CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
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In June, Yemeni forces backed by the United Arab Emirates accelerated their offensive to take the Huthi-held city of Hodeida. A fleeting opportunity exists to find a mediated settlement and avoid prolonged urban warfare. In Syria, pro-government forces intensified efforts to retake territory in the south west, risking worse violence in July, while in Libya, new fighting over oil facilities aggravated tensions. The conflict between Somalia’s Puntland and Somaliland spread, and looks set to escalate; attacks linked to Nigeria’s farmer-herder conflict left over 200 dead; and radical Islamists in Mozambique stepped up attacks. The month saw heightened political rivalry in Tunisia, and election-related violence in Zimbabwe and Papua New Guinea. High-level engagement between North Korea and the U.S. paved the way for a diplomatic process, and Macedonia and Greece reached an agreement on their name dispute. Opportunities to advance peace opened up in Africa with Ethiopia and Eritrea taking tentative steps to address their border dispute, and South Sudan’s warring leaders signing an initial framework agreement.
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In Yemen, forces backed by the United Arab Emirates stepped up their offensive to take the port city of Hodeida from Huthi rebels, pushing up to the city’s southern suburbs. As we explained, mediation efforts led by UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths toward a solution that safeguards all sides’ vital interests could – with strong international pressure on the warring parties – produce a settlement for the city, and serve as a basis for talks on a way out of the wider conflict. But if the belligerents continue to reject his proposals, a battle for Hodeida – home to 600,000 – would likely have devastating humanitarian consequences.
In Syria, pro-government forces – backed by Russian air power – ramped up their campaign to retake territory toward the Jordanian border, raising the risk of further escalation in July. Fighting again rocked Libya’s oil industry. Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s east-based Libyan National Army was forced to cede and then retook oil export terminals at Sidra and Ras Lanuf. Its announcement that oil sales from areas under its control would go through the east-based National Oil Corporation, unrecognised internationally, further aggravated political tensions and risks deepening the country’s economic woes.
A feud between Tunisia’s prime minister, Youssef Chahed, and President Essebsi intensified, with Chahed firing the interior minister, Essebsi’s ally. Ahead of the 2019 presidential election, the rivalry is polarising the political field and could hamper much needed legislative reform.
Fighting between Somaliland and Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region over contested territory spread from Tukaraq – where both sides continued to beef up their positions – to Las Anod, capital of the disputed Sool area. Incendiary rhetoric from both sides bodes ill. To stave off war, the UN – backed by Somalia and Ethiopia – should renew its mediation to broker a ceasefire, ensure both sides commit to withdraw troops, allow in humanitarian aid and launch talks aimed at a long-term settlement.
In Mozambique’s neglected and predominantly Muslim far north, Islamist militants, active since October, stepped up the rate of attacks, raiding some seven villages and killing at least 39 people. Ahead of Zimbabwe’s elections in July, an explosion at a rally for President Mnangagwa killed two and raised concerns for security around the vote. In Nigeria, attacks linked to the conflict between herding and farming communities took a yet more horrifying toll; over 200 are thought to have been killed in attacks and reprisals over five days in Plateau state.
Violence erupted in Papua New Guinea’s Southern Highlands province as protesters, angry about a failed court challenge to the 2017 provincial election result, set fire to an aeroplane and official buildings in the provincial capital, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency and deploy troops.
A historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump on 12 June produced a vague statement including a reaffirmation by Pyongyang of its commitment to work toward “complete denuclearization” of the peninsula. As Crisis Group wrote, the summit represented a shift from a confrontational track to a diplomatic one, but needs to be followed by the hard work of hammering out a path toward denuclearisation. Later in the month, U.S. officials were quoted saying that Pyongyang has been stepping up production of enriched uranium at secret sites.
Macedonia and Greece signed a historic agreement resolving their decades-long dispute over Macedonia’s official name, now to be the Republic of North Macedonia. The deal, which still needs to be ratified in the face of opposition in both countries, unblocks Greek opposition to Macedonia joining the European Union and NATO.
Relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea, hostile since the 1998-2000 border war, began to thaw. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy’s pledge to cede contested territory and initial talks opened the door to greater neighbourliness and regional stability. In another boon for the region, South Sudan’s warring leaders, President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar, signed an initial framework agreement to enact a ceasefire, work toward a new transitional government and, with Sudan, secure the oil fields. We welcomed this best, and only, hope for a breakthrough and urged other African leaders to lend it cautious support.
Following constitutional referendum in May, President Nkurunziza 7 June enacted new constitution which would potentially allow him to stay in power until 2034 and during ceremony made surprise announcement that he would not run in 2020 election. EU, U.S. and Belgium welcomed announcement and called on govt to improve governance and open political space. Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa free trade area late May decided not to hold its summit in capital Bujumbura 1-10 June as planned, but in Zambia in July, reportedly because some delegates were uncomfortable with Burundian govt’s actions. Authorities 22 June arrested four French nationals and senior Burundian official Donatien Ndayishimiye for fraud; all four French released and left country 30 June, Ndayishimiye remained in prison end month.
Conflict continued in Anglophone area (Southwest and Northwest regions) leaving at least 22 civilians, fourteen military and unknown number of militants dead, as Boko Haram (BH) slightly increased attacks in Far North region, killing at least sixteen people. In Anglophone regions in west, separatist militants continued to attack security forces, abduct officials and expand territorial control in rural areas, as security forces continued burning houses and villages. Notably, militants killed military officer in Bamenda, capital of Northwest region 8 June and police officer in Mamfe, Southwest 9 June. Militants abducted police officer on Njinikom-Belo road, Northwest 6 June and water company manager in Ekona, Southwest 9 June. In Buea, capital of Southwest region, militants abducted police commissioner 11 June; military 18 June raided militants’ camp in Masuma, Southwest, freeing police commissioner and three other captives and reportedly killing several separatists. Clashes in Bamenda 21-23 June left soldier, policeman and several militants dead. Three militants killed 26 June in fighting with security forces in Belo, six others and gendarme 28 June in Mbengwi, Northwest. Militants blocked road between Buea and Kumba in Southwest from 15 June; military dislodged them a week later after several attempts. Conflict appeared to spread into Francophone area; suspected Anglophone militants attacked gendarmerie brigades in Babadjou, West region 27 June and Mungo, Littoral region 30 June. UN high commissioner for human rights 20 June said govt had denied Human Rights Council access to Anglophone regions; EU same day called on govt to allow access to UN bodies and International Committee of the Red Cross. In Far North, insurgents 1 June killed head of community defence group in Talla-Massali, Mayo Tsanaga department. BH attack on Djalengo, Diamaré 8 June left ten villagers and two BH dead. BH killed man in Alladjiri, Mayo Sava 12 June. Double suicide bombing killed child in Limani, Mayo Sava. BH killed two in Tchika, Logone et Chari 17 June. Suspected BH killed three civilians, abducted woman at Goulfo, Logone et Chari 26 June and killed civilian in Zanga 30 June. President Biya mid-June requested parliament to postpone elections of municipal councillors, mayors and MPs from Oct to mid-2019 citing logistical challenges; if approved, only presidential vote will take place in Oct.
Violence involving armed groups, army and UN peacekeepers continued, especially in centre. In Bambari in centre, ex-Seleka faction Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) and community defence militia clashed 6-7 June; unidentified gunmen attacked UN mission (MINUSCA) patrol between town centre and airfield 10 June, killing one Burundian peacekeeper. Alleged UPC same day fired on army convoy accompanied by peacekeepers near Bambari while en route from Grimari to Bangassou in south, injuring two soldiers and Russian instructor. In west, alleged Siriri militia attacked MINUSCA patrol in Dilapoko village, Mambéré-Kadéï prefecture 3 June, killing Tanzanian peacekeeper. France, U.S. and UK 14 June opposed request by CAR that UN exempt from 2013 arms embargo delivery of weapons from China, including anti-aircraft weapons, armoured vehicles, machine guns, tear gas and ammunition; MINUSCA and EU mission training CAR security forces had supported delivery. France and U.S. saw no threat of air attack that could justify govt obtaining anti-aircraft weapons, while UK expressed concern over transit of weapons through Cameroon without escort. International Criminal Court 8 June on appeal overturned former Congolese VP Bemba’s conviction for war crimes committed by his forces in CAR in 2002-2003.
Communal violence and social unrest continued. Clash between herders and farmers in Bendona in south 13 June left at least one person dead. Inter-communal fighting in Tourane in east 15 June left eight dead. Civil servants maintained strike demanding full payment of salaries as allowances withheld since Jan. Judicial sector continued strike until 25 June after attempted killing of lawyer in Doba in south in May. In response to strikers’ demands that authorities arrest and try Doba’s former governor, Adam Nouky Charfadine, with two men responsible for assault, govt 6 June removed Charfadine from office and all three arrested 14 June and condemned to five years in prison. President Déby 18 June replaced infrastructure and higher education ministers appointed in April without giving reasons.
Preparations for Dec elections continued more or less on track and International Criminal Court (ICC) acquitted former VP Jean-Pierre Bemba. Parliament 8 June voted to amend voter registration law so that Congolese overseas will not be able to register and vote. Lay movement of Catholic Church 14 June called on President Kabila to state publicly whether he intended to run for third term and on electoral commission to address number of issues before 30 June, calling on population to take matter into their own hands if deadline not met. At first major public meeting in capital Kinshasa of opposition leader Moïse Katumbi’s Together for Change platform 9 June, Katumbi from exile via Skype reiterated he will return soon to lodge his candidacy and emphasised need for single opposition candidate. Authorities briefly held Katumbi at Brussels airport for travelling with falsified passport; Congolese prosecutor opened investigation into matter 18 June. ICC 8 June acquitted Jean-Pierre Bemba, leader of opposition party Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC), arrested in May 2008 and sentenced in June 2016 to eighteen years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by his forces in Central African Republic in 2002-2003. Other opposition leaders, especially leader of Union for the Congolese Nation Vital Kamerhe, welcomed Bemba’s possible return to political scene. U.S. 21 June said it had placed visa bans on several senior officials for corruption tied to electoral process, without publishing names, to underline need for peaceful transfer of power. MLC Senator Mongulu Tapangane appointed to constitutional court 21 June. Armed group and criminal violence continued in east at low level. World Health Organization 26 June said Ebola outbreak had been “largely contained” with 55 cases reported, of which 38 confirmed (last confirmed case 6 June) and 28 deaths.
Govt released at least 80 associates of rebel leader Pasteur Ntumi in capital Brazzaville 26 June as per Dec 2017 ceasefire agreement, most believed to be ex-combatants.
Ethiopian govt 14 June said Djibouti had pardoned 45 Ethiopian prisoners as good-will gesture. Following reports that Dubai-based port operator DP World would seek out-of-court settlement with Djibouti govt, which it accuses of illegally taking back control of Doraleh port in Feb, DP World 16 June said it was committed to legal process via International Court of Arbitration.
