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
Three actual or potential conflict situations around the world deteriorated and none improved in October 2010, according to the latest issue of the International Crisis Group’s monthly bulletin CrisisWatch released today.
Twin bomb blasts struck the Nigerian capital Abuja at the beginning of the month, killing at least a dozen people during celebrations of the country’s 50th anniversary of independence. A statement by the Niger Delta militant group MEND claiming responsibility for the blasts was later denied by former MEND leaders, although the group subsequently released a statement threatening a repeat of the attack. The chief of staff of former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida – a candidate in next year’s presidential elections – was questioned about the blasts, leading to accusations that President Goodluck Jonathan was trying to implicate his political opponents in the attack. Meanwhile, tensions increased in Borno state as hundreds of troops were deployed in the state capital in response to a series of deadly attacks blamed on Islamic sect Boko Haram.
Zimbabwe’s inclusive government looked increasingly unstable , threatening to fracture over differences on implementation of the 2008 Global Political Agreement and elections. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party called the constitutional reform process, which has been beset by military violence and intimidation of Zimbabweans attending constitutional outreach meetings, a “circus”. Tsvangirai accused President Robert Mugabe of violating the Global Political Agreement, and declared that his party would refuse to recognise unilateral appointments made “illegally and unconstitutionally” by Mugabe in the past 18 months, including governors, judges and envoys. South African President Jacob Zuma sent three envoys to Harare in an attempt to resolve the impasse.
The situation again deteriorated in Guinea, where CrisisWatch also identifies a conflict risk alert for November. October saw further political violence surrounding the second round of the presidential election between leading candidate Cellou Diallo and his rival Alpha Conde. Persistent tensions between the two camps following the controversial first round in June have been exacerbated by further delays to the run-off.
The announcement on 22 October that the polls would be postponed for a third time sparked more clashes along ethnic lines between rival supporters. Violence spread from the capital Conakry to at least four towns in the north of the country, and over three days of clashes caused the displacement of some 1,800 ethnic Peul. Chief mediator for the Guinea crisis Blaise Compaoré has pressed upon both candidates their responsibility for the security situation, but the situation remains tense ahead of the polls, which are now scheduled for 7 November.
Govt 23 Oct claimed Agathon Rwasa, leader of former rebel National Liberation Forces (FNL) who fled country after withdrawing from July presidential election, re-arming in DRC; suggested Rwasa also behind Aug, Sept attacks authorities previously attributed to “bandits”. Following Sept discovery of at least 14 mutilated bodies in Rusizi river, local rights NGO 16 Oct alleged police responsible for executing at least 22 former members of FNL; police refuted claims. Army clashed with alleged bandits 24-25 Oct, resulted in 8 casualties. Opposition arrests continue, including 7 Oct detention of Deo Nshimirimana, former MP and member of Union for Peace and Development. Outgoing UN Executive Representative Charles Petrie expressed concern over risk of return to violence.
Voter registration for 23 Jan 2011 presidential election continued beyond scheduled 21 Oct end date; opposition 26 Oct rejected electoral commission president’s unilateral change to timetable. Reports emerged 30 Oct claiming rebel Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP) 29 Oct abducted 21 election commission officials near Birao. Low intensity rebel/bandit insecurity persisted throughout month: army 4 Oct pushed CPJP rebels from Yalinga, E Haute- Kotto; rebels 16 Oct attacked Ippy, Ouaka; insecurity continued near Bria, Haute-Kotto. Ugandan LRA fighters continued attacks in NE and SE, including 10 Oct abduction of at least 5 girls from Birao. 5 killed in 6 Oct clash between LRA and Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR) allied to govt. UNHCR 15 Oct stated LRA’s “campaign of terror” against civilians intensified since Sept causing new displacement. At 13-15 Oct AU meeting in Bangui 4 LRA-affected countries agreed to form joint military force to pursue LRA and appoint AU special envoy for LRA issues. International Criminal Court appeals panel 19 Oct rejected former Congolese rebel leader and DRC VP Jean- Pierre Bemba’s bid to have charges against him dismissed; Bemba’s trial, for crimes committed in CAR 2002-2003 by his Movement for the Liberation of Congo, to start 22 Nov.
Continued insecurity in east as UNHCR 15 Oct noted at least 6 attacks, 3 ambushes by LRA in recent weeks in Haut Uele, Province Orientale. About 50 armed men 24 Oct attacked UN base in Rwindi, North Kivu; peacekeepers returned fire, killing 8 assailants. Burundi 23 Oct claimed former rebel leader Agathon Rwasa recently struck deal with FDLR, regrouping and rearming in South Kivu (see Burundi). In 15 Oct briefing to UNSC, MONUSCO Special Representative Meece emphasised mission should focus on security sector reform, urged bilateral partners to stay engaged. UN OHCHR 1 Oct officially released mapping report detailing rights violations committed in East DRC 1993-2003. French authorities 11 Oct arrested exiled FDLR leader Callixte Mbarushimana, charged by International Criminal Court (ICC) with crimes committed in east 2009. ICC-indicted former rebel leader Bosco Ntaganda 5 Oct said he continues to command FARDC operations in east; Human Rights Watch 13 Oct urged UN to suspend FARDC logistical support until Bosco arrested. ICC 8 Oct reversed order to release Ituri warlord Thomas Lubanga, 19 Oct ruled trial of former MLC leader and VP Jean-Pierre Bemba should start 22 Nov (see CAR).
Police 14 Oct arrested opposition United Democratic Forces leader Victoire Ingabire on charges of forming terrorist group; 26 Oct denied bail. 3 opposition parties 25 Oct called on UNSC to press for release of all “political prisoners” including Ingabire and Bernard Ntaganda, founding president of Social Party Imberakuri. Govt welcomed 11 Oct arrest in Paris of FDLR leader and ICC indictee Callixte Mbarushimana (see DRC). During mid-month China visit defence minister James Kaberebe and Chinese counterpart Liang Guanglie agreed to enhance military cooperation.
Govt 12 Oct announced peace deal with faction of rebel Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) to end long-running insurgency, 16 Oct released ONLF prisoners. Separate ONLF faction leader Abderhamane Mahadi dismissed agreement as propaganda, vowed to continue armed struggle. Human Rights Watch 19 Oct accused govt of using foreign aid to suppress political dissent; govt denied allegations.
