The President's Take
On the first working day of every month, Crisis Group refreshes CrisisWatch, our early-warning tool providing regular updates on the most significant conflicts around the world. It’s one of our most popular features because it is an inestimable resource for all who care about conflict and want to know both the dangers that lurk and the opportunities that arise. Beginning this month, I will add a brief commentary of my own.
This time, I am highlighting two conflict situations: the Korean peninsula, where the potential for a catastrophe of untold proportions comes hand-in-hand with a rare chance for de-escalation; and Israel-Palestine, where a conflict that remains dormant until it inevitably flares up was made more dangerous by the U.S. president’s pronouncements.
As to the former: North and South Korea have agreed to resume contacts in the context of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics; Pyongyang put some of its more provocative actions on the back burner; and Washington postponed its military exercises. These steps should be built upon to avoid an outcome as absurd as it would be tragic: having the U.S. risk a nuclear war in order to avoid one.
As to the latter: for some time now, one of President Abbas’s chief functions has been to maintain as many illusions as possible amid widespread Palestinian disillusionment – with the peace process, the U.S., non-violence, and the two-state solution. Through his actions and words, President Trump has been systematically stripping away even the pretense of an illusion. The danger is that he reap what he has sowed.
President & CEO
The month saw protracted conflicts intensify, attempts to resolve them derail and political crises erupt or deepen. In Turkey, a failed coup attempt led to hundreds killed and prompted concern over the government’s commitment to the rule of law and divisions within the security bureaucracy. In neighbouring Syria, regime forces cut off the final supply line into opposition-held areas of Aleppo city, with scores killed in airstrikes and rocket attacks. Violent crises flared up in Armenia and India-administered Kashmir, and both Bangladesh and Afghanistan experienced major terrorist attacks. In Mali, efforts to implement the June 2015 peace deal faced a violent backlash, and in South Sudan clashes between government forces and former rebels left hundreds dead. A new split in the opposition there could make the conflict more difficult to end.
On 15 July, a segment of the Turkish army attempted to topple the elected government and President Erdoğan, failing in the face of resistance from police, part of the army and citizens. At least 240 people were reported killed during clashes, while over 10,000 people were arrested, over 18,000 detained and some 60,000 public officials dismissed in the wake of the coup attempt. The scale of the backlash has prompted concerns in the West over Turkey’s commitment to the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and more generally over divisions within the security bureaucracy and the state’s capacity to address security challenges including operations against the Kurdish insurgency in the south east.
In Syria, the Assad regime, assisted by re-intensified Russian airstrikes, severed the final supply line into areas of Aleppo city held by mostly non-jihadist opposition forces, amid renewed diplomatic manoeuvering between the U.S. and Russia. Scores were killed by fighting in and around Aleppo as airstrikes and rocket attacks hit civilian areas, where as many as 300,000 people are estimated to remain in encircled portions of the city with dwindling basic supplies. As the regime informed residents and rebels willing to surrender that they could leave through “humanitarian corridors”, the UN called for guarantees of protection and humanitarian access, and insisted no one can be forced to flee. Elsewhere, over 40 people were reported killed in an Islamic State (IS) bombing of Qamishli city near the Turkish border on 27 July, and activists reported that an U.S. airstrike on Menbij city killed at least 73 civilians on 19 July, making it allegedly the worst coalition attack on civilians.
In Bangladesh, a brutal attack on a café in an upscale neighbourhood of the capital Dhaka on 1 July left 22 people, mostly foreigners, dead. Although IS claimed responsibility, officials pointed to the likely involvement of local affiliates of al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent (AQIS), an ally of the group behind recent killings of secular and atheist bloggers and publishers. In a commentary published after the attack, Crisis Group noted that the government’s primary challenge is to tackle the growing local constituencies of both IS and AQIS, and adopt a counter-terrorism approach based on accountable and impartial law enforcement. IS also claimed responsibility for a joint suicide attack on ethnic Hazara protesters in the Afghan capital on 23 July which killed at least 80 people and injured over 250.
Also in South Asia, the killing by Indian security forces of Burhan Wani, operations chief of Kashmir’s largest militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, on 8 July, sparked a fresh crisis in India-administered Kashmir. As major protests broke out across Jammu and Kashmir in response to the killing, 49 people were reported killed and over 5,000 injured in clashes with security forces. Pakistan condemned the killing of Wani and violence against protesters, while India’s home minister blamed Islamabad for orchestrating the violence.
Meanwhile, Armenia was rocked by an armed opposition group’s seizure of a police headquarters in the capital Yerevan on 17 July, taking several hostages and killing two police before surrendering at the end of the month. The gunmen were demanding President Sargsyan’s resignation over his handling of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with neighbouring Azerbaijan, amid speculation over his government’s possible concessions to Baku. Thousands of people joined daily protests in support of the gunmen, with dozens injured in clashes with police, and scores detained.
In Mali, the peace process in the north faced serious setbacks as fighting flared up between an ethnic Tuareg armed group allied with the government and a coalition of Tuareg fighters who favour northern secession, killing at least twenty. Meanwhile in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, four days of clashes between government forces and SPLA-IO former rebels left hundreds of fighters dead and dealt the peace process a major blow. The replacement of Riek Machar, long-time SPLA-IO leader, as first vice president split the former rebels, and more fighting in several areas in late July could signal further splits and an escalation in the coming weeks. To pull South Sudan back from the brink, Crisis Group urged regional leaders, especially Uganda and Sudan, backed by the African Union, China and the U.S., to clarify the consequences for the warring factions if they do not halt the violence.
Talks to end political crisis 12-14 July in Arusha failed to address main points of contention. Opposition members attended but govt refused to meet them formally, said its internal dialogue sufficient. Tanzanian govt’s attempt during talks to arrest Burundian opposition member wanted by Burundian govt undermined opposition’s trust in Tanzanian mediation. Next round not yet announced. In Bujumbura unidentified assailants 13 July shot dead Burundian member of East African Parliament Hafsa Mossi, recently critical of regime. Human rights minister 5 July rejected UN Human Rights Chief’s 29 June report denouncing regime’s abuses. Human Rights Watch 7 July released report detailing torture by intelligence officers. UN Committee against Torture 28-29 July conducted special review on Burundi. Despite continued govt opposition, UNSC 29 July authorised deployment of up to 228 UN police to monitor security and human rights in Burundi for one year, mission requires Burundi govt approval; govt 30 July organised march in Bujumbura to protest resolution. UN 8 July said Burundian peacekeepers in CAR under investigation for sexual abuses.
Boko Haram (BH) carried out fourteen attacks against civilians and military in Far North, killing at least seventeen civilians, kidnapping eleven and killing one soldier. Govt and local media criticised Amnesty International report on abuses by army in Far North published 14 July. Twelve Cameroonians kidnapped March 2015 by armed group in Eastern province freed 19 July in Central African Republic (CAR), four others had died in captivity; one captive, mayor of Lagdo, said Patriotic Movement for the Safety of Cameroon (MPSC) loyal to imprisoned politician Aboubakar Sidiki kidnapped them and CAR armed group Democratic Front for the Central African People (FDPC) freed them in deal with Cameroon govt.
Insecurity and tensions persisted in NW, N, SW and centre as armed groups remained reluctant to disarm. Fighting between ex-Seleka rebel factions Union for Peace in the Central African Republic (UPC) and Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC) in Bambari 4 July left fourteen dead including civilians. Ex-Seleka attack in Ngakobo, south of Bambari 23 July left at least three dead. Govt 12 July said it had begun talks with UN on lifting arms embargo to enable it to procure weapons for army. French President Hollande 13 July confirmed that Sangaris military mission would end Oct 2016. UNSC 26 July extended UN mission (MINUSCA) until Nov 2017. EU Military Advisory Mission (EUMAM) replaced 16 July by EU Military Training Mission (EUTM) to support defence sector reform initially for two years. UN 8 July said over 6,000 people had fled from CAR to Chad and Cameroon since violence rose mid-June. International Monetary Fund 20 July approved $115.8mn three-year loan arrangement.
Army continued operations against Boko Haram (BH) on Lake Chad islands: arrested several suspected BH members including on Tchoukoudoum islet near Nigerian border and Kaiga Kindjiria islet near Niger border, early July clashed with BH near Nigerian border. Army and air force reportedly supporting Nigerian army repel BH attacks in Borno state, Nigeria. At African Union (AU) summit 17-19 July in Rwanda, President Déby, current AU chairman, proposed creation of trust fund for fighting terrorism in Africa. 31 opposition parties 26 July formed Front de l’opposition nouvelle pour l’alternance et le changement (FONAC) coalition.
