CrisisWatch is a monthly early warning bulletin designed to provide a regular update on the state of the most significant situations of conflict around the world.
June saw the insurgent group Boko Haram step up deadly attacks in Nigeria and Cameroon, and communal violence spike in central Mali. In Egypt, the authorities hardened against opposition voices while Syrian regime forces and their allies are likely to come into more direct confrontation with the U.S.-led coalition in July as the two sides compete to seize territory from the Islamic State (ISIS). A Saudi Arabia-led bloc severed diplomatic ties with Qatar accusing it, inter alia, of supporting Islamist groups. While in East Asia, relations between China and Japan, locked in a dispute over islands in the East China Sea, took a positive turn, particularly when they agreed to launch an air and maritime contact mechanism. In Colombia, in a significant step forward in implementing the peace agreement, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) completed the handover of their weapons.
In north east Nigeria’s Borno state, Boko Haram orchestrated a series of attacks, including on army vehicles and villages, leaving at least 80 civilians dead. In one attack on 18 June, five female suicide bombers killed twelve people in Kofa village near Maiduguri. Meanwhile, north-south tensions deepened over Biafran separatist agitation, and new legislation on cattle grazing in Benue and Taraba states aggravated farmer-herder tensions. As we recently observed, unless the government pursues nationwide comprehensive reforms, including on citizens’ rights, corruption, transparency and accountability, its gains in subduing Boko Haram will be short-lived and Nigeria risks even more deadly violence.
Boko Haram attacks against civilians and security forces also rose in Cameroon’s Far North. Eighteen suicide bombings left at least twenty civilians and two soldiers dead. As we have stressed, the government must accompany its security-based approach with efforts to spur socio-economic development and counter religious radicalism.
Violence in Mali’s north continued to hinder implementation of the June 2015 peace agreement and communal fighting flared again in the centre. Dogon and Fulani communities clashed in several villages in Mopti region, reportedly leaving 30 dead. As Crisis Group has highlighted, conflicts in central Mali, long neglected by the state, risk becoming a source of protracted instability, absent appropriate action to restore the state’s authority and legitimacy among local communities.
The partial ceasefire in Syria’s west allowed the Assad regime to shift resources to the east, where it is racing against the U.S. and allied forces to capture strategic territory from ISIS. June saw U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces begin their assault on ISIS’s stronghold in Raqqa. But as Crisis Group has warned, the U.S. and partner forces could come into more direct confrontation with pro-regime forces in July: the U.S. shot down a regime jet on 18 June south west of Raqqa and carried out several strikes on advancing pro-regime forces. Meanwhile, Turkey deployed troops to the Syrian border amid rumours it may be preparing an offensive against Kurdish-held Afrin in the north west.
In Egypt, President Sisi exploited protests across the country to intensify repression of the opposition and critical media, arresting seven journalists in Cairo and up to 60 activists nationwide. In the wider region, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Yemen broke off diplomatic ties and closed transport links with Qatar on 5 June, accusing it of destabilising the region including by supporting Islamist groups and cosying up to Iran. While the crisis may soon prove to have been little more than “a tempest in a teapot”, it is now up to the other small Gulf states like Kuwait or Oman to play a mediating role and help find a face-saving formula for both sides.
June saw a number of indications that China and Japan are working to improve relations and downplay frictions over their East China Sea dispute. At their seventh round of High-Level Consultations on Maritime Affairs in Japan on 29-30 June, the two countries agreed inter alia to launch an air and maritime contact mechanism as soon as possible – as was recommended in Crisis Group’s June 2016 report on preventing clashes in the area.
In Colombia, UN monitors reported that FARC rebels had completed the handover of their weapons to the UN mission a day ahead of the 27 June deadline, a vital step in implementing the 2016 peace agreement that ended five decades of conflict. However, FARC dissident groups continue to expand at a local or sub-regional level, mainly in the south and east, and the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia’s second guerrilla group, continued to carry out attacks, as its peace negotiations with the government move forward slowly.
EU early June said it had deposited in commercial banks funds for one year’s salary arrears for Burundian troops in African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on condition govt would not take 20% as it had previously; some soldiers claimed to have received only five months’ arrears. UN-appointed Commission of Inquiry on Burundi made second oral briefing to UN Human Rights Council 15 June pointing to persistent violations including extrajudicial executions, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, arbitrary arrests and detention and enforced disappearances by intelligence agency and police, sometimes assisted by ruling party’s Imbonerakure youth militia. Armed attacks in capital Bujumbura rose slightly. Violence included: grenade attack in Musaga district 14 June, killed two people; police 15 June shot dead suspected thief, unidentified gunmen killed civilian same day.
Boko Haram (BH) ramped up attacks in Far North against civilians and security forces. Eighteen suicide bombings in June, all in Mayo Sava department, killed at least twenty civilians, two soldiers and bombers in multiple locations including Djakana, Kolofata, Mora and Limani. BH clashed with vigilantes at Sandawadjiri, near Kolofata, Mayo Sava department 15 June killing one, and IED exploded on Gouzda Vreket-Zamga road, Mayo Tsanaga department 20 June, killing soldier. BH killed chief and his son in Fadje Fota near Nigerian border 21 June and two soldiers during fighting in Bargaram, Logone et Chari department 22 June. BH attacked Alagarno medical centre, Logone et Chari department 27 June killing one nurse. Soldier killed in BH ambush same day on Wambashé road, Mayo Sava department. Inhabitants of Manigueidé, Logone et Chari department 28 June repelled BH attack, one BH and two inhabitants killed. 32 Cameroonian soldiers in regional Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) blocked Maroua-Kousseri road 6 June protesting against alleged embezzlement of their pension money by senior officers; soldiers arrested in Yaoundé and investigations launched into alleged involvement of senior officers in embezzlement. Anglophone minority in North West and South West regions maintained general strike in protest against marginalisation by govt but less intensely; strikers carried out sporadic attacks against those not on strike. Authorities did not release detained Anglophone civil society leaders as expected 7 June; 29 June postponed trial until 27 July.
Violence involving armed groups including ex-Seleka factions and anti-balaka continued, concentrated in centre and south, despite 19 June ceasefire agreement. Anti-balaka militants clashed with ex-Seleka faction Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC) in Bria in centre-east and surrounding areas early month. FPRC advanced south from Bria and drove out anti-balaka militants from Nzako 11 June and Bakouma 12 June. Clashes between anti-balaka and FPRC militants 20 June in Bria reportedly left over 100 dead. Fulani herders clashed with militia fighters in Zemio in south east 28-30 June, at least twenty people killed. After fifth disarmament, demobilisation, reinsertion and repatriation (DDRR) meeting in Bangui 8-9 June, Catholic community Sant’Egidio mid-month hosted talks in Rome involving representatives of thirteen of fourteen armed groups, govt, civil society, political opposition and UN. Armed groups and govt 19 June signed ceasefire and political agreement requiring former to recognise 2016 presidential election results and guaranteeing fighters political representation and integration into armed forces. Agreement signatories Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga 22 June and anti-balaka faction leader Edouard Patrice Ngaissona 29 June denied having authorised representatives to sign accord in Rome. EU held Brussels meeting 21 June with govt and international mediators to coordinate mediation approach. UN Security Council 12 June said UN mission (MINUSCA) would become more mobile and reactive, troops may redeploy from west to centre and east. UN 21 June announced withdrawal of 600 MINUSCA peacekeepers from Congo-Brazzaville after NGO Aids Free World early June leaked internal UN documents detailing alleged sexual abuse and misconduct. President Touadéra 6 June appointed Canadian Dieudonné Detchou as deputy international prosecutor of Special Criminal Court to prosecute those responsible for 2003-2015 war crimes in CAR, but court still lacked investigation team. EU 7 June approved €382mn support including for governance and security sector reform.
Despite civil society pressure, opposition MPs refused to resign at end of parliament’s mandate 21 June (extended beyond constitutional end in June 2015) and tacitly agreed to renew mandate. Authorities 7 June briefly detained representatives of some 1,400 soldiers protesting to demand payment of salary and bonus arrears after deployment in UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Security forces 14 June reportedly arrested newspaper director Mbairaga Malachie in N’Djamena and detained him incommunicado. Military said clashes with Boko Haram insurgents on Lake Chad islands 24-25 June left eight soldiers and 162 insurgents dead. African Union 3 June pledged support to efforts of Sahel G5 (Niger, Mali, Chad, Mauritania and Burkina Faso) against jihadism and EU 5 June promised €50mn to support G5 joint military force; UN Security Council 21 June adopted resolution endorsing G5 force but did not authorise use of force. Amid diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia-led bloc and Qatar (see Qatar), govt 8 June recalled ambassador to Qatar for consultation.
Exiled opposition leader Moïse Katumbi 2 June filed complaint against govt at UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva for alleged violation of his rights including through “arbitrary trials [and] police harassment” in bid to secure international protection to return to country and run in presidential elections. President Kabila 3 June said he never promised presidential elections despite 31 Dec agreement to hold vote by end of 2017. U.S. 1 June imposed sanctions on General François Olenga, Kabila’s main military advisor, over alleged human rights abuses. UN mission (MONUSCO) 8 June reiterated its offer to assist electoral commission (CENI) with voter registration in Kasai and Kasai Central provinces, where CENI postponed registration due to ongoing violence. Catholic Church 20 June said at least 3,383 people killed in Kasai region in violence involving militias and armed forces since Oct. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights 20 June accused govt of arming “Bana Mura” militia reportedly responsible for serious human rights abuses in Kasai region including killing or mutilating hundreds of people and burning villages. UN Human Rights Council 23 June resolved to send international experts to Kasai region to investigate human rights abuses. Some twenty prisoners escaped from public prosecutor’s office in Kinshasa 10 June. Nearly 930 inmates escaped from prison in Beni, N Kivu province in east 11 June, third jailbreak of month. In parliament, opposition members 13 June filed motions of no confidence against justice and interior ministers after at least 4,000 prisoners escaped in past two months countrywide. Family members of victims of former rebel group Rally for Congolese Democracy 14 June filed charges in Brussels against justice minister (former group member) for crimes against humanity during 1998-2003 civil war. In N Kivu, Mai Mai insurgents 5 June destroyed empty Nyabitale military camp in Rutshuru; 17 June attacked army in Kabasha, soldier and twelve militants reportedly killed. Heavy fighting between army and previously unknown National Movement of Revolutionaries militia 22 June in and around Beni, N Kivu left sixteen dead. International Committee of the Red Cross 8 June suspended operations in Lubero in east after suspected Mai Mai briefly abducted two employees.