Initial steps toward rapprochement with Ethiopia opened opportunity to advance talks in July. Ethiopian PM Abiy 5 June said his govt would accept 2002 ruling of Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission that sought to end 1998-2000 war and concede to Eritrea Badme town and other small territories on border held up till present by Ethiopian troops. Announcement met international approval, but local communities in border areas and Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), ethnic Tigrayan party in Ethiopian ruling coalition, criticised move. Eritrean President Afwerki 20 June said he would send delegation to Addis Ababa and Eritrean FM Osman Saleh held talks with Abiy 26 June.
Talks between Ethiopia and Eritrea over contested border opened opportunity to advance rapprochement, as ethnic violence continued in several areas. PM Abiy 5 June said govt would accept 2002 ruling of Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission that sought to end 1998-2000 war and concede to Eritrea Badme town and other small territories on border held up till present by Ethiopian troops. Announcement met international approval, but local communities in border areas and Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), ethnic Tigrayan party in ruling coalition, criticised move. Eritrean President Afwerki 20 June said he would send delegation to Addis Ababa and Eritrean FM Osman Saleh held talks with Abiy 26 June. Govt 30 June said it had submitted to parliament proposal to remove from list of terrorist organisations three rebel groups: Oromo Liberation Front, Ogaden National Liberation Front and Ginbot 7. Ethnic violence continued in several areas. In Hawassa, capital of Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples (SNNP) regional state, violence sparked by ethnic Sidama demands for their own state left at least ten people dead. Ethnic Guji and Gedeo early June clashed on border between SNNP and Oromia regional states reportedly leaving several dead. In Somali regional state, local state paramilitaries known as Liyu police clashed with residents protesting against rule of state president Abdi Iley. Tens of thousands gathered in central Addis Ababa in support of Abiy 23 June, but grenade attack at rally left two people dead and scores wounded; 30 people detained over suspected links to attack. Abiy met Egyptian President Sisi in Cairo 10 June; both expressed commitment to resolving dispute over potential impact of Ethiopia’s dam on Egypt’s Nile waters. Egypt next day released 32 Ethiopian prisoners. Following Abiy’s visit to United Arab Emirates (UAE) in May, UAE delegation in Addis 16 June pledged $3bn to govt in direct aid and investments.
Al-Shabaab maintained insurgency in east and north east. Six officers of special police unit General Service Unit killed 8 June when their vehicle detonated land mine at Liboi, Garissa county in east next to Somalia border. Eight security personnel killed 18 June when their vehicle hit explosive device in Bojigaras area of Wajir county in north east.
Fighting between semi-autonomous Puntland region in north and neighbouring Somaliland over disputed territories spread and risk remains high of further escalation in July; elsewhere Al-Shabaab continued attacks on national and international forces and govt officials. Following clashes at Tukaraq town in contested Sool region in May, both Puntland and Somaliland continued to mass forces near town. Tempo of artillery and mortar shelling around town appeared to increase from 22 June. Puntland forces reportedly attacked police stations run by Somaliland soldiers in Las Anod, capital of Sool region some 50km west of Tukaraq 24 June triggering heavy fighting. Leaders on both sides stepped up inflammatory rhetoric. Confrontations also escalated in Las Anod between Somaliland forces and anti-Somaliland protesters, military reportedly injured two unarmed women 14 June. Al-Shabaab militants 9 June launched mortars and shot at U.S. Special Forces near Jamaame, Jubaland region in south, killing one. In ambush near Mogadishu 5 June, Al-Shabaab killed two MPs from semi-autonomous Hirshabelle state and several bodyguards. Two Burundian soldiers in AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) killed 26 June when their convoy hit explosive device on outskirts of Balad city, about 30km north of Mogadishu. Al-Shabaab reportedly forced govt troops out of Muqokori, 300km north of Mogadishu, and retook town 2 June; Al-Shabaab claimed it killed 47 soldiers. Army radio 27 June reported that Al-Shabaab leader Sheikh Ahmed Diriye had died from illness; Al-Shabaab denied death. National Security Council chaired by president and PM and bringing together all federal member states met in Baidoa 4-5 June and agreed on transitional plan following AMISOM’s planned exit by Dec 2020, electoral system for 2020 vote and revenue sharing. Ethiopian PM Abiy visited Mogadishu 16 June; both govts agreed to deepen cooperation on security and development, including investing jointly in four of Somalia’s ports.
Fighting between Somaliland and neighbouring Puntland, semi-autonomous region of Somalia, over disputed territories spread and risk remains high of further escalation in July. Following clashes at Tukaraq town in contested Sool region in May, both Puntland and Somaliland continued to mass forces near town. Tempo of artillery and mortar shelling around town appeared to increase from 22 June. Puntland forces reportedly attacked police stations run by Somaliland soldiers in Las Anod, capital of Sool region some 50km west of Tukaraq 24 June triggering heavy fighting. Leaders on both sides stepped up inflammatory rhetoric. Confrontations also escalated in Las Anod between Somaliland forces and anti-Somaliland protesters, military reportedly injured two unarmed women 14 June.
President Kiir and former first VP turned rebel leader Riek Machar signed framework agreement in Sudanese capital Khartoum 27 June, including ceasefire to take effect 30 June, opening opportunity in July to work out comprehensive peace deal. Parties agreed to sign further agreement in next two weeks on composition of new transitional unity govt to rule for three years until general elections. They also agreed to work with Sudan to improve security in oil fields. Kiir and Machar met in Addis Ababa 20 June for first time since fighting re-erupted in 2016. Govt 22 June said Machar could not be part of govt, but that rebel representative could. S Sudan and Sudan 26 June agreed on plan to increase S Sudan’s oil output through rehabilitation of oil infrastructure. Unidentified gunmen ambushed humanitarian convoy between Yei and Lasu in west 26 June, killing Bangladeshi UN peacekeeper.
Sporadic fighting continued between govt forces and Sudanese Liberation Army faction led by Abdel Wahid (SLA-AW) in Jebel Marra region of Central Darfur. Govt reportedly mobilised up to 2,000-strong force of Rapid Support Forces militia and Sudan Armed Forces to retake positions from SLA-AW in Jebel Marra raising possibility of more fighting in coming months. Amid ongoing drawdown of UN-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), UN peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix 11 June proposed to close all UNAMID bases within two years but reinforce and expand mission’s presence in Jebel Marra. Govt 7 June also advocated for UNAMID drawdown, arguing it is able to provide security and stability there. UN Security Council 29 June voted to extend current UNAMID mandate until 13 July citing insecurity. Ahead of general elections in 2020, Sudan Council of Ministers 10 June approved draft election law reducing number of seats in parliament from 450 to 300 and increasing subnational state representation from two MPs to three; draft to be ratified by National Assembly in Oct. Former opposition party, now member of National Consensus Govt, Popular Congress Party 16 June said law did not reflect opinions of consensus govt. Following talks hosted by President Bashir in Khartoum, S Sudanese President Kiir and his former first VP turned rebel leader Riek Machar signed framework peace agreement 27 June (see South Sudan).
In latest high-profile killing, unidentified attackers shot dead MP Ibrahim Abiriga and his bodyguard in capital Kampala 8 June, sparking public anger at govt and security forces; residents of Abiriga’s Arua municipality accused govt of complicity. In Arua, crowds of mourners 10 June seized Abiriga’s coffin from funeral car and vandalised tents and chairs for vigil; security forces dispersed crowds with teargas and live ammunition. President Museveni 10 June condemned murder and framed it as attack on ruling party. Military arrested General Kale Kayihura, Inspector General of Police (IGP) from 2005 till his sacking in March, and four senior police officers 13 June and some 40 others in following days; charges as yet undisclosed but arrests reportedly in connection with organised crime and 2017 killing of assistant IGP Andrew Felix Kaweesi.
In apparent extrajudicial killing, Criminal Investigation Service agent 1 June shot dead suspected criminal; interior ministry same day confirmed killing and condemned agent. Human Rights Watch 6 June urged govt to investigate “grave right’s abuses” by security forces.
Police 22 June arrested leaders of three opposition parties during protest against constitutional referendum scheduled for 29 July. Govt’s proposed constitutional amendments, which would allow President Azali Assoumani to run for second consecutive term, has incited citizens to hold regular anti-govt protests since referendum was announced in late April. Opposition Juwa Party member Ahmed el-Barwane arrested on undisclosed charges 1 June and sentenced to six months in prison.
In Cabo Delgado province in north, suspected Islamist militants – known locally as both Ahlu Sunna wal Jama'a and Al-Shabaab – increased rate of attacks on villages, carrying out at least seven, mainly in Macomia and Quissanga districts, and killing at least 39 people. Notably, in Naunde village, Macomia 5 June attackers armed with machetes beheaded local Islamic leader and burned homes, cars and cattle; in raid on Namaluco village, Quissanga district 6 June, attackers beheaded three people, shot dead three others and burned over 100 houses. In latest attack, on Litandacua village, Macomia 19 June, militants killed five people. In response, interior minister 9 June announced establishment of army command centres in Macomia and Quissanga districts. President Nyusi 25 June said security forces had arrested several suspects in connection with attacks. U.S. mid-June “strongly advised” its citizens to consider leaving Palma district and UK 12 June warned against all but essential travel to Palma, Mocimboa de Praia and Macomia districts. U.S. petroleum company Anadarko began evacuating staff from liquefied natural gas plant on Afungi peninsula, Palma district. Parliament 20 June postponed special session, scheduled for 21-22 June, to consider amendments to electoral laws that would dictate running of Oct municipal elections and advance decentralisation; ruling Frelimo party reportedly asked armed opposition Renamo to commit to disarm its militants by 10 Oct vote as precondition for holding special parliamentary session.
Explosion at election rally in southern city of Bulawayo 23 June apparently targeting President Mnangagwa killed two and wounded over 40; Mnangagwa unharmed but both VPs sustained small injuries. Mnangagwa called for unity and promised attack would not derail electoral process. Representatives of ruling party, leading opposition party Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) and other parties 26 June signed peace pledge, promising to eschew violence and hate speech. Mnangagwa 27 June said he suspected G40 group, which supported former first lady Grace Mugabe, to be behind attack. Thousands of MDC-T supporters 5 June marched to election commission offices in capital Harare with list of demands for upcoming election. Mnangagwa, MDC-T leader Nelson Chamisa, deputy of former President Mugabe Joice Mujuru and leader of MDC-T splinter faction Thokozani Khupe 14 June registered as presidential candidates.
Insecurity persisted in north and east. In Soum province, Sahel region in north, unidentified gunmen 3 June kidnapped pastor and his family in Belehoro village, released them 7 June in Mali. Teacher kidnapped during attack by Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) in Bouro village, Soum province 12 April released 11 June. In east, unidentified assailants 16 June launched three simultaneous attacks against security forces in Kompienga and Koulpelogo provinces, East and Centre-East regions, one police and one assailant killed. Authorities early June released list of 146 wanted people, suspected to belong to jihadist group Ansarul Islam. Trial of 84 people accused of masterminding 2015 attempted coup resumed 29 June after new suspension 12 June, court started to question defendants. Civil society activist Naïm Touré arrested 14 June after he accused govt of neglecting gendarme wounded in May; Touré charged 19 June with inciting rebellion and disturbing public order. President Kaboré 24 June said he would run for re-election in 2020.
