The President's Take
In my second monthly column to accompany CrisisWatch, our unique conflict tracker, I look at how outside actors are now openly fighting not for Syria, but over it. I also note more bad news from Venezuela, and flag our upcoming report on how the outside world and regional governments can avert disaster there. Read more …
President & CEO
Thirteen conflict situations around the world deteriorated in July 2005, according to the new issue of CrisisWatch,* released today. The United Kingdom became the first European country to be hit by Islamist suicide bombings -- four explosions on London's transport network claimed 56 lives and injured 700. A second wave of attacks on 21 July caused no casualties as the bombs failed to explode. Egypt suffered the worst terrorist attack in the country's history, with 64 killed in a coordinated triple bombing in Sharm el-Sheik, while tourists were also targeted in bombings in Turkey.
The tragic death of Sudan's first vice-president, John Garang, in a helicopter crash, came at a crucial moment in the implementation of Sudan's north-south peace agreement, putting the country's fragile peace at risk. Insurgent attacks in Iraq showed increasing sophistication, while in Afghanistan clashes with the Taliban increased ahead of September elections. In Israel and the Occupied Territories the 5-month informal ceasefire by Palestinian militant groups was severely undermined by spiraling violence on both sides. Kenya was struck by the worst violence in post-colonial history, killing 76 and displacing 9,000. The situation also deteriorated in Chechnya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sri Lanka, Yemen and Zimbabwe.
Seven conflict situations showed improvement in July 2005. In Northern Ireland (UK), the IRA made a historic declaration that its decades-long armed campaign was over and that it would pursue its goals through peaceful means. A draft peace agreement was initialed to end the conflict in Indonesia's Aceh province. North Korea returned to six-party nuclear talks after a 13-month standoff, while a highly contested law on flags in Macedonia marked the end of the technical implementation process for the 2001 Ohrid Accord. Situations also improved in Burundi, Kyrgyzstan and Moldova.
For August 2005, CrisisWatch identifies Somalia and Thailand as Conflict Risk Alerts, or situations at particular risk of new or significantly escalated conflict in the coming month; and Indonesia as a Conflict Resolution Opportunity.
Democratic Republic of CongoKenyaSudanZimbabweAfghanistanSri LankaChechnya (Russia)TurkeyUKIsrael/PalestineIraqYemenEgypt
BurundiKorean PeninsulaIndonesiaMacedoniaMoldovaNorthern Ireland (UK)Kyrgyzstan
Largely peaceful parliamentary elections held 4 July with 65% turnout: former Hutu rebel group CNDD-FDD won 58% of vote; President Domitien Ndayizeye's FRODEBU second with 22% - accepted defeat. Senators elected 29 July by communal councillors: CNDD-FDD won majority. MPs and senators to elect president 19 August; CNDD-FDD’s Pierre Nkurunziza only candidate. Despite May 2005 ceasefire, clashes with National Liberation Front rebels continued, extending into central Burundi: some 100 civilians killed.
Nationwide disarmament and reintegration campaign broadened to northwest Nan-Grébizi district. 1,200 fled to Chad after attacks in north. Economic Community of Central Africa States extended regional force’s mandate for 6 months to consolidate May elections.
Refugee situation deteriorated: 10,000 Central African Republic refugees may need to be moved from CAR adding to 200,000 Sudanese refugees already in Chad.
UN peacekeepers launched series of major military operations to clear South Kivu of Rwandan Hutu militias (FDLR): destroyed FDLR base 20 July, forcing 800 rebels to flee. In alleged FDLR warning against cooperation with UN, nearly 40 burned to death near Bukavu; 18,000 civilians fled homes following attacks. In North Kivu, 41 rebels and 2 government soldiers killed as army re- took 3 villages held by FDLR. UN concerned Uganda sheltering new rebel group, Congolese Revolutionary Movement, violating international law. In Katanga region, ongoing conflict reported with local soldiers attacking civilians. Elsewhere generalised violence: soldiers went on rampage 4 July western Mbandaka town killing 9 to avenge murder of colleague, anti-government protest over election delay held under heavy security 9 July Kinshasa, after 30 June protest left 1 dead. Voter registration began Oriental and Bas Congo provinces for 2006 elections. UNSG’s 14 July report called for additional 2,590 military and 641 police personnel for elections; UN Security Council extended arms embargo until July 2006.
Government began releasing 36,000 genocide suspects from jail: some may still face traditional “gacaca” tribunals. Extradition treaty signed with Uganda 15 July; Kigali seeking repatriation of over 1,000 asylum-seekers who fled “gacaca” trials; Uganda denied refugee status to all but 80.