UN 8 June said almost 81,000 people have been displaced in Pool region in south since govt forces began operations against rebels loyal to Pasteur Ntumi mid-2016.
Qatar withdrew ceasefire monitoring mission from disputed Doumeira territory on border between Djibouti and Eritrea mid-June, reportedly in protest at both countries’ support for Gulf countries which imposed blockade on it early June (see Qatar). Eritrea deployed troops into disputed territory 16 June and Djibouti lodged complaint at African Union (AU). UN Security Council 19 June urged two countries to resolve differences peacefully and AU late June sent fact-finding team to disputed area.
After Qatar withdrew ceasefire monitoring mission from disputed Doumeira territory on border between Eritrea and Djibouti mid-June, Eritrea deployed troops into disputed territory 16 June and Djibouti lodged complaint at African Union (AU). AU late June sent fact-finding team to disputed area (see Djibouti).
IEDs suspected to have been laid by Al-Shabaab continued to kill civilians and security forces in north east: three people killed when vehicle hit IED on way to Liboi, Garissa county 6 June; four police officers and one civilian killed when vehicle triggered landmine between Fino and Sheikh Barow, Mandera county in north east 16 June; four police officers and four civilians killed 27 June after lorry hit landmine near Somalia border. Security forces in collaboration with Somali authorities 9 June arrested six suspected militants in Bula Hawa in Somalia, adjacent to Mandera and seized explosives. Opposition coalition National Super Alliance (NASA) 15 June rejected decision by Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to award tender to print ballot papers for Aug elections to Dubai-based firm which NASA said had links to ruling Jubilee party. Audit firm KPMG 9 June reported irregularities in voter list and recommended removal of names of over 92,000 dead people.
Al-Shabaab continued its campaign of urban terrorism and rural insurgency in Somalia and Kenya (see Kenya). In Mogadishu, insurgents carried out suicide car bombing and gun attack on hotel and restaurant 14 June killing at least eighteen; car bombings on govt building 20 June killed at least ten people and at police station 22 June killed at least seven. Al-Shabaab made good on promise to assassinate Electoral College delegates, killing over twenty in June including in Mogadishu, Hiir-Shabelle state, Galmudug Interim Administration and Interim South West Administration. Insurgents overran military base in Af-Urur, Puntland (about 100km south of Bosaso) 8 June, killing at least 60 people, mostly soldiers, before being forced out by reinforcements. Bombing at police station in Kismayo in south 5 June killed at least one officer. Insurgents launched attacks at Biyo Ade and Jalaqsi, Middle Shabelle 12-13 June, death toll unknown. Al-Shabaab 10 June took control of Buufow village, Lower Shabelle cutting off road access to Mogadishu. U.S. 11 June said that its drone strike in Saakoow, Middle Juba in south west killed estimated eight Al-Shabaab militants and destroyed key command and supply base. Kenyan security forces in collaboration with Somali authorities 9 June arrested six suspected militants in Bula Hawa, adjacent to Mandera in north east Kenya. African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali National Army (SNA) 10 June captured Bariire, Lower Shabelle (some 50km west of Mogadishu) from Al-Shabaab 10 June, but were forced to retreat after failing to also capture nearby Janale. SNA and AMISOM attacked Al-Shabaab-held areas in Middle Shabelle 27 June.
Govt maintained unilateral ceasefire declared 22 May despite attacks on govt forces by rebels, some claiming loyalty to Riek Machar, as preparations for national dialogue continued. Machar in South Africa refused to declare ceasefire and has not formally joined national dialogue process. Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) summit 12 June in Ethiopia called for High Level Revitalisation Forum comprising signatories of Aug 2015 peace agreement to revive deal, develop realistic implementation and election timeframes and bring Machar back to negotiations. Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) factions held talks in Kampala, mediated by Ugandan President Museveni late May and mid-June. Following mediation supported by Museveni, govt and rebel faction SPLA-In Opposition Yei River state signed peace deal 4 June to end violence in and around Yei in south.
Leadership dispute continued within rebel group Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N): following non-lethal clashes end-May between factions loyal to Chairman Malik Aggar and former Deputy Chairman Abdelaziz al-Hilu who resigned in March, Nuba Mountains Liberation Council (NMLC) (body within SPLM-N in S Kordofan) voted to remove Aggar and lead negotiator Yassir Arman and appoint al-Hilu as chairman. Fighting broke out end-June between factions loyal to Aggar and al-Hilu in south of Blue Nile state. Aggar group defeated and crossed into former Upper Nile state, S Sudan (casualties unknown). Fighting reported around Bau town in centre of Blue Nile state 27 June between SPLM-N and Sudan Armed Forces. Following review of hybrid UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur (UNAMID), UN Secretary-General 14 June proposed 44% reduction in troop ceiling (down to 8,735) and 30% reduction in police (to 2,360). UN Security Council approved UNAMID mandate renewal 29 June.
Following attacks in recent months by unidentified gunmen including against political leaders and security forces in Pwani region at coast, new attacks occurred there during month. Unidentified gunmen shot dead civilian in Rufiji district 6 June day before visit by new police chief, and 8 June abducted chairman of Ikwiriri Kati village, Rufiji district and two other civilians in Nyamisati village, Kibiti district.
Suspected ethnic Madi 7 June attacked residents on disputed land in Adjumani district in far north west, three people killed. President Museveni hosted talks between S Sudan factions late May and supported mediation of 4 June peace deal between S Sudan govt and rebel faction (see S Sudan).
Separatist rebel faction Front for the Liberation of Cabinda Enclave-Armed Forces of Cabinda (FLEC-FAC) 19 June said it had attacked govt forces in Buco-Zau area killing seven soldiers. Police fired on protestors 24 June marching to Cuango in centre north calling for independence of eastern Lunda Chokwe region, killing one. Portuguese judge 21 June ruled that corruption and money laundering charges against VP Vicente were valid and all suspects should stand trial.
Thomas Thabane, All Basotho Convention (ABC) party leader, won 3 June snap elections after March no confidence vote in former PM Mosisili, but failed to win outright majority, negotiated coalition with three other parties. Thabane sworn in as new PM 16 June. Six opposition parties 16 June called for international inquiry into alleged electoral fraud. Unidentified gunman shot dead Thabane’s estranged wife 14 June.
To consolidate ceasefire between govt and armed opposition Renamo, President Nyusi 25 June said govt forces would withdraw next day from eight more positions near Renamo stronghold in Gorongosa mountain range in Sofala province in centre; Renamo leader Afonso Dhlakama 30 June said progress slow.
Pastor Evan Mawarire, leader of #ThisFlag protest movement against President Mugabe, arrested 26 June after speaking at student protest; Mawarire denied charges of promoting violence and causing disorderly conduct, released on bail 28 June, next hearing set for 19 July. Ruling party ZANU-PF held extraordinary politburo meeting 21 June to decide fate of party chief Saviour Kasukuwere, accused of creating parallel party structures to topple President Mugabe; ended inconclusively. Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo, leader in ZANU-PF G40 faction, 23 June reportedly accused VP Mnangagwa of plotting to oust Mugabe.
In Soum province, Sahel region in north, unidentified gunmen killed five civilians in Pogouwol, Kourou and Pétéga 3 June, and killed farmer and village councillor in Basnéré 11 June; observers suspect jihadist group Ansarul Islam responsible. African Union 3 June pledged support to efforts of Sahel G5 (Niger, Mali, Chad, Mauritania and Burkina Faso) against jihadism and EU 5 June promised €50mn to support G5 joint military force; UN Security Council 21 June adopted resolution endorsing G5 force but did not authorise use of force. Constitutional Council 9 June ruled that law determining workings of High Court of Justice was unconstitutional as it barred appeals; High Court of Justice 17 June suspended trial of 34 former ministers under former President Compaoré for involvement in repression of Oct 2014 popular uprising pending amendments to law. Opposition and civil society early June said proposed amendments to electoral code, including replacement of independent electoral commission with autonomous body under interior ministry, would undermine independence and fairness of elections.
UN team of experts arrived 7 June to help prosecutors investigate weapons cache in Bouaké in centre at home of Souleymane Kamagaté, Assembly Speaker Guillaume Soro’s close associate, used in May by mutinous soldiers demanding better conditions. Around 30 pro-Soro MPs 9 June launched “3 April Alliance” platform – referring to day of landmark speech by Soro in National Assembly – to support his call for national reconciliation. Former President Gbagbo, being tried at International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in aftermath of Nov 2010 presidential election, 7 June accused France of involvement in efforts to oust him. Côte d’Ivoire elected non-permanent member of UN Security Council for 2018-2019 2 June. UN peacekeeping mission (UNOCI) ended 29 June after thirteen years.
People protesting in former President Jammeh’s home village of Kanilai against presence of regional bloc ECOWAS military mission (ECOMIG) clashed with security forces 2 June, one protestor killed, several others injured; about twenty protestors charged including for unlawful assembly, incitement of violence and riot, most granted bail 7 June, trial adjourned 20 June until 4 July. At President Barrow’s request ECOMIG mandate extended 4 June for another twelve months until 22 May 2018.
National Elections Commission (NEC) chairman appeared before Senate 22 June to explain largescale irregularities in final voter roll for Oct 2017 general elections; said misplaced names against voters’ photographs due to “human error”, could concern 0.6% of voters but NEC working to correct mistakes.
