 April
A building planned to house asylum seekers was set ablaze in an eastern town where the mayor
recently resigned over far-right protests against his plans to house refugees. According to the
police spokeswoman no now was hurt from the fire. Police said later in a statement that ‘’one or
several people caused the fire’’ and that ‘’ it appears an accelerant fuel was used in the blaze’’.
The damage from the fire has made the building uninhabitable for the moment.
Demonstrators across Germany used the Easter holiday to protest against Germany’s
involvement in foreign wars and the weapons trade. The marches are not religious ones, but
rather a traditional peace movement unified under the motto ‘’Fascism never again - war never
again’’. The protestors also called for an end to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, newer
types of arms like drones, and the presence of the German army in foreign countries.
1 April
German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, commended on the implementation of the Minsk agreement
commenting that despite the situation in Ukraine being calmer in the weeks following the
agreement the ceasefire has not yet been fully implemented. Ukrainian Prime Minister, Arseny
Yatseniuk, added that the pro-Russian separatists, supported by Russian soldiers, are still
involved in fighting even though similar incidents have been reduced. He claims that seventyfive Ukrainian forces soldiers have been killed and many injured since the Minsk ceasefire
agreement took effect on February 15.
Netherlands
16 April
Crisis talks between the two Dutch coalition parties about what to do with people who have
been refused asylum in the Netherlands will resume again on 17 April. The talks moved on the
17th of April to give the parties time to prepare their positions since the previous meetings
ended without results. The talks follow a ruling by the Council of Europe, which said the
Netherlands has to provide bed and board for undocumented people, but that it is up to the
Dutch to decide how to do this. The official Dutch policy is to evict people who have failed to
qualify as refugees from refugee centers and to encourage them to return to their home
countries. However, thousand migrants have no paperwork or argue they cannot return to their
countries due to the fact that their life would be in danger there. Update (22 April) - The two
ruling coalition reached an agreement over providing shelter to thousands of failed asylum
seekers, ending the dispute that had threatened to bring down the government. According to
Dutch media they agreed to house the failed asylum seekers for limited time only and in five
major cities only.
11 April
Scuffles have erupted at the University of Amsterdam between security forces and protesting
students that were being evicted from a building they had occupied earlier. Nine people were
arrested during the incident for allegedly insulting police officers at a sit-in protest at the
university’s Maagdenhuis building. The protesters had occupied the building back in February
to demand more democracy at the university.
9 April
Authorities investigating the MH17 crash in the Netherlands have released more than 500
documents linked to the July 2014 tragedy after several media houses filed an appeal under the
country’s Freedom of Information Act. The Netherlands, however, has still kept 147 of the
requested documents as classified and refused to release it to the public. A part of the documents
released includes a discussion about investigators referring to a statement made by Minister of
Foreign Affairs regarding the oxygen mask allegedly found on one of the victims. The emails
largely conclude that it is unclear as to how the mask was found on the victim. The Netherlands
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is leading an investigation into the 17 July plane crush of Malaysian Airlines, flight MH17 that
was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed over eastern Ukraine, killing all
298 people onboard.
7 April
The Dutch justice ministry announced that about 190 people have traveled from the
Netherlands to fight in overseas ‘’jihadi conflicts’’, some 35 have returned home and 30 have
been killed. Most are believed to have gone to Syria and Iraq. The country also decided to
maintain its terror threat level at the second-highest, ‘’substantial.” However, the authorities
claim that there are no ‘’concrete signs’’ of possible attacks in the near future such as the ones
in Paris and Copenhagen.
Switzerland
No major incidents to report
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Latin America
Central America
Costa Rica
23 April
Costa Rican police forces reported the successful interception of a boat carrying 604 kilos of
cocaine located off the coast of the Osa Peninsula. The interception took place at around 5:30
p.m. in a joint operation involving Costa Rica’s Coast Guard, Costa Rica’s Air Surveillance Service
as well as the Drug Control Police. A total of 6 men were arrested and taken into custody, they
were 4 Costa Ricans, one Ecuadorian and one Colombian.
20 April
A Mexican businessman who was kidnapped on April 11 was rescued and 3 suspects were
arrested by police forces. Costa Rica’s OIJ law enforcement agent said: “The rescue was carried
out last Friday in Alajuela province outside a dwelling, where they were apparently keeping the
victim, and at the moment when a man guarding him brought him out to move him to another
location.» A Nicaraguan man was arrested at the property and 2 other members of the
kidnapping ring, Costa Ricans, were detained as well. Police investigators have determined that
the ring operates in Costa Rica and targets foreigners, principally Mexicans, by making phone
investments offers. The OIJ official said: “This motivated professionals and investors to travel to
Costa Rica, where they were met at the airport by the suspects and taken away in vehicles
belonging to the criminal organization.» The gang then threatened the victims with guns and
forced them to contact their families and pay up for their freedom.
9 April
Costa Rican authorities successfully blocked an artificial canal that Nicaragua opened in 2013 in
a disputed territory located near the mouth of the San Juan River. The canal was one of the
numerous sources of an ongoing border conflict between Costa Rica and Nicaragua that is being
scheduled for final hearings before the International Court of Justice next week. Costa Rican
Foreign Affairs Minister Manuel Gonzalez said the work to block the canal prevented major
environmental damage that would be virtually impossible to repair. It has been reported that
Nicaraguan military personnel observed the work from their country’s territory
El Salvador
27 April
Salvadorian authorities reported that some 400 gang members have been transferred from
prisons in northern to eastern El Salvador to one with higher security in Izalco, in order to cut
off communication with their gang and also prevent new waves of crimes. The prisoners who
have been transferred were considered the “most dangerous criminals” who will be in Izalco in
a “higher security regime”. Another 1,000 inmates were also relocated early this week in
different prison facilities.
26 April
As El Salvador prepares to celebrate the beatification of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the criminal
gangs including the Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 that terrorize the country have agreed to a
truce: as a gift to the martyr, they have promised to suspend killing military and police officers,
judges, politicians and the poor. Archbishop Romero, who was shot to death 1980, is considered
a national hero in El Salvador for his defense of human rights and the poor at the outset of the
bloody civil war. His beatification is expected to be one of the largest public events in the
country’s history. The country’s gangs have therefore vowed to desist from violence, extortions,
thefts, and other crimes during the beatification period.
24 April
As El Salvador suffered its bloodiest month in a decade in March because gang members armed
with high-calibre assault rifles repeatedly attacked police stations and army spots, President
Salvador Sanchez Ceren has created 4 new “rapid response” battalions, 1 for the police and 3 for
the army. Security expert Juan Ramon Medrano said that the country is now in a “defining
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moment” in its drawn-out fight against the ultra-violent gangs Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18.
He added: “the government has not given up on prevention and rehabilitation, (but) it is fighting
the gangs with intensifying repression, which has unleashed an escalation of violence.» The new
battalions will give the security forces more power but opposition leaders said it will have “no
effect on criminal networks, which are complex organizations that can not be easily dismantled.
Police officers reported that 4 people were killed in a shoot-out that erupted as gang members
attempted to hold up a bus on a highway in eastern El Salvador. A group of at least 5 assailants
boarded on the bus close to the city of Cojutepeque, threatening the passengers and brandishing
weapons. One of the passengers, a private security guard took out a revolver and shot dead 2 of
the assailants. 4 other people were wounded in the shoot-out that ensued, including the security
guard and another passenger who later died of wounds.
22 April
A recent elected substitute congressman has been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking.
Prosecutors allege that Jose German Iraheta Mendez was part of a racket ring that offered to get
people to the US in exchange for $7,500. He was elected on March 1 as a member of the Grand
Alliance for National Unity Party. He now stands to face prosecution because substitute
lawmakers do not enjoy parliamentary immunity. Another person was arrested, and a third one
is currently being searched by police forces.
19 April
Salvadorian authorities reported that at least 9 members of the Barrio 18 gang were killed in a
confrontation with the army, which has taken on a larger role in fighting violence in the country.
Prosecutors said the killings took place in Zacatecoluca, a city considered to be the country’s
third most violent city. A police officer said officials have begun an investigation to determine
the details of the encounter.
18 April
The United States is threatening El Salvador with financial repercussions for having supported
Venezuela’s campaign seeking the repeal of sanctions against the country. The leftist FMLN
government of Sanchez Ceren together with many countries of Latin America and the Caribbean,
called on the US to repeal the executive order that declared Venezuela to be a threat to its
national security. However, the threat against El Salvador appears to be the first case of the U.S.
trying to push its diplomatic weight around in order to force a country to take steps that would
better align with U.S.’ interests. Medardo Gonzalez, secretary general of the ruling FMLN,
criticized the statements made by the U.S. ambassador saying: “We have the right to back
Venezuela. We have expressed our solidarity and we maintain that the decree should be
repealed.»
17 April
Salvadorian authorities say they have transferred 31 gang members including 2 important
leaders from the highly violent Mara Salvatrucha gang, to the country’s maximum-security
prison. Rodil Hernandez prison director said that the gang members were moved from regular
prisons to the maximum-security prison where they will be completely isolated from the
outside world. He declared that reports indicated these gang members, from both Mara
Salvatrucha and Barrio 18 gangs, had ties to some recent attacks on state institutions.
14 April
Salvadorian President Sanchez Ceren announced that he is planning additional steps to counter
mounting street-gang related violence. El Salvador had more homicides in March than any other
single month in a decade. This frightening increase has been attributed to the collapse of a truce
between the Mara Salvatrucha and 18th Street gang. President Sanchez Ceren said he is
considering the creation of a special anti-gang task force, as well as putting more military
personnel on law enforcement-duty. Currently, about 7,000 soldiers participate in joint patrols
with police forces, as well as in prisons and border security.
12 April
Canadian Armed Forces say one of their ships helped to seize more than 600 kg of cocaine off El
Salvador. The Forces say HMCS Whitehorse helped the U.S. Coast Guard to intercept a vessel,
where they found 15 bales of cocaine floating on the water nearby. The vessel was allegedly
from El Salvador and the nationality of the crewmembers is yet to be defined. The Canadian
Armed Forces say they are part of an international operation to prevent drug trafficking in the
region. Their role is to locate, track and approach suspicious vessels.
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7 April
Last month in El Salvador, 481 people were murdered, making March the country’s most deadly
month in a decade as authorities struggle to cope with the collapse of the gang truce between
the Mara Salvatrucha and the Barrio 18. An average of 16 people were killed every day in March,
confirming the country’s place as one of the world’s most dangerous place outside a war zone.
The death toll was 52% higher than in the same period in 2014. A chief negotiator in the
previous government called Raul Mijango said that the blame is to be put on the recent transfer
of imprisoned gang leaders back to maximum-security jails. They had previously been
transferred to low-security prisons in order to favour the establishment of a truce between the
2 major gangs but proved to be failing as violence extremely escalated recently.
Guatemala
26 April
Amid the corruption scandal that rocked the government last week, thousands of Guatemalans
marched in Guatemala to demand the resignation of President Otto Perez and Vice President
Roxana Baldetti. Protesters gathered for the march, which they dubbed “Give up already”,
banging pans and blowing whistles as they marched to the National Palace waving the
Guatemalan flag. President Perez responded to reporters that he would not resign and also said
that the investigation was supported by state prosecutors, and that he is calling for peaceful
demonstrations.
22 April
Guatemala’s government is currently facing growing criticism, leaving Vice President Roxana
Baldetti particularly isolated, amid revelations of a far-reaching multimillion-dollar corruption
scandal at the heart of the ongoing administration. Last week, a joint operation involving several
different police corps led to the arrest of more than a dozen people. Arrested current and former
tax chiefs argued the scheme was led by Juan Carlos Monzon, private secretary to Baldetti. Ivan
Velsquez, CICIG Commissioner explained that the illicit scheme at SAT profited from contraband
and tax fraud at customs posts with the collaboration of senior and medium-ranking officials.
Through letting firms to underreport the amount of goods entering Guatemala and by charging
bribes, the ring allegedly waived taxes for approximately 200 incoming vessels between May
2014 and February 2015. The investigating task force identified Juan Carlos Monzon as a key
leader of the scheme. Baldetti has already denied any involvement in the corruption scandal and
also claimed to have no idea of Monzon’s whereabouts. When the police ordered his arrest,
Monzon was on a trip with Baldetti in South Korea. However, Monzon never returned to
Guatemala, and now is being sought by Interpol.
17 April
Guatemala’s current and former tax chiefs were detained along with more than 12 other people
in a crackdown on a ring that defrauded the state through bribery and theft and that was led by
a top aid to the Vice President. Prosecutors alleged that workers at the Taw Authority accepted
bribes in exchange for charging businesses and individuals less than the legal tariffs on imports.
Prosecutor Oscar Schaad said: “This was a criminal structure that defrauded the national
treasury through the customs system.» The government had no immediate comment. Working
in tandem with a United Nations commission against impunity in Guatemala, agents raided
offices and homes and took at least 20 people into custody, including Tax Authority director
Omar Franco and Carlos Munos, the agency’s former boss.
11 April
Guatemalan authorities reported that a 25-year-old Guatemalan citizen suspected of leading a
fraudulent document ring was arrested following a multi-agency investigation between
Guatemalan authorities and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security
Investigations Attaché Office in Guatemala. Gilder Gustavo Garcia Cuyuch was captured
following the execution of 4 search warrants in 3 residences and one travel agency. Cuyuch
allegedly operated his document fraud business out of a travel agency in the city of
Quetzaltenango. During the execution of the warrant, law enforcement officers discovered and
seized about 400 fraudulent Guatemalan passports, along with the computer equipment and the
printing allegedly used to manufacture the documents. Cuyuch is pending prosecution in
Guatemala and will face up to 10 years imprisonment.
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Honduras
25 April
Honduran Supreme Court voided an article in the constitution, limiting presidents to a single
term, the issue at the heart of the political conflict that led to the ouster of socialist President
Manuel Zelaya 6 years ago when he sought to hold a referendum on rewriting the constitution.
The push was made by the governing National Party to make the change, which would allow
President Juan Orlando Hernandez to seek a second term, has drawn widespread criticism from
the opposition, which notes the same politicians behind it were involved in the 2009 against
Zelaya. Opposition members decried the change saying that: “the ruling opens the way to a
dictatorship that would permit Hernandez to stay in power.”
18 April
Honduras’ Congress has passed a law offering special protection to journalists, human rights
activists and judicial workers operating in Honduras, a country with the world’s highest murder
rate. 128 deputies unanimously approved the measure across 7 parties. President Hernandez
must sign the law for it to go into force. The law would establish a panel under the ministry of
justice and human rights to investigate threats against journalists, rights activists and judicial
workers. Then it would decide on appropriate steps to be taken to protect the people at risk,
even arranging to send them out of the country if necessary.
11 April
Authorities in Honduras say prominent father and son lawyers who had held a variety of
political positions have been murdered in the city of San Pedro Sula. Chief prosecutor Rene Diaz
said a special unit would investigate the killings of Jose Eduardo Gauggel and his son, Jose
Eduardo Gauggel Medina. Police forces said that 4 unidentified gunmen attacked the pair at their
home, adding that evidence indicates they had just withdrawn money to pay their employees so
robbery could have been the motive. The elder Gauggel was former president of the Nicaraguabased Central American Court of Justice and had been a justice on Honduras’ supreme court.
8 April
While some Latin American leaders are currently calling on the U.S. government to close their
bases in the region, Honduran military authorities announced that about 300 US marines will
be based at the Soto Cano Air Base as part of a “Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force”.
The Pentagon said the Marines will be in the country to help train Honduran and other military
forces to carry out humanitarian assistance missions and anti-drug operations. This US help
coincides with the opening of the Central American Regional Security Conference that gathers
military intelligence and anti-drug representatives from 14 different nations. The Pentagon
considers the Soto Cano air base as critical for its presence in Central America, the only US
military base in the region.
6 April
Honduran authorities reported that they detained 43 Cuban nationals and 3 Ecuadorians who
allegedly tried to travel to the United States illegally. The illegal immigrants were traveling in a
bus that was intercepted in a routine operation by police forces in the south of the capital
Tegucigalpa. All of them were taken to the National Institute for Immigration that will decide
the temporal status that will be granted to them.
5 April
Taiwan announced it will donate 3 helicopters to its diplomatic ally Honduras in the coming
days in order to bolster the latter’s crime fighting capabilities. Antonio Yeh, counsellor to the
ministry’s Department of Latin American and Caribbean Affaires said the 3 decommissioned
UH-1H helicopters have already arrived in Honduras. A donation ceremony will be held to
officially transfer these choppers to the ally. This donation will be made for humanitarian
purposes to help Honduran security forces to fight drug trafficking organizations.
Uruguay
21 April
Uruguay has offered to give Venezuela food in exchange for oil, after Vice President Raul Sendic
met in Montevideo with his Venezuelan counterpart Jorge Arreaza. Sendic explained that
Uruguay has to “establish permanent flow of trade and exports with Venezuela, because there’s
little availability of money in this country.” As a result, Montevideo will offer exports of dairy
products, rice and chicken in exchange for Venezuelan petroleum. According to official sources
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of information, both vice presidents agreed to apply a “program of commercial and energy
issues to advance in bilateral negotiations.”
12 April
Uruguayan police forces reported that 3 police officers were arrested and jailed for allegedly
conducting extortion activities. The police officers belonged to the jurisdiction of El Pinar
located in the province of Canelones. A woman presented a denunciation against those 3 police
officers saying that 4 unknown men arrived at her home demanding the payment of US$ 10,000.
They told the victim that if she did not pay the amount demanded in 2 hours she would be
charged with conducting drug activities. The fourth person had not been identified yet but is
believed to belong to a criminal organization.
Mexico
29 April
Mexican police forces reported that 2 underground tunnels drug beneath the California-Mexico
border have been discovered in a 2-day period. The first one was found near Calexico across
from Mexicali. The second one was an incomplete passageway discovered in the Tijuana River
Valley across from Tijuana’s Avenida Internacional. The Mexicali-Calexico tunnel measured 230
feet in length, was about 4 feet high and 4 feet wide, and even had lighting and ventilation. The
passageway led from a residence in Mexicali and was discovered by members of the patrol’s
Border Search Trauma and Rescue Unit. The group had been searching the area after agents had
intercepted 4 men trying to cross the canal with 25 vacuum-sealed packages containing 69
pounds of methamphetamine with a street value worth $694,000.
26 April
Mexican authorities reported that 4 police officers were injured when clashes broke out as 200
masked protesters tried to enter the University of Science and Arts of Chiapas located in Tuxtla
Gutierrez, Chiapas. Activists blocked the road leading to the building with 2 public buses. When
they failed to storm the property, the protesters then reportedly proceeded to throw petrol
bombs and fireworks, as well as purportedly attacking the general public. Shortly after,
approximately 400 protesters attacked the Normal School of Physical Education and the CocaCola Company building, where they allegedly stole goods. The Attorney General of the State
declared that those responsible will appear in court, as criminal investigations are underway. It
is not the first time that Coca-Cola infrastructures have been under attack, and the company
declared it was thinking about closing some of its buildings because of the threats and attacks it
suffered from recently. Therefore, it is likely that Coca-Cola will take measures following this
new attack.
25 April
Mexico’s Congress approved a reform that allows some foreign agents to carry arms inside the
country, a significant change in a country that has historically said the practice would violate its
sovereignty. Under this new law, foreign customs and migration agents will be allowed to carry
guns in previously established zones. Additionally, foreign leaders and heads of state will be
able to enter Mexico with armed security details. The permits will be limited to revolvers or
semi-automatic pistols with a calibre less than 40 and will be granted by Mexico’s national
defense department. However, the initiative demands reciprocity, which implies that the foreign
government would also allow Mexican agents to carry guns in its territory.
24 April
Mexican marines arrested 9 suspected members of a criminal organization over a wave of
violence that has deeply disturbed the state of Tamaulipas and that left one police officer dead.
These latest detainees are associates of 4 other suspects captured Wednesday, including the
head of the crime gang. Alleged members of the same unidentified gang responded to the arrests
by mounting roadblocks, burning vehicles and carrying out armed attacks against state and
federal forces. The 9 arrests were made at the Flores Magon Ejido, which is a peasant community
in Tamaulipas, when the suspects tried to flee after detecting the marine’s presence. Marine
officers also seized 24 rifles, 5 handguns, 2 grenade launchers, 5 grenades, 58 ammunition clips,
a Claymore mine with an M57 firing device, and rounds of ammunition of different calibres.
23 April
Drug related violence in Mexico’s Tamaulipas state flared up for the second time in a week, with
gun battles and arson attacks erupting in the streets after police captured 4 alleged drug cartel
members. The detainees, whose identities have not been released, are from the Gulf Cartel, one
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the country’s oldest drug trafficking organization, also known for immigrant trafficking and
kidnappings. A state official said: “We had blockades in the town of Altamira. They [organized
crime groups] are trying to intimidate the government.» The official also added that it is not yet
clear whether the 2 people killed during this last attack were trying to rescue the detainees or
were just caught in the crossfire.
Mexico’s Congress has approved an anti-corruption law that could help relieve pressure on
President Peña Nieto’s scandal-plagued government. The law will strengthen oversight of public
officials and also designates a special prosecutor to tackle corruption. It comes after numerous
previous efforts to pass anti-graft measures failed. The new reform will also give new powers
to Mexico’s existing Federal Audit Office and the Public Administration Ministry as well as
creating a special court to oversee all corruption-related issues.
20 April
Mexican authorities announced they have captured a leader of the Juarez Cartel wanted by the
U.S. government who took the helm after the cartel’s long-time chief was nabbed last year. Jesus
Aguayo, the alleged Juarez cartel leader, was detained by Federal troops in Villa Ahumada in the
state of Chihuahua. Aguayo alias “El Chuyin” provided the explosives for the July 2010
detonation of a car bomb, which killed 2 police officers, a paramedic and a doctor. He assumed
command of the cartel following the capture of former Juarez cartel chief Vicente Carrillo.
Mexico has sought his arrest for murder, kidnapping, drug trafficking and gasoline theft.
18 April
A cartel attacked Mexican security forces in reaction to a kingpin’s arrest in a city near the U.S.
border, unleashing gunfights that killed at least 3 gunmen and wounded 2 police officers. The
gang torched several vehicles including a school bus, and used trucks and cars in order to block
streets in Reynosa, sowing panic in the city. The firefights began after a leader of the Gulf cartel
was arrested in the city. His arrest dealt a new blow to the cartel that resulted in this violence
break out.
16 April
Mexican authorities appealed for help among Mexico’s population to locate stolen radioactive
material. The Interior Ministry issued an alert in 5 southern and eastern states after a toolboxsized container carrying the Iridium-192 source was snatched from a truck in a residential
parking lot in the city of Cardenas, Tabasco state. Police officers suspect that, like in other cases,
the thieves were not aware that they were steeling a potentially deadly radioactive source.
15 April
Mexico’s Gulf coast state of Tabasco reported the set up of an emergency plan to supply drinking
water to the capital of Villahermosa after oil thieves punctured a pipeline that resulted in the
contamination of rivers that normally supply the city. The spill occurred last week and forced
the scrambling state-owned oil company to send workers in order to limit damages, and 4 of
Villahermosa’s water treatment plants were shut down as a precaution. The Tabasco state
announced that it will temporarily supply water using 13 tanker trucks. Pemex’ workers set out
containment booms and were trying to scoop oil off the waterways.
13 April
A major figure belonging to the Sinaloa drug cartel responsible for large supplies of cocaine was
captured in Cancun. Kingpin Cesar Gastelum Serrano is a prominent leader in the Sinaloa cartel
as he handled operations from Central American countries into Mexico. Monte Alejandro
Rubido, Mexican National Security Commissioner announced the kingpin’s arrest in the popular
Mexican resort town of Cancun. He said that Gastelum Serrano was caught with a pistol and a
package of cocaine. He was also known for operating in Honduras and had been connected to
police killings there. His arrest comes weeks after the capture of two major drug kingpins of the
Zetas Cartel, Ramiro Perez Ramos and Omar Treviño Morales. The apparent crackdown on
several drug cartel members has been defined as an intent from the government to decrease the
national outrage following the gang-related disappearance of the 43-student teachers last
September in Guerrero.
12 April
Mexican authorities may be one step closer to apprehending the people believed to be
responsible for abducting and killing 43 college students in the state of Guerrero last September.
Mexican federal authorities have arrested Miguel Angel Landa Bahena, who has been described
as an associate of Gildardo Lopez Astudillo, the gang leader who allegedly ordered the students
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abducted, murdered and then incinerated. He was apprehended in Mexico City after 4 suspects
who were first arrested in October and November, identified him as an accomplice of Astudillo’s.
More than 100 people, including former mayor of Iguala Jose Luis Abarca and his wife Maria de
los Angeles Pineda, and members of both the local police and Guerreros Unidos cartel have been
arrested since the beginning of the investigation.
Another Roman Catholic priest was found dead in Mexico, leading to increased protests over
violence in the country. Father Francisco Javier Gutierrez Diaz was robbed and shot in the head.
His body was found on a road in Guanajuato state. The priest was allegedly attacked after leaving
his parish. Authorities say his wallet, money and cell phone were missing. Diaz is the tenth priest
killed in Mexico in the 2 past years. There have also been drive-by shootings targeting priests,
threats of violence and other terrorising acts for condemning the rampant violence in Guerrero
state.
10 April
North Korea announced that Mexico has “forcibly detained” one of its ships months after it ran
aground off the country’s Gulf coast last year, and Pyongyang is blaming the U.S. for preventing
the ship’s release. However, the head of the U.N. panel of experts said the ship, the Mu Du Bong,
is owned by a North Korean company that is under U.N. sanctions and that should be “frozen”,
also adding that the panel had received excellent cooperation from Mexico in tracking the
company and its assets. The company was previously sanctioned after Panamanian authorities
found 2 Cuban fighter jets, live munitions and missiles beneath a cargo of sugar in another ship
the company operated. North Korea’s deputy permanent representative to the U.N. declared
that his country will take unspecified “necessary measures to make the ship leave immediately.”
9 April
Several armed robbers have looted about $8.5 million worth gold from a Canadian mining
company in Mexico. The robbers escaped with an estimated 900 kg of gold-bearing concentrate
from McEwen Mining Inc.’s refinery called El Gallo 1 mine located in Sinaloa. McEwen said it is
insured, but that its policy won’t cover the full loss. No one was hurt and no significant damage
to operations were reported either. The company said: “The crime is being vigorously
investigated by the Mexican authorities.»
8 April
Fifteen state police officers were killed in an ambush by suspected cartel members in the Jalisco
State, the second major attack on security forces in less than a month. The Attorney General’s
Office of Jalisco state said 15 police officers were killed and 5 were injured in the ambush at
Soyatan in the municipality of San Sebastian del Oeste, close to the beach resort of Puerto
Vallarta. A Jalisco official said suspected cartel members may have died in the incident too but
no details were given.
6 April
A senior police officer was gunned down in front of a bus station in the city of Acapulco. The
police commander was shot dead in his personal car while passing the station that is a hub for
bus lines used by tourists in order to get from the capital to Acapulco. The officer’s son, who was
with him during the attack, was unhurt. The local governor condemned the killing and asked
state attorneys to mount a rapid investigation in order to find the gunmen.
5 April
Mexico’s Federal Police forces arrested the suspected leader of a criminal gang linked to dozens
of kidnappings and an extortion racket in the southwestern Tierra Caliente region. Nicolás
Trujillo, a regional head of the Knights Templar cartel, is suspected of overseeing abduction
operations that resulted in more than 100 people being held in makeshifts camps. The capture
occurred in the context of a Federal Police special operation in Tierra Caliente. The organizedcrime division of Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office called Seido also participated in the
operation. Trujillo was arrested in the state of Hidalgo without any shots fired.
2 April
At least 4 people died after a fire broke out on a Pemex oil-processing platform located in the
Gulf of Mexico, also leading to the evacuation of more than 300 workers. The fire, which burned
throughout the day, erupted overnight on the Abkatun Permanente platform in the Bay of
Campeche. 45 people were treated for injuries and 16 of them were taken to hospital. The fire
broke out in the dehydration and pumping area of the platform, and it is not yet clear what
caused it.
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1 April
Mexican authorities reported that a clash between 2 vigilante “self-defence” groups in the state
of Guerrero killed at least 4 people and dozens more were taken prisoners by each side. Over
the last 2 years self-defence groups have brought some peace to the rural area between city of
Chilpancingo and the resort of Acapulco. But rivalries have formed between the oldest and
largest vigilante group, known as UPOEG, and a smaller one that was initially formed in the town
of Tierra Colorada. UPOEG leader Bruno Placido said that one of his group’s patrols was
attacked, leaving 4 UPOEG vigilantes dead and 10 wounded. He added that UPOEG had captured
32 members of the rival group FUSDEG, and was willing to release them in return for 40 UPOEG
members detained by the rivals. It appears that the 2 groups are negotiating a mutual exchange
of prisoners.
Nicaragua
24 April
In a joint operation gathering Nicaraguan and Honduran police forces, 2 illegal landing strips
were destroyed which were located in the border between the 2 countries, 121 people including
gang members and illegal immigrants were detained, and 860 kilos of drug were also seized.
The joint operation called Morazan-Sandino has succeeded bringing more stability in the
regions bordering the 2 countries.
20 April
A legal team representing the Nicaragua government concluded a first round of hearings at the
International Court of Justice by arguing that no evidence exist to show dredging on the San Juan
River had caused environmental damage in the border area, as Costa Rica’s attorneys claimed
earlier this week. Closing argument by Nicaraguan attorney Paul Reichler downplayed Costa
Rica’s accusations of damage in the long disputed territory. He then added that Costa Rica failed
to present valid evidence to demonstrate dredging work on the river caused damage to its
territory. More developments are to be waited in the next few weeks.
13 April
Nicaragua is known for producing high-quality coffee, but a disease called “coffee leaf rust” has
destroyed much of the country’s crops, raising important concerns of labour displacement,
increased poverty and even threats of famine. Nicaragua’s coffee business employs about onethird of the country’s population. Hence the outbreak of this disease is having dire consequences
on many of their lives. Some farmers have been gathering in peaceful demonstrations to ask the
government to address this issue and secure their jobs and living standards.
Panama
19 April
A shotgun-wielding man was shot dead by police on Beck Avenue after refusing commands to
drop the weapon and instead engaging officers. The identity of the man was not released, nor
was the name of the officer or officers involved in the shooting. There were no reports of officer
injuries. A police officer declared that police responded to a report a white man carrying a “long
gun” in Beck Avenue at around 5:30 a.m. Police officer found the suspect and after numerous
commands to put down the gun the suspect engaged officers and they returned fire.
13 April
As the Summit of the Americas closed, it was defined a turning point because of the historic
gathering between President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro. Generations of distrust
between the U.S. and Cuba could begin to fade away as their presidents met face to face for the
first time since the height of the Cold War. This gathering offered both presidents the chance to
infuse fresh momentum into their current efforts to restore normal relations between their
countries. As a result of this meeting, there are growing speculations that President Obama
would announce his decision to remove Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism,
but no official move has been made yet.
4 April
Panamanian authorities declared that they are banning drones from national airspace
immediately before, during and after the upcoming Summit of the Americas. Rafael Fonseca
Mora, Civil Aeronautics director said the ban will be in effect April 5 to 13. He added that the
prohibition was instituted for security reasons and it would also prevent problems for incoming
and outgoing flights carrying leaders who will attend the gathering.
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South America
Argentina
21 April
The UK government accuses Argentina of bullying the Falklands after Argentina announced that
it was starting legal action against companies drilling for oil and gas near the Falkland Islands.
In total, 3 British firms, Rockhopper Exploration, Premier Oil and Falkland Oil and Gas are
reported to be among the 5 firms targeted by the action. The other 2 are from the U.S., Edison
International and Noble Energy. Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: “It is an
outrageous piece of bullying and threatening against the Falkland Islanders’ perfect right to
develop their own economic resources and Argentina needs to stop this kind of behaviour and
start acting like a responsible member of the International community.”
19 April
The Argentine government has begun legal proceedings against 3 British and 2 US companies
for drilling oil near the Falkland Islands. Argentina’s minister of the Islands, Daniel Filmus
announced the case in London. He said that the companies were: “performing illegal acts by
entering Argentine territory.” He then added: “I want to make it clear for the directors of these
companies and for British public opinion that Argentina will use the full force of the law – both
national and international law – to prevent these countries from taking the riches which belong
to 40 million Argentine citizens. Argentina has extradition treaties around the world and we
intend to use them. The area being drilled is as much ours as the centre of Buenos Aires. Neither
the UK nor any other country would allow anyone to enter their territory and take away their
riches.”
15 April
Four Paraguayan nationals were found dead in a Mercedes in a slum known as 1-11-14 located
in Bajo Flores, a southern area in Buenos Aires and an alleged drug hub in the capital. The
victims, three siblings and a friend, all between the ages of 19 and 30, were shot at least 34 times,
and each received a direct gunshot to the head. Two of the victims reportedly had criminal
records linked to the drug trade, which made police officers believe that the massacre was
linked to a drug-related dispute. Last month a report by Argentine NGO La Alameda said there
were at least 10 cocaine production laboratories in Bajo Flores. The shooting highlighted recent
comments over the evolution of the drug trade in Argentina such as a U.S. State Department
report last March saying cocaine production within Argentina was growing, echoing similar
remarks from Argentina’s Defense Minister last February.
14 April
As tensions between the Argentine and the British government have been escalating lately
because of the Falkland Islands issues and notably the diplomatic spat over drilling, oil explorers
in the Falklands have been forced to delay drilling work due to falling petroleum prices. Londonlisted driller Falklands Oil and Gas reported that it and its partners had shelved plans to drill a
second well. Earlier this month, FOGL and its partners, Rockhopper and Premier Oil, said the
Zebedee exploration well was “better than expected” in the Falklands basin. The explorers found
an oil reservoir 25 metres thick and a gas deposit 17.5m thick sandwiched between sands. The
oil find has prompted an aggressive response by the Argentine government. President Kirchner
said that FOGL and its partners had no right to be drilling in the area and that they risked legal
action if they persisted. Argentina continues to pursue its claims to the Falkland Islands. The
Falkland Islands are thought to hold billions of barrels of undiscovered oil and the region is
home to rich fishing ground as well. It is highly likely that such tensions will continue to escalate
over the next few weeks.
8 April
Argentina’s central bank has sent regulators to inspect Citibank’s headquarters after the leader
of the branch was suspended because of a legal battle over Argentina’s debt. Government
officials said that regulators were working to verify whether the bank was able to maintain
normal operations following CEO Gabreil Ribisich’s suspension. This dispute represents the
latest fallout from a long-standing legal battle between Argentina and a group of U.S. creditors
that refused to accept debt swaps in 2005 and 2010. New York District Judge Thomas Griesa
said: “Argentina can not pay its restructured debt without paying the holdout funds. Citibank
has been processing bond payments for the restructured debt.”
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1 April
After unions waged a nationwide strike to protest income tax rates and high inflation, the streets
of the country were empty. Many domestic and international flights were cancelled and trains,
subways and buses were not operating either. Unions represent 30 to 40% of the country’s 11
million registered workers but they have long been influential in the country. The unions argue
that their wage gains in the last few years have been weakened by high taxes and inflation.
Bolivia
26 April
Bolivian authorities in Malaga reported that as part of the operation “Triple Iron”, 654 kg of
cocaine have been seized, it was valued at 48 million dollars. The merchandise was going to be
transported via Chile to Malaga in Spain. Authorities did not provide additional details about to
whom the drug belonged or if the culprits were arrested during the operation.
21 April
A Chinese man was shot dead outside his restaurant in the city of Santa Cruz. Luping Lin, who
owned a restaurant in Santa Cruz was shot by 2 suspected gunmen, who also wounded a passerby before escaping on a motorcycle. Police officers declared that a gang had been trying to extort
money from the businessman, whose son was abducted and later released by the criminal
organization. Police forces started an investigation and are searching for the 2 suspected
gunmen.
15 April
Melanie Torrica, the director of the state institution combating human trafficking said the
Bolivian government will deliver a bill to Congress seeking to regulate internet access. She said:
“To avoid human trafficking we are drafting a bill to regulate access to Internet. Among its goals
is to regulate the operations of so-called Internet cafes, which are one of the places used to
commit crimes without being detected.» The new bill would require Internet cafes to have
different rooms for minors and adults. They would also have to install surveillance cameras to
identify users and software in order to prevent minors from visiting pornographic or damaging
websites. Torrico also explained that through cybernetic patrolling, the government will be able
to monitor social-media groups and accounts linked to human trafficking. Moreover, the bill will
grant the government authority to intercept emails defined as suspicious.
