AFGHANISTAN: Taleban insurgency scales up offensive and takes control of several districts
The Taleban insurgency has managed to take control of several districts that are geographically crucial after a strong offensive in August. In Paktia province, the Taleban insurgency managed to control the Janikhel district after intense fighting that killed 30 members of the Afghan security forces. Hundreds of insurgents attacked the central district headquarters and took over the building, as the head of the district, Abdul Rahman, recognised; he highlighted there had been more casualties among the Taleban. In Baghlan province the Taleban also took the district of Dahan-e-Ghori and later the district of Khanabad, a key spot that joins the provinces of Kundiz and Takhar. Nevertheless, this district was taken back a few days later by the Afghan security forces. Also, instense clashes in Helmand province forced more than 30,000 people out of their homes. In recent weeks, the Taleban insurgency has scaled up its offensive to advance towards the capital of Helmand, Lashkar Gah, despite the aerial bombings by the US, which has generated an important humanitarian crisis. The population has expressed huge concern over the possibility that Lashkar Gah may fall in Taleban hands. In September 2015 the Taleban managed to take control of the capital of Kunduz for a brief period, which they considered a major victory since the start of the current stage of the armed conflict in the country in 2001. Also, an attack on the American University in Kabul killed 12 people, seven of which were students at this university. Security forces killed two suspects behind the attack. Furthermore, 44 were injured and more than 700 students had to be evacuated. (Anadolu Agency 27/8/16; Al Jazeera, 9, 21 & 25/8/16)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO (east - ADF): The ADF armed group committed the worst massacre since 2014
The armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) attacked the town of Rwangoma, located in the Beni region, in the northern part of the North Kivu province (east of the country), in what has been considered by the local population as the worst massacre committed by the armed group since 2014. Officially the number of fatalities was 42, although local and civil society sources raised the number to over 50. Since 2014 more than 650 people have been executed in the town of Beni and the vicinity. The attack took place three days after President Joseph Kabila's visit to Goma, the capital of North Kivu. On August 4 Kabila met with his Ugandan counterpart, Yoweri Museveni, to discuss a strategy to combat the ADF group. As a result of this attack, the local population organized demonstrations on August 17 to protest for the Government's inability to control the situation. (Al Jazeera, 14/08/16; RFI, 15/08/16; AFP, 17/08/16)
ETHIOPIA: Repression and protests are on the rise in different parts of the country
The excessive use of force by the Ethiopian security forces during the numerous protests in different parts of the country has resulted in the death of at least 97 people during the weekend of August 6 and 7, according to the organization Amnesty International (AI). The two regions where the government repression has been the strongest are Oromia and Amhara. AI said that 67 people died in the region of Oromia and 30 in Amhara. The protests even reached Addis Ababa, which is surprising considering that its Government is believed to be one of the most repressive regimes on the African continent. The Government has not provided an official death toll, and claimed that the protests were organized by foreign enemies in alliance with local forces. The towns where the violence was greatest were Bahir Dar, capital of the Amhara region, where 27 people died, and Nekemte, in the west of the country, with 15 dead. The disproportionate and excessive response by the Government fanned fears that the situation could get worse. The authorities blocked access to social networks, the main channel of communication and organization of the protests. This situation dates back to April 2014, when the Government announced the Addis Ababa Integrated Development Plan and the Oromia Special Zone (Addis Ababa Master Plan), which proposed the territorial expansion of the capital at the expense of several cities in the Oromia region, which would become part of Addis Ababa. The Master Plan is an attempt to attract new industries, manage the city’s demographic and urban growth, establish it as an economic and political centre, and making it internationally competitive. However, the plan has been widely criticized for its impact on the Oromia region because it ignored the Oromia people during the design phase of the plan and because many towns around Addis will be affected without any compensation. The protests in Amhara are on the rise for a different reason, the attempted arrest of local leaders who oppose the Government's decision to join two neighbouring districts. (Daily Nation, 10/08/16)
INDIA (JAMMU & KASHMIR): Serious riots after the death of insurgent in July kill almost 80