Violence in north continued to impede implementation of June 2015 peace agreement and intercommunal fighting worsened in centre. Agreement’s signatories (govt, former rebel Coalition of Azawad Movements (CMA) and govt-aligned Platform armed group coalition) 23 June agreed new timeline for implementation, including establishment of interim authorities in five northern regions by 31 July. Intercommunal conflicts involving signatory armed groups in north persisted: ethnic Idnan gunmen 6 June reportedly killed ethnic Imrad man, assaulted others and burned mayor’s house in Kidal city; pro-national unity Self-Defence Group of Imrad Tuareg and Allies (GATIA) reportedly killed eleven people in Gao and Kidal regions 8-10 June; former rebel CMA 12 June killed five people in Anoumalan, south of Aguelhok. Intercommunal violence worsened in centre: Dogon and Fulani communities clashed in several villages in Mopti region 10-19 June, 30 reportedly killed. Unidentified gunmen continued to attack govt forces (FAMA) and international forces (French Barkhane mission and UN peacekeepers, MINUSMA) in north and centre. Mortar attack 1 June on MINUSMA camp and Barkhane positions near Timbuktu airport wounded eight French personnel; jihadist coalition Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM) claimed attack. Barkhane retaliatory airstrike near Timbuktu reportedly killed five alleged jihadists 4 June. Rocket attack 8 June on MINUSMA camp in Kidal city wounded five peacekeepers. Gunmen same day attacked MINUSMA post east of Kidal city, reportedly killing three peacekeepers, GSIM claimed responsibility. Unidentified gunmen 17 June attacked FAMA positions in Bintagoungou, Timbuktu region, killing five soldiers, and in Bamba 19 June, killing two civilians. Gunmen 18 June stormed Kangaba resort near Bamako, killing four guests and one soldier; al-Qaeda-linked group claimed responsibility. African Union 3 June pledged support to efforts of Sahel G5 (Niger, Mali, Chad, Mauritania and Burkina Faso) against jihadism and EU 5 June promised €50mn to support G5 joint military force; UN Security Council 21 June adopted resolution endorsing G5 force but did not authorise use of force. National Assembly 3 June agreed on draft constitution to be put to referendum 9 July; civil society organised protests mid-late June against amendments in proposed draft, especially reinforcement of presidential powers (including power to nominate Senate president) and dissolution of High Court of Justice; govt 21 June postponed referendum without setting new date; thousands protested in Bamako 28 June in favour of referendum on proposed draft.
Military 3 June arrested six alleged members of Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) accused of involvement in 31 May attack at Abala in Tillabery region in west that killed six security personnel. Govt 16 June extended state of emergency for three months in Tillabery and Tahoua regions in west. Alleged Boko Haram fighters 6 June attacked Garin Dogo village in Diffa region in south east, no casualties reported. Two female suicide bombers 28 June attacked refugee camp in Kabelewa village near Diffa town, two bombers and two others killed. African Union 3 June pledged support to efforts of Sahel G5 (Niger, Mali, Chad, Mauritania and Burkina Faso) against jihadism and EU 5 June promised €50mn to support G5 joint military force; UN Security Council 21 June adopted resolution endorsing G5 force but did not authorise use of force.
Boko Haram (BH) intensified attacks in Borno state in north east, north-south tensions heightened over Biafran separatist agitation and controversy over new grazing laws in Benue and Taraba states heightened risk of escalation of farmer-herder conflicts. BH 3 June sacked villages near Chibok, killing at least twenty. Abubakar Shekau-led BH faction claimed 7 June coordinated attacks in Maiduguri that killed eighteen including three insurgents. BH killed at least eighteen civilians in Yale and Kayamla, Konduga Local Govt Area (LGA) and Gumsuri village, Damboa LGA 10-17 June; 18 June ambushed army vehicle on Damboa-Biu road, killing three soldiers, thirteen BH killed. Suicide bombing killed seventeen including five female suicide bombers in Kofa village near Maiduguri 18 June. Soldiers and vigilantes 11 June reportedly killed local BH leader and several others near Jarawa village, Kala Balge LGA. BH 20 June ambushed escorted convoy, killed two men and abducted sixteen women on Damboa road, Borno state; Shekau, in new video 27 June, said about ten female police officers abducted from convoy had become slaves; police denied BH had abducted any female officer. Four suicide bombers 25-26 June killed sixteen people in Maiduguri, Borno state. Domestic intelligence agency 26 June said it had foiled BH plan to attack Kaduna, Kano, Maiduguri and Sokoto. In Niger Delta, coalition of five militant groups 1 June said it would attack foreigners, Nigerian directors of oil companies and company assets to end pollution. Tension between herders and farmers rose, especially in Benue state, where herders vowed to resist legislation banning unrestricted cattle grazing, and Taraba state, where hundreds of herders and cattle dealers besieged parliament 13 June protesting proposed ban as “anti-Fulani” and threatened “chaos”. In Taraba state, clashes between Mambilla and Fulani groups in Sardauna LGA 18-20 June left eighteen people dead. Sixteen northern youth groups 6 June denounced 30 May sit-at-home protest called by Biafra separatists in south east, demanded Igbos in north leave region by 1 Oct. Many northern leaders condemned ultimatum. Coalition of eight Niger Delta militant groups 10 June demanded that govt reallocate northerners’ oil blocs to Niger Delta people and that all northerners leave region before 1 Oct. President Buhari remained in UK for medical treatment all month after going there 7 May.
Authorities in Xinjiang reportedly took measures to prevent local Uighurs from observing Ramadan; also started forcing children under sixteen with religious names to change name. Govt 1 June issued white paper describing “great progress” in promoting human rights in Xinjiang; international rights groups dismissed report.
Month saw indications that both sides are working to downplay frictions over East China Sea (ECS) dispute. Japan and China held seventh High-Level Consultations on Maritime Affairs in Fukuoka 29-30 June, agreed inter alia to launch air and maritime contact mechanism as soon as possible; coast guards agreed to strengthen communications to enhance trust. Highlighting point of friction, four Chinese coast guard boats sailed into disputed ECS waters 24 June, prompting Japanese protest. China’s top foreign policy official, State Councilor for foreign affairs Yang Jiechi, visited Tokyo 29-31 May, met with PM Abe who reportedly told him Japan and China should work to improve relations from big-picture standpoint. Chinese state media reported Yang told his counterpart he hoped that Japan could meet China half-way, make efforts to build trust and move bilateral relations back to normal development track. Japanese media 6 June reported that Japanese officials floated idea of reciprocal visits by Presidents Xi and Abe in 2018, which would be first visit by Chinese president since 2008. Abe 5 June said Japan ready to cooperate with expression of interest in China’s Belt and Road Initiative under certain conditions. Tokyo and Beijing reportedly discussed more high-level meetings, starting with possible bilateral meeting on sidelines of July G20 summit in Germany and meeting in Aug between countries’ ruling parties “to exchange views on how to increase communication and strengthen economic ties”.
UN Security Council 2 June adopted Resolution 2356 in response to North Korea (DPRK)’s recent missile tests, accusing DPRK of “flagrant disregard” for previous UN resolutions. DPRK state media accused U.S. and China of conspiring to initiate resolution. Beijing called on Pyongyang to “heed the call of the international community” and said China committed to denuclearisation of Korean Peninsula, but wishes for “good-neighbourly and friendly” relations with DPRK. During meeting of high level officials in Washington 21-22 June, U.S. reportedly told China to exert greater economic and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang; Chinese media reported two sides agreed on need for complete denuclearisation. U.S. official 23 June said DPRK had tested rocket engine that could be part of preparation for intercontinental ballistic missile, and officials late month reported Trump growing more frustrated with China. U.S. Department of Treasury 29 June issued notification against China’s Bank of Dandong plus one Chinese company and two Chinese individuals it said were linked to DPRK. Came as South Korean (ROK) President Moon arrived in Washington for summit 29-30 June; initial reports imply areas of consensus between ROK and U.S., with Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) deployment to ROK, Trump’s wish to change U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, and Moon’s DPRK policy as three key variables. 29 June Treasury designations reported as timed to pressure China prior to G20 summit in Hamburg 7-8 July; Treasury denied. U.S. anger grew after American tourist Otto Warmbier, arrested during trip to North Korea in March 2016 and sentenced to fifteen years in labour camp for “hostile acts” against state over alleged attempt to steal propaganda banner, died 19 June days after his release and repatriation to U.S., suffering from “severe neurological injury” sustained after his conviction.
Amid increasing tensions between U.S. and China over South China Sea and North Korea (see entries), U.S. 29 June announced it would sell Taiwan $1.4bn in military hardware over coming years, including missiles, torpedoes and electronic warfare system upgrades. U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee 28 June proposed that U.S. Navy resume regular port calls to Taiwan, suspended since 1979 start of “one China” policy. China urged immediate halt to moves, saying they “severely violate the three joint communiqués between China and the U.S., and constitute interference in China’s domestic affairs”. In 4 June remarks to Shangri-La Dialogue, U.S. Sec Defense Mattis said U.S. committed to providing Taiwan with “the defence articles necessary”. Panama 12 June announced it would sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan and establish formal relations with China, recognise “one China” policy and consider Taiwan part of Chinese territory; leaves only nineteen countries plus Vatican with formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
National Directorate of Security blamed 31 May Kabul attack that killed at least 150 people on Pakistan-based Haqqani Network wing of Taliban, claimed military grade explosive used in attack was of Pakistan origin; Haqqani Network denied responsibility. Civil society activists and political dissidents 2 June demonstrated around site of explosion calling for action against security and govt officials; six died and over a dozen wounded when security forces fired on crowd; govt suspended chief of police. Among those killed was son of Senate deputy speaker; at least eighteen people killed in bomb attack at his funeral 3 June, Taliban denied involvement. Protests in Kabul continued calling for reform of security institutions; one killed in further clashes with security forces 20 June. Recent attacks fuelled dissent within National Unity Govt (NUG): Jamiat-e Islami leaders including acting Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani demanded dismissal of top security officials including national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar; President Ghani refused to dismiss Atmar. Amid deteriorating security, Time magazine reported anonymous U.S. official saying U.S. will send additional 4,000 troops in bid to break current security stalemate. Following meeting of allied defence ministers, NATO 29 June said it would increase support for Afghan security forces, with several members to increase troop levels. In ongoing insurgent attacks, Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) claimed 15 June suicide attack on Shia mosque in Kabul, killing seven. At least 58 died in clashes between security forces and Taliban and between rival Taliban factions in Helmand province 14-22 June. Three U.S. troops killed in insider attack in Achin district, Nangarhar province 10 June; seven U.S. troops injured by gunman in Afghan army uniform at Camp Shaheen, Balkh province 17 June. Independent Election Commission 23 June announced parliamentary elections will be held 7 July 2018. Pakistani Army 20 June said it had begun building fence along disputed stretch of Afghanistan-Pakistan border, despite Kabul’s repeated objections. Chinese foreign minister 25 June proposed mechanism to promote dialogue and ease tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Ruling Awami League (AL) and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) continued to reorganise their parties at all levels in preparation for general elections due early 2019. BNP delegations held several meetings with the Election Commission in May, as did several diplomats, including from U.S., India and UK. Envoys’ visits drew some criticism from AL leaders, BNP welcomed them. Supreme Court 28 May cleared way for BNP chief Khaleda Zia to be tried for corruption involving coal mine contract. Hardline Islamist coalition Hefazat-e-Islam threatened lawsuits against leading secular activists, including Khushi Kabir, Afsan Chowdhury and Imran H. Sarkar, for social media posts criticising Hefazat and Supreme Court chief justice who ordered removal of Lady Justice statue outside Supreme Court late May, in perceived capitulation to hardliners which drew widespread condemnation. Lawyer Sultana Kamal reported receiving death threats following her defence of statue. Law enforcement agencies continued raids of suspected militant hideouts and arrested scores of suspected militants late May-June, including six men in Dhaka 12 June accused of plotting to kill Islamic scholar. Security situation in Chittagong Hill Tracts, with large indigenous Chakma community, becoming increasingly volatile, with frequent clashes between Bengalis and minority groups. News of death of local ruling party leader allegedly by members of minority community triggered violent reaction 2 June by Bengalis, who set fire to over 200 houses in Rangamati village, reportedly with tacit support of local administration and army personnel.