9 April
Bolivian authorities reported that 2 Ghanaians have been taken into custody for allegedly aiding
a Bolivian narcotic syndicate to smuggle about 6 kg of cocaine from Bolivia to Burkina Faso. The
suspects were presented before an Accra High Court. According to the prosecution, the two
suspects were arrested after the Bolivian police forces gave a tip-off to the Ghana police
following the arrest of the syndicate in Bolivia some weeks ago.
1 April
Bolivian government announced that with Argentina they have signed a cooperation agreement
to develop and promote infrastructure and institutions for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
The agreement was signed by the head of the Bolivian Ministry Luis Alberto Sanchez, and
Argentina’s minister for federal planning, Julio de Vido. This agreement will “strengthen the
scientific, technical and financial support in national nuclear programs under the framework of
Bolivia's national legislation and its international obligations.» Hence, Argentina’s support will
consist in the design, construction and operation of nuclear power plants and research reactors,
as well as radioactive waste management.
Bolivian President Morales fired Minister of Defense Jorge Ledezma for wearing a jacket with
provocative slogan while delivering humanitarian aid to Chile. Minister Ledzema was wearing
clothing with the slogan “The sea is Bolivia’s”, referring to a long-lasting territorial dispute
between Chile and Bolivia over access to the Pacific Ocean, during an aid delivery operation to
victims of recent heavy rains in Chile. President Morales reacted by saying: “I apologize to the
Government of Chile. We have never thought to use and have never used humanitarian and
health-related issues for electoral and political purposes, or personal interests.» President
Morales then appointed Reymi Ferreira, representative of the ruling Movement for Socialism,
as new Defense Minister.
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Brazil
30 April
Police unleashed waves of rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades on striking teachers in a
southern Brazilian city, leaving over 150 people wounded. Police forces said their action was
initiated after a few of the demonstrators attempted to gain access to a state congressional
building where legislators voted to make cuts to teacher’s pension plans, but the authorities’
action was widely criticized as heavy handed. Water canons were also used to know
demonstrators back. The state security secretariat said about 20 policemen were hurt.
20 April
Brazilian authorities reported that 8 men were killed by armed gunmen on Saturday at a soccer
fan club in Sao Paulo. Witnesses told police forces that 3 gunmen stormed the Pavilhao Nove, a
fan club for the Corinthians soccer team, around 12:00 p.m. and attacked the club. The attackers
reportedly ordered 7 fans to lie down before shooting them, while the 8 th man was shot as he
fled. The victims were having a barbecue and were making banners in support for their team at
the time of the attack. A police detective said the incident was no a fight between rival soccer
fan groups, but did not provide any detail on a possible motive for the attack. He added:
“Through witnesses, we are already exploring a line of investigation, which is not leading us to
believe it was caused by fan rivalry. We even have possible suspects.” Police believe the incident
is rather related to a turf war between rival drug dealers.
16 April
Brazilian police forces arrested the treasurer of the ruling Worker’s Party Joao Vaccari, moving
an investigation of rampant corruption at Petrobras closer to President Rousseff’s inner circle.
Federal police declared they arrested Vaccari in his home in Sao Paulo and drove him to the city
of Curitiba. There, he will stand trial for alleged political kickbacks, graft and money laundering.
Vaccari’s arrest could bring the investigation closer to the president if the money allegedly
coming from the oil firm, is found to have helped finance her 2010 or 2014 election campaign.
15 April
Opponents of the current Brazilian government have asked the army to stage an intervention,
but the military has ignored those requests, said Brazilian Defense Minister Jacques Wagner. He
added that those who called for a military coup represented a minority of people who were
protesting against the government. The request for a coup came as anti-government protests
entered their second month, with approximately 275,000 marching in Sao Paulo, and 700,000
in total across the country last week.
13 April
Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians have been taking part in anti-government demonstrations
across the country, sparked by anger over a massive corruption scandal at the state-run oil
company Petrobras. Protesters were demanding again the removal of President Dilma Rousseff,
whose party has been accused of involvement in large-scale money laundering as well as bribery
at the company. Recently, the number of violent demonstrations has deeply escalated, resulting
in repetitive clashes with police forces using tear gas and rubber bullets against protesters.
Despite the measures already taken by President Rousseff’s party in order to tackle corruption,
it has not succeeded in calming down the anger over the Brazilian population. Therefore, it is
highly likely that such demonstrations will continue to take place over the coming weeks.
11 April
Brazilian police officers arrested 3 former congressmen, broadening their corruption
investigation beyond state-run oil firm Petrobras to state lender Caixa Economica Federal as
well as the federal health ministry. A federal judge in the city of Curitiba ordered the arrest of
former congressman for the ruling Worker’s Party André Vargas, as well as former lawmakers
for the opposition Party of Solidarity Liuz Argolo and Pedro Correa. They are the first politicians
arrested in the year-old probe that discovered construction companies had received bribes from
Petrobras. They are facing charges of corruption and money laundering. Prosecutor Carlos
Fernando dos Santos Lima said that the investigation is only beginning and that other Petrobras
departments, like communications would be investigated.
8 April
President Rousseff designated Vice President Michel Temer as her lead political negotiator with
Congress as she is seeking to rebuild a fractured coalition and also keep her administration’s
economic stability plan on track. Temer will take over the responsibilities of the dismantled
Institutional Relations Office. Senator Romero Juca from the PMDB, Temer’s party said: “The
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political crisis is bigger than the economic crisis. There won’t be an economic adjustment
without political equilibrium.”
5 April
Several hundreds of people marched through the streets of one of Rio de Janeiro’s largest
complex of slums in a quite peaceful demonstration demanding an end to the recent violence
that affected the area. During the demonstration, protesters carried banners reading: “less
bullets, more love”. Community leaders said the march came after residents briefly clashed with
police officers at the end of a rally held to protest the shooting death of a boy during a police
operation against suspected drug traffickers.
Chile
27 April
Chilean authorities are downgrading the likelihood of another big eruption form the Calbuco
volcano, although the mountain remains active and the ash clouds it already ejected have caused
cancelations of more airline flights. Rodrigo Alvarez, the head of the National Mining and
Geology Service says Calbuco’s seismic activity has changed. He added that the volcano will
remain active for a while longer but a third eruption is no longer expected.
23 April
Chile’s volcano named Calbuco produced an impressive explosive eruption that towered over
the city of Puerto Montt. The volcano had not erupted since 1972. The plume may have reached
as high as 20 km above the sea level. The Chilean Emergency Management Agency and the
Chilean Geological Survey have declared a 20km exclusion zone around the volcano as the
volcano was raised to red alert status. So far, 1500 people have been evacuated. This eruption
was unexpected as the volcano was on green alert until it erupted. Other explosions could occur,
this is the reason why local population has been evacuated.
17 April
Thousands of students gathered in a demonstration through the streets of Santiago to protest
recent corruption scandals and to complain about delays in a promised education overhaul.
Police forces reported that about 20,000 people took part, while student organizers claimed
they were about 150,000. The gathering was peaceful at the beginning, but then violence broke
out when small bands of hooded protesters threw rocks and gasoline bombs at police forces.
Authorities said 7 police officers were injured and 134 protesters were taken into custody.
12 April
Chilean government has introduced regulations making it the first country in Latin America to
officially allow drone flights. The measure regulates both the private and public use of drones,
remote-controlled aircraft whose use has skyrocketed in recent years ranging from delivering
mail to military airstrikes. Maximiliano Larraechea, the head of Chile’s civil aviation said:
“Drones are aircraft that were operating outside the law. With these rules, unique in Latin
America, their use will be regulated.» Under the regulations, drone operators are required to
obtain a license and register their drone with the civil aviation authority. Those violating the
rules set up by the new regulations could face fines of up to US$ 36,000.
11 April
Spanish police forces have broken up an alleged extortion ring run on mobile phones by 4
prisoners from a jail located in the Chilean capital, Santiago. Police forces said the prisoners had
called random numbers in Spain and terrorised people by telling them they had kidnapped their
family members. Police said they had received more than 160 complaints and that about 10%
of those called had paid up to see the release of their relatives. The gang had relied on preventing
the targeted caller from hanging up the phone and on creating high levels of panic so that they
would give in quickly and pay up. Police officers say they believe the prisoners were helped by
relatives and neighbours outside the prison to arrange the money transfers.
5 April
Rainstorms, which deluged northern Chile, have claimed up to 25 people and could increase
further with another 101 missing people. Floods broke out last week across the Atacama region,
submerging entire towns and leaving thousands of people homeless. Mudslides that were
triggered by melting Andean snow destroyed buildings and wiped out roads. According to the
National Emergency Office, about 2700 victims of the flooding are being housed in emergency
accommodations and more than 30,000 people have been affected. The government has sent
aid workers in order to restore essential services and provide hundreds of tons of food, health
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products and hygiene. However, health officials have warned that there is a high risk of
outbreaks of gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases because of the mud and lack of drinking
water.
Colombia
30 April
Colombia’s deputy health minister announced that he expects the government to adopt the
ministry’s recommendation to suspend the aerial spraying program for glyphosate, a powerful
herbicide used to eliminate illicit crops. Spraying of glyphosate has been one of the tools
employed by the Colombian government to combat the planting of coca. However, it was proven
that it poses a risk because of the herbicide’s potentially cancer-causing components, a situation
that led the Health Ministry to recommend the government that its use to eradicate illicit crops
be discontinued.
22 April
Colombian government announced it has authorized the Chinese vessel to set sail after it was
caught carrying 100 tonnes of explosives to Cuba illegally, though it continues to hold the
vessel’s captain pending a criminal investigation. The ship was detained on February 28 in the
city of Cartagena after investigators found more than 2,6 million detonators, 99 projectile heads
and around 3,000 cannon shells on board. The documentation presented by the crew of the
vessel said it was carrying only grains. A judge authorized the vessel to depart after 2 months
because Colombian authorities do not have the logistical capacity to unload, store or destroy the
weaponry found aboard. China’s Foreign Ministry replied by saying that the ship was
transporting regular military supplies to Cuba as part of its military and trade cooperation with
Cuba and thus, that it had not violated any international norms.
Authorities reported the arrest of 298 people in a nationwide operation against child sex
offenders. More than 1,180 arrest warrants were issued for the April 20-21 operation and 298
people have been detained so far. This operation was launched by police forces as more than
11,729 reports of such crimes have been received since the beginning of the year.
21 April
Colombia’s FARC rebels pledged to maintain their unilateral cease-fire despite a rebel attack last
week that killed 11 government soldiers, affirming peace talks with the government should not
be broken for any reason. President Santos’ administration responded by reaffirming that it,
too, was committed to the peace process, but it also blamed the FARC for the renewed violence
and added that rebels had lost credibility. FARC members called last week’s combat a legitimate
case of self-defence against encroaching government troops and then proposed that unspecified
observers investigate to determine who was at fault. A rebel commander said: “We have
resolved to declare a unilateral cease-fire to hostilities for an open-ended period that should be
developed into an armistice.» However, President Santos’ chief negotiator, Humberto de la Calle,
launched an animated critique of the FARC rebels, accusing them of violating their word on the
cease-fire and repeating Santos’ claim that Colombians’ patience with them was wearing thin.
He said: “The greatest damage has been to the FARC's credibility. A cease-fire of this type must
be serious, it must be verifiable and it has to be agreed at the table as part of the general
agreement.”
20 April
Colombian authorities reported that 2 suspected FARC members have been killed in central
Colombia, just days after President Santos lifted a suspension of air strikes on the rebels. Juan
Carlos Pinzon, Defense Minister said the 2 suspected FARC members died in an operation to
destroy an explosives factory in the Vistahermosa region.
The suspected leader of a gang that smuggled cocaine into Panama and several other Central
American countries using speedboats and small fishing boats has been arrested. Euripides
Cooper Sanchez was captured on a highway in Meta after 2 months of “intense tracking and
surveillance” by the navy and the Attorney General’s Office. Cooper Sanchez had smuggled more
than 6 tons of cocaine last year out of northern Colombia. The drugs supplied by the suspect to
the international market had a street value of more than $160 million. The investigation also led
to the seizure of more than 2 tons of cocaine chlorohydrate, the arrest of more than 10 members
of his network and the confiscation of several speedboats used to smuggle the drug.
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18 April
President Santos delivered a sharp rebuke to FARC rebels, calling on its leaders to set up a
deadline to reach a peace deal following this week’s slaughter of 11 soldiers while they were
sleeping. President Santos did not propose any cut-off date to conclude peace talks but he
warned the guerrillas that the country’s patience is wearing thin. He added: “Don't be deaf to us
Colombians who are clamouring that the time to end the war has come. Time limits to
negotiations need to be put in place.»
16 April
Colombia has lifted the suspension of its bombing campaign against FARC rebels, following the
death of at least 10 soldiers in a clash with FARC members. The military launched a strike
against what they call a strategic FARC rebel position. The Colombian government declared a
temporary halt of strikes in March. President Santos said: “I have ordered the armed forces to
lift the suspension of air strikes on FARC positions until further notice.» The government says
that 17 soldiers were also wounded, 4 of them seriously, in the attack in the western province
of Cauca. The attack occurred when an army platoon sleeping in a covered sports pavilion was
surprised by FARC members firing homemade explosives and grenades. FARC leaders
responded by demanding the government to initiate its own cease-fire and urging President
Santos to avoid any “ill-considered actions that could jeopardize the progress of the peace talks.”
They added that the incident resulted from the “permanent offensive by government troops
against our units.”
14 April
Colombia’s Attorney General’s office announced it will step up investigations of 22 army
generals for their alleged role in the killings of dozens of civilians during the country’s 5-decade
conflict. The announcement by Eduardo Montealegre came as government and rebel negotiators
hammer out a peace deal in Cuba with impunity for abuses committed by both sides during the
war as a crucial issue. The extrajudicial killings involved hundreds of innocent civilians killed
by security forces, who passed them off as guerrillas killed in battle in order to inflate the body
count in the government’s war against the FARC rebels. Montealegre said: “The attorney
general's office is moving forward with investigations of 22 generals for false positives, and
while this office has not yet made any decisions regarding these cases, this does not mean the
generals are not under investigation.” Until now, there have been 817 convictions so far,
including prison sentences of up to 52 years.
11 April
The Colombian navy reported the discovery of 21 undocumented Cuban migrants aboard 2
unlicensed boats, in which they planned to cross the border into Panama across the Gulf of
Uraba in the Caribbean. The Cuban nationals were found in an area near the town of Sapzurro
in the northwestern province of Choco close to the Panamanian border. When the people
providing illegal transport for the 21 people aboard saw the approach of a navy rapid response
unit, they jumped in the water to escape and left the Cubans adrift. Colombian authorities
recovered the 2 boats and took the migrants to the coast guard station in a city located in the
Antioquia province before being turned over to Colombia’s migration authority.
6 April
Drug Enforcement Agents seized 1.5 tons of cocaine bound for Panama, the United States,
Mexico and Europe, and also arrested 8 suspects during an operation targeting the Clan Usuga
gang. The drug was seized in operations conducted by drug enforcement agents with the
support of the U.S. DEA in the northwestern Antioquia province and the southwestern provinces
of Cauca and Nariño. Two Ecuadorian suspects were arrested in the town of Guapi in Cauca,
while a Dominican, a Panamanian, 2 Nicaraguans and 2 Colombians were captured in Panama
City. Drug enforcement agents seized 399 kg of cocaine in Nariño, 607 kg in Antioquia and 458
kg in Guapi.
5 April
Colombian authorities announced that 4 police officers were killed in possible insurgent attacks.
One of the attacks, which resulted in the killing of 3 officers, took place in the Norte de Santander
region close to Venezuela, while the other deadly attack occurred in Meta. Another police officer
suffered from injuries. It is not yet known who carried out the deadly attacks but the FARC, the
ELN as well as drug smugglers operate near the Venezuelan border where one of the killings
took place.
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3 April
Colombian anti-drug police forces at the port of Cartagena seized 985 kg of cocaine hidden in 8
containers destined for the Dominican Republic. General Ricardo Restrepo Londoño, the
director of the Colombian Anti-narcotics Police said that the drugs “were hidden in the floor.
The girders supporting the structure of the containers had been modified and inside they had
tried to hide the packages of cocaine. We've been able to prove that the shipment is linked to
Colombian drug traffickers, associated with drug traffickers in Central American countries.» The
seizure was made possible by the authorities’ monitoring of a front company located in the port
of Buenaventura from which it was known that exports were pending via one of the Cartagena
ports.
Ecuador
No major incidents reported during this period
Guyana
30 April
Guyana’s Health Minister Bheri Ramsaran was fired for threatening to slap and strip a female
rights activist in an altercation caught on tape outside a court. In the incident, Sherlina Nageer,
women’s and children’s rights campaigner confronted the minister outside a tribunal where he
was leading supporters of a former president, Bharrat Jagdeo, accused of making racist
statements. Nageer said to the minister: “We have women and children dying under your watch.
What are you doing here wasting time.» During the argument recorded by journalists, Ramsaran
was verbally violent and therefore President Ramotar’s office said Ramsaran had been relieved
of his duties and replaced following a meeting with the president.
19 April
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter will lead an observer mission to monitor the May 11
regional and national elections in Guyana. He said: “I look forward to leading our delegation to
observe Guyana’s elections on May 11. The Carter Centre has a long history in Guyana and great
respect for the Guyanese people. These will be the fourth elections we have observed there since
1992, and we trust they will be peaceful and inspire hope for the future.» The Carter Center is
joining the OAS that has been inviting to monitor the poll by the Guyana Government. A core
team of experts will be joined this week by 6 medium-term observers, together representing 9
different countries. They will be later joined by a larger delegation of election observers in May,
led by Carter, who will assess the voting, counting, as well as tabulation processes.
10 April
The Guyana government declared that the U.S. is providing US$300,000 to fund local and
hemispheric observers as Guyana prepares to elect a new government on May 11. The U.S.
embassy said: “It is our hope that international and domestic observation will increase public
and stakeholder confidence in the electoral process, culminating in all political parties'
acceptance of the ultimate results.» It also said that the money would be used to support the
monitoring programmes of the Organization of American States and the Electoral Assistance
Bureau. Both the coalition alliance of A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance for
Change and the ruling People’s Progressive party Civic named their candidates for the May 11
regional and national poll.
4 April
Guyana authorities announced their intention to opt out of the United Nations Good Offices
process, which is a mechanism, anticipated to assist in resolving the renewed claim that
Venezuela has made on a portion of the Essequibo region of Guyana. Foreign Affairs Minister
Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett pointed out that this process has yielded little results over the last
past 25 years. She added that Guyana was examining other available options, while at the same
time suggesting that Venezuela remained comfortable with the current process “because it suits
their purpose, which is no movement.”
Paraguay
25 April
The Foreign Ministries of Paraguay and Vietnam held their first political consultation in Hanoi
on April 24, during which they agreed to accelerate negotiations for the signing of agreements,
hence creating a legal framework for bilateral cooperation. Both sides said that priority will be
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given to partnership in trade, economics, investment, agriculture, waterway transport, fishery
and mining.
Peru
28 April
A rise in air shipments of cocaine to Bolivia has caused the neighbouring country of Peru to
reconsider its previous policy of shooting down small aircraft suspected of transporting the
drug. Currently, this shelved shutdown strategy has had unintended political consequences in
the past. However, Peruvian national Police General Vicente Romero declared that his
government could decide within the next month wether or not to reinstate the policy of allowing
Peruvian warplanes to shoot down small aircraft that are thought to be carrying Peruvian
cocaine or coca paste to Bolivia as well as other countries in the region.
26 April
Peru’s Energy and Mines Minister declared that the government could ask Southern Copper to
make further changes to its $1.4 billion Tia Maria project if needed after massive protests by
farmers turned deadly this week. Minister Rosa Maria Ortiz said the government was currently
focused on restarting talks with opponents of the open pit copper project, who fear it will
contaminate surrounding agricultural valleys. Last week, a protester died from a bullet injury
during clashes with police forces. Protests have been going on since a month and are becoming
more and more violent. Hence, it is likely that the government could ask Southern Copper to
improve the project’s environmental plan. Ortiz, who has emphasised dialogue with Tia Maria
opponents, said she does not have any issues with the environmental impact study as it is now,
but she added: “nevertheless, if in this dialogue it could eventually be established that there is
something to improve in the environmental plan, like every environmental impact study, it's
improvable.» Southern Copper said that Tia Maria will use state of the art technology with the
highest international environmental standards. Further developments are to be waited in the
next few weeks.
23 April
Authorities in Peru reported that police fired on farmers opposed to a Mexican-owned copper
mine in the south of the country, killing one person and wounding 12 others. Walter Vera, local
health director said the man died from a bullet wound. Farmers and local leaders were opposing
the $1.4 billion Tia Maria mine located in the Tambo Valley of Arequipa state. They say that they
fear the open-pit mine will contaminate irrigation water in the rice-growing district. It is highly
likely that demonstrations will continue over the next few weeks.
17 April
The United States Secret Services and a team of Peruvian authorities seized US$ 1.5 million in
cash and arrested 4 suspects. In a joint operation, the U.S. Secret Services cooperated with
Peruvian intelligence authorities to intercept US$ 1.5 million worth bank notes. Peru continues
to have a growing problem with producers of counterfeit bills. However, no further details were
given by authorities.
11 April
Peru’s largest mining union announced it approved an indefinite strike that will begin on May
18 to demand better working conditions for workers. The President of the national mining
workers federation declared that some 70 unions representing about 20,000 miners backed the
strike, which would be the first nationwide strike to hit the industry. They are also seeking
stricter regulation of the outsourcing mining-related services to companies outside of the
industry. This upcoming strike threat puts more pressure on mining companies that operate in
Peru. It is not yet known how long the strike will last.
10 April
Peruvian government has set up a US$400 million emergency infrastructure fund as the country
braces for the impact of El Niño, a weather phenomenon that hits several countries in the region.
The government will allocate the majority to the country’s northern regions, expected to be
hardest hit by flooding. Agriculture minister Juan Manuel Benites said: “This fund will help
attend emergencies and carry out reconstruction if needed, so that productive and social
infrastructure can quickly be repaired.» Central and regional government officials are currently
planning where to distribute food, tents, water, bulldozers and corrugated iron roofing.
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8 April
Peru is currently disturbed by a number of social problems. A new wave of social conflict has hit
the country since the beginning of 2015, spurring violent protests throughout the country.
Peruvian farm workers marched and went on hunger strike in protest of a mining project by the
Southern Copper Corporation in the Islay province, a region of Arequipa. This province is one of
Peru’s most fertile regions, with important agricultural production employing thousands of
people. However, this project threatens to contaminate the land making it infertile, as it already
happened in other parts of the country. A source from the Observatory of Mining Conflicts in
Peru said: “The population is seeing that their economic, social, cultural, and environmental
rights are being cut. The local authorities are also seeing that their possibilities to have a certain
level of choices to confront these investments are seriously being limited, therefore this is a
scene that explains the reactions that we are seeing in several parts of the country.» In addition
to this last protest, 2015 has also seen protests against oil exportations, undermined labour
rights in all major cities and mining projects in Cuzco and Cajamarca.
3 April
After the resignation of former Prime Minister Ana Jara following allegations of spying on her
opponents, Peru’s president named Defense Minister Pedro Cateriano as Prime Minister.
Cateriano had been Defense Minister for almost 3 years. He is known for taking hard-line with
the opposition and this could result in a difficult relationship with Peru’s members of
unicameral Congress.
1 April
Peruvian Prime Minister announced she will resign after losing a confidence vote in Congress
following allegations of spying on her opponents, delivering a blow to President Humala, who
will now have to form another new government. The censure by opposition lawmakers forces
Prime Minister Ana Jara and her entire government to resign. In total, 72 lawmakers voted
against Jara in the censure motion. Therefore, President Humala will be constitutionally bound
to accept Jara’s resignation and must name a new prime minister. There were no immediate
indications from President Humala on whether he would name Economy Minister Alonso
Segura as new Prime Minister.
Venezuela
27 April
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo acknowledged the diplomatic gestures
by President Maduro toward Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and announced that Spanish
Ambassador Antonio Perez Hernandez would return to Caracas “in the next few hours”.
President Maduro asked Rajoy to shake hands at the next EU-Latin America Summit in order to
prevent the spears from being brandished. Garcia-Margallo discussed relations with Venezuela
and said: “The normal thing is for the ambassador to be in Caracas. When the circumstances are
normal, you act normally and so, in all probability, the ambassador will return in the next few
hours.”
25 April
The governor of Venezuela’s Amazonas state, Liborio Guarulla declared that Colombian FARC
members are overrunning his community. Guarulla estimates there are about 4,000 FARC
members in this largely indigenous border state. He also said the rebels are operating coltan
and gold mines and are involved in contraband and drug-running activities. Colombia’s
guerrillas have long used neighbouring Venezuela and Ecuador as a temporary refuge, but
Guarulla reported that the FARC presence in his community has been constant and growing
since 2012, when FARC rebels and President Santos’ administration began peace talks in
Havana aimed at ending the long-lasting civil conflict. Guarulla also declared: “The most serious
problem is that the president of Colombia thinks the conflict is ending but it's just being
transferred to the Venezuelan side of the border. This is turning into a problem that not only
violates our national sovereignty but represents an outright invasion of indigenous lands.» The
estimates about FARC manpower in Venezuela is not officially known and may have been
inflated, but Colombian authorities do acknowledge that the group often hides along the porous
border.
23 April
Spain declared that it has recalled its ambassador to Caracas after President Maduro accused
Madrid of terrorism. Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, Spain’s Foreign Minister said: “Given the level
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of verbal irritation that I have seen from President Maduro, I have decided to recall our
ambassador to Caracas for consultation. The adjectives used by the authorities – never by the
Venezuelan people – are absolutely intolerable.» It is highly likely that such tensions between
the 2 countries will continue or even escalate over the next few weeks if no steps toward the
resolution of the diplomatic problem are taken.
22 April
President Maduro announced that his government secured $5 billion in development financing
from China, but he gave no additional details on what the funds would be used for, or the
conditions of the loan. President Maduro said: “We just received $5 billion of financing for
development. We are working on more tranches. When they are finalized and come through, I’ll
give more information.» The funds are a boost to Venezuela’s troubled economy. The IMF
predicted inflation could climb near 100% this year and the economy would contract by around
7%. This Chinese fund coupled with the new recent agreement with Uruguay will help the
country fight the deep economic crisis it is suffering from.
20 April
Venezuelan government has launched talks this month on a new plan to blend the country’s
heavy crude with light oil from other OPEC allies, seeking to create a new variety that can
compete against swelling Canadian and U.S. supplies. The proposal envisions supplying
refineries built for medium-grade crudes rather than the light oil that has become plentiful as a
result of the North American shale boom. The plan, if agreed, could help Venezuela get more
value from its heavy grades, which are under pressure from the fast rise in shipments of
Canadian crude to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, while giving a similar advantage to OPEC
members whose lighter oil has been pushed aside by U.S. shale.
19 April
China and Venezuela have taken another step to strengthen technical and military cooperation,
with a meeting between Venezuelan Defense Minister Gen. Vladimir Padrino and visiting Army
Commander of the Lanzhou Military Region, Liu yuejun. During the meeting held at the Defense
Ministry in Caracas, Padrino welcomed Liu by saying that Venezuela is “grateful for and
comfortable” with the progress made in military cooperation. There’s a common ground
between the 2 nations for expanding military cooperation beyond the technical field, to include
education and logistics.
17 April
The Spanish Foreign Ministry has summoned the Venezuelan ambassador to protest against
comments by the Venezuelan President against Spain after the Spanish Parliament passed a
motion calling for the release of opposition leaders imprisoned in Venezuela. The ministry said
in a statement that Venezuelan ambassador Mario Isea was told of Spain’s “dislike and rejection”
of President Maduro’s remarks. He added that the Spanish government considered President
Maduro’s insults and threats intolerable. President Maduro had pointed out Spain for
interfering in its affairs, calling Prime Minister Rajoy “a racist” and vowing to take unspecified
retaliatory action. As a response, Spain’s Parliament approved a motion calling on the
Venezuelan government to release opposition leaders detained there.
14 April
Despite repeated calls throughout the Summit of the Americas by several different countries for
President Obama to repeal his Executive Order targeting Venezuela, the US administration is
stuck on its position, refusing to repeal the decree. However, President Obama said: “We do not
believe that Venezuela poses a threat to the United States, nor does the United States threaten
the Venezuelan government.» Nonetheless, the US leader indicated no intention to remove the
Executive Order, going on to justify the sanctions imposed on Venezuela, which are allegedly
aimed at “discouraging human rights violations and corruption.” It has been understood that
both parties would try to solve the issue on a bilateral way. More developments are to be waited
in the next few weeks.
12 April
In the perspective of the upcoming Summit of the Americas, President Obama has met privately
with President Maduro amid a deepening dispute over recent U.S. sanctions on 7 senior
Venezuelan officials. Venezuela’s presidential office says President Maduro and President
Obama met on the sidelines of the Summit of the Americas in Panama. President Maduro aide
Teresa Maniglia did not provide many details but said: “there was a lot of truth, respect and
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cordiality at the meeting.” Equally, there has been no immediate comment from the White House
and Obama did not mention the encounter in remarks at the conclusion of the summit.
10 April
A senior U.S. diplomat travelled to Venezuela for talks with President Maduro ahead of a
regional summit in which tensions between the Venezuelan and the U.S. governments
threatened to overshadow a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations. The news of the visit by State
Department counsellor Thomas Shannon came after President Maduro announced promotions
for 2 of the 7 officials the U.S. sanctioned in March for alleged human rights violations and
corruption. Shannon flew to Venezuela after its leaders invited the Obama administration to
send a senior official to Caracas in advance of the Summit of the Americas. There was no
immediate word on the content of the talks.
9 April
Venezuela’s tourism minister has been replaced as his father-in-law who is the former mayor of
Caracas, is being charged with conspiring against the socialist government. President Maduro
gave a public speech to announce that he had decided to give Andres Izarra a new job, but no
more details were given. Antonio Ledezma was arrested by secret police on February 19 on
charges that he tried to destabilize President Maduro’s government. President Maduro named
Marleny Contreras to replace Izarra as tourism minister.
5 April
A small plane that was transporting over a ton of cocaine crashed in the northern-central part
of Venezuela called Cojedes located 250 km from the capital Caracas. The Public Ministry
assigned Marisela de Abreu and Luis Ramirez as directors of the investigation. Agents from
Police Forces and the Bolivarian National Guards are currently searching the area for evidences.
A total of 863 packets of cocaine were found in the plane. Three dead bodies were also found
but haven’t been identified yet.
Caribbean
Haiti
13 April
A Chilean soldier, who was part of the UN peacekeeping force in Haiti, was shot dead during a
violent protest. According to the defense ministry, Sergeant Rodrigo Sanhueza was providing
security for a military vehicle traveling near the border with the Dominican Republic when the
unit encountered a protest and came under fire. Sandra Honore, the Special Representative of
the Secretary-General in Haiti, has condemned the attack. A statement released by the UN has
indicated that Ms Honore “...has asked the Haitian authorities to ensure that a thorough
investigation is conducted, offering UNPOL support in this regard and calling for the perpetrator
to be brought to justice without delay,” adding “armed violence is a criminal act which not only
endangers people’s security but also the gains in peace and stability which the Haitian
population has achieved so far… As Haiti enters the electoral period 2015, a climate of peace is
in the interest of all.” Chile has been part of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti
(MINUSTAH) since 2004.
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Middle East
Bahrain
30 April
Bahrain has affirmed that the sole guarantor to avoid the danger of nuclear weapons and
prevent their use anew is the total and final elimination of such weapons. Speaking on behalf of
the Arab bloc at the 2015 Review Conference of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),
Bahrain's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Jamal Fares Al Ruwaie said Arab
states believe that possessing and developing nuclear weapons pose a big threat to international
peace and security, reported the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication. Al Ruwaie said
Arab countries had welcomed the Palestinian State's joining of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty (NPT), considering it another indication of Arab states' commitment to nuclear
disarmament and non-proliferation of such arms. The Arab bloc also welcomed the growing
interest in the nuclear effects on humanity, saying it is high time to start disarmament talks
conductive to an all-encompassing nuclear accord whereby owning, creating, producing, testing,
stockpiling, transporting, using or threatening to use nuclear arms will be banned and their
destruction clearly stated.
28 April
Bahraini authorities said on Tuesday they had arrested 28 people who had been planning
attacks in villages in the kingdom. The interior ministry did not name the detainees, say when
they were held or elaborate on the nature of the planned attacks. Bahrainis who have been
accused in the past by the Sunni Muslim-led government of planning and launching attacks have
included opposition activists from the majority Shi'ite community. "The investigation
interrupted and dismantled a number of terrorist operations planned in various villages," state
news agency BNA quoted the ministry as saying. "The investigation included the tracking of
individuals and the monitoring of their safe houses," it added. The ministry said some of those
detained had already been convicted on terrorism charges in absentia and had been sentenced
to life terms in jail, while others had their citizenships revoked. Bahrain's public prosecutor said
on Monday that eight other men were sentenced to fifteen years in prison for the attempted
murder of nine policemen in 2013, without providing details. The Sunni Muslim royal family
used martial law, backed up by military intervention from some other Gulf Arab forces, to quell
a Shi'ite-led uprising in 2011, but unrest has simmered. Shi'ites in the kingdom complain of
discrimination and police brutality, but authorities say they have implemented reforms.
Demonstrations have increasingly given way to bomb attacks on the security forces, which have
killed several members of the security forces. Bahrain accuses Tehran of encouraging the unrest
and has promised a tough response as talks with the opposition have stalled. Iran has denied
meddling in Bahrain's affairs.
23 April
Bahrain will take part in Operation Restore Hope, the new phase with the main focus on the
political process in Yemen, after it participated in the military operations. Bahrain Defence
Force (BDF) Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal Shaikh Khalifa Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa at a brief
press conference on the sidelines of the “Hamad 1” joint drill between the BDF and the Egyptian
Armed Forces said Bahrain was fully satisfied with its participation in the alliance operations
alongside Arab countries. Expressing hope reconciliation and peace would usher in a new era
in Yemen, Shaikh Khalifa on Wednesday said the next phase would be for construction, security
and stability. Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces on Tuesday said they were ending their campaign
of air strikes against Al Houthi militiamen who toppled the legitimate authority in Yemen, in
favour of a political solution to bring peace. Bahrain last month committed fighter jets from the
Royal Bahrain Air Force to Operation Storm of Resolve following orders from King Hamad, the
Supreme Commander. The royal orders were issued in response to a call from the Custodian of
the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud to meet the request of the legitimate
authority in Yemen. The move was within the framework of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)
Joint Defence Pact and the fully-fledged support to measures the GCC countries deem decisive
against threats to regional stability. Shaikh Khalifa said the “Hamad 1” joint exercise was a
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quality leap forward for the air and naval forces of both countries and that the two capitals were
keen on steady cooperation in military training through a long line-up of programmes. Shaikh
Khalifa said the drill had been planned in advance and was not related to the military operations
in Yemen.
22 April
The trial of Bahrain’s detained opposition leader, Sheikh Ali Salman, which was set to resume
on Wednesday, has been adjourned until May 20. According to reports on Wednesday, the trial
was expected to include testimony from key defence witnesses. Sheikh Salman, who serves as
the secretary general of Bahrain’s main opposition bloc, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, was
arrested in December 2014 on charges of seeking regime change and collaborating with foreign
powers. Salman and his party have vehemently rejected the allegation. His lawyer Abdullah alShamlawi has said the case against Salman is politically motivated and lacks legitimate legal
basis. Jalila Alsayed, another one of his lawyers, has also said, “We strongly believe that Sheikh
Ali never had the intention of calling for the overthrow of the regime by force and never called
for violence, because he is not convinced of such an approach.” In late March, a court in Bahrain
adjourned Salman’s trial until April 22 and extended his remand.
17 April
Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Bahrain is hitting back at an Amnesty International report alleging
that government reforms have failed to end serious violations of human rights in the country
four years after it was rocked by widespread anti-government protests. The government said in
a statement that the report, released early on Thursday, had “significant shortcomings” and did
not reflect important clarifications provided by authorities. Bahrain also said the report glosses
over “highly significant strides” the government has taken to enact institutional and legal
reforms over the past four years. Bahraini authorities accused Amnesty of misrepresenting the
country’s stance on the freedoms of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly. The
government said those rights are protected by the constitution and it “continues to uphold them
robustly,” but it draws the line at “violent attacks or incitement to violence committed under the
guise of free speech and peaceful protest.” “It is the government’s duty to protect citizens,
residents and visitors alike and the government makes no apology for doing so,” it said.
Amnesty’s report titled, “Behind the Rhetoric: Human rights abuses in Bahrain continue
unabated,” censured Manama for resorting to torture, arbitrary detentions, and the excessive
use of force against peaceful government critics, including some as young as 17.
