AFGHANISTAN: Attacks by the Taliban insurgency grow
There was an observable increase in attacks carried out by the Taliban insurgency against Afghan security forces in October. Dozens of members of the Afghan Army and the police died in different episodes of violence, especially in the provinces of Badakhstan, Kunduz, Nangahar, Kunar, Ghor, Logar and Helmand. In Badakhstan, 15 insurgents were killed when security forces responded to an attack conducted by the insurgency in which 17 police officers were abducted and four lost their lives. In the city of Kunduz, a rebel attack on the attorney general’s office killed seven people, six of them prosecutors. Two of the seven districts in this province are under the control of the Taliban. In Helmand province, after four months of fighting, security forces managed to regain control of the district of Sangin. In the province of Sar-e Pul, 14 soldiers (though some sources claimed 22) and 22 insurgents died in a fierce, two-day battle after the Taliban ambushed Afghan security forces. There were also various attacks in Kabul that caused civilian casualties. This surge in armed Taliban action comes amidst the withdrawal of international troops and also coincides with a period of governmental fragility after the elections and before the new government was appointed in late September. Over the course of the summer, approximately 100 members of the Afghan security forces were killed each week, a figure vastly higher than that of previous years. (TOLONews, 12, 15, 21, 28/10/14; BBC, 27/10/14; AP, 03, 27/10/14; Pajhwok, 27/10/14; Reuters, 13, 21/10/14)
DR CONGO (EAST – ADF): Actions by the group ADF increase, claiming dozens of lives
The armed group of Ugandan origin ADF increased its actions around Beni, in the northern part of North Kivu province, in the east of the country. In early October, the UN mission reported that about 15 people, including six children, were executed in the area. In the middle of the month, at least 27 people were killed and seven others were seriously injured in villages near Beni. The victims’ homes were burned down and some of them were beheaded. In the last six weeks, at least 35,000 people have fled from their places of origin in the north of the province for fear of attacks. Martin Kobler, the head of MONUSCO, expressed his concern about the escalating violence and demonstrated his support for the Congolese Armed Forces in their campaign to deal with the situation. Later in the month, days before a visit by President Joseph Kabila to the region, two people (one soldier and one insurgent) were killed when the armed group assaulted a military outpost in Mayi-Moya. The governor of North Kivu, Julien Paluku, has condemned the facts, arguing that the group is not very large (sources estimate between 800 and 1,200 members). After the latest attacks, MONUSCO has become the target of violent demonstrations in the area around Beni. The demonstrators demand that the mission leave the country because it is unable to fulfil its mandate. In December 2013, the Congolese Army began a military operation against the ADF as a result of an attack in which 21 civilians were killed. (Reuters, 16/10/14; Jeune Afrique, 20, 29/10/14)
INDIA – PAKISTAN: Escalation of violence between both militaries along the Line of Control
In October there was a rise in violence between the Indian Army and the Pakistani Army along the Line of Control (de facto border between both countries), with constant clashes that in some cases occurred daily, suggesting the most serious situation in terms of fighting in the last decade. At least 19 civilians died in October on both sides of the border. The Pakistani government said the Indian Army’s attacks had caused the death of 13 civilians and injured 53, although media sources reported that 11 civilians had died on the Pakistani side and eight on the Indian side. Despite the clashes, the ceasefire agreement reached in 2003 continues in force. Both parties have taken responsibility for the escalation of violence. The military authorities of both countries maintained contact through a hotline during the crisis, but this did little to ease the tension. (Tribune, 14/10/14; Hindustan Times, 12/10/14; BBC, 09/10/14)
LEBANON: The dynamics of the war in Syria foster a rise of violence in the country, with fighting that leaves dozens dead in Tripoli and the Bekaa Valley
In October, the Bekaa Valley and the coastal city of Tripoli became the scene of various acts of violence linked directly to the war in Syria. Early in the month, clashes were reported in the eastern part of Lebanon between Sunni militiamen allegedly related to al-Nusra Front (the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) and combatants of the Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah, which supports the government in Damascus. The escalation of violence began after armed men attacked different Hezbollah positions around the towns of Baalbek and Arsal, in the north of the Bekaa Valley. Sources close to Hezbollah reported that two of its militants and 16 al-Nusra combatants died in the fighting, which ended with the Syrian group’s retreat. At the end of the month, Syrian rebels fired rockets at the Shia-majority town of Labweh in retaliation for military operations in Tripoli. Also in Tripoli, three days of heavy fighting between the Lebanese Army and suspected jihadist militants claimed the lives of at least 40 people (10 soldiers, five civilians and around 24 combatants) in one of the bloodiest episodes in Lebanon in recent months. The clashes began one day after an incident in a nearby town caused the death of three militants allegedly linked to the armed group Islamic State (ISIS). The violence forcibly displaced thousands