Several suspected Maoists reported killed in clashes with security forces during month, including in Chhattisgarh state at least twelve killed in Sukma 25 June, in operation which also saw three security forces killed; two suspected female Maoists killed in Narayanpur district 21 June; four suspected Maoists killed in Kanker district 19 June; three suspected Maoists including two women killed in Rajnandgaon district 18 June.
Two civilians reported killed on Pakistani side and one person on Indian side in shelling across Line of Control (LoC) 1 June. Pakistani military 3 June announced it had killed five Indian soldiers in response to “unprovoked ceasefire violation” along LoC; India denied military casualties, said one woman injured by Pakistani shelling. Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh 4 June said Indian army had “free hand” to respond to “any attempt by Pakistani troops to disturb peace”. Indian and Pakistani military chiefs 5 June spoke over hotline following spike in cross-LoC clashes. Four alleged militants killed 5 June during attack on Indian Central Reserve Police Force camp in Indian-administered Kashmir. Indian military same day warned it will take “appropriate retaliatory actions” if Pakistani military “continues to abet infiltrations and cause trans-LoC firings”. Shortly before 26 June meeting between Indian and U.S. presidents, U.S. put Syed Salahuddin, Kashmir-based head of Hizbul Mujahideen militant group, on its global terror list; Pakistan said militants fighting India in Kashmir engaged in legitimate struggle for freedom. Tensions in Indian-administered Kashmir continued. Security forces 27 May killed Hizbul Mujahideen commander Sabzar Ahmad Bhat and several other alleged militants, provoking major demonstrations, clashes between security personnel and protesters, and re-imposition of curfew. Two police killed 15 June in separate shootings by suspected militants in Srinagar and southern Kulgam area. Security forces 16 June cordoned off southern Arwani village; two alleged militants attempted to shoot their way out; fighting prompted thousands in village and neighbouring areas to defy security lockdown, throwing stones at soldiers; at least two civilians reported killed. Five Indian police killed 16 June in southern Achabal area when vehicle was ambushed; officials blamed Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. Policeman reportedly beaten to death by crowd outside mosque in Srinagar 23 June.
Country successfully held second round of local elections 28 June, however new Nepali Congress (NC)-led govt made no progress on addressing demands of Madhesi parties who boycotted polls; increasing trust deficit casts further doubts about proposed amendments to 2015 constitution. NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba elected PM 6 June; listed holding of local, provincial, and national elections by Jan 2018 as main priority. Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal (RJP-N) – main dissenting Madhesi party – supported Deuba’s candidacy on condition that he prioritise addressing their grievances. However, Deuba 9 June told parliament that amendments would not be possible prior to polls. Following RJP-N protests, strikes, and disruptions, govt 15 June postponed elections in central Tarai province – comprising eight of twenty southern-belt districts – until 18 Sept. Second phase of local elections held 28 June across remaining three provinces that include twelve southern-belt districts; voter turnout was 70.5% despite security concerns following IED explosions in three districts preceding week that injured seven people. RJP-N boycott of second phase undermined by some local-level party leaders contesting elections as independents. RJP-N cadres arrested in several parts of Tarai during protests throughout June; five injured in police firing during 17 June protests in Nawalparasi district.
At least 50 people killed and over 200 wounded 23 June when two bombs went off in market in Parachinar, north west, as country prepared to celebrate end of Ramadan; Lashkar-e-Jhangvi faction Al Alami claimed responsibility for attack targeting Shiite Muslims; tens of thousands reportedly protested calling for improved security, accused police of shooting dead three protesters. Thirteen people killed including several police in suicide bomb at checkpoint in Balochistan capital Quetta 23 June; Pakistani Taliban faction Jamaat ur Ahrar claimed responsibility for this attack and for killing of four police in gun attack in coastal city Karachi same day. Govt 2-3 June initiated “major intelligence-led counter-terrorism operation” in Balochistan’s Mastung district (south west); military spokesmen claimed operation had killed ten to fifteen members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi faction allegedly trying to establish Islamic State (ISIS) affiliate in Balochistan. ISIS 7 June claimed it executed two Chinese teachers kidnapped in Quetta in May; govt confirmed deaths. Baluch Liberation Army claimed responsibility for killing two naval officers in Balochistan 19 June. U.S. drone strike 12 June killed Haqqani Network commander and another alleged militant in area bordering on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Hangu district and Orakzai agency in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA); amid reports that U.S. intended to harden its stance toward Pakistan, foreign ministry 22 June reiterated its condemnation of drone strikes. Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) late May initiated investigations into some 200 social media accounts for “spreading negative material” against army and other institutions, including ruling and opposition party activists and journalists; 30 May made first arrest on charges of criticising armed forces on social media. Bahawalpur anti-terrorism court 10 June issued death sentence for blasphemy to Shia college professor for comments on Facebook including alleged “hate speech” against Deobandi sect, first ever blasphemy conviction for social media post. Supreme Court-mandated joint investigation team continued its investigation into PM Sharif and his family members’ offshore accounts and assets, revealed in Panama Papers leaks, interrogating his sons multiple times before PM’s own appearance 15 June. Army 20 June said it had begun building fence along disputed stretch of Afghanistan-Pakistan border, despite Kabul’s repeated objections. Relations with Iran deteriorated after Pakistan air force shot Iranian drone reportedly spying inside Pakistan 19 June.
Govt’s failure to curb ongoing anti-Muslim violence provoked strong international and domestic response, including from diplomats in Colombo 1 June and from Organisation of Islamic Cooperation 6 June, calling on govt to take firm action to prevent attacks and arrest perpetrators. Cabinet 13 June issued unusual statement directing law enforcement authorities to “immediately take all necessary steps” against violence and hate speech targeting religious and ethnic groups, citing danger of conflict. Main militant group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) leader Gnanasara, evading arrest since late May, surrendered to court 21 June, immediately given bail in three cases and more time to appear in fourth case. BBS spokesman 11 June announced organisation had power to “unleash terrorism” but was not behind attacks. Police made several arrests during month including of BBS member suspected of involvement in at least four arson attacks, and four BBS members, including Buddhist monk and police officer, suspected in 17 June arson attack on Colombo mosque. Chief monk of important Asgiriya Buddhist chapter 20 June denounced “internal and external conspiracies against Sinhala Buddhists” and “condemn[ed] acts by other religious groups that insult [the] tolerant Buddhist ethic”. Justice minister 17 June publicly attacked prominent Christian lawyer Lakshan Dias for statement claiming there had been over 160 attacks on Christians and churches under Sirisena govt; international rights groups denounced minister’s threat to have lawyer removed from bar, said it was sign of growing intolerance of dissent. Protests in north led mostly by women continued into fifth month, demanding govt release information on fate of missing family members during 1983-2009 war. President met families 12 June, promised to release list of all who surrendered to military at end of war in 2009 and release any held without charge; denied existence of secret detention camps.
Military chief 12 June said Islamic State (ISIS) “sleeper cells’ present in nearly all Indonesian provinces. Two men suspected of links with ISIS killed policeman in knife attack in Medan 25 June. Govt 21 June approved law allowing authorities to jail for up to fifteen years citizens coming home after joining militant groups abroad. Govt 17 June deployed fighter jets to base in North Kalimantan province on Borneo to bolster security in case militants who overran Philippines’ Marawi City try to flee southward (see Philippines).
Police arrested several suspected of links with Islamic State (ISIS) during month, including two Indonesians and a Malaysian believed to be planning to travel to Philippines to fight in Marawi City (see Philippines). Defence minister 9 June visited his Philippines counterpart in Mindanao, Philippines, to discuss presence of Malaysian fighters in Marawi City.
Tensions rose in northern Rakhine state after two Buddhist villagers were killed, two injured 25 June by unknown assailants; some 200 reportedly fled to nearby town fearing further attacks. Military killed three people while clearing suspected Rohingya insurgent training camp 20-21 June. Authorities 5 June announced twelve-year-old boy died in custody 2 Feb; boy was one of six children aged twelve-to-fifteen being held in police detention since Nov 2016 for alleged involvement in late 2016 attacks on security forces in N Rakhine. Govt continues to reject UN Human Rights Council’s March appointment of fact finding mission into allegations of serious violations committed by military in N Rakhine state and elsewhere in country; Aung San Suu Kyi 12 June said it “would have created greater hostility between the different communities”. Clashes involving ethnic armed groups continued in north east, particularly around Kachin State’s Tanai township, where govt forces clashed with Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) 3 June, capturing KIO outpost near town. Military helicopter 5 June dropped leaflets informing people that military would conduct clearance operations and they should leave by 15 June or be treated as “cooperating with KIO terrorists”; tens of thousands of migrant mine workers subsequently fled. Regulatory body for Buddhist monks 23 May banned largest Buddhist nationalist group (Organisation for the Protection of Race and Religion, or MaBaTha) from using that name; MaBaTha subsequently announced name change to “Buddha Dhamma Parahita Foundation”; group’s lay members stated they would also form political party to contest 2020 elections. Military 26 June detained three journalists investigating story on Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in Shan state (north east), charged them with “unlawful association”, raising concerns over media freedom. Heavy clashes between TNLA and govt forces since 20 June. U.S. 27 June upgraded Myanmar to Tier 2 in annual Trafficking in Persons report, removed it from list of countries using child soldiers to which U.S. cannot provide military assistance, drawing criticism from international rights groups.
