Weekly News Roundup: “National dialogue” in Yemen, CAR on edge, and Bosco takes a long vacation to The Hague

West Africa

Mali: France confirmed “with certainty” that key AQIM commander Abou Zeid is dead. But the jury is still out on the status of Mokhtar Belmokhtar.

Speaking of AQIM, the terrorist group announced this week that it had beheaded one of the French hostages held in northern Mali. A grim reminder that the closer French forces get to recovering the captives, the more vulnerable the hostages are.

Another extremist group, Ansar Dine, was blacklisted by the United States as a foreign terrorist organization.

Sahel/North Africa experts Andrew Lebovich and Peter Tinti have two excellent, must-read articles on the West African drug trade (here) and Mali’s homegrown jihadists (here). The latter is a rare look at perhaps Mali’s most potent but enigmatic Islamist extremist group, MUJAO.

Finally, Mali expert Bruce Whitehouse provides “six steps to fix a broken Mali” here.

Central Africa

Central African Republic: Extremely bad news out of the CAR. After renouncing a ceasefire brokered in January, the “Seleka” coalition of rebels advanced to within 20 miles of the capital, Bangui (virtually all of the rest of the country is ungoverned or under rebel control). With the CAR army badly outgunned, President Bozize’s government will have to rely on Chadian forces to repel the multi-pronged attack. (For an excellent map, see here.)

Congo: In a bizarre sequence of events, Congolese warlord and rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda fled the eastern DRC and surrendered on the doorstep of US Embassy Kigali in neighboring Rwanda. He specifically asked to be transferred to The Hague for prosecution at the International Criminal Court (ICC), where is wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. He has been flown to the Netherlands to await trial.

For a good timeline of events leading up to Ntaganda’s demise, see here. For general background on Ntaganda, see here. For analysis of why Ntaganda might have chosen to turn himself in, see here and here.

East Africa

Sudan: In a potentially significant breakthrough, the Sudanese government announced it is ready to negotiate with SPLM-North rebels fighting in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states.

Middle East

Yemen: The much-anticipated “national dialogue,” bringing together regime and opposition leaders in Sana’a to discuss elections and a new constitution, kicked off this week. A timeline of how we got to this point here. (Also, see my most recent post on Yemen here.)

South Asia

Pakistan: Ahmed Rashid of “Descent into Chaos” lore has a great piece in the New York Review of Books on violent extremism in Pakistan.

Sri Lanka: A grim story of a survivor from the bloody final days of Sri Lanka’s war against the LTTE (Tamil Tigers) in 2009, when thousands of (mostly Tamil) civilians were caught in the crossfire.

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