CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
Our monthly conflict tracker highlights deteriorations in five countries in August.
The Taliban retook control of Afghanistan, ending the two-decade-long U.S. occupation. The Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate claimed a devastating attack that killed 13 U.S. soldiers and as many as 200 Afghans seeking to flee the country.
In Lebanon, the Central Bank’s decision to cut subsidies exacerbated the economic crisis, increasing hardship and shortages that led to pockets of violent unrest.
Tunisia’s political crisis deepened further as President Saïed consolidated his power grab by indefinitely extending the suspension of parliament.
Jihadists in Burkina Faso stepped up attacks, inflicting the heaviest monthly death toll on the military since 2019 and killing scores of civilians.
In South Sudan, a split within Vice President Riek Machar’s movement sparked deadly clashes between rival factions, which could further weaken the fragile peace process.
We also noted political and security improvements in three locations.
Venezuela’s government and opposition held talks for the first time since 2019, and in a major strategic shift, the opposition announced their participation in the November elections, ending the three-year boycott.
Islamist militants suffered a major setback after Mozambican and Rwandan forces regained strategic locations in Mozambique’s far north.
Despite heightened political tensions in the lead-up to the 12 August presidential election, Zambia witnessed a peaceful transfer of power.
Aside from the 70+ conflict situations we regularly assess, we tracked notable developments in: Brazil, Djibouti, Guatemala and the United Arab Emirates.
Efforts to resolve water dispute between Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan remained at standstill. Sudanese Irrigation Minister Yasir Abbas 24 Aug said Addis Ababa’s filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in July had no effect on year’s flood but “lack of information” forced Khartoum to take precautions with significant economic and social costs. Ethiopian FM Demeke Mekonnen 26 Aug called on UN Security Council members to reject draft resolution on GERD submitted by Tunisia in July, which called for legally binding agreement between three parties; reiterated such resolution would undermine efforts to resume negotiations with Egypt and Sudan under African Union auspices.
Jihadists stepped up attacks, inflicting heaviest monthly death toll on military since 2019 and leaving scores of civilians killed. Series of deadly jihadist attacks reported in Sahel region (north) near borders with Mali and Niger. In Oudalan province, suspected jihadist militants 4 Aug killed 30 people – 15 soldiers, four volunteers fighting alongside security forces (VDPs) and 11 civilians – in Dambam, Gubda and Tokabangou localities; ten militants also killed. Clashes between al-Qaeda-affiliated Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) also continued in Oudalan, leaving ten militants killed in Déou department 15 Aug. In Seno province, VDPs 10 Aug clashed with suspected jihadist militants in Gorgadji department; five VDPs and 17 gunmen killed. In Soum province, jihadist combatants 18 Aug attacked military convoy escorting civilians near Boukouma village on Gorgadji-Arbinda axis, leaving 80 dead including 65 civilians; recent incidents in Soum reveal fragility of local non-aggression pact struck between govt and JNIM in late 2020. Rising insecurity also reported in Boucle du Mouhoun region (west). Suspected JNIM combatants 8 Aug ambushed military convoy in Toéni department, Sourou province, killing 12; attack may have come as retaliation for killing of JNIM leader Sidibe Ousmane and his spiritual guide Bande Amadou by defence forces in Kossi province previous day. Special anti-terrorism court in capital Ouagadougou 9-13 held first trials since its creation in 2017; 10 Aug sentenced two suspected members of JNIM-affiliated Ansarul Islam militants to 20 years in prison and next day sentenced suspected ISGS combatant to 21-year imprisonment. European Court of Human Rights 6 Aug temporarily suspended extradition from France of former President Compaoré's brother, François Compaoré, pending final decision; François Compaoré is wanted by Burkina Faso in connection with 1998 murder of journalist Norbert Zongo.
Violence in north and centre showed jihadist groups’ sustained capacity to inflict considerable damage; govt’s action plan sparked concern over transition timeline. In Gao region (north), suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) militants 8 Aug simultaneously raided several villages in Ansongo district, killing at least 51 civilians, mostly women and children. In Ménaka region (east), explosive device 15 Aug killed three Malian soldiers near Ménaka airport. In Mopti region (centre), suspected al-Qaeda-linked Group to Support Islam and Muslims (JNIM)-affiliated Katiba Macina militants 11 Aug clashed with Bambara “Donso” militiamen in Ténenkou district, leaving at least five Donso dead. Also in Mopti, unidentified gunmen 19 Aug ambushed army convoy on Nokora-Boni axis, Douentza district, killing at least 15 soldiers. In Ségou region (also centre), six villagers died due to lack of medical care after alleged Katiba Macina militants 3 July imposed blockade around Songo village in Niono district; situation could jeopardise truce agreed between Katiba Macina and Donso in Niono district in April 2021. National Transitional Council (CNT) 2 Aug adopted interim govt’s action plan for 2021-2022; priorities include improving security situation, carrying out political and institutional reforms, organising “transparent, credible, and inclusive” presidential and legislative elections in Feb-March 2022 and adopting social stability pact; some CNT members voiced concerns plan might be too ambitious given tight implementation timeframe, while several political parties including former President Keïta’s Rally for Mali expressed fear that plan could provide alibi for extension of transition period. Authorities 25 Aug arrested former PM Boubeye Maïga and former Economy Minister Bouaré Fily Sissoko over corruption and other allegations. Transition monitoring committee next day announced release of former Interim President Bah N’Daw and PM Moctar Ouane, who had been under house arrest since Assimi Goïta’s second coup in May.