15 April
Bahrain should introduce a law to compensate employers for “runaway” workers, a government
official said on Tuesday. Labour Minister Jameel Humaidan told parliament that companies
should be protected against the problem of employees failing to turn up for work. He
acknowledged it was against international labour laws to file criminal proceedings against such
employees, but insisted the Bahrain government could do more to ensure employment costs are
met in such circumstances. He suggested new legislation should be drawn up, and called for
advice from MPs about how to tackle the issue. “Our inspectors have no right to enter homes in
case of complaints about runaway workers, especially housemaids, but if parliament has
solutions to this then it is more than welcome,” Humaidan was quoted as saying in the Gulf Daily
News. During the same parliamentary session, Humaidan said the figure of around 7,000
unemployed on the ministry’s list keeps fluctuating and more should be done to curb
unemployment. “We have 1,000 Bahrainis being trained to take jobs every month and there are
1,500 vacancies on offer now. We have other programmes for around 1,500 job-seekers,” he
reportedly added.
13 April
Russia has lifted a ban on supplying Iran with a sophisticated air defence missile system, the
Kremlin has said. Delivery of the S-300s was cancelled in 2010 after the UN imposed sanctions
on Iran over its nuclear programme. But the Russian president gave the go-ahead after Tehran
struck an interim deal with world powers to curb nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions
relief. The US and Israel have criticised the news. The $800m (£545m) contract to deliver the
system was heavily criticised at the time by Israel and the US, who feared it could be used to
protect Iranian nuclear sites from air strikes. When it was cancelled, Iran filed a lawsuit seeking
billions of dollars in damages. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a statement that
the sale was put on hold "entirely voluntarily" to aid the talks on Iran's nuclear programme. The
Russian defence ministry said it was now ready to supply the S-300 equipment "promptly", an
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official there said, quoted by Interfax. Iran hailed the decision as a step towards "establishing
stability and security in the region," the country's defence minister, Hossein Dehghan, was
quoted as saying by state media.
Iran has suspended flights for pilgrims to Saudi Arabia after the alleged sexual assaults of two
Iranian boys. Culture Minister Ali Jannati said flights would only resume once those responsible
had been punished. The teenagers allege that before returning to Tehran from the Umra, or
lesser Islamic pilgrimage, in March they were abused by security officials at Jeddah airport. The
move is likely to deepen tensions between the two regional powers. They are currently at odds
over the conflict in Yemen, where a coalition led by Sunni Muslim-ruled Saudi Arabia is carrying
out air strikes on Shia Houthi rebels, which the US says are receiving military assistance from
Iran. Iran and the Houthis deny this. On Saturday, hundreds of people protested outside the
Saudi embassy in Tehran and demanded that the Iranian government "end the unnecessary
Umra". On Monday, Mr Jannati told state television: "I have ordered the Hajj and Pilgrimage
Organisation to suspend the Umra until the criminals are tried and punished." "Considering
what has happened, Iranians' dignity has been damaged and a public demand has formed," he
added. The minister said Saudi officials had "promised to punish the persons in custody "They
even asserted that they would execute them, but nothing has been done in reality so far." Each
year about 500,000 Iranians undertake the Umra, an optional pilgrimage that can be undertaken
at any time of the year other than during the main pilgrimage, or Hajj. Although the Umra
includes some of the rituals of the Hajj, which every sane adult Muslim must undertake at least
once in their lives if they can afford it and are physically able, they are shortened and there are
fewer of them.
11 April
Bahrain on Saturday extended by 15 days the period of detention for prominent rights
campaigner Nabeel Rajab, who was arrested on April 2 accused of spreading false news. A
prosecution service statement said the activist was accused of "spreading tendentious rumours"
about Bahrain's participation in the Saudi-led Arab coalition bombing Yemen, as well as
"attacking a state institution." It accused him of posting online "edited footage from television
broadcasts on events in Syria and Palestine, unrelated to military operations in Yemen," said the
statement published by the official BNA news agency. On Thursday, Bahrain allies the United
States and Britain demanded Rajab's release and the dropping of cases against him. On April 2,
his family said Rajab was arrested for posting comments on Twitter denouncing alleged torture
in a prison where activists are held. He said in a video posted on YouTube after his latest arrest
that he was the victim of an "attempt by the authorities to deprive me of my right to free
expression." In January the activist was sentenced to six months in prison for insulting public
institutions in his tweets. He is awaiting the result of an appeal in that case, expected on May 4.
Rajab, who has led anti-government marches and heads the Bahrain Center for Human Rights,
was freed last May after serving two years in jail for taking part in unauthorized protests.
9 April
A man arrested while allegedly trying to sell BD3,250 ($8,000) of heroin to an undercover police
officer in Bahrain has claimed he did not know what the package contained and was merely
doing a favour for a friend. According to court documents, the 28-year-old Pakistani man was
caught on January 27 trying to sell 25 capsules of the drug in the Dry Dock area of Muharraq. He
appeared in court on Wednesday to deny possessing and dealing drugs. Gulf Daily News quoted
the defendant as telling judges he was merely “transporting” the package for a friend who had
promised to cancel his 850,000 Pakistani rupees (BD3,144) debt in return. But a detective
reportedly told prosecutors they had pursued the defendant after investigations proved he had
sold heroin in Muharraq before. The case continues.
4 April
Following on from the new visa policy announced in September 2014, the Bahrain government
has announced the second phase of updates, which will allow business visitors and tourists to
spend longer periods of time in the country and also improve ease of access for GCC residents
and visa holders. GCC residents of any nationality will be eligible to receive multi-entry visas on
arrival or online, making it easier for expatriates living in the region to travel to Bahrain.
Further, nationals of countries that are not included in the countries eligible for eVisas or visas
on arrival can still apply for eVisas if they have a visit visa for any other GCC country. Khalid alRumaihi, chief executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board, added: “The new visa
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policy is an important development that places Bahrain among the countries with the most
flexible visa policies in the region. It enables expatriates who do business in Bahrain to easily
travel in and out of the kingdom, as well as boosting the tourism industry, and will help
contribute to the continuing economic growth and development in Bahrain.” The new policy is
also being accompanied by improvements to the individual screening process, ensuring faster
and more effective processing of applications.
2 April
Bahrain police arrested prominent democracy activist Nabeel Rajab on Thursday for comments
he made on his Twitter account seen as "harmful" to civil peace, the kingdom's interior ministry
said. Rajab took a leading role in Shi'ite-led mass demonstrations in Bahrain in 2011, which
asked for reforms in the Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab state, inspired by other pro-democracy uprisings
in the Arab world. "Nabeel Rajab arrested after publishing information that would harm the civil
peace and insulting a statutory body in violation of the law," the interior ministry said on its
Twitter account on Thursday. Rajab, founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, is
appealing after being convicted in January of publicly insulting two state institutions. "About 20
cars surrounded our house today and the police came in and told us they were arresting Nabeel
for some comments on his Twitter account criticizing torture in prisons," his wife Sumaia Rajab
said, adding that Rajab had been taken in for questioning. It was unclear which Tweets had led
to Thursday's arrest. Rajab was jailed in May 2012 on charges of organizing and participating in
illegal protests and released two years later. Bahrain quelled the 2011 protests but has since
struggled to resolve political deadlock between the government and the opposition. Many
Shi'ites complain of political and economic discrimination, a charge the authorities deny.
Iran
29 April
The operator of a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo vessel boarded by Iranian forces as it was
traversing the Strait of Hormuz said Wednesday it has confirmed the crew is safe but that the
company is still trying to determine why the ship was seized the previous day by Iran. The MV
Maresk Tigris was en route Wednesday to Bandar Abbas, the main port for Iran’s navy, under
escort by Iranian patrol boats, according to Maersk Line, the company that had chartered it.
Tehran has not offered any clarification on the incident, which comes at a critical time during
Iran’s relations with the United States and the West. Cor Radings, a spokesman for the ship’s
operator, Rickmers Ship Management in Singapore, said the company had been in touch by
phone with the crew earlier in the day. “We have had the confirmation that they are in relatively
good condition and safe on board the ship,” he said. Iranian forces remain on board the ship,
Radings said, adding there has been no contact yet with Iranian authorities. Iranian forces
boarded the MV Maresk Tigris on Tuesday after firing warning shots across the bridge,
prompting the U.S. Navy to dispatch a destroyer and a plane to the area in response. Radings
confirmed reports that there were no Americans on board, identifying the 24 people crew
members as “mainly from Eastern Europe and Asia.” He said the ship was owned by “private
investors” but would not elaborate. Iranian state television on Tuesday said the crewmembers
were from Britain, Bulgaria, Romania and Myanmar and that the ship was seized based on a
court order due to unspecified violations. Iranian officials could not be reached for comment.
Danish shipper Maersk Line chartered the container ship and was hauling commercial goods
and had no “special cargo” such as military equipment, said Radings, speaking by phone from
Spain. Maersk Line spokesman Michael Storgaard would only identify the goods on board as
“general cargo” and said his company was still trying to determine why the Iranians had
boarded the ship. “We are not able at this point to establish or confirm the reason behind the
seizure,” Storgaard said, adding the ship is en route to Bandar Abbas under Iranian escort. The
U.S., other world powers and Iran are trying to hammer out a final deal over Iran’s nuclear
program. Last week, the U.S. Navy dispatched an aircraft carrier and guided missile cruiser to
the Arabian Sea amid worries that a convoy of Iranian cargo ships was headed to Yemen to
deliver arms to the Shiite rebels fighting to take over Yemen. In Tuesday’s incident, the
intercepted ship was traveling through the narrow Strait, which is technically Iranian and
Omani territorial waters, but under international agreement is open to foreign ships making an
innocent passage, according to the Pentagon. It wasn’t clear whether the ship had strayed off
course into coastal waters not protected by that agreement.
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23 April
The convoy of Iranian cargo ships that had been headed toward war-torn Yemen -- possibly with
advanced weaponry for Houthi rebels -- has reversed its direction, a U.S. defense official tells
CBS News national security correspondent David Martin. The official said it remains unclear
where the nine-ship convoy may be headed now, whether back to Iran or toward another port.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Wednesday that the Iranian ships might be carrying weapons
to the Houthis, but he would not say whether the U.S. would forcibly stop and board one of the
Iranian ships if it entered Yemeni waters. "We have options," he said when asked about the
boarding’s. "We're not at that point. We're at the point of trying to get the parties back to the
table." Still, he said the U.S. is making it clear to Iran that "obviously fanning the flames or
contributing to it by any party is not welcome to us." The aircraft carrier USS Theodore
Roosevelt is moving into the waters off Yemen, joining eight other U.S. warships, including some
carrying teams capable of boarding and searching other vessels. U.S. officials have repeatedly
said the carrier's deployment this week was in response to the deteriorating situation in Yemen,
and its primary mission will be to insure freedom of navigation and commerce. The Iranians
would violate a UN Security Council resolution if they provided weapons to the Shiite Houthis,
which are the target of a Saudi-led campaign to restore Yemen's ousted president.
20 April
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is moving toward the waters off the coast of Yemen
to prepare to intercept any potential Iranian shipments of weapons to the rebels fighting the
U.S.-backed government of Yemen, a Pentagon official said Monday. Col. Steve Warren, a
Pentagon spokesman, said the carrier and ships supporting her had been in the Persian Gulf.
They moved to the waters near Yemen because of increased instability there, he said. The
Roosevelt is also tracking a convoy of Iranian ships headed to the Gulf of Aden, said a Defense
official speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly
about the Iranian vessels. The Iranians have been supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen. The
Pentagon has been tracking the progress of the Iranian ships since last week, the official said.
The Navy is prepared to intercept the ships, according to a second Defense Department official
who was not authorized to speak publicly. Moving the Roosevelt is viewed by the Pentagon as
significant but not necessarily a prelude to conflict. The Houthis are Shiite Muslims, while the
Yemeni government has been dominated by Sunni Muslims. Iran, which is also primarily Shiite,
has been backing the Houthis, while Sunni nations, such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab
Emirates, are supporting the government. The guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy is
accompanying the Roosevelt, the Navy said.
9 April
Iran will sign a final nuclear agreement only if economic sanctions against the nation are
removed on the first day of the deal's implementation, President Hassan Rouhani said Thursday.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Islamic republic's supreme leader, meanwhile, told state-run media
outlets he is neither in favour nor against the proposed deal because it isn't final, and he's not
certain it will become binding because he has "never been optimistic about negotiations with
the U.S." Six world powers and Iran reached a preliminary deal last week that aims to limit
Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. The United States,
however, has stressed that if a final deal is reached with Iran, the removal of any sanctions will
come in phases. Negotiators from Iran and the United States, China, Germany, France, Britain
and Russia have until June 30 to come up with a final deal. Khamenei said he supports the
negotiators, but in several not-so-subtle shots at the United States, noted it is too soon to
celebrate the proposed deal. "Everything lies in the details," Khamenei said in a Thursday
address, according to Press TV. "The other side, which is known for back-pedaling on its
commitments, may want to corner our country when it comes to the specifics." According to the
Islamic Republic News Agency, the leader said he can't support or oppose the deal, especially
when it's possible "the other disloyal party intends to limit our country." Any final deal must
"ensure the interests and dignity of the (Iranian) nation," he said, adding he will support an
agreement that "will safeguard national interests and dignity." He said he'd rather see the
agreement fail than make a deal that jeopardizes Iran's interests. "What has happened so far
will neither guarantee the agreement itself nor its content. It will not even guarantee completion
of the negotiations. Therefore, it is meaningless to congratulate me or others about it," he said.
Iran has accused the world's five largest nuclear powers of failing to take concrete action to
eliminate their stockpiles and called for negotiations on a convention to achieve nuclear
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disarmament by a target date. Iran's deputy UN ambassador Gholam Hossein Dehghani on
Wednesday told the UN Disarmament Commission that "a comprehensive, binding, irreversible,
verifiable" treaty was the most effective and practical way to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Dehghani accused the nuclear powers - the US, Russia, China, Britain and France - of promising
nuclear disarmament but making no significant progress. Dehghani's speech came days after
the announcement of a framework agreement between Iran and the five nuclear powers and
Germany aimed at keeping Tehran from being able to develop a nuclear weapon. The historic
pact has to be finalised by June 30. The commission, which includes all 193-member states, is
supposed to make recommendations in the field of disarmament but has failed to make
substantive proposals in the past decade. Its three-week meeting is taking place ahead of the
five-year review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the world's single most
important pact on nuclear arms, which begins on April 27. The NPT is credited with preventing
the spread of nuclear weapons to dozens of nations since entering into force in 1970. It has done
that via a global bargain: Nations without nuclear weapons committed not to acquire them;
those with them committed to move towards their elimination; and all endorsed everyone's
right to develop peaceful nuclear energy. Dehghani said that as a non-nuclear weapon state and
NPT member, Iran believed it was time to end the incremental approach towards disarmament
and to start negotiations with all nuclear and non-nuclear weapon states on a convention that
would set a deadline for ridding the world of nuclear weapons. He noted that a proposal in 2013
by the Non-Aligned Movement, which represents over 100 developing countries, to start
negotiations on a comprehensive nuclear weapons convention in the Conference on
Disarmament gained wide support. Russia said President Vladimir Putin has confirmed that
Moscow is ready for a serious and substantive dialogue on nuclear disarmament. But Olga
Kuznetsova, a counsellor in Russia's Foreign Ministry, warned in a speech on Tuesday that the
US deployment of a global missile defence system could lead to the resumption of a nuclear arms
race. The only way to change the situation, she said, was for states that pursue anti-missile
capabilities to follow the "universal principle" of not trying to strengthen their security at the
expense of the security of other states. Kuznetsova also warned that development of highprecision non-nuclear weapons threatened "strategic parity" between the two nuclear powers
and could lead to "global destabilisation of [the] international situation in general". Chinese
counsellor Sun Lei urged countries to "abandon Cold War mentality" and said those with the
largest nuclear arsenals should be the first to make "drastic and substantive" cuts in their
nuclear weapons. Ukraine's representative called for the urgent development of a binding
agreement that would give assurances to countries without nuclear weapons that they will not
be threatened by nuclear weapons. Pakistan's Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi echoed that call. The
US said the negotiation of a treaty that would cap available fissile material was "the next logical
step on the multilateral nuclear disarmament agenda". Its representative John Bravaco said the
US had not produced fissile material for nuclear weapons since 1989. North Korea's deputy UN
ambassador, An Myong Hun, declared that "our nuclear forces are the life and soul of our nation"
and would not be given up as long as nuclear threats remained.
Iran’s supreme leader warned Saudi Arabia that its military intervention in Yemen would end
in military defeat in his strongest comments on the conflict to date. In a televised speech
Thursday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashed out at Riyadh’s offensive against Yemen’s Iran-backed
Houthi rebels, calling it a “bad initiative for the region” and accusing the kingdom of
perpetrating war crimes in Yemen because of the civilian casualties that have resulted from the
campaign thus far. The comments come the day after Iran raised the stakes in the conflict by
sending a flotilla, including a destroyer, to the Gulf of Aden off Yemen’s southern coast, where
Saudi Arabia has erected a naval blockade. “Definitely, the Saudis will lose in this and will not
win at all,” Mr. Khamenei said. “Their nose will be rubbed to the soil.” Yemen has become a proxy
battle in Tehran and Riyadh’s decades-long competition for influence in the region, and
threatens to spur a wider conflagration in the Middle East. A Saudi-led coalition of 10 countries
launched its offensive in Yemen on March 26, one day after the Houthis, battling forces loyal to
Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, forced him to flee to Riyadh.
8 April
Iran dispatched a naval destroyer and a support vessel Wednesday to waters near Yemen as the
United States quickened weapons supply to the Saudi-led coalition striking rebels there,
underlining how foreign powers are deepening their involvement in the conflict. Iran's English-
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language state broadcaster Press TV quoted Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari as saying the ships
would be part of an anti-piracy campaign "safeguarding naval routes for vessels in the region."
The manoeuver in the Gulf of Aden comes amid an intense Saudi-led Gulf Arab air campaign
targeting the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis, who come from a Shiite sect. Critics say Shiite
power Iran backs the Houthis, though both the Islamic Republic and the rebels deny any direct
military assistance.
6 April
Saudi Arabia's cabinet said on Monday it welcomed an interim deal between Iran and world
powers over Iran's disputed nuclear program and that it hoped a final deal would rid the region
of weapons of mass destruction. Iran and six world powers -- the United States, Britain, France,
Germany, China and Russia -- reached a framework agreement on Thursday that would curb
Tehran's nuclear research for at least a decade and gradually lift Western sanctions. That deal
is contingent on reaching a final agreement in three months. A conservative Sunni Muslim
kingdom, Saudi Arabia regards revolutionary, Shi'ite Iran as its biggest regional rival. For 11
days, it has led fellow Sunni Gulf Arab in air strikes against Houthi militiamen allied to Tehran
in neighbouring Yemen, just one of the region's war zones where the two powers back opposing
sides. "The council of ministers expressed hope for attaining a binding and definitive agreement
that would lead to the strengthening of security and stability in the region and the world," the
statement carried by state news agency (SPA) said. It added that Saudi Arabia hoped a final deal
would pave the way for a "Middle East and the Arabian Gulf region free of all weapons of mass
destruction, including nuclear weapons." The statement stressed a need for "good
neighbourliness and non-interference in the affairs of Arab states" -- a likely reference to Iran
and its role in civil wars in the Arab world. The kingdom is also concerned that loosening
sanctions will enable Tehran to more generously support armed proxies opposed by Riyadh in
Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
Iraq
28 April
Kurdish authorities announced the arrest of an alleged Islamic State group cell that they said
was responsible for the deadly bomb attack two weeks ago next to the U.S. consulate in northern
Iraq. The statement said the five-member cell had been in contact with the Islamic State group
over the past several months while planning the car bomb attack in the Kurdish regional capital,
Irbil, that killed three people and wounded five. No Americans were killed or wounded, and the
consulate was not damaged. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack. Four
of the suspects were described as residents of Erbil, while the fifth is an Arab resident based in
the city of Kirkuk. One more suspect is still at large, the statement added.
The United Nations meanwhile said gunmen abducted a local staffer in the eastern Iraqi
province of Diyala. Eliana Nabaa, a spokeswoman for the UN mission, said the man was
kidnapped on Sunday in the city of Baqouba near the government headquarters. A local security
official said the man was grabbed from his car during the day. The UN staffer's brother said the
family has received a $100,000 ransom demand for his release. He spoke on condition of
anonymity for fear of retribution. Kidnapping for ransom and over political issues has long been
rife in Iraq. Eight bodies with gunshot wounds to their heads and chests were found in different
parts of two Sunni-majority neighbourhoods in western Baghdad, police said. Officers said they
found no IDs with the bodies, which were discovered in the Jihad and Ghazaliyah
neighbourhoods. Dead bodies left in the street were a common occurrence during the
widespread sectarian violence that engulfed Iraq several years ago. On Tuesday night, a sticky
bomb attached to a minibus exploded in central Baghdad, killing four passengers and wounding
seven others, said police and a hospital medic.
25 April
Three suicide car bombs driven by foreigners targeted the remote desert border crossing
between Iraq and Jordan Saturday killing at least four Iraqi soldiers, said Iraqi officials. The
attack was immediately claimed by the radical Islamic State group on its twitter account, which
said the attack was perpetrated by Belgian, French and Senegalese militants and claimed a much
higher death toll. The statement, which was translated by the U.S.-based SITE Intelligence
Group, said the men targeted the dining facility, an army patrol and the border crossing itself.
Pictures of the alleged French and Belgian bombers suggest they were of Middle Eastern origin.
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Sabah Karhout, head of the local council of the Trebill crossing area, said three soldiers were
killed along with Capt. Salah al-Dulaimi, the head of the border post's protection force. Twelve
Iraqis were taken across the border and treated for their wounds, said a Jordanian official who
spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. The attack
came as there was fierce fighting on the other side of Anbar province north of the IS-controlled
city of Fallujah after an ambush Friday killed an Iraqi general and staff officers. Militants
launched a complex attack on Friday involving a bulldozer packed with explosives against a
convoy as it approached an army base guarding a lock system on the canal between Lake
Tharthar and the Euphrates River. The attack killed Iraqi 1st Division commander Brig. Gen.
Hassan Abbas Toufan and three staff officers as well as 10 other soldiers, said Lt. Gen.
Mohammed Khalaf al-Dulaimi of the Anbar operations command. Residents of Fallujah said that
Islamic State militants paraded an officer and three soldiers allegedly captured in the fighting
through the streets in a pickup truck on Saturday. They spoke on condition of anonymity for
fear of reprisals. Troops, including tanks, have been rushed to the area and were fighting
Saturday in this rural region dotted with small villages.
Islamic State militants in Iraq took partial control of a water dam and military barracks guarding
it in the western Anbar province after fierce fighting through the night that continued on
Saturday, security sources and witnesses said. The Iraqi government announced a new offensive
this month to recapture parts of Anbar, Iraq's Sunni Muslim heartland, from Islamic State, in an
attempt to build on an earlier victory against the group in the central city of Tikrit. But the
hardline Sunni militants struck back by attacking Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar,
prompting thousands of families to flee. They also hit Baiji, Iraq's largest refinery last week. Late
on Friday, the insurgents attacked the security perimeter at al-Thirthar dam with explosiveladen vehicles and then battled army forces in clashes that continued on Saturday, police and
army sources said. Dozens of Iraqi troops were killed in the fighting, but poor communications
in the area made it difficult to confirm a precise figure, said Athal al-Fahdawi, an Anbar
provincial council member. Army sources said two senior officers were among the dead.
Officials from Iraq's defense and interior ministries could not immediately be reached for
comment. Security forces and Shi'ite paramilitaries have regained some ground in Iraq since
Islamic State proclaimed a caliphate straddling the border of Syria and Iraq, but core Sunni
territories such as Anbar remain under Islamic State control. A video posted online on Saturday
by Islamic State's official media organization appeared to show its fighters moving about freely
at al-Thirthar dam, which serves as a flood control for Baghdad and other cities. A black flag
commonly used by the militants is seen flying from a radio tower. Two bodies apparently
belonging to Iraqi forces also appear in the footage.
24 April
Iraqi security forces recaptured a key bridge from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants
in the capital of Anbar province on Friday, said an Iraqi security official, as the country's top
Shiite cleric renewed calls for national unity among political rivals in the face of the Islamic
militant threat. Police colonel Mahdi Abbas said Iraqi security forces recaptured the al-Houz
bridge over the Euphrates River after fierce clashes with ISIS militants in western Ramadi.
Abbas said that the bridge was controlled by ISIS for several months and served as a primary
supply route for the insurgents. The security situation in Ramadi sharply deteriorated after ISIS
seized three villages around the city, forcing thousands to flee their homes. ISIS also blew up a
police station during the attack. The militants have been battling Iraqi forces around Ramadi for
several months now. Large parts of the surrounding province of Anbar are already under ISIS'
control. The area was a centre of the al Qaeda insurgency after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.
In recent days Iraqi soldiers and police have been able to secure the centre of Ramadi and push
the militants back from some areas of the city. Meanwhile, Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric,
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, on Friday urged the country's politicians to end all disputes in
order to confront the political, economic and security challenges facing the country. Al-Sistani's
comments came as the Iraqi security forces, backed by Shiite militias, are struggling to regain
control of territory lost to ISIS during a lightening offensive last year. Many Iraqis blame the
rivalries among the country's political leadership for the humiliating defeat suffered by
government forces. In Friday's violence, police officials said a bomb exploded near an outdoor
market in the Sunni town of Tarmiyiah, north of Baghdad, killing four people and wounding
eight. A bomb near a courthouse killed three people and wounded nine in the town of
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Mahmoudiyah, south of Baghdad. Medical officials confirmed the death toll. All officials spoke
on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media. No group
immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.
21 April
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, is reportedly no longer
in operational control of the organisation after being wounded in an airstrike. Baghdadi, who is
the self-described 'caliph' or spiritual leader of ISIL, was seriously hurt in a strike in a village in
western Iraq on March 18, according to The Guardian. The newspaper said that his wounds were
at first thought to be so serious that he might die, and that while he had since staged a gradual
recovery, he was not at present involved in the direct day-to-day control of the terror group.
When they first heard of his wounds, ISIL deputies convened meetings to discuss who might
take over as leader. Three separate sources confirmed the story, including a source with
connections to ISIL, a Western diplomat, and Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi official. A spokesman
for Iraq's interior ministry, Brig Gen Saad Maan, also told the BBC that Baghdadi was seriously
wounded in the air strike. Al-Baaj lies in Nineveh district, close to the Syrian border, and is
believed to have been chosen as a hiding place by Baghdadi because of its remote desert
location. Its mainly tribal residents lay beyond the writ of government even during Saddam
Hussein's time, and the area was also only scantly visited during by US troops during the
occupation. It is said that the airstrike that wounded al-Baghdadi was aimed at a convoy of local
ISIL leaders, and killed three men. Western officials are said not to have realised that Baghdadi
was in the convoy at the time. Al-Baghdadi, who has had a $10m price put on his head by the US
government, was twice reported to have been wounded in November and December of last year,
although neither claim turned out to be accurate. Prior to ISIL's take-over of northern Iraq, the
government in Baghdad also claimed to have killed or captured a man of that name several
times. Believed to be a former Islamic scholar, he spent four years in US custody at Camp Bucca
in Iraq, where many other al-Qaeda commanders were held. Following his release he rejoined
al-Qaeda in Iraq and took over as its leader in 2010, following the killing of two other top
commanders. He is said to be extremely careful about his security, and in the company of all but
the closest devotees, wears a mask to prevent any potential informants getting a close look at
him. Last July, however, a video surfaced of him making a rare public appearance at Mosul's
Great Mosque, telling fellow Muslims to "make jihad" for the sake of Allah. US officials did not
confirm the report, saying there was no evidence that the strike had hit a high-value target. “We
have no reason to believe it was Baghdadi,” said Colonel Steven Warren, a Pentagon spokesman.
18 April
ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb attack Friday near the U.S. Consulate in the
Kurdish Iraqi city of Erbil, according to several Twitter accounts linked to the terror group. The
U.S. Consulate was the target of the attack, ISIS said. Police said at least four people were killed
and 18 injured. All U.S. Consulate personnel were safe and accounted for following the
explosion, according to U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf. Anadolu, Turkey's
semi-official news agency, reported Saturday that the blast killed two Turkish citizens and
wounded five. The incident began with an explosion of a small improvised bomb in the area.
After that blast, a car moved in the direction of the consulate. Security personnel fired at the car,
which exploded but did not reach the consulate, a police official said. It appeared that people
inside the car detonated explosives that the vehicle was carrying, according to the police official.
A spokesman for the Peshmerga, B.G. Hazhar Ismail, said three civilians were killed and five
others were injured. The blast sent a huge fireball into the sky on a street parallel to the
consulate. Dark smoke filled the air, and gunfire was heard intermittently for the next hour. One
witness said he saw attackers in a gun battle with consulate security and police. Helicopters
circled the neighbourhood where the blast occurred, and a loudspeaker at the consulate
building warned people to stay indoors and away from windows. In addition to the U.S.
Consulate, the blast occurred immediately across the street from a strip of bars, cafes and shops
popular with expats and consulate employees.
17 April
Iraqi forces said Friday they secured villages near Baiji, the nation's largest oil refinery, as part
of an on-going offensive to push back Islamic State militants, and set the stage for liberating
Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city. Protecting the refinery is considered critical, since the Islamic
State raises much of its money by selling oil on the black market. "Once the Iraqis have full
control of Baiji they will control all of their oil infrastructure, both north and south, and deny
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ISIL the ability to generate revenue through oil," said Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff. The fighting was conducted by a combination of militias and Iraq's military
with the backing of airstrikes by a U.S.-led coalition, according to Gen. Ayad al-Lahabi, a
commander with the Salahuddin Command Centre. The forces gained control of the towns of alMalha and al-Mazraah, just south of the Bayji oil refinery, killing at least 160 Islamic State
militants. The push follows an earlier battle that liberated and secured Tikrit, a mostly Sunni
town about 80 miles north of Baghdad. Iraq's forces appear to be pushing slowly northward
toward Mosul. Freeing Mosul from the Islamic State's grip will be a much tougher fight. The city
is packed with civilians and the militants are expected to fight hard to defend it. "The offensive
north of Baghdad has been deliberate, measured, steady progress," Dempsey told reporters on
Thursday.
15 April
Islamic State militants gained ground in western Iraq on Wednesday, overrunning several
villages on the edge of the capital of Anbar province, police sources and local officials said. Iraqi
police came under attack from the insurgents at dawn in Albu Ghanim and withdrew from the
area, about three miles northeast of the provincial capital Ramadi, sending hundreds of families
fleeing. The militants blew up the police station in Albu Ghanim and advanced further toward
Ramadi, seizing the villages of Sofia, Albu Khalifa and Sor, police sources and members of the
provincial council said. Abu Jasim, who left Albu Ghanim soon after it fell early on Wednesday,
said the insurgents had set up a checkpoint at the main entrance to the village and planted their
black flag there. "IS stopped us and said we have came to liberate you from these Safavids and
rejectionists," Abu Jasim said. Safavid and rejectionist are derogatory terms used by hardline
Sunni Islamists to refer to Shi'ites. "We told them we were leaving because the kids were
terrified. They let us go, and we saw bodies lying in the streets, some police and others civilians."
The militants have been making inroads on Ramadi's northern periphery since the government
announced a new offensive last week to recapture parts of the Sunni heartland of Anbar, large
parts of which Islamic State has held for the past year. Anbar Governor Sohaib al-Rawi blamed
the police for pulling out and said they would be held accountable. A spokesman for the interior
ministry rebuffed him. Two federal police battalions arrived in Ramadi on Wednesday to
reinforce the troops, according to a colonel and a policeman. Another resident who left Albu
Ghanim said the militants had declared their victory via loudspeaker in the village mosque. Abu
Amar said his son, a policeman, was missing, and he had heard the militants had a list of
conscripts whom they had already begun killing. Police said four pro-government Sunni fighters
had been killed by Islamic State in Albu Ghanim, and the bodies of four policemen and two
civilians were brought to Ramadi hospital, according to medical sources.
In research in the town of Dohuk in January and February 2015, Human Rights Watch
documented a system of organized rape and sexual assault, sexual slavery, and forced marriage
by ISIS forces. Such acts are war crimes and may be crimes against humanity. Many of the
women and girls remain missing. “ISIS forces have committed organized rape, sexual assault,
and other horrific crimes against Yezidi women and girls,” said Liesl Gerntholtz, women’s rights
director at Human Rights Watch. “Those fortunate enough to have escaped need to be treated
for the unimaginable trauma they endured.” ISIS forces took several thousand Yezidis into
custody in northern Iraq’s Nineveh province in August 2014, according to Kurdistan officials
and community leaders. Witnesses said that fighters systematically separated young women
and adolescent girls from their families and other captives and moved them from one location
to another inside Iraq and Syria. The 11 women and 9 girls Human Rights Watch interviewed
had escaped between September 2014 and January 2015. Half, including two 12-year-old girls,
said they had been raped – some multiple times and by several ISIS fighters. Nearly all of them
said they had been forced into marriage; sold, in some cases a number of times; or given as
“gifts.” The women and girls also witnessed other captives being abused. Human Rights Watch
also interviewed more than a dozen international and local service providers, medical workers,
Kurdish officials, community leaders, and activists who corroborated these accounts. A local
doctor treating female survivors in Dohuk told Human Rights Watch that of the 105 women and
girls she had examined, 70 appeared to have been raped in ISIS captivity. All of the women and
girls interviewed exhibited signs of acute emotional distress. Many remain separated from
relatives and sometimes their entire families, who were either killed by ISIS or remain in ISIS
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captivity. Several said they attempted suicide during their captivity or witnessed suicide
attempts to avoid rape, forced marriage, or forced religious conversion.
14 April
President Barack Obama brought Iraq's prime minister to the White House Tuesday to pledge
U.S. support for his effort to run Islamic State militants out of its country, while making it clear
that ultimately Baghdad must be in charge of its own destiny. Obama's comments reflect war
fatigue from Americans after more than a decade of military involvement in Iraq, as well as a
signal to Iran about its involvement in helping fight Islamic State militants. Obama said any
foreign assistance must be answerable to Iraq's chain of command. After frustrations with the
previous Iraqi government, Obama expressed confidence that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is
a strong partner in fighting terrorism and forming a more inclusive government. He said alAbadi is strengthening Iraqi security forces and has recovered about a quarter of the territory
the Islamic State had captured in the country. "This is a long process and in our discussions
Prime Minister Abadi made clear that this success will not occur overnight. But what is clear is
that we will be successful," Obama said during his first Oval Office meeting with the prime
minister elected seven months ago. Obama pledged $200 million in humanitarian aid to help
those displaced by Islamic State militants, saying it's crucial the U.S. help support families who
have been displaced by the militants. Al-Abadi told reporters Monday that an increase in U.S.
airstrikes, weapons deliveries and training has helped roll back Islamic State forces, but he
needed greater support from the international coalition to "finish" them. "We want to see more,"
he said. But White House press secretary Josh Earnest said al-Abadi made no specific request
for additional military assistance.
10 April
ISIS fighters seized several districts in the Iraqi city of Ramadi in an hours-long assault Friday
that included suicide and car bombs, an Iraqi provincial official said. At least 10 Iraqi security
forces were killed in the attacks, according to Faleh al-Essawi, the deputy head of Iraq's Anbar
provincial council. And the head of the Iraqi military operation in Anbar province, Gen. Qassim
al-Muhammadi, was wounded. The northern Ramadi districts of Albu Faraj, Albu Essa and Albu
Risha were in the hands of ISIS by the time the day was done. Ramadi has seen intense and
persistent fighting for months. ISIS took over parts of that western Anbar city in the first half of
2014, and it's been part of a tug of war ever since. Iraqi security forces discovered tunnels in
February that they say could have led opposition fighters to a central government compound in
the city. But they didn't find all of them: A few weeks later, ISIS detonated hundreds of
homemade bombs from a tunnel underneath an army headquarters there, according to Sabah
Al-Karhout, the head of the Anbar provincial council. More than 40 Iraqi soldiers died in that
explosion. Iraqi and allied forces have made inroads in recent weeks, beating back the group
that calls itself the Islamic State, which took over vast swaths of Iraq and neighbouring Syria last
year. Their most high-profile victory, for instance, was the recapture of Tikrit. And U.S.-led
airstrikes have already made a difference, according to officials in Washington and beyond. Still,
ISIS remains a formidable force and, as the Ramadi assault shows, one that's still capable and
willing to go on offense to take territory.