Continued focus on International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into Dec 2007 post-election violence. Following accusations govt officials refusing to cooperate with ICC, cabinet subcommittee met 12 Oct to draft regulations ensuring ICC access. President Kibaki 19 Oct suspended higher education minister William Ruto, reportedly key suspect in ICC probe, on corruption charges. IGAD summit on South Sudan referenda moved from Nairobi to Addis Ababa; Assistant FM Richard Onyonka 27 Oct denied reports that move due to ICC pressure on Nairobi to arrest Sudanese President Bashir if he attends (Ethiopia is non-signatory of Rome Statute). FM Moses Wetangula resigned same day amid corruption probe into embassy land purchases.
Fresh fighting between govt forces and al-Shabaab in centre and south of country, following Sept-early Oct spike in clashes in Mogadishu. Intense fighting mid-month including Beledweyne and Bula Hawo left at least 40 dead, more than 50 injured as govt and Islamist insurgents struggled for control over towns. UNHCR 26 Oct reported an estimated 60,000 fled towards Kenyan border to escape Bula Hawo fighting; 31 Oct reports alleged Kenyan police closed border. AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra 21 Oct called on UNSC for additional support to boost AMISOM forces from 7,000 to 20,000 and impose naval, air blockade. Following Sept resignation of former PM, parliament 31 Oct endorsed appointment of new PM Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed with majority 297 out of 391.
Month dominated by high level visits ahead of 9 Jan 2011 referenda on South Sudan and Abyei. Following 10-15 Oct visit, high-level UN panel expressed concern over lack of progress in preparation for vote and antagonism between National Congress Party (NCP), Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM). Both sides accuse each other of troop build-up in N-S border areas; South Sudan President Salva Kiir requested UN-administered buffer zone. Following col- lapse of 9-day talks between SPLM and NCP in Addis Ababa, northern leaders 14 Oct declared 9 Jan Abyei vote impossible; defence minister Abdel Rahim Hussein also warned of South referendum delays. SPLM reiterated delays unacceptable, violate Comprehensive Peace Agreement. 15-nation UNSC delegation visiting 8-15 Oct said timely referenda still possible but requires “genuine” political will; U.S. President Obama 30 Oct pressed former South African President Mbeki, leading NCP-SPLM compromise talks, for on-time referenda. Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) released timetable for polls including 14-30 Nov voter registration, 9 Jan vote. President Bashir, VPs Salva Kiir and Ali Osman Taha 26 Oct agreed to develop common vision on future N-S relations regardless of referendum outcome. IGAD Summit to discuss referenda postponed to 6 Nov, moved from Nairobi to Addis Ababa (see Kenya). Rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) spokesman Ahmed Hussein Adam 24 Oct said group ready to re-start discussions with international mediators in Doha following breakdown of Feb accord with Khartoum; 28 Oct said that 180 govt army soldiers have defected to join rebel group.
Electoral commission 25 Oct approved candidacy of President Museveni and opposition Forum for Democratic Change leader Kizza Besigye to contest 18 Feb 2011 presiden- tial election; 27 Oct announced total of 8 contenders.
Elections for governors and presidency set to take place as scheduled with 7 Nov first round, 26 Dec run-off, despite rumours of possible delays. No overhaul of electoral registry as recommended by Election Monitoring Commit- tee, but revision of electoral laws launched 8 Oct. General Salimou Amiri, arrested early Sept for alleged involvement in June murder of army colonel Combo Ayouba, suspended from army duties.
Authorities proceeding with transition based on 13 Aug Ivato agreement: 2 Oct finalised new constitutional proposal ahead of 17 Nov referendum; installed new parliament, with members nominated from signatories of Ivato accord. Supporters of de facto leader Andry Rajoelina dominate both chambers of parliament; party of former president Ravalomanana occupies 21 of 90 Higher Council seats. Main opposition parties continue to deny legitimacy of Ivato agreement, new parliament. Some 1,000 rallied in support of opposition 18 Oct, forcing postponement of trial of several opposition leaders over bomb planting charges. Strike also continued in Toamasina port, Antananarivo university. Ravalomanana spokesman 18 Oct announced Ravalomanana and former President Didier Ratsiraka, could soon return from exile to seek solution to ongoing political crisis. Govt 6 Oct said will revive economy without help of foreign aid. UN delegation visited Madagascar 17-24 Oct to evaluate political situation.
PM Dlamini 19 Oct announced intention to create law requiring newspaper journalists to seek permission before criticising govt.
Increasing tensions and fears of possible collapse of unity govt over differences on Global Political Agreement, elections. PM Tsvangirai’s MDC party early month called constitutional process a “circus”, accused military of intimidation during outreach meetings; said at least 1,100 outreach debates should be held again. South African President and SADC mediator Zuma sent 3 envoys to Harare to help resolve impasse between Tsvangirai and President Mugabe after Tsvangirai 13 Oct criticised Mugabe and ZANU-PF, refused to recognise appointments made “illegally and unconstitutionally” by Mugabe in past 18 months, including governors, judges, envoys. Mugabe 10 Oct stated 2008 Global Political Agreement, set to expire Feb 2011, should not be extended; reportedly pushing for elections by mid-2011, mobilising ZANU-PF in preparation. Constitutional committee announced referendum date for 30 June 2011. Tsvangirai early month threatened election boycott, claiming electoral reforms needed before polls. MDC 20 Oct said will accept outcome of “flawed” constitutional outreach process as transitional document for elections, but followed by negotiated constitution after polls. Commercial Farmers Union 27 Oct claimed ZANU-PF intimidation and farm evictions increasing ahead of elections. MDC treasurer Roy Bennett 22 Oct said will not return to Zimbabwe from South Africa, fearing prosecution by ZANU-PF. Botswana President Khama 5 Oct called on Western govts to lift sanctions on Mugabe and top allies, to “demonstrate good faith”; West repeated need for political violence to end before easing of sanctions.
After 5-year delay, presidential election took place 31 Oct between 14 candidates including incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, former president Henri Konan Bedie and former PM Alassane Ouattara. Campaign officially launched 15 Oct, marred by minor security incidents including 19 Oct attack on convoy of Ouattara. Peaceful vote 31 Oct commended by international observers. Provisional results expected 1 Nov; observers and analysts warning rejection of results could trigger new wave of violence.