of people and caused serious damage to the district of Bab al-Tebbaneh. This mainly Sunni area was being used as a stronghold by the militants, who accused the Lebanese Army of siding with Hezbollah. In this context, al-Nusra Front threatened to kill one of the Lebanese soldiers it is holding hostage unless the military campaign in Tripoli ended. Since August, more than 30 Lebanese soldiers and police officers have been abducted by ISIS and al-Nusra Front after fierce fighting in the Sunni-majority border town of Arsal, which shelters tens of thousands of Syrian refugees. Three of the captives have already been executed. Also in October, Human Rights Watch warned of arrests of and assaults on Syrian men in the refugee camps at Arsal suspected of possibly supporting ISIS or al-Nusra Front. Some in Lebanon believe that these incidents are isolated, but warned that they could fuel sectarian narratives and boost radicalisation among Sunni sectors. Finally, the government announced that it cannot receive any more refugees from Syria. A country of four million inhabitants, Lebanon already hosts 1.1 million Syrian refugees. (Al-Jazeera, 22 and 28/10/14; BBC, 07, 24, 26 and 27/10/14; New York Times, 27/10/14)
PAKISTAN: Over one thousand insurgents have been killed in the military operation in North Waziristan
The Pakistani Armed Forces’ operation against the Taliban insurgency in North Waziristan continued throughout the month of October, causing many deaths and forcibly displacing hundreds of thousands of people. Military sources said that since the beginning of the operation, known as Zarb-e-Azb, 1,100 insurgents had been killed. The Pakistani Army also said that it had evidence that the armed Taliban group TTP, the main target of the operation, was establishing new bases in Afghan territory near the border. Meanwhile, a new military offensive called Operation Khyber-I started in Khyber Agency, where many rebels are moving to escape the operation in North Waziristan. At least 40 insurgents died in October as a result of the military’s bombing during this operation. There was also a sharp spike in US drone strikes during the month. According to the Bureau for Investigative Journalism, between 25 and 42 people were killed in North Waziristan as a consequence of the eight strikes that took place between 5 and 11 October and between 20 and 30 people were injured. The same organisation published a report stating that only 12% of the victims of the drone attacks were identified as insurgents and that less than 4% of the total were identified as members of al-Qaeda. The report says that of 704 of the 2,379 known victims of the attacks between June 2004 and October 2014 have been identified, of which 295 were members of some armed organisation. This contradicts the US government’s claims that it only carries out drone strikes when it is almost certain there will be no civilian casualties. (The Express Tribune, 22, 27 and 29/10/14; Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 16/10/14)
SOUTH SUDAN: The UN warns of the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war in the conflict
The UN special representative on sexual violence in conflict, Zainab Bangura, cautioned that sexual violence is a recurring feature of the current conflict in South Sudan and denounced its use by all parties involved. After a recent visit to the town of Bentiu, where hundreds of civilians had been massacred by rebels, Bangura stressed that the widespread use of rape could be prevented through greater political and legal effort from the government and civil society. Based on the information available, the incidents of sexual violence in Bentiu included rape, gang rape, forced abortion and sexual harassment, and the perpetrators were members of the pro-government SPLA, the opposition SPLA-IO, the national police and the JEM. Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres expressed his concern about the serious situation facing the South Sudanese refugee population in Sudan. Finally, UNICEF and the WFP concluded a new joint mission in South Sudan, where they assisted more than half a million people located in areas affected by the ongoing conflict. Since December 2013, the conflict has forcibly displaced nearly two million people, of which about a million and a half remain in the country. (Europa Press, 21/10/14, UN, 30/09/14, 17, 20, 22 and 23/10/14)
YEMEN: Multiple clashes between various armed groups, including the Houthis, AQAP and tribal militias, leave hundreds dead and push the country to the brink of civil war
Hundreds were killed in many battles during the month between different armed groups in Yemen, plunging the country into a situation of grave instability close to civil war. Despite the Houthis’ pledge to withdraw from the capital, Sana’a, as part of the UN-brokered agreement in September to overcome the political crisis resulting from a change of government, their militias continued to patrol the city’s streets and moved to positions elsewhere in the country. In mid-October, the group assumed control of the port of Hodeida, the second largest in the country after Aden and essential for supplying Sana’a. In this context, a suicide attack during a pro-Houthi demonstration in Sana’a caused 47 fatalities. The Islamist insurgent organisation AQAP later claimed responsibility for the attack while continuing to call for war against the Houthis in defence of the Sunnis. Shortly thereafter, bloody clashes were reported around Raada, in southern Yemen, between Houthis and AQAP militants after the Houthis tried to seize village areas around the city. At the end of the month, fighting between Houthis and AQAP militiamen and Sunni tribal militias left more than 250 dead in only three days in