A parked car exploded in Iraq on Friday, killing two people and wounding 12 others, authorities
say. The incident occurred in Baghdad's commercial central Karrada district, according to police
officials.
8 April
The Islamic State group released more than 200 Yazidis on Wednesday after holding them for
eight months, an Iraqi Kurdish security official said, the latest mass release of captives by the
extremists. Gen. Hiwa Abdullah, a Peshmerga commander in the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk,
said most of the freed 216 prisoners are in poor health and bore signs of abuse and neglect. He
added that about 40 children are among those released, while the rest were elderly. No reason
was given for the release of the prisoners who were originally abducted from the area around
Sinjar in the country's north. The handover took place in Himera just southwest of Kirkuk, 180
miles north of Baghdad. The freed Yazidis were taken away by ambulances and buses to receive
treatment and care. Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled in August when the Islamic State group
captured the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar, near the Syrian border. But hundreds were taken
captive by the group, with some Yazidi women forced into slavery, according to international
rights groups and Iraqi officials. In January, the Islamic State group released some 200 Yazidi
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prisoners as well. At the time, Kurdish military officials said they believed the extremists
released the prisoners as they were too much of a burden. The Sunni militant group views
Yazidis and Shiite Muslims as apostates deserving of death, and has demanded Christians either
convert to Islam or pay a special tax. The group has massacred hundreds of captive soldiers and
tribal fighters who have risen up against it, publicizing the killings in sleek online photos and
videos.
Police and hospital officials said a bomb exploded near an outdoor market in Baghdad's
southeastern suburb of Nahrwan, killing four people and wounding 10. No one immediately
claimed responsibility for the attack. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they
were not authorized to speak to journalists.
7 April
The combined number of bodies discovered in ISIS mass graves has surpassed 3,000 after the
gruesome extent of the terror group’s mass murder in the Iraqi city of Tikrit was revealed on
Tuesday. A number of mass graves dug by the terror group have been confirmed in both Syria
and Iraq, taking the toll from the graves and mass killings to 3,071. The toll does not include
individual civilian deaths nor deaths of those killed in clashes with the terror group. Nine
months ago, the radical Islamists claimed to have captured and killed 1,700 at a former U.S.
military base in Tikrit, named Camp Speicher, as they swept across northern Iraqi, capturing the
key Sunni cities of Tikrit and Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest. A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report
initially claimed that approximately 770 captured Iraqi soldiers were killed after ISIS took
control of the base but Iraqi forensic teams have now discovered 12 mass graves believed to
hold more than this total. In addition to the Tikrit figure, last August, approximately 500
members of the Yazidi sect were found dead in the northern Iraqi region of Sinjar, with some
women and children buried alive, according to Iraqi officials. Last December, a mass grave of
230 bodies was uncovered in the Syrian region of Deir el-Zour, with those killed belonging to
the Shaitaat tribe, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).
6 April
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the Baghdad government would work with Kurdish
authorities to liberate the northern province of Nineveh from Islamic State militants. During his
first visit to the Kurdistan region since becoming Prime Minister last year, Abadi said Baghdad
and Erbil faced a common enemy and would improve ties to help confront the threat. "Our visit
to Erbil today is to coordinate and cooperate on a joint plan to liberate the people of Nineveh,"
Abadi said at a joint news conference with Kurdish President Massoud Barzani on Monday.
Abadi declined to lay out a timetable for the plan to retake Nineveh, of which Mosul is capital, in
order not to lose the "element of surprise". The trip comes less than a week after Islamic State
militants were driven out of the city of Tikrit by Iraqi forces including Shi'ite militia, backed by
coalition air strikes. Asked about reported abuses by the Shi'ite militia, who are grouped
together as Popular Mobilisation Committees or Hashid Shaabi, Abadi said it was not fair to level
the accusation at the entire force. “There’s a small group that attempts to attach itself to the
Hahsid Shaabi and attack civilians and their belongings and offend the Hahsid Shaabi," Abadi
said. "Our measures are to arrest these people and present them to court and we have indeed
arrested.”
4 April
Islamic State extremists at Iraq's ancient city of Hatra destroyed the archaeological site by
smashing sledgehammers into its walls and shooting Kalashnikov assault rifles at priceless
statues, a new militant video purportedly from the group shows. Militants attacked Hatra, a
UNESCO World Heritage site, last month, officials and local residents said, though the extent of
the damage remains unclear as it is in territory still controlled by the Islamic State group. The
video, released overnight Friday, shows a militant on a ladder using a sledgehammer to bang
repeatedly on the back of one of the carved faces until it crashes to the ground and breaks into
pieces. The video also shows a militant firing a Kalashnikov rifle at another, while men chop
away the bases of some of the larger wall sculptures. One of the militants, who speaks Arabic
with a distinct Gulf accent on the video, declares they destroyed the site because it is
"worshipped instead of God." The Islamic State group has been destroying ancient relics they
say promote idolatry that violates their fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law.
Authorities also believe they've sold others on the black market to fund their atrocities. Hatra,
located 110 kilometres southwest of Mosul, was a large fortified city during the Parthian Empire
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and capital of the first Arab kingdom. The site is said to have withstood invasions by the Romans
in A.D. 116 and A.D. 198 thanks to its high, thick walls reinforced by towers. The ancient trading
centre spanned 4 miles in circumference and was supported by more than 160 towers. At its
heart are a series of temples with a grand temple at the centre — a structure supported by
columns that once rose to 100 feet.
Israel & Palestine
29 April
Two projectiles fired from Syria struck the Golan Heights on Tuesday, triggering air raid sirens.
The IDF said the mortar shells were stray projectiles fired in the course of battles between Assad
regime forces and rebel organizations in southern Syria. The shells failed to cause injury or
damage. Locals heard the blasts that they caused upon impact. The IDF did not return fire. On
Sunday night, the Israel Air Force struck and killed four terrorists who crossed into Israel from
Syria and planted explosives near an abandoned IDF post. The incident, which occurred at 9:30
p.m. on the northern Golan Heights near the Druse village of Majdal Shams, began when Combat
Intelligence Collection units identified four men planting the explosives on the eastern side of
the border fence, within Israeli territory. It came after international media reports said the
Israel Air Force carried out strikes on strategic missile bases in Syria late on Friday night,
reportedly intercepting an Iranian-Syrian attempt to smuggle advanced missiles, perhaps Scuds,
to Hezbollah’s numerous weapons depots in Lebanon. The IDF has declined to comment on the
reports.
27 April
At least 44 Palestinians were killed by "Israeli actions" while sheltering at seven UN schools
during last summer's war in Gaza, a UN inquiry has found. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
said he deplored the deaths and stressed that UN facilities were "inviolable". The inquiry also
found that three empty UN schools were used by Palestinian militants to store weapons, and
that in two cases they likely fired from them. The 50-day conflict claimed the lives of more than
2,189 were Palestinians, including more than 1,486 civilians, according to the UN. On the Israeli
side, 67 soldiers were killed along with six civilians. In November, Mr Ban announced that an
independent board of inquiry would look into 10 incidents at schools run by the UN agency for
Palestine refugees, UNRWA, between 8 July and 26 August 2014. Both Israel and Hamas, the
militant group that dominates Gaza, said they would co-operate with the probe headed by the
retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert.
26 April
Israel's military said Sunday it launched an airstrike on its border with Syria after spotting
militants carrying a bomb in the Israeli-held Golan Heights. The military said it carried out the
strike after troops saw "a group of armed terrorists" approach the border with an explosive
intended to target Israeli troops. It said that Israeli aircraft "targeted the squad, preventing the
attack." It did not offer any casualty figure for the strike. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory
for Human Rights said four Syrian soldiers were killed by a missile fired from Israeli-occupied
territory in the Golan. Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman said it was not clear whether
the missile was fired by a plane or from a vehicle. On Twitter, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu sent messages commending the soldiers involved in the strike. "Any attempt to harm
our soldiers and civilians will be met with a determined response like the military action tonight
that thwarted a terror attack," Netanyahu said. No one immediately claimed responsibility of
the attack launched from inside Syria, which has been in the grips of a civil war since 2011.
Syrian state media did not immediately report on the strike. Israel has tried to stay out of the
war in Syria, but it has spilled into the country before. In September, the Israeli military shot
down a Syrian fighter jet in airspace over the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in
the 1967 Middle East war and later annexed in a move that has never been internationally
recognized. Israel and Syria are bitter enemies. While relations are hostile, the ruling Assad
family in Syria has kept the border area with Israel quiet for most of the past 40 years. Israel is
concerned that the possible ouster of embattled President Bashir Assad could push the country
into the hands of Islamic State extremists or al-Qaida linked militants, or plunge the region
further into sectarian warfare. It also repeatedly has threatened to take military action to
prevent Syria from transferring advanced weapons to its ally, Hezbollah. Israel is believed to
have carried out several airstrikes in Syria in recent years that have targeted sophisticated
weapons systems, including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles.
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There were reports in Arab media last week that Israel had carried out another attack on such
weapons in Syria. Israeli officials have not commented. But just hours before the border strike
Sunday night, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon warned Syria and Iran against arming
Hezbollah with such weapons. "We will not allow the transfer of quality weapons to terror
groups led by Hezbollah and we know how to reach them and those that dispatch them at any
time," Yaalon said. He added that Iran is continuously trying to find ways to arm Hezbollah with
the weapons.
25 April
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Friday slammed the South African Communist Party
after it criticized the Israel government for denying a pro-Palestinian South African minister a
visa to travel to the Palestinian territories. Lieberman said that the statements by the South
African party were "hypocritical", citing recent events against foreigners in South Africa, which
he described as "racist". Following Israel's refusal to grant the South African Minister of Higher
Education and Training Blade Nzimande a visa to enter the Palestinian territories, the South
African Communist Party said it "condemns in strongest terms possible, the apartheid Israeli
regime`s decision." The party further said that "The reason given for refusal to grant Cde
Nzimande the visa is that he 'had criticized the Israeli government'. As the SACP we will not
allow any foreign government to decide for us what to think, say and do." "The despotic decision
by the Israeli government is a declaration of diplomatic aggression on our government…The
SACP calls on our government to reciprocate and reject Israeli requests for visits to South
Africa." The party added that it intends to "further intensify its campaign of Boycott, Divestment
and Sanctions against Israel." In response to the announcement Lieberman said: "It was only a
few days ago when a violent, racist and harsh attack was directed against immigrants in
Johannesburg…during these riots, the South African police fired rubber bullets and stun
grenades against other immigrants from neighbouring African countries […] These events and
others have proven repeatedly that South Africa has remained a country where there are serious
problems of racism and violence […] Therefore the South African government and the
Communist Party should stop preaching and attacking Israel, which is a glorious democracy that
exceptionally handles threats and terrorist elements while maintaining human rights and
international codes of conduct." He added, "It is no surprise that the members of the Communist
Party prefer the Palestinians to Israel," the foreign minister stated, calling it "a case of like
attracts like."
22 April
A Scottish parliament debate on Monday on the recognition of a Palestinian state as a means to
revive peace negotiations drew sharp condemnations from Jerusalem. Noting that the debate
took place on the eve of Israel’s Memorial Day, one Israeli official called the discussion
“pointless” and “shameful.” The parliament in Edinburgh did not vote at the end of the poorly
attended session, but most speakers expressed support for the motion, several of them
criticizing Israel for running an “apartheid” regime and “inhumane” policies vis-à-vis the
Palestinians. The motion, proposed by Glasgow MP Sandra White, stated that the parliament
“believes that the recognition of the state of Palestine alongside the state of Israel based on 1967
borders could be a stimulus to securing a negotiated two-state solution in the Middle East and
notes the opinion of many Israelis and Palestinians living in Glasgow, the rest of Scotland and
beyond that resolution through peaceful means is the only option.” Usually, members’ debates
in the Scottish parliament last for about 30 minutes and feature a handful of speakers. But due
to the uncharacteristically large number of MPs who wanted to speak, the session was extended
to last for a full hour. “The only way to achieve a lasting peace is to recognize a Palestinian state
alongside an Israeli one,” White, from the Scottish National Party, said in her speech introducing
the motion. “Let’s be clear: the time is now. The time is not tomorrow or at some vague point in
the future.” Recognizing Palestine at the present time would be a “huge stimulus for peace
efforts,” she added. White congratulated the House of Commons in London for having
overwhelmingly voted in favour of the recognition of Palestine in October, and said she hoped
the UK’s new government will implement this decision after the upcoming national election.
Polls expect the pro-Palestinian Scottish National Party to make significant gains in the May 7
election. “We cannot continue to bury our heads in the sand,” White said. “Already 134 out of
193 UN member states have taken steps to recognize the state of Palestine and I believe it’s time
the UK did the same. I believe that it is morally incumbent on the UK to take that step, given its
involvement and its resulting culpability for the current situation.”
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21 April
The prospects of a two-State solution in the Middle East are getting dimmer with potentially
explosive consequences for the entire region, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
warned today as he urged the international community to boost efforts at bringing both Israeli
and Palestinian delegations back to the negotiating table. “Over the years, we have seen
determined efforts to achieve a comprehensive, negotiated peace based on a two-State
solution,” the Secretary-General said this morning as he briefed a Security Council on the
situation in the Middle East at a meeting chaired by Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh of Jordan,
which holds the Council’s presidency for the month. “Instead of peace, however, there have been
decades of missed opportunities and failures that have come at an enormous cost.” The Council
meeting comes on the heels of Israel’s most recent election and the impending formation of a
new Israeli Government but also a flare-up in tensions between the Government in Tel Aviv and
the Palestinian Authority. For over four months, the Israeli Government withheld over $470
million in Palestinian tax revenues, undermining the stability of Palestinian institutions and
their ability to pay public sector salaries and provide needed services. As of last Saturday,
however, the UN confirmed that both sides had reached an agreement on the release of the tax
revenues – a move in line with the Paris Protocol of the Oslo Accords. The Secretary-General
welcomed the agreement as a reversal of what was otherwise a “counterproductive” policy,
which, he said, “seriously undermines the ability of the Government of Palestine to carry out its
responsibilities.” The UN chief also urged the incoming Israeli Government to reaffirm Israel’s
commitment to the two-state solution and to take credible steps to foster an environment
conducive to a return to meaningful negotiations.
20 April
With a resounding election victory last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
seemed to have an easy path toward quickly establishing a coalition government with his
traditional nationalist, religious and ultra-Orthodox Jewish allies. But after weeks of
negotiations with potential partners, Netanyahu is finding the task harder than expected and is
flirting with the idea of reaching out to his main dovish rivals to form a unity government. As he
decides which path to take, he will seek an additional two-week extension to put his coalition
together. Which way Netanyahu goes will have broad implications. If he sides with the hard-line
allies that he often calls his “natural” partners, Netanyahu will have a solid parliamentary
majority of like-minded parties that could avoid much of the infighting that plagued the outgoing
government and provide some welcome political stability at home. But such a coalition —
averse to peace moves with the Palestinians and in favour of expanded settlement construction
in the West Bank — quickly would find itself on a collision course with the international
community at a time when Netanyahu is already feuding with his allies over the moribund peace
process and a nuclear deal with Iran that he loathes. A unity government that includes his leftist
rivals would help blunt that looming international isolation. Throughout the heated campaign,
Netanyahu ruled out the possibility of joining forces with Isaac Herzog and his centre-left Zionist
Union and vowed to rule from the right. Election results gave his Likud Party 30 seats and
secured him a potential 67-seat majority of the 120-seat Knesset along with his traditional allies.
In negotiations, however, these allies have made demands to head powerful government
ministries, and an initial four-week window to form a new government is now set to expire. On
Monday, he is scheduled to meet Israel’s largely ceremonial president, Reuven Rivlin, and seek
a two-week extension. Under Israeli election rules, if he fails to form a coalition during that time
Rivlin then can assign someone else the task of doing so. Few expect it to come to that, and the
67-seat right-wing government seems to be the most likely outcome. Netanyahu looks close to
finalizing deals with two ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and Yahadut Hatorah, who are seeking
ministries and parliamentary committees with large budgets catering to their constituents. He
also appears to be close to a deal with the centrist, economics-focused Kulanu party. But large
gaps remain with the two other pieces needed to complete the puzzle, the nationalist Jewish
Home and Yisrael Beiteinu parties, both of whom are led by long-time Netanyahu associates
who have a tumultuous relationship with the boss. Despite disappointing election results, both
parties are demanding top Cabinet posts and major influence that are disproportionate to their
numbers. Netanyahu has yet to budge and has signalled he may leave them out. Tsahi Hanegbi,
the deputy foreign minister from Netanyahu’s Likud Party, said the prospect of Herzog joining
the coalition only was becoming a possibility due to the hardball approach of the right-wing
parties. “It is rising only as an extreme scenario whose chances of coming true are a result of the
Jewish Home or Yisrael Beitenu, either both of them or one of them, stubbornly refusing to show
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flexibility,” he told Israel’s Army Radio Sunday. While the threat may be a pressure tactic, there
are large issues at stake. Despite his rhetoric, aides acknowledge that Netanyahu is concerned
about clashes with his allies in the U.S. and Western Europe.
Israeli sources said that an extremist Israeli stabbed a Palestinian worker after he shouted
"Death to Arabs," then fled the scene. The victim, who works for the Herzliya Municipality, said
the settler had approached him shouting "death to Arabs" in Hebrew – with a Russian accent –
before stabbing him in the shoulder, according to police spokesperson Luba Samri. The Arab
man was injured slightly and taken to hospital for treatment, she added, noting that police were
currently investigating the incident. The assailant was arrested a short time after.
18 April
Israel has agreed to release hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues and customs duties
that it had withheld from the Palestinians for months, officials on both sides said Saturday. The
agreement could ease a quarrel that began at the start of January, when Israel -- reacting to the
Palestinian Authority's announcement that it would apply to join the International Criminal
Court -- said it would freeze the tax revenues that it collects on the Palestinians' behalf. That
revenue amounts to about $125 million per month, and the Palestinian Authority relies on that
money to fund about two-thirds of its budget -- including the salaries of civil servants -- so the
freeze had a significant impact on the Palestinians' economy. The frozen money will be released
Sunday or Monday, Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh told the Palestinian
Ma'an News Agency. Two Israeli government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity,
confirmed an agreement to release the money had been reached. Details of the agreement
weren't immediately available. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said late
Friday that the PA would now be able to give government workers their April paychecks. The
workers also will get back pay for paycheck that couldn't be issued earlier this year, he said. The
tax dispute began after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Dec. 31 signed a bid
to join the International Criminal Court -- a bid that the ICC went on to accept in April. Israel,
which is not an ICC member, opposed the Palestinians' efforts to join the body, arguing in part
that the Palestinian territories adjacent to Israel were not a state, though the Palestinians
continue to press for one. Spurring Israeli concerns: As an ICC member, the Palestinian
Authority could pursue war crime complaints against Israel. Israel announced in early January
that it was freezing the Palestinians' tax revenues in response to the ICC bid. On March 27, Israel
said it would release much of the frozen money because of "humanitarian concerns and in
overall consideration of Israel's interests." But the Palestinian Authority refused to accept the
money because Israel was going to deduct the cost of utilities such as electricity and water -- a
deduction that the Palestinians said would have cost them about $100 million. At the time,
Palestinian Authority Ministry of Finance spokesman Abdel Rahman Bitani said the release of
the funds should be negotiated between Israel and the Palestinians, not decided by Israel alone.
17 April
Hackers have managed to penetrate computer networks associated with the Israeli military in
an espionage campaign that skillfully packages existing attack software with trick emails,
according to security researchers at Blue Coat Systems Inc. The four-month-old effort, most
likely by Arabic-speaking programmers, shows how the Middle East continues to be a hotbed
for cyber espionage and how widely the ability to carry off such attacks has spread, the
researchers said. Waylon Grange, a researcher with the Blue Coat who discovered the campaign,
said the vast majority of the hackers' software was cobbled together from widely available tools,
such as the remote-access Trojan called Poison Ivy. The hackers were likely working on a budget
and had no need to spend much on tailored code, Grange said, adding that most of their work
appeared to have gone into so-called social engineering, or human trickery. The hackers sent
emails to various military addresses that purported to show breaking military news, or, in some
cases, a clip featuring "Girls of the Israel Defense Forces." Some of the emails included
attachments that established "back doors" for future access by the hackers and modules that
could download and run additional programs, according to Blue Coat. Using standard
obfuscation techniques, the software was able to avoid detection by most antivirus engines, Blue
Coat said. At least some software lodged inside government computers, because Blue Coat
detected it "beaconing," or sending signals to the hackers that it was in place. An Israeli defence
ministry spokeswoman referred questions to the military. Military officials said they were "not
aware of hacking on IDF operational networks." Blue Coat surmised that the attackers spoke
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Arabic because some of the data recovered in the investigation showed that was the default
language setting in one of the programming tools. "Not all targeted attackers need advanced
tools," Blue Coat wrote in a draft paper. "As regional conflicts continue, cyber threats from
groups of various skill levels will also accompany the conventional armed conflicts." Last month,
Israeli security firm Check Point Software Technologies said it had found spying programs in 10
countries that probably originated with a governmental or political group in Lebanon that
deployed them over three years. In February, Kaspersky Lab researchers said they found what
they considered the first "advanced" Arabic-speaking hacking group, which they dubbed Desert
Falcons. Kaspersky said the group operated from Palestine, Egypt and Turkey and claimed about
3,000 victims in 50 countries, especially targeting military, government, media, and activist
computers.
14 April
For the first time in 15 years, a small number of vehicles with Palestinian license plates entered
Israel on Tuesday. Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the
Territories, permitted Palestinian doctors who work shifts and other hospital jobs in Israel –
where immediate response time is essential – to drive vehicles with Palestinian license plates
into the country. “This is a significant step intended to assist doctors in completing their lifesaving mission,” said Brigadier Gen. David Menachem, head of the Civil Administration in
Palestine. “The success of this step will be evaluated in accordance with an assessment of the
security situation.” Vehicles with Israeli license plates can enter areas A and B of the West Bank,
which are under the control of the Palestinian Authority. Vehicles with Israeli and Palestinian
plates can travel on the roads in the West Bank’s Area C. But vehicles with Palestinian plates
have been banned from Israel since the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000. The Palestinian
cars that drove into the country on Tuesday were the first to enter since then. This is the latest
in a series of gestures Israel has made in recent months, including the authorization of a water
hook-up for the new Palestinian city of Rawabi. Israel will also double water sales to the Gaza
Strip, from 5 million cubic meters to 10 million cu.m., by putting online by next week new pipes
and infrastructure that have been ready for operation for the last few years. The ban on the sale
of Gaza produce to Israel was also eased for the first time since it was imposed in 2007.
13 April
Vladimir Putin lifted a ban on deliveries of Russian S-300 air-defence missiles to Iran on
Monday, in a controversial move, which angered Israel. The Russian president issued an
executive order cancelling a prohibition on exporting the weapon to Tehran, a measure brought
in under Western pressure in 2010 when the UN introduced an arms embargo. Israel responded
sharply to the lifting of the ban. Yuval Steinitz, the intelligence and international relations
minister, said it was “a direct result of the legitimacy that Iran is receiving from the nuclear deal
that is being prepared, and proof that the Iranian economic growth which follows the lifting of
sanctions will be exploited for arming itself and not for the welfare of the Iranian people". Mr
Steinitz added: "Instead of demanding that Iran desist from the terrorist activity that it is
carrying out in the Middle East and throughout the world, it is being allowed to arm itself with
advanced weapons that will only increase its aggression.” Moscow signed an $800m deal to
provide S-300 missiles to Iran in 2007, provoking heavy criticism from Israel and the US, which
believed they could be used to protect nuclear sites. The deal was never realised because of the
Kremlin ban, but Russia’s defence ministry said on Monday that the missiles could be delivered
“promptly” if a political decision was made to supply them. Moscow is thought to be establishing
a foothold in Iran with an eye on the economic opportunities if sanctions are cancelled. Mr
Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, told reporters in Moscow that the missiles were an
“exclusively defensive weapon”. He said the repealing of the ban “will not hinder the security of
any state in the region, including Israel". Mr Lavrov noted that Russia had voluntarily adopted
the S-300 ban five years ago, and said it was no longer necessary in the light of the framework
agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme made in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 2. The S-300,
also known by its NATO designation, SA-10 Grumble, is a family of Russian long-range surfaceto-air missile systems that can be used to shoot down aircraft or missiles.
10 April
The leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party said on Friday he favoured recognizing Palestine
as a state if such a move would help bring about a broader peace deal in the Middle East. Ed
Miliband was asked by a reporter if Britain would recognize Palestine in the first year or two of
his premiership, if Labour wins national elections on May 7. Miliband said Labour backed a
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symbolic vote held last year in Britain's parliament in favour of recognizing Palestine. "What we
said at the time of that vote was that it was a vote about the principle of recognition. And clearly
a decision about when recognition would take place was dependent on how it would
constructively help negotiations." "I am not going to get into, today, speculation about when that
would precisely be. That is a judgment we would have to take at the time," he said. Ireland,
France and Italy have also held parliamentary votes on the status of Palestine in recent months.
Sweden has gone further by officially recognizing Palestine.
8 April
A Palestinian man stabbed two Israeli soldiers in the West Bank on Wednesday, seriously
injuring one and lightly wounding the other, before being shot to death by security forces at the
scene, according to the Israeli military. The attack took place on a main route north of Ramallah,
near the Palestinian village of Sinjil and the Jewish settlement of Maale Levona. Coming during
the intermediate days of Passover, when many Israelis are on vacation, it broke several weeks
of relative calm that had followed a spate of attacks against Israelis in Jerusalem and the Israelioccupied West Bank by lone Palestinians using knives, guns and vehicles as weapons. The
official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, identified the Palestinian assailant who was killed on
Wednesday as Muhammad Jaser Karakara, 27, from Sinjil. Israeli security officials have said that
the recent wave of attacks appeared mostly random and spontaneous, carried out by individuals
acting without clear instructions or backing from Palestinian militant organizations. But Israeli
leaders have blamed the Palestinian leadership for creating what Israel says is an atmosphere
of incitement to violence. They particularly cite the Palestinians’ decision to join the
International Criminal Court and threats to press cases against Israelis for war crimes during
last summer’s fighting in Gaza and over Israeli settlement activity.
7 April
Pro-Palestinian hackers disrupted Israeli websites on Tuesday, following threats from the
Anonymous hacking collective that it would carry out an "electronic Holocaust," though Israeli
cyber experts said the coordinated attacks caused little damage. The hacking campaign, which
has taken place every April 7 since 2013, is meant to be in protest of Israeli policies toward the
Palestinians. In 2013, the hackers first waged the coordinated campaign, dubbed OpIsrael, on
the eve of Israel's annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. Israel's Computer Emergency Response
Team, a civilian cyber security group, said Anonymous attacked a few dozen websites belonging
to Israeli musicians and non-profit organizations on Tuesday. Anonymous had vowed it would
topple Israeli government websites, banks and public institutions, though no major disruptions
were reported. The hackers replaced website home pages with photos of a Muslim holy site in
Jerusalem and of militants holding the Islamic State militant flag, and posted a message signed
by "AnonGhost." "We are always here to punish you! Because we are the voice of Palestine and
we will not remain silent!" the message read. A video message by Anonymous said its campaign
was responding to "crimes in the Palestinian territories," including last summer's Gaza war.
Israel's national cyber bureau said it distributed instructions to "relevant authorities" about
boosting defense for websites ahead of the planned attack.
4 April
The FIFA president is to meet the Palestinian football chief to discuss the latter's request that
Israel be barred from international competition, the Palestinian Football Association (PFA) said
Saturday. A PFA statement said that FIFA's Sepp Blatter would meet Jibril Rajoub ahead of the
world governing body's next congress in Cairo in late May, but did not give a date for the talks.
The Palestinians want Israel suspended because of their "racist behaviour against Arabs", with
the statement claiming that Blatter had recently contacted Rajoub and assured him that "serious
discussions were under way for the Palestinian draft resolution to be submitted to a vote at the
next congress in May". The PFA also protested at the creation of "five clubs in settlements on
land occupied since 1967, clubs participating in Israeli national championships in violation of
international law". The PFA last called for Israel's suspension in November after Israeli forces
raided its headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. It has also cried foul over Israeli
travel restrictions on Palestinian players. To be passed, the Palestinian resolution must win the
support of at least 156 other delegates at the 209-member congress. The Palestinians were
upgraded from observer entity to a United Nations "observer state" in 2012, and although not
yet universally recognised as a state, their national football team gained FIFA recognition in
1998. FIFA delegation visited the Gaza Strip in January and pledged $1 million (840,000 euros)
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to help rebuild stadiums there, many of which were damaged during the conflict between Israel
and Hamas last July and August.
2 April
Israeli police on Friday said a missing Israeli man who they feared had been kidnapped in the
West Bank has been located, and that the incident was a hoax. Police said that 22-year-old Niv
Asraf and his friends had "staged" the kidnapping, and that he had been found outdoors with
camping gear and canned food near a West Bank settlement. Police said they received a call on
Thursday afternoon about a car stopping to fix a flat tire and Asraf going into a nearby
Palestinian village to seek help. The caller said he stayed back in the car when his friend left to
find help. The friend had left his phone in the car, according to the caller. The report prompted
a massive manhunt and topped the evening newscasts, even as a global nuclear deal with Israel's
archenemy Iran was being announced. Police said the men would be questioned and face
prosecution.
Israel's Supreme Court rejected a government proposal to route the West Bank separation
barrier through church properties in a scenic valley outside of Jerusalem, a long-running case
that has drawn the interest of Pope Francis. Israel began building the barrier more than a decade
ago, saying it prevents Palestinian attacks inside Israel. Palestinians charge that the barrier is
mainly a land grab because much of it runs through the West Bank, often zig-zagging to include
Jewish settlements and additional lands on the "Israeli side" of the barrier. Israel's Defense
Ministry had proposed to route the barrier through the Cremisan Valley, leaving a Roman
Catholic monastery on the Jerusalem side of the barrier and its sister convent on the West Bank
side, and separating Palestinian landowners from their lands. Israeli authorities had promised
access between the monastery and convent, and for the Palestinians to their lands, through
gates manned by soldiers. The monastery, convent and Palestinian landowners in the area
petitioned the court to change the planned route so the barrier would run closer to Jerusalem
and keep the valley intact. Palestinian landowners presented their case to Pope Francis on his
visit to the Holy Land last year. They said he promised to look into it. The court ordered the
Defense Ministry to offer an alternative route that poses less of a burden on the local Palestinian
residents, as well as the monastery and convent.
Israel arrested a female Palestinian lawmaker from a left-wing militant group for disobeying an
Israeli order barring her from the city of Ramallah. The military said it arrested Khalida Jarrar,
a senior political leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, early Thursday due
to "substantial concerns about the safety and security of the region." Last year, the military
confined her movement to the city of Jericho and its surroundings. The army said the restraining
order was based on her "incitement and involvement in terror." It gave no further details. Her
husband, Ghassan Jarrar, said she was arrested from their Ramallah home. She had long flaunted
the Israeli ban. The military said it has not decided whether to press charges.
Jordan
30 April
Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour on Wednesday laid the foundation stone for an electricity
generation mega-project. Implemented by the Amman-Asia Electric Power Company, the multifuel run electricity plant, coded IPP3, will have the production capacity of 573MW, making it the
largest internal combustion power plant in the world, which has an entry in Guinness Book of
Records. The project, located in the Manakher area in east of Amman, will provide around 15
per cent of additional electric power to the Kingdom's electricity grid. The station is
implemented as a joint venture between a consortium of the Korea Electric Power Corp. Mitsui
and Co. Ltd. and the Finnish power company, Wärtsilä, in cooperation with local task groups
from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, the National Electric Power Company and
the Jordan Water Authority, according to Petra. According to a statement from Wärtsilä, IPP3,
will be used for covering the sharp daily peaks of electricity demand in Jordan. Fast starting and
the capability of ramping output up and down quickly and efficiently are key features of ICE
technology. "By starting one engine at a time, the plant can follow the demand very precisely."
In addition to operational flexibility, IPP3 provides fuel flexibility, the company said, adding that
the tri-fuel plant can run on heavy fuel oil (HFO), light fuel oil and natural gas. Currently HFO is
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used due to shortage of natural gas, the Wärtsilä statement said, adding that the plant will start
to use LNG-based natural gas later this year, "as soon as it becomes available".
25 April
Three suicide car bombs exploded at a border crossing between Iraq and Jordan on Saturday,
killing four soldiers, a witness and an Iraqi border police source said, in an attack claimed
shortly afterwards by Islamic State. The Islamic State militant group claimed responsibility for
the attack in a video, saying it had targeted a government complex, control point for the border
crossing, and army patrol, according to monitoring group SITE. A Jordanian official said his
government had responded by stepping up security measures at the Tureibil crossing, while an
Iraqi defense ministry spokesman said Baghdad would investigate the assault. The Iraqi
government announced a new offensive this month to recapture parts of Anbar, Iraq's Sunni
Muslim heartland, from Islamic State, but the Sunni militants struck back by attacking Ramadi,
the Baiji refinery, and al-Thirthar dam. Jordan increased security at its border crossing with Iraq
on Saturday, an official source said. "We have taken precautionary measures and beefed up
security in such circumstances."
19 April
Jordan on Sunday launched a competition among elite anti-terrorism squads from 18 countries,
including fellow members of military coalitions fighting rebels in Yemen and Islamic State
extremists in Iraq and Syria. The 7th annual Warrior Competition is being held at a time when
Jordan is stepping up its military role in the region, as part of a U.S.-led campaign against Islamic
State and a Saudi-led battle against Shiite rebels in Yemen. The five-day competition offers a
chance for team leaders to "meet and to know each other, as the terrorists have become
international," said Col. Khaled Abu Hamad, a spokesman for the King Abdullah Special
Operations Training Center on the outskirts of Amman, where the event is being held. The
competition opened with a drill by Jordanian Special Forces who rescued mock-hostages from
a passenger plane and rappelled from a helicopter into a five-story building to chase militants.
The opening ceremony also included skydivers and snipers. Teams compete in 10 events,
including shooting. Among those participating are the U.S., Russia, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan,
Bahrain and China — which won the counter-terrorism competition in 2014. Jordan assumed a
more high-profile role in the coalition against the Islamic State group after the militants released
a video in February showing a captured Jordanian pilot being immolated while trapped in a cage.
Jordan's army chief, Brig. Gen. Mashal Zaben, said Sunday that the killing of the pilot "unmasked
the ugly faces of those outlaws."
16 April
A vegetable vendor in the capital’s Rabia neighbourhood was referred to the State Security Court
(SSC) on Thursday after police reportedly found over 1,000 pills in his tent, official sources said.
A Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) team tasked with dismantling illegal tents that sell
vegetables and fruits on the street discovered the pills, the Jordan News Agency, Petra, reported.
“The GAM team, accompanied by a police force, were in the process of dismantling the tent when
they found 1,050 pills hidden inside,” Petra said. The Anti-Narcotics Department (AND) was
immediately notified and the pills were handed over to experts there, a senior AND official said.
“We examined the pills and concluded that only 50 were Captagon, which is illegal, and the rest
were not classified as illegal narcotics,” the AND official said. The official said AND agents
questioned the vendor and “it was determined that he was not a drug dealer.” “It was clear to us
that the pills in his possession were for personal use so we referred him to the SSC prosecution
to face charges on that offence,” the AND official added. Captagon (fenethylline) is a synthetic
stimulant similar to amphetamine. Although banned in most countries in the 1980s, illegally
produced and smuggled Captagon — sometimes containing amphetamine instead of
fenethylline — is a common drug abused in the Middle East, according to web sources.
15 April
The Greater Amman Municipality (GAM) has closed down 528 stores since the beginning of this
year for failing to abide by health regulations, a municipality official said on Wednesday. Mervat
Mheirat, director of GAM’s health supervision department, said GAM inspectors are concerned
with safeguarding public health. “We didn’t focus on shop licences during that period since they
had until the beginning of this month to renew them. We were concerned with health
violations,” she said. Municipality teams destroyed 960 tonnes of food items found unfit for
human consumption at the Ghabawi Landfill and 19 litres of various liquids since the beginning
of this year, according to a GAM statement. Mheirat said GAM health inspectors conducted
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26,222 field visits during this period, noting that the number of registered health violations
dropped by 4 per cent compared with the first four months of last year. “The teams have so far
issued 2,954 warnings, while they issued 3,109 last year. They have also dealt with 983
complaints this year,” she added. The GAM official said the number of field visits is expected to
increase during summer and in the fasting month of Ramadan, when food consumption
increases, since shopkeepers will be showcasing their goods until a late hour. “During these two
periods, we focus on shopping centres and food warehouses in our field visits.”