Battle which began 23 May in Marawi City between govt troops and Islamic State (ISIS)-linked militants from Abu Sayyaf and Maute Group continued: as of 30 June death toll stood at 429, including 44 civilians, 82 govt troops and 303 militants; 349,000 displaced. Military 23 June reported 40 foreign terrorists in country including Indonesians, Malaysians, Saudi Arabians and Yemenis, warned more may come. Malaysian Mahmud Ahmad, who channelled funds for siege, and group leader Omar Maute, reportedly killed early June; govt 28 June still verifying reports that Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon escaped Marawi City. Military 27 June reported attackers had forced their civilian hostages to loot, men to fight govt forces and women to serve as sex slaves. Following breakdown of peace talks between govt and communists in May after martial law declaration, National Democratic Front (NDFP) 17 June recommended New People’s Army (NPA) refrain from attacking govt forces and help fight ISIS-linked militants in Marawi. Govt 18 June declared it will not undertake offensive operations against NPA, but only in Mindanao. Progress in Bangsamoro peace process as Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) 16 June approved and signed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which it said reflected concerns from indigenous people, Christian communities, traditional leaders, women and youth, and unimplemented provisions of MNLF’s previous peace agreements. BTC will submit new draft BBL 10 July to Duterte, who promised its passage in Congress. Military 23 June said it believes Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have tactical alliance with Maute Group; defence minister earlier reported 40 militants from BIFF and Ansar Al-Khilafah Philippines joined Maute terrorists in Marawi. Philippines-hosted security meeting with Indonesia and Malaysia 22 June, agreed to prevent extremists from setting up base in region, address root causes of terrorism; countries earlier launched joint naval patrols to prevent movement of terrorists. U.S., Australia and China provided support to govt in dealing with Marawi crisis, including U.S. intelligence-sharing from drones, Australian surveillance planes, $16mn of weapons/ammunition from China, $920,000 humanitarian aid from Australia, $300,000 from China for rehabilitating Marawi.
G7 27 May issued joint communiqué encouraging demilitarisation and peaceful settlement of disputes in East and South China Seas; U.S., Japan and Australia defence chiefs released similar statement 3 June. Speaking at Shangri-La Dialogue, U.S. Sec Defense Mattis 3 June emphasised binding nature of July 2016 ruling of International Tribunal on Law of the Sea, condemned Chinese construction and militarisation on features in SCS. Chinese delegation head said China abides by, supports and defends international and regional rules, argued U.S. using Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) to conduct surveillance in “adjacent waters and airspace of China’s islands”. Another Chinese official 3 June said China and ASEAN countries discussing possibility of conducting joint maritime exercises in 2018, China ready to explore setting up China-ASEAN defence communication link. Mattis 14 June told U.S. Congress FONOPs would continue. U.S. Pacific Command 8 June said two Air Force B-1B bombers had conducted joint training exercise over SCS with USS Sterett missile destroyer. U.S. and Japan concluded joint military drills in SCS 15 June. U.S. and China held first senior level Diplomatic and Security Dialogue Washington 21-22 June. Vietnamese PM Phúc met with U.S. President Trump 31 May, later announced over $8bn in commercial deals, reaffirmed commitments on defence and maritime security cooperation. Japan 6 June announced it would provide $350mn to improve Vietnam’s patrol boats and defence equipment. Vietnam 16 June reasserted sovereignty claim over Spratlys and Paracels. Philippines 16 June reported hotline between foreign ministries of China and ten ASEAN countries tested successfully in March. Beijing 20 June unveiled Vision for Maritime Cooperation under Belt and Road Initiative, which proposes joint disaster warning systems and cooperative mechanisms for law enforcement and anti-terrorism in SCS.
In southern insurgency, seven soldiers injured in two coordinated bomb attacks in Narathiwat’s Tak Bai district 2 June. In Pattani, two motorcycle-borne gunmen killed assistant village headman in Yarang district 15 June; gunmen opened fire on group of Buddhist teenagers in Yaring district 17 June, killing two; six soldiers killed by IED attack on their vehicle 19 June; Islamic school teacher shot dead in Nong Chik district 20 June; IED attack in Sungai Kolol, Narathiwat, wounded twelve soldiers and two civilians, including four-year-old girl 23 June. Army chief General Chalermchai Sithisart visited border with Malaysia 4 June, said increased border patrols since May aimed to suppress smuggling and border crossing by Islamist insurgents. Govt gathered almost 100,000 public responses to four questions posed by PM Prayuth during his late May weekly national television broadcast, in which he questioned value of elections; many politicians called questions, which included “Do you think the next election will result in a government with good governance?” and “if conflict re-emerges, who will solve it and by what means?”, a bid to prolong NCPO’s hold on power. NCPO’s hand-picked legislature National Legislative Assembly moved ahead with plans to reset political system and institutions, approving bills to reconstitute Election Commission, National Human Rights Commission and Office of the Ombudsman with regime appointees and to establish national strategy commission to draft twenty-year strategy that elected govts will be required to implement. Police 15 June arrested retired electrical engineer who reportedly confessed to 22 May hospital bombing, bombings on 5 April and 15 May and three other bombings going back to 2007; suspect reportedly supporter of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra and opponent of military rule.
Two-week voting process began 24 June in general election amid reports of irregularities and violence in some areas; voting suspended in capital Port Moresby after police discovered evidence of bribery and fake ballot papers. Opposition called for electoral commissioner to resign; PM O’Neill called for calm, said election will go ahead.
President of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik told Politico he will not call referendum on secession for entity in 2018, but implied it could happen in future.
Fourteen-party coalition led by Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK), Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) and Initiative for Kosovo (NISMA), all headed by former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) members, won 33.74% of vote in 11 June snap general elections, giving them 39 of 120 seats in parliament; Vetevendosje (Self-Determination Movement) came second with 27.49% (32 seats), doubling its vote share since 2014 poll; Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK)-led coalition, headed by outgoing PM Mustafa, came third with 25.53% (29 seats). Turnout reported at 41.3%, OSCE said poll “orderly” and without major irregularities/incidents. Vetevendosje and LDK coalition both ruled out coalition with PDK-led coalition. UN 28 June issued report on increased influence of violent extremist groups in Kosovo.
During visit to Brussels 12 June, new PM Zaev told senior EU and NATO officials his govt will seek to secure progress by autumn on reforms needed for start of EU accession talks, and discussed options for revitalising NATO membership bid. EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn stressed importance of rapid reforms in judiciary and security institutions and resolution of longstanding dispute with Greece over use of the name Macedonia, which has held up progress on NATO and EU membership; visiting Skopje 26 June, Hahn said EU will help govt with key reforms, while Zaev said govt hopes for green light to open accession talks by year-end. New Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov met Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias in Athens 13 June; Kotzias expressed his commitment to “just compromise” on name issue and further developing bilateral relations. UN special envoy in name dispute Matthew Nimetz to visit Skopje and Athens early July, first visit since July 2014. Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva 29 June charged former PM Gruevski and 93 others including other former senior govt figures in seventeen corruption cases; charges against Gruevski include election fraud. Gruevski said his party being persecuted; hundreds of his supporters protested outside criminal court same day.
Azerbaijani journalist Afqan Mukhtarli reported he was kidnapped in Georgian capital Tbilisi 29 May and forcibly returned to Azerbaijan where he was arrested, prompting condemnation in Georgia and from U.S., EU. U.S. 3 June said it was “disturbed” by alleged abduction; EU 4 June urged Azerbaijani govt to release detained opposition figures; European Parliament 15 June called on Baku to release Mukhtarli and for Georgia to investigate his abduction. Baku court 16 June convicted opposition activist Fuad Ahmadli of selling personal data of mobile phone operator clients, sentenced him to four years’ prison; Ahmadli said case politically motivated. EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn visited for talks with President Aliyev 16 June. Azerbaijan 21 June reported it had detained Armenian resident at eastern section of Armenian-Azerbaijani state border, accused of attempt to take part in Armenian military incursion; Armenian authorities denied any link to case, suggested detainee had mental health problems or crossed border accidentally. Azerbaijan 26 June reportedly received new batch of Russian-produced anti-missile systems, prompting criticism from Armenia.
Tbilisi angered after de facto Abkhaz leadership 31 May dropped charges against suspect in May 2016 murder in which ethnic Georgian was shot dead near administrative boundary line (ABL); Tbilisi court had already convicted suspect in absentia. Some observers warn Tbilisi may now take tougher stance on many conflict-related issues, including humanitarian problems in areas adjacent to ABL. Several criminal incidents in Abkhazia reinforced concerns over lack of professional law enforcement. Driver of de facto Abkhaz presidential cortege accused of raping thirteen-year-old girl 11 June; victim’s older sister later found shot dead. South Ossetia de facto KGB representatives 9 June briefly detained ethnic Georgian activist Tamara Mearakishvili while she was travelling to Tbilisi, raising concern over campaign by de facto intelligence officials against civil society representatives. Tensions continued over new Georgian constitution, criticised by opposition groups and civil society; parliament 23 June adopted draft amendments in second reading, in session boycotted by opposition. Changes include move from mixed to proportional electoral system selection of president by parliament instead of through direct election. Azerbaijani journalist Afqan Mukhtarli allegedly kidnapped in central Tbilisi 29 May and forcibly returned to Azerbaijan where he was arrested, prompting condemnation in Georgia and from U.S., EU (see Azerbaijan).
Incidents along Line of Contact (LoC) continued to increase, with at least five reported military casualties 16 June: four Armenian and one Azerbaijani. Armenian media 9 June reported attack at Baghanis village at Armenia-Azerbaijan state border. OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs 10-19 June toured region and called on sides to avoid further escalation; had meetings with leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and de facto Nagorno-Karabakh (N-K), travelled to N-K adjacent territories of Zangelan, Kubatly, Lachin, and Kelbajar, of which return to Baku’s direct control reportedly part of current peace plan. However prospects for resumption of substantial peace process and concessions by any side remain small. In 19 June statement co-chairs called on sides to restart negotiations on substance, said presidents expressed intention to resume political dialogue in attempt to find “compromise solution for the most controversial issues of the settlement”. Azerbaijani side continued to demand full withdrawal of Armenian military from conflict zone as first step in peace process; Armenian side stood by its demand for intensified peace monitoring of conflict zone as pre-condition for restart of talks. Co-chairs’ trip helped to pacify situation for several days, but also led to increased Armenian public outrage as incidents continued even as diplomats were visiting conflict area. EU spokesperson 22 June said ceasefire violations were “stark reminder that the status quo is unsustainable”, called for “de-escalation and restraint in deeds as well as in words”. U.S. State Department 21 June expressed concern over latest deadly incidents in conflict area, called for restraint.