UN Security Council mooted possible trip to region to kick-start implementation of 2003 border demarcation ruling. UNMEE warned incidents in Temporary Security Zone risk return to hostilities. In Ethiopia, bombs exploded in 3 Jigjiga bars killing 5, injuring 31. Ethiopian government and Ogaden National Liberation Front gave mixed signals about prospect for peace talks.
Worst violence in post-colonial history: 76 killed, 9,000 displaced in inter-clan conflict in Turbi village over access to water and grazing near Ethiopian border 12 July. Hundreds marched through Nairobi 19 July, protesting draft constitution endorsed by parliament in which president retains strong executive powers; 3-day protests turned violent with 1 demonstrator shot dead by police. Security forces killed up to 40 Ugandan cattle raiders following agreement with Uganda allowing security forces to pursue rustlers over borders.
Tension between rival factions over seat of transitional government continued. President Abdillahi Yusuf arrived Jowhar, 93km north of Mogadishu; Mogadishu- based cabinet members, MPs and warlords threatened retaliation should Yusuf establish government there. Military build-up continued on both sides. Fears also high over risk of further violence in Baydhowa. UN Security Council urged dialogue. General insecurity elsewhere: southern Somalia clan violence killed 20; World Food Programme ship seized, forcing UN to suspend aid shipments. Peace activist and Crisis Group consultant Abdulkadir Yahya Ali murdered in his Mogadishu home, 11 July.
Leader of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), John Garang, killed in helicopter crash 30 July, leading to Khartoum riots and fears of serious disruption to implementation of January north-south peace agreement. Month began on high with ratification of new constitution 6 July and swearing-in of government of national unity 9 July with 52% of executive posts for ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and 28% for SPLM; Garang had become first vice- president. Newly-released PNC leader Hassan al-Turabi said group would protest NCP-SPLM division of power and warned of national “disintegration”. In Darfur, violence spiked at month end; 7 civilians killed in unconfirmed helicopter attack and 4 troops killed by rebels. U.S. Sec. State Rice, on visit to Khartoum, called for “action not words” from government. Earlier in month Sudan Liberation Movement, Justice and Equality Movement and government agreed ground rules for Abuja peace talks; meetings to reconvene 24 August. demolished townships. AU Envoy Bahame Tom Nyanduga left country 7 July without completing evaluation of demolitions, reportedly due to government obstruction. Zimbabwe signed trade deals with China to help rescue ailing economy.
Voters restored multi-party politics in national referendum 28 July; low turnout due to opposition boycott. Violence continued in north with Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) killing up to 22 in ambush 11 July. Ugandan army claimed step closer to defeating LRA, announced deaths of LRA chief-of-staff and leader Joseph Kony’s eldest son. Cattle rustling violence, including cross-border raid in Kenya, left at least 50 dead.
Supreme Court ruled law barring President dos Santos from running in next election unconstitutional. Government troops reportedly undertaking major offensive against Cabindan FLEC separatist rebels.
King Mswati III signed new draft constitution into law 26 July, upholding ban on opposition political parties and cementing king’s absolute power.
Government announced completion of Operation “Murambatsvina” (“Drive Out Rubbish”) 28 July following damning UN report. UNSG Annan labelled operation “catastrophic injustice”, while UN Envoy Anna Tibaijuka accused government of violating international law. Forced evictions continued throughout July; camps for displaced closed 22 July; homeless transported to rural areas or now - demolished townships. AU Envoy Bahame Tom Nyanduga left country 7 July without completing evaluation of demolitions, reportedly due to government obstruction. Zimbabwe signed trade deals with China to help rescue ailing economy.
Stalemate in Ivorian peace process with Forces Nouvelles rebels refusing to disarm until government passes laws stipulated by Pretoria agreement. Warring parties had initially agreed new timetable for disarmament to begin 4 weeks before October presidential elections; UN Security Council warned of sanctions if delayed. President Gbagbo passed reform laws 15 July, but G7 alliance criticised reforms as falling short of Pretoria agreement and questioned Gbagbo’s commitment. Portuguese diplomat Antonio Monteiro appointed UN envoy to help October elections. 5 policemen reportedly killed Abidjan and 17 assailants, 7 soldiers killed in Agboville violence: ruling party and rebels blamed each other, military prosecutor said assailants were from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, UNOCI commander said no evidence of large-scale combat.
Alpha Conde, leader of opposition Rassemblement du peuple de Guinée (RPG), returned from self-imposed exile; Conde announced RPG would boycott upcoming municipal elections. Disagreement with other members of opposition coalition led to fears of split. Violence between ethnic Peul and Malinke groups, Kankan town, eastern Guinea.
Former dictator ‘Nino’ Vieira won 55% of vote in presidential election with 44% for Malam Bacai Sanha. Sanha rejected result and accused National Election Commission (NEC) of failure to investigate fraud. Unidentified group attacked NEC; riots followed publication of results. EU and AU observers claimed elections fair.