In run-up to regional and municipal elections planned for Sept, opposition platform Together for Democracy and Sovereignty called on voters to boycott 18-24 June registration process citing electoral commission’s lack of legitimacy. President Ouattara early June said constitution allowed him to run for third term in 2020 election; opposition said his candidacy would violate constitution. Democratic Party of Côte d’Ivoire, member of ruling coalition, 17 June said it would not form coalition with president’s party Rally of the Republicans before 2020 presidential election.
Police fired live ammunition to disperse 18 June protest in Faraba Banta village, about 50km south of capital Banjul, against sand mining, killing three protesters. Next day police said five police officers and six civilians had been arrested; police officers charged with murder 28 June. Police chief Landing Kinteh resigned 21 June. President Barrow 21 June appointed commission of inquiry to investigate incident. Barrow 29 June reshuffled govt, appointed former FM and leader of his United Democratic Party, Ousainou Darboe, as new VP.
Amid ongoing standoff between govt and opposition over results of Feb local polls, PM Fofana (appointed late May) early June met with leader of main opposition party Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea, Cellou Dalein Diallo: Fofana called for dialogue between govt and opposition and Diallo agreed to work together for peace. Court clerks launched indefinite strike 8 June to demand better working conditions; justice minister 14 June suspended five movement leaders.
Parliament 19 June approved govt’s electoral calendar and plan to consolidate public finances. National Union of Workers went on strike 19-21 June to demand better salaries for civil servants.
Ahead of 29 July presidential election, intercommunal violence continued in centre and suspected jihadist attacks continued in centre and north. In Mopti region in centre, after two more armed groups claiming to be community defence forces emerged in May, Dogon ethnic militia 23 June allegedly killed at least 22 Fulani civilians in attack on Koumaga village. Fulani associations accused army of executing 25 Fulani civilians 13 June in Mopti region, govt opened investigation. UN mission (MINUSMA) 26 June said army had killed twelve civilians 19 May in Boulikessi after unidentified attacker killed soldier. In centre and north, attacks continued on national and international forces and on civilians. In Mopti region, unidentified assailants ambushed army convoy 9 June, killing two soldiers; alleged jihadists same day clashed with army in Boni, three soldiers and thirteen assailants reportedly killed; unidentified gunmen reportedly killed gendarme in Toguéré-Toumbé 18 June; explosive device same day killed four civilians near Dialloubé. Car bombing at headquarters of G5 Sahel force in Sévaré, Mopti region 29 June set off gun battle; two soldiers, one civilian and two attackers killed; al-Qaeda-linked Group to Support Muslims and Islam claimed attack. In north, assailants shelled MINUSMA camps in Timbuktu and Kidal regions 2 and 12 June respectively. Counter-insurgency operations continued: in Ménaka region in east, Platform coalition member Self-Defence Group of Imrad Tuareg and Allies and mainly ethnic Dossaak Movement for the Salvation of Azawad early June reportedly fought with combatants allegedly linked to Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) in Akabar area, nine ISGS reportedly killed. In Mopti region, army mid-June reportedly killed ten suspected militants in Karakine; following crackdown on suspected jihadists and allegedly allied ethnic militias, govt 19 June said soldiers had been involved in extrajudicial killings. In run-up to presidential vote, security forces 2 June dispersed banned opposition protest, at least 25 people injured. Ruling party and opposition met 7 June and next day another protest held peacefully.
In far north, near borders with Chad and Libya, reported heavily armed Chadian bandits in seventeen vehicles, suspected of preying on artisanal gold mining operations, clashed with security forces 8-10 June, two soldiers reportedly killed; army with support of French and U.S. forces reportedly pursued bandits as they fled and reportedly crossed into Libya. Three Boko Haram suicide bombers (two female and one male) 4 June launched attacks on Quranic school in Diffa town in south east, killing at least nine. Govt 18 June renewed state of emergency in Diffa region in south east and Tillabery and Tahoua regions in west for three months. During President Issoufou’s visit to France 4 June, French media and NGOs denounced ongoing detention of 26 civil society leaders, “deterioration in civil liberties” and “authoritarian drift”; Issoufou called opposition activists “putschists”, vowed not to change constitution to seek third term in 2021.
Attacks linked to herder-farmer conflict escalated mostly in central-northern states, while Boko Haram (BH) violence in north east and bandit-related clashes in north west continued, resulting in over 400 killed in total. Suspected herders 3 June killed seven and abducted woman in Mbachom, Benue state; 22 June killed 21 in Dowayan village, Demsa area, Adamawa state; attacks and reprisals 21-24 June killed over 200 in Barkin Ladi area, Plateau state. Herder-farmer clash 5 June in Nasarawa local govt area, Nasarawa state, left eleven dead. In north east, security forces reported gains in fight against BH: army 1 June destroyed BH camp in Yaridiri forest, Yobe state; army alongside Cameroonian troops killed ten BH at Ngelkona, Borno state 2 June and at least 23 BH around Lake Chad 11 June; air force 15 June killed dozens of insurgents in Sambisa forest, Borno state. BH continued attacks in Borno state: male suicide bomber 11 June detonated explosives at prayer site in Maiduguri, killing two; two suicide bombings and rocket-propelled grenades, which militants fired into crowds gathered at scene of bombings, 16 June killed at least 31 in Damboa; two female suicide bombers attacked market inside military barracks on outskirts of Maiduguri, killing at least nine. In north west, cattle-rustling gang 1 June attacked Zanuka village, Zamfara state, killing 23; bandits clashed with local vigilantes 9 June at Dan Tasango village, Sokoto state, thirteen killed; bandits 12 June killed at least ten people in attacks on four villages in Birnin Magaji area, Zamfara state; police 29 June found 23 unidentified corpses inside forest in Zurmi area, Zamfara state. In other communal violence, gunmen 1 June killed seven in Okpareke, Kogi state, reportedly in continuation of long-running communal feud; unidentified gunmen 1 June killed at least three in Kura Falls, Plateau state; communities in Izzi area, Ebonyi state and Yala area, Cross River state, clashed 19 June, eleven killed, over 7,000 displaced.
China and Japan 8 June officially opened hotline for preventing accidental clashes at sea and in air, 30 days after their May agreement to create Maritime and Aerial Communication Mechanism.
North Korea leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump held historic bilateral summit in Singapore 12 June, issuing joint statement incorporating mutual commitment to establishing new relations, building peace and stability regime on Korean peninsula, and recovery and repatriation of remains of American prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action in North Korea; and reaffirmation from Pyongyang of 27 April Panmunjom Declaration commitment to work toward “complete denuclearization” of peninsula; U.S. also committed to provide security guarantees to Pyongyang. In press conference following summit, Trump pledged that U.S. would suspend annual military exercises with South Korea; Seoul reportedly not forewarned of move, prompting concerns over alliance coordination; U.S. VP Pence and White House later gave reassurances that U.S. military would continue to train with South Korean counterparts and conduct military drills, but not large-scale joint exercises, which Trump called “war games”. Some commentators criticised vagueness of summit statement, lack of concrete commitments. Nevertheless, Beijing 12 June called for UN Security Council to review sanctions regime; Russia also called for sanctions relief; U.S. and South Korea 18 June suspended planning for annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise; and Seoul 20 June cancelled three-day Taeguk command-post exercise scheduled for late June. After meeting with South Korean and Japanese diplomats and Chinese President Xi, U.S. Sec State Mike Pompeo said countries agreed to keep UN sanctions in place until denuclearisation is complete. Kim Jong-un arrived in Beijing 19 June for his third visit to China since March, and first official one. Pyongyang and Seoul 14 June held first high-level military talks since December 2007; agreed to restore cross-border communication lines, implement 2004 agreement to prevent unexpected clashes in West Sea, and discussed withdrawal of heavy weapons from border area. In contrast with diplomatic progress, 38 North website cited 21 June satellite imagery showing North Korea making rapid upgrades to its Yongbyon nuclear facility, while NBC news 30 June quoted U.S. officials saying Pyongyang had stepped up enriched uranium production at several secret sites in recent months.
U.S. 12 June unveiled its recently completed American Institute in Taiwan main office in Taipei with low-key ceremony that indicated support for self-governing island while avoiding greater frictions with China; U.S. 27 June confirmed new representative to Taiwan. Speaking to AFP news agency 25 June, Taiwan’s President Tsai said international community should “constrain” China to protect democracy, prompting angry response from Beijing. Taiwan held large-scale annual military drills early June, while Chinese warships held daily combat drills starting 17 June in waters near Taiwan.
Govt 7 June announced unanticipated, historic eight-day ceasefire coming into effect 12 June; Taliban followed suit 9 June announcing ceasefire starting 14 June, on eve of Eid al Fitr marking end of Ramadan; ceasefires overlapped 15-17 June, resulting in dramatic drop in violence and mass celebrations across country, with Taliban fighters entering cities and govt officials visiting Taliban-controlled areas. Notwithstanding ceasefire, continuation of intense Taliban campaign against security forces (ANDSF) led to high casualties particularly among ANDSF, with reported near-record 1,000 casualties among combatants and civilians during second week of June; violence resumed at lower intensity at end of ceasefire as Taliban resumed operations 17 June; President Ghani 30 June ordered resumption of military operations against Taliban. Taliban continued expanding territory by surrounding or overrunning urban centres, including Purchaman district in western Farah province (4 June); and Kohistan district centre in northern Faryab province (12 June). In south, Taliban raided district centres of Andar and Muqur, Ghazni province 10 and 12 June, and Chora district, Uruzgan province 29 May. Major incidents include 9 June coordinated Taliban attack that killed 70 ANDSF in Kunduz and Sar-e Pul (north), Herat (west), and Kandahar (south); dozens killed 11 June in Taliban attacks in Logar and Paktia (southeast) and Wardak (centre); 50 ANDSF killed in two overnight Taliban attacks in Badghis and Farah provinces (west) 20 June. Attacks claimed by Islamic State (IS-KP) included eight killed in suicide bombing against religious leaders 4 June and thirteen govt employees killed in suicide bombing 13 June, both in Kabul; in Jalalabad, at least 44 killed in two IS-KP attacks on crowds celebrating ceasefire 16-17 June. Resignation of two cabinet ministers during month interpreted as reshuffle ahead of 2019 presidential elections. Govt’s High Peace Council 4 June convened hundreds of clerics to issue fatwa declaring Taliban’s fight religiously illegitimate as part of govt efforts to put “religious pressure” on insurgents; Taliban rejected fatwa. Amid reports of thaw in relations with Pakistan, latter’s army chief of staff visited Kabul 12 June for talks on Islamabad’s role in peace process.