Violence sparked by further delays to second round of presidential elections saw 1,800 displaced; situation tense ahead of next week’s poll. Election commission’s third postponement of run-off 22 Oct led to 3 days of looting, clashes between rival supporters of presidential candidates Cellou Diallo and Alpha Conde in Conakry and at least 4 other towns. Both candidates 24 Oct called for calm; govt 27 Oct announced new 7 Nov date for polls. UN 28 Oct stated at least 1,800 from Peul ethnic group forced to flee. 19 Oct election-related violence between Diallo supporters and security forces resulted in 2 killed, 29 injured. Conde 28 Oct pulled out of joint tour of country with rival Diallo aimed at easing pre-election tensions, citing opposition from supporters. Govt 11 Oct said both presidential candidates Diallo and Conde agreed on post-election power-sharing deal to ease peaceful transition to civilian rule. President Konate 19 Oct appointed General Siaka Toumani Sangare as new election commission head; former head Louceny Camara sentenced by Conakry court 22 Oct to 12-month prison term for vote- rigging in June first round poll. Burkina Faso President and chief mediator Blaise Compaore met separately with presidential candidates 30 Oct emphasising their responsibility in maintaining security.
Following 29 Sept meeting with PM Gomes, EU Commission President Barroso announced govt acceptance of regional stabilisation force including ECOWAS and Community of Portuguese-speaking Countries, said EU would resume support to defence and security sector, suspended since May 2010. President Sanha 13 Oct reinstated Rear Admiral José Americo Bubo Na Tchuto as head of navy, accused 2008 of plotting failed coup; U.S. expressed concern, citing Na Tchuto’s alleged role in international drug trafficking. President Sanha 23 Oct taken ill and flown to Senegal; govt 31 Oct stated president “going well”, expected to return early Nov. African Party for Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC) 16 Oct publicly accused PM Gomes of involvement in June 2009 killing of 2 PAIGC members.
President Touré 4 Oct stated govt not involved in any negotiations to free 7 hostages, including 5 French nationals, captured 15 Sept by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in Niger and believed to be in Mali. Reports 27 Oct cited Osama Bin Laden claiming abductions were response to France’s treatment of its Muslim minority, troops in Afghanistan.
Voters 31 Oct cast ballots under tight security in referendum to decide on new constitution following Feb 2010 military coup. “Yes” vote would guarantee immunity for coup leaders with commitment to 6 Apr return to civilian rule after planned Jan 2011 elections. Muslim groups 26 Oct urged referendum boycott, claiming it “neglected” Islam. Govt 15-16 Oct arrested 4 senior officers, including Col Abdul Badie, second in command in ruling junta, suspected of plotting coup; head of intelligence services Seini Chekkaraou arrested 20 Oct, suspected of collaboration with Badie.
Bomb blasts in Abuja 1 Oct during celebrations of 50th anniversary of independence killed at least 12 people, while continued Islamist attacks prompted deployment of troops to Borno state capital. Initial statement by Niger Delta militant group MEND claiming responsibility for Abuja blasts later denied by former MEND leaders. Another former MEND leader Henry Okah arrested in South Africa in connection with bombings, denied involvement. President Jonathan claimed MEND not responsible; authorities detained and questioned Raymond Dokpesi, chief of staff of former military ruler and presidential candidate Ibrahim Babangida. MEND 15 Oct released statement threatening new Abuja attack, accusing govt of “harassing its perceived opponents” over 1 Oct bombing. Hundreds of troops deployed in northern city Maiduguri, Borno state capital, 13 Oct after wave of attacks blamed on Islamic sect Boko Haram, including 11 Oct attack on police station. Boko Haram 21 Oct posted threats throughout city bearing al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb logo warning against aiding security forces, breaking Sharia law. Police officer killed in 25 Oct suspected Boko Haram attack on Bauchi state checkpoint. In central Nigeria 6 Christian villagers killed in 26 Oct machete attack east of Jos, blamed on Muslim Fulani herdsmen; community leaders appealed for calm. Dozens of houses burned and 13 killed in land dispute between Boje and Nsadop communities in Cross River State, SE late month. National assembly 26 Oct approved postponement of general elections from Jan 2011 to April. Security services intercepted large weapons shipment in Lagos port late month, reportedly loaded in Iran.
Kim Jong-un confirmed as heir apparent to leader Kim Jong-il in first official comment on succession by senior official 8 Oct. N Korea and S Korea 1 Oct agreed to restart family reunion program beginning with 100 families late Oct; 17 Oct reopened aviation hotline between international airports, 1 of 3 hotlines severed in May following sinking of S Korean naval vessel. S Korea 26 Oct sent first humanitarian food shipment to North since 2008; Pyongyang 27 Oct requested further food, fertiliser aid. N Korea 16 Oct announced it is “ready” to resume 6-party nuclear disarmament talks; senior S Korean official 20 Oct said South is open to resuming talks if Pyongyang pledges to honour 2005 deal on nuclear disarmament. Represents possible softening of Seoul’s previous position demanding North admit responsibility for March sinking of naval ship. S Korea for first time 14 Oct fully participated in Proliferation Security Initiative hosting 4-country naval drills; N Korea 16 Oct denounced act as “open declaration of war”. N and S Korean troops exchanged fire across border 29 Oct, no injuries; first cross-border shooting on land since 2007.
Independent Election Commission (IEC) 20 Oct said about 1.3mn of 4.2mn total votes in Sept parliamentary election disqualified due to fraud; IEC to investigate 224 candidates, including 25 current MPs, suspected of involvement in fraud. Govt 10 Oct confirmed ex-president Rabbani will lead High Peace Council (HPC), tasked with holding talks with Taliban. HPC 21 Oct said willing to offer concessions to demobilised Taliban fighters, called on Saudi Arabia’s assistance in talks. Govt, NATO during month confirmed initial contacts made with Taliban leaders, but yet to hold “substantive” talks; U.S. Special Representative Richard Holbrooke 11 Oct said reports of secret talks “exaggerated”. Govt 3 Oct began process of shutting down private security firms; President Karzai 27 Oct said original end of year deadline could be extended by 2 months. Kunduz provincial governor Mohammad Omar and 14 others killed in 8 Oct Takhar province suicide blast.
In continued crackdown on militants, police early month arrested 3 Lashkar-e-Taiba members in Dhaka.
Maoists 4 Oct killed 4 police in Mahar- ashtra; 3 paramilitary troops in Chhattisgarh 9 Oct. Govt 3 Oct claimed significant gains against Maoists since Nov 2009 launch of Operation Green Hunt: several top commanders killed or captured, more than 10,000 km2 of territory regained in worst-affected eastern states. Bangladeshi police 13 Oct arrested key leader of Manipur separatist group UNLF; more than 50 UNLF leaders arrested in Bangladesh since 2009.