al-Bayda province. According to press reports, AQAP and the Sunni combatants were putting up resistance to the Houthis’ advance southwards. Nevertheless, at the close of the month the Houthis took control of Radmah, a key city on the road between Sana’a and Aden. President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi criticised the Houthis’ struggle against AQAP, which he views as a strategy to expand its domain over other provinces. During the month, as part of the agreement promoted by the UN, Hadi appointed a new prime minister, Khalid Bahah, considered a technocrat and accepted by the Houthis, who had rejected the president’s first candidate. In this context of great instability, southern separatist groups called for mobilisation and issued the Yemeni authorities a 30 November deadline to withdraw their officials and security forces from the southern part of the country. (BBC, 07, 08, 09, 13, 14, 27/10/14; al-Jazeera, 27, 29/10/14)
BURKINA FASO: The Army dissolves Parliament and the government announces a transitional administration after protests against the president’s attempts to remain in power become violent
The attempts by the president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaoré, to eliminate presidential term limits so he may stand for election at least one more time sparked many protests and riots, mainly in the capital, prompting the Burkinabe Army to dissolve Parliament and Compaoré’s government and announce a transitional authority. According to the political opposition, around 30 people died and 100 were injured in demonstrations on 30 October. Other sources had claimed that only several people died. Demonstrators set fire to Parliament, stormed the state television station and city hall and attacked legislators’ homes. Media outlets reported that the Burkinabe Army fired live ammunition at protestors that tried to enter Parliament on the day it planned to vote on the constitutional amendment proposed by the president to remove term limits to his presidency. An ally of the United States and France in the fight against armed Islamist groups in the Sahel, Compaoré has been in power since the coup d’état he carried out in 1987 and has been re-elected four times in controversial elections. Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated on 28 October. After riots on 30 October and the military’s seizure of power, Army Chief of Staff Nabéré Honoré announced the creation of a transitional body with legislative and executive powers and said that the aim was to return to constitutional order in twelve months. Meanwhile, Compaoré said that he had “understood” the people’s message and was willing to engage in political dialogue, but made no mention of his ouster. (All Africa, Le Monde, BBC, New York Times, Reuters, 28-31/10/14)
BURUNDI: The government temporarily releases opposition leader Pierre Claver Mbonimpa amidst a climate of growing tension
The country’s presidential election will be held in less than one year and the CNDD-FDD-led government is taking measures to restrict freedoms and pressure the opposition to limit its capacity for political action. The leader of the opposition party coalition Alliance Démocratique pour le Changement (ADC), Léonce Ngendakumana, has accused the president of trying to destroy the opposition in the country with threats that drive its members into exile or keep them there, through legal pressure and by forcibly removing them from the leadership of their parties. The international community is torn between applying friendly pressure and imposing sanctions to correct the deteriorating situation. The Netherlands, one of the country’s main donors, stated that its 1.3 million USD of aid for the electoral process is conditional upon honouring commitments to political openness and a lack of political violence. In this climate of tension, the government temporarily released the journalist and head of the human rights organisation APRODH, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, for health reasons on 29 September, after four months in prison, citing a chronic disease he suffers from, six requests and an international pressure campaign that even led US President Barack Obama to demand his release. Mbonimpa had said that the young members of the CNDD-FDD party, the Imbonerakure, were pressuring members of the opposition and journalists, carrying out increasing abuse and receiving military training in DR Congo. The Burundian government has denied yielding to any pressure from its donors in the international community. (Jeune Afrique, 07 and 09/10/14)
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Séléka on the verge of imploding amidst ongoing violence
Violence persisted in different parts of the country. The most prominent episode of the month was an attack by a Fula- and Séléka-linked armed group on Yamalé, a town in the region of Balaka, in the centre of the country, which left at least 30 people dead and dozens injured, according to MINUSCA. Many homes in the town were also looted and burned down. The UN mission reported that the violence spread to neighbouring areas. In another incident, at least seven people died in clashes between anti-balaka militias and Séléka in the same region. Meanwhile, on 25 October several Séléka military leaders decided to create their own political and military movement separate from Séléka. Thus, General Ali Darassa created a new movement called Unité pour la Paix en Centrafrique (UPC) during a general assembly for the movement in Ndlélé. A dozen figures are participating in the UPC’s political structure and former Séléka spokesman Habilah Awal is its general coordinator. Another Séléka general assembly was held on 28 October in Bambari, in the centre of the country, convened by the rebellion’s second-in-command, Noureddine Adam. Fearing that Séléka might implode, the transitional government had eased access to this general assembly and had asked international forces to guarantee travel security for the Fula members of the armed group, which sparked protests involving hundreds of anti-balaka demonstrators in different parts of the town. Another Séléka leader, General Joseph Zoundeko, a member of the Goula community who had been chief of staff of the organisation and had lost influence within Séléka, announced his intention to call an assembly in late October in the mining town of Bria. (Jeune Afrique, 21, 23 and 27/10/14)