Awami League (AL) govt escalated its anti-narcotics drive; police and paramilitary Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) force reported to have killed over 147 and arrested over 21,000 since operations began in May, amid allegations of extra-judicial killings and denial of due process. Critics also allege operations deliberately exempted influential patrons of drug dealers, including prominent AL parliamentarians and police officers. Fatalities included AL Municipal Councillor Akramul Haque in Teknaf, killed by RAB soldiers in Cox’s Bazar 27 May; cabinet minister Obaidul Quader 2 June defended killing saying “mistakes” happen during such operations. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein 6 June called for immediate halt to human rights violations. Court 28 May granted imprisoned opposition Bangladesh National Party (BNP) leader Khaleda Zia bail in two criminal cases against her; govt filed successful petitions with Supreme Court to reject bail. Zia’s doctors claimed she may have suffered a stroke in prison 5 June; Zia’s lawyer 13 June urged govt to release her on parole on humanitarian grounds; law minister ruled out release. BNP 18 June decided to resume street protests calling for Zia’s release. Militants 11 June shot dead Shahjahan Bachchu, secular writer and publisher, in Munshiganj district, Dhaka division (centre). Concerns grew over conditions in camps accommodating over 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar with beginning of seasonal heavy rains (see Myanmar). Rohingya community leader and critic of militant Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) Arif Ullah hacked to death in camp near Cox’s Bazar 18 June.
Two security officials killed 7 June in encounter with suspected Maoist rebels in Kharsawan district, Jharkhand state; six security personnel killed 24 June by landmine on border of Latehar and Garhwa districts. In Chhattisgarh state, police 8 June shot dead suspected Maoist commander in Bijapur district; and three suspected Maoists killed 15 June in encounter with police in Sukma district.
Clashes continued between Pakistani and Indian militaries across Line of Control (LoC) despite late May ceasefire agreement, with cross-LoC firing reportedly killing two Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers and injuring seven civilians 3 June. Firing across Working Boundary also killed two women and wounded over twenty in Pakistan’s Sialkot district same day. At least four BSF soldiers killed in cross-LoC firing in Samba district 13 June; Pakistan denied involvement, blamed India for firing first. Unrest continued in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, with five civilians, nine security personnel and over twenty alleged militants reportedly killed in clashes during Ramadan despite Indian central and state govts’ decision to observe ceasefire for holy month, which ended 14 June. Military vehicle 1 June crushed and killed protester in Srinagar; security forces fired tear gas and bullets to disperse mourners next day. Three gunmen 14 June killed prominent journalist and newspaper Editor Shujaat Bukhari in Srinagar, along with two bodyguards; police 28 June accused Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) militants of carrying out attack. Police claimed to have killed two militants in Bandipora 18 June and three Jaish-e-Mohammed militants in Tral 19 June. Police 22 June reported four militants, one policeman and one civilian killed in clashes in Anantnag district in south Kashmir. Security forces 29 June claimed to have killed militant in Kupwara district. Ruling Bharatiya Janata Party 19 June withdrew from People’s Democratic Party (PDP)-led coalition govt in Kashmir, forcing resignation of PDP Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti; govt 20 June imposed “governor’s rule” (New Delhi’s direct control). UN Commission on Human Rights 14 June released its first report on alleged rights violations and abuses on both sides of LoC in Kashmir, urged establishment of UN commission of inquiry to investigate alleged human rights violations July 2016-April 2018 and criticised controversial Public Safety Act enacted in 1978.
EU, Canada and U.S. ambassadors 1 June urged govt to hold credible and transparent presidential election. Election commission 8 June announced election date as 23 Sept and invited observers from eight countries, EU and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Exiled former President Nasheed 29 June relinquished his presidential candidacy with opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), which next day announced MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solid as its presidential candidate. Court 13 June sentenced former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and two former Supreme Court (SC) judges Abdulla Saeed and Ali Hameed to nineteen months’ jail for obstruction of justice for refusing to hand over mobile phones as evidence to police. Govt 28 June appointed Ahmed Abdulla Didi new chief justice. Indian govt 14 June expressed “deep dismay” at convictions.
PM KP Oli continued regional diplomacy with 19-24 June visit to China where he met Chinese President Xi Jinping and signed agreements on improving cross-border connectivity including through a new railway network. Sanghiya Samajbadi Forum-Nepal (SSF-N), fourth largest party overall and second largest Madhesi party in parliament, joined govt 1 June with Chair Upendra Yadav appointed defence minister, giving ruling coalition over two-thirds parliamentary majority. Some leaders of Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N), largest Madhesi party in parliament, also expressed openness to joining govt but senior leader Rajendra Mahato outlined need for constitutional amendments as precondition and criticised SSF-N for weakening Madhesi movement. Home Ministry 7 June decision to closely monitor national and international NGOs and cancelling registrations of those engaged in “political activities” criticised by activists and civil society for undermining free speech. Similar concerns raised following cancellation of a talk show on state-run Nepal TV reportedly at direction of Information Minister Gokul Baskota following questions about his property holdings on the show. Govt request − citing completion of peace process − for closure of UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA) liaison office criticised by some for being poorly communicated; request was accompanied by concurrent accusatory media reports about office’s role; DPA 14 June announced office to close within three months.
Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) social movement continued actions calling for Pashtuns’ rights; two PTM activists killed and dozens injured 3 June at rally in Wana, administrative centre of South Waziristan, allegedly by members of military-backed Afghanistan-oriented militant group. Curfew imposed after killings prompted clashes; military 4 June reportedly killed man for defying curfew and arrested 80; curfew lifted 8 June after tribal jirga mediated agreement under which PTM agreed to halt public activities until after Eid (16 June); district magistrate 9 June banned all rallies and protests for one month without district administration approval. South Waziristan authorities rejected PTM’s demand that members of state-backed militant group which includes former members of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) be barred from main market in Wana. North Waziristan govt 7 June expelled PTM leader Mohsin Dawar from district for three months on public peace grounds; Peshawar High Court 14 June struck down expulsion order. Police 6 June arrested 37 PTM activists for criticising army during Islamabad rally. Former Supreme Court Justice Nasir-ul Mulk 1 June took office as PM of interim govt to oversee 25 July elections. In ongoing insecurity, roadside bomb 7 June killed three people including two police in Lower Dir, KPK; militant attacks killed two soldiers 23 June and another soldier 24 June in North Waziristan. U.S. drone 13 June killed TTP leader Maulana Fazlullah and four senior commanders in Kunar province, Afghanistan; TTP 23 June announced former chief Baitullah Mehsud’s deputy, Noor Wali Mehsud, new leader. Three soldiers and five alleged attackers killed in cross-border militant attack in North Waziristan 15 June. Three paramilitary Frontier Corps soldiers killed in clash with unidentified militants in Balochistan provincial capital Quetta 16 June. TTP same day allegedly killed paramilitary soldier and two civilians in city’s outskirts. Prominent journalist and critic of military Gul Bukhari briefly abducted from home in Lahore 5 June. Largest English-language newspaper Dawn 19 June claimed it had faced disruption and harassment from security officials since mid-May. Journalist and rights activist Marvi Sirmed’s house ransacked 19 June, laptops, phones, passports taken; Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned attempt to intimidate her.
Homagama magistrate 14 June sentenced militant monk and head of Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara to six months’ imprisonment, following his 24 May conviction for criminal intimidation for courtroom threats against Sinhalese woman searching for her missing journalist husband. Rare punishment of a Buddhist monk for actions involving hardline nationalist agenda provoked outrage and political mobilisation by Buddhist nationalists and senior monks; public protests held across country 18 June. None of those arrested for alleged involvement in early March anti-Muslim rioting yet to be indicted. With growing prospect of former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s presidential candidacy, outgoing U.S. Ambassador Athul Keshap reportedly told former President Mahinda Rajapaksa 10 June that U.S. and international community would disapprove of a Gotabaya presidency; also reportedly said that given ongoing legal cases against Gotabaya, U.S. could not approve any request to formally renounce his U.S. citizenship (19th constitutional amendment bars dual citizens from contesting elected office). Senior Buddhist monk was widely condemned for calling on Gotabaya Rajapaksa to “be a Hitler, go with the military and take the leadership of this country”, in sermon delivered at 20 June birthday celebration for Rajapaksa, who did not reject comparison despite widespread criticism of remarks. Mahinda Rajapaksa 22 June opined the Sinhala “race” was “nearing extinction”, echoing nationalists’ fears of declining Sinhala Buddhist population, despite official census data indicating otherwise. Rajapaksa-led joint opposition and other Sinhala nationalists welcomed U.S.’s 19 June withdrawal from UN Human Rights Council, noting that U.S. criticism of council for its “political bias” and “hypocrisy” matched their own longstanding claims. U.S. embassy 21 June announced U.S. “continues to extend its support to Sri Lanka to fulfil these important commitments and obligations as articulated and reaffirmed in these [UN refugee agency] resolutions”.
Amid ongoing concerns over govt crackdown on opposition parties and politicians, Transparency International Cambodia 20 June announced it will not monitor 29 July general elections, joining two other election NGOs who earlier decided against monitoring polls. Asian Network for Free Elections 14 June released report from May pre-election assessment saying elections will be neither free nor fair, citing inter alia intimidation of voters and lack of protection of civil and political rights. Govt 27 June said 50,000 observers, including from China, Myanmar and Singapore, will monitor polls. U.S. 12 June imposed sanctions on Hing Bun Hieng, commander of PM Hun Sen’s bodyguard unit, citing unit’s involvement in violence against unarmed Cambodians dating back to 1997. Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe visited Cambodia 17-20 June, pledged over $1mn military aid; countries agreed to increase military cooperation and conduct visit by Chinese navy in 2019. Prosecutor 20 June summoned exiled opposition leader Sam Rainsy to face charge of lèse-majesté for 6 June Facebook post in which he claimed that a recent letter from King Norodom Sihamoni was written under duress.
Regional and local elections took place across entire country 27 June, with thousands of police and military deployed for security; official results expected 9 July. In Papua province, three civilians reported killed and one child injured 25 June by separatist fighters who fired at plane carrying security personnel and election materials to remote Nduga district; three people including two police reported killed by alleged separatists firing on boats carrying voters and officials on election day. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein 19 June expressed concern that govt had not honoured its invitation for him to visit Papua and West Papua provinces. Court 22 June sentenced Islamic cleric Aman Abdurrahman to death for inciting several deadly terrorist attacks, including two in Jakarta in 2016 and attack on church in East Kalimantan in 2017. Leading figure in Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) militant network, Abdurrahman was accused of organising attacks from jail; also believed to have masterminded Surabaya church bombings in May that left over 30 people dead. Authorities mid-June reported over 100 suspects arrested over Surabaya attacks, with some killed allegedly while trying to resist arrest. Addressing Shangri-La Dialogue Asia security summit, defence minister proposed regional strategy to fight terrorism in Indo-Pacific.