Little progress made to resolve electoral crisis as opposition continued to reject President Kabila’s political dialogue. Electoral commission 5 July said it would organise elections after renewal of electoral register which would take at least sixteen months. Opposition grouping Rassemblement 4 July reiterated rejection of Kabila’s dialogue and 24 July rejected African Union (AU) facilitator Edem Kodjo. Catholic Church 22 July and AU 26 July called for dialogue to begin soon, AU expressed confidence in Kodjo. After two years’ absence Etienne Tshisekedi, leader of opposition Union of Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) and Rassemblement, returned to Kinshasa 27 July. In Kinshasa tens of thousands of Kabila supporters rallied 29 July and similar numbers of opposition supporters rallied 31 July calling for Kabila to step down. Ex-Katanga governor and opposition leader Moïse Katumbi and former Planning Minister Olivier Kamitatu 13 July in Washington called for more sanctions against govt; opposition delegation led by Tshisekedi, 18 July sought support from EU, U.S. and UK special representatives for Great Lakes region in Paris. UNSG Ban 5 July said peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) developing plans in case of widespread violence, UN Deputy SG 7 July expressed concern that mission would not have capacity to respond. In east, attacks against civilians attributed to Allied Defence Forces (ADF) rebels continued, including 5 July raid in Oicha, near Beni, N Kivu that left nine people dead; clash between army and ADF 30-31 July in Oicha killed three ADF, two soldiers and two civilians.
Arrests by security forces and subsequent violent protests 12 July in northern Gondar town, reportedly related to dispute over Wolqait district’s status as part of Tigray region, left at least five civilians and eleven security forces dead. Localised anti-govt protests held in Oromia region throughout month.
Al-Shabaab increased attacks along Somalia border and at coast: suspected militants shot buses near Elwak, Mandera county, killing six people 1 July; attacked vehicle heading from Mandera to Lafey, killing one 9 July; same day overran police station in Wajir near Somalia border, stole guns and ammunition; militants attacked police camp in Mangai, Lamu county 14 July, one militant reportedly killed. Police 21 July shot dead two suspected al-Shabaab militants in Mombasa; army vehicle 26 July detonated IED at Ishakani, Lamu county, several soldiers injured; Al-Shabaab 28 July destroyed communication mast in Fino town, Mandera county. Fighting between ethnic Kipsigis and Maasai over land in Pimpinyet border area in south-western Narok county 14-18 July left two people dead.
Al-Shabaab continued to launch attacks against civilians and clash with security forces. Group carried out twin suicide attacks using vehicle-borne IEDs near Medina Gate checkpoint in Mogadishu close to Aden Ade International Airport and AMISOM base 26 July, killing at least fifteen people; Al-Shabaab claimed one bomber was former MP Salah Nuh Ismail aka Salah Badbado. Militants 2 July launched mortar attacks in Baidoa, Bay region, killing four; suspected militants 5 July threw hand grenade in Mogadishu market, injuring nine; suspected Al-Shabaab bombing outside police station in Mogadishu 13 July wounded one; Al-Shabaab suicide bombers and gunmen 31 July attacked police Criminal Investigations Department in Mogadishu killing at least five civilians and a soldier. Somali National Army (SNA) 4 July regained control of villages near Qansahdhere, Bay region; 9 July overran Al-Shabaab base in Gobanle, Lower Shabelle; 30 July reportedly retook control of Garas Weyne area, Bakool region. Al-Shabaab 11 July raided SNA base in Laanta Buuro near Mogadishu, killing ten soldiers; same day retook port city Marka, Lower Shabelle; 17 July clashed with AMISOM in Awdinle, Bay region, fourteen civilians and four militants killed. Al-Shabaab Emir Ahmed Diriye aka Abu Ubaidah 12 July reiterated group’s commitment to al-Qaeda. Al-Shabaab member Mohamed Dahir aka Timo Jilac 21 July surrendered to police in Galmudug. Puntland and Somaliland forces 18 July clashed in contested Sanaag region (see Somaliland).
Security forces clashed with Puntland troops around Bodda-Cadde area 18 July in contested Sanaag region, reportedly took six people hostage including MP. Puntland claimed to have captured Somaliland forces.
Fighting between govt forces and former rebels erupted in Juba early July. Clashes in Juba between govt forces and Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) former rebels 7-11 July left hundreds of fighters and two Chinese peacekeepers dead. Under pressure from Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) regional bloc President Kiir and Riek Machar, SPLA-IO leader and first VP, declared ceasefire 11 July, Machar and SPLA-IO forces left Juba same day. Machar said he would return when regional forces provided him protection. During fighting Kiir provided protection for Machar and ordered troops not to kill certain SPLA-IO leaders. Regional leaders at IGAD summit 11 July proposed deploying intervention brigade in Juba, African Union endorsed decision; Kiir 14 July rejected proposal. Following proposal from minority SPLA-IO faction, Kiir 25 July replaced Machar as first VP with Mines Minister Taban Deng Gai; SPLA-IO military leaders and most SPLM/A-IO members rejected replacement. Since early July clashes SPLA-IO forces loyal to Machar attacked civilian vehicles on main road between Juba and Uganda and repelled attacks by govt forces. Renewed fighting also began 30 July in Nasir, former Upper Nile state. UNSC 29 July extended UN peacekeeping mission until 12 Aug.
“Sudan Call” coalition of armed and unarmed opposition groups met in Paris 18-22 July, agreed to hold preparatory meeting with African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) in coming months to discuss opposition’s requirements for joining AUHIP-mediated “roadmap” peace plan signed by govt in March. Govt 13 July said it would postpone final session of National Dialogue (ND) if opponents sign roadmap plan and thereby express willingness to join ND. Pro-govt militia Rapid Support Force (RSF), deployed in Northern state June 2016, 30 July said it had arrested about 600 Ethiopians allegedly heading to Libya intending to travel to Europe.
Following flare-up in fighting in S Sudan capital Juba 7-11 July between govt forces and Sudan People’s Liberation Army-In Opposition (SPLA-IO) former rebels, regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) including Uganda 11 July proposed deploying intervention brigade in Juba; President Museveni later suggested forces should only deploy with Juba’s consent (see S Sudan). Museveni 23 July advised S Sudan President Kiir, visiting Uganda, to accept third party troops in S Sudan deployed under IGAD to protect senior Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) officials. UN Refugee Agency 26 July said almost 37,500 South Sudanese had crossed into Uganda since 7 July fleeing fighting, govt 9-10 July deployed troops along S Sudan border. Army convoy 14 July entered S Sudan to evacuate Ugandan citizens; army 20 July said 38,000 civilians, mostly Ugandans, had left S Sudan for Uganda since start of fighting. High Court released Kizza Besigye, leader of opposition Forum for Democratic Change, on bail 12 July pending trial for treason for staging his own presidential inauguration ceremony in May. Ruling National Resistance Movement district chairpersons 13 July resolved to support motion to remove constitutional age limit for president currently 75.
Peace talks between armed opposition Renamo and govt began in Maputo 21 July but suspended 23 July amid disagreements. Tensions persisted as Renamo continued ambushes and raids: militants raided health centres in Banga, Tete province and Muapula, Niassa province 6 and 24 July respectively; 23-24 July ambushed truck near Barue, Manica province; 25 July ambushed coal train near Inhamitanga, Sofala province; attacked police station and health centre in Mopeia, Zambezia province and Maiaca, Niassa province 30 and 31 July respectively. Renamo 13 July kidnapped former Renamo MP Manuel Lole in Chimoio, Manica province; Lole’s body found in Tica, Sofala province 16 July.
Violence continued in run-up to 3 Aug municipal elections: in KwaZulu-Natal province unidentified gunmen 18 July killed local candidate for ruling African National Congress (ANC); at least twelve other ANC members reported killed in last two months.
In run-up to 11 Aug general elections, supporters of ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and leading opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) clashed several times; police 8 July opened fire on UPND supporters, killing one. Election commission 10 July suspended campaigning for a week in Lusaka and Namwala to stop violence. Police 20 July fired teargas and arrested 28 people during raid on home of UPND VP.
Authorities repressed anti-govt protests as splits in ruling party ZANU-PF widened. Citizens 6 July heeded civil society’s call for national strike; police same day fired tear gas at protesters demonstrating against govt’s economic mismanagement. In response ZANU-PF mid-July mobilised thousands of youth to march in Harare. ZANU-PF politburo 6 July endorsed disciplinary committee’s recommendation to expel War Veterans Association chairman Christopher Mutsvangwa for insulting first lady; association’s leadership 21 July said it would no longer support President Mugabe. Contradicting govt assurances that International Monetary Fund would soon relieve debt crisis with loan, institution 14 July said it was not discussing financing program with govt.