Jihadist violence against civilians and military continued in south. In Tillabery region (south west), suspected jihadists continued to target civilians in Banibangou area (Ouallam department) near Malian border: interior ministry 11 Aug said unidentified gunmen 9 Aug killed 15 civilians in Banibangou area, and suspected Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) combatants 16 Aug stormed Darey-Dey village, killing 37 civilians. Meanwhile, suspected ISGS combatants launched their first attack in Maradi region (south), killing two National Guard troops on Dakoro-Tessaoua axis 17 Aug; incident could indicate group’s intention to expand eastward. NGO Human Rights Watch 11 Aug reported recent upsurge in atrocities by jihadist groups in western Niger, with 420 civilians killed in Tillabery and Tahoua regions since Jan 2021, called for “early warning networks” and “committees composed of civilians, security forces, and civil society groups to identify and respond to urgent protection needs”. In Diffa region (south east), hundreds of Boko Haram militants overnight 24-25 Aug attacked military post in Baroua town, killing 16 soldiers and wounding nine more; attack is blow to President Bazoum’s plan to relocate 130,000 displaced people to Diffa in coming months. Amid insecurity, govt 2 Aug extended state of emergency in Diffa region, as well as in several departments of Tahoua and Tillabery regions. U.S. Under Sec State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland 5 Aug visited capital Niamey, showing commitment to bolstering U.S. ties with Niger as country due to play more important role in region’s security architecture.
Authorities stepped up repression of political opponents amid tensions within ruling party over suspension of foreign mining operations. In south, ruling party CNDD-FDD youth wing Imbonerakure 1 Aug seized two members of main opposition party National Congress for Freedom (CNL) in Muhuta commune, Rumonge province. In Rutana province, Imbonerakure 11 Aug reportedly attacked CNL party representative Pierre Ndayisaba and his brother in Giharo commune; next day over 50 Imbonerakure brought Ndayisaba to police station; Ndayisaba later transferred to Rutana prison. Police 13 Aug arrested three CNL members in Kayogoro commune, Makamba province, and seized funds they were collecting for construction of party headquarters, before releasing them 16 Aug without returning funds. In north east, Imbonerakure 5 Aug reportedly vandalised CNL office in Ruhororo commune, Ngozi province; authorities same day detained two CNL members in Gitobe commune, Kirundo province, releasing them 14 Aug. In north west, residents in Cibitoke province’s Bukinanyana commune 13 Aug reported Imbonerakure night patrols amid concerns among local CNL members that ruling party is inciting youth wing to step up attacks against them; CNL activist also reportedly abducted 15-16 Aug by National Intelligence Services head, in Rugombo commune. In centre, intelligence officials 9 Aug detained three CNL members in Mwaro province’s Kayokwe commune, before releasing them 10 and 13 Aug. In Karusi province, Imbonerakure 28 Aug reportedly seized six CNL members in Shombo commune. Security forces 16 Aug arrested seven individuals, including one Rwandan, for allegedly collaborating with Kinyarwanda-speaking armed group in Mabayi commune, Citiboke province. Meanwhile, risk of instability within CNDD-FDD persisted over late June-early July suspension of all foreign mining operations pending ongoing renegotiation of mining contracts with state.