Violent anti-India demonstrations lessened over month with no fatal police shootings of demonstrators reported. Indian govt 13 Oct named 3-member panel to mediate with “all shades of opinion” in Kashmir; main separatist groups dismissed panel as toothless without inclusion of members from governing parties. 50 students arrested during June protests released 6 Oct. Police 18 Oct arrested leader of separatist Pakistan Muslim League accused of instigating recent violent protests. 8 police, 1 militant killed in 1 Oct infiltration attempt in northern districts. Pakistani ex-president Musharraf 4 Oct confirmed Pakistan military trained militant groups in Kashmir during his time in office.
No sign of end to political impasse as Constituent Assembly again failed to pick new PM during month; Nepali Congress candidate Ram Chandra Poudel fell short of required majority in face of continued boycott by Maoists and UML. Finance ministry 18 Oct warned of financial crisis if Maoists continue to block passage of budget.
At least 70 killed in clashes between political parties around 17 Oct by-election in Karachi to replace MQM MP, murdered in London in Aug; MQM said govt failed to protect its supporters, threatened to pull out of coalition govt. Govt 10 Oct reopened NATO supply routes to Afghanistan through northwest, following apologies from NATO, U.S. for late Sept NATO helicopter strike that killed 2 Pakistani soldiers; militants early month torched scores of NATO supply trucks. World Bank estimated reconstruction costs after recent floods at US$9.7bn. Pressure increased on President Zardari over perceived govt incompetence in flood response: army chief Kayani 1 Oct reportedly demanded Zardari fire number of key govt officials due to corruption. U.S. 22 Oct announced US$2bn in military aid to Pakistan from 2012 to 2016, but withdrew aid to army units accused of extrajudicial killings. Military again rejected U.S. pressure to launch operation in N Waziristan. Supreme Court 21 Oct asked parliament to reconsider constitutional amendment that gives MPs power to approve high-level judges, but rejected other challenges to 17th constitutional amendment.
Ex-army chief Sarath Fonseka 7 Oct stripped of parliamentary seat after late Sept sentence to 30 months’ hard labour for corruption; Fonseka’s DNA party said will appeal verdict. Criminal trial of Fonseka began early Oct on charges of falsely accusing Defense Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa of ordering execution of surrendering LTTE leaders. 3 international NGOs, including Crisis Group, 14 Oct declined invitation to testify before govt panel investigating civil war, citing its lack of impartiality, witness protection and mandate to investigate war crimes. Govt 16 Oct claimed some 4,500 of 11,000 suspected LTTE fighters detained after 2009 end of civil war had been released and “reintegrated into society”. PM Jayaratne 20 Oct urged extension of wartime emergency laws, claiming Tamil diaspora leaders trying to revive LTTE. Govt 19 Oct announced 6% increase in defense spending for 2011 budget.
Unidentified men 1 Oct burned mosque and several houses belonging to Ahmadiyah sect in Ciampea, Bogor, south of Jakarta; Minister of Religion reiterated determination to ban sect. Govt 22 Oct admitted soldiers had tortured 2 Papuan civilians after video of incident made public; 25 Oct promised full investigation, but rights groups raised concerns over impartiality. Police 5 Oct killed 1 Papuan in Wamena after supporters of Papuan Customary Council attacked police post at airport. Govt 7 Oct deployed military to N Sumatra province to assist in anti-terrorism operations, following Sept killing of 3 police by militants in region. Police 3 Oct killed 6 militants in N Sumatra province, suspected of Aug bank robbery and links to Aceh jihadi training camp. National police chief 8 Oct issued new policy allowing police to fire on “anarchic violence”, drawing protests from rights groups.
Junta 18 Oct said foreign journalists, observers will be banned from monitoring 7 Nov elections. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi 5 Oct sued junta before Supreme Court over its dissolution of NLD party ahead of elections. Suu Kyi 13 Oct said she will not vote in elections. UN human rights envoy Tomas Ojea Quintana 21 Oct called election process “deeply flawed”, urged govt to release some 2,100 political prisoners before vote; UNSG Ban urged junta to free Suu Kyi ahead of polls, said junta’s refusal to cooperate with international community “deeply frustrating”. USDP, proxy party for junta, widely criticised for breaching campaign laws, including pressuring civil servants for their votes, using state funds for campaigning, intimidating voters. Tensions increased in Kachin State: govt 19 Oct arrested 3 Kachin Independence Army (KIA) members; KIA same day surrounded military camp in north.
At least 10 killed in 21 Oct bomb attack on bus in Mindanao. Police 24 Oct arrested 5; unclear if connected to militants, MILF denied responsibility. At least 33 killed, including 20 in Mindanao, in violence related to late month district and local council elections, but police said overall violence down 70% from last poll in 2007. Govt 21 Oct appointed panel to negotiate with communist New People’s Army, said resumption of peace talks not conditional on rebels agreeing to ceasefire.
UNMIT 5 Oct reported “significant progress” on human rights in country, including on accountability for those involved in 2006 violence. UN SRSG Ameerah Haq 19 Oct raised concerns about “excessive use of force” by police and President Ramos-Horta’s Aug pardoning of 23 rebels involved in 2008 attack on president, VP.
PM Abhisit 5 Oct lifted state of emergency in 3 north-eastern provinces, stronghold of “red shirt” opposition, but renewed it in Bangkok and 3 central provinces until end of year. 4 killed, 9 injured 5 Oct in bomb explosion in province adjacent to Bangkok, latest in series of blasts around capital over recent weeks; govt blamed “red shirts”, who denied involvement. More than 6,000 “red shirt” activists rallied in Bangkok 10 Oct, defying emergency decree. Police 11 Oct claimed 11 “red shirt” affiliates arrested 2 Oct confessed to receiving training in Cambodia to assassinate top Thai politicians, including Abhisit; Phnom Penh strongly denied. Abhisit 18 Oct appeared before Constitutional Court to defend his Democrat Party (DP) against allegations of misusing campaign funds; DP could be disbanded if found guilty, final verdict expected by Dec. Violence continued in restive south: 5 shot dead by suspected Islamic separatist insurgents 6 Oct.