At least 77 die after serious riots break out in July and August in Jammu and Kashmir State, after an insurgent was killed in early July by the Indian security forces. Despite the curfew set in place by the authorities, there have been protests almost daily and thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets, challenging the curfew. More than 8,000 would have been injured as a consequence of the riots and the severe police repression that followed. Human rights organisations and health professionals denounced that hundreds of people may be left blind due to the serious injuries sustained from the pellets fired by the police. Some 5,000 people were injured due to these pellets. Among the many who were arrested during those two months, it is worth mentioning the Kashmiri pro-independence leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, from the All Parties Hurriyet Conference, who was accused of breaking his house arrest to participate in the protests. Farooq had remained under house arrest for two months for denouncing the actions of the Indian security forces in Kashmir. As a consequence of the protests, the economic life in the state is paralysed, with banks, shops and schools closed. (Al Jazeera, 5, 26 & 30/08/16)
MOROCCO-WESTERN SAHARA: Tension is on the rise following the deployment of Moroccan and Polisario Front troops in an area of Western Sahara near Mauritania
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his concern over the rising tension in the southwest of Western Sahara between the berm built by Morocco and the Mauritanian border, with the deployment of Moroccan armed units and the Polisario Front in close proximity to each other. In mid-August, the Polisario Front accused Morocco of violating the ceasefire when it sent troops and equipment to the Karkarat area and called the action "blatant and unprecedented." Rabat justified the action by ensuring that it was an operation to dismantle smuggling rings and illegal commercial trade in the area. According to Reuters, a confidential note sent to the UN Security Council by the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations states that Morocco had launched air and ground patrols and began to laying a road south of the wall in the buffer zone in the Guerguerat region. Polisario representatives warned that they would not allow Morocco to build a road beyond the wall and would respond by deploying troops if Rabat did not suspend its activities in the area. In this context, press reports indicated that some thirty members of the Polisario military forces were also deployed in the neutral zone. MINURSO contacted the parties to try to clarify the situation and deployed observers to monitor the troops in the area. More than 70 of the international mission’s civilian staff were expelled last March by the Moroccan government in retaliation for statements by Ban Ki-moon who said the Sahara was an occupied territory. 25 staffers returned in July, but the mission is not yet fully operational. The situation for the Polisario Front, meanwhile, has also changed after the death of its leader Mohamed Abdelaziz in May and the election of Brahim Ghali as the new head of the organization, in a context of growing frustration because the possibilities of resolving the conflict are bleak. At the end of August, Ban Ki-moon reminded the parties that point number one of the current military agreement commits them to a ceasefire and he called for both the suspension of actions that could alter the status quo in the area and the withdrawal of all armed units so that MINURSO could address the situation and attempt to find a peaceful solution. (UN News, 28/08/16; AP, 16/08/16; Reuters, 31/08/16)
PAKISTAN (BALOCHISTAN): More than 70 die during an attack on a hospital in Quetta
An attack on a hospital in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, killed 73 people, mostly lawyers and journalists, who had met in the hospital after a prominent lawyer from the city was shot dead a few days earlier. More than 11 people were injured as a consequence of the explosion. The Amaq news agency, with ties to the armed group ISIS, highlighted that his organisation was behind the attacks, although a spokesperson of the armed opposition group TTP-JA claimed authorship of the attack. This armed group, a faction of the Taleban insurgency, had shown its allegiance to ISIS but then rejoined the Taleban movement and it is unclear what are its current ties with ISIS. The attack would have been carried out by a suicide bomber who detonated a belt loaded with explosives. Lawyers organisations stated they were being persecuted for defending rights and democracy and highlighted they were preparing demonstrations against this attack and also actions more in the long term. This is the most serious attack in the country since the one in March in Lahore. In recent months several lawyers have been murdered in Quetta. (The Guardian, 8/8/16; Reuters, 8/8/16)
PHILIPPINES (MINDANAO-ABU SAYYAF): Government launches all-out offensive against Abu Sayyaf resulting in the death of more than 30 people in a few days
The government announced an all-out military offensive against Abu Sayyaf shortly after the group beheaded a child hostage in late August. In the days following the deployment of around 1,200 additional troops where the MILF operates, clashes increased substantially between both parties. Accordingly, in late August the government stated that 21 Abu Sayyaf combatants had been killed and acknowledged that 12 soldiers had died in the Patikul region. Furthermore, in late August the police declared that more than 1,900 people had been killed in the so-called war on drugs, which started on 1 July, the day President Duterte was sworn into office. It should be noted that the United Nations criticised the war on drugs launched by the government and urged it to respect human rights. (Aljazeera, BBC, GMA News, 29/08/16; Philippine Star, Straits Times, 10/08/16; New York Times, Rappler, 30/08/16)