Violence continued between govt forces and separatists in Anglophone regions; in Far North, clashes over resources turned deadly and jihadists attacked govt positions. In North West (NW) region, amid food shortages due to separatist roadblocks, govt forces 17 Aug cleared roadblock in Mezam division, leaving three people killed. NGO Médecins Sans Frontières, whose NW activities govt suspended in Dec 2020 on accusations of alleged pro-separatist bias, 3 Aug withdrew all staff from region. Violent attacks throughout month continued. Notably, separatists 4 Aug detonated IED in Kumbo town, killing two soldiers; 7 Aug killed three civilians in NW regional capital Bamenda; another attack in Bamenda 22 Aug left NGO International Red Cross employee dead; separatists 23, 27 Aug killed two soldiers at Ntumbaw village and Oku area. Pro-govt vigilante group and govt forces 18-19 Aug meanwhile killed six separatists in Wum and Bafut towns. In South West region, separatists 16 Aug kidnapped 16 construction workers for not observing “ghost town Monday”; militia 20 Aug clashed with police in Buea town, leaving three dead; separatists 28-30 Aug killed several soldiers in Ndian division. Following announcement of alliance between Anglophone separatist group Ambazonia Governing Council and Nigerian separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra in April, Yaoundé and Abuja 26 Aug announced joint efforts against separatists in both countries. Meanwhile, in Far North’s Logone-et-Chari division, clashes between ethnic Musgum fishermen and Choa Arab herders 10 Aug left at least 32 dead and displaced 11,000 into neighbouring Chad. Also in Logone-et-Chari, Islamic State in West Africa Province 8 Aug killed three soldiers at military base in Sagme village; 15 Aug killed one soldier at army post in Makary town. Over 250 Boko Haram members throughout month surrendered to authorities in Far North’s Mayo-Sava division.
Central African Republic
Govt forces and foreign allies faced renewed international scrutiny over alleged abuses while tensions persisted between govt and opposition. UN report 4 Aug said country’s human rights situation “alarming”, listing 526 incidents from July 2020 to June 2021 including extrajudicial executions, torture and sexual violence; over half of recorded incidents blamed on rebel Coalition of Patriots for Change (CPC), while armed forces and Russian security personnel responsible for 46% of recorded violations, including rising attacks on Muslim communities in Feb-June. Army, along with Russian security personnel, throughout month pursued military offensive against CPC, which continued to harass govt forces and civilians. Notably, in Ouham-Pendé prefecture, CPC combatants 5 Aug reportedly killed at least two Russian security personnel near Wouro Dolé village; army and Russian personnel 20 Aug attacked CPC positions in nearby Koui town, reportedly killing three civilians. In Ouaka prefecture, Russian personnel 12 Aug reportedly killed two combatants from Union for Peace in Central Africa (UPC) – which withdrew from CPC in April – in Bokolobo locality. Rwanda 3 Aug seconded 300 soldiers to UN peacekeeping force (MINUSCA) to help secure supply road between capital Bangui and Béloko town at border with Cameroon; additional 450 Rwandan soldiers expected by year’s end. Meanwhile, opposition 1 Aug criticised as biased President Touadéra’s late-July appointment of four govt ministers to committee tasked with setting up and running long-delayed political dialogue. Constitutional court 10 Aug stripped former National Assembly president, now opposition MP, Karim Meckassoua of his parliamentary seat for allegedly exhorting CPC to launch offensive against govt in Dec 2020; Meckassoua 15 Aug reportedly fled to DR Congo ahead of interrogation scheduled for next day; main opposition coalition COD-2020 24 Aug criticised court’s ruling, said Meckassoua should have been allowed to take part in national dialogue. Yearly World Bank report released 3 Aug warned CAR would enter economic recession in 2021 due to COVID-19 and post-electoral crises. Touadéra and Rwandan President Kagame 5 Aug signed four cooperation agreements, including in areas of defence and trade.
Disagreements over national dialogue persisted; intercommunal violence left dozens dead and Boko Haram attacked army positions. Transitional Military Council (CMT) showed signs of openness ahead of national dialogue scheduled for Nov-Dec. Notably, CMT head Mahamat Idriss Déby 10 Aug called on armed groups to join dialogue, with govt later clarifying “outstretched hand” to armed groups included Libya-based Chadian rebel group Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT); FACT 27 Aug said it was willing to take part in dialogue. PM Pahimi Padacké 13 Aug appointed 70 members of Organising Committee for National Dialogue (CODNI), including main opposition leader Saleh Kebzabo as deputy chairperson; Déby 17 Aug appointed 28 key figures of late President Déby’s regime, including 12 army generals, as members of technical committee on participation of politico-military leaders. Opposition and civil society continued to criticise national dialogue; opposition and civil society platform Wakit Tama mid-Aug refused to take up reserved seats in CODNI while coordinator of New Front for Change Yaya Dillo 17 Aug said political party will not participate in “sham dialogue”; opposition leader Felix Romadoumngar 19 Aug resigned from CODNI to lead wider opposition movement’s engagement in dialogue. Meanwhile, in central Hadjer Lamis province, farmer-herder clashes 7-8 Aug left at least 23 dead and at least 20 wounded in Kharadja village; UN humanitarian affairs agency 8 Aug revealed total of 24 incidents of intercommunal violence in Jan-July, with over 300 dead and 6,000 displaced. In Lake Chad province (west), Boko Haram attack 4 Aug left 26 soldiers killed in Tchoukoutalia area; in response, Mahamat Déby next day said soldiers’ death is “reminder of the security challenges” at border. N’Djamena 21 Aug announced recall of 600 out of 1,200 soldiers from G5 Sahel force operating in tri-border area between Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger citing “strategic redeployment” to better respond to jihadist threat. Former President Hissène Habré 24 Aug died in Senegal, where he was serving life sentence for atrocity crimes committed during 1982-1990 rule.