Security forces 25 June reported they had killed two suspected militants who shot at them in Khasavyurt, Dagestan. In Dagestani capital Makhachkala, unknown assailants 30 June set fire to car of Patimat Makhatilova, judge in several cases against Salafi imams and suspected militants. Ongoing tensions over land disputes in Dagestan erupted into violence in village in Kazbek district late month with brawl between Chechens and Avars. Nogai people organised emergency meeting in Terekli-Mekteb 14 June in protest against reassignment of their grazing lands to legalise illegal construction. Anti-corruption protests that took place across Russia 12 June also held in two Stavropol Krai cities, Kabardino-Balkaria capital Nalchik and Dagestan capital Makhachkala; eight people arrested in Makhachkala, two in Stavropol.
UN Special Rapporteur Miklós Haraszti 14 June criticised govt for “severe crackdown on peaceful protesters” Feb-March. Govt late June released several activists detained since March on charges of preparing mass disturbances. U.S. 13 June extended sanctions on Belarusian leadership for another year, citing actions that undermine democracy, human rights abuses, political repression. Belarus hosted joint military drills with Russia and Serbia early June.
Thousands reportedly joined protests in Chisinau and other cities 11 June for and against proposed changes to electoral system which would create mixed system, with some MPs elected under “first past the post” and some remaining under current proportional representation. Based on early June expert report warning changes carry risks including vulnerability to undue influence by vested interests, Council of Europe’s Venice Commission 16 June criticised draft law. EU 19 June expressed concern over proposed changes, said they could require reassessment of Association Agreement. EU offered €100mn in economic aid on condition govt steps up anti-corruption reforms.
President Poroshenko 20 June met with U.S. President Trump in Washington, reportedly agreed to broaden military cooperation; after meeting senior defence officials next day said the two countries would sign “very important” defence agreements in coming months. U.S. Senate 14 June passed law expanding anti-Russian sanctions and requiring president to receive congressional approval for any future loosening of sanctions; U.S. 20 June announced new financial measures against 38 separatists. Trump 20 June affirmed his commitment to Minsk agreements. EU 19 June extended investment ban on Crimea for another year; 22 June extended sanctions on Russia for another six months. In Kyiv, Security and Defence Council head Oleksandr Turchynov 13 June announced preparation of new law to reinstate sovereignty over “temporarily occupied territory” of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, which would recognise breakaway territories as “occupied”, seeking to place financial burden for their upkeep on Russia; and re-classify Kyiv’s campaign (currently “anti-terror operation”) as operation to liberate occupied territory with involvement of all relevant military, security, and civilian structures. Parliament 8 June passed amendments defining cooperation with NATO as foreign policy priority. PM Groysman 2 June said ongoing blockade of Donbas had cost Ukraine 1% of GDP. Ceasefire violations along front line continue to number in hundreds daily, increasing 75% week of 5-11 June over previous week, with over 1,200 explosions reported, mostly in Luhansk oblast. Ukrainian army lost seven soldiers 10-12 June. OSCE 18 June reported 200% increase in civilian injuries year-on-year since 1 Jan. Number of civilians reported crossing line of contact in Donbas increased by over 11% in May, exceeding 1 million, despite long lines at checkpoints. U.S. 22 June accused separatists of “violence and harassment” against OSCE monitors. Senior military intelligence officer killed in car bomb in Kyiv 27 June. Petya cyberattack on multiple govt and business networks 27 June estimated to have cost 0.5% of GDP.
Greek Cypriot President Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Akıncı met with UN Secretary-General Guterres 4 June, agreed to resume bilateral negotiations and reconvene international conference. UN Special Envoy Eide 16 June announced leaders’ summit to be held in Crans Montana, Switzerland 28 June. UK 17 June reiterated offer made in 2004 UN-brokered Annan plan to cede territory from its military bases in Cyprus to facilitate talks on territorial adjustments. Negotiations began in Crans Montana 28 June; Guterres joined talks 30 June, reported some progress but said “sensitive and difficult issues remain to be resolved”. Ankara 9 June said it would conduct live ammunition military exercises south west of Paphos 14-17 June and start drilling in the Mediterranean for hydrocarbons by end of year.
Security forces continued operations against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) insurgency in SE. PKK affiliate Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK) 6 June threatened new attacks on main cities and tourist sites. Authorities continued crackdown on pro-Kurdish Democratic People’s Party (HDP) representatives: 8 June sentenced imprisoned former HDP co-chair Figen Yüksekdağ to additional one-year sentence for “insulting the Turkish Republic”. Tensions erupted with Saudi-led block after Turkey backed Qatar in regional diplomatic crisis (see Qatar), sending humanitarian aid and conducting joint military exercises. Egyptian President Sisi 15 June called for embargo to be applied to Turkey; Riyadh 17 June rejected Ankara’s offer to build military base in Saudi Arabia, same day detained two Turkish state-TV journalists. President Erdoğan and King Salman of Saudi Arabia 21 June agreed to increase efforts to end crisis. Erdoğan 25 June doubled down on support for Qatar, saying list of demands given to country by Saudi-led coalition was “against international law”. Tensions with U.S. continued to mount; Ankara 15 June said it would “fight” arrest warrants against twelve Turkish bodyguards who assaulted pro-PYD (Democratic Union Party)/PKK protesters during Erdoğan’s 16 May visit to Washington. Erdoğan 23 June warned he would take unilateral action in northern Syria if YPG posed any threat to Turkey (see Syria). Relations with EU, particularly Germany, remained strained. German parliament 21 June approved plan to move forces from Incirlik military base to Jordan after Turkey did not allow German MPs to visit base in May; Berlin 26 June warned Turkey not to bring bodyguards that U.S. has issued arrest warrants for to July G20 summit in Hamburg. Social cohesion challenges and violence targeting Syrian refugee communities continued with further incidents of mob violence and killings reported in centre and NW cities during month; group of around 100 people attacked Syrians in Sakarya’s Hendek district 15 June following fight between Syrian factory worker and his Turkish superior.
Country hosted seventeenth Summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Astana 8-9 June; UN Secretary-General Guterres attended as part of regional tour. EU Council 19 June published its conclusions on 2007 EU strategy for Central Asia; next strategy due 2019, with focus so far on strengthening dialogue on human rights and emerging security challenges.
Security services 6 June detained alleged member of unnamed terrorist group in Bishkek on suspicion of plotting suicide attack; 14 June detained another man suspected of fighting in Syria. Kyrgyz language videos calling for jihad in Kyrgyzstan posted on social media same week. Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu 8 June told Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Astana that due to security situation in Afghanistan, Russia will strengthen its bases in Kyrgyzstan. Delegates from EU, all five Central Asian states and Afghanistan met in Bishkek 8 June to discuss regional security challenges. Russian security official 23 June told UN Security Council that Islamic State (ISIS) seeking to shift focus to Central Asia due to losses in Iraq and Syria. Kyrgyz and Chinese border forces held joint exercises late month. EU Council published 19 June its conclusions on 2007 EU strategy for Central Asia; next strategy due 2019, with focus so far on strengthening dialogue on human rights and emerging security challenges.
Anti-Terrorism Centre of Commonwealth of Independent States regional organisation carried out first ever military drills late May in Dushanbe, Lyaur and Harbmaidon; exercises held jointly by Russia and Tajikistan. Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu 8 June told Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Astana that due to security situation in Afghanistan, Russia will strengthen its bases in Tajikistan.
President Berdymukhamedov cancelled range of social benefits including free utilities, citing need to move to more market economy; observers pointed to worsening economic crisis. Media 19 June reported security services source saying Turkey warned govt of possible attacks by Islamic State (ISIS). UN Secretary-General Guterres concluded regional tour in Ashgabat, underscored link between rights abuses and violent extremism.
UN monitors reported FARC rebels had completed handover of all 7,132 weapons to UN mission day ahead of 27 June deadline; weapons transfer began 7 June. UN monitors also said they had identified and emptied 70 arms caches out of over 949 hidden in countryside. Govt 2 June announced that Colombian Reintegration Agency (ACR), existing institution for individual reintegration, would be renamed Agency for Reincorporation and Normalisation and put in charge of FARC collective reintegration process. FARC dissident groups continue to expand at local/sub-regional level, mainly in south and east, and 8 June destroyed vehicle and threatened members of Norwegian People’s Aid NGO, which is participating in high-profile demining activities. Negotiations between govt and National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group continued to move forward slowly. Both parties 6 June announced they had agreed to create communication and peace education team and fund to finance discussions. However, govt put halt to establishment of communications and education team until ELN renounces kidnapping. ELN 14 June kidnapped eight adolescents, including six minors, in Catatumbo region, released them 19 June; kidnapped two Dutch journalists in Catatumbo 19 June, released 24 June; detained around twenty fishermen in Morales town in north-central Colombia 11 June, freed by army. ELN attack 16 June killed one soldier and injured three in Tame, Arauca, eastern Colombia. Human Rights Watch June 7 accused ELN of rights abuses in past year in Chocó, western Colombia, where violence continues at high levels. Heated public discussion between govt and ELN early June when govt lead negotiator, responding to ELN defence of its kidnapping, said all available military means must be used to combat guerrillas. Govt 16 June created elite police unit meant to increase security for human rights defenders. Drug trafficking groups continue sporadic killings of police officers. Bombing attributed to terrorist cell People’s Revolutionary Movement (MRP) in upmarket shopping mall in Bogotá 17 June killed three and injured eleven.
Opposition maintained refusal to take part in 30 July election for controversial constituent assembly (ANC), said it will continue street demonstrations until govt abandons plan and negotiates in good faith return to democracy; warned of worsening protests if election goes ahead. President Maduro warned that people attempting to disrupt voting will be dealt with severely. Death toll from street protests continued to rise, surpassing 80 by late-June: security forces reportedly employing increasingly repressive tactics, with reports of detainees being tortured, security forces and civilian gunmen conducting searches without warrants, destroying property, making arbitrary arrests. Opposition-dominated parliament proceeded with appointment of Supreme Court (TSJ) justices to replace those it considers illegitimate, and drafting legal framework for transition to democracy, including transitional justice scheme. Dissident voices on govt side continue to emerge; Gen. Alexis López, secretary of National Defence Council, stepped down early June citing opposition to ANC. Attorney General (AG) Luisa Ortega continued to challenge govt, presenting prosecutors’ conclusions regarding deaths of demonstrators that contradict government versions, challenging both president’s proposed ANC election for and legitimacy of so-called “express justices” appointed to TSJ. TSJ 7 and 14 June rejected her petitions on these issues, 20 June said it had approved request to lift her immunity from prosecution for alleged “serious errors”; 29 June banned her from leaving country and froze her assets. Govt continued to insist it will contemplate “dialogue” only within framework of its bid to completely restructure state, close down parliament and remove AG. Organization of American States (OAS) failed to reach consensus on Venezuela at OAS General Assembly 19-21 June. MPs besieged in parliament for five hours 27 June by govt supporters; followed clashes between MPs and National Guard contingent supposed to protect them, prompted by introduction by Guards of election material into parliament building. Simultaneously, alleged “coup attempt” occurred involving theft of police helicopter from which grenades were reportedly hurled at TSJ building; ex-police inspector Oscar Pérez claimed responsibility in videos calling on army, police to act against govt; opposition accused govt of being behind incident.