Conflict in Kachin and Shan states eased somewhat due to onset of monsoon. Data compiled by UN humanitarian agency 1 June showed over 60,000 people temporarily displaced by fighting in Kachin and Shan states between Jan 2017 and May 2018, with most subsequently returning to their areas of origin; 103,000 people remaining in camps in Shan and Kachin states as result of conflict that resumed in 2011. Concerns over conditions of Rohingya refugees in camps in Bangladesh grew with beginning of seasonal heavy rains, which caused flooding, landslides and logistical challenges, and several fatalities from mudslides. UN refugee agency said some 200,000 out of 720,000 refugees “at risk” need to be relocated to safer areas. Still no refugee returns through official system, however small number of Rohingya reported to be returning informally to Rakhine state. Govt 6 June signed memorandum of understanding with UN refugee and development agencies on cooperation on repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh. President’s office 31 May announced that govt would establish three-member Independent Commission of Enquiry to investigate alleged human rights violations in northern Rakhine state, commission to include an international personality and assisted by national and international legal and technical experts. International Criminal Court (ICC) began discussions on possible investigation into alleged deportation of Rohingya to Bangladesh, gave Myanmar 27 July deadline to provide observations on the legal and factual aspects of the case for jurisdiction. UN Special Envoy for Myanmar Christine Burgener visited 12-22 June, met with state counsellor and commander-in-chief, visited Rakhine; then travelled to Thailand, China, Bangladesh. European Council 25 June decided to impose sanctions on seven Myanmar military officials over rights violations against Rohingya. Facebook 7 June announced it would ban several “hardline” monks and designated radical race and religion protection group, Ma Ba Tha, as a “hate organization.”
Ahead of bicameral conference committee hearings (scheduled 9-15 July) to reconcile differences between House and Senate versions of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), for Duterte to sign it into law 23 July, concerns remained over difficulties in finding agreement over significant differences between the two versions, including inter alia on banning of political dynasties, extent of regional powers and tax collection. At conference on BBL 6 June, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) continued to voice concerns about House and Senate versions of BBL, which omit provisions contained in version submitted mid-2017 by Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC, chaired by MILF). Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said stakeholders need to manage expectations and recognise need to comply with constitutional parameters. Duterte 17 June said Moros should give govt more time if BBL fails to pass in July; also said national govt would not seek to claim untapped oil reserves in Maguindanao, estimated at $1bn. Communist National Democratic Front (NDF) rebel Political Adviser José María Sison released statement 28 June saying his movement was abandoning talks with Duterte govt, said it would prepare to resume negotiations under a new administration. Peace talks had been scheduled to resume in Norway late June, before govt decided mid-June to postpone for three months, citing need to allow for public consultations on draft agreements. Duterte spokesman 21 June confirmed govt had suspended all backchannel talks with NDF. Hostilities continued between military and communist New People’s Army (NPA) forces, including in Mindanao and northern Luzon. Army troops 25 June killed six policemen, wounded nine, in “friendly fire” incident on Samar Island; police were hunting communist guerrillas at time of incident. Military clashed with Islamic State (ISIS)-linked Maute Group fighters in Lanao del Sur province mid-June, in operation targeting Abu Dar, who govt believes to be new “emir” of ISIS in South East Asia; 19 June reported it had destroyed Maute Group camp in Tubaran, near Marawi City; more than 11,000 people reportedly displaced by fighting, at least five suspected fighters reported killed. Govt 22 June raised bounty on Abu Dar to $112,600. Military assault on ISIS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) bomb factory in Liguasan, Maguindanao, 10 June resulted in fifteen suspected BIFF militants killed; thousands of families displaced.
Addressing Shangri-La Dialogue Asia security summit in Singapore 2 June, U.S. Sec Defense Mattis outlined U.S. “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy”, consisting of expanded maritime security support for U.S. partners; helping regional navies become more interoperable with U.S. Navy; strengthening governance through defence engagements; and private sector-led development. Mattis said U.S. wants to work with regional multilateral institutions, particularly ASEAN; that new U.S. national security and defence strategies emphasise Indo-Pacific; said cooperation with China is “welcome wherever possible”. Mattis criticised China’s militarisation of features in disputed Spratly archipelago. Also addressing Shangri-La Dialogue, China for first time publicly acknowledged that it was basing weapons and military personnel on disputed features it controls in Paracel and Spratly Islands, which it said are Chinese territory. Chinese military representative said Mattis’s comments were “irresponsible” and that U.S. was the one militarising, citing U.S. air and naval passages within twelve nautical miles of Chinese-controlled territory. U.S. 5 June flew two B-52 bombers over disputed Scarborough Shoal near Philippines; China sent ships and aircraft, said U.S. “stirring up trouble”. Reuters 3 June reported U.S. considering stepping up its naval operations near disputed features. U.S. held annual Malabar naval exercise with India and Japan 7-16 June off coast of Guam and in Philippine Sea. Biennial U.S. Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) naval exercises began 27 June without China after U.S. late May rescinded China’s invitation to participate. Citing satellite imagery dated 8 June, ImageSat International reported that China had redeployed surface-to-air missile systems to Woody (Yongxing) Island in Paracels. PLA navy 15 June carried out missile drills in South China Sea (SCS). UK and French defence ministers 3 June said they would send more naval ships through SCS to assert right to freedom of navigation. Meeting with Sec Defense Mattis in Beijing 27 June, President Xi Jinping reasserted that China would not give up any of its territorial claims in SCS; also called for deepening military-to-military ties.
Early June saw spike in killings in southernmost provinces during latter half of Ramadan, in keeping with pattern of violence during Ramadan over past decade. Pattani Islamic Committee Deputy Chair Aduldej Chenae died after being shot in Saiburi district 8 June; victim was involved in establishment of coordination centre for prospective safety zone, a confidence-building measure in ongoing peace dialogue process. Spate of shootings targeted Muslim men allegedly involved in illegal drugs trade late May and early June. National Security Council chief General Wanlop Raksanor 18 June said peace dialogue process will pause pending decision from new Malaysian govt on whether to continue as facilitator of process. Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad 25 June told reporters Malaysia would continue as facilitator, offered no details. Govt 20 June lifted emergency decree in Sungai Kolok, Narathiwat, third of 36 deep south districts to have it lifted. PM Prayuth Chan-o-cha 19 June introduced new source of uncertainty about timing of general election promised for Feb 2019, saying it will only take place after coronation of King Rama X, which has not yet been announced; deputy PM 25 June said it could be as late as 5 May 2019, and partial lifting of ban on political activity possible in Sept. Crown Property Bureau mid-June assigned direct responsibility for its assets, estimated at more than $30bn, to King Rama X. Constitution Court 5 June ruled on suit filed by Democrat Party, upholding legality of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) Order 53/2560 which prohibits political party activities without NCPO permission.
Supporters of defeated candidate in 2017 election for governor of Southern Highlands province (centre), set fire to commercial plane, government buildings and governor’s home 14 June in protests at failure of court challenge relating to election result. UN 14 June evacuated staff in Mendi, capital of Southern Highlands, same day. 300 to 400 armed protesters 16-17 June marched on Mendi, calling for resignation of PM O’Neill. O’Neill 15 June declared nine-month state of emergency in province, suspending provincial govt for duration. Govt 23 June deployed 440 soldiers to Southern Highlands and neighbouring Hela province to calm situation.
Announcement by Croat member of tripartite presidency Dragan Čović 24 June that Bosnia’s Croat-majority cantons will open joint representative office in Brussels prompted criticism that move could undermine state institutions. European Commission early June said it would provide €1.5mn aid to help deal with anticipated influx of migrants.
Kosovo and Serbian presidents met for first time since March for EU-facilitated talks in Brussels 24 June; EU foreign policy chief Mogherini said they discussed “framework of an agreement on comprehensive normalisation of relations” and “agreed to intensify the work in the coming weeks”. Ahead of meeting, Kosovo President Thaçi 20 June called for “historic settlement” between countries with legally binding deal, and said they should discuss border issues, rejected by Serbia. Authorities early June reported arrest of two people living near capital Pristina, including one Belgian national, suspected of planning terror attacks on NATO troops and on public in Belgium and France.
Macedonia and Greece 17 June signed historic agreement resolving 27-year-long dispute over official name of Macedonia, after Macedonian PM Zaev and Greek MP Tsipras 12 June announced they had reached agreement on name Republic of North Macedonia (Severna Makedonija); deal also stipulates language as Macedonian and citizens as Macedonian/citizens of the Republic of North Macedonia. Signing ceremony attended by UN envoy in name dispute Matthew Nimetz and EU foreign policy chief Mogherini. Agreement paves way for Macedonia to seek membership of NATO and EU, previously vetoed by Greece pending resolution of name issue. Parliament 20 June ratified deal by 69 out of 120 votes, in session boycotted by opposition VMRO-DPMNE; President Ivanov said he will not sign deal, meaning it will require another parliamentary vote, set for early July. Referendum on deal scheduled for Sept prior to constitutional amendment to formally change country’s name; Greek parliament to ratify deal thereafter. EU, NATO, UN and many countries congratulated sides on deal. Greece 25 June told EU and NATO it no longer objects to Macedonia’s accession under new name; EU foreign ministers 26 June gave conditional approval to opening accession negotiations with Macedonia (and Albania), starting in June 2019. Nationalist opposition to agreement continued in both countries; hundreds protested against agreement in Macedonian capital Skopje and in Bitola near border, with protests continuing in Skopje.
New govt of PM Pashinyan completed appointments in key ministries and govt offices, also changing most regional governors and reshuffling army’s general staff. Former ruling Republican Party lost six MPs and its ability to block new laws in parliament, while new govt continued to pursue arrests and investigations of former govt allies, some still in power, and their businesses. Parliament 7 June approved Pashinyan’s program, which prioritises fight against corruption, reforms in education and economy, but no significant shifts in Nagorno-Karabakh conflict or foreign policy. In most high-profile case, MP Manvel Grigoryan, close ally of former President Sargsyan and popular Karabakh war veteran, was arrested 16 June on suspicion of illegal acquisition of weapons, which he denied; parliament 19 June voted to lift his immunity from prosecution; Grigoryan’s wife also detained and his son, former mayor of Etchmiadzin town, charged with embezzlement of state funds. Former president’s brother and chief bodyguard detained 24 June; brother released shortly after. Speaking after first EU-Armenia Partnership Council, EU foreign policy chief Mogherini 21 June announced “full support” for reforms by new govt and promised support to preparations and conduct of anticipated snap parliamentary elections. FM 22 June called for “greater engagement” with EU at tenth Eastern Partnership Informal Ministerial Dialogue.
Govt 11 June put on display its new long-range missiles purchased from Belarus and Israel, both with ranges of over 300km that would permit strikes on Armenia’s main urban areas, including Yerevan. At 26 June military parade commemorating centennial of Azerbaijan’s armed forces, president said Baku would never accept “occupation” of Nagorno-Karabakh and that “the war is not over” (see Nagorno-Karabakh (Azerbaijan)).