SOMALIA: A suicide attack causes dozens of deaths
Dozens of people were killed, including 10 government soldiers, in an attack with two car bombs that exploded at two different locations in the town of Galkayo, Puntland, on August 21. More than 35 people could have died. One of the car bombs exploded in the busy Dayaha market, while the other blast took place in front of the local Government building. Despite the recent defeats inflicted on the Islamist armed group al-Shabaab, these new attacks show that it is still capable of killing. The attacks have coincided with various operations carried out by a US-trained unit called Danab (Lightning) against al-Shabaab. Meanwhile, al-Shabaab's leader in the country, Sheikh Ahmed Omar (Abu Ubeida), along with several other militiamen, was killed in a US air strike in the southern region of Middle Juba. Finally, the President of Kenya stated that the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) will begin its withdrawal in 2018. (Shabelle Media Network, 16/08/16; NYT, Garowe Online, 21/08/16)
SYRIA: The situation in Aleppo deteriorates and the northern front is especially active following the expulsion of ISIS from Manbij by Kurdish forces and armed intervention by Turkey
ONG internacionales y la ONU alertan sobre el deterioro de la situación en la ciudad de Alepo, convertida en el principal escenario de las hostilidades con un gran impacto en la población civil. Según el Observatorio Sirio para los Derechos Humanos, al menos 600 civiles habían muerto en medio de las hostilidades y a causa de la intensa campaña aérea del régimen y Rusia. La ONU advirtió sobre el empeoramiento de las condiciones de vida de unas 275.000 personas que permanecen en la zona este de la ciudad, controlada por los rebeldes. Además de ser objeto de intensas ofensivas, esta área se ha visto afectada por la destrucción de las plantas de energía –lo que ha supuesto cortes en el suministro de electricidad– y por la falta de acceso de la población a atención médica, ya que se estima que sólo 35 doctores permanecían en el este de Alepo. Paralelamente, durante agosto la campaña contra ISIS de las Fuerzas Democráticas de Siria, conglomerado encabezado por las fuerzas kurdas de YPG y que cuenta con el apoyo de la coalición internacional liderada por EEUU, consiguió expulsar al grupo armado de la localidad de Manbij, tras varias semanas de enfrentamientos y ataques aéreos. Cerca de 2.000 civiles fueron usados como escudos humanos por ISIS para evacuar a sus combatientes hasta la ciudad de Jarabulus y luego fueron liberados. Decenas de miles de personas que se habían visto desplazadas por los combates comenzaron a regresar a Manbij, aunque en medio de la preocupación por la posibilidad de que ISIS hubiera sembrado la zona con explosivos. Tras cerrar la campaña en Manbij, las fuerzas kurdas se enfrentaron a tropas del régimen en la zona de Hasaka y expandieron su control en el norte de Siria, lo que motivó una respuesta de Turquía. A finales de mes, Ankara lanzó una ofensiva aérea y terrestre con el objetivo de atacar posiciones de ISIS en Jarablus, pero también de revertir los avances del YPG. En este contexto, EEUU presionó a las fuerzas kurdas para replegarse al área este del río Éufrates, línea roja para Turquía. En otro frente, en las proximidades de Damasco, las fuerzas rebeldes en la asediada localidad de Daraya se rindieron a las fuerzas del régimen a finales de agosto. Durante agosto la ONU también responsabilizó al gobierno de Damasco y a ISIS por el uso de armas químicas en 2014 y 2015, según el resultado de la investigación de un equipo internacional de expertos. El régimen habría usado gas cloro en dos ataques, mientras que ISIS gas mostaza en un ataque. Finalmente, cabe destacar que Amnistía Internacional presentó un informe en el que denuncia que entre 2011 y 2015 casi 18.000 personas han muerto durante el período de custodia en centros de detención del régimen, donde los prisioneros son sometidos a vejaciones, torturas y graves condiciones de hacinamiento. (UN, 01-31/08/16; ICG, 01/09/16; Amnesty International, 18/08/16; The Independent, 25/08/16; al-Jazeera, 14, 24/08/16)
THAILAND (SOUTH): Government blames secessionist armed groups for 12 consecutive attacks in 8 provinces in the country’s south