Inadequate reintegration programs continued to cause sporadic unrest: retraining centre staff held hostage in Buchanan town after promised benefits failed to materialise; in Bong Mines, ex-combatants threatened to kill expatriates and residents. Interim government called for review of ex-President Charles Taylor’s Nigerian asylum agreement, alleging Taylor broke terms by interfering in domestic politics. Countdown to 11 October presidential elections continued; influential Lebanese community demanded voting rights. Generally improving security led to return of over 5,000 refugees from neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire.
National political reform conference suspended 12 July as disputes over oil revenue-sharing continued. Up to 48 people from Delta and Edo states believed missing after communal violence. Supreme Court rejected former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari’s challenge to 2003 presidential election results. In first trial of its kind, proceedings against 6 police charged with June extra-judicial killing of traders opened Abuja. UN Envoy Philip Alston urged such trials to become norm, criticised Nigerian police after fact-finding mission.
UN Security Council voted to extend UN mission for final 6 months; further troop draw-down in August. Campaign to succeed President Kabbah as leader of People’s Party - and candidate for 2007 elections - began amidst growing discontent with 2-party system. Former Kamajors head Sam Hinga Norman said would run, despite detention by UN Special Court.
In first meeting since April, President Faure Gnassingbé and main opposition group leader Gilchrist Olympio agreed to end political violence and release political prisoners. Amnesty International said at least 150 people died in violence surrounding May elections; serious rights violations by security forces.
Growing number of protests by farmers over land disputes. 2,000 clashed with police in northern region of Inner Mongolia 21 July.
Positive development as 6-party nuclear talks reconvened in Beijing 26 July after 13-month hiatus. Pyongyang agreed to talks after offers of massive energy aid from South Korea, in return for disarmament and U.S. recognition of sovereignty. U.S. envoy at talks, Assistant Sec. State Christopher Hill, met North’s deputy FM Kim Kye Gwan, in several unprecedented bilateral preparatory “discussions”. China presented draft statement “of basic principles” 31 July, sticking points remain North’s demand for security guarantee, reluctance to give up nuclear power program. Human rights and Japanese abductions also contentious issues, but consensus sees nuclear disarmament as priority.
Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou overwhelmingly elected head of opposition Kuomintang party 16 July: anti-communist who criticised mainland’s anti-secession law but opposes independent Taiwan, almost certain to run as KMT 2008 presidential candidate. Third pro-unification group, New Party, invited to mainland, released 10-point cross-strait cooperation proposal.
Escalation of militant attacks in run-up to September elections. Clashes between security forces and Taliban killed at least 30 police and soldiers. Up to 50 Taliban reportedly killed 26 July in Uruzgan province. Outbreak of ethnic Hazara/Pashtun violence claimed 13 Uruzgan province villagers 19 July. 3 U.S. special forces, missing since end June, found dead; further 2 killed Helmand and Uruzgan provinces. Final list of candidates for National Assembly and Provincial Council elections announced: 5,805, including 583 women, to go on ballots in 34 provinces. Only 11 potential candidates excluded for links to armed groups, none excluded for human rights abuses or links with narcotics trade. Parliamentary candidate and electoral worker killed in Paktika province by suspected Taliban militants. Governor of Kunar province claimed 1 July U.S. air strike killed 17 civilians.
Security forces launched operations against rebels from Myanmar’s western Arakan state in eastern border areas; Bangladeshi forces captured 28 rebels, destroyed camps.
Historic development in U.S. relations with agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation - recognising India as “responsible” nuclear power: India to ensure military and civilian nuclear programs separate, place civilian reactors under IAEA safeguards, continue moratorium on nuclear testing. Mixed reaction internationally with fear of erosion of Non-Proliferation Treaty. Domestic sectarian, separatist and Naxalite violence continued. 5 July attack on disputed Ayodhya Hindu site in northern Uttar Pradesh state, attributed to Pakistan-based Lashkar-i-Tayyaba, killed all 6 attackers: demonstrations by Hindu nationalists followed. 13 killed in bomb on Uttar Pradesh state train 28 July. Hindu- Muslim clashes in central Madhya Pradesh state killed 2. Security forces claimed 4 Maoists killed in Andhra Pradesh. Northeastern unrest continued: highway blockade, arson and army ambush in Manipur state by Bodo separatists claimed 3. Separate Naga rebel group, National Socialist Council of Nagaland (IM), extended ceasefire with New Delhi.