Following mass protests in May, PM Kvirikashvili resigned 13 June, citing differences with Bidzina Ivanishvili, founder of ruling Georgian Dream party. New PM Mamuka Bakhtadze 28 June announced merge of several ministries, bringing his cabinet from seventeen to eleven ministers. European Parliament 14 June passed resolution demanding Russia reverse its “decision to recognise the so-called independence of the Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia”. Govt 26 June presented its Tatunashvili-Otkhozoria sanctions list for approval by parliament; list contains 33 names of suspects in crimes reportedly committed against ethnic Georgians living Abkhazia and South Ossetia since end of wars in 1990s; opposition activists identified at least five dead on list. De facto Abkhaz foreign ministry protested cautioning list could “destroy” only negotiation forum, the Geneva discussions; de facto Abkhaz and Russian officials 27 June staged walk-out from Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meeting over issue. Several prominent opposition politicians in Abkhazia 5 June joined call for resignation of de facto president Khajimba, criticising him for failure to enact long-promised reforms in police and other state institutions, amid deteriorating economic situation.
New Armenian leadership continuing to search for ways to promote PM Pashinyan’s idea of need for having de facto Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) representatives at peace talks, rejected by Baku. Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev reportedly shook hands at opening reception of FIFA World Cup in Russia, amid speculation FMs might meet at NATO summit in July. One Armenian soldier reported killed 10 June while co-chairs of OSCE Minsk Group were preparing for their first meeting with Pashinyan; Yerevan accused Baku of increasing tensions in region, Azerbaijan denied. Situation in conflict zone remained stable overall. Azerbaijani and Armenian media since May reporting that Azerbaijani army took control over new territory in Nakhchivan area, large autonomous republic separated from core Azerbaijani territory by slice of Armenian land. Some Armenian experts claim shift in control line took place after Azerbaijani army moved forward location of two of its positions, bringing armies closer together by several kilometres. Azerbaijani Defence Minister Zakir Gasanov 20 June confirmed his army took control of three mountainous points, claiming this provided control over main southern road leading from undisputed Armenia to NK conflict zone. At 26 June military parade in Baku commemorating centennial of Azerbaijan’s armed forces, Aliyev said Baku would never accept “occupation” of NK and that “the war is not over”; Armenian FM tweeted calling it “sabre-rattling”, called for more responsible approach at negotiation table. June saw failed attempt to challenge long-serving de facto NK leader Bako Sahakyan, with unprecedented street rallies of up to around 200 people in de facto capital Stepanakert after two local men were beaten by security officers 1 June. Protests ended after 4 June appeal by Pashinyan, arrests of officers suspected in beating, and resignation of three ministers. Local opposition National Renaissance Party attempted to continue protests demanding Sahakyan’s resignation, but police blocked main square and surrounded activists. Sahakyan 11 June announced he would not run in 2020 presidential elections; during 17 June visit to NK, Pashinyan voiced his “unconditional support” to Sahakyan.
National Anti-terrorism Committee 8 June reported two suspected militants killed in counter-terrorism operation in Nazran, Ingushetia. Caucasian Knot website reported that law enforcers 8 June kidnapped 29-year-old Nazran resident Ibragim Aliev, who was allegedly killed while trying to escape detention. Court in Chechen capital Grozny 31 May again extended pre-trial detention of Oyub Titiyev, director of Chechnya office of Memorial human rights organisation, until 9 July. North Caucasus Regional Military Court in Rostov-on-Don 14 June convicted Badruddi Daudov of 1995 hostage-taking in Chechen city Budyonnovsk in which 150 people were killed, sentencing him to fourteen years’ prison.
National Assembly 14 June passed amendments to media laws to fight “fake news”; Belarusian Association of Journalists and U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists voiced concerns over risk of increased online censorship. President Lukashenko 21 June praised Belarus’s improving relations with EU while meeting with EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn.
Chișinău court 19 June invalidated pro-EU candidate Andrei Năstase’s victory in 3 June second round mayoral election, ruling that he violated campaign laws; Supreme Court 21 June upheld decision, which prompted thousands of people to protest 19, 24 June and dozens 26 June; Central Electoral Commission 29 June confirmed Supreme Court’s ruling. EU foreign policy chief Mogherini urged authorities to take measures to ensure results are respected. UN General Assembly 22 June passed non-binding resolution calling for withdrawal “unconditionally and without further delay” of some 1,400 Russian troops from separatist region Transnistria.
Foreign ministers of Normandy Four countries (Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France) 11 June met in Berlin for first time since Putin’s Sept 2017 proposal for UN peacekeeping in Donbas, but Minsk implementation deadlock continues. Ukrainian FM reported establishing “clear joint position” with Germany and France, facilitating “coordinated” pressure on Russia. Russian FM Lavrov disagreed, saying Germany and France sided with him on need to fulfil 2015 “Steinmeier formula” and hold Donbas elections in tandem with Russian withdrawal (Ukraine insists on withdrawal first). German and French FMs expressed support for OSCE monitoring and demining, and called for further discussion of Steinmeier formula. Lavrov insisted peacekeepers should not establish transitional international administration, an idea supported by many Western and Ukrainian experts. OSCE Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) representative emphasised at 13 June meeting that Minsk and Normandy are complementary formats. Both sides continue to accuse each other of violating disengagement zones at Petrivske, Stanytsia Luhanska and Donetsk filtration station. Ceasefire violations continued to fluctuate; OSCE reported 23 civilian casualties since 1 June, no deaths. Ukrainian military, separatists reported at least sixteen dead. Ukraine reportedly retook Zholobok village in grey zone, advancing positions toward other side by 2km. De facto authorities said “saboteurs” conducted an explosion 27 June near Ilovaisk, roughly 40km into separatist-held territory. 27 June TCG meeting led to agreement to recommit to ceasefire starting 1 July due to beginning of harvest. Ukrainian and Russian presidents in 9 June phone call agreed on visits from human rights ombudspersons to imprisoned citizens in each other’s countries, but Ukrainian ombudsperson was subsequently denied access to high-profile political prisoners. Parliament 22 June passed new national security and defence law to harmonise military with NATO standards and improve interoperability, civilian control and democratic oversight of armed forces. Parliament 7 June approved establishment of anti-corruption court, but with loophole that would prevent it from reviewing some cases, prompting calls from Western counterparts to amend it.
Amid continued tensions over hydrocarbon exploration, Turkish drillship set out for Mediterranean sea 31 May to attempt country’s first deep-sea drilling project. Greek Cypriot Democratic Rally (DISY) party leader Averof Neophytou early June told oil and gas forum in Washington that U.S. and Republic of Cyprus had entered new level of relations in energy field especially after ExxonMobil’s signing of exploration and production sharing contract in April for Block 10 of Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ); senior U.S. official 5 June said that Turkish “harassment of drilling vessels in the Cyprus EEZ is not something that we will allow to go unnoticed”.
Following former PM Rajoy’s loss of no-confidence vote 1 June, new govt of PM Sánchez, while maintaining opposition to Catalan independence movement, signalled more conciliatory tone toward Catalonia including lifting financial controls on region, saying it would open talks with new Catalan govt and move jailed Catalan separatists closer to home.
President Erdoğan won 24 June general election with 52.5% of vote, ahead of Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Muharrem İnce’s 30.7%. Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 293 of 600 parliament seats, and AKP ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) 50 seats; CHP won 146 seats; and pro-Kurdish Free Democratic Party (HDP) 67 seats. Amid intensified pressure on Kurdish movement in run-up to 24 June general election, HDP 13 June announced at least 208 party members were detained and 57 offices and booths attacked during campaign period; tensions turned violent 16 June when clash between pro-HDP shopkeepers and AKP delegation in south-eastern HDP-stronghold of Suruç left four dead, including three HDP supporters and brother of an AKP MP. Campaign period also saw opening up of renewed debate on Kurdish demands, with some candidates adopting more constructive stance on Kurdish issue. Security operations in south east against Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) continued with threefold increase in casualties compared to May, concentrated in rural areas Hakkari and Şırnak. Turkey’s offensive into northern Iraq targeting PKK positions also intensified. Turkey and U.S. 4 June reached roadmap agreement on Manbij district, northern Syria, to ensure withdrawal of Syrian Kurdish militia YPG (People’s Protection Units). UN 11 June expressed concern that fighting and airstrikes in Syria’s Idlib province would create new influx of refugees into Turkey. Reported incidents between Syrian refugees and host communities increased slightly; three killed as argument in southern city Gaziantep escalated into shooting. U.S. Senate 18 June passed bill blocking sale of F-35 jets to Turkey in response to govt’s purchase of air defence missile systems from Russia; relations with U.S. further complicated by ongoing tensions surrounding hydrocarbon drilling in Aegean Sea (see Cyprus). Detentions and arrests of ISIS suspects continued.
Police 23 June detained dozens across country ahead of planned protest by banned opposition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK) movement; authorities 19 June questioned four journalists in connection with protest. Speaker of parliament, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, 20 June said he does not believe President Nazarbayev will run for another term in 2020.
Arrests and investigations into conduct of previous govt of former President Atambayev continued, with MPs calling for fresh investigation into leasing of two Kyrgyz-owned helicopters to Uganda in 2014. Kyrgyz and Uzbek defence officials 13 June met in Uzbekistan to discuss cooperation for first time since countries became independent in 1991, and signed agreement to increase cooperation. Border guards detained three Tajik guards 5 June after clash in Batken, on southern Kyrgyz border (see Tajikistan).
Border skirmishes continued as Kyrgyz border forces briefly detained three Tajik border guards 5 June following altercation in Batken province, southern Kyrgyzstan; tensions broke out when Kyrgyz citizens started trading on disputed land adjacent to Tajikistan’s Sughd district; guards were released after negotiations.
Kyrgyz defence officials 13 June met with Uzbek counterparts during four-day visit to Tashkent, in first such meeting since countries gained independence in 1991; sides signed agreement to increase bilateral cooperation. Five former senior security officials sentenced 24 June to between fourteen and eighteen years’ imprisonment after being convicted of acts of torture and abuse of office. Govt 18 June extended open invitation to Afghan govt and Taliban leaders to hold direct peace talks on Uzbek territory (see Afghanistan).