Four people were killed and a further 30 wounded in 12 simultaneous attacks using explosive devices set off on 11 and 12 August in several tourist-oriented locations in eight provinces in the country’s south. No individual or group claimed responsibility for the wave of attacks but the Thai authorities indicated that the method and weaponry used suggested they had been carried out by secessionist armed groups operating in the country’s south. Although the groups tend to operate in the three Muslim-dominated provinces (Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat) and occasionally in Songhkla, they have a history of carrying out attacks outside those regions, such as the attacks on a police station in Phuket in December 2013 or in Koh Samui in 2015. Nevertheless, as the consecutive spate of attacks took place a mere few days following the approval of a new Constitution in a referendum championed by the military junta, it led the government to suspect certain opposition groups linked to former PM Thaksin Shinawatra could have been involved in the bombings in some capacity. However, supporters of the former PM denied any involvement in the attacks. It should also be noted that the attacks, the deadliest since a bomb was exploded in Bangkok in August 2015 killing 20 people, took place while the country was marking the Queen’s birthday. Furthermore, in late August one person was killed and a further 30 wounded after two bombs went off in a hotel in Pattani province. If armed groups from the country’s south are confirmed to be behind the attack, it would be the most defiant show of force since March when 15 simultaneous attacks took place in Yala and Narathiwat provinces around the 56th anniversary of the BRN, the group who the government and most analysts believe is behind most episodes of violence in the southern, Muslim-dominated provinces. (CNN, BBC, Telegraph, Bangkok Post, 12/08/16; New York Times, South China Morning Post, Reuters, 24/08/16)
TURKEY (SOUTHEAST): Violence intensifies in Turkey, with new large-scale attacks, scores of fatalities and several hundred people wounded, including civilians
The multiple-headed situation of conflict affecting the country worsened, including violence linked to Islamic State (ISIS) and the war between Turkey and the PKK. A suicide attack on a Kurdish wedding in the district of Sahinbey (Gaziantep province) on 20 August that was blamed on ISIS claimed the lives of 51 people and wounded around 70. Furthermore, in early August, PKK leader Cemil Bayik threatened the state, warning that the group was expanding the war to the cities with a new form of warfare. Many attacks, clashes and episodes of violence took place throughout the month. The largest-scale incidents included a car bomb attack against a police station in the city of Elazig, in the province of the same name, on 18 August, which wounded 217 people, including, 60 civilians, and killed three police officers. The PKK claimed responsibility for the attack. The day before, a car bomb attack against a police building in the district of Ipekyolu (Van province) injured 73 people, including 20 police officers, and killed an additional officer. An explosion against a passing police vehicle in Mardin province on 10 August killed a police officer and wounded 30 people, including five police officers. Eleven police officers were killed and 78 people were wounded, including three civilians, in a truck bomb attack on a police station in the district of Cizre (Sirnak) on 26 August. In the wake of this attack, the government declared “total war” against the PKK. Moreover, the convoy of the leader of the opposition party CHP, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, was attacked twice on 25 August, but he escaped unharmed, while one soldier died and two others were wounded. The PKK denied that Kiliçdaroglu was the target of the attack, claiming that the security forces were. The CHP and the rest of the political class condemned the attack, including the pro-Kurdish HDP. The security forces continued their operations against the Kurdish movement, with special operations, bombardments and arrests targeting pro-Kurdish groups. A court order was also issued to close the historical Özgür Gündem newspaper and to detain several of its journalists and directors. Furthermore, tensions grew between the government and the Kurdish movement over the war in Syria. (Hürriyet, Reuters, BBC, Bianet, Firat, 1-31/08/16)
UKRAINE: Tension around Crimea escalates between Ukraine and Russia
Accusations between Ukraine and Russia in connection with Crimea escalated, while the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine continued to deteriorate. Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Ukraine of an attempted incursion into Crimea through a group of “saboteurs”, announced the arrest of several people and cited two Russian fatalities, a soldier and a member of Russia’s Federal Security Service, during operations to stop the alleged incursion. Following this episode, Putin questioned the meaning of the international peace negotiations with Ukraine. Kiev rejected the accusations related to Crimea and described them as an attempt to justify a new deployment of Russian troops on the peninsula. In this regard, media outlets reported that activists from Crimea denounced the arrival of new Russian convoys with troops and military equipment and an increase in military checkpoints. Shortly after the rise in tension around Crimea, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordered all troops stationed near Crimea and in eastern Ukraine to move to the highest level of readiness for combat. Poroshenko also said that a large-scale invasion by Russia could not be ruled out. (Reuters, RFE/RL, Interfax, 1-31/08/16)
CHAD: President Idriss Déby begins his fifth term in climate of extreme tension