Indian PM Manmohan Singh warned rising violence in Kashmir and 5 July Ayodhya shrine militant attacks (see India) could jeopardise peace talks. Security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir reportedly killed 13 infiltrators across Line of Control in Gulmarg region. Operations continued against militants in Gurez area. Srinagar car bomb, claimed by Hizbul Mujahideen militant group, killed 4 soldiers and civilian 20 July. Other incidents included 24-hour stand-off between militants and security forces in Srinagar ending with death of 2 militants 30 July. Indian security forces’ fatal shooting of 3 teenaged boys mistaken for militants sparked mass protests and 4-day strike Srinagar from 24 July. Indian and Pakistani experts to meet 5-6 August for third round talks on military issues and nuclear CBMs.
Maoist leader Prachanda formally invited 7-party alliance for talks on “all political issues”: party leaders positive but called on Maoists first to abandon violence: statement coincided with visit of UNSG’s Special Advisor Lakhdar Brahimi. Government insisted UN mediating role not necessary but Brahimi’s visit and rapid establishment of human rights monitoring mission underlined UN seriousness about helping peace process. Prachanda reinstated second-in-command, Baburam Bhattarai, previously demoted due to policy disagreements. India resumed military aid with shipment of non-lethal equipment. Attacks outside Kathmandu continued, though reporting remained restricted: 7 security personnel killed in west 23 July. King Gyanendra brought more hardline royalists from pre-democratic period and a convicted criminal into his cabinet. Former PM Deuba given 2-year sentence by extrajudicial royal tribunal for alleged corruption: Deuba’s conviction followed by arrest of student leader Gagan Thapa on sedition charges prompted fresh street protests. Civil society-led 25 July protest broken up by police; many arrested.
International pressure on Islamabad to deal with madrasas, jihadi training camps and cross-border infiltrations increased. UK investigations revealed 3 of 4 suicide bombers responsible for 7 July London attacks recently visited Lahore madrasas, including Laskhar-i-Tayyaba’s Muredke madrasa, known as jihadi training centre, and madrasa Manzoor-ul- Islam, connected to terrorist organisation, Jaish-e-Mohammad, banned 2002 by President Musharraf. New measures announced including registration of all religious schools with government by December. 600 suspected extremists, including 250 members of banned Islamist organisations, arrested in series of raids. Deadly clashes continued in North and South Waziristan tribal agency: U.S.-led coalition troops from Afghanistan and Pakistan security forces killed 41 militants near Afghan border; tribal leader and 4 others shot dead in South Waziristan. Wave of sectarian violence in Gilgit claimed 10 after attacks on bus near Chilas further ignited fighting between rival groups.
Ceasefire between LTTE and government seriously at risk after escalating factional violence and mutual accusations. Tensions slightly reduced after government proposed new measures to ensure safety of LTTE cadres 25 July. LTTE rejected government offer to renegotiate Ceasefire Agreement. At least 6 security forces, 4 LTTE rebels, 1 civilian killed in separate incidents. Government blamed factional violence while LTTE blamed military supporting breakaway faction led by Karuna. LTTE removed all political officers from government areas - issued threat to resume military action and use own armed escorts in government areas - directly violating ceasefire. Joint mechanism for distribution of tsunami aid suspended by Supreme Court 15 July after action brought by nationalist People’s Liberation Front. 100,000 joined main opposition United National Party in Colombo demonstrations 12 July calling for new elections.
Encouraging developments in peace talks between government and Free Aceh Movement (GAM). Memorandum of understanding initialled 17 July, formal peace agreement to be signed 15 August. Draft deal agreed after fifth round peace talks, mediated by Crisis Management Initiative, headed by former Crisis Group Chair and Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered Indonesian military to end Aceh offensive in effort to help peace process after clashes left 10 dead. Government announced troop reduction between September and December - Jakarta’s control of army key to making peace process work.
Myanmar agreed to defer 2006 ASEAN chairmanship after unprecedented pressure from within regional bloc. U.S. and EU had called for forfeit of chair until meaningful democratic reform achieved. Former PM Khin Nyunt given 44-year suspended sentence for corruption.
Continued political turmoil and resignation of key cabinet members delayed resumption of peace talks with Communist National Democratic Front and MILF. Opposition filed impeachment complaint against President Arroyo 25 July on charges of electoral fraud, corruption and betrayal of public trust though fears of coup attempt largely dissipated. Arroyo called for political reform, resisting resignation calls from mass demonstrations. Security operations continued southern Mindanao against Abu Sayyaf group: 2 explosions 31 July injured 4. In north, soldiers clashed with communist rebels, killing 2.
Controversial emergency decree introduced 19 July risks exacerbating already volatile security in south. Passed with approval of cabinet and King amid spiralling southern violence, gives PM Thaksin Shinawatra extra powers to handle southern insurgency: designates 3 southern provinces as “severe emergency zones”; moves power over security matters to PM; allows measures such as detention without charge for 30 days and curfews; grants security forces immunity from prosecution. Critics call decree “silent coup d’etat” as overrules 1997 Constitution designed to curb government power. Deadly attacks targeting state officials, security forces, defence volunteers and teachers continued on daily basis. 60 militants launched coordinated attacks on Yala city 14 July killing 2.