In 17 June presidential election run-off, right-wing candidate Iván Duque, prominent critic of peace agreement between govt and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), won 54% of vote, defeating leftist former guerrilla Gustavo Petro with 42%. Duque, who comes from Democratic Centre party which has promised to “modify” parts of peace agreement, set to take power 7 Aug. Congress 27 June approved final procedural law needed for Special Jurisdiction for Peace, created under peace deal to handle cases deriving from govt-FARC conflict. Draft law includes provisions from Democratic Centre party creating special court for military and insisting FARC leaders must complete sentences before participating in politics; neither provision is in peace agreement, and law still needs Constitutional Court review. Govt and National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group 15 June completed fifth round of peace negotiations with no agreement on ceasefire or civil society participation, first point on negotiations agenda; sixth round to begin in Cuba 2 July. ELN complied with unilateral ceasefire around election day. Violence involving FARC dissidents remained high, especially in Tumaco city (south west). Military 12 June bombed FARC dissident camp killing sixteen in Arauca province (east). Authorities 12 June captured Juan Gabriel Arizala Vernaza, alias “Javier”, brother of powerful FARC dissident commander alias “Guacho”, in Llorente, Nariño province (south west). In Catatumbo (north east), conflict for territorial control continued between ELN and Ejército Popular de Liberación (EPL), armed group linked to drug trade. ELN 8 June released statement accusing EPL of working with narco groups and initiating clashes. EPL forces 16 June killed two ELN in Catatumbo. Congress 20 June approved bill allowing demobilisation and surrender of drug trafficking groups including Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia, (AGC, country’s main drug trafficking group). Law allows for reduction of sentences against members of these groups with conditions regarding handover of illicit assets and confessions of relations with state authorities, among others; but insufficiently takes into account victims’ rights despite fact that Colombian law considers state and these drug trafficking groups to be part of internal armed conflict.
Fallout from 20 May election continued as opposition and foreign govts maintained refusal to recognise President Maduro’s victory. Supreme Court (SC) 13 June refused to admit losing candidate Henri Falcón’s claim that election should be nullified because of multiple irregularities including vote-buying, saying Falcón offered no proof. Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly 5 June passed resolution stating election failed to comply with international standards and lacked legitimacy; called for negotiations leading to a free and fair election, and for member states to take political, economic and financial measures to assist in restoration of democracy in Venezuela; although supported by nineteen countries, resolution fell short of 24 votes needed to suspend Venezuela’s membership. EU 25 June imposed sanctions on eleven govt officials, including members of electoral authority. UN high commissioner for human rights 22 June accused security forces in Operation for the Liberation of the People, ostensibly a series of crime-reduction operations, of over 500 extrajudicial killings July 2015-March 2017. Govt conditionally released several dozen political prisoners, from various groups, beginning 2 June; however hundreds remained in jail. Dozens are military officers, some convicted of involvement in May 2018 coup plot which, according to a report by Bloomberg, was foiled. President Maduro 14 June announced cabinet changes including replacement of VP El Aissami with Delcy Rodríguez, previously head of controversial pro-Maduro National Constituent Assembly (ANC); Maduro moved El Aissami to head new Ministry of Industries and National Production, Diosdado Cabello was chosen to head ANC. Reshuffle also significantly reduced number of military members of cabinet. Amid ongoing hyperinflation crisis, ANC appointed Calixto Ortega Sánchez as president of Central Bank, despite his lack of prior experience in role. Opposition remained divided; Falcón 30 May announced creation of “new opposition platform” Concertación para el Cambio, based around parties that supported his candidacy.
Thousands of protesters demanded President Morales’s resignation following much-criticised govt response to 3 June eruption of Fuego volcano, which according to official figures killed at least 110, although many said govt downplayed number killed; attorney general 7 June launched formal investigation to determine if protocols were implemented. Human Rights Ombudsman Jordán Rodas 21 June criticised what he called Morales’s “indifference” to murders of indigenous and peasant leaders, with at least three reported murdered in May.
Dialogue to promote political consensus between ruling National Party and opposition saw continued disagreement over composition of commission to investigate human rights abuses during late 2017 post-electoral crisis. Amnesty International 13 June published report documenting security forces’ “excessive force” during 2017 demonstrations. Organization of American States (OAS) 18 June announced appointment of Luiz Antonio Guimarães Marrey as chief for Mission against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (MACCIH); govt had rejected Marrey but bowed under reported U.S. pressure. Following demands from President Hernández’s allies in National Congress to declare MACCIH unconstitutional, Supreme Court sentence 30 May limited the anti-corruption mission’s investigative capacities. UN special rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers 18 June denounced selection process of Honduras’s next attorney general (AG) as “extremely concerning” amid worries over absence of independent observers and civil society from process; legislators 29 June re-elected AG Óscar Chinchilla for second term. MACCIH filed new corruption cases: 13 June accused 38 politicians and citizens of diverting $11.7mn of govt funds to political parties, including Hernández’s 2013 presidential campaign.
National Civil Police reported total of 1,419 homicides 1 Jan-21 May 2018, 111 more than same period in 2017, including increased cases of gender-based violence; Legislative Assembly late May proposed reform to increase jail sentences for femicides. Anti-extortion operation 28-30 May led to arrest of 247 suspected gang members. Attorney General Douglas Meléndez 8 June ordered arrest for alleged embezzlement scheme of former President Funes as well as 29 others, including relatives and former officials in his administration. Funes’s former wife and Secretary of Social Inclusion Vanda Pignato arrested 12 June for alleged corruption. Govt 18 June published statement condemning U.S.’s increasingly hostile anti-immigration policies that have led to separation of Salvadoran families at U.S. southern border. U.S. President Trump 23 June announced he was considering withdrawing foreign aid from countries from which Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang members originate.
Unrest and protests against President Ortega’s govt continued for third month with increased civil disobedience matched by growing govt use of paramilitary forces. Over 200 reported killed since anti-govt protests began 16 April; govt continued to blame “criminals” for violence. Police 3 June ended siege of church in protest stronghold Masaya after local priests intervened; protesters took refuge in church after police and pro-govt militia attacks reportedly left two dead. Thousands of market vendors in capital Managua declared state of civil disobedience 4 June. Protesters 11 June held general strike in second city León which developed into nationwide strike 14 June; three protesters died in clashes with pro-govt forces. Nicaraguan Catholic Episcopal Conference (CEN) Church 13 June agreed to mediate new round of talks. Govt and civil society groups 15 June agreed to halt violence; govt agreed to invite representatives of Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, UN high commissioner for human rights and EU to investigate killings during protests, while protesters agreed gradual removal of makeshift defensive roadblocks. However, truce broken after alleged arson attack on apartment building by pro-govt militia left six dead in Managua 16 June. Police and pro-Ortega gunmen reportedly shot dead two protesters at roadblock same day. CEN and opposition 18 June abandoned negotiations, blaming govt for breaking promise to invite international organisations; various bishops joined protesters’ demands for Ortega to step down. Civil society leaders from Masaya city 18 June announced decision to not recognise President Ortega, setting up five-member Council of National Salvation. Security forces and allied-militias 19 June killed three protesters while clearing barricades during operations to regain control of Managua; clashes between protesters and govt forces left at least six dead 22-24 June. Negotiations between govt and opposition resumed 25 June. Thousands 30 June marched to commemorate children and teenagers killed during protests; two marchers reportedly killed by pro-Ortega forces. Pope Francis 3 June expressed sorrow for serious violence “carried out by armed forces to repress social protests”.
UN humanitarian agency reported only 9% of needed funds had been allocated to Haiti, and predicted slight upturn in number of people affected by food insecurity. With Haitians continuing to seek refuge in neighbouring Dominican Republic, Dominican govt operation arrested and deported 367 undocumented Haitian migrants in Puerto Plata province 11-13 June, and reported arrest of some 5,000 Haitians on the basis of their migrant status during May.
Political violence continued to worsen in lead-up to 1 July elections; attacks against electoral candidates and their relatives included three female politicians murdered 2 June in Juchitán, Oaxaca state (south west) and Zihuateutla, Puebla state (central). Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) Congress candidate for Coahuila state (north) shot dead 8 June following statements promising harder stance on crime. Mayoral candidate of Taretan, Michoacán state (west) murdered 14 June. Of 132 registered political killings since start of campaign in Sept 2017, 80% took place at municipal level, and almost half in three states: Guerrero (south), Oaxaca and Puebla. Violence related to organised crime, drug gang rivalries or gender also continued to rise; May reported as most violent month in twenty years with 2,890 killings, while reported 10,395 homicides Jan-April represent 21% increase on same period in 2017; femicides also increased in first trimester of 2018, rising to 269 victims from 226 in same period of 2017. Three LGBT activists killed 17 June in Taxco, Guerrero, making at least 381 people murdered for sexual orientation during President Nieto’s tenure. Journalist José Chan Dzib shot dead in Feliube Carrillo Puerto, Quintana Roo state (east) 29 June. Anger at enforced disappearances involving state actors and alleged collusion between state and criminal actors continued; court 4 June ordered creation of truth commission in case of 43 students disappeared in Sept 2014 from Guerrero. In Veracruz (south), judge 7 June filed arrest warrant against former Governor Javier Duarte for his alleged involvement in enforced disappearances, while police 17 June arrested Luis Ángel Bravo Contreras, former prosecutor linked to Duarte, for alleged role in covering up case of over a dozen corpses discovered in Jan 2016.
Violence continued in Gaza-Israel border area. Israeli forces 1 June shot and killed Gazan paramedic. Gazan militants early June launched incendiary kites and balloons over border causing fires in Israel. In response, Israeli military 17 June bombed nine Hamas targets in Gaza. Next day, Gazan militants launched three rockets toward Israel. Israeli air force 20 June bombed Hamas targets in Gaza, provoking more rocket attacks on Israel, to which Israel responded with further bombing of Hamas targets. In total, 45 rockets were fired from Gaza and Israeli forces bombed over twenty Hamas targets. Israel 26 June bombed numerous Hamas targets in Gaza, including observation posts and vehicles allegedly belonging to launchers of incendiary kites; in response, over a dozen projectiles were fired from Gaza toward Israel. Israeli forces 29 June shot and killed two Palestinians during protests at Gaza border. UN General Assembly 13 June passed resolution condemning Israel for “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate” use of force to suppress Gaza protests that began end March. In West Bank, Palestinians 10 June marched in Ramallah protesting against Palestinian Authority (PA) sanctions on Gaza. PA 12 June banned all protests until end of Eid 15 June. PA security forces 13 June suppressed further protests, arresting over 50. Hamas security forces in Gaza 18 June quashed protests against continued rift between two main Palestinian parties, Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)’s largest faction, Fatah. Protesters 20 June gathered in Bethlehem and at PA offices in Amman and Beirut. To prepare ground for new peace plan, U.S. envoy Jason Greenblatt and President Trump’s adviser Jared Kushner met Israelis, Egyptians and Jordanians, but not Palestinians, in regional tour 20-23 June. PLO continued to insist it would not engage with any plan unless U.S. changed its position on status of Jerusalem. Kushner 24 June criticised PA President Abbas for prioritising his political survival over needs of Palestinians and said U.S. would release peace plan soon. U.S. 19 June withdrew from UN Human Rights Council citing alleged anti-Israeli bias. Israel continued to confront Iran militarily in Syria: Israeli forces reportedly bombed area near al-Bukamal in eastern Syria near Iraqi border 17 June, killing or injuring dozens of reported Syrian and Iraqi forces allied to Iran. Israel 18 June indicted former Minister Gonen Segev, arrested in May, for spying for Iran.