Police in Niger arrested seventeen members of Koglweogo civilian self-defence groups from Burkina Faso for illegally crossing border in search of two alleged bandits. Security Minister Simon Compaoré 11 July met Koglweogo delegation to address dispute with govt over group’s powers and said govt would create community police. Following 7 July meeting with opposition, President Kaboré 13 July amended composition and decision-making process of commission tasked with reforming constitution. Relations with Côte d’Ivoire improved: ambassadors from both countries filled vacant positions late July and govts held Friendship and Cooperation Treaty (TAC) summit 27-29 July in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire.
Tensions grew between govt and opposition: police 15 July broke up gathering in Abidjan urging signing of petition to demand release of former President Gbagbo, arrested three opposition supporters who were put on trial 25 July for organising “gathering that could upset public calm”. Govt 13 July indicted two military officers for being in contact with perpetrators of mid-March terrorist attack at Grand-Bassam prior to attack but failing to expose them; officers denied accusation. Riots and looting erupted 22 July in Bouaké in centre over rising electricity prices; one person killed and dozens injured in clashes between civilians, including disgruntled former combatants, and security forces. Relations with Burkina Faso improved (see Burkina Faso).
Preparations for local elections planned for Oct continued despite lack of dialogue between govt and opposition. Govt invited opposition to talks 14 July on electoral preparations but leader of main opposition Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea, Cellou Dalein Diallo, declined 9 July, deploring non-implementation of previous agreements, called for protests 4 Aug against “dictatorship, poverty, corruption and insecurity”. Ruling Rally of the Guinean People 13 July accused Diallo of trying to destabilise institutions through coup. Mining company Rio Tinto 4 July said it would not develop iron ore mine in Simandou area, hailed as future motor of economic growth, because of low market prices.
President Vaz and PM Djá tried to consolidate power against dominant faction of former ruling party, African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (PAIGC). Supreme Court 15 July endorsed Djá’s nomination as PM. Djá from 11 July sought diplomatic and financial support from presidents of Togo, Burkina Faso and Senegal and from West African Development Bank, West African Economic and Monetary Union and Central Bank of West African States.
In north security forces violently repressed protests and rebel groups clashed. Security forces 12 July opened fire on youth associations in Gao protesting appointment of interim authorities in north – major step in implementation of peace deal – and demanding to be included in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration process; four killed, 37 injured. Protests also broke out in Timbuktu and Bamako in following days. Govt delegation 13 July met youth in Gao to ease tensions. Following rise in tensions between ethnic Tuareg groups, Imghad Self-Defence Group of Imrad Tuareg and Allies (GATIA) and Ifoghas High Council for Unity of Azawad (HCUA) over control of Kidal city and trafficking routes, groups 17 July in Niamey, Niger signed agreement on local security and power sharing. However, clashes between groups in Kidal 21-22 July left up to twenty dead. GATIA and main rebel alliance Coalition of Azawad Movements (CMA) 30 July clashed at Edjerer about 50km NE of Kidal, GATIA claimed to have killed six CMA. Seven new ministers appointed 7 July including Nina Wallet Intallou of signatory rebel group National Movement for Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). Suspected jihadist groups including Ansar Dine and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb continued attacks against national and international forces throughout month in Mopti, Ségou, Koro, Timbuktu and Kidal regions, killing at least nineteen soldiers, one National Guard and local official. Ansar Dine and ethnic armed group National Alliance for the Protection of Fulani Identity and the Restoration of Justice (ANSIPRJ), formed in June, claimed 19 July attack on army base at Nampala, Ségou region that killed seventeen soldiers. Security forces 27 July arrested regional leader of Ansar Dine, Abou Yehiya, allegedly involved in Nampala attack. Parliament 30 July extended state of emergency until March 2017.
Despite decrease of Boko Haram (BH) attacks in SE, govt 29 July extended state of emergency in Diffa region until Oct. Niger component of regional Multinational Joint Task Force 25 July reportedly launched large-scale military operation against BH in N Nigeria. Arrests and judicial action against political opponents and civil society representatives continued: seven members of opposition party Moden Lumana, close to former presidential candidate Hama Amadou, sentenced to ten months’ prison 12 July following arrest in Nov 2015 for “armed gathering and public disorder”.
Clashes between military and Boko Haram (BH) insurgents continued in Borno state in NE while violence continued in Niger Delta and Middle Belt and escalated in SW. Troops 8 July repelled BH attack on army base in Rann, killed sixteen insurgents, two soldiers killed. Suspected BH suicide bomber same day attacked mosque in Damboa, killing six. BH 12 July attacked army in Kangarwa, killed two soldiers; several insurgents killed. BH 21 July ambushed army in Guro Gongon village, wounded nineteen soldiers, about eleven missing. Multinational Joint Taskforce 28 July retook Damasak town under BH control since Oct 2014. Humanitarian crisis in NE deepened: UNICEF 14 July said 250,000 children suffering severe malnourishment in Borno state; suspected BH 28 July attacked aid convoy wounding five, UNICEF 30 July said it would continue aid in NE. In Niger Delta, armed groups continued attacks on oil installations: Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) claimed responsibility for at least fourteen attacks on oil and gas installations 1-24 July in Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom states. Violence escalated in SW: oil installation vandals 14 and 26 July attacked outlying communities in Lagos and Ogun states; army and navy bombarded vandals’ base 28 July, killed scores. Clashes between pastoralists and sedentary crop farmers continued especially in Middle Belt: at least four killed in Niger state 8 July; community leaders 9 July reported over 80 killed in Logo and Ukum areas, Benue state in previous two weeks, police reported 22 killed; suspected herdsmen 18 July killed traditional ruler in Plateau state. President Buhari 13 July launched military operation to curb rural banditry in Zamfara state: army 17 July reported eleven bandits killed.
Media 21 July reported that China and Pakistan launched first joint patrol of mutual border between Xinjiang and Kashmir. U.S. think-tank 20 July reported that over 100 Uighurs fled Xinjiang to join Islamic State between mid-2013 and mid-2014.
Chinese defence ministry 4 July issued statement criticising Japan for 17 June encounter over East China Sea (ECS) in which it claimed two Japanese fighter jets reportedly warned and intercepted “at high speed” two Chinese jets executing “routine patrol” over China’s ECS Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ). Japan’s Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary 5 July denied Japanese jets took any provocative actions; also denied 28 June report of same encounter by Japanese Air Self-Defence Force (ASDF) officer alleging Chinese aircraft launched threatening attack manoeuvre. Japan’s Self-Defence Force Chief of Joint Staff 30 June announced number of scrambles of ASDF fighters against Chinese aircraft from April-June increased by more than 80 from 114 over same period in 2015.
ROK and U.S. 8 July announced decision to deploy Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) anti-missile system in ROK, solely to counter DPRK threat; ROK defence officials said system expected to be operational end-2017 at latest, foreign ministry 13 July said system to be deployed in SE Seongju county in order to protect “one half to two-thirds of citizens”. Chinese foreign ministry summoned ROK and U.S. diplomats, issued statement expressing “discontent” and opposition to deployment, urged ROK and U.S. terminate process. DPRK 9 July test-launched KN-11 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM); ROK joint chiefs of staff reported test failed. DPRK 19 July launched three projectiles, believed to be Scud-type short-range ballistic missiles, into Sea of Japan. U.S. Treasury 6 July announced sanctions against DPRK leaders including Kim Jong-un for human rights abuses; sanctions are first to directly target Kim and regime officials, include asset freezes within U.S. jurisdiction and prohibition of transactions involving designated persons. DPRK 7 July said measures constituted “open declaration of war”, threatened to cut off all diplomatic contact. Chinese foreign ministry stated opposition to unilateral sanctions.
Joint suicide attacks on ethnic Hazara protesters in Kabul 23 July killed at least 80 people, injured over 250, making it reportedly the deadliest in capital since 2001; Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility, marking first apparent IS attack in capital; Taliban condemned attack, denied involvement. President Ghani 15 July pledged major anti-IS operation after officials in Badakhshan province 10 July warned of IS activities in east. Afghan security forces 26 July reportedly killed top IS commander Saad Emarati in Kot district, Nangarhar. With fighting expected to escalate during Taliban’s annual summer offensive, defence ministry 2 July said Afghan National Defence and Security Force (ANDSF) had intensified operations in several districts across country. Taliban 21 July reportedly gained control of large portions of Qala-e-Zal and Dasht-e-Archi districts of Kunduz province following several days of intense clashes. Helmand official 30 July reported Taliban had taken control of Kanashin district. Noting recent security gains in Kandahar, province’s police chief 3 July claimed deaths of former Taliban leaders Mullah Omar and successor Akhtar Mansour had weakened insurgency, while Herat Provincial Council’s security committee 8 July warned of growing insurgency. Presidency 14 July confirmed govt has no plans to revive talks with Taliban. U.S. President Obama 6 July announced 8,400 U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan until end of his term Jan 2017, changed rules of engagement to allow for direct combat with Taliban and more airstrikes. Series of drone strikes throughout month reportedly killed several dozen insurgents in Nangarhar province, including twelve killed in 11 July strike on IS radio station. At 8-9 July Warsaw Summit, NATO reaffirmed its commitment to Afghanistan, including Operation Resolute Support to train and assist Afghan security institutions through end-2017 and provide ANDSF with $4.5bn annually until 2020; govt committed to reforms including anti-corruption and transparency measures.