Congress 7 June extended for another 30-day period state of siege in Ixchiguán and Tajumulco municipalities aimed at controlling worsening violence linked to poppy cultivation and criminal gangs, although govt reported objectives of siege achieved. Congressional deputies denounced absence of clear govt strategy to produce sustainable economic alternatives to poppy cultivation in region, which has exacerbated longstanding conflict between communities over water, along with alleged presence of Mexican criminal organisations buying produce and arming communities. U.S. 7 June requested extradition on drug trafficking charges of former VP Roxanna Baldetti, already facing four grand corruption cases in Guatemala. Court 26 May decreed President Morales’ son and brother will face trial on charges of “continued fraud” for providing false invoices in procurement processes undertaken by national property registry. Amid concerns over possible deportation from U.S. of 300,000 Central Americans, Presidents of Guatemala and Honduras and VP of El Salvador met with U.S. VP and Sec State and Mexican foreign minister in Miami mid-June to discuss prosperity and security in Central America, signalling continued U.S. engagement in region. In 15 June Miami Herald op-ed, U.S. secretaries of state and homeland security recognised U.S. responsibility for conditions in Northern Triangle because “American demand for illegal drugs fuels criminal activity in these countries”; proposed to implement strategy similar to Plan Colombia to help countries “regain control over territory, end the cycle of violence, corruption and impunity”, win investor confidence and create conditions for economic growth.
U.S. military 1 June confirmed deployment of 300 marines in Honduras to perform regional security operations. Organization of American States-backed Support Mission Against Impunity and Corruption in Honduras (MACCIH) continued to face resistance: Law on Effective Collaboration stuck in Congress, and Law on Clean Politics (approved Oct 2016) was jeopardised during selection of candidates to oversee parties’ funding ahead of November polls. In ongoing organised crime-related violence, two lawyers killed in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula 14 June; journalist and aspiring National Party deputy killed in front of his house 15 June. Police 22 May found 84,000m2 of coca plantations in east and third drug laboratory discovered in 30 days.
Police 22 June reported 318 homicides during month, 40 more than May, making it deadliest month so far of 2017; homicide rate reached thirteen murders per day. Victims included nine relatives of security force members in first half June and targeted killings of police officers in alleged operations by gang members. Justice Minister 22 June declared spike in violence related to internal fights in MS-13 gang. Concern over security and humanitarian effects of changing U.S. migration policies grew after U.S. Sec Homeland Security John Kelly 31 May questioned renewal of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) covering 188,000 Salvadoreans in U.S. Justice minister 5 June announced govt will force suspicious deportees from U.S. to join “re-education” programs.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly visited Port-au-Prince 31 May, met with President Moïse, who subsequently insisted they are working together to achieve possible extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians living in U.S. by eighteen months; Kelly next day stated that Haitians on TPS “need to start thinking about returning”. At UNGA 14 June, UN Deputy SG Amina Mohammed appealed to member states for extra funding to support aid for Haiti. Brazilian foreign minister 3 June promised to continue to support Haitian people beyond end of UN MINUSTAH peacekeeping mission in Oct 2017. Responding to PM Lafontant’s assurance early June that security is better than a year ago, human rights organisations claimed upsurge in homicide rates. National coordinator for Justice and Peace Commission Rovelson Apollon 19 June reported rise in police brutality including cases of lootings and beatings. World Bank approved $20mn grant for reconstruction of roads and bridges in south and three grants totalling $80mn for hurricane recovery.
Govt homicide statistics revealed figures for May highest since modern crime records began in 1997, with 2,186 homicides, as violence related to organised crime continued unabated; first five months of 2017 saw 30% year-on-year increase, with 9,916 murders. Murders in June included incidents in Sinaloa state (north west); Tamaulipas state (north east); Guerrero state (south west), including five policemen murdered in different cities 1 June; neighbouring Michoacán state, where regional chief of federal police Enrique Rodríguez was murdered 13 June. Four federal police killed in clash with commando group in San Andrés Totoloapan south of Mexico City 19 June. One person killed and four injured in shootouts in Cancún, Quintana Roo state (east), 15 June. NGO Colectivo Solecito reported discovery 6 June of new mass graves in Veracruz state (south east); mass grave found in San José del Cabo in Baja California Sur state (west) 8 June containing eighteen bodies. Violence against journalists, indigenous leaders, Central American immigrants, and human rights defenders continued, including: indigenous journalist Marcela de Jesús Natalia injured in attack in Guerrero state 3 June; journalist Salvador Adame, kidnapped in May, found dead in Michoacán state 26 June. Leaders of Wixárrika indigenous community 10 June denounced intimidation from organised crime in Jalisco state (south west). Under Secretary for Human Rights Roberto Campa 20 June denied attacks against journalists were escalating, angering journalists and opposition.
In Gaza, living conditions continued to worsen as Israel reduced electricity supply at request of Palestinian Authority (PA). Hamas delegation met officials in Egypt and agreed several steps to ease Gaza blockade; initial supply of Egyptian fuel to generators arrived 22 June. U.S. Envoy Jason Greenblatt and President Trump’s adviser Jared Kushner 20 June met Israeli PM Netanyahu and PA President Abbas to try to secure support for renewed peace process. In response to U.S. request to limit settlement construction and strengthen Palestinian control in West Bank, Netanyahu agreed to more modest change than requested, namely to allow Palestinian construction and legalise existing construction on limited territory near Area C administrative zone in West Bank. Netanyahu also advanced plans to build 3,178 residential units in West Bank settlements. In response to rocket fired from Gaza into Israel, latter 27 June bombed targets including Hamas bases in Gaza, no casualties reported. Israel 24 and 25 June retaliated to stray Syrian regime shells landing in Golan Heights by launching strikes on regime military positions in Syria.
Army 3 June repelled attack by unidentified militants from Syrian territory at Rukban on border with Syria in north, killing several.
After clashes late May between Islamic State (ISIS) and rival jihadist group Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in outskirts of Arsal city in NE near border with Syria, army intensified operations against both groups early June, killing several dozen militants. Five suicide bombers attacked soldiers as they searched for suspected militants in two Syrian refugee camps in Arsal area 30 June, killing one refugee girl and wounding seven soldiers; sixth militant threw hand grenade at patrol. After political disagreements over electoral system delayed parliamentary elections that were due in 2008 and 2014, parliament 16 June reached agreement and passed new electoral law, but postponed vote to May 2018.
As partial ceasefire persisted in west, in east regime forces and allies competed against U.S.-backed forces to seize territory from Islamic State (ISIS), bringing them into direct confrontation and raising risk of escalation in July. Regime forces and Iran-backed militias made several advances during month toward al-Tanf in east near Iraq border where U.S. and other Western forces are training anti-ISIS rebels, provoking several U.S. airstrikes on pro-regime personnel. Pro-regime forces advanced to Iraq border north of al-Tanf. U.S. shot down regime fighter jet 18 June south west of Raqqa after it reportedly dropped bombs near U.S.-backed rebel Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Iran’s Revolutionary Guards 18 June fired multiple ballistic missiles on ISIS targets in Deir al-Zour province in east, portraying strikes as retaliation for 7 June ISIS attacks in Tehran and message to Saudi Arabia and U.S.. Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and allies in SDF coalition early June began offensive to take ISIS-held Raqqa in north east and, backed by U.S. airstrikes and artillery, made gradual progress moving in from west. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights 30 June said ISIS had withdrawn from its last territory in Aleppo province after Syrian army retook Ithriya-Rasafa road and areas east of Khanaser. Russia 16 June said its airstrike near Raqqa 28 May may have killed ISIS leader Baghdadi. U.S. pushed Kurdish PKK rebels to rein in attacks inside Turkey during Raqqa campaign and started training local security forces in Syria. Turkey late June deployed troops to Syrian border near YPG-held Afrin in north west, amid rumours that it was preparing to launch offensive on area in coming weeks.
Alongside Saudi Arabia and some other Gulf states govt 5 June cut diplomatic relations and air and sea links with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and cosying up to Iran. Govt 8 June criminalised showing “sympathy” for Qatar, arrested human rights lawyer Issa al-Burshaid for filing lawsuit against authorities over Qatar blockade mid-June. Unclaimed bombing 18 June killed policeman in Diraz, home village of prominent Shiite cleric Ayatollah Isa Qassim, after security forces deployed there late May to “enforce general order”.
In first Islamic State (ISIS) attack in Iran, five militants 7 June carried out two simultaneous shootings at parliament and mausoleum of former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini in Tehran, killing seventeen civilians; Revolutionary Guards immediately accused U.S. and Saudi Arabia of involvement. Security forces 11 June said they had killed plot’s mastermind, while pointing to ISIS-affiliated Iranian Kurds as likely perpetrators. Revolutionary Guards 18 June launched retaliatory ballistic missile strike from Kermanshah city in west on alleged ISIS bomb-making facility in Syria’s Deir al-Zour city. U.S. Sec State Tillerson 14 June accused Iran of seeking hegemony in Middle East and expressed support for “peaceful transition” of govt. U.S. Senate 15 June passed legislation to impose additional sanctions on Iran, increasing restraints on govt’s ballistic missile program. International Atomic Energy Agency 2 June reported govt had fulfilled obligations under 2015 nuclear deal, keeping stockpiles of low-enriched uranium and heavy water below 300kg and 130 tonne limits respectively. After Saudi Arabia-led coalition severed diplomatic and economic ties with Qatar 5 June, Iran sent aeroplanes carrying food to Qatar and sought to expand ties with it (see Qatar). Tensions with Saudi Arabia rose after Iran accused Saudi coast guard of shooting and killing Iranian fisherman 16 June near Saudi coast. Riyadh 20 June said it had arrested three Revolutionary Guards in Saudi waters; Tehran denied Saudi claim and urged Saudi Arabia to release detainees and pay compensation for death of fisherman. Relations with Pakistan deteriorated after Pakistan air force shot Iranian drone reportedly spying inside Pakistan 19 June.