Following 3 Oct presidential and parliamentary elections observers predicting continued political deadlock, difficulties forming govt. Multi-ethnic Social Democratic Party (SDP) won plurality of votes in Croat-Bosniak federation, followed by Party of Democratic Action (SDA). Moderate SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic won Bosniak seat in tripartite presidency. Republika Srpska (RS) premier Milorad Dodik won RS presidential race. U.S. Sec State Clinton visiting 12 Oct called for progress on constitutional reform.
Amid institutional crisis caused by collapse of coalition govt mid month, opposition MPs 28 Oct called vote of no confidence in govt, set for 2 Nov; if passed will necessitate snap elections within 45 days. Comes after Fatmir Sejdui, who resigned late Sept as president, 18 Oct announced his Democratic League of Kosovo party leaving ruling coalition, in which it was junior partner. Developments bring forward early elections announced by acting president Krasniqi 15 Oct for 13 Feb. On Kosovo leg of Balkans tour U.S. Sec State Clinton 13 Oct backed dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, said status, sovereignty, territorial integrity will not be discussed during talks. Serbian state secretary for Kosovo and Metohija late month called for stability in North ahead of anticipated talks, following several incidents over month including setting on fire of 2 Serb-owned vehicles in Zvečan. EULEX 5 Oct announced increasing presence in north to fight organized crime, released several suspects arrested early month due to complications over jurisdiction. Hardline ethnic Serb parties gained control of North’s parallel structures 21 Oct after moderate coalition collapsed. NATO 29 Oct announced its 10,000-strong force in Kosovo to be halved over next few months.
Some 15,000 joined anti-govt protest by Social Democrat party 11 Oct. Several opposition parties, including ethnic Albanian, announced plans to stage further protests. Senior EU officials repeated calls for resolution of name dispute with Greece ahead of 9 Nov European Commission (EC) annual report on Macedonia’s readiness for EU membership.
Opposition Heritage party 5 and 29 Oct postponed vote on its draft law calling for formal recognition of “Nagorno- Karabakh Republic” after govt said passing bill now was “inexpedient”. Opposition Armenian Congress 19 Oct staged protest demanding release of members still jailed for role in March 2008 post-election violence.
Govt 12 Oct announced will spend nearly 20% ($3.1bn) of state budget on military in 2011, up from 10% in 2010. Armenian Manvel Saribekian, detained by Azerbaijani troops in Sept, reportedly found hanged in cell 5 Oct; Armenia claimed Azerbaijani authorities responsible for his death. European Court of Human Rights 4 Oct ruled govt violated citizens’ right to free and fair parliamentary elections in Nov 2005.
Parliament 15 Oct approved by strong majority amendments to constitution, curtailing presidential powers in favour of PM, marginally increasing role of parliament. Changes to come into force in Dec 2013, viewed by some as means to extend President Saakashvili’s rule after end of his last presidential term should he seek PM office. Govt 11 Oct announced lifting of visa requirements for North Caucasus residents for short term stays in Georgia; Russia called move “provocation”. Following agreement at 13th round of international talks in Geneva, Russia 18 Oct pulled out troops from Georgian village of Perevi, only remaining area outside South Ossetia under Russian control.
Presidents of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia 27 Oct held talks in Astrakhan, Russia. After meeting Russian President Medvedev expressed hope 2 sides will reach agreement on basic principles by early Dec. On eve of talks, Armenia claimed Azerbaijani forces opened fire along Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) line of contact killing 1 NK soldier. OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs and UN experts 7-13 Oct carried out second since 2005 Field Assessment Mission in occupied territories surrounding NK evaluating humanitarian, human rights situation. Azerbaijan made complaint to UNSG Ban after Armenia briefly raised NK flag at its UN mission in New York late Sept.
In sharp departure from official line, head of Russian State Investigative Committee Aleksandre Bastrikin 9 Oct described situation in Dagestan as war-like; claimed 5-6 casualties on daily basis in North Caucasus (NC) republics. Russian Deputy Prosecutor General Ivan Sydoruk 25 Oct strongly criticised alleged lack of professionalism and corruption among NC security personnel, called for replacement of all policemen with individually vetted personnel; claimed incidence of “extremist” crimes 4 times higher in 2010 than 2009, majority of them in Chechnya. Ingushetian wing of insurgency in internet statement dated 29 Aug but posted 5 Oct announced moratorium on killing police officers, but vowed to continue jihad on North Ossetian “nonbelievers” to win back lands. In Dagestan, govt deployed additional troops ahead of 10 Oct local elections but failed to prevent cases of beatings. Reports of change in conduct of counterterrorism operations with federal agencies taking lead over Dagestani interior ministry.
Another deadly attack demonstrated growing insurgent strength, possible connection between schism in insurgency and escalation of violence. Suicide bombing of parliament building in Grozny 19 Oct killed 3, injured at least 17. Officials admitted death toll likely much higher. Attack seen as likely work of renegade commanders who withdrew allegiance to insurgent leader Doku Umarov in Aug. Same dissenting commanders, Aslambek Vadalov, Khusein Gakayev and Tarkhan Gaziyev, thought to have executed 29 Aug attack on President Kadyrov’s home village of Tsentoroy. Commanders and insurgent leader Umarov early month exchanged accusations in online statements in further sign of deepening split in guerrilla ranks.
Venezuelan President Chávez during mid-month visit signed oil deal with President Lukashenka. Opposition movement “Moving Forward” deregistered by Minsk court on charges of falsifying registration data. OSCE experts arrived late month to assess case of opposition activist Aleh Byabenin found dead Sept.
EU FMs 21 Oct agreed to work towards visa-free regime with Moldova.
In move widely criticised as undemocratic and unconstitutional, Constitutional Court 1 Oct ruled parliament violated constitution in Dec 2004 by approving limits on presidential power, restored presidential authority to choose PM and cabinet without parliamentary confirmation. Widespread concern over deterioration of media freedoms and crackdown on opposition since Jan election of President Yanukovych, including statements by EU, OSCE. International audit revealed over $400mn public funds misappropriated under former PM Tymoshenko. Former Economy Minister Bohdan Danylyshyn arrested in Czech Republic 18 Oct for abuses while in office; Tymoshenko claimed his and other arrests of former officials politically motivated. Venezuelan President Chávez visiting mid-month signed energy deal with President Yanukovych; Venezuelan oil, gas fields open for development by Ukrainian energy companies, Ukraine to act as transit for supply of Venezuelan oil to Belarus. Russian PM Putin visiting late month said trade ties greatly improved since Yanukovich’s election.