Chadian President Idriss Déby began his fifth term on 8 August in a climate of tension and rejection by the political opposition. Several leaders from the region (the presidents of Niger, Nigeria, Sudan, Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania) attended the ceremony. Security forces broke up banned opposition demonstrations in the capital, N'Djamena, on August 6 and 7. One demonstrator was killed in the incidents. Déby has been in power since 1990. In April, he defeated opposition leader Saleh Kebzabo in the first round with 60% of the vote. Nonetheless, French President François Hollande received Déby on 20 August and reaffirmed his commitment to combat any armed groups considered to be terrorists and to promote the development of Lake Chad. Shortly after, four soldiers were killed when a mine exploded on August 27 in the town of Kaiga Kindji, near the Nigerian border. (Bloomberg, 08/08/16; AFP, 09/08/16)
CHINA – JAPAN: Tension mounts between both countries due to a substantial increase in the presence of Chinese boats close to the Senkaku/Diaoyo islands
Tensions substantially rose between both countries due to their dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and the visit in mid-August of various Japanese government ministers and politicians to Yasukini Temple–home to the remains of some of the main perpetrators of war crimes committed by Japan in the Second World War–to commemorate the anniversary of the Japanese surrender. As has been customary in recent years, this second event caused an outcry from the Chinese government. Regarding the dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, the Japanese government strongly criticised Beijing for attempting to change the status quo unilaterally and by force, and at the same time summoned the Chinese ambassador on numerous occasions throughout the month to convey their complaints over the substantial increase in Chinese planes and ships near the disputed zone. Accordingly, on 6 August the Japanese government released a statement saying that up to 230 Chinese fishing boats escorted by 6 Chinese coastguards had entered disputed waters. Additionally, in early August the number of Chinese coastguards in the aforementioned waters also increased substantially. During this period, the Japanese government protested the installation of a radar system on a Chinese oil rig near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Previously, on 2 August Tokyo had released its white paper on defence, which amongst other issues condemned the interception of 571 Chinese aircraft, a record number. In the same vein, in mid-August the Japanese Ministry of Defence reported that Japanese military aircraft had to be scrambled due to Chinese planes approaching its airspace 199 times between April and June, a figure 80% higher than that of the same period in the previous year and one that was also higher than in the previous quarter. Also in mid-August, some media sources reported that the government had been working on a plan to develop land-to-sea missiles with a range of around 300 kilometres to provide a better defence system in the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, among other reasons. Indeed, the Chinese government defended its right to conduct patrols near the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and again claimed its goal of securing sovereignty over them, but at the same time called on the Japanese government for them to resolve their differences and territorial disputes through dialogue. In earlier months, there had also been accusations and counter-accusations between the governments over both the disputed islands and the drilling platforms being built by China in the East China Sea. According to Tokyo, this is a breach of the 2008 agreement on joint-management of exploration and exploitation of gas reserves in the aforementioned sea. China, however, defends its right to maximise its national interests in its territory. Although relations between both countries suffered their lowest moment in the whole year, in late August the Chinese and Japanese Foreign Ministers met in Tokyo to try to restore relations and to prepare the meeting between the countries’ leaders in early September on the occasion of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou (China). (Japan Times, 07 and 14/08/16; BBC, 06/08/16; The Diplomat, 07/08/16; Guardian, 09/08/16; Jakarta Post, Inquirer, 08/08/16)
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF THE CONGO: Tension increases as the historic opposition leader Étienne Tshisekedi returns to the country
EThe historic opposition leader and chairman of the Union pour la Démocratie et le Progrès Sociale (UDPS), Étienne Tshisekedi, 83, returned to the country on July 27 and was received by thousands of supporters after being abroad for two years due to an illness. On July 31, the UDPS organized a demonstration that brought together tens of thousands of people in the capital, Kinshasa. During the march Tshisekedi called for elections in 2016 and asked the current president, Joseph Kabila, to step down from office in December 2016, in accordance with the Constitution. At the same time, on July 29, tens of thousands of Kabila supporters marched in Kinshasa to support their president. The general secretary of the presidential coalition and President of the National Assembly, Aubin Minuku, expressed support for Kabila before a crowd of about 40,000 people. (AFP, 31/07/16; BBC, 28/07/16)
LIBYA: The United States became openly involved in the campaign against ISIS in Sirte, while the Government of National Accord lost a motion of no confidence