14 April
A Jordan court on Monday jailed six men for waving the Islamic State group’s flag and singing
jihadi slogans at a wedding. The state security court sentenced two defendants to five years in
prison for “carrying out acts that expose the kingdom to the risk of hostile acts and ruining
relations with foreign states.” The remaining four men were sentenced in absentia to 15 years,
after they failed to show up for the trial. The defendants were arrested shortly after the wedding
in September in the northern city of Irbid. It said the defendants had adopted an extremist
ideology and had distributed propaganda at religious centres in Irbid, which is close to the
Syrian border. Amman has arrested and imprisoned dozens of radicals for trying to sneak into
Syrian territory to fight there. IS controls large areas of Iraq and Syria, both of which border
Jordan, and has imposed its brutal interpretation of Islamic law. Jordan last year joined the U.S.led coalition carrying out airstrikes against IS positions in Syria and Iraq.
12 April
Jordan, on Sunday, reiterated its rejection of an Israeli plan to build the Timna airport at its
current location on the Jordanian border near the King Hussein Airport in Aqaba. Ministry of
Transport spokesman Ali Odaibat said the government has not changed its position, noting that
some media reports are untrue. He added that the authorities have notified the International
Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in this regard, and the government’s objection will be voted
on regarding the establishment of the Israeli airport, in terms of its impact on Jordan's sovereign
airspace and public safety in that area. Odaibat noted that related government bodies,
represented by the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Transport, are in touch with international
organizations on this issue, stressing Jordan's keenness to "protect the airspace from any
violation and maintain the security and safety of aviation in our airspace."
8 April
The US embassy in Amman has called off an advisory urging American citizens to stay away
from high-end malls in Amman, citing then a terror threat. In a statement published Tuesday on
its website, the embassy said that "based on current information, the warning from late
February is no longer in effect.” However, the statement noted that extremist groups continue
to express interest in attacking malls, restaurants and other soft targets throughout the region
and in Jordan. “The US embassy urges US residents and visitors to maintain a high level of
vigilance when visiting public areas, and to leave the area if uncomfortable.” Government
officials have played down the terror threat, maintaining that embassies have their own
evaluation of the security situation, and adding that Jordanian citizens will be warned properly
when authorities deem it necessary.
7 April
A Jordanian pilot and an Iraqi trainee were killed when a light training aircraft crashed during
a routine military exercise on Monday, the Jordanian army said. A T67 “Firefly aircraft crashed
Monday morning, killing a Jordanian lieutenant colonel and his Iraqi trainee, during a routine
training exercise” said Col. Mamdouh al-Amiri, a military spokesman. He said the crash occurred
over Jordanian soil but did not elaborate on the cause of the accident or its location. Local media
reported that the crash took place some 70 to 90 kilometres north of Amman, and several proSyrian regime Internet outlets claimed that Syrian regime forces had shot down the plane. In
September, Jordan joined the U.S.-led coalition of Arab and Western countries carrying out
airstrikes against ISIS. In February, it extended airstrikes against ISIS to Iraq after the group
released a video of downed F-16 pilot Moaz al-Kassasbeh being burned alive.
The Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday that it evacuated another 172 Jordanian citizens
from Yemen to Saudi Arabia in coordination with Saudi authorities. In addition, one Jordanian
citizen was evacuated with a group of Pakistanis by sea on board a Pakistani sea vessel, and he
will be hosted there until his return to Jordan is secured, the ministry said, pointing out that the
number of Jordanians evacuated from Yemen has reached 476. From Saudi Arabia, a Jordanian
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aircraft carrying 144 citizens arrived at Queen Ali International Airport at dawn on Tuesday, in
line with His Majesty King Abdullah’s directives to secure the return of Jordanians from Yemen.
6 April
Jordan signed a $10 billion deal with Russia on Tuesday, March 24 to build the kingdom's first
nuclear power plant, with two 1,000-megawatt reactors in the country's north. The deal, signed
in the Jordanian capital, Amman, with Russia's state-owned Rosatom company caps efforts of
the energy-poor kingdom to increase energy sufficiency and reduce imports. Jordan lacks any
local energy sources and imports 96 percent of its electricity. The violence in neighbouring Iraq
and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has threatened and in many cases, completely cut off supplies. The
kingdom's Petra news agency said Jordan plans to finish construction of the plant in Amra in the
country's north by 2022. There are also hopes it will be fuelled with uranium mined in Jordan.
"As you know, we lost the oil from Iraq, natural gas from Egypt, and the country has been
bleeding and losing on an average $3 billion every year," said Khalid Toukan, head of the
Jordanian Atomic Energy Commission. "We aim to build a state-of-the art nuclear power plant
that will be a showcase for the region and other newcomer countries," Toukan said. He also
referred to the kingdom's large uranium deposits discovered in 2007 but still undeveloped.
"Nuclear power is definitely one of the solutions to graduate from total dependency on oil and
gas," he added. "I am optimistic that the raw materials, the yellow cake, will come from Jordan."
Rosatom's director Sergei Kiriyenko promised to use Russia's 70 years of experience with
nuclear energy with "post-Fukushima lessons" to build the plant, which is among 20 the
company is constructing across the world. "The power plant is the embodiment of a real
strategic partnership," Kiriyenko said. Under the deal, Jordan must buy fuel from Rosatom for
the reactors for 10 years, after which it may seek other suppliers. The Jordanian government
will have a slight majority ownership, with Rosatom owning 49 percent of the plant.
Following collapse of Naseeb border point with Syria, looting of Jordan Syria free trade zone
cost businessmen losses of nearly $ 100 million, business owners said on Monday. Business
leaders have called on Syria to compensate them for the losses, arguing that Damascus was
responsible for safety of their investment. Nabeel Rumman, president of the Jordan Free Zone
Investors commission said tones items imported by Jordanian businessmen remain in
storehouses in the rebel's controlled territories. Eyewitnesses said looting took place in an
organized manner minutes after rebels announced capture of the border. An eyewitness told
ANSA that looters brought dozens of trucks to the areas and started taking anything they could
lay their hands on. Jordan has shut down its borders with Syria after rebels last week announced
a major attack on the crossing. Damascus accuses Amman of facilitating attack in order to push
Syrian troops from the border areas, but Amman denies the accusations as baseless.
5 April
Five people have died in Jordan since the beginning of the year from H1N1 virus flu, the health
ministry said on Sunday, adding that it has recorded 130 cases of the virus. "The health ministry
has this year registered five deaths from the H1N1 virus and 30 cases," a senior ministry official
told a news conference. Daifallah Lozi said the deaths included elderly people, children under
five and those with chronic ailments. He urged Jordanians to seek vaccination against the H1N1
strain of flu, which has now killed 30 people in the country since 2009. The World Health
Organisation declared the H1N1 flu pandemic over in August 2010, more than a year after the
H1N1 virus that emerged from Mexico sparked panic and killed thousands of people worldwide.
3 April
The main border crossing between Syria and Jordan remained closed and chaotic on Friday,
with insurgents — including the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, and Western-backed
rebel factions — wrangling for control two days after they seized and looted the crucial gateway.
The power struggle at the Nasib crossing, coupled with Syrian government airstrikes that hit
nearby on Thursday, is the latest cross-border spillover from Syria’s four-year war, and it has
led to new tensions between Jordan and Syria. Adding to the chaos, at least 10 Lebanese truck
drivers were being held by Nusra, Lebanon’s minister for the economy, Alain Hakim, told
Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper, and witnesses said as many as 22 were being held either for
ransom or as bargaining chips. Jordan’s interior minister, Hussein Majali, said the border would
remain closed indefinitely until the authorities could guarantee security there. The chaos on the
border was a blow to Syria’s government, which lost the last crossing it had still controlled along
the 230-mile border. But it could also be embarrassing for Jordan, the United States and other
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allies involved in a covert program to train insurgents who, they insist, are relatively nationalist
and moderate. Those fighters, calling themselves the Free Syrian Army, work out of an
operations room in Jordan and receive some assistance from the United States, which lists Nusra
as a terrorist organization. But in practice, they often cooperate on the battlefield. Asaad alZoubi, a former Syrian Army officer and the Free Syrian Army’s coordinator for the southern
front, admitted in an interview that some members of army-affiliated battalions had taken part
in the looting, but he insisted that they had not coordinated with Nusra. He said that factions
linked to the Free Syrian Army had seized the border crossing without Nusra fighters, who
rushed in later to take credit. Anti-government activists in the area have said that a deal was
made with Nusra to remain in the background. After a second visit on Friday, he said Nusra and
Free Syrian Army groups were controlling different parts of the complex, with a Free Syrian
Army group called the Southern Falcons objecting to Nusra’s efforts to seize control of the
crossing and its spoils. He said a Nusra fighter told him they were holding 22 drivers, not for
ransom, but as a way to put pressure on the Free Syrian Army “to let Nusra run the whole place.”
Kuwait
28 April
Kuwait is deporting four foreigners who were arrested for driving without licences. The move
is in line with a decision by Interior Minister Shaikh Mohammad Al Khalid to deport any
expatriate caught driving without a licence. Under the decision announced this week, the driver
faces deportation within hours for breaking the country’s laws. The sponsor is informed about
the deportation and he is requested to hand over the expatriate's passport and to buy him a oneway ticket. Kuwaiti authorities said they wanted to ensure full compliance with the law and to
address chaotic situations on the roads. A study commissioned to look into the status of foreign
drivers in the country has recommended raising the fee to obtain a driving licence for
expatriates to KD300. An initial recommendation was KD500, but the interior ministry
suggested lowering it. The move aims to limit the number of foreign drivers on the country’s
increasingly congested roads. Around two thirds of Kuwait’s total population of 3.2 million are
foreigners, mainly domestic helpers and unskilled labourers from Asian countries working in
the service and construction sectors. A traffic official said that around 9,000 driving licences
have been revoked from foreigners, mainly stay-at-home wives who took up jobs and who under
the new rules have to submit new applications. Kuwait has launched several campaigns to
address deficiencies and abuses on the roads that have gained an unwanted notoriety as chaotic
and dangerous in the absence of an adequate driving culture and full compliance with rules and
regulations.
27 April
Kuwait has frozen the number of expatriates in the country. New foreign workers will only be
granted visas to replace exiting expats. Kuwaiti authorities have struggled to deal with
contention among citizens over the imbalance between locals and foreigners in the country,
particularly as infrastructure has failed to keep up with the expanding population. Expats make
up about two-thirds of the total population of about 3.3 million. Various schemes to reduce expat
numbers have been previously announced, including in 2013 when the then-social minister said
the number of expats would be cut by 100,000 each year until 2023, effectively halving the total.
The new government has not followed through with that policy. More than 90 percent of
Kuwaitis who work are employed by the public sector, while there are more than 2 million
expats in the private sector
23 April
Kuwait has deported a prominent activist to Saudi Arabia after withdrawing his Kuwaiti
citizenship last year, local media reported, a move he and other opposition figures said was
politically motivated. The Kuwaiti government last year ordered a crackdown on people
suspected of trying to "undermine the stability" of the oil exporter. The move was part of an
"iron fist" policy adopted by the government following protests after the arrest of prominent
opposition politician Musallam al-Barrak. The Arabic-language al-Rai newspaper reported on
Wednesday that Saad al-Ajmi, spokesman for the Popular Action Movement (PAM) and a former
correspondent for the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya news channel, was detained on Tuesday and
deported. PAM politicians dominated parliament before 2012, but the group was among several
political associations that boycotted national elections three years ago to protest against
changes to election laws seen as favouring candidates from other parties. A Kuwaiti security
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source said Ajmi was sent to Saudi Arabia after his documents showed he was a native Saudi
national. Saudi officials declined to comment on the deportation. The Kuwait Democratic Forum,
a group of leftist and nationalist activists, which like Ajmi's movement wants political and
economic reforms, said his deportation showed a "constitutionally unacceptable approach" by
the government in targeting political activists. "The latest (of these measures) was related to
activist Saad al-Ajmi, who, and others, were not accorded the legal guarantees which shows a
major disorder of the authority's management of the state," it said in a statement. Barrak called
for a meeting on Thursday to discuss Ajmi's deportation. Born in Kuwait, Ajmi, was one of 18
people to have their citizenship withdrawn by authorities last year. Some of them had obtained
Kuwaiti citizenship unlawfully, the state news agency said at the time, but in Ajmi's case and
that of six others, the reasons were unclear. Ajmi said then that stripping him of his citizenship
was part of a government crackdown on political activists deemed by the state to be
endangering its stability. Kuwait allows more political freedom than other Gulf Arab states, with
relatively free media and an elected parliament, but local laws ban public gatherings of more
than 20 people without a permit.
22 April
Kuwait has deported a prominent opposition figure to neighbouring Saudi Arabia months after
revoking his citizenship, his group said on Wednesday. Saad Al Ajmi, former spokesman of the
Popular Action Movement (PAM), was arrested by secret police on Tuesday and escorted to the
Saudi city of Khafji by road at night, PAM said in a statement. As part of a crackdown on the
opposition, the Kuwaiti government revoked Ajmi's citizenship in September on the basis of an
article in the nationality law that bans dual citizenship. Local media said Ajmi was accused of
holding Saudi citizenship, which he has denied. Ajmi has filed a lawsuit to challenge the
government's action. The authorities have revoked the citizenship of several dozen other figures
with links to the opposition over the past year, including a former member of parliament (MP)
and the owner of a television channel. PAM said that Ajmi was deported on a one-way Saudi
travel document issued by the kingdom's embassy in Kuwait. There has been no official
comment on the issue so far.
19 April
Kuwait has requested Interpol (the International Criminal Police Organisation) issue a global
warrant for the arrest of a citizen accused of creating a seditious videotape, according to Arab
Times. Hamad Al Haroun allegedly recorded MPs discussing an alleged plot to overthrow the
Gulf state’s leaders. The tape came to prominence early 2014 when Al Watan and Alam Al Youm
newspapers reported about its existence. The government suspended both newspapers and
later cancelled the business licence of Al Watan, while also revoking the citizenship of its
publisher. Al Haroun allegedly fled the country in late March via the Al Nuwaiseeb border, with
the help of three civilian border staff, including one who was a relative of his travelling
companion, Arab Times reported. Employees who were on duty at the time Al Haroun crossed
the border have been charged with negligence, the online newspaper said. He had earlier left
the country for fear of being prosecuted but returned earlier this year after authorities assured
him he would not be charged and a travel ban would be lifted. However, the promises were not
followed through, Arab Times reported. He also is reportedly wanted by Jordanian authorities
for alleged involvement in a financial scandal.
15 April
State-run Kuwait Petroleum Corp (KPC) and all affiliated firms remain on alert, state news
agency KUNA said on Wednesday, three weeks after Saudi Arabia and Arab allies began military
strikes against Houthi militias in Yemen. The agency quoted Sheikh Talal al-Khaled al-Sabah, the
spokesperson for the country's oil sector and chief executive of the Kuwait Oil Tanker Company
as saying oil facilities were continuing the precautionary measures they had taken since the
start of developments in Yemen. KPC said at the start of military operations in Yemen led by
Saudi Arabia it had raised security around its oil facilities. KPC acting chief executive officer
Mohammad al-Farhoud said these measures include "securing all industrial safety and security
requirements and raising the level of security measures and to intensify the protection of oil
installations in Kuwait and abroad," according to KUNA. Kuwait, a major oil exporter, is part of
the Saudi-led alliance that has been waging air strikes on positions of the Iranian-backed Houthi
groups and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
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14 April
Kuwait is debating the country’s first anti-terrorism law, which could include revoking the
citizenship of those found to belong to a terrorist organisation, Arab Times has reported.
Previous attempts to introduce such legislation, which already exists in other GCC states, have
been thwarted by former MPs who supported the Muslim Brotherhood, Arabic daily Al Shahed
claimed. The Muslim Brotherhood is outlawed in Saudi Arabia and the UAE under respective
anti-terror laws. Some MPs reportedly expressed concerns that Kuwait’s lack of an antiterrorism legislation made it vulnerable to extremists, including those returning from fighting
in Syria. “We will seek a legislation to protect the security of the country,” MP Mubarak Al Hurais
said. MP Abdullah Maayouf said Kuwait needed the legal power to “research, follow-up and
investigate sleeper cells”. MP Faris Al Otaibi said Kuwait already was a signatory to international
conventions related to terrorism but it needed legislation to deter terrorists from working and
spreading extremist ideas in the country. “We actually need to deter criminal acts and misguided
ideas that threaten our internal security,” he said. MPs Saadoun Hamad and Faisal Al Duwaisan
urged parliament to speed up the debate and vote on the proposed legislation as a matter of
priority, considering the regional situation.
The new director of the Kuwait Ports Authority has publicly addressed corruption and
absenteeism concerns, vowing to crackdown on both. Sheikh Yousef Al Abdullah Al Sabah, who
was appointed three weeks ago, said he would launch an internal investigation and address any
corruption allegations. “We won’t hide any corruption, and will let people know about the
procedures we will take to correct past mistakes,” he was quoted as saying. “We will be
cooperating with the Audit Bureau, government performance follow-up agency, the AntiCorruption Authority, Ministry of Interior and others by providing all information, data and
documents related to KPA work, contracts and relations. “We will appoint an internal financial
auditor and a criminal auditor to do an exact inventory to prevent any corruption.” Existing
tenders also would be suspended while they were re-evaluated, he said. “I promise to punish
any violator or corrupt employee and take legal action against them,” Al Sabah said. The tender
process also would be re-evaluated to ensure the highest levels of transparency were in place.
Al Sabah said he had received a 108-page report from the Audit Bureau on irregularities and
potential violations within the authority, which he was using as a starting point. “One of the most
serious problems that we face is absenteeism among employees that even reaches 90 percent,”
he was quoted as saying. “We also have decaying utilities and harbours, and mixing of
responsibilities with the Ministry of Commerce and the Public Authority for Industry. In fact,
some of the dilapidated utilities are not under KPA’s responsibility, and we will solve this
problem and return these properties.” On a positive note, Al Sabah also said he had plans for
new projects. “We will start work on a mega project which will be the biggest or second biggest
land port in Shuaiba, which should encourage and increase the commercial activity in this port
and relieve the pressure on Shuwaikh Port,” he said. “Also, instead of depending on private
companies to do the onshore work for us, we will employ skilled manpower and train our
employees so they will do it. Since KPA is doing the entire offshore work, which is more difficult,
we can definitely do the onshore work as well.”
11 April
The Kuwaiti government on Tuesday pledged $200 million to support the reconstruction of the
Gaza Strip, a Palestinian official said. Jawad Naji, the Prime Minister's adviser for Arab and
Islamic funding, told Ma'an that the agreement was signed with Abdal-Wahab al-Bader, Director
General of the Kuwait Development Fund. The deal will provide $75 million for the construction
of 1,500 housing units and for the construction of water pipes from the north to south of Gaza.
Another $35 million will be used for infrastructure projects and $15 million for supporting
damaged agricultural and industrial structures. Israel and Hamas fought a July-August war that
killed almost 2,200 Palestinians and caused massive destruction. Reconstruction has barely
begun, with experts saying it will take years even if Israel significantly eases its eight-year
blockade. Figures published by OXFAM in February showed that 1,661 trucks of the most
essential construction materials -- aggregates, steel bars and cement -- have entered Gaza in the
three months since a donor conference pledged $5.4 billion for reconstruction in October, less
that 0.25 percent of what is needed. At current rates it would take up to 100 years to rebuild
homes, schools and other damaged infrastructure, OXFAM said.
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10 April
The Kuwaiti National Assembly's Human Rights Committee has completed a draft law for
establishing a national human rights agency. The 14-article bill has been submitted to the
Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Justice and Social Affairs and Labor as well as the State
Ministry for Planning to seek their views on the draft. The move comes just weeks after USbased Human Rights Watch said in its annual report for 2014 that Kuwait’s government has
escalated punishments against people critical of the government. The rights group said the
Kuwait government should take urgent steps to amend national laws that officials are using to
crack down on free speech, and stop revoking citizenship to punish its critics and peaceful
opponents. The draft law aims to establish an independent human rights body under the
supervision of the cabinet, the head of the committee Abdulhameed Dashti was quoted as saying
by KUNA. It also aims at enhancing and safeguarding human rights and disseminating and
consolidating public freedoms in line with the constitution and relevant international accords,
he added. The new entity will enjoy independence and a juridical entity, with an 11-member
board. The rights body will also include representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs,
Interior, Justice and Social Affairs and Labour as well as the Fatwa and Legislation Department
who will act as advisors. Board members will be appointed for a four-year term, with a limit of
two terms.
8 April
Kuwait will reintroduce compulsory military service after the parliament approved legislation
on Tuesday. Under the legislation, Kuwait men must serve in the military for one year from the
age of 18 and then remain in the reserves until they are 45 years old. Those who refuse face a
two-year jail term. The compulsory service would be reintroduced in 2017 after a 20-year
hiatus, the daily said. It follows a decision in the UAE last year to introduce compulsory military
service, although for both men and women. The Kuwait service also will affect men aged 18-35
years at the time the legislation is introduced, before gradually only applying to 18-year-olds,
although they would be allowed to delay their service under certain circumstances including
studying, single sons until the age of 35 and those with dependents, particularly if they are
handicapped. The 12-month period would include military training and service in Kuwait army
units. While in reserves, the men would be required to participate in 30 days of military service
annually for 10 years or until they reach 45 years old. However, in a significant move designed
to encourage Kuwaitis into the private sector, MPs recommended exempting those employed in
private businesses from military service.
The Nepali embassy in Kuwait is shutting down its shelter that has been offering refuge to
migrant workers in times of trouble. The embassy announced its decision through a statement
on Tuesday. It said that the workers who are in need of shelter would now be referred to the
Expatriate Lodging Centre, recently opened by the Kuwaiti Ministry of Social Welfare and
Labour. The centre would provide food, shelter as well as health care, the embassy said.
Currently, there are 54 women living in the shelter run by the Nepali mission. Most of them had
fled from their employers after suffering from physical and financial exploitation. The embassy
said it was preparing to shift the women to the centre before repatriating them in coordination
with the Kuwaiti government. Countries like Sri Lanka, India and Philippines have already
relocated their people to the centre. The number of migrant workers seeking refuge has
declined ever since the government banned women from visiting the Middle East for
employment, the embassy said. It has also urged the government not to lift the ban until the
labour receiving countries agree to sign separate labour agreement to ensure the rights and
safety of migrant workers.
7 April
The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development plans to lend Egypt $1.5 billion over the next
five years, extending $300 million each year, the fund's director-general Abdulwahab al-Bader
said. He did not give details of the loans. The fund is the Kuwaiti government's agency for aiding
developing countries in areas such as agriculture, transport and energy. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia
and the United Arab Emirates have provided billions of dollars of aid to Egypt in the past two
years to support its economy and help it maintain political stability.
5 April
Kuwait's Supreme Court Sunday upheld a two-year jail sentence for opposition activist Ayyad
al-Harbi over tweets deemed offensive to the Gulf state's ruler. Harbi, a journalist in his 20s at
the Sabr news website, has been behind bars since May after the appeals court handed him the
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prison sentence. Online activists strongly criticised Sunday's ruling, which is final. They said that
Harbi had only re-posted on Twitter verse in which Iraqi poet Ahmad Matar blasted Arab rulers.
Criticising the emir is illegal in Kuwait and is considered a state security offense. Those
convicted can face jail for up to five years. Harbi is among several online activists who are
serving prison sentences. In February, former lawmaker Mussallam al-Barrak was condemned
to two years in jail for insulting the emir at an opposition gathering in 2012. The Supreme Court
is to hear his appeal on April 13.
4 April
Customs officials have seized 548 grams of gold hidden in the body of a cabin crew at Dhaka’s
Shahjalal International Airport. Aslam Omar Belim, 45, a cabin crew of Kuwait Airways, arrived
at Dhaka airport on Saturday morning. Customs Intelligence’s Assistant Commissioner Umme
Nahida Akhter said Belim’s nervousness attracted attention of the airport staff. After scanning
him, the gold was found hidden on his body. Eighty-two grams of gold jewellery and four gold
bars weighing 10 Tola each were recovered from him. The estimated market price of the gold
would be about TK 2.5 million, said Nahida. Legal action is being taken against Belim.
2 April
In Kuwait the domestic workers business is booming, with nearly 90% of Kuwaiti households
employing at least one foreign maid. Yet while dozens of recruitment agencies are pulling out
the stops to attract potential employers – including parading women in front of potential
employers who can take them home on the spot – they are also being accused of selling women
and duping them into a life of domestic servitude. Women from Sierra Leone formerly employed
as domestic workers in private Kuwaiti households said they had been “sold like slaves” by
recruitment agents to families in the Kuwaiti capital and then resold multiple times. Each said
that they had paid about £1,000 ($1,480) to recruitment agents in Sierra Leone on the promise
of jobs as nurses in hospitals or in the hotel industry, only to find on arrival that they were to be
offered to families as housemaids and expected to work for up to 22 hours a day. “[The agents]
took us to their offices and people would come to look at us,” said one woman who worked as a
nurse in Sierra Leone. “If they said, ‘I want this person’, they took you to their house.” Adama,
24, said that after being selected by a Kuwaiti family she was taken to their house and treated
“like a slave”. “You have to work 24 hours [with] no day off. You can never leave the house …
You are not allowed to use mobile phones. These people are not good.” She raises her skirt to
reveal a deeply scarred leg. Adama claims her employer paid her nothing for her work and
deliberately spilled hot oil on her while she was cooking. “I was crying, [but] she did not even
look at me. I said, ‘Madam, why you do this to me?’ She told me that I’m a slave … I’m too slow,
I’m not fast enough.” Employers are given a 100-day guarantee by agents, which allows them to
return domestic workers they are not happy with and get a refund. As well as keeping employers
happy, this also creates a booming “second-hand” market where returned domestic workers can
be resold to other families for up to two years. Thousands of women travel to Kuwait every year
to work. Workers come from across Asia but also, increasingly, from Africa, with women being
recruited by agents in countries such as Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Kenya and Ethiopia. Once
employed as domestic workers in Kuwait, women find it difficult to leave if they suffer abuse.
Under Kuwait’s kafala sponsorship system, domestic workers are not allowed to leave or change
jobs without their employer’s permission. With their residency status also tied to their
employer, if they run away they become “illegal”. Last year, stories of abuse suffered by Sierra
Leonean women in Kuwait prompted the country’s authorities to follow other governments,
including those of Indonesia and Nepal, in banning its citizens from being employed as domestic
workers in the country. Yet they continue to come through informal channels. Despite the
official ban, when staff from the Sierra Leonean embassy visited recruitment agents recently
they found about 100 women from Sierra Leone on their books. Saidu Bangura, the cultural
attaché at the Sierra Leone embassy in Kuwait, believes the real figure is “far above that.”
Lebanon
29 April
The Health Ministry Wednesday seized food shipments at Beirut port after samples tested
positive for Aflatoxin, a dangerous type of bacteria. A ministry statement said it had informed
Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb, Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil and Economy Minister
Alain Hakim that shipments of lentils, green coffee beans and peeled sesame were confiscated
from Beirut’s port after tests revealed that the products did not meet food safety standards. The
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ministry called on those ministries to conduct their own tests of the food products to determine
whether or not they should be allowed to enter Lebanese markets. Separately Wednesday,
Health Ministry inspectors visited a number of slaughterhouses in the southern city of Sidon
and in the Taamir neighbourhood of Ain al-Hilweh, issuing warnings against one butchery and
three chicken shops. The ministry also raided a supermarket in the Mount Lebanon district of
Aley where they seized quantities of meat that did not carry an expiry date label. They also
issued a warning against the Salloukh slaughterhouse in the Aley town of Qmatieh, after
receiving a complaint. Inspectors ordered the abattoir to improve its sanitary standards, acquire
a health certificate, adopt unified employee uniforms and stop displaying meat outside the store.
The state-run National News Agency reported Wednesday that the Batroun municipality’s
official physician and a Health Ministry inspector visited restaurants in the towns of Kfar Halda,
Basateen al-Assi and Beit Shlala. Several warnings were issued against restaurants that didn’t
hold health certificates and official licenses.
27 April
Three domestic workers were found dead in separate incidents across Lebanon over the past
24 hours. Police launched an investigation into the death of an Ethiopian worker who fell to her
death Monday in Nahr al-Mott, north of Beirut, a security source said. Police arrived on scene at
about 9 a.m. after the worker fell through the skylight of a building. A source said investigators
were examining footage from surveillance cameras around the building to determine whether
a crime had been committed. In the northern city of Tripoli, a Bengali domestic worker was
found "slaughtered" in bathroom of her employer's house, the National News Agency said.
Lebanon's Labour Ministry said in a statement Monday that it had tasked a ministerial team
with investigating the death of the woman. It said a forensic medical examiner also arrived at
the scene to determine the cause and manner of death. On Sunday, another Ethiopian worker
was found hanging from a tree in Ouzai, just south of Beirut. The Labour Ministry also revealed
Monday the case of another Bengali domestic worker who fled her employer's house because
she has not been paid since she started working for the man five years ago. Labour Minister
Sejaan Azzi tasked an inspection team with following up on the case of the women, according to
a statement issued by his office. After examining the worker's case, investigators determined
that the woman is only 17 years old, meaning that she was only 12 when she first arrived in
Lebanon and commenced her employment. The statement said that the investigation team
tasked with the issue will track down the agency that brought a minor to Lebanon. The team
will also interrogate the employer and take legal measures against him.
24 April
The Lebanese army says it arrested eight wanted militants, including a soldier who deserted to
join the Islamic State group and four Syrians. An army statement late Thursday said the arrests
came during a raid earlier in the day in the northern town of Akkar. The eight are accused of
terrorist attacks in Lebanon and attacks on the military. Lebanon struggles with the spillover
from neighbouring Syria's civil war. Militants have carried out cross-border attacks, kidnapped
and killed soldiers. The Lebanese are divided, with some Sunnis supporting the Syrian rebels
while some Shiites and Christians side with Syrian President Bashar Assad's government. At
least four Lebanese soldiers have deserted to join militant groups. One of the arrested, Sgt.
Abdul-Rahman Khaled, declared on video last year he was joining IS.
23 April
Employees at the state-funded Rafik Hariri University Hospital began an open-ended strike
Thursday to protest a delay in receiving their paychecks, a source at the hospital said. Patient
admissions to both the hospital and the emergency department were halted as of Thursday
morning, a source at RHUH told The Daily Star. The source said the strike does not affect patients
already in the hospital. The hospital employees had not received their March paychecks and had
only received 30 percent of their February salary, the source added. RHUH workers have
frequently faced problems with overdue salaries. Employees previously declared a strike in
February in protest to the delay in receiving their January paychecks and what they perceived
as a lack of employment benefits.
20 April
Lebanon has received the first instalment of $3 billion worth of French weapons paid for by
Saudi Arabia. The handover ceremony held Monday at Beirut's international airport was
attended by Lebanese and French defence ministers and top army officers. The deal, first
announced in 2013, aims to boost Lebanon's military as it struggles to contain a rising tide of
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violence linked to the civil war in neighbouring Syria. French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le
Drian says the deal will include dozens of armoured vehicles, six transport helicopters and other
types of weapons. The deal also includes training programs for Lebanese troops run by the
French military. Lebanese Defence Minister Samir Moqbel said "Lebanon's victory against
terrorism is a victory to all nations threatened by terrorism."
Lebanon’s Military Court Monday issued sentences against five people convicted of terrorrelated charges, judicial sources told The Daily Star. The court sentenced Sheikh Omar Bakri
Fustoq to three years in prison with hard labour after he was convicted of belonging to a
terrorist group, inciting attacks against the Army and attempting to form an Islamic emirate in
Lebanon. Authorities detained the wanted sheikh in Aley on May 25, after he fled his home in
Tripoli before the Lebanese Army and police launched a security plan to restore law and order
to the city, which was plagued by several rounds of clashes linked to the crisis in Syria. The
Tripoli-based preacher had pledged allegiance to ISIS, urging the extremists group to “reactivate
its cells” in Lebanon. The court also sentenced Jamal Daftardar and Mohammad Bassam
Hammoud, members of the Al-Qaeda affiliated Abdullah Azzam Brigades, with seven years in
prison with hard labour. Daftardar, a commander in the brigades, was arrested by security
forces in the Bekaa Valley last year. The group was behind the 2013 double suicide attack
outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, which killed some 30 people, including an Iranian
diplomat. Meanwhile, Lebanese nationals Shadi Zaylaa and Hussam Sabbagh were sentenced to
five years in prison with hard labour after they were convicted of belonging to a terrorist group,
fighting alongside the group in Iraq, and attempting to carry out terrorist operations in Lebanon.
The first shipment of French weapons and military equipment arrived in Lebanon on Monday
under a Saudi-funded deal worth $3 billion to bolster the Lebanese army's fight against militants
encroaching from neighbouring Syria. Lebanese news channels showed a military plane at
Beirut International airport with green boxes of weapons and missiles laid out in front. Saudi
and French flags waved and the French and Lebanese ministers of defence attended the
ceremony. Lebanon, whose sectarian divisions have been exacerbated by the war over the
border in Syria, has said it needs more resources and better hardware. The deal will involve
about 20 French companies and cover a mix of land, sea and air equipment, including armoured
vehicles, heavy artillery, anti-tank missiles, mortars and assault weapons, a French defence
ministry source has said. A security source from Lebanon, which is still rebuilding after its own
15-year civil war, said the first shipment was 48 "Milan" anti-tank missiles.
18 April
General Security units arrested Saturday a number of individuals accused of forging birth
certificates for Lebanese nationals seeking to acquire Turkish nationality, a statement said
Saturday. A General Security unit raided an office in Beirut’s Corniche al-Mazraa neighbourhood
where they arrested Lebanese-Turkish national and other employees at the centre. According
to the statement, the office raided by security forces provides translation services. The owner
of the centre, a Lebanese-Turkish national, identified as N.M, however, also runs an illegal
service that offers fake birth certificates for Lebanese nationals of Turkish origin. The forged
birth certificates would allow for the individuals to reclaim the Turkish nationality. During
interrogations, the prime suspect confessed to forging the documents. The fate of other
employees who were also arrested remains unclear.
17 April
The Lebanese Army said Friday it seized a host of weapons - including mortar bombs, grenades
and explosives - after a night-time raid in the northern city of Tripoli. Based on a tip-off, a
military unit late Thursday recovered the arms cache located in the vegetable market in the
Tripoli neighbourhood of Bab al-Tabbaneh, a Lebanese Army statement said. It said 50 mortar
shells, four rocket launchers, ammunition, 25 kg of explosive material and various other types
of military equipment had been confiscated during the raid. The Army said an investigation has
been launched.
14 April
A key ISIS militant, who accidentally landed in police custody in Baalbek, east Lebanon, is likely
to have played a major role in recruiting fighters for ISIS, according to a report published
Tuesday. Local daily As-Safir said Turki Qalfoun, a Syrian national, was stopped at a Lebanese
Army checkpoint in Baalbek recently and handed over to the local police for lacking an ID card.
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Police examined the phone call log on his cell phone to find out that Qalfoun left the northern
city of Tripoli five minutes after notorious wanted fugitive Osama Mansour was killed late
Sunday and headed to the northeastern border town of Arsal to meet Abu Mohtasem, an
Egyptian who belongs to ISIS, As-Safir said. Interrogation with Qalfoun, who has been moved to
Beirut for further investigation, showed that the ISIS militant had frequently visited Egypt,
Turkey and Algeria. He is thought to have played a key role in recruiting jihadis for ISIS in light
of an image found on his cell phone that shows him at an ISIS training camp. Also found in his
possession was a large amount of cash, the report said. Separately, an officer with the Free
Syrian Army has reportedly handed handed himself over to a Lebanese Army checkpoint in
Baalbek for fear of being killed by ISIS, according to As-Safir.
10 April
Lebanese police say they have killed a prominent Islamic militant who was wanted on
terrorism-related charges in a shootout in the country's north. A statement issued by police on
Friday says Osama Mansour was shot dead along with an accomplice in the city of Tripoli during
a security operation in the area the previous night. The operation sought to arrest a radical
cleric, Sheikh Khaled Hoblos. The statement says Mansour opened fire on the police trying to
arrest Hoblos and wounded two policemen. Police then returned the fire, killing the two men.
Mansour is wanted in Lebanon on several charges including plotting attacks against the
Lebanese army and is an associate of Lebanon's top fugitive Shadi Mawlawi. The police said he
was wearing an explosives belt when he was shot.
8 April
A long-awaited security plan for Beirut and its southern suburbs will be implemented before
the end of April, Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk said Wednesday. “The security plan, which
has been implemented across many Lebanese areas, will be carried out in the capital Beirut and
the southern suburbs before the end of this month,” Machnouk told local daily As-Safir. He said
he will chair a meeting of the Central Security Council on Thursday in order to resolve some
outstanding points, including the share of each security institution in the implementation plan.