Brutal attack on café in Dhaka’s upscale Gulshan neighbourhood 1 July left 22 dead, mostly foreigners, in hostage siege, first incident of its kind. Attackers reportedly included affluent, educated youth, including son of ruling Awami League (AL) member. Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility, though some experts and officials pointed to likely involvement of al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent (AQIS) affiliates. PM Sheikh Hasina vowed to bring terrorists to justice; opposition BNP leader Khaleda Zia 3 July condemned attack. Special investigation team claimed to have identified mastermind of attack, who allegedly fled at least seven months prior and now hiding in India’s West Bengal state; described incident as combined operation by Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), Ansarul Islam (previously Ansarullah Bangla Team) and banned Hizb ut-Tahrir. Four killed in 7 July attack on country’s largest Eid prayer congregation site in Sholakia, Kishoreganj district. Police arrested scores of alleged JMB and Ansarul Islam members across country; 26 July killed nine alleged militants in Dhaka; identified new suspect, Bangladeshi-Canadian Tamim Chowdhury, as mastermind of Gulshan and Sholakia attacks. In latest in series of targeted killings, Hindu priest hacked to death 1 July in SW Jhenaida district. BNP-led opposition alliance 13 July announced it would hold anti-militancy national convention; pro-BNP professionals advised Zia to insist Jamaat apologise to nation and sever links with extremist groups. Rapid Action Batallion (RAB) Director General Benazir Ahmed said state would offer 1mn takas (over $12,700) to any militant renouncing terrorism.
Ten soldiers reported killed in clash with Maoist rebels in Bihar’s Aurangabad district 18 July; three alleged insurgents reported killed 18 July in gunfight with police in Dumrinala, Bihar. Cabinet Committee on Security 24 July approved twelve new battalions for states most affected by “Left Wing Extremism (LWE)” including Chhatisgarh, Jarkhand, Odisha and Maharashtra.
Indian security forces’ killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani and state’s violent crackdown on subsequent protests sparked fresh crisis in India-administered Kashmir. Wani and two other Hizbul Mujahideen members killed in southern Indian-administered Kashmir 8 July prompting scores of major protests throughout Jammu and Kashmir throughout month, with at least 49 civilians killed and over 5,000 reportedly injured in clashes with security forces. Indian authorities imposed immediate round-the-clock curfew; 15 July imposed information “blackout”, including printing ban and limited cell phone and internet coverage. Indian govt 17 July sent 2,000 additional troops. Authorities 26 July briefly lifted curfew in most of Srinagar and parts of N Kashmir, but re-imposed 27 July as unrest continued, including strikes and street protests. Pakistan’s foreign office and army chief General Raheel Sharif condemned killing of Wani and protesters. Hizb-ul-Mujahadeen leader Syed Salahuddin 13 July led rally in Pakistan-administered Kashmir capital Muzaffarabad, accusing India of genocide of Kashmiris. Pakistan senate 18 July passed unanimous resolution protesting violence in Indian-administered Kashmir; Indian home minister blamed Pakistan for orchestrating bloodshed.
PM KP Oli resigned 24 July after no-confidence motion filed 13 July by coalition partner CPN (Maoist Centre), or CPN (MC), citing ruling UML party’s failure to transfer govt leadership as previously agreed. Motion supported by opposition Nepali Congress (NC); two parties also blocked passing of fiscal 2016/17 budget. CPN (MC) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal seen as most likely new PM in coalition with NC, with NC President Sher Bahadur Deuba taking over after nine months. Dissenting Madhesi parties urged to join new govt, but seek assurances on constitutional amendments for disputed provincial boundaries and affirmative action. CPN (MC) and NC 27 July proposed postponing local elections from Nov to Feb-Mar 2017 to determine number and borders of village and municipal councils. Transitional justice (TJ) issues in spotlight amid concerns that new govt could transfer conflict-era cases to commissions on truth and reconciliation, and disappearances, already under strain to investigate over 55,000 complaints by February 2017 deadline. High-ranking leaders including Dahal and Deuba face charges.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader 10 July called for accountability in alleged extrajudicial killing after body of MQM activist Riazul Haq, detained by paramilitary Rangers in May, found in Karachi 30 June. Rangers-led security operation escalated following drive-by shooting of prominent singer late June claimed by Pakistani Taliban faction. Police 19 July arrested senior MQM members, including Karachi mayor-elect, in connection with investigations into links with militants after anti-terrorism court rejected their applications for pre-arrest bail. Head of Sindh Rangers 16 July reportedly issued ultimatum to Sindh chief minister that Sindh home minister surrender his brother and alleged associate, arguing that Rangers’ policing powers applied only to Karachi, not Larkana. Military 19 July announced Sindh chief justice’s kidnapped son freed during operation in KPK’s Tank district. U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan’ Nangarhar province killed Pakistani Taliban (TTP) faction commander Umar Mansoor, suspected mastermind of Dec 2014 Peshawar school attack. Several civilians and security personnel killed in attacks in Balochistan late June-July, including three security personnel killed 2 July in two attacks in Mastung district. Roadside bomb 18 July killed seven in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK)’s Upper Dir district. Seven alleged TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) militants reportedly killed 31 July in clash with counter-terrorism forces west of Lahore. Following murder of social media celebrity Qandeel Baloch by her brother 15 July in so-called “honour killing”, officials barred family from pardoning killer; independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan estimated over 1,ooo women killed in “honour killings” in 2015.
President Sirisena early July called meeting to review PM Wickremasinghe’s decision to increase VAT and Nation Building Tax (NBT); following petition by opposition parliamentarians, Supreme Court 11 July ordered suspension of tax hike, on grounds that it was implemented without parliamentary vote and therefore unconstitutional. Opposition parties exploited controversial tax policies with small but disruptive protests across country through July. Sirisena 30 July announced coalition govt will remain in place for five years, not two years as initially agreed. Son of former President Rajapaksa arrested 11 July over allegations of financial misappropriation. FM Samaraweera, upon returning from June UN Human Rights Council (HRC) session, told media that special accountability court and truth commission will be finalised by 2017. Visiting U.S. delegation 12 July commended govt on efforts to implement HRC resolution to investigate violations of international law during final stages of civil war, stressed need for wider public consultations; U.S. also pledged to support Sri Lanka’s economic development if Colombo honoured its human rights commitments. On 15 July, in potentially significant step toward justice for past human rights violations, local court in northern town Mullaitivu requested military provide list of persons who surrendered to them at end of conflict in 2009. In another positive move, police arrested intelligence officer for 2009 killing of newspaper editor and govt critic Lasantha Wickrematunge.
Security officials 18 July killed East Indonesia Mujahideen (EIM) leader and “most wanted terror suspect”, Santoso aka Abu Wardah in gun battle in Poso, Central Sulawesi. Following 13-14 July Special Leaders’ Summit in Honiara, Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) again deferred decision on whether to award member status to United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULM). Suicide bomber 5 July attacked police station in Solo, Central Java, injuring one police officer. Large-scale clash in W Papua 31 July, reportedly between members of Amungme/Damal and Dani tribes in Timika, left three dead, dozens injured.
Ahead of Panglong-21 peace conference between govt and armed groups planned for late-Aug, representatives of seventeen armed groups held major strategy meeting in Kachin Independence Organisation territory 26-30 July; decisions by armed groups on whether they will attend Panglong-21 to be taken individually on basis of further discussions with govt. UN and China attended as international observers. Over 1,000 people demonstrated 16 July in N Shan state capital against late June killings of seven civilians, five of whom were among several detained by military 25 June. In unprecedented move, military took public responsibility for killings; military intelligence chief 20 July indicated that military investigation had found that troops acted illegally in killing five of the civilians; action to be taken against them. Renewed clashes erupted early July between Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Shan State Army-South armed groups in N Shan state, over 100 villagers fled. Arakan National Party issued statement rejecting June proposal by Myanmar representative to UN Human Rights Council to use term “Muslim community in Rakhine state” instead of “Rohingya”, launched Rakhine state-wide protests 3 July. UN human rights chief released report 20 June on “systematic discrimination” and other rights violations against minorities in Myanmar, particularly Rohingya Muslims. In first incident of anti-Muslim violence under new govt, Buddhist mob ransacked Muslim shop and mosque in Bago region village 23 June, prompting 100 villagers to flee; chief minister indicated no charges would be brought. In Kachin state mob burned down Muslim prayer hall 1 July; five suspects arrested. Chief minister of Yangon region 3 July criticised Buddhist nationalist MaBaTha organisation; MaBaTha demanded action against him and threatened protest, but backed down after ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) voiced support for him. State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, (the Sangha Council, tasked with safeguarding/regulating Buddhism), 12 July issued statement declaring MaBaTha has no lawful status as a Buddhist organisation. Civil society group previous day lodged criminal complaint against leading MaBaTha monk Wirathu for “showing disrespect to Buddhism”. Religion data from 2014 census released by govt 21 July showing percentages essentially unchanged: 88% Buddhist, 6% Christian, 4.3% Muslim; some analysts and Muslim leaders questioned credibility of data.