Arnaldo Otegi, jailed leader of banned political wing of ETA Batasuna, 18 Oct said group should “declare unilateral and permanent truce”, seek democratic and peaceful independence. Spanish police 22 Oct arrested 13 members of Segi, outlawed group considered youth branch of ETA. Trial started 26 Oct of 15 paramilitary officers accused of torturing 2 ETA suspects.
Greek Cypriot President Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Eroğlu held another round of talks 13, 18 Oct on complex property issue, focus of talks since May. New northwest Limnitis-Yeşilırmak crossing point opened 14 Oct, seventh linking Turkish and Greek parts of island. Greek Cypriots 9 Oct cancelled annual military manoeuvres for third consecutive year to facilitate ongoing reunification talks; Turkish Cypriots reciprocated 18 Oct by cancelling annual joint military drills with Turkey. European Parliament committee 18 Oct voted against direct trade regulation to benefit northern Cypriots. Turkish FM Davutoğlu 13 Oct said direct trade regulation with Turkish Cyprus and opening of Famagusta port were obligations of EU. UNSG Ban 12 Oct noted slow progress in talks; both leaders accepted invitation to proposed 18 Nov tripartite meeting in New York.
UK PM Cameron 6 Oct pledged to fight “increasing” dissident Republican threat. Real IRA car bomb exploded 5 Oct in Londonderry, sixth Republican attack this year. Police 11 Oct found dissident Republican explosives and arms dump in southern border area. 2 members of Real IRA jailed 1 Oct for attempting to import arms and explosives. Rioting 26-27 Oct in Protestant district near Belfast provoked by police searches targeting loyalist paramilitary group Ulster Volunteer Force.
Suicide bomb blast 31 Oct in Istanbul injured 32 people, including 15 police; perpetrators yet to be identified. Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) 1 Nov denied involvement in attack; announced unilateral ceasefire which expired 31 Oct would be extended until June 2011 elections. Parliament 12 Oct granted 12-month extension to military’s mandate to conduct cross-border operations in northern Iraq against outlawed PKK. Despite PKK unilateral ceasefire 2 soldiers, 1 Kurdish militant killed in 13 Oct clash in southeast Tunceli province; 3 PKK rebels killed 14 Oct during ongoing security forces operation in region. 4 regular and 3 reserve members of 11-seat Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) resigned 11 Oct to protest govt constitutional amendments passed by Sept national referendum. Trial began 18 Oct of more than 150 Kurds, including 12 elected mayors, charged with membership of KCK, alleged urban arm of outlawed PKK. Turkish lawyers representing pro- Palestinian activists 14 Oct filed complaint with ICC accusing Israel of war crimes during May deadly raid on Turkish-owned Gaza-bound aid flotilla. Police 26 Oct arrested 12 people in Istanbul suspected of aiding al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Reports emerged govt early month deported some 130 Kyrgyz migrant workers in alleged expulsion campaign that started after June unrest in Kyrgyzstan. Leader of unregistered opposition party Alga announced will run for president in 2012 election.
Observers praised peaceful, transparent conduct of 10 Oct parliamentary elections, but noted need for reform, deficiencies in voter lists. 5 parties won parliamentary seats according to final results announced 1 Nov. Ata Jurt party, perceived as nationalist and with strong following in south came first with 28 out of 120 seats followed closely by other winning parties. Demonstrations by supporters of major parties disputing results erupted in Bishkek in aftermath of elections. Butun Kyrgyzstan party narrowly failed to reach threshold for parliamentary representation, raised after more eligible voters added to lists on election day; staged several days of protest in stronghold of Osh and in Bishkek over alleged election fraud. Ata Jurt leader Kamchybek Tashiev complained of persecution following 23 Oct break-in of his house by security forces, 6 Oct raiding of party offices. Frontrunner and 2 other parties opposed to new constitution adopted in 27 June referendum, vowed to restore presidential system. Leaders of all but pro-govt Ata Meken party flew to Russia for consultations shortly after vote. International commission headed by Finnish MP Kimmo Kiljunen began inquiry into June violence; findings expected early next year. Attorneys defending ethnic Uzbeks charged with crimes during June violence protested intimidation, violence in courtroom, lack of police protection. 2 cases of beating of ethnic Uzbek defendants, their relatives and lawyers by relatives of victims during mid-Oct trials over June violence. In high profile court case in Karasuu district, 5 ethnic Uzbeks sentenced to life, 4 received 4 to 25 years 29 Oct for murder of Kyrgyz policeman and his driver during June violence.
Ongoing govt campaign against militants in Rasht district, site of 19 Sept ambush of 80-strong military convoy. Govt early month denied military and media reports that 34 troops killed in incidents in region, including in military helicopter crash; claimed only 7 killed due to technical failure. Scarce information about ongoing operations from state-controlled media since govt cut communication with Rasht in beginning of campaign. OSCE media watchdog midmonth voiced concern over media pressure after govt threatened to punish journalists criticising campaign, blocked printing of several newspapers, cut access to websites of independent outlets. President Rah- mon 12 Oct offered amnesty to all militants who cease fighting; govt mid-month claimed 2 key field commanders and 27 militants surrendered weapons. Rahmon 26 Oct denied reports of incursions from al-Qaeda, Taliban; said fighting in Rasht led by Tajiks, claimed Tajik-Afghan border well protected. 14 suspected terrorists captured in connection to 3 Sept suicide bombing of police station in north. Govt intensifying pressure over Tajik students enrolled at Islamic universities abroad to return home; late month discovered 20 unregistered religious schools in south.
No breakthrough achieved in 22 Oct talks on natural gas prices and volumes with visiting Russian President Medvedev.
14 members of alleged new extremist organization active near border with Tajikistan and Afghanistan apprehended, sentenced to varying prison terms midmonth for distributing jihadist material. Govt allowed some trains carrying supplies for contentious Tajik hydropower plant Roghun to cross into Tajikistan.
Senate 8 Oct adopted anti-racism law amid continued demonstrations by media workers against 2 controversial provisions said to violate freedom of press. International media watchdogs expressed serious concerns, several MPs 20 Oct denounced “unconstitutional” articles; UN Bolivia representative 10 Oct called on govt, journalists to find peaceful solution. Morales and Iranian President Ahmadinejad 26 Oct signed agreement to strengthen political and economic cooperation. 4 former election officials in Pando dept 25 Oct arrested for organising 2008 autonomy referendum, declared illegal by govt.