Amid widespread anger at austerity measures, thousands protested late May and early June after govt adopted draft law that would, if approved by parliament, increase income tax. As demanded by protesters, PM Hani al-Mulki and cabinet resigned 4 June. King Abdullah next day appointed Education Minister and former World Bank economist Omar al-Razzaz as PM and asked him to form new govt; protests subsided 7 June after al-Razzaz pledged to repeal proposed tax bill. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates 11 June pledged $2.5bn to stabilise country. Qatar 13 June pledged $500mn investment package, including 10,000 jobs for Jordanians in Qatar. World Bank 28 June pledged $500mn to support economic reforms.
FM Gebran Bassil 7 June accused UN refugee agency (UNHCR) of intimidating Syrian refugees wanting to return to Syria, and next day told authorities to freeze processing of residency applications submitted by UNHCR for its non-Lebanese staff. Bassil 13 June reiterated allegation UNHCR was working to “forbid the return” of Syrian refugees; same day UNHCR denied allegations. Around 300 Syrian refugees in border town of Arsal returned to Syria 28 June. Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah 8 June said group will remain in Syria as long as Syrian President Assad needed it; Assad 13 June in interview with Iranian TV station confirmed need persists.
Pro-govt forces backed by Russian air power late June stepped up offensive to retake from rebels area in south west toward Jordanian border raising risk of escalation in July, as U.S. and Turkey agreed on way forward for control of Manbij in north. Govt’s campaign in south west defied U.S. warnings – reiterated 21 June – to President Assad and his Russian allies of “serious repercussions” if they violated de-escalation agreement for south west negotiated in 2017 by U.S., Russia and Jordan. But U.S. late June told Syrian rebels in south west not to expect military support from it. Upsurge in violence caused at least 45,000 people to flee; Jordan late June said it would not open its border. In east, Islamic State (ISIS) offensive on al-Bukamal near Iraqi border 8 June caused dozens of casualties among pro-govt forces, reportedly including Syrian and non-Syrian Iran-backed forces. Alleged Israeli airstrikes 17 June near al-Bukamal caused dozens more casualties among pro-govt forces; Iraqi Shia militia Popular Mobilisation Units said airstrike, for which it held U.S. responsible, killed 22 of its fighters, U.S. denied it or any anti-ISIS coalition member were involved. U.S. Sec State Pompeo and Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu 4 June signed roadmap for addressing control of Manbij in north which Syrian Democratic Forces led by Kurdish-dominated People’s Protection Units (YPG) – U.S. ally which Turkey sees as threat – took from ISIS in 2016. Both sides said agreement will see YPG cadres withdraw from town to area east of Euphrates river, but most details yet to be negotiated. In first phase, U.S. and Turkish militaries 18 June began patrols along front line separating pro-Turkish and pro-YPG forces west of Manbij city. UN-led political process saw increased activity: after govt late May submitted list of nominees for committee to be charged with rewriting constitution, UN convened meetings of Russia, Turkey and Iran in Geneva 19 June and of U.S., UK, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and Jordan 25 June.
High Court 21 June acquitted leader of banned opposition party al-Wefaq, Sheikh Ali Salman, on charges related to spying for Qatar; but Salman will continue to serve four-year sentence handed down in 2014 for inciting unrest and sectarianism.
Repercussions from U.S. President Trump’s decision to withdraw from Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) continued. Iran 5 June said it was taking preparatory steps so that it can increase uranium enrichment capacity if deal collapses, and 27 June restarted production facility in Isfahan. European officials 4 June affirmed to U.S. their commitment to deal and said they expected effect of additional U.S. sanctions “will not be enforced on EU entities and individuals”. European Commission 6 June said it was updating its Blocking Statute to shield European firms from U.S. penalties and agreed to allow European Investment Bank (EIB) to do business in Iran; but EIB same day said it could not ignore U.S. sanctions. Experts from P4+1 (UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) 7 June held technical meeting in Tehran. Inter-governmental body Financial Action Task Force 29 June gave Iran four months to complete its action plan to bring it into line with global norms. Security forces 9 June claimed to have killed nine militants in north west on border with Iraq; Iran 12 June protested to Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq that militants had entered Iran across shared border. Govt 11 June claimed to have arrested 27 members of alleged terrorist cell suspected of planning attacks on Tehran and Qom, 125km south west of Tehran. Israel continued to confront Iran militarily in Syria: Israel reportedly bombed area near al-Bukamal in eastern Syrian near Iraq border 17 June, killing or injuring dozens of Syrian and Iraqi forces aligned with Iran.
Following 12 May general election, parties winning least parliamentary seats continued to contest results and election-related violence persisted, while those winning most seats made tentative alliances to form new govt. PM Abadi 5 June criticised “dangerous” violations of electoral laws, blaming electoral commission and electronic voting system. Outgoing parliament late May cancelled votes by Iraqis overseas, internally displaced people and peshmerga fighters and 6 June voted in favour of nationwide partial recount and to replace electoral commission with nine judges. Higher Federal Court 21 June reversed cancellation of votes, but confirmed partial recount. Judges in charge of recount 30 June said only suspect ballots flagged in formal complaints or official reports would be recounted; recount to begin 3 July. Unidentified arsonists 10 June set fire to building in Rusafa district, eastern Baghdad, that housed over half of ballots from Baghdad. Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, leader of coalition that won most seats, announced alliances with Hadi al-Ameri’s bloc 12 June and with PM Abadi’s bloc 23 June to lay foundation for creation of new govt. In other violence, explosion at illegal weapons cache in Sadr city, Baghdad 6 June killed eighteen; Moqtada al-Sadr next day called on govt to disarm civilian factions. Unclaimed bombing 9 June killed two in Khalis, Diyala province. Islamic State (ISIS) claimed numerous attacks in Diyala and Nineveh provinces, targeting police. Air force continued strikes in Syria, claiming strikes in Hajin 22 June killed 45 ISIS militants. Govt-aligned Shia militia Popular Mobilisation Units said airstrike in eastern Syria 17 June, for which it held U.S. responsible, killed 22 of its fighters; U.S. denied responsibility, Israel reportedly carried out strikes. In north, Turkey continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants: Turkish military claimed its airstrikes had killed 35 militants 15 June and ten more 20 June.
Govt 13 June pledged $500mn investment package for Jordan, including 10,000 jobs for Jordanians in Qatar.
Defence forces 24 June shot down over capital Riyadh two missiles launched by Huthi forces in Yemen. UN special rapporteur on anti-terrorism 6 June released report criticising govt for “tightening its grip on the social fabric of society, choking all forms of open debate, suffocating civil society, silencing the voice of reform”. Ban on female drivers lifted 24 June, while at least six driving-equality activists arrested mid-May remained in prison. Authorities late June reportedly arrested prominent women’s rights activist Hatoon al-Fassi.
Yemeni forces backed by United Arab Emirates (UAE) ramped up offensive to take Huthi-held port city of Hodeida, seizing much of airport south of city. July brings risk of fighting reaching Hodeida port and city but also opportunities for parties to mitigate humanitarian and political fallout through UN-mediated deal. Despite pressure from UN to negotiate settlement, UAE 12 June announced start of operations to take control of port and city. UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths pushed Huthis to withdraw from Hodeida to prevent loss of life; group reportedly said they were open to withdrawal from port, and for it to be jointly managed with UN, but not from city. Griffiths met President Hadi 27 June in Aden, who echoed coalition calls for Huthis to withdraw from both port and city. Elsewhere, Huthis and Saudi-led coalition claimed to have made gains; coalition intensified efforts in Nihm, north east of Huthi-held capital Sanaa. Saudi air defence 24 June shot down over Saudi capital Riyadh two missiles launched by Huthis in Yemen. President Hadi visited UAE 12 June, as Hodeida campaign began, in show of unity after months of rising tensions between UAE and Hadi govt. Hadi then travelled with govt members to Aden where he announced new mobile telecoms network, Aden Net, which UAE set up.
In run-up to 2019 presidential election, PM Ouyahia 21 June urged President Bouteflika to run for fifth term, ending speculation that Ouyahia would run himself. Fourteen public figures, including politicians, professors and writers, late May called on Bouteflika not to run and 10 June created political movement Citizenship and Democracy to prepare “peaceful transition”. Bouteflika 5 June cancelled increase in administrative taxes proposed by PM Ouyahia in supplementary 2018 budget bill intended to reduce deficit. Bouteflika 26 June dismissed police chief Gen Abdelghani Hamel amid drug trafficking scandal in police force, replaced him with Mustapha El-Habiri. Movement for self-determination of Kabylia region in north 4 June called on residents to create their own security forces. Tensions with EU rose early June after Algerian journalist Leyla Haddad criticised Bouteflika in European Parliament 31 May.
President Sisi, sworn in for second term 2 June, reshuffled cabinet: 7 June appointed former Housing Minister Mustafa Madbouly PM and 14 June appointed twelve new ministers – including defence, interior and finance – and sixteen new deputy ministers. Sisi continued purge of senior and mid-level army officers: Major General Ahmed Wasfi and Lieutenant General Osama Askar removed from posts and secretly threatened with corruption charges. Govt 13 June said military would begin to withdraw about 70% of forces from North Sinai following claimed success of counter-terrorism operation launched in Feb. Security forces 4 June killed fifteen suspected members of Islamic State (ISIS) Sinai Province near Arish, North Sinai. Army 21 June said security forces had killed 32 suspected ISIS members in North and Central Sinai in preceding days. Govt mid-June announced hikes in prices of drinking water, fuel and electricity to reduce public debt.
New fighting over oil export terminals in Gulf of Sirte and subsequent announcement by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar’s east-based Libyan National Army (LNA) that oil sales from area under its control would go through un-recognised east-based National Oil Corporation (NOC) escalated tensions and risks deepening economic crisis. Forces led by former Petroleum Facilities Guards militia commander Ibrahim Jedran 14 June took control of oil export terminals of Sidra and Ras Lanuf in east, forcing LNA to withdraw, at least 28 killed in fighting that also destroyed crude oil storage tanks. LNA 21 June retook control of terminals and 25 June said it would not surrender control of oil facilities to internationally-recognised NOC in Tripoli, claiming oil revenues accrued in Tripoli helped fund Jedran’s assault, but it would redirect sales via east-based NOC. LNA’s decision condemned by U.S., UK, France, Italy, EU, Arab League and UN sec-gen. Fighting also intensified in eastern city of Derna as LNA came closer to taking city from Islamist militants. Leaders of opposed political and military factions – despite verbally committing at Paris summit 29 May to hold parliamentary and presidential elections 10 Dec and reach agreement on legal framework for elections by mid-September – made no steps toward forming framework.
Govt 21 June confirmed plan to hold legislative and local elections 1 Sept. Opposition platform National Forum for Democracy and Unity mid-June appealed to Supreme Court for dissolution of electoral commission set up in April which excludes representatives of some opposition groups.
Court 27 June sentenced four leaders of Hirak protest movement in Rif region in north to twenty years in prison, sparking protests in Hoceima in north and Casablanca.