Building on President Duterte’s campaign pledge to federalise country, administration 19 July announced it would launch simultaneous push for “enabling law” creating autonomous Bangsamoro region and work on shift to federal form of govt. New comprehensive peace roadmap approved by Duterte 18 July calls for all-Moro body to draft more inclusive law in lieu of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), to consolidate existing peace agreements including 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and 1996 Final Peace Agreement with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF); body which drafted BBL to be “reconstituted” with representation from Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), MNLF and other Bangsamoro representatives. Duterte 22 July encouraged quick passage of enabling law, excluding constitutional issues, which he said could be incorporated into constitution under move to federalism. MILF said its Central Committee meeting late July to discuss proposal; presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza and MILF leader Murad Ebrahim 21 July announced govt-MILF Implementing Team meeting early-Aug. Govt and MILF 12 July signed agreement to coordinate in combatting illegal drugs in areas formerly under MILF control. Duterte 25 July announced immediate, unilateral ceasefire with Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA) and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP); ceasefire lifted 30 July when no immediate reciprocal ceasefire was declared and after 27 July firefight between NPA and military in Davao del Norte in which one “civilian auxiliary force member” died and three wounded, according to Dureza. Govt earlier announced resumption of peace talks with NDFP to take place 20-27 Aug; NDFP requested govt release detained leaders to participate in negotiations. Military 11 July said troops killed 40 Abu Sayyaf fighters in early-July fighting on Jolo and Basilan islands; 17 July announced 33 members of Islamic State (IS)-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters killed in four days of fighting in Maguindanao province. Suspected Abu Sayyaf members 14 July killed three Philippine soldiers. Three Indonesians abducted 10 July, Abu Sayyaf suspected of responsibility; Dureza 19 July confirmed Abu Sayyaf kidnapped five Malaysians.
Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague 12 July issued landmark ruling in SCS territorial dispute case brought by Philippines, ruling “no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources … within ‘nine-dash line’”, and that none of disputed Spratly chain are legally “islands” and therefore do not generate exclusive economic zones (EEZs); also ruled that China violated Philippines’ sovereign rights in its EEZ; and that Chinese activities have severely harmed marine ecology and environment. Beijing repeated its refusal to accept or comply with ruling, restated claims in SCS; said completion of lighthouse on Mischief Reef expected “soon”. China 13 July tested two airfields in Spratlys with civilian flights; military spokesman 18 July announced combat air patrol encompassing disputed Scarborough Shoal conducted “recently”, would become “regular” in future. China Navy commander met with U.S. chief of naval operations in Beijing same day, said China would not give up efforts to peacefully resolve SCS disputes. Philippines FM 19 July said he had refused Chinese offer of bilateral negotiations “outside of and [in] disregard of” court ruling; prior to ruling Philippine President Duterte 5 July proposed bilateral talks on basis of ruling. Two Chinese coast guard vessels reportedly rammed and sank Vietnamese fishing boat 9 July within area cordoned off by China for 5-11 July military drills; Vietnam demanded compensation for fishermen. Indonesian defence minister 13 July confirmed country refurbishing and upgrading military assets on Natuna islands. China 28 July announced it will hold joint military exercises with Russia in SCS in Sept. Former Philippine President Fidel Ramos appointed special envoy to China 23 July.
Ahead of 7 Aug referendum on draft constitution, ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) early July began to establish “peace centres” around country, ostensibly to ensure smooth balloting; opponents claim centres intended to influence vote. 23 ambassadors from Europe, U.S. and Canada 15 July issued public statement expressing concern at NCPO’s stifling of debate about draft. UN 6 and 26 July expressed concern over reports of restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly ahead of referendum. NCPO Order 41/2016 went into effect 13 July, authorising Office of National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) to close down media outlets that fail to cooperate with junta or present information deemed threat to national security, including “dishonest” criticism of NCPO operations. NBTC 21 July ordered that Red Shirt Peace TV cease broadcasting for 30 days. 117 leading members of political parties and civil society 20 July issued statement calling on NCPO to allow people to debate contents of draft constitution in public forum; Deputy PM next day told media govt will organise debates in each province. Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva 27 July announced he will vote against draft constitution. NGO Deep South Watch reported 32 people killed and 61 wounded during Ramadan in 82 violent incidents, fewer than same period in 2015. Incidents in July included: security forces killed two suspected insurgents in gun battle in Reuso district, Narathiwat 2 July; Malay Muslim man killed and three others wounded when grenade exploded in front of mosque in Yala 4 July; police officer killed by car bomb in Nong Chik district, Pattani 5 July.
PM O’Neill, facing calls to resign over corruption allegations, 22 July survived no-confidence vote in parliament by 85 to 21 votes. Vote came amid strikes by airline pilots, transport workers and medics, with civil society groups pledging to continue protests.
Republika Srpska (RS) assembly delegates 15 July approved decision to organise referendum 25 Sept on whether to celebrate annual “Day of RS” holiday on 9 Jan, despite Constitutional Court Nov 2015 ruling it discriminatory and unconstitutional. Bosniak politicians in RS urged international representative Valentin Inzko to reverse decision. RS leaders 31 July agreed to drop opposition to reforms needed to clear way for EU to accept Bosnia’s membership application.
Parliament scheduled to debate controversial border demarcation agreement with Montenegro, requirement for EU visa liberalisation and subject of opposition protests, 3 Aug.
Govt and opposition parties 20 July reached new deal on political crisis, agreeing on cleaning up electoral rolls; media reforms to foster balanced election reporting; new interim govt to be formed 100 days before election; and support for special prosecutor investigating high-level corruption. Interim interior minister to be appointed from opposition, though with limited authority for appointments of police chiefs. Parties to assess implementation of deal and agree on election date by end-Aug. Journalists’ union criticised deal, said measures to ensure balanced reporting insufficient.
Standoff between security forces and around twenty armed members of opposition group Sasna Tsrer began 17 July as latter took several police officers hostage in Yerevan’s Erebuni district police HQ, killing one police officer and injuring six; all hostages released by 23 July however standoff continued, several medical personnel treating wounded members of group taken hostage 26 July. Police officer shot dead 30 July by group inside police station, day before they surrendered. Gunmen mostly veterans of 1990s Nagorno-Karabakh (N-K) conflict, demanding resignation of President Sargsyan over handling of N-K conflict amid speculation of his govt’s possible concessions to Azerbaijan, formation of interim govt and parliamentary elections, and release of political prisoners including Zhirair Sefilyan, leader of opposition movement New Armenia Public Salvation Front arrested in June for illegal firearms possession. Thousands joined daily anti-govt protests starting 18 July in support for gunmen and calling for peaceful resolution of standoff with Sasna Tsrer; dozens of protesters injured in clashes with police and scores detained.
Local and international observers criticised May prisoner amnesty for excluding political prisoners. President Aliyev 18 July proposed extending presidential term of office from five to seven years, approved by Constitutional Court 25 July. Islamic State released propaganda video 23 July featuring Yurik Khasiev aka Abdulla the Caucasian, using both Azerbaijani and native Lezgin language spoken on border with Dagestan, threatening govt.
EU-Georgia association agreement entered into force 1 July. U.S. and Georgia 6 July signed agreement on Deepening the Defense and Security Partnership, however NATO summit concluded 9 July with no offer of formal relationship with Georgia. European Commissioner Hahn 14 July promised visa-free EU travel for Georgians by October. In breakaway Abkhazia republic, over 1,000 opposition protesters 5 July attempted to storm de facto interior ministry to demand resignation of top police official and Minister Leonid Dzapshba, clashing with police. De facto president next day suspended Dzapshba, denied opposition demand to postpone 10 July referendum on early presidential elections. Referendum declared invalid after only 1.23% of voters participated, following calls first by de facto govt and later also those who initiated referendum to boycott poll. Moscow 11 July approved agreement on uniting Abkhaz and Russian armed forces within framework of Nov 2014 alliance and strategic partnership.
