It’s a 2-for-1 deal! Having failed to deliver a news roundup last weekend, I’ll use this weekend’s roundup to cover two weeks-worth of news and analysis below. As usual, lots going on.
Middle East & North Africa
Turkey: The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), after agreeing to a ceasefire with the Turkish state in March, promised to pull out of the country by May 8. This resolution is a welcome bright spot in a region scarred by several other conflicts, such as…
Iraq: Clashes between government forces and Sunni protesters at Hawija (Kirkuk governorate) killed at least 50 people. The incident raises fears of a renewed civil war like that of 2006-07, largely along Sunni-Shi’a sectarian lines.
Check out a range of perspectives on the Iraqi situation here: International Crisis Group, Institute for the Study of War, New York Times, and Washington Post. A fiery op-ed in the Times lays blame with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s growing authoritarianism.
Libya: A car bomb was detonated outside the French embassy in Tripoli, injuring two guards and severely damaging one wall of the building. The Guardian suggests the attacks are a direct response to French intervention in neighboring Mali.
Western Sahara: Protesters reportedly clashed with Moroccan security forces in Western Sahara after a UN vote that extended the peacekeeping mission there.
Nigeria: Serious clashes between government forces and Boko Haram devastated the fishing town of Baga in northeast Nigeria. Some report that at least 180 were killed and some 2,000 homes destroyed (see the before-and-after satellite imagery here). Much of the blame may fall with the Nigerian security forces themselves.
The New York Times comes about one year late to the game in declaring “a new threat” from Islamist extremist group and Boko Haram spin-off Ansaru. These guys really despise the West—and have kidnapped (and killed) several foreigners living in Nigeria since last year.
Mali: The UN Security Council voted to establish a peacekeeping force in Mali, comprising some 12,000+ soldiers.
Open Democracy has a good article on AQIM post-Mali that largely meshes with my assessment back in March. A sampling: “AQIM is not so much a spent force as an organisation which has long delayed facing what, by modern terrorism standards, is its original emptiness.”
Political Geography Now has a nice, updated map of the current state of play in Mali.
South Sudan: Some more good news. After President Salva Kiir reiterated a commitment to providing amnesty for rebel fighters who lay down their arms, the South Sudan Liberation Army (SSLA) agreed to disarm and enter negotiations with the South Sudanese government. The SSLA also urged another rebel group, led by David Yau Yau, to take Kiir up on his offer of amnesty.
Sudan: Meanwhile, in the other Sudan, SPLM-North rebels launched an assault on Um Rawaba, a town some 300 miles from the Sudanese capital. The Sudanese government asked rebels to halt fighting so that ongoing peace talks can proceed.
India-China: After a group of Chinese soldiers crossed into Indian-controlled territory near Aksai Chin high in the Karakoram Range, tensions are higher than normal between the two countries. (Will reports on India-China territorial disputes here.) The New York Times tries to lighten the mood a bit, noting that:
“The latest spat between India and China is bound to resolve itself this year, one way or another. In six months, snow and bitterly cold weather will make the Chinese encampment very difficult, if not impossible, to maintain.”
Pakistan: The New York Times also reports on the treacherous journey of ethnic Hazaras escaping persecution in Pakistan with sights set on political asylum in Australia, thousands of miles away.
Xinjiang: After three years of relative calm, this restive Chinese province saw another outburst of violence. Beijing accused Uighur “gangsters” and “terrorists” of killing 15 police officers, the worst death toll for a single attack in many months.
Kuril Islands: Russia and Japan agreed to resume long-stalled talks over these disputed islands. The two countries have yet to sign a peace treaty 67 years after WWII ended.
Indonesia: Indonesian officials reportedly arrested two individuals plotting an attack on the Burmese embassy in Jakarta to avenge anti-Muslim violence in Burma. The two Indonesian suspects called for “jihad in Myanmar.”
Chechnya: In light of the Chechen heritage of the Boston Marathon bombers, the Economist offers a supremely interesting look at the state of affairs today in the North Caucasus. Money quote about Grozny, Chechnya’s formerly war torn capital: “There is a whiff of Las Vegas in the air, cut by the odor of Pyongyang.”
Reuters also reports on modern-day Chechnya.