Former Bougainville rebel leader Francis Ona - advocate of complete independence - died 24 July, possibly aiding island reconciliation. PM Michael Somare declared desire to sever country’s “umbilical cord” of dependence on Australia.
In 3 July parliamentary elections former President Sali Berisha’s Democratic Party and coalition partners won 73 of 140 seats; Socialists led by former PM Fatos Nano won 64. EU foreign ministers gave tentative approval however OSCE, and European monitors stated election complied “only partially” with international standards.
10-year anniversary of Srebrenica massacre commemorated 11 July: 2 bombs found near memorial site 5 July. Defence reform process continued with endorsement of 2 key bills to create joint multi-ethnic army (requirement for NATO Partnership for Peace program) by 2007, and to abolish entity of defence ministries and conscription system.
UN Special Envoy Kai Eide held high-level meetings with all sides, stated major problems as decentralisation, freedom of movement and refugee repatriation. Contact Group warned PM Kosumi insufficient progress made in letter 22 July. UNMIK chief Soren Jessen-Petersen gave 5 decentralisation pilot projects go-ahead, presented Kosumi with plan for transfer of authority of police and judiciary, announced security review. Kosovo’s Serb leaders decided to continue 16-month boycott of Kosovo’s institutions. Mitrovica bridge formally opened 24 hours per day for traffic; UNMIK police clashed with Serbs near it 24 July. 3 coordinated explosions shook Pristina 2 July, 1 at UNMIK headquarters.
Ohrid Accord that brought end to 2001 conflict technically completed as highly contested law on flags passed 15 July; opposition boycotted vote. Further clarification might be needed in area of use of languages to fully complete Accord. Law grants municipalities right to express ethnicity by flying majority ethnic group flag alongside state flag. 2 incidents at police stations outside Skopje and Tetovo highlighted need for strengthened security in areas bordering Kosovo. Armed ethnic Albanians continued to refuse access to police in Skopje village of Kondovo.
Serbian government published statement condemning all war crimes before 11 July Srebrenica memorial, attended by Serbian President Tadic. 8 former secret police convicted for kidnap and murder of former President Stambolic, including man accused of masterminding 2003 assassination of Serbian PM Djindjic. Montenegrin PM Djukanovic called for referendum on independence between February and April 2006. NATO Secretary General de Hoop Scheffer and Serbia and Montenegro (SCG) Foreign Minister Draskovic signed agreement on land lines of communication across SCG territory to enable faster reaction in event of unrest in Kosovo; Serbian government claimed wrongly bypassed in decision made by SCG.
Discussions continued on constitutional amendments facing parliamentary second reading 29 August; Council of Europe Venice Commission issued statement calling amendments “undoubted improvement”. Sections of opposition remain critical; referendum set for November. Secret negotiations revealed between Armenia and Turkey to improve strained bilateral relations.
International pressure continued to build on government ahead of November parliamentary elections with statements from U.S., EU and OSCE on need for free and fair process; amendments to election legislation do not incorporate several key OSCE (ODIHR) and Council of Europe recommendations. Detention of opposition activists reported. 2 former high-level interior ministry officials arrested over possible links to kidnapping ring broken up Spring 2005. President Aliyev said defence spending would rise 75% in 2005 in response to Russian base in neighbouring Armenia.
Escalation of attacks by Chechen rebels on pro-Russian security forces in Chechnya and neighbouring Dagestan killed over 40 officers, 4 civilians, 8 rebels. In worst attack rebels destroyed police bus 19 July, killing 15 in Znamenskoye, north of Grozny. President Putin visited Dagestan capital 15 July, urging tougher action against insurgents: police later arrested 150, including security officers, in reported dismantling of militant network. Residents of Chechen village raided by Russian soldiers last month fled again to Dagestan, fearing for safety. Russia announced Chechnya to hold parliamentary elections 27 November.
Authorities claimed to have solved 2 recent “terrorist” events. Interior ministry arrested 3 South Ossetians in connection with February bombing of Gori police station; accused Russian intelligence of training men. 1 policeman killed in arrest of man accused of assassination attempt on U.S. President Bush in May. South Ossetian and Russian representatives failed to attend Batumi peace conference 10- 11 July; South Ossetians claimed event was Georgian public relations exercise. President Saakashvili presented “Strategic plan for resolution of civil confrontation in former South Ossetia” - document criticised for insufficient benchmarking. Russia began troop withdrawals 30 July in accordance with May agreement for full withdrawal by 2008.
OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs visited region, expressed optimism for peace prospects. Possible status referendum for Karabakh population following Armenian withdrawal from 5-6 occupied districts around Nagorno-Karabakh discussed in media: Azerbaijani foreign ministry refuted reports, though Azerbaijani and Armenian negotiators did not openly reject suggestion. Public reaction critical in Azerbaijan, muted in Armenia. Lachin major sticking-point as outlines of possible peace emerged, including zone of separation to be monitored by OSCE troops (with possible exclusion of Russian, U.S. and French troops). Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents to meet on sidelines of 26 August CIS summit.
Diplomatic tensions escalated with Poland following latest crackdown on Polish minority in Belarus. Government launched campaign to introduce new “Ideology of Belarus” in wake of events in Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan. EU Parliament called for broadened sanctions 7 July, condemning attacks on media freedom.
Step forward for peace process as Transdniestrian leader Igor Smirnov agreed to support Ukrainian President Yushchenko’s peace plan and invite EU and U.S. representatives to take part in negotiations. Moldovan parliament passed “Law on Transdniestria” 22 July as basis for future settlement. OSCE presented confidence-building security-related measures 12 July. Chisinau’s reluctance to negotiate directly with Tiraspol could still hinder peace plan.
Rivalry between President Yushchenko and PM Timoshenko reportedly delaying much-needed reforms. Yushchenko ordered disbandment of traffic police, one of country’s most corrupt institutions, and replacement of regional police chiefs.
Street violence followed death of alleged ETA member in police chase. ETA blamed for 6 small bomb explosions 12 and 29 July. 2 ex-ETA leaders sentenced to 32 years in jail; 10 suspected members arrested. Spanish PM Zapatero and Basque Premier Ibarretxe agreed framework for future talks with ETA.
Azerbaijan agreed to accept Turkish Cypriot passports and send flights, becoming only second country after Turkey to give degree of recognition to Turkish Cyprus. Turkey signed protocol 27 July extending ties to all EU states including Greek Cyprus.
Historic declaration by IRA 28 July ending armed campaign and committing to pursue goals through peaceful means. Followed month of violent demonstrations: militant Republicans attacked riot police with homemade grenades and petrol bombs at 12 July Protestant Orange Order parade Belfast, wounding up to 80 police officers; petrol bombs thrown during Londonderry rioting injured 7 police; 2 killed in ongoing Loyalist feud between UVF and LVF. UK’s Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain to withhold Progressive Unionist Party’s assembly allowances.
Rise in Kurdish rebel attacks: bombings in Kusadasi and Cesme resorts killed 5. Kurdistan Liberation Hawks, militant faction of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), claimed responsibility. PKK kidnapped mayor of Yayladere, eastern Turkey, 28 July. Earlier bombing on train killed 6. Government threatened military operations against PKK’s northern Iraq safe haven if no U.S. action taken, while PKK threatened to turn Iraq into “quagmire”. 3 Turkish soldiers, 33 Kurdish guerrillas killed in clashes near Iraqi border. 2 police killed by car bomb 29 July.
London targeted in first ever suicide attacks by Islamist groups in UK: 4 coordinated blasts 7 July on underground trains and bus killed 56, injured 700. Investigations revealed 3 of 4 bombers responsible recently visited Pakistani madrasas (see Pakistan). Further 4 planned attacks 21 July but detonators failed. Massive hunt ensued for bombers during which innocent Brazilian mistakenly shot dead 22 July. Muslim groups concerned with enhanced police powers and “shoot-to-kill” policy. Police announced numerous arrests, including all suspected 21 July bombers.
Authorities praised by UNHCR and international human rights groups for turning Uzbek human rights defender Lutfullo Shamsudinov over to UNHCR rather than extradite him to Uzbekistan as Tashkent had demanded.
Stability consolidated as Kurmanbek Bakiev won 89% of vote in 10 July presidential election. OSCE cautiously praised vote’s conduct; other candidates complained of violations but accepted Bakiev victory. Russia to double troop contingent at Kant air base in sign of possible Kyrgyz pro-Russian policy shift. Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (including Russia and China) called for closure date for U.S. air base at Manas. U.S. Sec. Defense Rumsfeld assured by defense minister base would not be closed if needed for Afghan operations. Most Uzbek refugees from Andijon relocated to Romania pending final relocation to undisclosed third countries; 15 asylum-seekers remain in detention in Osh.
Permission denied for independent Nerui Sukhan newspaper to recommence publishing. Security services arrested 6 alleged members of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in connection with April murder of 2 state investigators. Trial began of former opposition field commander Yoribek Ibrohimov, former lieutenant of imprisoned Democratic Party chief Mahmadruzi Iskandarov.
Former Deputy PM Yolly Gurbanmuradov sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for misappropriation of state property, bribery and other crimes. President Niyazov met Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi in Ashgabat; signed 7 bilateral cooperation agreements, including $24m preferential credit toward Turkmenistan’s oil and gas industry.