Azerbaijan and Armenia repeatedly accused each other of violating ceasefire. Nagorno-Karabakh (N-K) defence ministry 23 July reported one soldier killed and one wounded in shooting from Azerbaijan’s side of line of contact. Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) 4 July adopted statement reaffirming confidence in OSCE Minsk Group format and work of mediators in conflict zone, reiterated necessity to implement agreements between presidents reached in Vienna in May and St. Petersburg in June. U.S. Sec State Kerry 9 July held meeting with Azerbaijan and Armenia presidents in Warsaw, and Russian FM Lavrov 11-12 July with Azerbaijan leaders in Baku. Armenian capital Yerevan rocked by armed opposition group’s seizure of police HQ for two weeks in protest at govt’s handling of N-K conflict and speculation of its possible concessions to Azerbaijan (see Armenia).
Chechen republic head Ramzan Kadyrov 2 July announced he will run for another term in Sept elections. Kadyrov 5 July demanded Turkey hand over twelve Chechen nationals he claimed are terrorists. Eight militants and one law enforcement officer reported killed in clashes south of Dagestan capital Makhachkala 7-8 July. Police 11 July killed alleged member of Yuzhnaya gang militant group during counter-terrorism operation in Dagestan. U.S. 13 July named IS leader in Chechnya Aslan Avgazarovich Byutukayev, or Amir Khamzat, as “specially designated global terrorist”.
EU-Moldova association agreement entered into force 1 July; IMF 26 July agreed to $179 mn loan over three years conditional on govt economic reforms. Former top anticorruption official called for international investigation into fraud case which in part saw conviction of former PM Filat in June.
Ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and separatists barely holding across parts of 500km front line, with June worst month for military casualties in a year, including seven soldiers killed 19 July. Fighting centred around Donetsk’s Avdiivka, Marinka, Horlivka, also heavy shelling in govt-controlled Mariupol. UN Human rights chief 14 July report criticised “rampant impunity” on both sides for killings in east, called for accountability to deal with rights abuses and so-called detainee “exchange fund” mechanism allegedly created by Ukrainian security services; joint Amnesty International/Human Rights Watch delegation accused both sides of torture and arbitrary, secret detention of civilians. Heads of self-proclaimed separatist republics again postponed local elections from 24 July to 6 Nov. Parliamentary Speaker Andriy Parubiy 4 July again cast doubt on possibility of decentralisation for east, said terms can only be discussed once area is secure and when paragraph giving region “special status” is removed from bill on decentralisation. Belarussian journalist Pavel Sheremet killed in car bomb in central Kyiv 20 July; perpetrator, motive unknown. Prosecutor General Yury Lutsenko 25 July announced deputy head of National Police arrested for illegally organising surveillance of Sheremet and his companion. Former prisoner of war and popular parliamentary deputy Nadezhda Savchenko made statements in interview broadcast 21 July calling for Ukraine to “ask forgiveness” to people of Donbas, called for Kyiv to speak directly to separatist leaders and said she is ready to engage in dialogue; in media interview said she can and “must” become president; interior ministry official called her “Trojan horse” infiltrated by Moscow. President Poroshenko suffered setbacks 17 July in by-elections, which saw Yulia Timoshenko’s Batkivshchyna party gain two new representatives in parliament; party reportedly planning alliance with Opposition Bloc. 8-9 July NATO summit in Warsaw pledged solidarity and aid package to Ukraine and agreed to new deployments in Eastern Europe.
As weekly meetings between Greek Cypriot leader Anastasiades and Turkish Cypriot leader Akıncı on reunification talks resumed, after 1 July meeting Anastasiades reportedly noted “substantial differences” remain on property issue despite rising optimism on peace process, and that issue of who will be eligible for property compensation remains unclear. U.S. Asst Sec State Nuland 12 July had two separate meetings with Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders in Nicosia: Anastasiades raised issue of guarantees, repeating position of not accepting presence of 43,000 Turkish troops on island; Turkish Cypriot side expressed desire to take negotiation process to decisive final step Sept 2016. Following 15 July attempted military coup in Turkey, Akıncı gave assurance that chain of command in Turkish army in N Cyprus was intact; also reassured N Cypriots of precautionary measures to prevent potential provocations. In separate statements 20 July, both Anastasiades and Akıncı emphasised that next two months would be crucial to reach settlement in Cyprus.
84 people killed and over 300 injured by Tunisian terrorist who drove truck through crowd in Nice gathered to watch 14 July national day fireworks; police shot dead driver. Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility; five suspected accomplices arrested in following days. Two 19-year-old men killed priest and took several people hostage in attack in church outside Rouen, Normandy 26 July; both attackers were known to security services over links to IS, which claimed responsibility; two people arrested over suspected links to attack.
Seventeen-year-old Afghan refugee attacked passengers on train near Wurzburg, Bavaria with axe and knife 18 July, wounding five, before being shot dead by police; Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility. Failed asylum-seeker from Syria 24 July blew himself up outside bar in Ansbach, Bavaria, injuring fifteen; had reportedly pledged allegiance to IS in videos found on his phone. Two other attacks during month, including 22 July attack in Munich in which a teenager shot dead nine people, considered not politically motivated. Govt said attacks not connected, no consistent pattern.
Attempt by segment of Turkish army to topple elected govt and President Erdoğan 15 July saw hundreds killed and injured and prompted thousands of detentions including military and public officials the state claims were connected with state-christened Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation/Parallel State Structure (FETÖ/PDY), allegedly led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, which govt blamed for coup. Coup attempt failed in face of resistance from police, part of army and citizens responding to call from Erdoğan and mosques to take to streets. At least 240 people reported killed during clashes between police and army and attacks on civilians, over 1,500 injured. Turkish military 16-28 July discharged 117 generals, 32 admirals, 1,505 officers. Govt also dismissed some 60,000 public officials including in interior, foreign, education ministries. 2,745 judges and prosecutors suspended, 88 journalists detained, some 100 media outlets shut down on allegations of being connected to so-called FETÖ/PDY. Erdoğan 30 July announced 10,137 arrested, 18,699 detained in wake of coup attempt. Scale of backlash prompted concern in the West over Turkey’s commitment to rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms. Concern also abounds over divisions within security bureaucracy and capacity to address security challenges including operations against Kurdish PKK insurgency in SE and fight against Islamic State (IS). All four political parties in parliament condemned coup attempt. Parliament 21 July approved three-month state of emergency; deputy PM same day announced Turkey will temporarily suspend implementation of obligations pertaining to European Convention on Human Rights. Amnesty International 24 July published report alleging detained coup plotters being subjected to ill-treatment and torture; govt dismissed allegations. Coup attempt also ignited public debate on reinstalling capital punishment; Erdoğan 19 July said he would back a bill passed by parliament, EU warned such move would rule out EU accession. Clashes between state security forces and PKK continued, killing 42 security force members, 33 PKK militants, eight civilians in July. Govt 16 July imposed security lockdown at Incirlik Air Base following reports that some tanker aircraft deployed in coup attempt took off from base; operations resumed 17 July. Erdoğan 2 July announced govt would start working on granting citizenship to Syrian refugees in Turkey, prompting backlash from public and opposition.
Gunman killed four police and two civilians, and injured seventeen others in 18 July attack in Almaty; 26-year-old suspect Ruslan Kulikbayev from Kyzylorda captured alive. President Nazarbayev described incident as terrorist attack, head of National Security Committee (KNB) Vladimir Zhumakanov said Kulikbayev had previous convictions and was radicalised by Salafis in prison, however Minister of Information Dauren Abayev 18 July played down Islamist links. Zhumakanov 19 July said legislation on combatting terrorism and extremism will be tightened and those fighting abroad will be deprived of citizenship. Court in Aktobe 12 July convicted twelve people for planning travel to Syria to fight. Petropavlovsk court 19 July sentenced man to seven year’s jail for joining Islamic State (IS) in Syria. Hundreds of oil industry workers went on strike 28 July over pay cuts in Zhanaozen, Mangistau region.
Supreme Court 12 July sent case of activist Azimjan Askarov – convicted in 2010 for inciting crowd to murder ethnic Kyrgyz police during June 2010 riots in Bazar-Korgon – back for review, prompting fears that his release could reignite ethnic violence in south. During 13-14 July visit, German Chancellor Merkel welcomed decision to retry Askarov’s case, also discussed extremism with President Atambayev.
In 18 July statement Afghan Taliban assured Central Asian countries it “does not seek to interfere in the internal affairs of others”, added it would not allow others to use Taliban-held territory for that end, apparently referring to Islamic State (IS) and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Govt 22 July reported migration to Russia dropped by almost 7% during first half of 2016.