Congress’ Accusation Commission 12 Oct opened preliminary investigation of ex-President Uribe’s alleged involvement in illegal wiretapping of journalists and opposition by govt intelligence agency DAS; public prosecutor 4 Oct imposed sanctions against 9 former high-ranking officials connected to scandal. President Santos 21 Oct initiated national “shock plan” to redistribute land to victims of conflict, aimed at restituting 312,000ha by April 2011; measures came parallel to debate over “land law” in congress. Senate 26 Oct unanimously confirmed suspension of pro-govt senator Javier Cáceres in first application of “empty chair” policy sanctioning senators linked with illegal armed groups.
Relative calm re-established following bloody 30 Sept clashes between army and police forces that left at least 4 dead and nearly 300 injured over police protest against govt plans to cut bonuses. President Correa 4 Oct said will prosecute MPs allegedly linked to attempted “coup”, 9 Oct indefinitely extended state of emergency in Quito but lifted in rest of country; state of emergency ensures army control of national assembly and other key buildings in capital. Attorney general charged several hundred police connected to protest with mutiny, so far over 50 arrested.
President Chávez 13 Oct began tour through several eastern European and Middle Eastern countries: 15 Oct signed agreement on nuclear power plant with Russian President Medvedev, 20 Oct announced intention to strengthen economic ties with Iran. Controversy over reported links between Basque separatist group ETA and govt official deepened; govt 11 Oct responded to Spanish request by opening investigation but continued to reject accusations, calls for official’s extradition. Ongoing expropriations of national and international companies: since 26 Sept elections 250,000 hectares of rural land expropriated. Chávez 10 Oct announced emergency bill to expropriate urban land.
5 Oct armed incursion by Mexican Zetas cartel into Petén department left 5 civilians dead following clashes between cartel members and security forces. NGO Mirador Electoral 21 Oct denounced major parties’ premature campaigning in run-up to 2011 general elections, warned that increased political polarisation could lead to ungovernability. Spanish police 13 Oct arrested former interior minister Carlos Vielmann for supposed involvement in extrajudicial executions of prisoners in 2005. Luis Arturo Archila Leerayez elected new president of Supreme Court of Justice 20 Oct. Head of UN-sanctioned commission against impunity (CICIG) 26 Oct denounced attempts to discredit institution, rejected calls for its closure.
Cholera epidemic starting mid month killed at least 330, infected 4,800; govt said stabilising by 25 Oct, but feared could still spread to overcrowded capital, including IDP camps. MINUSTAH 28 Oct “categorically denied” accusations that epidemic caused by poor sanitation at one of its bases. In response to growing post-earthquake violence and gang activity, MINUSTAH boosted police presence in worst-affected Port-au-Prince slums. UNSC 14 Oct renewed MINUSTAH mandate for 1 year.
To increase effectiveness in anti-drug fight, President Calderón 6 Oct sent bill to Congress seeking to unify current national police force and 32 state forces under single command. Calderón 27 Oct said U.S. has “clear responsibility” in Mexico’s drug fight; accused Washington of not doing enough to lessen domestic drug consumption, combat illegal weapons supply to Mexico. Ex-President Fox 25 Oct criticised anti-drug policy of Calderón administration, called for army to be removed from fight against cartels. More than 100 killed in string of late-month massacres by suspected cartels, including 6 in Mexico City 28 Oct.
PA President Abbas, supported by Arab League, 9 Oct announced U.S. had 1 month to persuade Israel to halt settlement building or recently restarted direct peace talks would collapse. Israeli PM Netanyahu 11 Oct made offer to revive deadlocked talks, freeze settlement building if Palestinians recognise Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people; Palestinians immediately rejected declaration. Settlers 27 Oct accused govt of imposing “silent freeze” by delaying approval of some 4,300 West Bank apartments. Israeli cabinet 10 Oct approved bill requiring new non-Jewish citizens to pledge loyalty oath to “Jewish” state; PM Netanyahu 19 Oct ordered bill to include all new citizens. 3 militants killed, 6 injured by airstrikes in West Bank responding to mortars fired toward Israel. 2 Hamas commanders, suspected of 31 Aug murder of 4 Israeli civilians, killed 8 Oct in IDF raid in West Bank town Hebron. Netanyahu 17 Oct announced renewal of negotiations through German mediator on release of captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit; Hamas leaders argued renewed contact insignificant and unlikely to yield deal. Clashes 27 Oct between police and Arab Israeli protestors in town of Umm el-Fahm following march by Jewish extremists against Islamic Movement. Prominent Arab Israeli activist Amir Makhoul who admitted to spying for Hizbollah sentenced 27 Oct to 10 years.
Continued political tension and pressure on PM Saad Hariri over Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) investigation into 2005 murder of former PM and Saad’s father Rafiq Hariri. Former General Sayyed, jailed after Hariri’s assassination for 4 years and freed 2009, 3 Oct reported Syrian judge issued 33 arrest warrants over false testimony to STL. Lebanon justice minister Ibrahim Najjar 5 Oct said will not act on warrants since not officially informed by Syria; Syrian President Assad 6 Oct said warrants had “no political meaning”. Hizbollah chief Nasrallah 28 Oct called for boycott of STL; speech came day after 2 UN investigators attacked by over 30 women during meeting at clinic in Dahyeh, Beirut. UN special envoy Terje Roed-Larsen 28 Oct warned Lebanon in “hyper-dangerous situation”. Iranian President Ahmadinejad 13-14 Oct made first official visit to Lebanon, including to areas bordering Israel. Visit criticised by U.S, Israel as provocative, also criticised by members of pro-Western March 14 alliance. French newspaper Le Figaro 25 Oct reported Hizbollah has 40,000 missiles.
FM Moallem 3 Oct said Turkey must mediate any indirect peace talks with Israel. President Assad 11 Oct said Israel hindering peace process, 28 Oct said Israel not interested in peace. Israeli media 8 Oct reported satellite images revealing Syrian scud missile and Hizbollah training base near Damascus. Assad 26 Oct accused U.S. of creating “chaos” abroad. U.S. ambassador to UN Susan Rice 28 Oct accused Damascus of destabilizing Lebanon by arming militias including Hizbollah. Assad 2 Oct visited Iran to reinforce ties, 11 Oct met Turkish PM Erdogan to discuss security strategy against PKK.