CHINA: The authorities sentence 12 people to death and reform the intelligence system after the intensification of violence in Xinjiang, which leaves another 30 dead in October
Following a quick trial, a court in Kashgar (Bachu county, Xinjiang) sentenced 12 people to death for their involvement in incidents that killed almost 100 in July. Another 15 people were handed reviewable death sentences, which are often commuted to life imprisonment, nine were given life sentences and 20 received sentences of four to 20 years in gaol. The convicts belonged to the Uyghur ethnic group. The acts of violence in July, which occurred in Shache county (known to the Uyghurs as Yarkand), claimed the lives of 37 civilians and 59 suspected assailants. Beijing considered it a terrorist attack that was suppressed by the police, while Uyghur activists complained that it was a massacre of demonstrators protesting the increasing restrictions on practicing the Islamic faith. Also in October, new incidents of violence were reported in Xinjiang that resulted in the death of at least 30 other people. Around the middle of the month, 22 were killed in an attack on a market in Kashgar, allegedly perpetrated by four Uyghur men armed with knives and explosives that attacked police and civilians. Eight other people died in an incident in Guma county (three police officers, three civil servants and two suspected Uyghur aggressors). So far in 2014, according to media reports, more than 400 people have been killed in Xinjiang in different acts of violence. In this context, as part of a series of security-related changes that it intends to make, the Chinese government decided to reform the intelligence and counterterrorism system. State media discussed some of the changes in advance and emphasised that they aimed to improve the gathering of intelligence information and the sharing of information between various departments, in addition to strengthening international cooperation. Other changes will focus on Internet control, the transport of hazardous materials and border control, according to Xinhua. (New York Times, 13 and 19/10/14; Radio Free Asia, 13 and 18/10/14; BBC, 13/10/14; Reuters, 27/10/14)
EGYPT: The government declares a state of emergency in Sinai and gives special powers to the Army following an offensive that kills 31 soldiers
Two attacks by suspected jihadist militants against Egyptian troops in Sinai caused the death of 31 soldiers on 24 October, the worst death count for the Egyptian Army in decades of attacks on the peninsula. Twenty-eight soldiers died in a suicide attack on a road checkpoint near Arish, the main city in the north of the peninsula. Another thirty were wounded, some of them critically. Three other soldiers were shot dead at another checkpoint in the urban vicinity of Arish. Until late October, no group had claimed responsibility for the attacks. In incidents before 24 October, about a dozen members of the security forces lost their lives in Sinai. These incidents include the detonation of an explosive device when a military vehicle passed by that killed six soldiers and the launch of a missile at an automobile in northern Sinai that killed two police officers. According to sources at the Egyptian ministry of the Interior, in the last 15 months, attacks by radical Islamist militias have caused the death of more than 500 soldiers and police officers. Press reports also stated that as part of their operations in Sinai, the Egyptian security forces have recently captured or killed dozens of suspects belonging to jihadist groups. The government of Abdul Fattah al-Sisi blamed the violence in Sinai on a plot led by foreign forces that want to fragment Egypt, asserting that the jihadists were an existential threat to the country. After the attack on 24 October, the government declared a three-month state of emergency in different parts of Sinai and closed the Rafah border crossing, which connects to the Gaza Strip. In late October, the government ordered many families to evacuate and began to demolish homes along the border with Gaza in order to create a “security zone” and prevent weapons smuggling. The authorities also announced new powers for the Army, which took control of government facilities and infrastructure like power plants, bridges and roads. Critics warned that the measures taken by the government that it described as antiterrorist could facilitate repression of the Egyptian opposition by allowing for the Army to return to the streets and for civilians to be tried in military courts. (BBC, 25, 27 and 28/10/14; El País, 19/10/14; al-Jazeera, 25/10/14)
GEORGIA (ABKHAZIA) – RUSSIA: The Russian proposal for a new treaty of integration for Abkhazia creates political tension in the region and Georgia offers it the status of an autonomous republic