State media 2 July reported President Berdymukhammedov pardoned 612 prisoners ahead of Eid al-Fitr celebrations. Govt mid-month closed border with Kazakhstan for five days amid increased security measures.
Constitutional Court 18 July ruled on referendum on govt-FARC peace accords, accepting govt’s proposal of minimum number of votes required to validate result of the plebiscite at 13% of electorate. Communiqué from FARC’s First front, located in SE and reported by state authorities to be heavily engaged in drug-trafficking, announced it would not take part in peace process. FARC leadership 8 July stated that group would be excluded from FARC since it did not follow orders to take part in peace process; many FARC fronts and units subsequently affirmed commitment to peace process. ELN guerrilla group late June publicly stated it “respects” agreements signed by govt and FARC; three ELN leaders called for peace with govt, blamed govt for stalled negotiations. “Gulf Cartel”, regarded as Colombia’s most important criminal organisation, stated it would “respect” FARC cantonment areas, also announced it would be “neutral but not indifferent observer” of process. Govt and FARC negotiators on peace talks’ gender commission 24 July agreed to improve land access for women and ensure sexual violence will be excluded from amnesty, as well as respect gender focus in the agreements already reached in Havana. Military and FARC guerrillas clashed in Meta province early July as a result of communications errors, some injuries reported. UN Office on Drugs and Crime report on coca cultivation in 2015 revealed 39% increase in total cultivated area compared to 2014, rising to 96,000 hectares, prompting some observers to speculate that govt had relaxed its anti-narcotics efforts in order to secure a final peace deal with FARC.
President Maduro 11 July gave Defence Minister Gen Vladimir Padrino López, Operational Commander of Armed Forces, overall control of govt’s efforts to resolve supply crisis of basic goods, ordered all cabinet ministers to report to him. Deadlock between govt and opposition intensified as opposition-controlled National Assembly (AN) 14 July voted to annul Dec 2015 appointments of thirteen Supreme Court (TSJ) justices and 21 deputies. AN 28 July reinstated three opposition legislators from Amazonas state suspended by TSJ in Jan after allegations of vote-buying, restoring opposition’s two-thirds majority in AN; former AN president and deputy leader of ruling Socialist Party (PSUV) Diosdado Cabello previously threatened the three with imprisonment if they take up their seats. Govt 9 July opened Colombian border crossing for twelve hours; Colombian authorities said 35,000 people crossed, mainly seeking food and medical supplies; some 130,000 crossed during longer opening the following weekend, some travelling hundreds of kilometres to do so. Most Organization of American States (OAS) members continued to back attempt by former Spanish Premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, along with two former Latin American presidents, to foster dialogue between govt and opposition, however opposition conditioned talks on scheduling of next phase of recall referendum. Electoral authority (CNE) postponed answer until August. Maduro late July accepted suggestion that Vatican help facilitate dialogue, but Vatican 26 July said no request yet received. Row broke out within Mercosur after Venezuela assumed rotating presidency of bloc 30 July despite opposition from some member countries and absence of formal handover.
Powerful ex-army captain Byron Lima killed 18 July in Pavón prison allegedly under his control, alongside twelve other prisoners and a female visitor. Attack reported to have been ordered by Marvin Montiel, aka “El Taquero”, another Pavón inmate allegedly in charge of crack cocaine distribution in prison, in response to Lima’s supposed prohibition of drug’s sale. El Periódico 17 July reported Lima was part of group seeking to murder Attorney General Thelma Aldana, who returned to Guatemala 16 July after almost a month abroad following death threats as she pursues corruption cases against former top govt officials. Judge 28 July ordered another corruption investigation into former President Pérez Molina. Congress 29 June approved new law for judicial careers, establishing Council charged with selection and appointment of magistrates, and mechanisms to evaluate and penalise judges on basis of their professional record and capacities; proponents of law, which is supported by International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and various international bodies, argue it will strengthen independence of judges. Homicide rate continued to fall during first six months of year, down to 2002 level, with police and public ministry continuing major operations against large criminal structures dedicated to extortion during recent months, including on 15 July when 109 gang members were captured in twelve municipalities including 75 women, allegedly extortion collectors.
Attempt to hold National Assembly session 14 July on transitional governance and election timetable failed for fourth time, with political parties again unable to debate disputed provisional governance arrangements due to lack of quorum. Organization of American States (OAS) Sec Gen Luis Almagro 15 July expressed concern over inability to convene session needed to achieve institutional stability and push ahead with electoral process. U.S. early July announced it will not finance Haiti’s 9 Oct rerun presidential elections; UN peacekeeping chief Hervé Ladsous warned international community was losing patience with stalled govt. U.S. Special Envoy Kenneth Merten 21 July returned to Haiti to try and secure agreements for new transitional govt and political consensus on elections. Estimated 130,000 Haitian nationals who received Dominican Republic residence permit for one year under National Regularization of Foreigners Plan (PNRE) saw documents expire 18 July; human rights organisations warned of increased risks of new wave of deportations, expulsions or spontaneous returns to Haiti.
Protesters backing teachers opposed to educational reforms continued to block major highways in several southern states, reportedly causing major economic losses and shortage of basic goods in remote areas. Govt attempted to defuse protests in 13 July talks with main teacher’s union, however proposals rejected by dissident union. President Peña Nieto signed new anti-corruption reform into law 18 July, while apologising for 2014 conflict of interest scandal involving property purchase by his wife. Federal prosecutor’s office 11 July said it would challenge laws passed by State Congresses in Veracruz and Quintana Roo that could protect outgoing governors from prosecution. Court in Texas 19 July convicted Marciano (aka “Chano”) Millán Vásquez of conspiring to commit numerous murders as a Zetas cartel leader in border town Piedras Negras, Coahuila state; relatives of those who disappeared in Coahuila said they would use evidence presented during trial to file charges against state govt before International Criminal Court, accusing authorities of complicity in mass disappearances. Two mayors killed in separate attacks in Guerrero and Chiapas states 23 July.
International Quartet 1 July issued report identifying three main sets of obstacles to resolution of Israeli-Palestinian conflict: violence and incitement; settlement expansion, land designations and denial of Palestinian statehood; and Gaza Strip’s military build-up, dire humanitarian situation and Palestinian divided governance. Palestinian Authority (PA) criticised report, continued to voice support for France’s peace initiative. Egypt continued to advance its initiative, with its FM meeting with President Abbas late June and PM Netanyahu 10 July – first Egyptian ministerial visit to Israel since 2007. Cairo said it seeks to follow up on President Sisi’s call in May for Israelis and Palestinians to resume direct negotiations. Abbas repeated his demands for any such talks: Israel’s commitment to a settlement freeze, release of fourth tranche of prisoners, and agreement to hold discussions on basis of pre-1967 borders. Hamas declared it would participate in PA municipal elections 8 Oct and permit them to take place in Gaza. Several fatal shootings in West Bank during month, including killing of two members of Palestinian security forces, fuelled discussion about deteriorating security there. Rabbi from Otniel settlement shot dead 1 July; Israeli forces 27 July killed suspect in attack. Palestinian boy killed in clash with troops in East Jerusalem 19 July. Attorney general 10 July ordered new inquiry into matters relating to Netanyahu, with media reporting speculation over suspicions of PM’s possible involvement in criminal offences including money laundering.
Interior ministry sources reported that the eight perpetrators of suicide bombing in Al-Qaa 27 June were Syrian nationals, who all came from inside Syria, mainly from Raqqa, blamed on Islamic State (IS). Bombings exacerbated already strained relations between Lebanese and over 1mn Syrian refugees country is currently hosting. Governor of Baalbek al-Hermel reportedly imposed curfew on Syrians living in Al-Qaa and surrounding villages starting late June, while Lebanese forces repeatedly cracked down on refugee camps since attack arresting hundreds, most on charges of staying illegally; media also reported attacks against Syrian refugees.