Machnouk said 14 wanted men, including a major gang leader, have been arrested over the past
few days after the Lebanese Army and police took strict security measures along the Beirut
airport road. He said security forces will pursue and arrest other suspects, including two gang
leaders.
The U.S. embassy in Beirut is supposed to reach out to Lebanon’s residents, but scammers have
reportedly taken advantage, impersonating the ambassador in a bid to solicit money. In an email
and postings on social media on Wednesday, the embassy warned that messages seeking money,
purportedly from Ambassador David Hale, were the work of fraudsters. “Don’t believe them,”
the embassy warned. The scam reportedly involved both emails and use of the networking site
LinkedIn, with targets being invited to “connect” on the website with Hale. “When they have,
they received a message saying that, for a certain sum of money, they could be named a Goodwill
Ambassador for the United Nations,” the embassy said. “Victims were then requested to send
money to an office in London.” “Ambassador Hale does not make UN appointments and would
not solicit funds from people,” the embassy made clear. In other cases, the scammers attempted
to elicit feeds for the processing of immigrant visas and work permits. Internet fraudsters
worldwide have long sought to extract money from the vulnerable and gullible with messages
promising riches, fame and love. Some more sophisticated rackets have netted criminals
millions of dollars, according to law enforcement officials.
Oman
27 April
From April 1 to June 30, 2015, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) illegally staying in Oman can
avail of an amnesty period to rectify their status there, the Department of Labor and
Employment (DOLE) said Monday. Philippine Labor Attaché Nasser Mustafa said the threemonth amnesty is part of Oman's efforts to regulate the presence of foreign workers there. “This
amnesty will also help foreign workers who are willing to stay and work in Oman, but subject
to the guidelines under the labor law promulgated by the Sultanate's Royal Decree 35/2003,”
Mustafa said in his report to Manila. He said Oman’s Ministry of Manpower recently briefed
labor attachés of foreign embassies in Muscat about the amnesty. But in the meantime, Mustafa
also said the Ministry and the Royal Oman Police have been conducting raids against
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undocumented migrant workers, tightening controls on work permits and tenancy contracts,
and scrutinizing landlords and their tenants. This prompted DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz
to urge OFWs in Oman to avail of the amnesty. "I strongly urge our OFWs in Oman who, for
various reasons, have been staying illegally in the Sultanate, to avail of this amnesty and go home
to the Philippines or correct their stay to avoid the repercussion of their being illegal foreigners
in Oman," Baldoz said. Mustafa also said the Oman Ministry of Manpower has advised the
Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and Philippine Embassy representatives to be at the
Ministry every day. “A small drawback of the amnesty program is that repatriated workers
under the amnesty program cannot return to Oman within three years from the time they were
repatriated,” he said. Under the amnesty: registration of Filipino nationals shall be at the POLO;
all required documents of OFWs who want to avail of the amnesty program shall be prepared
by the POLO, which will endorse it to the Oman Ministry of Manpower. Employers/sponsors of
illegal workers will also be asked to comment in writing amnesty applications. If
employers/sponsors fail to comply, the worker will be repatriated. The penalty for overstaying
and money claims of employers' expenses during the deployment of workers will be waived.
Applicants will need to have themselves finger printed, except children aged 18 years and
below. Applicants whose documents were received by the Oman Ministry of Manpower must
leave the Sultanate within one month.
22 April
Oman may for the first time introduce the death penalty against drug traffickers, amid efforts to
curb a growing drug problem that affects mostly the youth. The Combating Narcotics and
Psychotropic Drug Law will may be amended soon after the final approval of Oman’s Sultan
Qaboos Bin Said. The amendments were recommended by the elected Consultative Council, the
Majlis Al Shura, and were forwarded to the appointed State Council for approval. Senior sources
in the State Council said that the appointed council had reservations about some of the
amendments but added that they were mostly resolved. After approval from the State Council,
the amended law will be forwarded to the Council of Ministers, the cabinet, for approval, and
then to Sultan Qaboos for signing. Ten articles of the total of 72 in the narcotics law have been
amended aims to severely crack down drug peddlers. The article 43 of the amended law
stipulates death penalty or life sentence for drug dealers and a fine of more than OMR 25,000. It
also stipulates the death penalty for anyone who has connection with international drug
trafficking gangs. Article 56 stipulates that anyone who assaults drug enforcement staff will be
jailed for a minimum of ten years and will be fined no less than OMR 3,000. It also stipulates the
life sentence in case of the assault resulted in permanent disability. The death penalty will be
given in case the assault results in death. If a suspect refuses to provide the necessary samples
for the detection of the narcotics, he or she will be jailed six month at least and a face fine of
OMR 100. The first Omani Narcotic Law issued by a royal decree number 17/99. Observers
believe that introducing such punishment will lead to a significant drop in the drug cases in
Oman. Ahmad Al Hinai, a social worker, told Gulf News that introducing that will be a deterrent
for drug dealers who will think twice before committing such crime. Regarding the drug cases
among Omani youth, Al Hinai said that there is an increase in the number of young, female
Omani drug addicts, compared to the past five years. In total, there are 4,150 cases registered
until the end of 2013 and 3,950 persons involved in 2,523 cases, according to the Central
Register. A source in ROP told Gulf News that the number of drug cases has been rising by more
than ten per cent every year. The source added that applying the death penalty will definitely
reduce drug cases in Oman. More rehab centres will be built nationwide as the number of the
drug addicts rises. The Omani government spends millions of rials to treat those addicts. An
official at the Royal Oman Police (ROP), said that Oman’s geography, with its long coastline and
proximity to the drug exporting countries, poses a major challenge in combatting drug
trafficking. ROP along with other security units has intensifies its efforts to combat drug
peddling, said the official. he added that most of the drug traffickers who were arrested in Oman
are expatriates. According to ROP figures, heroin is the number one drug seized by ROP.
16 April
Oman received 2,695 refugees from 48 nationalities via the land borders during in the past two
weeks. States whose citizens were trapped in Yemen requested that Oman allow them to cross
the border. Meanwhile, injured Yemeni nationals affected by the war in Yemen have been
treated in different Omani hospitals. Many of those have sustained medium to severe injuries,
according to sources. Omanis have launched blood donation campaigns following a shortage of
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blood in a number of blood banks in Muscat. Oman is the only member of the Gulf Cooperation
council not to have taken part in the Saudi-led Operation Storm of Resolve against the Al Houthi
militia in Yemen. A government source told Gulf News that Oman is focusing to provide only
humanitarian assistance. “We expecting more injured Yemenis to be treated in Omani
hospitals”, said the official.
12 April
Nine drug smugglers were arrested and 13 kilograms of heroin and 34,000 pills were seized in
five separate operations by anti-narcotics teams from the UAE and Oman. Col Saeed Al Suwaidi,
head of the anti-narcotics federal directorate general at the Ministry of Interior, said the raids,
which took place last month and February, dealt a severe blow to drug traffickers and
underlined the success of cross-border cooperation with counterparts in Oman. Col Al Suwaidi
said the teams received information from Oman, which led the smugglers to abort two attempts
by two Arab and African suspects to smuggle 12.5kg of heroin into the emirates of Ajman and
Umm Al Quwain. A consignment of about 2,500 narcotic pills was also seized in UAQ. In the third
and fourth operations, he said, two African women were arrested for possessing 500 grams of
heroin, while 22,500 narcotic tablets were seized in Dubai. Three Arab suspects were
apprehended. In the final operation, which took place in Ras Al Khaimah, 9,000 tablets were
confiscated from two Arab and African suspects.
3 April
Oman, a Gulf state which helped host some of the diplomacy that led to this week's framework
Iranian nuclear deal, welcomed the agreement on Friday far more warmly than its sceptical
Arab neighbours. Iran and world powers reached a framework agreement on Thursday that
would curb Tehran's nuclear program for at least a decade and gradually lift Western sanctions,
but is contingent on reaching a final pact in three months. Oman's Foreign Ministry called the
accord "a fundamental and important stage on the path to a final agreement by June 30, which
opens a new phase toward more security and stability regionally and internationally," according
to the state news agency. Badr Albusaidi, secretary general at Oman's ministry of foreign affairs,
went further on Twitter, hailing "a victory for peace and for the diplomacy of peace." Oman was
a key intermediary when Tehran and Washington launched secret talks on a possible nuclear
deal in 2013, and sees itself as a conciliator in the volatile region. Saudi Arabia's King Salman
gave a more cautious response, telling U.S. President Barack Obama in a phone call that he hoped
a final deal would "strengthen the stability and security of the region and the world", Saudi
media reported.
Qatar
28 April
Qatar officially unveiled on Tuesday what it said is the world’s biggest environmental project, a
$1 billion plant to capture wasted gas. The Jetty Boil-Off Gas Recovery Project (JBOG) would
capture enough gas to power 175,000 cars per year or 300,000 homes, Qatari officials said. It
also allows Qatar, the largest producer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the world, to recover a
further 29 million cubic feet of gas per year. Qatari officials said it would save the equivalent of
1.6 million tonnes of CO2 each year. “It is the largest (environmental) project in Qatar,” said Saad
Sherida al-Kaabi, the Qatargas chairman. “It is also the largest in the world, others can confirm
to me whether that is right or wrong.” The JBOG project salvages gas normally lost and burnt off
in a flare when the fuel is transported onto ships. Officials say it will result in a 90 percent
reduction in flaring at the Ras Laffan port in northern Qatar, the largest LNG export terminal in
the world. Instead of the wasted gas being burnt off, JBOG would collect the fuel and transport
it to an area where it is compressed to be ready for use again either as LNG or fuel gas. LNG is
gas cooled to -160 degrees Celsius until it turns into a liquid and can be transported by boat.
Kaabi said the scheme was driven by environmental concerns not economic factors, despite
predictions that resource-rich Qatar’s dominant position in the LNG market could come under
increasing threat from competitors such as the United States or Australia in the next few years.
“This is nothing to do with it,” said Kaabi. “It’s a purely environmental project.” The scheme has
been operational since October and has recovered gas from over 500 ships. It was officially
inaugurated on Tuesday by a number of high-ranking Qatari officials, including Prime Minister
Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani. Kaabi added that there were no industrial
accidents or man hours lost during the construction of the JBOG plant. “There’s a lot of talk about
Qatar and the welfare of workers. I think we have shown how much care we have taken at this
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complex,” he said. Some 3,500 workers and 22 million man hours went into the construction of
the plant. Qatargas operates JBOG on behalf of Qatar Petroleum and RasGas.
15 April
Cafes, restaurants, offices and shops in Qatar must shut for 90 minutes during Friday prayers
under new laws imposed by the sheikh. The rules also apply to non-retail outlets including
hospitals, clinics, hotels and industrial units. Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani on Tuesday
announced that the 90-minute mandatory closure would begin from the first call for Friday
prayers – although the legislation must be published in the official gazette before it can be
enforced. Violators will be to be fined QR10,000 ($2,700). However, separate rules are to be
announced for small, home-based, businesses, according to a report in the Peninsula Qatar
newspaper. The new rules are part of a crackdown on dishonest retail practices in Qatar.
According to the Peninsula, the same law toughens up licensing rules for small-scale retailers
by forcing them to apply for a licence from Qatar’s Ministry of Economy and Commerce. Any
business operating without a licence will be fined up to QR50,000 ($13,000) and could face a
one-year jail term. Under the rules, no vendor will be allowed near educational institutions or
hospitals or places, which the police declare out of bounds. Vendors must pin on their chest
identity cards provided by the ministry carry their licence at all times. And they will not be
allowed to sell products near shops selling the same items. Also, newspapers must ask to see a
copy of the licence of any business that wants to advertise with it, the Peninsula reported.
9 April
The U.S. State Department says an embassy guard in Qatar has been lightly wounded in an
assault. In a statement it says that the guard received "superficial injuries" from the assault on
Thursday and that the attacker has been taken into custody by Qatari authorities. The statement
did not reveal the nationality of the guard or provide further details about the identity of the
attacker. Violence against foreigners or foreign targets is a rare occurrence in the energy-rich
Arab nation. Qatar hosts the al-Udeid Air Base, which is the main hub for coordinating warplanes
from the U.S.-led coalition carrying out bombing raids against Islamic State group targets in Iraq
and Syria.
8 April
The Palestinian Authority said on Wednesday it had received a $100 million loan from Qatar to
help pay civil servants salaries and alleviate an economic crisis triggered by a row with Israel
over taxes. President Mahmoud Abbas, who is visiting the Gulf state, issued a statement
thanking Qatar for the loan. There was no immediate confirmation or comment from Qatari
officials. Israel collects taxes on behalf of Abbas's Palestinian Authority but suspended payments
of some $130 million a month in January to protest at moves by the Palestinians to join the
International Criminal Court (ICC). Palestinian membership of the ICC started on April 1,
opening the way for possible law suits against Israel for alleged war crimes tied to its lengthy
occupation of territory the Palestinians want for an independent state. Following widespread
criticism by Western allies, Israel earlier this month released some of the frozen tax revenue,
but withheld a portion of the cash, saying it was money Palestinians owed for utilities and health
care supplied by Israel. Abbas said the deductions amounted to a third of the total sum that
Israel owed and refused to accept any of the money, threatening to go to the ICC over the issue.
An official at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office confirmed that Israel had deducted
money to cover the Palestinians' electricity, water and health bills and was "willing to transfer
back to the Palestinian Authority the sum that was returned whenever it wishes."
2 April
In an effort to break a Guinness World Record, a Qatari sports club reportedly bussed in migrant
workers and forced them to run in a state-sponsored “megamarathon” in Doha last Friday. Many
of the workers were said to have run the race in flip-flops and jeans and, according to Doha
News, some labourers “tried to leave but were turned back and were yelled at that they need to
stay and cross the line.” According to the race’s official site, the marathon was created to
illustrate a “decisive response to the campaign waged by the sector of envious haters on the
success of Qatar to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and to their false allegations of persecution
of workers and residents in our beloved country.” Amnesty International has said that migrant
workers face “rampant” and “severe” exploitation, including physical and sexual abuse, under
Qatar’s “kafala” system, which ties migrant workers to their employer regardless of the work
entailed. If the worker opts not to do the job, he or she is often stranded in the country without
an “exit permit” that would allow him or her to pursue other work. Nicholas McGeehan, a Qatar
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researcher at Human Rights Watch, also said that workers frequently forfeit their passport to
their employer “immediately upon arrival in the country,” leaving them with no way to leave or
make money in Qatar. “I’m appalled, but not shocked,” McGeehan said. “Forcing people to
compete in an endurance event should raise eyebrows. [The Qatari government] has an
insidious level of racial discrimination against migrant workers.” Organizers say they had
brought in observers from the Guinness Book of World Records for the event, as the race aimed
to “enter Guinness World Records with the Largest Marathon in the world after it was confined
to the United States of America.” The race needed 50,000 participants to achieve its goal. The
event failed to break the record. More than one migrant worker died every day building World
Cup stadiums and infrastructure in Qatar in 2014, the Guardian reports. Construction will likely
continue using migrant workers until the event takes place in 2022. By that time, the
International Trade Union Confederation estimates 4,000 migrant workers will have died
building infrastructure for the games. Foreign workers make up 90 percent of Qatar’s
population. “Let’s go back to what we’re dealing with: You don’t have a choice what you’re
doing—whether it’s a violation of dignity, or if it’s a danger to your welfare. If their employer
wants to make them skydive, he can. That’s part of what the problem is here. This labour system
enables this deathly inhumane system,” McGeehan said. The marathon’s Facebook page, which
had been riddled with complaints by participants, has been deleted. One volunteer on the
Facebook page said that staff was told to stop handing out water bottles to participants. The
event was initially set to take place on February 10 on Qatar’s National Sports Day.
“Acknowledging its great importance, the wise Government has allocated a National Sports Day
to shed the lights on the importance of the regular exercising,” the marathon’s official page
states. The race actually took place on March 27, and didn’t start until 2 p.m., when the day’s
temperature reached its daily high of 84 degrees. Despite allegations by a whistle-blower that
FIFA had been “bribed” by the Qatari government to host the World Cup in 2022, it was
announced in November that a separate international sports event, the World Championships
in Athletics, will be held in Doha in 2019. McGeehan believes that the international spotlight on
the kafala system is a “double-edged sword.” “To an extent, the World Cup spotlight has been
useful. The problem is, at the same time, how many workers have died? How many workers
have been subjected to forced labour because of this spotlight, because of these events?”
McGeehan asks. “It’s not like they were already there.”
Saudi Arabia
29 April
Saudi Arabia is providing military training for hundreds of Yemeni tribesmen to fight the
Iranian-allied Houthi militia. A Saudi-led alliance has been bombing the group from the air for
over a month, but it remains Yemen's dominant force. The kingdom announced last week it
would rein in its strikes to give aid and reconciliation efforts more space, but the warring sides
have made no visible progress toward talks. "You cannot win a war against the Houthis from the
air - you need to send ground forces in, but now there's a program to train tribal fighters on the
border," said a Doha-based military source familiar with the matter. This week 300 tribal
fighters trained in Saudi Arabia were deployed back to their home area in the Sirwah district of
central Marib province to fight the Houthis and managed to push the militia back, a Yemeni
official source said. A Saudi defense source said there was a plan to bolster Yemeni forces in the
battles raging across the country because locals knew the terrain better than Saudis. "The
problem is the number of tribal fighters being trained is very small and not enough," said the
Yemeni source who declined to be named, adding that the training includes giving the fighters
light weapons and tactical advice.
Saudi Arabia's King Salman announced a new heir and made his son second in line to rule
Wednesday, concentrating power in his inner circle as the kingdom faces enormous regional
challenges. The major shake-up in the line of succession and cabinet comes with oil giant Saudi
Arabia increasingly assertive in the fight against Islamic extremists and in its rivalry with fellow
regional power Iran. Since acceding to the throne following the death of King Abdullah in
January, Salman, 79, has been steadily bringing loyalists into the deeply conservative kingdom's
upper reaches of power. Salman named as the new crown prince his nephew Prince Mohammed
bin Nayef, 55, the powerful interior minister who a decade ago led a crackdown on Al-Qaeda. On
the international scene, strategic ally the United States said it would continue its "close,
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productive relationship" with Saudi Arabia. Prince Mohammed replaced Prince Moqren bin
Abdul Aziz bin Saud, 69, as crown prince. Moqren, the last son of the kingdom's founder Abdul
Aziz bin Saud in line for the throne, pledged allegiance to his replacement and to the new deputy
crown prince at a palace in Riyadh. It was the first time a Saudi crown prince was relieved of
duty. Salman also named one of his sons, Mohammed bin Salman, to be deputy crown prince -ensuring power will pass to a new generation after his death. Mohammed, who is in his early
30s, will also remain as defence minister, overseeing the Saudi-led air war against Iran-backed
Huthi rebels in Yemen. Saudi Arabia's long-time envoy to Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, 53, was
appointed foreign minister, replacing Prince Saud al-Faisal who held the post for four decades.
Saud, who had been the world's longest-serving top diplomat, stepped down for health reasons.
The royal court said Moqren's removal was a response to "what he had expressed about his
desire to be relieved from the position of crown prince." Moqren, who had no ministerial
portfolio, had been one of the few remaining high-level officials from the era of King Abdullah,
who died on January 23 aged about 90. The new appointments further solidify the hold on
power of Salman's Sudayri branch of the royal family, whose influence had waned under
Abdullah. These changes are aimed at fostering agreement at the head of the state as it faces a
dangerous phase... in its standoff with Iran," said Abdelwahab Badarkhan, a London-based
analyst. Under Salman, Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia has adopted a more forceful foreign
policy, most clearly shown in its leadership of the Arab coalition targeting Yemen's Shiite rebels.
The rebels have seized control of large parts of Yemen, prompting President Abedrabbo
Mansour Hadi to flee to Riyadh. The new foreign minister Jubeir -- a rare member of the Saudi
ruling elite not from the royal family -- has been Riyadh's ambassador to Washington for eight
years and at the forefront of the kingdom's public relations efforts. The shake-up also saw
Salman name Khalid al-Falih, the head of oil giant Saudi Aramco, as health minister. Ali al-Naimi
retained his 20-year position as the OPEC kingpin's oil minister. Labour Minister Adel Fakieh
was moved to the post of economy and planning, as the kingdom seeks to diversify its oil-based
economy. But the country's highest-ranking female official, Nora bint Abdullah al-Fayez, was let
go from her post as deputy minister of education for girls.
28 April
Saudi Arabia has arrested 93 people suspected of belonging to the Islamic State militant group,
including two people who planned a failed suicide car bombing against the U.S. embassy in
Riyadh, the interior ministry said on Tuesday. The 93 included at least 77 Saudi nationals, a
ministry statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency said. "Activities are on-going
against the deviant group which seeks to undermine the security of this country...They are
ceaselessly seeking to achieve this through their criminal plans," the statement said. A cell
involving two Syrians and a Saudi planned a suicide car bombing against the U.S. embassy in
Riyadh but the plot was detected in March. One of the two Syrian suspects and the Saudi suspect
were among the 93 arrested, the ministry said. One cell, which authorities said contained at least
61 Saudis, sought to recruit members via social media, raise funds and establish training camps
inside the kingdom. The ministry said earlier on Tuesday it had arrested a second suspect in
separate shootings in March and April, which killed two Saudi policemen on instruction from
Islamic State, in the first alleged attack by the group inside the kingdom. Islamic State last year
called on followers in the kingdom to carry out attacks against Saudi authorities, Western
expatriates and members of the Shi'ite Muslim minority there instead of traveling to Syria or
Iraq to join the group.
26 April
Saudi Arabia's Defense Ministry says a military training aircraft has crashed, killing the
instructor and a student pilot. The official Saudi Press Agency quoted the ministry as saying the
accident happened Sunday morning and involved a plane affiliated with the King Faisal Air
Academy, a military flight school in the capital, Riyadh. It gave no further details. Saudi Arabia's
air force relies on American and British-made fighters, though the military operates training
aircraft produced in other countries as well. The oil-rich kingdom has for several weeks been
carrying out airstrikes against Shiite rebels in neighbouring Yemen. It is also part of the U.S.-led
coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
24 April
Saudi Arabia has foiled an operation masterminded by a “terrorist cell” which received its
orders from militants in Syria Tuesday, Saudi Interior Ministry spokesman Mansur al-Turki said
Friday. The “terrorist operation” involved seven car bombings. On April 8, Saudi police arrested
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suspect Yazid Mohammed Abu Nayan who admitted to killing two policemen at a checkpoint,”
in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, Turki said. Information was gleaned from Abu Nayan, including text
messages from three cell phones, which indicate communication was made between him and
the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in Syria. Videos of the attempted operation were
also seen stored in the cell phones. The spokesman said Abu Nayan “was hiding in a farm in
Hirmaila [north of Riyadh]” when he was found. However, Saudi authorities are still on the
lookout for his alleged partner Nawaf Sharif al-Anzi whom he is said to have met with him about
“two days ago, before the crime.” Turki said Anzi now has one million riyal bounty placed on
him. Saudi authorities seized Belgian rifles and cash estimated to be around 4,000 riyals buried
with more arms underground and explosive white powder.
23 April
Attempts to ease fighting in Yemen appeared to falter Thursday, as Shiite rebels pressed an
offensive in the south and a Saudi Arabia-led coalition intensified its airstrikes less than two
days after it said it was scaling back the campaign. All sides have declared their willingness to
enter talks, but none has taken any steps to end the conflict that has killed more than 1,000
people. Still, the head of UN operations in Yemen said that a renewal of such talks is "inevitable,"
and behind-the-scenes diplomatic efforts could bring results in the coming weeks. The battle in
the Arab world's poorest country pits the Iranian-backed rebels known as Houthis and their
allies — military units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh — against the Saudi-led
coalition and the forces of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Although Hadi is the
internationally recognized leader, he was forced to flee his southern stronghold of Aden last
month as the Houthis advanced toward the port. He is in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Western
governments and the Sunni Arab countries in the coalition say the Houthis get their arms from
Shiite powerhouse Iran. Tehran and the rebels deny that, although the Islamic Republic has
provided political and humanitarian support to the Shiite group. Warplanes hammered Aden,
hitting hotels and a police club occupied by the Houthis and their allies. Heavy strikes also hit
positions in five other cities, many of them gateways to Aden, officials said. At least six airstrikes
targeted an air base, a military camp, and weapon caches in the western port of Houdeida. In
the western city of Taiz, jets bombed the headquarters of Battalion 35, led by pro-Saleh
commanders. In the nearby city of Ibb, the planes targeted educational facilities suspected of
storing weapons, officials said. Rebel reinforcements were bombed in the central province of
Marib, while in the city of Dhale, another gateway to the south, airstrikes targeted suspected
weapons depots and assembly points for fighters. Residents of Dahle said the city was being
shelled by the Houthis and forces loyal to Saleh, Yemen's longtime authoritarian leader who was
a staunch U.S. ally. All the Yemeni officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were
not authorized to talk to the media, and witnesses asked not to be identified, fearing for their
safety.
21 April
On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia announced an end of the first phase of its coalition's month-old air
campaign against the Houthis, who swept out of the north and advanced toward southern
Yemen. The Saudis said a new phase called "Renewal of Hope" was beginning, focused on
diplomacy, protecting civilians, counterterrorism and halting future military actions by the
Houthis. The rebels and their allies have lost little ground despite the airstrikes, with Houthis
controlling the north and the capital of Sanaa, while trying to make inroads in the southern and
central provinces. Hadi and the rest of his cabinet are operating from exile in Saudi Arabia. Aden
is being besieged by the Houthis and Saleh's forces. Yemeni activist Walid Saleh said the
coalition is trying to push its opponents into a corner, while the rebels will continue to try to
take over Aden to force more concessions.
20 April
Saudi Arabia has put security forces on alert for a possible militant attack on a shopping mall or
energy installation, Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour Turki said on Monday. "There was
information about a possible act targeting a mall or Aramco installations. We passed this
information to the security forces to be on alert," he said. Turki said he had no further
information about the threat. Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter and key strategic
ally of the United States, has been a target of jihadist militant groups for years, including al Qaeda
and Islamic State. Riyadh has been carrying out air strikes against Iran-allied Houthi rebels in
neighbouring Yemen since March 26 in a conflict in which nine members of its security forces
have been killed by cross-border fire. This month Saudi police announced they had detained a
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Saudi citizen suspected of shooting dead two police officers and injuring two others in two
separate attacks in Riyadh. "Saudi Arabia is targeted by terrorism. Usually in such situations
(conflicts), there are attempts by terrorist groups to take advantage and carry out attacks," said
Turki. On Saturday, guards at the gates of a central Riyadh shopping mall stopped single men
from entering and searched the bags of female shoppers. In 2006, four al Qaeda militants
breached the gates of Saudi Aramco's Abqaiq plant but did not manage to cause significant
damage before being killed in a shootout with security guards, Saudi authorities said. However,
a U.S. diplomatic cable from the same year released by WikiLeaks quoted the then-U.S.
ambassador as saying he understood that "the attack on Abqaiq had been much closer to
succeeding than generally acknowledged." At the time, Abqaiq processed 70 percent of Saudi
crude. Subsequent U.S. cables documented American assistance to the Saudis in strengthening
the security of energy infrastructure, including the establishment of a dedicated, 40,000-strong
Facilities Protection Force.
19 April
The leader of Yemen's Iranian-allied Houthi militia accused Saudi Arabia on Sunday of plotting
to seize the country, in a fiery speech suggesting he was in no mood to compromise despite more
than three weeks of Saudi-led bombing. Saudi Arabia's goal is "the invasion of this country, its
occupation and placing this country again under its feet and hegemony", Abdel-Malek al-Houthi
said. "It's the right of our people to resist the aggression and face the aggressor by any means,"
he added. The air campaign has mostly failed to reverse recent gains by Houthi guerrillas
fighting alongside Yemeni army allies. However, in a blow to the Houthis, a Yemeni commander
of a vast military district covering half the country's border with Saudi Arabia pledged support
on Sunday to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, local officials said. The announcement
puts at least 15,000 troops in the desert and mountain border area on the same side as Saudi
Arabia, which hosts the embattled Yemeni president in its capital Riyadh. "Brigadier General
Abdulrahman al-Halily of the First Military District announced today his support for
constitutional legitimacy as represented by President Hadi," one of the officials said. Most of
Yemen's military is loyal to powerful ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose forces are fighting
alongside the Shi'ite Muslim Houthi militia in battles stretching across Yemen's south and east.
But the latest defection brings to about 10 the number of divisions that have switched sides. It
may point to a growing sense in the military that momentum favours Hadi. Beginning last week,
most of the army divisions along Yemen's eastern Arabian Sea coast evacuated their posts and
handed security of their bases and Yemen's Masila oil fields, the country's largest, to armed
Sunni tribes. Other powerful tribes followed suit on Saturday within the First Military District,
announcing after a huge gathering that they supported Hadi and the Saudi-led military
operation, in a move, which likely encouraged the commander's decision. "The announcement
followed that of the tribes. It would be impossible to oppose their will and continue to live side
by side, and there was likely some pressure from Saudi Arabia, which is keen to secure its
border," Radhi Subaih, a political analyst in Seiyun said. Citizens from Hadramawt, Yemen's
largest province, which stretches from the coast to the Saudi border, are linked closely to the
kingdom by family and historical ties. The remainder of Saudi Arabia's border with Yemen
encompasses the northern stronghold of the Houthi guerrillas.
14 April
A UN Security Council resolution passed April 14 includes demands that the Houthis withdraw
from areas they have seized, including Sanaa, and relinquish arms and missiles seized from
military and security institutions. Saudi Arabia maintains that those preconditions must be met
before any real reconciliatory talks can begin, according to a top Hadi aide who spoke on
condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to reporters. Other than
implementing the resolution, "all doors are closed," the aide said by phone from Riyadh.
13 April
Saudi Arabia is spending more than ever on defence after boosting its military budget by 17%
in 2014, a new report shows. That was the biggest increase among the world's top defence
spenders, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The dramatic
increase reflects the volatile security situation in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia has been leading
a military campaign against Shiite rebels in neighbouring Yemen in recent weeks. With high oil
prices filling its coffers, Saudi Arabia spent $80.8 billion on its military last year -- the fourth
highest total in the world. That represents more than 10% of Saudi GDP -- a bigger share than
any country other than Oman. Global military spending was mostly flat last year, but the Middle
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East and much of Africa saw strong increases, said Sam Perlo-Freeman, the head of military
expenditure research at the Stockholm institute.
12 April
Saudi Arabia dismissed Iranian calls to end air strikes on neighbouring Yemen on Sunday as
Saudi-led attacks hit a military camp in the Yemeni city of Taiz, killing eight civilians according
to a medical source. Riyadh said Tehran should not interfere in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia and
its Arab allies began air strikes against Iranian-allied Houthi militia fighters over two weeks ago
to try and prevent them from making further advances. The air raids on the central Yemeni city
targeted a site held by soldiers loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh who have
joined up with Houthi fighters against local militias in the south, the source said. "How can Iran
call for us to stop the fighting in Yemen?" Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said in the Saudi
capital Riyadh at a news conference with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius. "We came to
Yemen to help the legitimate authority, and Iran is not in charge of Yemen." Iran's Supreme
Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Thursday that the air strikes were a "crime and
genocide" and Iran's president Hassan Rouhani called for a ceasefire and dialogue among
Yemen's factions. Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab allies bombing Yemen fear that Shi'ite Iran
seeks hegemony by backing armed Shi'ite groups in the region, a charge the Islamic Republic
denies. The campaign has raised fears that a sectarian proxy war between rivals Riyadh and
Tehran will further destabilize the Middle East and potentially destroy the Yemeni state.
6 April
The Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen’s Shia Houthi rebels has asked Pakistan to contribute
soldiers, raising the possibility of a ground offensive in the country. Pakistan Defence Minister
Khawaja Muhammad Asif revealed the request as the country’s parliament debated whether to
contribute militarily to the campaign against the Houthis. So far, Pakistan has backed the
mission, but has not offered any military assistance. However, Saudi-led air strikes have failed
to halt the Houthi advance across Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, fuelling speculation
a ground operation could be launched. Saudi Arabia has not ruled out a ground offensive and
asked for aircraft and ships to aid the campaign during Mr Asif’s visit to Jeddah last week. “I
want to reiterate that this is Pakistan’s pledge to protect Saudi Arabia’s territorial integrity,”
said Mr Asif. “If there’s a need, God willing, Pakistan will honour its commitment.” The rebels
took over the Yemen capital, Sanaa, in September and eventually forced President Abed Rabbo
Mansour Hadi to flee. The Saudi-led coalition has been targeting the Houthis for 12 days. The
rebels are now making a push for Yemen’s second-largest city, Aden, which Hadi declared a
temporary capital before he left the country. he Saudi-led force has blockaded Yemen by air and
sea. Humanitarian groups, as well as Russia at the UN Security Council, have called for a pause
in the fighting to allow aid to reach the country. Medical personnel are already overstretched
and are running out of supplies.
Syria
29 April
At a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on Monday, Interpol Secretary General
Jürgen Stock called for the protection of cultural heritage from the theft and destruction by the
terrorist group, which has released videos of its members using explosives, bulldozers and
sledge hammers to demolish relics and buildings as old as civilization. "In the eyes of criminals,
cultural heritage often stands as an easy target," Stock said. "The current situation in Syria and
Iraq presents a significant challenge as sites vulnerable to destruction are often out of effective
government control and illicit excavations dominate the picture." The meeting, convened by the
Permanent Missions of Jordan and France to the United Nations, co-presidents of the Security
Council, was meant to identify innovative and practical ways to preserve cultural heritage
following the recent adoption of UNSC Resolution 2199 -- a resolution unanimously adopted by
the Security Council in February to prevent terrorist groups from benefiting from trade in oil,
antiquities and hostages and from receiving donations. Interpol is adding information on more
than 1,300 items removed from the Deir Atiyah Museum and other sites in Syria to the database
-- viewed by more than 2,000 members of law enforcement and customs as well as partner
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organizations and private dealers. The missing artefacts include three mosaics stolen in
November 2011 from Afamya in Hama, Syria -- works that are invaluable, according to cultural
activists. One mosaic, titled "Scene with Bathers" was included on Interpol's "Most Wanted
Works of Art" poster in 2012. ISIS makes $100 million each year by selling antiquities stolen
from archaeological sites and museums across Iraq and Syria.
28 April
The European Union's top diplomat on Tuesday voiced the hope that Iran would play an
important but constructive role in a renewed United Nations push to restart negotiations aimed
at ending the four-year civil war in Syria. The UN envoy to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has said he
will begin meeting in May with the country's government, opposition groups and regional
powers including Iran to assess by the end of June whether there is any hope brokering an end
to the war. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who meets Iranian Foreign Minister
Mohammad Javad Zarif later in New York on Tuesday, said it was crucial that the EU and six
world powers successfully conclude nuclear talks with Tehran, which she said could boost Iran's
regional role in a positive manner. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked de Mistura earlier
this month to "focus much more to re-launch a political process" after his attempt to broker a
local truce in Aleppo failed to materialize. The United States and some Arab countries have
resisted the inclusion of Iran in Syrian peace talks, because they see Tehran as the problem, not
the solution. Iran has been supporting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a staunch ally.
Mogherini suggested that including Iran was crucial. "I understand very well the concerns of
many Arab countries, not only Arab countries, in the region on the role of Iran," she said. "But I
am also convinced that it would be naive to imagine that a country like Iran could simply
disappear from the map."
Ultra-radical Islamic State insurgents have killed at least 2,154 people off the battlefield in Syria
since the end of June when the group declared a caliphate in territory it controls, a Syrian human
rights monitor said on Tuesday. The killings of mostly Syrians included deaths by beheading,
stoning or gunshots in non-combat situations, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human
Rights said, urging the United Nations Security Council to act. "We continue in our calls to the
UN Security Council for urgent action to stop the on-going murder against the sons of the Syrian
people despite the deafness of members to the screams of pain of the Syrian people," it said in a
statement. Islamic State has set up its own courts in towns and villages to administer what it
describes as Islamic law before carrying out the killings. The Observatory, which tracks the
conflict using sources on the ground, said its figure included combatants, civilians and also 126
Islamic State fighters who had tried to flee the group or were accused of being spies. It did not
include several beheaded foreign journalists and a Jordanian pilot who was burnt to death by
the group, so the probable figure is even higher, the Observatory's Rami Abdurrahman said.
Hundreds of people believed captured by the Sunni Islamist group remain missing, he added.