Internal political tension in Abkhazia rose along with international suspicion between Russia and Georgia following the release of Russia’s proposed “Agreement between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Abkhazia on Alliance and Integration”, which seeks to bring Russia and Abkhazia even closer and is interpreted by Georgia as an attempt at annexation. Among other issues, the proposed treaty includes the creation of a common space for security and defence, the establishment of shared defence infrastructure, a combined group of forces, joint border protection measures and a collective defence clause. According to many analysts, in practice it would entail the replacement of the Abkhazian armed forces, border guards and interior ministry with coordination offices and joint military forces whose command would be appointed by Russia. The treaty also provides for complete freedom of movement between Russia and Abkhazia; joint control over the movement of people, transport and cargo at all border crossings into Abkhazia, including ports; adaptation of customs legislation to the regulations of the Eurasian Economic Union; harmonisation of budgets and taxes with Russia; and commitments from Russia to co-fund higher salaries for government employees and to finance an increase in pensions for Russian citizens (most of the population of Abkhazia also has a Russian passport), among other issues. Even though Russia is Abkhazia’s main ally, the announcement was met with concern by Abkhazian politicians, including President Raul Khajimba, who had called for a new treaty with Russia after his predecessor was ousted by protests that he led. The fears focus on the perception that Abkhazia may be losing its sovereignty. Khajimba said they would send Russia concrete proposals to amend the treaty, but urged the Abkhazian people and politicians to remain calm and to avoid discrediting Russia, which he described as Abkhazia’s only ally, and once again justified the need for a new treaty with Russia. The Georgian foreign minister described the proposal as a Russian attempt to annex Abkhazia. Even so, Georgia did not call off the meeting with Russia planned in October as part of the process to restore relations, which began in 2012 and has mostly focused on trade issues. The meeting was held and the agenda was dominated by the new Russian treaty proposal. In late October, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili proposed granting autonomous republic status to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which would include autonomy but within a “united and independent” Georgia. He said that Georgia wanted to restore mutual trust with Russia and that mistakes had been made in the past. (Civil Georgia, RFE/RL, Eurasia Daily Monitor, 1-28/10/14)
MYANMAR: Clashes reported between the Burmese Army and different insurgent organisations
Despite the peace talks that the government is conducting with insurgent organisations and the different ceasefire agreements in force, in October clashes between the Burmese Armed Forces and various rebel groups were reported in different parts of the country. Some of the most serious episodes took place in Shan State, where the Army battled with the armed groups TNLA, KIA and MNDAA. At the beginning of the month, 17 soldiers were killed in clashes with the TNLA and the number of casualties in following battles is unknown. The insurgents denounced the growing presence of government troops in areas inhabited by the different ethnic minorities. In Kachin State, the Army ordered the evacuation of several towns, forcibly displacing 1,000 people to the vicinity of Hpakant, a strategic mining area that is the scene of frequent clashes. The KIA’s breach of the agreement to allow mining companies access to the mines gave rise to the Army’s threats. In Karen State, four civilians died as a result of clashes between the Army and the armed group KNU, which also forcibly displaced hundreds of people. There were also armed clashes with the armed group DKBA. Two members of these insurgencies were killed in battles with the Armed Forces. (The Irrawaddy, 02, 13, 15, 17/10/14)
NIGERIA: Women kidnapped by Boko Haram report multiple forms of abuse while the armed group’s attacks persist despite announcements of a truce
In a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), 46 witnesses and victims of the abductions carried out by Boko Haram (BH) in the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, in northern Nigeria, testified to the abuses committed by the armed group. The text of the report states that women and girls taken as hostages by BH have been subjected to forced marriage, rape, multiple forms of physical and psychological abuse, forced labour and forced conversions to Islam. HRW estimates that more than 500 women and girls have been abducted by BH since 2009 and underscores that the kidnappings have intensified since May 2013, coinciding with the imposition of a state of emergency in northern Nigeria. The report states that the testimonies of the victims, who include girls that escaped from BH after 276 of them were kidnapped from a school in Chibok last April, reveal the government’s failures to guarantee them protection, provide them with medical and psychological care and investigate and prosecute those responsible for the abuse. In mid-October, the Nigerian authorities declared a ceasefire between the government and BH that would supposedly include an agreement for releasing the girls abducted in Chibok. However, other sources said that the release of the girls by BH was still subject to negotiations. The authorities of Chad confirmed that they had acted as facilitators in the talks between the Nigerian government and BH and even added that the parties had agreed to resolve their differences peacefully and implement acts of goodwill. According to the Nigerian government, the first gesture was BH’s release of 10 Chinese and 17 Cameroonian hostages in October. However, the declaration of the ceasefire raised doubts and suspicion among analysts and segments of the population, which were bolstered by the fact that at month’s end, the group had still not confirmed the truce. On the contrary, the violence continued and during the second half of October new attacks by suspected BH militiamen were reported that killed dozens of people. Around 30 children were also kidnapped. Critics linked the truce announcement to the president’s aspirations for re-election and said that the government’s image is being damaged by its problems in dealing with the conflict. A video released at the start of the month discredited the Nigerian Army’s versions about the death of the leader of BH. (BBC, 02, 17, 20, 23, 28/10/14; HRW, 27/10/14; Le Monde, 27/10/14; Jeune Afrique, 17/10/14)