Tashkent responded to international calls for independent inquiry into Andijon events and U.S. conditioning of assistance by telling U.S. to shut Karshi- Khanabad airbase within 180 days; Under-Sec. State Nicholas Burns cancelled trip to region. Russia and China continued to court Uzbek President Karimov. Some 450 refugees from Andijon events airlifted by UNHCR from Kyrgyzstan to Romania, pending transfer to third countries. UN report said “grave human rights abuses” committed by Uzbek security forces during Andijon events.
Interim President Rodriguez confirmed 4 December elections, 1½ years ahead of official due date. Constituent assembly elections and regional autonomy referendum, key demands in protests against previous Mesa government, scheduled for July 2006.
Government declared readiness to deal directly with FARC for first time: Uribe instructed Peace Commissioner Restrepo to move forward on prisoners/hostages swap, in moves largely seen by observers as effort to reverse international concern on Peace and Justice law. Controversy continued regarding law, sanctioned 22 July. President Uribe sought support in Europe, with Spain’s PM Zapatero reacting positively; UN commission urged government not to ratify. Paramilitary AUC expressed first intent to form legitimate political party. At least 15 ELN rebels killed in clash with government forces in southwest province of Valle 14 July - high-ranking ELN leader previously captured. Uribe’s offer to pay ELN for disarmament rejected, but negotiator authorised to pursue talks. FARC declared travel ban in southern Putamayo state; 2 soldiers killed in clashes.
Arrest warrant issued for former President Gutierrez on charges of endangering national security. UN Envoy Despouy called for urgent re-establishment of rule of law and resolution to crisis stemming from illegal 2004 dismissal of Supreme Court. President Palacio stated would nominate judges; made known intent to propose 7 controversial constitutional amendments for referendum.
War of words with U.S. continued with launch of Telesur, Venezuela-led Latin America-wide media venture. U.S. labelled station “anti-American, anti-freedom”; President Chavez threatened retaliation to U.S. “electronic warfare”. Ties also strained between Caracas and Catholic Church after retired Cardinal branded Chavez dictator, urged people to reject administration. Opposition protests ahead of 7 August municipal elections called for free and fair polls.
Insecurity continued, jeopardising planned autumn election: over 450 kidnappings since March 2005, including Haitian journalist Jacques Roche - found dead 14 July. Over 1,000 protested following funeral, demanding tougher response to insecurity: prominent Aristide supporter arrested in connection with Roche’s death. UN appealed for specialised troops to minimise civilian casualties after reported deaths during UN offensive against pro-Aristide gangs in Cité Soleil slum that killed 5 gang members. UN stormed Bel Air slum 1 July, killing 6 suspected gang members and freeing kidnapped Red Cross worker whose colleague found dead day before. Over 15% eligible voters registered for election.
5-month unilateral, informal ceasefire of Palestinian militant groups severely undermined by spiral of violence by both sides. Rising tensions both within Israel and between Israelis and Palestinians ahead of mid-August pull-out from Gaza settlements. U.S. Sec. State Rice visited region in attempt to ensure smooth disengagement. West Bank suicide bomber killed 6 in Israeli Netanya town 12 July; attack claimed by Islamic Jihad. Israel reoccupied Tulkarm, killing Palestinian Authority (PA) policeman. Hamas and other Palestinian groups launched rockets into Israel from Gaza 14 July drawing sharp criticism from PA Chairman Abbas. Hamas increasingly involved. Israel launched air-strikes, raids in Gaza and threatened ground offensive. 2 Israeli civilians killed by Palestinian militants 24 July. At least 9 Palestinians (including several Hamas members) killed by Israeli forces in Gaza and further 2 in West Bank; clashes between Hamas and PA security forces claimed 3. Hamas, Islamic Jihad and PA agreed 30 July to work together to ensure smooth Israeli withdrawal. Israeli PM Ariel Sharon provoked further anti-disengagement anger by sealing Gaza strip to non-resident Israelis 14 July. 20,000 Israeli forces deployed to prevent infiltration by protestors. Construction of separation barrier, particularly in Jerusalem area, accelerated.
President Lahoud approved PM Fouad Siniora’s cabinet after rejection of 3 previous drafts. In major development, new government includes Hizbollah’s Mohammed Fneish as energy minister; UN said Hizbollah should join national army. 2 Beirut car bombs 12/22 July injured dozens, including pro-Syrian Defence Minister Elias al-Murr. After parliament granted amnesty to anti-Syrian ex-militia leader Samir Geagea, clashes broke out between his supporters and members of Shia Amal movement; 1 killed.