Regime air and artillery fire, assisted by re-intensified Russian airstrikes, severed final supply line into areas of Aleppo city held by mostly non-jihadi opposition mid-month, amid renewed diplomatic manoeuvering between U.S. and Russia. Scores killed by fighting in and around Aleppo during month as airstrikes and rocket attacks hit civilian areas; four hospitals hit by airstrikes 24 July. As many as 300,000 civilians estimated to remain in encircled portion of city, as UN warned of critical humanitarian conditions and dwindling basic supplies, called for regular ceasefires around city. Regime 28 July said army had cut off all supply routes, in Russian-supported initiative informed residents and rebels willing to surrender that they could leave through “humanitarian corridors”; UN called for guarantees, humanitarian access, ICRC said departures must not be forced. Elsewhere, over 40 people reported killed in Islamic State (IS) bombing of Qamishli city near Turkish border 27 July. Kurdish YPG-led, U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces’ (SDF) campaign to capture Menbij city from IS continued, meeting sustained IS resistance; activists reported U.S. airstrike on city killed at least 73 civilians 19 July, reportedly worst coalition attack on civilians. U.S. 28 July opened formal investigation; another coalition airstrike 28 July reportedly killed over a dozen civilians. Month also saw extensive bilateral talks between Russia and U.S., which proposed military coordination against Jabhat al-Nusra (JN) jihadi group in exchange for Russia’s help in re-imposing cessation of hostilities and halting regime aerial attacks. U.S. Sec State Kerry 26 July said talks had made progress, hopes to announce details of planned military cooperation and intelligence sharing early Aug. UN envoy De Mistura late July said third round of UN-mediated intra-Syrian peace talks planned for late Aug; opposition representative said no progress on ground that would indicate a return to talks, while regime said ready for new round of talks “without preconditions”. JN 28 July announced split from al-Qaeda, changing name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham. Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons announced that regime has retained chemical warfare agents, violating 2013 deal supposedly eliminating them. Amnesty International report published early July documented “serious abuses” of civilians by armed Syrian opposition groups since 2011.
High Civil Court 17 July ordered dissolution of main Shiite opposition al-Wefaq group and seizure of its funds, after suspending its activities in June; U.S., UK and UN condemned move. Prosecutor 17 July charged Nazeeha Saeed, correspondent for French media, for working without license. Trial of prominent Shiite cleric Ayatollah Isa Qassim opened 27 July on charges of “illegal fund collections, money laundering and helping terrorism”.
Govt troops continued to clash with Kurdish forces in NW near Iraqi border. Two Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) fighters died 8 July in skirmishes in Sawlawa, Iranian Kurdistan. Four snipers 11 July shot at MP Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh’s car in NW Kermansha province, killing two other passengers; govt blamed Kurdish armed group Party of Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK). Relations with Saudi Arabia strained when Saudi prince and former spy chief Turki al-Faisal 9 July attended meeting in Paris of Iranian govt-designated terrorist group Mujahideen-e-Khalq Organisation (MEK) and called for regime change in Iran. U.S. House of Representatives 8 July passed legislation blocking Boeing’s planned sale of aircraft to Iran; White House 12 July promised to veto bill.
Islamic State (IS) increased suicide bombings as security forces pushed closer to IS-held Mosul. Suicide bombing 3 July in Karrada district, central Baghdad killed over 290 people, IS claimed responsibility. Alleged IS suicide bombers and gunmen 8 July attacked Shia shrine in Balad, 90km N of Baghdad, killing over 80. Suicide bombing 24 July at checkpoint in Baghdad claimed by IS killed at least twenty. Suicide bombing 25 July at Khalis, 80km NE of Baghdad, killed at least seventeen. Security forces mid-July continued to push back IS around Mosul in NE, including 17 July taking control of Qarraya air base S of Mosul. IS 31 July attacked two energy facilities NW of Kirkuk, killing at least five. PM Abadi shuffled govt posts in particular in security sector: Interior Minister Mohammed al-Ghabban, affiliated with Badr Corps Shia militia, resigned 5 July; Abadi dismissed Abdul Amir al-Shammari, former head of Baghdad Operation Command and appointed new inspectors general in four ministries including defence.
Suicide bombers hit three cities 4 July: bomber detonated explosives outside U.S. consulate in Jeddah in W killing only himself; bombing near Prophet’s Mosque in Medina in W killed four security personnel; suicide bombers blew themselves up outside mosque in Qatif in E, killing only themselves. Cross-border clashes between security forces and Yemen-based Huthi-Saleh forces escalated; five Saudi border guards killed in Najran 25 July, seven killed 30 July (see Yemen).
Talks between govt and Huthi rebels faltered as fighting continued in Yemen and escalated across Yemen-Saudi Arabia border. Talks resumed in Kuwait 16 July after two-week break but parties failed to agree on sequencing of political solution and military withdrawals; Kuwait extended 30 July deadline for deal to 7 Aug. Huthis and ex-President Saleh’s General People’s Congress party 28 July formed joint Supreme Political Council to replace Huthi’s ruling Revolutionary Committee. Neither side made significant military gains. Govt reinforced troops north of Sanaa in Nihm, al-Jawf and Marib and reiterated threats to retake Sanaa by force. Clashes escalated between Huthi-Saleh forces and Saudi security forces at Yemeni-Saudi border, Huthis launched at least two ballistic missiles into Saudi territory and Saudi-led coalition bombed Huthi positions. Fighting in Taiz in S continued. Two suicide bombings at military checkpoints 18 July west of Mukalla in SE claimed by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) killed at least eleven people. Militants carried out car bombings and attempted assassinations in Abyan governorate and Aden; AQAP sub-group Ansar al-Sharia claimed 6 July attack on al-Solban military base and 15 July attempted killing of governor and police chief in Aden.
Crackdown on dissent continued. Court 11 July sentenced journalist Mohamed Tamalt to two years’ prison for insulting President Bouteflika. Authorities briefly arrested Salah Dabbouz, head of country’s main human rights NGO, and five political or civil society activists 13 July in Ghardaïa in north. Court 13 July ruled billionaire Issad Rebrab’s bid to buy influential media group and thereby take control of El Khabar, newspaper critical of govt, illegal.
Violence continued in al-Arish area in N Sinai: Islamic State (IS)-affiliated group Sinai Province 13 July killed army conscript at checkpoint south of Sheikh Zuweid; residents 13 July said improvised explosive device (IED) killed three army conscripts, injured twelve; Sinai province fighters 15 July shot dead police officer; unidentified gunman 24 July shot dead police officer in attack claimed by IS. Air force 31 July reportedly struck IS ammunition depot in Rafah, N Sinai killing 46 militants. President Sisi 12 July extended state of emergency in N Sinai for three months starting 29 July. Amnesty International 13 July accused National Security Agency of “abducting, torturing and forcibly disappearing people [to] wipe out peaceful dissent”. Italian parliament 7 July decided not to supply Egypt with military equipment following govt’s failure to cooperate in investigation into murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni in Cairo in Jan.
Rival political and military forces showed no sign of willingness to reconcile. UN-backed Presidential Council (PC) 11 July moved out of naval base in Tripoli, took control of PM’s office and some PC-appointed ministers in Govt of National Accord (GNA) started working from their respective offices, but GNA’s authority remained weak. UN envoy Martin Kobler 16-18 July convened session of Libyan Political Dialogue in Tunis to overcome deadlock but meeting led to no major decision. Feud between rival Central Bank governors continued after east-based governor Ali Hibri throughout June distributed in east currency minted in Russia. PC 28 July signed agreement with Petroleum Facilities Guard armed group to restart exports from Ras Lanuf, al-Sidra and al-Zueitina oil terminals after eighteen months’ closure. Misratan-led forces loyal to PC 24 July said they took Islamic State bomb factory in Sirte and now controlled almost entire city. Libyan National Army loyal to General Khalifa Haftar throughout month continued to push back Shura Council coalition of Islamist militias for control of Benghazi in east. France 20 July acknowledged presence in Libya of its Special Forces following death of three French soldiers in helicopter crash in east 17 July, sparking protests in several cities in following days; GNA 20 July condemned French military involvement.
Authorities 29 June-3 July arrested at least nine anti-slavery activists following protest against forced eviction of ethnic Haratin, many former slaves, in Nouakchott by security forces. 23 people, including the nine activists, reportedly jailed 12 July for “assault against the police”, “incitement of violence and belonging to an unauthorised organisation”. Arab League summit held in Nouakchott for first time 25 July.
Govt 15 July said security services previous day dismantled terrorist cell in several cities planning attack and linked to Islamic State (IS) in Libya. Govt 27 July said 52 suspected IS militants arrested 19 July.
Parliament 30 July passed vote of no confidence in PM Essid, govt expected to resign. Essid mid-July said he would not yield to pressure from President Essebsi to step down, asked that constitutional process be followed through parliamentary vote. Nine political parties and three major trade unions 13 July, after month of negotiations, signed Carthage Declaration laying out priorities of future unity govt. Govt 20 July said it had dismantled cell linked to Islamic State planning attacks in Sousse in NE; army 28 July said it killed two militants in Jendouba area, one soldier wounded. Govt 19 July extended nationwide state of emergency for two months.
Civilian staff 13 July started returning to UN peacekeeping mission (MINURSO), following Morocco’s expulsion of staff in March in protest at UN’s perceived bias. Brahim Ghali 9 July elected unopposed as head of Polisario Front and president of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, replacing historical leader Mohamed Abdelaziz who died in May.