PERU: Shining Path boosts activity while municipal elections are held
Election day on 5 October was accompanied by various acts of violence committed by activists from various political parties. More than 95 violent incidents involving people unhappy with the election results took place that day. The armed group Shining Path also carried out several attacks throughout the month in the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM) that caused various fatalities among the different state security corps and the insurgency. In early October, two rebels that attacked a military helicopter and wounded one of its passengers were killed in Cusco after two other helicopters intervened in the area of Cerro Verde. It is suspected that both combatants were under the command of Comrade “Antonio”. Moreover, in Ayacucho there was an attack on a police patrol that was carrying election material that left two agents dead and seven wounded. The election observation mission of the OAS condemned the attack. Another soldier was killed in an attack in the VRAEM after a Shining Path column attacked a temporary military base along the Chalhuamayo-San Francisco road. Finally, in the province of Barranca, the police captured an alleged combatant identified as Víctor César Minaya Rosales. He is charged with various crimes, including the murder of several police officers and soldiers. (Peru.com, 03, 13, 15, 27 and 28/10/14)
TURKEY (SOUTHEAST): Tensions rise with more than 30 fatalities during pro-Kurdish protests and the first bombings of the PKK since 2013, but negotiations gain momentum in the second half of October
Tensions around the Kurdish issue rose in the first weeks of October due to Kurdish protests in Turkey against the government’s policy regarding the siege of Kobane by ISIS in Syria. The Kurdish nationalist movement accused the Turkish government of having supported ISIS and of blocking the entry of Kurdish militants into Syria to fight against ISIS as it besieged Kobane. There were clashes between Kurdish demonstrators and Islamist groups that sympathise with ISIS during the riots, as well as fighting between Kurdish activists and Turkish security forces. At least 34 people died and another 360 were injured in different parts of Turkey. In moves reminiscent of the exceptional measures and violence of the 1990s in southeastern Turkey, a curfew was imposed in several towns in the region and the Army was deployed with tanks to enforce it. The Kurdish nationalist movement PKK and its leader Abdullah Öcalan had called for the protests, even while Öcalan asked for calm and stability as the month progressed to advance the negotiating process. Likewise, the pro-Kurdish party HDP condemned the burning of Turkish flags and the knocking down of a statue of the founder of the Republic of Turkey. Other incidents during the month also stoked tension, such as the hunger strike started by around 4,000 prisoners linked to the PKK in 90 prisons across Turkey, the Turkish Army’s first bombing of the PKK in the southeast since the PKK’s ceasefire began in March 2013, the killing of three Turkish soldiers in Kars and the execution of a member of the village guard paramilitary force, allegedly by the PKK. Meanwhile, regarding the peace process, in September and at the beginning of October, the leader of the PKK had warned of the risks of the collapse of the negotiating process, which he blamed on the lack of concrete steps taken by the Turkish government and its policy regarding ISIS, and gave it an ultimatum to present a road map for the process by 15 October. However, the situation improved in the second half of October. After the pro-Kurdish delegation visited the political and military leaders of the PKK in northern Iraq, it visited Öcalan on 21 October, who was more optimistic and said that there was hope for resolving the conflict and that the negotiating process had entered a new phase since 15 October. Meanwhile, the ruling party, the AKP, announced that the government was about to complete a road map for ending the conflict and was sharing the details with the Kurdish party. According to AKP spokesman Besir Atalay, new talks and meetings will begin soon. The AKP reaffirmed its sincere commitment to the process. Öcalan said that brave new political steps were needed, as well as clear will and trust. (AFP, Firat, Hürriyet, 1-29/10/14)
UKRAINE: The pro-EU parties win the parliamentary elections while tension increases between Ukraine and Russia around local elections in Donetsk and Luhansk