27 April
A coalition of Islamist rebels seized an army base in north-western Syria at dawn on Monday
after a suicide bomber from al Qaeda's Nusra Front drove a truck packed with explosives into
the compound and blew it up. The capture, reported by a rebel commander and social media
videos showing militants inside the base, brought the coalition closer to seizing most of Idlib
province and moving toward Latakia, the ancestral home of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The army had been using the Qarmeed camp to shell rebel-held towns and villages in the
strategic agricultural region bordering Turkey. Controlling it should help the rebels tighten their
siege on the major Mastouma army base nearby. Syrian state media said the army killed scores
of Nusra fighters and dozens of Islamist suicide bombers from Russia's Chechnya region in
fighting near the base, but did not say the compound had fallen to the militants. "A truck with
two tonnes of explosives penetrated one of the entrances of the camp that made it easier to take
over the camp," Sheikh Husam Abu Bakr, a rebel commander from Ahrar al-Sham movement
said. The coalition of hardline Sunni Islamist rebels includes Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and Jund alAqsa, but not the rival Islamic State group that controls large tracts of Syria and Iraq. The Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights, which collects information from both sides of the conflict, said
two suicide bombers blew themselves up at the gates of the camp. "This was one of the major
bases of the regime in Idlib and had lot of weapons," said Observatory head Rami Abdul Rahman,
adding at least seven tanks, large ammunition caches and scores of rocket launchers were seized
by the rebels. Syria has recently stepped up its accusations that Turkey is aiding the rebels and
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allowing thousands of radical foreign jihadi fighters into the country, which made it possible for
them to seize the city of Idlib last month. That was the second provincial city after Islamic Statecontrolled Raqqa to fall to anti-Assad rebels since the start of the four-year conflict. On Saturday,
the coalition captured the north-western town of Jisr al-Shughour. The Observatory said 73
people, many of them women and children, were killed in retaliatory raids on civilian homes
and markets in rebel-held towns and villages in the last 24 hours. At least 53 civilians were killed
in air force bombing in the town of Darkoush northwest of Idlib when the air force bombed a
busy market place and a centre where displaced refugee were taking cover, it said.
26 April
Israel's military said Sunday it launched an airstrike on its border with Syria after spotting
militants carrying a bomb in the Israeli-held Golan Heights. The military said it carried out the
strike after troops saw "a group of armed terrorists" approach the border with an explosive
intended to target Israeli troops. It said that Israeli aircraft "targeted the squad, preventing the
attack." It did not offer any casualty figure for the strike. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory
for Human Rights said four Syrian soldiers were killed by a missile fired from Israeli-occupied
territory in the Golan. Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman said it was not clear whether
the missile was fired by a plane or from a vehicle. No one immediately claimed responsibility of
the attack launched from inside Syria, which has been in the grips of a civil war since 2011.
Syrian state media did not immediately report on the strike. There were reports in Arab media
last week that Israel had carried out another attack on such weapons in Syria. Israeli officials
have not commented.
Syrian authorities will allow citizens abroad, including refugees who fled the war, to obtain
passports without an intelligence service review for the first time, Syria's Al-Watan newspaper
said on Sunday. The daily, which is close to the government, said the move would "create an
appropriate climate" for consultations in Geneva next month on the possibility of renewed
peace talks. It also noted that the fees for the new procedures -- which are being doubled -would be "an important source of foreign exchange." The newspaper said the new measures
were detailed in a document sent on Thursday to Syrian embassies around the world. This
authorized embassies "to issue or renew passports for Syrians abroad without having to go
through the department of emigration and passports in Damascus," Al-Watan reported. It said
this meant applications would no longer be subject to an intelligence services review as was
often the case in the past. Passports will be issued to Syrians "even if they left in an illegal
manner or they hold non-official passports or travel documents", the document added. Many of
the nearly four million Syrians who have fled their country's conflict left illegally, fearing arrest
or conscription if they passed through an official crossing. Some have lost their passports or left
them behind, and others have had their documents expire while they are away. The new
measures mean that those seeking to obtain or renew passports will no longer have to wait for
their documents to be reviewed by intelligence officials in Damascus. That measure has "long
been called for by the opposition," Al-Watan said, and will allay "many of the concerns of those
who left Syria illegally and facilitate their return." It said the fees associated with obtaining a
new passport or a renewal would also be "an important source of foreign exchange" for foreign
currency-strapped Syria. Earlier this week, new fees for passports were announced, with prices
doubling to $400 for a new passport and $200 for a renewal. Al-Watan linked the new move to
separate talks between UN representatives and Syria's rival sides in Geneva from May 4. The
talks will be bilateral discussions between each side and UN envoy Staffan de Mistura, who will
take "stock" of where things stand, after more than four years of conflict.
21 April
Islamic State is preparing for a possible attack on a city in north-eastern Syria near the border
with Iraq where it remains a big threat despite recent setbacks. Hasaka province in northeastern Syria is strategically important for all sides and abuts Islamic State-held territory in Iraq,
where the group is back on the offensive after losing the city of Tikrit at the start of the month.
The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia has recorded significant victories against Islamic State this year,
driving it from the town of Kobani at the Turkish border and then taking two towns in Hasaka
province with the help of a U.S.-led air campaign. But Islamic State remains a danger, said Redur
Xelil, YPG spokesman. Its targets include the provincial capital, Hasaka city, and the town of Tel
Tamr, to the northwest. Islamic State is still believed to be holding some 200 Assyrian Christians
abducted in February from villages near Tel Tamr. "South of Hasaka there are areas that Daesh
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controls entirely. There is a big Daesh mobilization outside the city, and there are big fears of an
attack on Hasaka city," Xelil said. For now, the Islamic State priority is Tel Tamr, where it aims
to cut a YPG supply route, he added. Islamic State was "trying to take big cities, to take the battle
into cities" to mark it harder for the U.S.-led alliance to hit it, he said. Hasaka is home to many
Syrians who have fled areas further west, including the country's second city Aleppo, he added.
The Syrian Observatory, which monitors the Syrian civil war, reports daily clashes between the
YPG and Islamic State fighters near Tel Tamr, and clashes between the Syrian military and
Islamic State in areas west and east of Hasaka city.
20 April
The Syrian army said on Monday it had captured several villages in the southern province of
Deraa, cutting a supply route used by insurgents to smuggle weapons and fighters from Jordan
to Damascus's Eastern Ghouta region. A Syrian security source said Monday's operation was
part of a wider plan to secure the province of Deraa. "The importance of this achievement is that
it reopens the road between Deraa and Sweida," the army said in a statement publish on Syria's
state news agency. "It also cuts the terrorist groups' supply lines by closing the gate of Lujat
which was used to smuggle weapons and mercenary from Jordan towards Eastern Ghouta in the
Damascus countryside." Sweida is home to the minority Druze population who have mostly
stayed out of the Sunni-led revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The army said it had
also surrounded the town of Busra al-Harir, 23 miles northeast of Deraa. It was the first major
government operation in the southern province of Deraa since the insurgents seized a border
crossing with Jordan earlier this month. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which
monitors the Syrian war, said the insurgents backed by Islamist groups such as al-Nusra Front
had repelled the government attack aimed at seizing Busra al-Harir. The south-western corner
of Syria is the last notable foothold of the mainstream rebellion against Assad. Elsewhere, the
mainstream groups have largely been eclipsed by jihadists, including Islamic State and the al
Qaeda-linked Nusra Front.
16 April
Latest UN efforts to resolve the Syria crisis could succeed this time and lead to a united front
against Islamic State followed by a political transition, Russia's ambassador to the United
Nations in Geneva said. Earlier this week, the United Nations said its Syria envoy would launch
fresh consultations with Syrian factions and interested countries on a new round of peace talks,
a year after the last such initiative collapsed. However, Russian envoy Alexey Borodavkin said
there was reason to hope for better results now, arguing that both mainstream Syrian
opposition and government negotiators increasingly recognized that there was no military
solution to the four-year-old civil war that has killed more than 220,000. Borodavkin said the
fact that some opposition negotiators were no longer supported by a meaningful military, also
helped. "The Free Syrian Army was partly defeated, partly joined the extremist forces of Daesh,"
he said, using an Arabic term for Islamic State. "This in itself is not a positive development, but
this is reality, and the opposition should recognize that." While the FSA is a much diminished
force, insurgent groups have recently made significant gains against Syrian President Bashar alAssad, including mainstream rebels, who seized the Nasib border crossing with Jordan this
month. Russia has forcefully backed Assad in the war, rejecting calls from the opposition and
West for him to stand aside. While the main, Western-backed political opposition alliance sticks
to this position, Borodavkin said some opponents were no longer insisting he must step down.
"I do believe that we have to focus not on personalities but on the objective to stop bloodshed
first of all, and to fight Daesh together," he said. Borodavkin said the emergence of Islamic State
as an enemy for both the government and political opposition had created common ground.
"They will share the same fate, and that naturally encourages their rapprochement," he said.
"Opposition, government and the outside forces should join efforts in fighting this threat." Many
diplomats are pessimistic over the UN's chances of ending the Syrian bloodshed. However,
Borodavkin said efforts by UN Syrian envoy Staffan de Mistura to secure a local ceasefire in
Aleppo had helped build confidence. "They made some concessions, they were looking for
consensus and compromises. And that is important. This is changing the mentality of the parties
concerned, from hostility to a pattern of negotiations." Syrian rebels rejected the Aleppo plan
last month, saying it would only benefit the government.
13 April
Islamic State militants have lost control of up to 6,500 square miles in Iraq but have gained a bit
of ground in Syria since last August, the Pentagon said Monday. Army Col. Steve Warren, a
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Pentagon spokesman, said the front lines of the territory held by the Islamic State group have
been pushed farther south and west in Iraq. But the militants still control a wide swath of land
stretching from west and south of Sinjar down through Mosul and across Bayji, including the oil
refinery there, which is still contested. A new map released by the Pentagon shows that U.S. and
coalition forces regained key territory near Tikrit, Sinjar Mountain and Mosul Dam. U.S.
administration officials have said that coalition airstrikes and the ground campaign being waged
by Iraqi forces have led to the gains, particularly lately around Tikrit. But Warren said it is too
early to say whether the tide of battle has turned. The airstrikes have not had the same success
in Syria, where the Islamic State militants have largely held onto a broad area across the north
and east. Warren said that although Islamic State militants were driven out of Kobani, in
northern Syria, they have maintained their influence across the country and gained some
ground around Homs and Damascus.
10 April
Talks between the Syrian government and the opposition ended in acrimony Friday with the
parties blaming each other for the breakdown. The Russian mediator of the weeklong meeting,
Vitaly Naumkin, said the parties agreed on a set of principles for a political settlement, including
the condemnation of foreign support for terrorist groups, a call for preserving state institutions
and lifting economic sanctions. But some opposition representatives later reversed their
support for the initially approved document because of a failure to agree on moves to improve
mutual trust, such as prisoners' release, said Naumkin, head of the Moscow-based Institute for
Eastern Studies. "If we spent another week here, we would probably reach agreement on other
issues," Naumkin said at a briefing. "They sat at the table together, they didn't go into a fistfight,
they listened to each other. It's good." Moscow arranged the negotiations in a bid to raise its
international profile at a time of bitter tensions with the West over Ukraine. The meeting
followed the first round of Moscow-hosted talks in January. "We didn't have any excessive
expectations, we didn't expect the meeting to settle the Syrian crisis," Naumkin said, adding that
there was no immediate plan for hosting the next round of talks. The main Western-backed
opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, refused to attend the Moscow talks amid deep
distrust of Russia's intentions. Russia has staunchly backed Syrian President Bashar Assad's
government throughout the country's civil war, now in its fifth year, which has killed more than
220,000 people and has turned nearly 4 million into refugees. Bashar Jaafari, Syria's UN envoy
who represented the Syrian government in the negotiations, sought to cast them as a success,
hailing the initially agreed document. He tried to downplay opposition reversal of support. "The
government and the opposition managed to reach common ground on a number of important
issues," he said at a news conference. Jaafari denied the opposition accusation that the
government side was trying to drag out the talks to avoid discussing sensitive issues. But Samir
Aita, one of the opposition representatives who attended the talks, criticized the government
for stonewalling demands for prisoner releases. He said "the document doesn't create hope, on
the contrary, it destroys it." The public spat followed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's
meeting with negotiators on Thursday, in which he strongly urged the parties to reach a
compromise to stem the spread of the Islamic State and other terrorist groups in the region.
"You need to save the country and its people, or there will be no one left to build a renewed,
united and sovereign Syria," Lavrov said. He argued that the U.S.-led air campaign against the
Islamic State has failed to reach its goals, and criticized Washington for training some of the
rebels, saying it would only fuel the conflict.
fighters from the Islamic State group are holding hostage at least 50 civilians, almost half of them
women, seized in a raid on a village in central Syria, a monitor said. They were kidnapped from
the village of Mabujeh in Hama province on March 31, said the Syrian Observatory for Human
Rights. News of the kidnappings had been kept quiet because of on-going negotiations for their
release, but the talks have since faltered, said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman. Ten of
those taken, including six women, are Ismailis, a minority sect that is an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
The remaining 40 are Sunni Muslims, including at least 15 women. "There are fears that the
women are being taken as slaves," Abdel Rahman said. He said the Ismailis were kidnapped
because IS considers them "infidels," and that the Sunnis -- although from the same sect as IS
fighters -- were taken because IS viewed them as "loyal to the Ismailis." Mabujeh, east of the
provincial capital Hama, has a population of Sunnis, Ismailis and Alawites, another offshoot of
Shiite Islam that is the sect of President Bashar al-Assad and his clan. On March 31, IS executed
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at least 37 civilians in Mabujeh, including two children, by "burning, beheading, and firing on
them," the Observatory said. IS has regularly targeted minority sects in Syria, especially Shiites
it accuses of apostasy, as well as Sunnis who it alleges have violated its interpretation of Islam.
It has also carried out mass kidnappings of Kurds and Assyrian Christians in Syria, and members
of the Yazidi faith in neighbouring Iraq. In another attack on a minority village in Syria, a car
bomb exploded Friday in the Alawite neighbourhood of Hay al-Arman in Homs city, the
Observatory said. One child was killed and at least 10 people were wounded in the explosion. It
was not specified who was behind the car bomb, but Syrian state television said a "terrorist
attack" had struck the area. Abdel Rahman said Hay al-Arman was under regime control and
was a "stronghold" of pro-government militias. Alawite areas in Homs have been under attack
by jihadists, including a brutal suicide attack at a school in October 2014 that left 54 dead, among
them 47 children. In the northern city of Raqa, which IS has declared the capital of its self-styled
"caliphate," 16 people were killed in a series of regime air strikes on the city and its suburbs.
Since Syria's conflict began in 2011, more than 215,000 people have been killed and nearly half
the country's population have become displaced.
9 April
Canadian fighter jets have carried out their first airstrike against ISIS in Syria, hitting one of the
Sunni militant group's garrisons. The CF-18 Hornets bombed near ISIS' de facto capital of Raqqa,
Canada's Department of National Defence said Wednesday. It described the strike as successful.
Canadian forces are part of the U.S.-led coalition trying to stem the extremist group's bloody
advances in Iraq and Syria. Canadian warplanes have conducted dozens of strikes against ISIS
targets in Iraq since November. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced plans last
month to expand the airstrikes into Syria. "This first airstrike under the expanded mandate
demonstrates our government's firm resolve to tackle the threat of terrorism against Canada
and to promote international security and stability," Defense Minister Jason Kenney said in a
statement. "ISIL is a genocidal terrorist organization and we will deny them safe haven in the
region," he said, using an alternative acronym for the militant group, which refers to itself as the
Islamic State. The Canadian aircraft and their crews safely returned to base, the military said. It
wasn't immediately clear how many casualties the airstrike had caused.
6 April
Islamist insurgents have released 300 Kurdish men in the country's north who were taken
captive on Sunday, a Kurdish official said on Monday. Nawaf Khalil, a spokesman for the Kurdish
PYD party in Europe, said that the "men were released by the Islamist militant groups who were
holding them." The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, which tracks the
conflict from Britain, also said the Kurds had been released. However, it said around 200 had
been held, taken at several checkpoints over the past two days. Khalil and another Kurdish
official reported earlier on Monday that the men were taken on Sunday evening. Idris Nassan,
an official in the Kobani canton, said they were kidnapped by al Qaeda's official Syrian wing, the
Nusra Front, as they were traveling from the town of Afrin, which is under Kurdish control, to
the cities of Aleppo and the capital Damascus. "They left women and children but they
kidnapped 300 men and young people," he said. "They captured them in Tuqad village, 12 miles
west of Aleppo and then they moved them to al-Dana town in Idlib province," he said. The Nusra
Front was part of an alliance of militant groups that captured Idlib city last month. The Nusra
Front has not claimed the kidnapping. Syrian state media did not report the incident. Kurdish
militia and Islamist militants have fought territorial disputes in Syria during the four-year civil
war. Some hardline Syrian Islamist militants consider Kurds heretics.
Islamic State insurgents blew up an 80-year-old church in Syria's north-eastern province of
Hassaka on Easter Sunday, Syrian state news agency SANA said. SANA, which did not report any
casualties, said the militants had planted explosives inside the Church of the Virgin Mary in Tel
Nasri, an Assyrian village in an area where Christian and Kurdish militia have been battling
Islamic State. Islamic State controls the village, the news agency said on Monday. The militant
group, which controls swathes of Syria and Iraq, espouses a fiercely purist school of Sunni Islam,
deeming many other Muslims to be heretics. Its fighters have destroyed Shi'ite and Sufi religious
sites and also attacked churches.
5 April
In a rare prisoner swap, a hard-line Syrian rebel group has released 25 women and children to
Syrian government fighters in exchange for one of their captive commanders. The Syrian
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Observatory for Human Rights said the 10 children and 15 women were kidnapped by the Sunni
insurgents more than a year ago from two Shia-majority towns in northern Aleppo province.
The deal was between the Jaish al-Mujahideen faction, a self-described Islamist coalition that
fights both the Syrian regime and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and progovernment militia, the Observatory said. Kurdish fighters known as Popular Protection Units
(YPG) reportedly mediated the swap. The Observatory said the women and children were from
Nubl and Zahra, two Shia villages that have been under a long siege by anti-government forces,
including Jaish al-Mujahideen. “The women and children were kidnapped between a year and
18 months ago and held by different rebels,” Observatory head Rami Abdulrahman said. “They
were handed to Jaish al-Mujahideen to use in an exchange.” The commander was the military
leader of Jaish al-Mujahideen, who was captured in August, said Abdulrahman. Syrian state
media have made no mention of the exchange, and government officials were not immediately
available for comment. Kidnap for ransom is common in Syria but trades between opposing
sides in the fighting are infrequent. More than 220,000 people have been killed in Syria's
conflict.
4 April
Palestinian officials and activists say fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)
group have re-entered and taken control of most of a southern neighbourhood in the Syrian
capital, Damascus. Members of the ISIL stormed the district known as the Yarmouk camp on
Wednesday but were expelled on Thursday before re-entering the camp on Friday. Palestinian
official Khaled Abdul-Majid said the group was in control of half of the district. The Londonbased Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the Syrian conflict through a
network of activists, also reported new advances by the group in the camp. Abdul-Majid and
another official, Anwar Raja, said ISIL members were fighting a Palestinian faction called Aknaf
Beit al-Maqdis. Activists said Beit al-Maqdis had been surrounded by ISIL and confined to a few
streets. Residents said the ISIL advance followed the arrest of group members accused of
assassinating a leading figure of Beit al-Maqdis. Palestinian factions and Syrian armed groups
are among groups fighting for the control of the camp. Others include the Nusra Front, Ahrar alSham and Free Syrian Army brigades.
3 April
Around 15,000 antiquities locked away in safes around the north-western Syrian city of Idlib
are at risk of being sold on the black market, the head of antiquities and museums Maamoun
Abdulkarim said. The al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and other insurgents took the provincial
capital on Saturday for the first time in the four-year conflict against President Bashar al-Assad.
"What has happened in Idlib is a true disaster. The worst catastrophe that has happened until
now against the culture of Syria,” Abdulkarim said. The 15,000 antiquities were crafted
throughout Syria's rich history, stretching back millennia. Pottery and statues are kept around
the city, including in the main museum, Abdulkarim said. "The armed groups kicked out the
employees of the museum," he said, adding that Syria's treasures could be smuggled and sold
abroad in neighbouring Turkey. Syria is a cultural treasure trove and home to six UNESCO World
Heritage sites. Four of these sites, including Palmyra and the Crusader castle Crac des
Chevaliers, have been used for military purposes, the United Nations says. Damascus estimates
that more than 1,500 items may have been stolen from museums in Raqqa, a city in northeastern Syria now controlled by Islamic State militants, and Deir Atiyah in northern Damascus.
When the government controlled Idlib, the 15,000 antiquities were stored in a safe area to
preserve and protect them, Abdulkarim said. The UN Security Council in February also banned
all trade in antiquities from the war-torn country, where 220,000 people have been killed. As
radicals who adhere to a hardline school of Islam have grown in power, they present a new
threat to Syria's heritage. Shrines and tombs in areas under their control have been targeted
and destroyed as idolatrous symbols.
2 April
After losing the capital of Idlib province in north-western Syria this week, government forces on
Thursday lost major ground in the south, where rebels captured the only functioning border
crossing with Jordan, a crucial gateway for Syria's government. For some observers, the
successive losses represent a shift in Syria's four-year civil war — suggesting Assad's forces
were overstretched and pointing to a new unity and assertiveness by opposition forces, which
had long been plagued by divisions. The opposition drive is being led largely by al-Qaida's
branch in Syria, the Nusra Front. The group has long been among the strongest opposition
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forces, and in the recent moves it has shown greater coordination with other rebel factions. All
told, the Nusra Front and its rival, the Islamic State group, now control roughly half of Syria,
raising concerns about the country's future. On Wednesday, Islamic State militants made their
deepest foray yet toward Damascus, briefly seizing parts of a Palestinian refugee camp on the
edge of the Syrian capital. While they do not yet threaten Assad's hold on power, the rebel gains
are likely to raise further questions among frustrated supporters about his ability to end the
war. "The apparent collapse of government defences in Idlib has punched a gaping hole in the
government's narrative of approaching victory and boosted the opposition politically as well as
militarily, spelling trouble for Bashar Assad," wrote Syria expert Aron Lund. On Thursday,
plumes of smoke billowed from the Syrian side of the border with Jordan, as Syrian warplanes
and helicopters bombed the areas, trying to slow down the advances by rebels who seized the
Nasib border crossing. Nasib is an important route for Damascus to get essentials and for
merchants and businessmen as a way to export to the Gulf. A prolonged closure will increase
the stranglehold on an economy ravaged by four years of war. Last week, rebels captured the
strategic nearby town of Busra Sham, posing in front of its historic citadel and Roman theatre in
another punch to government supporters. The biggest blow to the government however, came
from the north with the rebel capture of the city of Idlib last weekend after a four-day assault.
The government had held the mainly Sunni city since Syria's conflict began four years ago even
as most of the surrounding countryside fell into rebel hands. Damascus had often boasted of
keeping hold of all the provincial capitals with the exception of Raqqa, in the east, which fell in
2013 and is now the de facto capital of the Islamic State group. The Idlib attack was led by a
coalition of rebel forces led by Nusra, along with the hard-line Ahrar al-Sham and Jund al-Aqsa
groups, believed to be largely backed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. In an audio statement
Wednesday, Nusra's leader Abu Muhammed al-Golani said Idlib would be ruled by Islamic
Shariah law but vowed that his group would not seek to monopolize power in the city, urging
rebels to remain united. According to some activists, the groups have received an infusion of
new weapons and logistical support meant to pressure Assad and his Iranian backers as part of
the Sunni-Shiite proxy war playing out in the region, with Yemen as its latest arena.
1 April
Islamic State (IS) militants have entered the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk in Damascus,
activists and Palestinian officials say. Clashes erupted between the militants and groups inside
the camp, with IS seizing control of large parts of the camp. The UN says about 18,000
Palestinian refugees are inside the camp. IS militants have seized large swathes of territory in
eastern Syria and across northern and western Iraq, but this is the group's first major attack
near the heart of the Syrian capital. IS fighters had seized control of large parts of the camp, the
UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and an official with the Palestine Liberation
Organisation based in Damascus, said. Yarmouk residents said that members of Aknaf Beit alMaqdis, a group formed by Palestinian militiamen opposed to the Syrian government, were
leading the fight against the IS militants, along with some Free Syrian Army fighters. Palestinian
militiamen were able to retake some areas from IS later on Wednesday, residents said. There
has been no official statement from IS about the attack. UNRWA, a UN relief agency for
Palestinian refugees, said in a statement that the fighting would place Yarmouk's civilians,
including large numbers of children, "at extreme risk of death, serious injury, trauma and
displacement." It demanded an end to the fighting and "a return to conditions that will enable
its staff to support and assist Yarmouk's civilians". Members of the self-proclaimed Islamic State
stormed into the southern side of Yarmouk camp in the early hours of the morning and clashed
with the Palestinian brigade, Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis. Reports suggest they came in from the area
of Hajar al-Aswad in the south of the capital. The Palestinian Ambassador to Damascus, Anwar
Abdulhadi, said the group had seized the area of the camp near the Palestine Hospital. Most
information is coming from Palestinian officials in areas under government control. The attack
comes days before a deal to ease the humanitarian situation for civilians in the camp was set to
come into operation. First built for Palestinians fleeing the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Yarmouk was
once considered by many to be the de facto capital of the Palestinian refugee diaspora. Prior to
the Syrian civil war, it had more than 150,000 refugees living there, and its own mosques,
schools and public buildings. However, the camp has been besieged by fighting between
government troops and rebel forces since 2012. About 18,000 refugees remain trapped in the
camp, with inadequate access to food supplies, clean water and electricity.
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Turkey
22 April
Turkey, a Sunni Muslim nation with a secular constitution, is a member, albeit reluctantly, of the
U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State. Most of its 77 million people are deeply opposed to the
militant group's savage tactics. But pockets of Turkish social media hum with pro-Islamic State
activity and at least six websites provide daily updates on its self-declared caliphate, carved out
in Syria and Iraq. An October survey by pollster Metropoll said up to 12 percent of Turks do not
see the group as a "terrorist organization." This sympathy is of growing concern to officials in
Ankara, diplomats and security experts say, as they fear a network of fighters, recruiters and
facilitators is being cultivated in Turkey to support Islamic State operations over the border.
Turkey has stepped up its efforts to destroy these networks but analysts say pushing the
militants too far could lead to the EU candidate nation becoming a target itself, particularly
ahead of June elections. "From the beginning Turkey didn’t fully appreciate the danger of the
Islamic State networks. Now it has become riskier to dismantle them," said Bahadir Dincer,
Middle East Expert at the Ankara-based think-tank USAK. "A Daesh (Islamic State) attack is the
number one threat for Turkey at the moment ... This is a huge risk for the government before
the elections." Bayrak, her Twitter page emblazoned with the Islamic State logo and pictures of
the group's fighters riding on pick-up trucks, tweeted last week that she had "migrated to the
land of the caliph." "People said Islamic State accused people of being infidels, hanged and killed
people. I have seen no such thing since my arrival," she said in one tweet. "My God would grant
their successors the conquest of Rome," she said in another. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu
has estimated that the number of Turks who have joined Islamic State is around 500-700, lower
than from some European countries, although some diplomats put the number of Turks in the
thousands. U.S. officials have estimated that as many as 15,000 foreign fighters are operating in
Syria alone, including 3,000 Westerners, many of whom crossed through Turkey.
21 April
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday extended condolences to the descendants
of Armenians killed 100 years ago by Ottoman Turks, saying Turkey shared their pain and also
announced that a service would be held at the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul to
commemorate the victims. In his conciliatory message released days ahead of the April 24
centenary commemorations, Davutoglu however, stopped short of the calling the killings a
genocide and criticized efforts to press Turkey to recognize the slaughter as such. "To reduce
everything to a single word, to load all of the responsibility on the Turkish nation ... and to
combine this with a discourse of hatred is legally and morally problematic," Davutoglu said.
Armenians have been campaigning for greater recognition that the slaughter constituted
genocide in the run-up to the centenary while Turkey has fiercely lobbied to prevent countries
from officially recognizing the massacres as genocide. Turkey is concerned that U.S. President
Barack Obama — who has avoided using the term given the importance Washington place on
Turkey as an ally — may refer to the deaths as genocide on April 24. Historians estimate that up
to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, an event
widely viewed by scholars as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey however, denies that
the deaths constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated, and that those killed were
victims of civil war and unrest. "We once again respectfully remember Ottoman Armenians who
lost their lives during the deportation of 1915 and share the pain of their children and
grandchildren," Davutoglu said in his message. The Armenian National Committee of America
immediately rejected Davutoglu's message as a "fake apology" and called on Obama to formally
recognize the killings as genocide. "Prime Minister Davutoglu's fake apology today grants no
recognition, accepts no responsibility, expresses no regret and offers no reparations," the
group's director, Aram Hamparian, said. "President Obama has a historic opportunity to reject
Turkey's gag-rule, ending a shameful chapter of U.S. complicity in Ankara's denial and moving
Turkey, Armenia, and the region toward a better future based upon a truthful and just resolution
of this crime." Davutoglu said a service would be held at the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul.
Pope Francis last week referred to the killings as the "first genocide of the 20th century,"
sparking an angry reaction from Turkey which called back its ambassador to the Vatican. The
European Parliament last week adopted a non-binding resolution to commemorate "the
centenary of the Armenian genocide" while Germany's Parliament is set to use the term in a
resolution on Friday.
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19 April
Turkish police detained two people allegedly involved in an attack on the election bureau of the
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in Istanbul’s Sarıyer district, a security official said. A group
of people came to the area in cars and threatened MHP supporters in the area at noon. MHP
supporters called the police following the groups’ threats. Two attackers were captured along
with their weapons, but three others managed to escape. Five people reportedly attacked the
Turkish opposition party’s bureau April 19 morning with guns and tried to cut down the party’s
flags and posters. Gunshots were also fired at the bureau several times during the opening of
the election bureau in the Armutlu neighbourhood of Sarıyer. As the police came to the area,
one man started to fire his gun. The unidentified man was captured by the cameras shooting
from the back of a car, Doğan News Agency reported. One police also fired into the air in
response to the attackers, the agency reported. Crime scene officers collected bullets in the area
after the shootings. Two party members were reportedly also beaten but there were no
casualties or serious injuries in the incident. Police have launched an investigation. The attack
came after an armed attack on the headquarters of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in
Ankara on April 18. There were no casualties in the attack, which both the HDP and the
government described as a provocation ahead of the June 7 election. Two suspects, believed to
have been perpetrators of the attack, were taken to Ankara Courthouse by anti-terror police
officers on April 19 in order to be questioned by a prosecutor. Approximately 56 million Turkish
citizens will vote on June 7 in the country’s 25th general elections to elect 550 members of the
Turkish parliament.
18 April
An unidentified gunman fired shots at the headquarters of Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party on
Saturday, but there were no casualties in an attack the party and the government described as
a provocation ahead of a June parliamentary election. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Yalcin
Akdogan said two people had been detained in connection with the attack but no further details
were immediately available. The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) said in a statement the
attacker had opened fire with a pump-action shotgun from a passing vehicle on its headquarters
in the capital Ankara, damaging the building and the flags hung outside it. Security camera
footage carried by the private Dogan news agency showed a police officer emerging from a
guard's cabin in front of the building and opening fire with a hand gun on a small passenger car
as it sped away. "Those who think they can stop or intimidate us with such provocations will
see they are mistaken," the HDP said in a written statement. "We warn the government to
achieve election security and expect the perpetrators to be caught immediately." Akdogan, a key
figure in a two-year-old peace process between Ankara and Kurdish insurgents, condemned the
attack. "Dirty hands come into play during election periods and try to create provocations and
increase tension," he was quoted as saying. Turkey and jailed militant Kurdish leader Abdullah
Ocalan are in talks to end a 30-year insurgency by his Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in which
40,000 people have been killed. The HDP is also central to the talks, shuttling between Ankara,
Ocalan's island jail and the PKK bases in northern Iraq. The talks have attracted fierce opposition
from Turkish nationalists. The HDP aims to exceed a threshold of 10 percent of the vote needed
to enter parliament in the June 7 election and opinion polls indicate its support is currently
around that level.
17 April
Turkish Airlines says a Basel, Switzerland-bound flight returned to Istanbul after a note saying
there was a bomb on board was found in a toilet. The airline said Friday that Flight TK1923,
with 151 people on board, headed back to Istanbul to be searched. The threat turned out to be
a hoax. The passengers are being flown to Basel on another plane. It was the third such incident
in recent weeks. On March 30, the company diverted an Istanbul-to-Sao Paulo flight to Morocco
after finding a note with the word "bomb" in the toilet. No bomb was found. A day earlier, a flight
to Tokyo also returned to Istanbul before being cleared. Turkish Airlines says it is standard
procedure to make emergency landings under such circumstances.
16 April
Documents seized during the arrest of two members of Revolutionary People's Liberation
Party-Front (DHKP-C) revealed that the terrorist group had been planning to carry out an attack
on some Turkish deputies, members of Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD),
police departments, military units and the buildings of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT).
As two members of DHKP-C were taken into custody on Monday, police seized numerous files
and documents detailing murder plots against state officials, including MPs, national
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intelligence service members and police officers. According to the Turkey Anti-Terror and
Operations Office statement issued Thursday, the organization's so-called leaders also ordered
several armed attacks against Turkish military, police headquarters, and national intelligence
service buildings. The seized files detailed a plan intended to garner extensive coverage form
Turkish and international media. According to the evidence found, the plan was for militants
disguised as Turkish officers to penetrate police stations, in vehicles transformed into police
cars, and detonate bombs. The documents also show that leaders of the illegal far-leftist
organization had forbidden its members of making phone calls. They had also encouraged them
to join different political organizations in order to better mask their intentions. DHKP-C,
designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU, was behind the suicide
bombing of the U.S. embassy in Ankara two years ago that killed a Turkish security guard. The
terrorist organization last hit the headlines with the killing of a prosecutor at a courthouse in
Istanbul and a foiled suicide bombing attempt at headquarters of Turkish National Police in
Istanbul last month.
14 April
Massive power outage hit most districts of Istanbul on Tuesday, almost two weeks after 79
provinces experienced a similar power cut, raising concerns about election security as people
are bracing to go to polls in just two months. At around 8:30 p.m. local time, a number of
districts, mostly in central İstanbul, suffered a power outage. Local authorities didn't say when
the problem could be fixed. The power outage hit a number of districts and neighbourhoods,
including Beşiktaş, Taksim, Levent, Şişli, Kadıköy, Eyüp, Kağıthane and several other districts in
the European side of İstanbul. Two weeks ago, a major power outage hit cities and provinces
across Turkey, including metropolitan cities such as İstanbul, Ankara and İzmir, paralyzing daily
life with subway and tram systems shutting down and shopping malls falling dark across the
country. Ten days after the major power outage that hit 79 provinces across the country, yet
another electricity cut plunged 20 provinces into darkness at around midnight on Saturday
night.
3 April
US Assistant Secretary for Bureau of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Anne C.
Richard has urged Turkey to continue to its policy managing its borders so that legitimate
refugees are able to get across and people who would pose a threat to Turkey, the US and other
countries are kept out. Arriving in Ankara after attending a pledging conference for
humanitarian assistance in response to the Syria crisis, Richard met with a number of
government officials and representatives of international and nongovernmental organizations
to discuss the humanitarian situation in Syria. Speaking to a group of journalists at the US
Embassy in Ankara on Friday, Richard said since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, Turkey has
from time to time closed its borders temporarily. But the borders were reopened within a short
time. “We are concerned that the people of Syria who are legitimate refugees have the chance to
get to safety. We saw tremendous hospitality in the beginning and I am sure it's getting harder
to get out [of Syria]. We continue to ask the government to keep its borders open,” said Richard.
She stressed that it's important to ensure that the international community does as much as it
can to support these countries that are accepting refugees “so that they are not overwhelmed
by doing the right thing and keeping their borders open.” Richard said she had visited Turkey
about a year ago and since then there have been some positive developments in terms of dealing
with refugees. “Turkey has kept its borders open to refugees. Syrians have gotten incredible
reception here,” Richard said, adding that more recently there have also been waves of Iraqis
who have been allowed into and welcomed in Turkey.