The US government publicly announced that it was expanding its campaign against ISIS in Libya and launched a series of attacks against the armed group’s positions in the city of Sirte. The offensive, launched in early August, involved more than a hundred air strikes during the month and was considered the first direct and open US involvement against ISIS in Libya. However, some media outlets underscored the fact that US forces have been conducting sporadic air strikes in Libya since at least 2015. The Pentagon press secretary noted that the US had received a request to intervene from the Government of National Accord (GNA), which had requested air support to consolidate its offensive against ISIS in Sirte, a location that the armed group also uses as a base of operations to launch attacks on Libya's oil infrastructure. The prime minister of the GNA stressed that foreign assistance will be limited to the fight against ISIS. His insistence on the point was interpreted as an attempt to avoid suspicions sparked by the involvement of foreign forces in the country, especially after an episode that revealed the presence of French troops in Libyan territory. In July, the death of three French soldiers in the east of the country triggered protests and forced the French government to admit that it had a military presence in Libya. Press reports highlighted that for months military personnel from the US, the UK and France have been operating low-profile missions in Libya, with the goal of gathering information about the different armed groups and trying to identify possible allies. According to The Washington Post, US Special Operations forces are providing on-the-ground support to combatants who are fighting ISIS. The pro-government forces in Sirte are mostly militiamen from the city of Misrata. On the political front, the GNA - which emerged from a UN-sponsored agreement in December 2015 - suffered a setback by losing a motion of no confidence in the House of Representatives (HoR), located in Tobruk. In January the HoR rejected an initial list of ministers and in the following months it postponed the vote over and over. On this second occasion, out of the 101 attending members of parliament 69 voted against, 39 abstained and only one voted in favour. Lawmakers supporting the GNA denounced that opponents had used force and threats to prevent their participation in the vote. Pending the outcome of the vote the eastern parliament in Tobruk refused to transfer its powers to the GNA. In recent months the GNA has been working to secure its authority beyond the country's capital, Tripoli. (Washington Post, 01, 09/08/16; Al-Jazeera, 23/08/16; Reuters, 22/08/16)
MYANMAR: Increased fighting between Armed Forces and the KIA
Clashes between the Myanmar Armed Forces and the Kachin armed opposition group KIA have increased. As a consequence of these clashes, which took place over the course of one week in the Tanai area, especially in an area called Shathu Zup, many schools had to be closed in the area controlled by the KIA. Some 1,000 people were displaced, escaping from the violence. (The Irrawaddy, 15/08/16)
NIGERIA (BOKO HARAM): Military actions and internal tensions split Boko Haram
The Nigerian Air Force has reported that an air strike that took place on 19 August against Boko Haram positions in the community of Taye, located in the Sambisa forest, in Borno State, killed around 300 suspected rebels, including three senior commanders: Abubakar Mubi, Malam Nuhu and Malam Hamman. Meanwhile, Nigerian Army spokesman Sani Usman reported that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was seriously wounded in the strike. This information came at a time when the leadership within the organisation is not clear, as significant internal disputes have emerged. Weeks before, on 3 August, a magazine published by the armed group Islamic State (ISIS), to which Boko Haram had pledged allegiance in March 2015, stated that Shekau had been replaced by the sheikh Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the group’s former spokesman, who is believed to be one of the children of the founder of Boko Haram, Mohamed Yusuf. Shekau later appeared in a video and rejected the reports of his replacement, saying that he was still the head of the organisation. In another video, Abu Musab al-Barnawi questioned Shekau’s leadership and military strategy. This situation has exposed the divisions within the organisation. Later, on 14 August, Boko Haram posted a video showing some of the 218 girls abducted in Chibok in 2014 and told the government that it would release them in exchange for some of its captured militiamen. The appearance in the video was interpreted as a message from Shekau regarding Boko Haram’s leadership and control. Nigerian President Buhari has declared that the government is ready to negotiate for the girls’ release. (DW, 04/08/2016; IRIN, 05/08/2016; AFP, 23/08/2016; Daily Trust, 23/08/2016; The Guardian, 28/08/2016)
SOUTH SUDAN: The UN Security Council approves the deployment of troops to strengthen the peacekeeping mission