The tension and violence affecting Ukraine continued in October, when the country held parliamentary elections. Pending the final results, the pro-EU parties came out ahead, headed by Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s Popular Front and the bloc of President Petro Poroshenko. There were 450 seats in play, with 50% elected through closed party lists and 50% through districts in a single-candidate system. Russia recognised the results of the elections, which took place in a calm atmosphere but could not be held in the areas under rebel control in Donetsk and Luhansk. The self-proclaimed leaders of these areas announced elections for 2 November. While the Minsk agreements of September plan for local elections in these areas, they are limited to choosing municipal government bodies and stated that they should be held in accordance with Ukrainian legislation. The rebel authorities in these provinces are planning elections for regional parliaments and thereby hope to legitimise their self-proclaimed republics. In late October, Russia declared that it would recognise these elections and partly distanced itself from the Minsk agreements, claiming that they only had to be held in coordination with Kiev without subjecting them to Ukrainian legislation. Moreover, despite the theoretical validity of the ceasefire and the drop in violence during the Ukrainian elections, the ceasefire was violated regularly throughout the month, with new episodes of violence, including fighting to control the Donetsk Airport. In early October, nine people were killed in attacks on a school and a minibus in Donetsk. An employee of the International Committee of the Red Cross was killed by a projectile in Donetsk. According to the UN, 331 people lost their lives between 5 September, the date of the ceasefire, and the beginning of October. A total of 3,660 people have been killed and 8,756 have been wounded since April. By late October, the conflict had displaced 800,000 people from their homes, including 430,000 within Ukraine and another 387,000 seeking refuge, temporary asylum or other forms of residence in Russia. (New York Times, Reuters, El País, RFE/RL, 1-29/10/14)
ARMENIA – AZERBAIJAN (NAGORNO-KARABAKH): New presidential summit to seek a solution to the conflict while the situation in the border area stabilises
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian met in Paris in late October in an encounter organised by French President Francois Hollande in order to lay the foundation for talks. Hollande first met separately with each leader and later held a joint meeting involving all three. The co-chairs of the OSCE’s mediating body, the Minsk Group, also participated in the meeting. There was no official statement afterwards, though the press reported that Hollande had urged both sides to demonstrate the political will to reach a solution to the conflict and said that prolonging the status quo was unacceptable. This was the third meeting between the Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents in three months, following one sponsored by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, Russia, in August and another organised by US Secretary of State John Kerry during the NATO summit in Wales in September. The increase in meetings coincided with growing concern about the fragility of the security situation due to the rise in violence in the summer. However, no information emerged about the outcome of the meeting, in line with the stagnation of the peace process in recent years. Furthermore, the co-chairs of the Minsk Group said in mid-September that the situation around the Line of Contact had stabilised after an escalation of violence in late July and early August. (Reuters, OSCE, RFE/RL, 1-28/10/14)
PAKISTAN: A jirga will negotiate with the Mehsud Taliban factions
A jirga of elders of the Mehsud tribe was called, which will bring together commanders of the Taliban factions composed of members of the tribe, especially the factions led by Khan Said and Shehryar Mehsud. Khan Said’s faction officially withdrew from the TTP in May after he was isolated from the power structures of the armed Taliban group as a result of internal power struggles within the organisation after several leaders (Baitullah Mehsud, Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud) were killed by US drone strikes. The jirga will try to get the Mehsud Taliban to reach an agreement with the Pakistani government as part of the steps that Islamabad has tried to take to negotiate an end to the armed conflict. (Dawn, 26 and 27/10/14)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO-MILF): The Philippine police reaffirms its support for the creation of a regional force in Mindanao as part of the parliamentary debate on the draft law to establish the Bangsamoro entity
The Philippine Parliament discussed the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, aimed at establishing the Bangsamoro entity as part of the peace process. As part of these discussions, in late October the head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) voiced his support for the proposal of a specific police force for the future entity. The future Bangsamoro police will be under the ultimate command of the PNP and its main functions will be public order and security. Some have questioned the constitutionality of the future Bangsamoro police. The mayors of the municipalities of Mindanao demonstrated their support for the establishment of the Bangsamoro entity through a declaration at a conference organised by the League of Municipalities of the Philippines, in which they expressed their desire for the region to become a land of peace and opportunities. Furthermore, despite the mostly peaceful situation regarding the MILF, in early October there were clashes in the town of Pikit between two MILF factions facing off over issues of land and political division. One guerrilla fighter was killed. The security forces said that they hope to have the support of the government and MILF’s joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities to deal with the dispute between both factions. Moreover, two people were killed and three were injured in an attack on a Protestant church in the province of North Cotabato, the scene of periodic violence committed by an MILF splinter group, the BIFF. (AFP, The Philippine Star, Gulf News, 1-30/10/14)