Government forces captured 2 in gunfight with extremists - allegedly including ex-bodyguards of Saddam Hussein: 2 troops, 1 militant killed. Continued U.S. pressure to prevent flow of insurgents to Iraq; Syria responded by saying Iraq, U.S. and Britain uncooperative, citing Iraq’s failure to ratify July 2004 security cooperation protocol and accusing U.S. and Iraqi forces of firing on Syrian border-guards. Ongoing tension with Lebanon: new security border measures led to hold-up of Lebanese goods at border. Labour Minister Diale Haje-Aref said 37 Syrian workers killed in Lebanon since February. On positive note Syria to assist UN with inquiry to Hariri murder.
Tension over employment continued; over 30 injured 15 July as police reportedly beat demonstrators protesting lack of unemployment provisions in budget. New law for political associations approved by king, criticised by opposition; demonstrations held 29 July.
Police beat dozens of protestors during Tehran demonstration for release of dissident Akbar Ganji; release separately urged by U.S. President Bush and former Iranian President Rafsanjani. 3 police killed in fighting with Kurdish insurgents near northern border. 12 arrested in renewed Arab unrest in Khuzestan; 4 protestors reportedly killed. Iran-EU nuclear talks faced setbacks as Iran asked IAEA permission to resume testing equipment; Iran hardened position on resumption of uranium conversion, bringing forward deadline for EU to present suitable incentive proposals. Pact signed with Iraq to provide training for Iraqi forces, marking breakthrough in bilateral relations.
Devastating violence continued as insurgent attacks appeared to be growing increasingly sophisticated. Deaths of 3 senior Sunni politicians led to 1-week boycott of constitutional drafting committee by other Sunnis: constitution due to be completed 15 August. In one of Iraq’s worst attacks to date, suicide bomber killed 98, wounded 156, in petrol tanker explosion near Shia mosque in Musayyib, south of Baghdad. Foreign diplomats also targeted: Algerian mission chief and aide, Egyptian envoy kidnapped and killed; vehicles carrying Bahraini and Pakistani diplomats attacked. Group headed by Jordanian terrorist al-Zarqawi thought responsible. Insurgents continued to target Iraqi police, soldiers and recruitment centres. Attack aimed at U.S. soldiers 13 July killed 26 children. In possible turning point for Iran-Iraq relations, Iraqi PM Jaafari led delegation to Iran. NGO estimated 24,865 Iraqi civilians killed March 2003-2005. 1,397 Coalition soldiers, including 1,285 Americans killed by hostile fire since declared end of combat 1 May 2003.
After long illness King Fahd died 1 August; replaced by his brother, Crown Prince Abdullah, de facto ruler for last decade: Prince Sultan named new Crown Prince. Alleged local al Qaeda head al-Hayyari shot dead by security forces, 3 July; 8 suspected militants arrested 14 July. Over 100 high-profile men issued statement opposing women driving. Court of appeals upheld long prison sentences against 3 reformers: al-Hamad, al-Doumaini, and Faleh.
Violent nationwide protests over fuel prices and discontent with state leaders killed at least 36. Cabinet cut fuel prices in response. After 27 years in power, President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced would not seek re-election in 2006, calling for political change. Tribes in Hadramout province signed pact to end 70 years of conflict.
President Bouteflika continued push for referendum on amnesty for 1990s’ violence to include state agents responsible for 6,000 disappearances. Security forces killed 20 members of Salafi Group for Preaching in Combat (GSPC) in security operations Boumerdes province and near Tessalit, northern Mali. GSPC raids claimed 11 lives. Bouteflika controversially dissolved local councils in Kabylia region as part of January political deal agreed with regional protest movement “arsh”. 2 Algerian diplomats in Iraq, Ali Belaroussi and Azzedine Belkadi, abducted and murdered 27 July.
Triple bombing of Sharm el-Sheik resort killed at least 64, wounded 124 in worst terrorist act in country’s history 23 July. Several extremist groups claimed responsibility. Government suggested link to October 2004 Taba bombings. Sinai security sweep led to dozens of arrests. President Mubarak called for extraordinary Arab summit to be held at Sharm el-Sheik 3 August. Preparations continued for 7 September multi-candidate presidential vote; Mubarak announced his candidacy 28 July; most opposition parties signalled intention to boycott election citing restrictions on candidacies, though Ayman Nour, leader of al Ghad party said he would apply to stand; 19 members of Kifaya (“Enough”) opposition group arrested as police broke up 30 July Cairo demonstration. Egypt’s top envoy to Iraq, Ihab al-Sharif, murdered 7 July by Jordanian terrorist al-Zarqawi’s group.
Country hosted anti-terrorism conference with representatives from Algeria, Mali, Niger and U.S.
Up to 12 Sahrawi protestors jailed for involvement in May independence riots. Leading human rights activist Ali Salem Tamek arrested on arrival at Laayoune airport. Polisario Front pledged release of remaining Moroccan POWs.