23 Oct parliamentary elections held with relatively high 67% turnout despite govt clampdown. Biggest Shiite bloc Al Wefaq retained all 18 seats they contested; remaining 22 seats won by pro-govt and Sunni candidates, including 9 decided in 30 Oct second round. Sheik Ali Salman, leader of Al Wefaq, 24 Oct alleged at least 2,000 voters blocked from casting ballots, but will not challenge election result. Trial began 28 Oct of 23 Shiite activists arrested during pre-election crackdown and charged with terrorism, conspiring against govt.
Tehran 9 Oct said ready for international talks on nuclear program, 12 Oct blamed EU foreign policy chief Ashton, representative of P5+1 powers, for deadlock. President Ahmadinejad 17 Oct welcomed new talks, but with conditions. Ashton 22 Oct reissued invitation for Vienna talks 15-17 Nov, after no formal response to first invitation 14 Oct. Iran 29 Oct said prepared for talks in Nov. U.S. late month said together with EU preparing new tougher fuel swap deal for Iran. Parliament 24 Oct said uranium enrichment not negotiable. Atomic energy chief Ali Akbar Salehi 9 Oct admitted spies found in nuclear facilities. As govt began loading fuel into Bushehr nuclear plant, IAEA 26 Oct urged Iran to take “concrete steps” to allay international concerns about nuclear programme. Ayatollah Khamenei 11 Oct ruled assets of Azad University, linked to reformists, could not be put in protected religious trust, but also blocked moves extending govt control over assets. Govt 17 Oct said domestic media will be banned if they report on opposition leaders. Ayatollah Khamenei in 10 day visit to Qom religious centre to persuade clerics to stop attacks on regime. Govt late month started removing energy and food subsidies. 4 police, 1 civilian killed in 7 Oct gun attack, Kurdistan province, blamed on “counter- revolutionary groups”. 18 Revolutionary Guards killed 12 Oct in reportedly accidental explosion in Khoramabad base, W Iran.
In ongoing post-election negotiations to form govt, PM Maliki nominated for second term 1 Oct by National Alliance Shiite megabloc including Sadrist movement in deal brokered by Iran. But deadlock continued with Maliki still short of the 163 votes needed for parliamentary majority. Maliki 9 Oct urged concessions from all parties to end impasse. Iraqiya 10 Oct reportedly dropped demand for Allawi as PM, but insisted on equal share of power. Maliki visited Syria to strengthen ties, also Jordan, Iran, Turkey. Iran 18 Oct backed Maliki for second term, Ayatollah Khamenei said Iraq must push out U.S. Allawi 17 Oct said Iran trying to destabilise region. U.S. pushed for broad coalition to marginalise Moqtada al-Sadr, received assurances from Maliki that Sadr’s supporters not to head security forces. Supreme Court 24 Oct ordered parliament to convene, called members’ June decision to delay “illegal”. Wikileaks released some 400,000 classified military documents on Iraq, including reports of prisoner abuse by Iraqi forces. Maliki said release “politically motivated”. UNHCHR 26 Oct urged U.S., Iraq to investigate Wikileaks claims. At least 25 people killed by 29 Oct suicide bomb attack on café in Balad Ruz, north of Baghdad. At least 52 people killed 31 Oct during security forces rescue effort after gunmen seized Baghdad church during service, demanding release of jailed al-Qaeda militants. UNSRSG Ad Melkert’s convoy attacked 19 Oct in Najaf following meeting with Ayatollah al-Sistani.
Army assault mid-month on town of Mudiyah in southeastern Abyan province: officials say at least 6 militants and 4 civilians killed. Campaign launched after militants 14 Oct killed Mudiyah security chief and ambushed provincial governor. 3 soldiers killed, 2 injured 16 Oct in militant ambush of convoy in Zinjibar, Abyan provincial capital. In controversial new counter-terrorism approach soldiers and over 2,500 pro- govt tribesmen 23 Oct began al-Qaeda “manhunt” in southern Shabwa province. New U.S. ambassador Feierstein 11 Oct said U.S. committed to Yemen’s counter-terrorism campaign but would not support negotiations with militants. 4 injured 6 Oct in al-Qaeda rocket attack on senior UK diplomat’s car in capital Sanaa; French energy contractor killed same day by al-Qaeda. 3 intelligence officers killed in southern Hadramawt province in separate al-Qaeda shootings. 4 killed, 12 injured 11 Oct in Aden by pair of al-Qaeda bombs; trial of 10 suspects began 24 Oct. 2 parcel bombs destined for U.S. intercepted 29 Oct in Dubai and Britain, linked to Yemen-based al-Qaeda. Several countries, airlines suspended direct air traffic from Yemen; 1 suspect detained 30 Oct, later released.
Suspected al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) militants 3 Oct killed 5 soldiers, wounded 10 in attack on military convoy in Tizi Ouzou province. 5 people killed 13 Oct by roadside bomb in town of Tebessa near border with Tunisia, no immediate claim of responsibility. 2 soldiers killed, 2 injured 26 Oct by suspected AQIM roadside bomb in Boumerdes region. Gendarmes 4 Oct dismantled alleged local terrorist network, arraigned 13 suspects for aiding local terrorist groups.
President Mubarak 20 Oct set 28 Nov date for parliamentary elections. Banned Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, largest opposition group, 9 Oct ignored calls for opposition boycott led by Mohamed el Baradei, announced affiliated candidates will contest 30% of seats; reported that within a week more than 160 members detained, 90 affiliated businesses raided. Govt increased state control over media and information through series of new measures; journalists’ union 4 Oct accused govt of cracking down on media critical of authorities. High Administrative Court 23 Oct banned permanent Interior Ministry presence on university campuses.
3 members of al-Qaeda-linked group sentenced to death 20 Oct for organising 2008 Israeli embassy attack in capital Nouakchott.
Police 12 Oct arrested 7 suspects in al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb-linked drug network, seized large quantities of money, drugs and tear gas; 34 more members remanded 16 Oct. Trial began 22 Oct of 7 Sahrawi activists accused of “undermining internal security” for visiting refugee camps in Algeria run by Polisario Front; rights groups called charges “politically motivated”.
New round of talks between Polisario Front and Morocco to be held early Nov according to UNSG’s special envoy Christopher Ross, first since Feb. In protest at social conditions at least 10,000 Sahrawis since 9 Oct moved out of cities to camps outside capital El Aauin. 14 year-old boy killed, 5 injured 25 Oct by Moroccan soldiers at checkpoint to protest camp.