The deterioration of the security situation due to fierce fighting in the capital, Juba, in July, between forces loyal to the government and the SPLA-IO, has prompted much criticism of the South Sudanese government and international measures to ensure peace and compliance with the agreements. Based on a proposal presented by the US government and backed by eight countries that make up the IGAD regional bloc, which asked the United Nations Security Council to authorise the deployment of a force of 4,000 troops to guarantee peace in the capital of South Sudan, in a session on 12 August the Security Council approved a resolution to reinforce the peacekeeping mission in the country. The 12,000 UNMISS troops will be joined by 4,000 extraordinary troops coming from regional armies, who if necessary will have a more aggressive mandate to carry out their operations to protect the civilian population and security in Juba and at the airport. The approved text also extended the mission’s mandate until 15 December and mention has been made of the possibility of imposing a weapons embargo if the transitional government does not cooperate. The government of Salva Kiir, which was initially opposed to the deployment of UN reinforcements, declared that he was not against the move on 15 August, but expressed “very serious concerns” about the plan and requested more time and negotiations before their deployment. (Reuters, 07, 12/08/2016; NYT, 12/08/2016; Al Jazeera, 12/08/2016; Sudan Tribune, 02/09/2016)
UKRAINE (EAST): New accusations of ceasefire violations in the Donbas
The government of Ukraine and the eastern rebels continued to trade blame for ceasefire violations. As part of the conflict, there were failed assassination attempts against the two leaders of Luhansk and Donetsk during the month. In early August, the UN reported a rise in civilian victims in recent months, with 69 victims in June (12 killed and 57 wounded), almost double the toll in May, and 73 in July (eight killed and 65 wounded). Worrisome was the fact that over half the victims during these two months were killed by bombardments. July was the bloodiest month for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, with at least 42 soldiers killed and 181 wounded. An atmosphere of hostility towards the OSCE monitoring mission has also grown in recent months. The rising violence in recent months and the approach of armed groups on both sides has raised alarms about the risks of return to large-scale war. Given the fragile security situation, the Trilateral Contact Group (Ukraine, Russia, OSCE) and the representatives of Donetsk and Luhansk agreed to a ceasefire for the new school year. The truce was supposed to start on 31 August. Furthermore, in late August the Ukrainian government released 13 civilians who had been detained in secret prisons and allegedly tortured. NGOs like Amnesty International had already reported the detention of hundreds of civilians in secret prisons by both parties to the conflict since the outbreak of the war in 2014, many of them tortured and forced to “confess”. (Reuters, RFE/RL, Interfax, OSCE, AI, 1-31/08/16)
MACEDONIA: The government and the opposition reach a new deal to hold delayed general elections, opening the door to resolving the political crisis
The leaders of the main political parties in Macedonia reached a deal to hold general elections in December and voiced agreement that conditions are suitable for doing so, thereby making headway in solving the political and social crisis that has affected the country since 2015. The new agreement follows the deal achieved in July, facilitated by the European Union and the United States, which included a review of the electoral roll, media reforms, an agreement for an interim government 100 days before the elections and support for the special prosecutor investigating allegations of corruption. The elections were already postponed this year in April and June. The crisis, which was unleashed in 2015 following the opposition’s criticism and accusations that the government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski had engaged in the illegal wiretapping of over 20,000 people, has led to public demonstrations, political boycotts and high levels of political tension in the last two years, motivating the EU and the United States to get involved in efforts to find a solution. (Balkan Insight, Euractiv, Reuters, 1-31/08/16, 1/09/16)
NIGERIA (NIGER DELTA): The NDA announces a unilateral ceasefire
After months of negotiations with the government of President Buhari, the armed group Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) announced a unilateral ceasefire on 20 August to give a chance to the start of negotiations with the government. In a message posted on its website, the rebel group stated that it would maintain the cessation of hostilities as long as the government stopped what it has described as the “harassment of innocent civilians”. The NDA has supported the historical senior Ijaw leader Edwin Clark to head the negotiations with the authorities. The rebel group has warned that it is ready to resume the fight if the talks fail. Another armed group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), welcomed the NDA’s announcement and agreed that Chief Edwin Clark would lead the Niger Delta group that will talk with the federal government. On 24 August, the federal government met with traditional chiefs of the region to begin talks that will create the conditions for a lasting peace. (AFP, 21/08/2016; Reuters 21/08/2016; DW, 21/08/2016; This Day, 21/08/2016; Leadership, 21, 25/08/2016; Vanguard, 26/08/2016)
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