U.S.-backed govt forces and allied militias continued to make gains in campaign to retake western half of Mosul in north from Islamic State (ISIS). Govt forces 18 June seized al-Shifaa district in western Mosul, 26 June pushed into ISIS stronghold in old city, 29 June took control of al-Nuri mosque where ISIS declared Caliphate in 2014. PM Abadi same day declared end of ISIS’s “state of falsehood” though fighting continued end-month. Three ISIS suicide bombers 23 June killed at least three people in eastern half of Mosul. UN 8 June reported “significant escalation” in civilian deaths in Mosul, said ISIS killed over 200 people early June. In north west, govt-allied Shia Popular Mobilisation Units (PMUs) early June seized from ISIS Umm Jaris at border with Syria, continued to advance south west of Qayrawan and took Baaj 4 June. ISIS-claimed suicide bombing 9 June killed at least twenty people in Musayyib market, 60km south of Baghdad. Baghdad 9 June rejected 7 June decision by Kurdistan Regional Govt (KRG) to hold referendum on independence of Iraqi Kurdistan 25 Sept. Syrian delegation 15 June in Baghdad discussed border security cooperation and intelligence sharing with army chief of staff.
Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Yemen broke off diplomatic ties and closed transport links and borders with Qatar 5 June, accusing it of destabilising region by supporting Islamist groups including Muslim Brotherhood and cosying up to Iran. Blockading countries began expelling Qatari diplomats and residents. Libya, Maldives and Mauritania also later broke off diplomatic ties. Turkey sided with Qatar, sending humanitarian aid and 18 June deploying more troops to its base in Qatar to undertake military exercises. Iran sent five aeroplanes carrying food. Saudi Arabia-led bloc 23 June issued ultimatum via Kuwait that Qatar should meet thirteen demands in ten days to ease isolation; demands included to close down Al Jazeera broadcaster, scale back cooperation with Iran, close Turkish military base and end contact with groups such as Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar said demands unrealistic.
Govt led other Arab states including Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Yemen in breaking off diplomatic ties and trade links with Qatar 5 June, accusing it of destabilising region by funding terrorism and cosying up to Iran. Govt and allies 23 June issued Qatar thirteen demands to meet to ease isolation, which FM Jubeir 27 June said were non-negotiable (see Qatar). Tensions with Iran rose after it accused coast guard of shooting and killing Iranian fisherman 16 June near Saudi coast. Riyadh 20 June said it had arrested three Revolutionary Guards in Saudi waters; Tehran denied Saudi claim and urged Saudi Arabia to release detainees and pay compensation for death of fisherman.
Govt 17 June agreed to UN two-point plan to keep fighting away from Huthi-held Hodeida port and resume govt salaries, but Huthi rebels remained non-committal. Huthi health official said Saudi-led coalition aircraft conducted two raids on al-Mashnaq market in Shada district close to Saudi border killing 25 people. High-ranking Huthi official 5 June said UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed was banned from returning to country, accusing him of bias. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed responsibility for car bomb and gun attack on army camp near Baddah in Hadramout province in south east 12 June that killed at least ten militants and two soldiers. Suspected U.S. drone strike killed two alleged AQAP militants in al Naqba area of Shabwa province in south 16 June. U.S. 22 June said its airstrike killed AQAP emir for Shabwa province Abu Khattab al Awlaqi and several other militants. World Health Organization 1 July said cholera outbreak had killed at least 1,500 people and there were some 246,000 suspected cases. After eruption of Saudi Arabia’s feud with Qatar, Saudi-led coalition 5 June removed Qatari nationals from coalition forces and Yemeni govt cut diplomatic ties with Qatar (see Qatar).
Army 2 June in Blida in north killed two Islamist militants linked to attack claimed by Islamic State (ISIS) that wounded four gendarmes there 31 May. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for blast in Tebessa in north east 2 June that killed two soldiers; three suspects reportedly arrested 3 June. Amnesty International 19 June denounced govt clampdown on members of minority Ahmadiyya religious movement ahead of 21 June appeal hearing of six Ahmadis sentenced to two to four years’ prison for charges relating to financing of movement and dissemination of documents allegedly constituting danger to national interests; on appeal 28 June sentences reduced to six to twelve months. President Bouteflika during council of ministers meeting 14 June reportedly said “crisis of oil prices is here for the long term” necessitating invigorated economic reform.
President Sisi exploited insecurity and unrest to intensify repression of opposition and critical media. Parliament 13 June approved transfer of Red Sea islands of Tiran and Sanafir to Saudi Arabia despite widespread criticism, sparking protests across country. Security forces same day arrested seven journalists in Cairo, 15-16 June arrested up to 60 activists nationwide to quell protests. Supreme Constitutional Court 21 June temporarily suspended all rulings by other courts on handover of islands and is set to issue binding ruling on constitutionality of handover 31 July. Sisi 24 June ratified transfer of islands. Supreme Constitutional Court 3 June ruled that articles in controversial “press freedoms law” ratified by Sisi in Dec to establish agencies to monitor independent media were unconstitutional. NGO Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression late June said govt had blocked 114 websites, most news websites since 24 May. Islamist militants and security forces continued to clash in Sinai: alleged Islamic State (ISIS) militants 6 June shot dead two police officers in N Sinai; armed group killed imam in al-Arish city 20 June after holding him for one week. Military 20 June said it had bombed gathering site of Sinai-based Islamist militants, killing twelve; killed three other militants 20 June in Alexandria. Govt 22 June said police had killed seven people in jihadist desert training camp in efforts to track down perpetrators of violence against Christians which left around 100 dead in April-May. Govt 29 June announced up to 55% increase in fuel prices as it cut subsidies in IMF-backed austerity program in exchange for $12bn loan. Country 5 June cut diplomatic ties with Qatar over claims latter has funded terrorist activities, recalling ambassador, blocking access to Egyptian airspace and endorsing list of 59 alleged terrorists Qatar is accused of supporting (see Qatar). Sudanese army 3 June said it had deployed up to 90,000 troops on Sudan/Egypt/Libya border amid continuing spat with Egypt over mutual accusations of supporting armed or jihadist militants.
Forces aligned with eastern-based strongman Gen Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) 2 June moved into strategic towns of Waddan, Hun and Sawkna in central desert region of Jufra, clashing with rival coalition Benghazi Defence Brigade (BDB) which includes members of jihadist group Ansar Sharia; twelve killed. LNA forces supported by Egyptian airstrikes 3 June took over Jufra air base, ousting Misratan forces and their allies including BDB. In Benghazi in east, after two days of heavy fighting LNA 24 June said it had gained control of central Souq Al Hout neighbourhood, one of last two districts where it still faced armed resistance; at least thirteen LNA fighters reportedly killed. Militia in al-Zawiya city in north west shot dead two members of rival militia 3 June sparking heavy clashes. Under amnesty law promulgated by eastern Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR), Abu Bakr al-Sadiq Brigade that controls town of Zintan in west said it had freed Seif al-Islam Qadhafi, son of former President Qadhafi, 9 June after over five years in captivity. Protesters in Bani Walid in west 24 June called for Seif al-Islam Qadhafi to lead country. UN Security Council 20 June approved appointment of former Lebanese Culture Minister Ghassan Salamé as new UN envoy for Libya, replacing German diplomat Martin Kobler. Unidentified gunmen 28 June opened fire on UN political mission (UNSMIL) convoy on coastal road west of Tripoli, no casualties reported. Eastern-based govt broke off ties with Qatar 5 June following Saudi Arabia and allies (see Qatar).
Council of ministers 8 June postponed referendum on constitution planned for 15 July until 5 Aug following proposal by electoral commission, due to low level of voter registration. African Union 3 June pledged support to efforts of Sahel G5 (Niger, Mali, Chad, Mauritania and Burkina Faso) against jihadism and EU 5 June promised €50mn to support G5 joint military force; UN Security Council 21 June adopted resolution endorsing G5 force but did not authorise use of force. Govt broke off ties with Qatar 6 June accusing it of supporting terrorism (see Qatar).
Protests to demand jobs and against corruption continued throughout month in northern town al-Hoceima in Rif region, epicentre of protest movement since Oct 2016. Protesters and security forces clashed there 8 June, at least one policeman and one protestor wounded and several arrested; clashes erupted again 14-15 June after al-Hoceima court 14 June sentenced 25 protestors to eighteen months in prison. Police said more than 10,000 demonstrated in Rabat 11 June in solidarity with al-Hoceima protests. Govt said four suspected members of jihadist cell linked to Islamic State (ISIS) planning major attacks arrested 22 June in city of Essaouira in west. Govt 25 June recalled ambassador to Netherlands after criticising Dutch authorities for failing to take action against former Moroccan parliamentarian and Dutch national Said Chaaou accused of funding civil unrest. Chaaou arrested in Netherlands 29 June after Morocco gave guarantee he could serve any sentence in Netherlands.
Govt’s anti-corruption drive launched in May continued; 21 customs officers suspended 14 June. Judiciary 28 June said it froze assets of businessman and politician Slim Riahi on suspicion of “corruption and money laundering”. Govt 16 June reached agreement with protesters demanding job creation and development in Tataouine in south; govt promised 4,500 jobs in area including in oil companies. Protesters closed Bou Lahbal pipeline valves south of Douz 27 June, demanding jobs and local development, emulating protests in Tataouine in May. Two tribes clashed over land in Kebili province in south 8-10 June, about 70 injured. Young man stabbed and killed in Bir El Hafey near Sidi Bouzid in centre 22 June sparking tribal violence; security forces intervened, one policeman killed. Khalifa Soltani, brother of shepherd beheaded by jihadists in 2015, kidnapped 2 June in Mount Mghilla area in north east and found dead next day; Islamic State (ISIS) claimed responsibility. Landmine reportedly laid by jihadists in Mount Salloum in west killed shepherd 16 June. Presidency 14 June extended state of emergency for four months. Govt 15 June announced suspension of 50 associations and dissolution of fifteen others for failing to disclose funding sources, including some linked to Qatar.
UN Secretary-General Guterres 2 June said in letter to UN Security Council that he intended to name former German President Horst Köhler as envoy for Western Sahara.