SUDAN: The Sudanese national dialogue initiative moves forward to achieve peace in the country
Various events occurred in October that may contribute to peacebuilding in the country. First, in early October Germany announced that it would cooperate with the Sudanese players to facilitate a negotiating process in the country aimed at achieving peace following a meeting held by the Berghof Foundation in Berlin. The Berghof Foundation convened the meeting with the different leaders of the armed groups that make up the SRF coalition, who pledged to participate in any political process that would steer the country to peace. The German foreign minister expressed his willingness to help them to reach these goals. During the meeting, the SRF spoke of the need to unify the armed groups, political parties and civil society organisations. The Berghof Foundation declared its readiness to contribute towards this goal. After the meeting in Berlin, the SRF announced plans to form a strategic alliance with the opposition party bloc National Consensus Forces (NCF) and other opposition parties. In other developments, sources at the national dialogue committee have announced that the process will begin on 25 November. Meanwhile, various opposition parties have accused the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) of deliberately delaying the national dialogue until after elections are held in April 2015, demanding that the elections be postponed until after the national dialogue process had ended. However, the government rejected the accusations and stressed its commitment to the process, saying that it should not exceed three months. A co-spokesman of the 7+7 committee, also known as the national dialogue committee, said that the head of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), Thabo Mbeki, would soon speak to Khartoum so that the dialogue provides all the guarantees demanded by the armed groups. A government delegation and a delegation of the armed groups of the Two Areas (South Kordofan and Blue Nile) and Darfur were supposed to meet separately between 12 and 16 October to discuss a cessation of hostilities agreement, but in the end the meetings were postponed at Khartoum’s request so that the ruling NCP party could hold its national convention. In his fourth convention, held on 23 October, President Omar al-Bashir stated his commitment to the national dialogue and said that good things would come of it, such as the participation of opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi of the PCP, who has decided to become involved in the national dialogue and called for unity among the Sudanese. Various analysts have said that the slow pace of the dialogue process, Khartoum’s willingness to implement confidence-building measures with opposition groups and its refusal to postpone the elections seemed like government manoeuvring to divide the opposition and ensure that it remains in power. (Sudan Tribune, 03, 08, 10, 17, 23 and 26/10/14)
TUNISIA: The country holds its first parliamentary elections since the approval of the new Constitution
In late October, Tunisia held the first legislative elections since the new Constitution was approved, a milestone in the transition process under way in the country after the overthrow of the government of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011. Turnout for the elections reached nearly 60%, higher than forecasts, which anticipated a significant decline. Candidates from more than 100 parties ran for seats in Parliament. Composed of 217 MPs, the new Tunisian Parliament will have a term of five years. After the votes were counted, the secular party Nidaa Tounes was declared the winner, taking 85 seats, and was followed by the Islamist ruling party Ennahda, which won 69 seats. According to analysts, the Islamist organisation may have lost support due to its problems in managing the government and the economy. Led by the 88-year-old Beji Caid Essebsi, a former minister during the Bourghiba government and a senior official under Ben Ali, Nidaa Tounes was seen as the main counterweight to the Islamists and possibly able to provide greater stability. Ennahda called for the formation of an inclusive government and Nidaa Tounes was expected to begin talking with various parties. During the campaign, Essebsi did not rule out an alliance with Ennahda. Analysts expected the negotiations to continue until the presidential election scheduled for 23 November, in which the leader of Nidaa Tounes will run with 26 other candidates. Ennahda is not nominating a candidate for the presidential election. Analysts and observers said that the parliamentary elections in Tunisia were a key event in the country. While it is where the Arab revolts began, less dynamics of violence have arisen there compared to other places in the region. Still, the transition has been bumpy, affected at times by serious tension between secular and Islamist groups and experiencing incidents occasionally involving Tunisian security forces and alleged Islamist cells. Indeed, two days before the election, a police operation in a suburb of the capital resulted in the death of an officer and six suspected “terrorists” (one man and five women), according to the official version. Recent reports suggest that many Tunisians have decided to join the ranks of jihadists outside the country, like armed groups operating in Syria and Iraq. (BBC, 24, 30/10/14; al-Jazeera, 26, 28, 30/10/14; Le Monde, 29/10/14; New York Times, 26/10/14)
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