2 April
Turkish officials announced Thursday that they nabbed 10 Westerners and four Russians
allegedly trying to cross into Syria to join ISIS in what may be an effort to stem international
criticism that Ankara has been too lax in stopping the tide of foreign fighters using the Arab
nation as a conduit on their way to join the militants. Three men, two women and four children
from the UK and one French national were detained Wednesday by soldiers at a military outpost
after being caught in the Hatay region of southern Turkey, Turkish armed forces said in a
statement on its website. Separately, on Thursday, officials in the south-eastern city of Gazientep
announced four Russians had been detained on Thursday, just two days after they deported a
Belgian national caught trying to cross into Syria. The arrests seem to be evidence that, after
years of international criticism for lax border controls, Turkey is taking a greater responsibility
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in monitoring human traffic over its 500-mile border with Syria. This news comes on the same
day that UN Security Council experts reported to the UN that more than 25,000 foreign fighters
from 100 countries are linked to Al Qaeda and Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, comprising a
"veritable international finishing school for extremists." Turkey is a preferred route for
Westerners intending to join the Islamic caliphate in Syria, the journey costing as little at $1,000.
A little research found that one young woman, supposedly from Glasgow who had made the
journey to join the Islamic State, had a Tumblr website giving travel advice to would-be fighters.
It is thought that this same blogger, Aqsa Mahmood, was instrumental in encouraging three
young girls who travelled from their homes in East London to Syria. Shamima Begum, Amira
Abase, both 15, and Kadiza Sultana, 16, were thought to have made it to the city of al-Raqqa, the
self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State. Security services in the UK estimate that some 600
British nationals have gone to Syria or Iraq to join militant groups there, including the man
known as “Jihadi John,” who has repeatedly appeared in ISIS beheading videos. Experts in
Turkey point to the fact that Turkey has a no-visa policy with Syria, like it does with many other
countries in the Middle East. Furthermore, because of the huge influx of refugees, Turkey is
unable to close its borders. UNHCR recently estimated that the number of refugees and asylumseekers in Turkey is expected to rise to nearly 1.9 million. In response to international criticism
about lax border controls, Turkey has recently upped its precautionary measures. Numerous
tourists and journalists have reported a noticeable rise in the intensity with which they are
treated by security officials. A 21-year-old British woman was recently on suspicion of trying to
travel to Syria. She was detained at a bus station in the capital city of Ankara. Officials reported
that she was expected to be deported after correspondences and images on her mobile phone
indicated that she was planning to join the Islamic State. The Turkish Minister for Customs and
Trade, Hayati Yazici, has also spoken out, saying, “European countries let jihadists depart to
Turkey and then they demand from Turkey that it should hinder them on entering Syria,”
arguing that EU countries had an equal responsibility in preventing would-be radicals from
leaving in the first instance. Turkish media has recently reported that more than 4,000 people
have been refused entry into Turkey because they were thought to be radical Islamists. The
Turkish newspaper “Haberturk” reported that, according to a government report, 1,100
Europeans had been deported, the majority of which came from Germany, Belgium, France and
the Netherlands.
1 April
An Istanbul prosecutor died from his wounds after security forces stormed the office where
members of a far-left Turkish group took him hostage on Tuesday, killing his two captors. The
Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) had published a picture of the
prosecutor with a gun to his head and said it would kill him unless its demands were met.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Mehmet Selim Kiraz had been shot three times in the
head and twice in the body. He died despite being rushed to hospital for emergency surgery. Six
hours after the standoff in a courthouse in central Istanbul began, explosions and gunfire could
be heard coming from the building and smoke billowed from a window, a witness said. A few
minutes later, two ambulances, sirens wailing, raced away from the scene. Police chief Selami
Altinok said authorities had established lines of communications with the hostage-takers, but
had been forced to act when shots were heard from inside the room where Kiraz was being held.
Kiraz was leading an investigation into the death last March of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan, who
died after nine months in a coma from a head wound sustained in anti-government protests.
The DHKP-C said on its website it wanted the police officer it blames for Elvan's death to confess
on television, the officers involved to be tried in "people's courts", and charges against those
who attended protests for Elvan to be dropped.
United Arab Emirates
30 April
The UAE destroyed over 10 tonnes of confiscated elephant ivory in a powerful symbol that raw
and worked ivory pieces have no value and are driving to the current slaughter of elephants.
The event was hosted by UAE Ministry of Environment and Water and organized in conjunction
with Dubai Municipality, Dubai Airports, Dubai Customs and International “IFAW strongly
encourage governments to destroy all their stocks of ivory. Each year, between 25,000 and
50,000 elephants are killed for ivory, which means 1 elephant killed every 15 minutes” said Dr.
Elsayed Mohamed, Regional Director IFAW Middle “IFAW is applauding the UAE decision and
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we are encouraging other Middle East countries to join the UAE in taking a stand against the
ivory trade,” he added. UAE is the first Arabian country to crush its ivory stocks, following the
recent footsteps of the United States, China, UK, France, Belgium, Hong Kong, Ethiopia, Gabon
and Kenya, which burned or crushed its ivory stockpiles. The demand on ivory is fuelling illegal
ivory trade. Seizures of illegal ivory in the world continue to increase: 24.3 tonnes in 2011, 30
tonnes in 2012, and 41.5 tonnes in 2013. Just last week, Security officials at Dubai International
Airport have handed over 84 African elephant pieces destined from Ivory Coast to Vietnam. The
amount was seized in 2012 and 2013, Dubai Customs seized shipments contain 474 tusks of
illegal ivory at Jabel Ali port. In 2014, authorities seized of 301 pieces of ivory at Dubai
International Authorities at Dubai International Airport seized 1,500 ivory products and tusks
during IFAW applauded UAE authorities for their continued success of efforts to combat illegal
ivory trade and to address the challenges that threaten elephant conservation. “Most of the
illegal ivory is sent to East Asia where this highly coveted “white gold” has seen its value as an
investment vehicle rise considerably.” said Dr. Elsayed Mohamed. The illegal wildlife trade
generates an estimated US$19-billion a year, ranking fourth on the list of the most lucrative
illegal activities in the world behind drugs, counterfeiting Starting in 15 May 2015, transit
passengers at Dubai International Airport, will learn that ivory smuggling leads to prosecution.
The advertising campaign will be launched by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
and in collaboration with Ministry of Environment and Water, Dubai Police, and Dubai
International Airport. The campaign In addition, the advertising campaign will be also displayed
at Abu Dhabi International Airport in collaboration with Ministry of Environment and Water,
Abu Dhabi Police, and As part of an international initiative aimed at strengthening the capacity
to fight this trafficking, IFAW trains law enforcement officials on the prevention of illicit
trafficking of wildlife species in several countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and
the Caribbean. IFAW recently signed a memorandum of understanding with INTERPOL, the first
ever signed with an NGO by the INTERPOL program on environmental crime.
20 April
The lawyer for three British plane aviation enthusiasts who were detained after arousing
suspicion while observing aircraft in the United Arab Emirates says a court has dropped charges
against the men. Attorney Nasser Hashem told The Associated Press on Monday that the men
would be free to go after the court accepted a defence argument that they were pursuing their
hobby of plane spotting and had no ill intent. Conrad Clitheroe, Gary Cooper and expatriate
resident Neil Munro were arrested while examining aircraft in the eastern emirate of Fujairah
in February. Plane spotting enthusiasts enjoy observing planes and noting registration numbers
of planes.
19 April
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) on
Saturday. The space centre is to oversee preparations of UAE's Mars exploration probe mission,
state news agency WAM reported. The MBRSC is affiliated with the Emirates institution for
advanced science and technology, which was established in 2006 by the UAE government. The
centre is assigned to further research, projects and space investigation, in a manner that
supports the UAE's drive to develop this sector and to promote national capacity related to
space information and science. The UAE government's focus on becoming a space hub are part
of the country's preparation strategy for when oil reserves run out.
13 April
Newspapers in the United Arab Emirates say migrant labourers set multiple vehicles on fire
during a weekend protest at a construction site in the north of the country following the death
of one of their co-workers. The National and Khaleej Times dailies were among the papers
reporting the incident Monday. They say the protest happened Saturday in the northern emirate
of Ras al-Khaimah after a worker fell to his death from the fifth floor of a building under
construction. Police say the death was an apparent suicide. Electrical generators and fuel tanks
were also torched in the protest. No injuries were reported. The Emirates is home to millions of
low-paid migrant labourers. A group of South Asian workers last month staged a rare protest in
Dubai over a pay dispute.
UAE urged nations to unite and act to ensure global water security. Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE
Minister of State and Chairman of Masdar, called on nations to unite and commit to tangible
actions aimed at addressing water scarcity challenges and ensuring global water security. In his
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keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the 7th World Water Forum in the Republic of Korea,
Al Jaber urged delegates to align efforts and harness their collective knowledge to devise
innovative solutions and transform the way water is produced, preserved and consumed.
"Tackling water security is a global challenge that will require a global response. The UAE is
ready to work with you in our shared responsibility to exchange ideas, drive commercial
solutions and forge a pathway toward global water security. "As a rapidly growing nation in an
arid desert climate, the UAE is determined to move from water scarcity to water security. As
such, our leadership has set an ambitious target to reduce our water footprint by 20 per cent,
by 2030. A calculated and strategic goal we are committed to achieve through a mix of
conservation practices, innovative technology solutions, policies, and partnerships with the
global community," Al Jaber said. Emphasising innovation’s role as a catalyst for multi-industry
solutions to water scarcity challenges faced by arid regions across the world, he said, “We are
determined to transform energy intensive desalination technology and make it more
sustainable." Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s multi-faceted sustainability and renewable energy company,
has taken a visionary approach to addressing the water-energy nexus and has launched an
ambitious programme to improve desalination efficiency and develop advanced desalination
technology capable of being powered with sustainable, clean energy, he added. Held under the
theme of ‘Water for our Future,’ the 7th World Water forum is being held in Daegu and
Gyenongbuk, South Korea and over the next five days it is expected to attract more than 30,000
attendees from government leaders to scientific experts, spanning public and private sectors,
academia and industry. It will serve as a key platform to drive international discussions on
global water challenges and explore conclusive outcomes for tackling water security issues.
During the forum, the UAE will showcase its adoption of innovative technologies as a means to
ensure a water secure future and to address the inter-connected challenges of the energy-water
nexus.
11 April
Pakistani lawmakers urging the government to remain neutral on the escalating crisis in Yemen
has evoked a strong response from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Saturday. "The vague
and contradictory stands of Pakistan and Turkey are an absolute proof that Arab security - from
Libya to Yemen - is the responsibility of none but Arab countries," UAE's Minister of State for
Foreign Affairs Anwar Mohammed Gargash told a daily.
9 April
The UAE will not rule out sending ground troops to Yemen to help reinstate the country’s
legitimacy, the Minister for Foreign Affairs says. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed on Wednesday met
Yemeni foreign minister Dr Riyad Yassin and the two later reaffirmed the importance of
Operation Decisive Storm to restore the country’s leadership. “We cannot set any limits,” Sheikh
Abdullah said. “When talking about the situation in Yemen today, we need to end the crisis in
the quickest time possible. We had to intervene militarily. We cannot place constraints between
us and our goal.” On March 26, the UAE joined 10 other nations in a coalition led by Saudi Arabia
to conduct airstrikes against Houthi rebels, who staged a coup in the capital of Sanaa in
September last year. Sheikh Abdullah said the coalition was cooperating with Yemen’s
leadership and would not move without a “green light”. The UAE sent 30 planes to join the
coalition, and their most recent strikes targeted radar stations, rocket launchers, weapons
depots and surface-to-air missiles. Sheikh Abdullah said that the UAE was a country that
promoted peace, but the Houthis’ actions had left no other choice. Until now, he said, the Houthis
were unwilling to engage in any conversation and Mr Saleh was still trying to force his policies
on the country. “Our goal is to find a political solution to save Yemen and the Yemenis,” he said.
“If we can reach that today, then good. But unfortunately, the Houthis refuse to respect this.”
Sheikh Abdullah said he hoped more countries would support the intervention in Yemen at the
coming vote in the UN Security Council. He said the goal was to begin a conversation and to
prevent the Houthi rebels from buying weapons.
8 April
Iran is sowing discord in Yemen and other regional countries as part of a "revolution export"
strategy, the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday, and Gulf Arab
states are losing hope of building normal ties with Tehran. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed alNayahan also said a Saudi-led coalition now carrying out air strikes on Iranian-allied Houthi
fighters in Yemen seek a UN Security Council resolution requiring all to pursue dialogue and
imposing a ban on arms purchases by Houthis and other groups "that are out of line". Asked
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about evidence to back up allegations by Saudi- and U.S.-backed Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu
Mansour Hadi that Shi'ite Muslim Iran provided support for Shi'ite Houthi militia fighters
opposed to his rule, Sheikh Abdullah told a news conference: "Iran is not carrying out this
activity only in Yemen, it is conducting the same activity in Lebanon, in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan
and in Pakistan. Someone might say that the information provided by Yemen is not accurate, but
there is systematic action that has been going for years on the idea of exporting the (Iranian)
revolution." Iran denies arming the Houthis and has condemned the Saudi-led offensive against
the Houthis of which the UAE is a part. The Islamic Republic sent two warships to the Gulf of
Aden on Wednesday, saying they would protect Iranian shipping. Arab leaders and analysts say
they believe Iran is working unconstrained to tighten its sway on Arab states including Iraq,
Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen as it has edged toward a settlement with world powers including the
United States on curbing its nuclear program in return for an end to sanctions. Sheikh Abdullah
said Sunni Muslim Gulf Arabs could have "positive, normal" relations with Tehran, "but Iran is
not giving its partners in the region this hope... Each time we try to come close to Iran it starts
spoiling the region, making (matters) difficult for our countries." "It is not possible to accept any
strategic threat to Gulf Arab states," he added.
Yemen
28 April
More than 300,000 Yemenis have been driven from their homes by a month of violence in the
impoverished Arab nation, double the number only two weeks ago, amid escalating fighting
with Shiite rebels and the continued Saudi-led air campaign, a United Nations agency said
Tuesday. The report by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs came as
warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition throughout the day Tuesday pounded positions of the
Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, and allied troops loyal to ousted leader Ali Abdullah Saleh in
the capital, Sanaa, and in the south. The three cities of Dhale, Aden and Taiz — the third-largest
city in Yemen — have been declared “disaster zones” by the internationally recognized
government in exile, which said the humanitarian situation is on verge of collapse.
27 April
The outgoing United Nations envoy on Yemen warned on Monday that enforcing a new arms
embargo targeting the Houthi militia could accidentally prevent the delivery of desperately
needed humanitarian aid to the poor country on the Arabian peninsula. In his last briefing to the
UN Security Council, Jamal Benomar also said he regretted that the 15-member body had not
taken strong action sooner on his warnings of "systematic acts of obstruction" to the peace
process. Earlier this month the Security Council imposed an arms embargo targeting the Iranallied Houthi rebels and soldiers loyal to former Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who have
been fighting alongside the Houthis. "Implementation of the new targeted arms embargo ...
could inadvertently restrict the flow of much-needed commercial goods and humanitarian
assistance to Yemen, including food, fuel and medical supplies," Benomar told reporters after
the briefing. The humanitarian situation in Yemen has become catastrophic, relief officials said
on Monday. The United Nations says 12 million people need help.
26 April
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants recently released a video claiming that it has
established an official presence in Yemen, vowing to kill members of the conflict-torn country’s
Houthi militias. Donning matching uniforms and bearing AKM-S assault rifles in a desert
landscape, the militants purportedly pledged allegiance to ISIS and called their new group as
“Soldiers of the Caliphate in Yemen,” the video showed. The nine-minute video was posted
online on April 24, a day after the Green Brigade, ISIS’s affiliate in Yemen, claimed responsibility
of an attack that killed five Houthis in Yarim in the central province of Ibb. The attack in Ibb was
the second deadly incident claimed by the ISIS in Yemen after 142 people were killed and
another 350 injured in a series of suicide bombings at Shiite mosques in Sanaa on March 20. ISIS
and Al-Qaeda view Shiite Muslims as heretics. “We have come to Yemen, with men hungry for
your blood to avenge the Sunnis and take back the land they have occupied,” a militant said in
reference to the Shiite Houthis, whose last attack on the Yemeni government was to seize the
southern seaport city of Aden, where President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi had been staying after
declaring it as the country’s temporary capital, before seeking refuge in Saudi Arabia. The
Houthis took over the capital Sanaa in January, which escalated the conflict between Hadi’s
government and its loyalists, and Houthis and its allies. The militant also urged other Sunni men
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in Yemen to join ISIS. The U.S. intelligence company, Stratfor said the video, “which will likely
have recruiting value for the new jihadist group, indicates that Wilayat Sanaa has a core of welltrained and apparently well-financed militants in the conflict-ridden country.”
24 April
Tensions off the coast of Yemen between the United States and Iran appear to be dissipating,
with a fleet of Iranian ships possibly carrying weapons for Yemeni rebels and a U.S. aircraft
carrier both turning away from the region, Pentagon officials said Friday. The Iranian ships have
turned northeast in the Arabian Sea, away from Yemen, said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon
spokesman. The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and its escort ship, the guided-missile
cruiser USS Normandy, also are heading back to the Persian Gulf, leaving seven other U.S.
combat ships in the waters off the coast of Yemen, a Navy official told The Washington Post. “I
think it’s fair to say that this appears to be a de-escalation of tensions that were discussed earlier
this week,” Warren said of the Iranian ship movements. Navy officials said Monday that the
Roosevelt and Normandy had made it through the Strait of Hormuz and were steaming through
the Arabian Sea toward Yemen, where the Saudi-led war against Houthi rebels has raised
tensions throughout the region. Doing so would help the Navy keep vital shipping lanes in the
region safe and open, according to a Navy statement. A flotilla of about nine Iranian ships were
reported in the region earlier this week, with at least some of them armed. Warren said the
United States continues to monitor them but has no communication with them. The movements
come following a Saudi-led naval effort to block weapons from reaching the Yemeni port of Aden
in an attempt to stop the rebels from rearming. U.S. officials said they were not participating in
the blockade, but would continue to patrol through the region as it usually does. Moving the
Roosevelt and Normandy to the Arabian Sea raised questions whether the United States was
preparing to escalate. It also pulled them away from the Persian Gulf, where they had been used
to support the U.S. bombing campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. A Navy
official said Friday that the ships will return to that mission. Seven other U.S. combat ships
remain near Yemen. They are: the destroyers USS Forrest Sherman and USS Winston Churchill;
the minesweepers USS Sentry and USS Dextrous; and three amphibious ships carrying about
2,200 Marines, the USS Iwo Jima, the USS New York and the USS Fort McHenry. The USNS Charles
Drew, the USNS Laramie and the USNS Arctic also are nearby.
At least 115 children have been killed and 172 maimed in a month of fighting and air strikes in
Yemen, the UN children's agency UNICEF says. About half were killed by coalition bombing, the
agency said, and others by mines, gunshots, and shelling. The UN said on Friday that at least 551
civilians had been killed in the conflict - more than half the overall estimated death toll. "There
are hundreds of thousands of children in Yemen who continue to live in the most dangerous
circumstances," Julien Harneis, UNICEF's Yemen representative, said. "The number of child
casualties shows clearly how devastating this conflict continues to be for the country's children,"
he added. A UNICEF spokesman in Geneva said the agency believed its figure of 115 was a
conservative estimate. Johannes van der Klaauw, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen,
warned that the country's escalating conflict had put its health system at "imminent risk of
collapse." Mr Van der Klaauw said the violence had disrupted supplies of food, fuel, water and
electricity across the country and left an estimated two million children unable to attend school.
He called on all parties in the conflict to facilitate the safe passage of aid to civilians. The UN
estimates that more than 150,000 people have been displaced by the violence in Yemen. The
Saudi-led bombing campaign is targeting Yemen's Houthi rebels, who have captured swathes of
the country, and their allies. It declared an end to the aerial phase of its campaign on Tuesday,
but has continued to launch air strikes since.
22 April
Saudi-led coalition warplanes bombed Yemen on Wednesday despite an announcement by
Riyadh that it was ending its campaign of air strikes, while renewed fighting erupted on the
ground between rebels and forces loyal to the exiled president. The hostilities illustrated how
difficult it will be to find a political solution to a war stirring animosities between rival Gulf
powers Saudi Arabia and Iran. Tuesday's announcement by Riyadh that it would end almost a
month of air strikes against the Iranian-allied Houthis drew positive responses from both the
White House and Tehran. But hours later, air strikes and ground fighting resumed and the
International Red Cross described the humanitarian situation as "catastrophic." The rebel
Houthi movement said it wanted a return to United Nations peace talks, but only after a
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complete halt to air strikes. Houthi fighters, meanwhile, captured an army base loyal to
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in the city of Taiz. A Saudi air strike hit the headquarters
shortly afterwards, residents said. Coalition planes later hit rebel positions in southern Yemen
with 12 more air strikes, residents said. Also in southern Yemen, pro-Hadi militiamen fought
against the Houthis and their army allies loyal to powerful former President Ali Abdullah Saleh,
and residents in the port of Aden reported tank shelling and automatic gunfire. Yemen's south
has been a bulwark of resistance against the Houthi advance, and locals expressed dismay at the
end to Saudi strikes, which had supported their forces. "The decision was strange and totally
unexpected. Our fighters had made gains but needed more Saudi air support; now we hear the
Houthis and Saleh's people are advancing in many places," said Aden resident Saleh Salem Ba
Aqeel. In Washington, Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir made clear that the bombing campaign
was not entirely over and warned of a fresh Houthi assault on Aden "from three sides." He told
reporters the Saudis would continue to use force "to stop them from taking Yemen over by
aggressive action."
20 April
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt left the Persian Gulf on Sunday and is headed
toward Yemen, where there are already three U.S. amphibious ships and two destroyers. The
Roosevelt was sent in response to a convoy of seven to nine Iranian ships which appear bound
for Yemen and which could be carrying arms. The aircraft carrier will join other American ships
prepared to intercept any Iranian vessels carrying weapons to the Houthi rebels fighting in
Yemen. However, Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, denied the ship was sent
to block possible Iranian arms shipments. The U.S. Navy has been beefing up its presence in the
Gulf of Aden and the southern Arabian Sea amid reports of the convoy of Iranian ships. The
Houthis are battling government-backed fighters in an effort to take control of the country. The
U.S. has been providing logistical and intelligence support to Saudi Arabia-led coalition
launching airstrikes against the Houthis. That air campaign is now in its fourth week. The U.S.
Navy generally conducts consensual boardings of ships when needed, including to combat
piracy around Africa and the region. So far, however, U.S. naval personnel have not boarded any
Iranian vessels since the Yemen conflict began. White House spokesman Josh Earnest would not
comment specifically on any Navy movements in Yemeni waters, but said the U.S. has concerns
about Iran's "continued support for the Houthis. “We have seen evidence that the Iranians are
supplying weapons and other armed support to the Houthis in Yemen. That support will only
contribute to greater violence in that country. These are exactly the kind of destabilizing
activities that we have in mind when we raise concerns about Iran's destabilizing activities in
the Middle East." He said "the Iranians are acutely aware of our concerns for their continued
support of the Houthis by sending them large shipments of weapons."
19 April
The leader of Yemen's Iranian-allied Houthi militia accused Saudi Arabia on Sunday of plotting
to seize the country, in a fiery speech suggesting he was in no mood to compromise despite more
than three weeks of Saudi-led bombing. Saudi Arabia's goal is "the invasion of this country, its
occupation and placing this country again under its feet and hegemony," Abdel-Malek al-Houthi
said. "It's the right of our people to resist the aggression and face the aggressor by any means,"
he added. The air campaign has mostly failed to reverse recent gains by Houthi guerrillas
fighting alongside Yemeni army allies. However, in a blow to the Houthis, a Yemeni commander
of a vast military district covering half the country's border with Saudi Arabia pledged support
on Sunday to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, local officials said. The announcement
puts at least 15,000 troops in the desert and mountain border area on the same side as Saudi
Arabia, which hosts the embattled Yemeni president in its capital Riyadh. "Brigadier General
Abdulrahman al-Halily of the First Military District announced today his support for
constitutional legitimacy as represented by President Hadi," one of the officials said. Most of
Yemen's military is loyal to powerful ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose forces are fighting
alongside the Shi'ite Muslim Houthi militia in battles stretching across Yemen's south and east.
But the latest defection brings to about 10 the number of divisions that have switched sides. It
may point to a growing sense in the military that momentum favours Hadi. Beginning last week,
most of the army divisions along Yemen's eastern Arabian Sea coast evacuated their posts and
handed security of their bases and Yemen's Masila oil fields, the country's largest, to armed
Sunni tribes. Other powerful tribes followed suit on Saturday within the First Military District,
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announcing after a huge gathering that they supported Hadi and the Saudi-led military
operation, in a move which likely encouraged the commander's decision.
18 April
Unidentified militia fired on a hospital in southern Yemen that pro-Houthi soldiers had
endangered, in violation of the laws of war. All parties to Yemen’s conflict should take necessary
measures to ensure that medical facilities and personnel do not come under attack so that
patients can be treated. Yemeni army forces fighting on behalf of the Houthis endangered the
hospital, in the city of Lahej, by shutting off the hospital lights and deploying snipers nearby on
April 13, 2015, and two days later stationing a tank at the hospital entrance. Opposing gunmen
carried out attacks beginning on April 13 that repeatedly struck the hospital and put medical
personnel at grave risk. As of April 16, fighting was continuing in the vicinity, with both groups
using rocket-propelled grenades and other military weaponry. “Fighters on both sides in Lahej
have unlawfully put a hospital in the middle of a battle,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and
North Africa director. “For the safety of doctors and patients it’s crucial for all sides to stay away
from medical facilities and allow them to function.” Ibn Khaldun Hospital is on the outskirts of
Lahej, just north of Aden in southern Yemen. When fighting escalated in the area after March 26,
the hospital staff evacuated all patients except those receiving emergency assistance. Three
doctors working at the hospital told Human Rights Watch that on the evening of April 13 they
heard gunfire and saw militia of unknown affiliation attack a military checkpoint about 500
meters from the hospital. The army deployed snipers in buildings near the hospital, increasing
the likelihood it would be damaged by fighting, Human Rights Watch said. Dr. Jaem al-Hilali said
that on the night of April 13, four soldiers forcibly entered the house where his family and five
other families live, across the street from the hospital. “My father tried to stop them from
entering, but one of the soldiers threatened him, pointing a gun to his head,” he said. “We
decided it was best to let them in. They proceeded to the roof where they set up snipers. I moved
my family out the next day.” Several hours into the fighting on April 13, two soldiers entered the
hospital and ordered the doctors to turn off the hospital’s external lights so that they could hide
along the walls of the building. By this time the hospital was no longer housing any patients, but
20 staff remained, the doctors said. Dr. Hussein al-Yazidi told Human Rights Watch that some
rockets and other projectiles then hit the hospital, breaking a window and damaging some walls.
Bullets also hit a spare tank of diesel fuel for the hospital generator, causing it to leak. The use
of such direct fire weapons suggests that the attackers knew they were hitting a hospital, Human
Rights Watch said. The doctors said fighting subsided on the morning of April 14 and people
were able to leave and enter the hospital, including new patients.
17 April
Iran's foreign minister on Friday submitted a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
outlining a four-point peace plan for Yemen, where Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have been
targeted for three weeks by Saudi-led air strikes. The plan, which Foreign Minister Mohammad
Javad Zarif announced earlier this month, calls for an immediate ceasefire and end of all foreign
military attacks, humanitarian assistance, a resumption of broad national dialogue and
"establishment of an inclusive national unity government." "It is imperative for the international
community to get more effectively involved in ending the senseless aerial attacks and
establishing a ceasefire, ensuring delivery of humanitarian and medical assistance to the people
of Yemen and restoring peace and stability to this country through dialogue and national
reconciliation without pre-conditions," said Zarif's letter. Western and Arab diplomats in New
York have shown little interest in the plan, saying they do not consider Iran a neutral peace
broker in Yemen. UN officials confirmed receipt of the letter, and a request from Iran to share it
with the 15-nation Security Council. It was not clear what they would do with the proposal.
16 April
The United Nations envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, resigned on Wednesday, according to a UN
statement, signalling that his effort to end fierce fighting in the country had failed. Benomar, a
veteran Moroccan diplomat, brokered a 2011 transition plan aimed at quelling political turmoil
in Yemen. However, it subsequently unravelled, culminating in an on-going Saudi-led bombing
campaign against Houthi rebels allied to Iran. "A successor shall be named in due course. Until
that time and beyond, the United Nations will continue to spare no efforts to re-launch the peace
process in order to get the political transition back on track," the statement said. A UN
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diplomatic source said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was considering appointing Mauritanian
diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to the post. A Western diplomat said Ould Cheikh Ahmed
was "in the mix", but that a final decision had not been made. Several diplomats said it had been
known for months that Benomar wanted to leave his post. Benomar had irked Saudi Arabia and
other Gulf nations with his handling of so-far unsuccessful peace talks between the Houthis and
the Western- and Gulf Arab-backed Yemeni government, Western UN diplomats said on
condition of anonymity. Both the Houthis and Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who
has fled to Saudi Arabia, had also grown impatient with the envoy and UN-sponsored talks
repeatedly gave way to armed clashes. Yemen's new vice president, Khaled Bahah, said on
Thursday that he would welcome Benomar's successor, but that the envoy was not responsible
for the collapse of Yemen's transition. "If something did not happen during the dialogue or there
was a failure, Benomar should not be blamed for that - it's the political parties that did not help
Benomar," Bahah told reporters in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Al-Qaida seized control of a major airport, a sea port and an oil terminal in southern Yemen on
Thursday, consolidating its hold on the country's largest province amid wider chaos pitting
Shiite rebels against forces loyal to the exiled president and a Saudi-led air campaign. Military
officials and residents said al-Qaida fighters clashed briefly with members of one of Yemen's
largest brigades outside Mukalla, a city the militants overran earlier this month and where they
freed prison inmates. The militants then seized control of the Riyan airport and moved to secure
their hold on the city's main sea port, which is also an oil terminal. The security officials,
speaking from Sanaa on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the
press, said the leaders of the brigade in charge of protecting the entire area fled. The latest
advance marks a major gain for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, as the Yemeni affiliate is
known, which has been linked to several failed attacks on the U.S. and is widely seen as the
global network's most dangerous franchise. The group claimed responsibility for the attack on
a French satirical magazine earlier this year. The group has exploited the chaos in Yemen, where
Shiite rebels, along with allied military units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh,
captured the capital in September and have been advancing despite a three-week Saudi-led air
campaign. The rebels are staunch opponents of al-Qaida but are currently locked in fierce battles
with forces loyal to Yemen's internationally recognized President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi,
who fled to Saudi Arabia last month. The south-eastern city of Mukalla is the capital of Yemen's
largest province, Hadramawt, where al-Qaida has long maintained a presence despite U.S. drone
strikes and Yemeni counterterrorism operations. Nasser Baqazouz, an activist in the city, said
the troops guarding the airport put up little resistance. "They are consolidating their hold of the
city and will paralyze the whole coast of Hadramawt," he said. A politician in the city, Ali alKathiri, said al-Qaida and local tribal leaders had been negotiating with the brigade commanders
to ensure a peaceful handover. But some fighters, suspected of being loyal to Saleh, clashed with
the militants. A smaller air defence brigade handed over its camp to al-Qaida, apparently to
avoid clashes, al-Kathiri said. A Saudi-led coalition has been striking the Houthis and their allies
from the air since March 26, but has carried out no attacks on Mukalla or other al-Qaidacontrolled areas
14 April
More than 1,200 people fleeing conflict in Yemen have reached the Horn of Africa by boat in the
past two weeks, using a route taken in the past by African refugees headed in the opposite
direction, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday. Despite fuel shortages and the high
fees charged by smugglers, hundreds of Yemenis and Somalis and a small number of Ethiopians
and Djiboutians have arrived in Somalia and Djibouti after an "extremely dangerous" 24-hour
journey across the Gulf of Aden, the UNHCR said. "The difficult situation in Yemen is pushing
people to make the dangerous journey across the Gulf of Aden in extremely difficult conditions,"
UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said. "People end up in open waters where there are no
search and rescue operations ... they are fleeing ill-prepared and the journey is very risky." The
United Nations says the conflict in Yemen has killed 600 people, wounded 2,200 and displaced
100,000 since Houthi rebels allied with Iran seized the capital Sanaa in September. The rebels
now control most of Yemen and their advance toward the southern port of Aden triggered air
strikes by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia to try to drive them back. "This extremely dangerous
journey only shows what desperate measures people resort to in order to move their families
to relative safety," Edwards said. An Ethiopian woman, accepted as a refugee in Yemen in 2002,
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said she and her three children had left without delays because smugglers prioritized women
and children, but her husband was still waiting in Aden for a place on a boat, Edwards added.
Last year 246 people are known to have died while crossing the Gulf to Yemen and Edwards
said there were still a few people taking the journey to Yemen unaware of the situation there.
"Until last week we had people still coming across the Gulf unaware of what’s going on in Yemen,
but the numbers are now coming down and we see an increase in traffic in the opposite direction
toward Somalia and Djibouti," he said. The UNHCR has set up a temporary transit centre near
Obock in Djibouti to help 345 refugees who arrived there and is planning to open a refugee camp
at Markazi. In Somalia, where 915 refugees have landed, the UNHCR is refurbishing two
buildings to serve as reception and transit centres for Yemenis and Somalis who may want to
return home. Edwards said the agency was preparing for a "worst case scenario" of 130,000
refugees arriving in the Horn of Africa in the next six months.
Yemen's al-Qaida branch announced on Tuesday that its top cleric, a Saudi-national who has had
a $5 million bounty on his head, has been killed, allegedly in a drone attack. Al-Qaida said in a
statement posted on Twitter that Ibrahim al-Rubaish was killed by a drone late on Sunday, along
with other, unnamed members of the group. The statement did not specify the location of the
drone attack. Yemeni officials had no immediate comment on the claim and the White House
declined to comment. Al-Rubaish, believed to be in his late 30s, was released from Guantanamo
Bay in 2006, after which he joined al-Qaida in Yemen. He was considered the group's the main
ideologue and theological adviser and his writings and sermons were prominent in its
publications. Last year, he hailed the seizure of large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria by alQaida's rival, the Islamic State group. "I ask God that efforts are united to target the enemies of
the religion," he said in a video recording at the time. If the drone attack is confirmed, it would
be the first use of unmanned aircraft since Yemen sank further into turmoil last month,
prompting a Saudi-led coalition to launch airstrikes on March 26 in an attempt to halt Yemen's
Shiite rebels known as Houthis who have taken over much of the country.
The UN Security Council on Tuesday imposed an arms embargo targeting the Iran-allied Houthi
rebels who now control most of Yemen as battles in the south of the country intensified. Egypt
said it and Saudi Arabia had discussed holding a "major military manoeuvre" in Saudi Arabia
with other Gulf States, following talks on the progress of the three-week-old Saudi-led campaign
of air strikes against the Houthis in Yemen. The statement from the Egyptian presidency
appeared to be a sign that members of the Sunni Arab coalition attacking the Houthis may carry
through on threats to eventually follow their air campaign with a ground intervention or at least
have a show of force next door. Arab states have been bombing the Houthis in support of militias
resisting an advance by the group and army units loyal to ousted former president Yemen
President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The conflict, though rooted in local rivalries, has become a proxy
battlefield for Sunni-ruled Saudi and mainly Shi'ite Iran, the main regional powers. The UN
resolution also demanded the Houthis stop fighting and withdraw from areas they have seized,
including the capital Sanaa. On the ground, southern militiamen claimed gains against the
Houthis on several battlefronts across southern Yemen, including districts of the port city of
Aden, the last stronghold of loyalists to Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Iran
meanwhile prepared to submit a four-point peace plan for Yemen to the United Nations on
Wednesday, state media said. Tehran's proposal includes a call for an end to Saudi-led air strikes
against the Houthis and is likely to anger Riyadh, which accuses Iran of meddling in the affairs
of its southern neighbour. The Security Council on Tuesday imposed a global asset freeze and
travel ban on Ahmed Saleh, the former head of Yemen's Republican Guard, and on Abdulmalik
al-Houthi, a Houthi leader. Saleh's father, former president Saleh, and two other senior Houthi
leaders, Abd al-Khaliq al-Huthi and Abdullah Yahya al Hakim, had been blacklisted by the
Security Council in November. The Security Council also expressed concern at what it called
"destabilizing actions" taken by former President Saleh, including supporting the Houthis. The
elder Saleh, who was forced to step down in 2012, is widely seen as having a behind-the scenes
role in the conflict in league with the Houthis. The resolution imposed an arms embargo on the
five men and "those acting on their behalf or at their direction in Yemen" - effectively the Houthis
and soldiers loyal to Saleh who are fighting alongside the Houthis. A statement from the Houthi
leadership condemned the resolution, which it said supported "aggression". The council voted
14 in favor, while Russia abstained, saying some of its proposals for the resolution drafted by
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