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Authorities extended state of siege amid ongoing violence in east; appointment process of electoral commission reached impasse. In North Kivu province’s Beni territory, armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) 5 Aug reportedly killed eight in Mbingi village; 14 Aug reportedly killed at least 14 and injured nine in Kikingi village. Also in Beni, clashes between armed forces and ADF 22-23 Aug left at least nine civilians, one soldier and eight ADF dead in Katanga village; suspected ADF 27-28 Aug killed at least 19 in Kasanzi-Kithovo village; next day reportedly killed three in Oïcha. In Ituri province, suspected ADF fighters 2 Aug killed at least 16 civilians – who had been taken hostage weeks earlier – near Idohu village. Following U.S. designation of ADF as Foreign Terrorist Organization in March and Kinshasa’s first attendance to ministerial meeting of Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS in June, U.S. special forces 13 Aug arrived to support establishment of national counter-terrorism team and evaluate protection capabilities of Gramba and Virunga national parks in east; special forces 17 Aug reportedly deployed to Rumangabo base, Virunga park, North Kivu. MPs 17 Aug and Senate next day approved sixth extension of state of siege in east despite no improvement in security, and as provincial deputies, whose mandates were suspended, denounced shrinking political space and rising human rights violations under state of siege. President Tshisekedi 6 Aug appointed former rebel Tommy Tambwe Ushindi as coordinator of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programme. Appointment sparked outcry over Tambwe’s role in rebel movements in late 1990s and early 2000s; Nobel Peace Prize winner Denis Mukwege 11 Aug denounced move as encouraging “armed groups to wait their turn in the bush”. Meanwhile, formation of electoral commission stalled as National Assembly’s mid-Aug deadline to submit approved list of candidates to Tshisekedi passed without progress. Notably, eight religious groups mandated to appoint commission’s chair mid-Aug failed to reach consensus; six of them, which are smaller groups, 19 Aug named Tshisekedi-ally and electoral expert Denis Kadima as candidate, which remaining two groups, including influential Catholic Church, immediately opposed.
Deadly intercommunal violence broke out in capital. Clashes 1 Aug erupted between ethnic Afar and Issa communities in capital Djibouti city, leaving at least three dead. Rights group Djiboutian Human Rights League (LDDH) 12 Aug alleged police officers took part in clashes, denounced “coordinated attack” by police against Afar civilians.
Amid spreading violence in Ethiopia’s north, govt faced renewed scrutiny over troops’ presence in Tigray. As fighting expanded across Ethiopia’s north, Tigray region’s leadership throughout month claimed Eritrean forces had moved into western Tigray and neighbouring Afar region. U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken and Sudanese PM Abdalla Hamdok 4 Aug discussed alleged movements of Eritrean troops in Ethiopia “which impact regional stability”. UN refugee agency (UNHCR) 10 Aug said it had regained access to Mai Aini and Adi Harush refugee camps in Tigray; both camps had been cut off from humanitarian aid since early July due to violent clashes in area, amid reports of killings and other human rights violations against Eritrean refugees by Tigray regional forces; UNHCR also called on all parties to allow safe passage of refugees to new camp in Ethiopia’s Amhara region. U.S. Treasury Dept 23 Aug imposed sanctions on Eritrean Defence Forces Chief of Staff Gen Filipos Woldeyohannes over Eritrean troops’ alleged role in extrajudicial executions, rapes and torture in Tigray; Blinken same day warned “large numbers” of Eritrean troops had re-entered Tigray after reportedly withdrawing in June.
Amid spreading conflict across Ethiopia’s north, Tigrayan forces and federal govt intensified war rhetoric and took steps to mobilise reinforcements; clashes in centre left hundreds dead. Tigrayan forces continued to launch offensives into Amhara and Afar regions, seizing several towns and prompting thousands to flee. Federal govt 6 Aug threatened to “deploy the entire defensive capability of the state” if offensives continued, 10 Aug urged “all capable” citizens to join military effort. Tigrayan forces next day formed alliance with insurgent group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) with stated aim of toppling federal govt. Rights abuses reported on all sides. Notably, Afar authorities accused Tigrayan forces of launching attack on displaced civilians, reportedly killing over 200, in Galicoma area 5 Aug; NGO Amnesty International 11 Aug accused Ethiopian, Eritrean troops and allied militias of using sexual violence “to terrorise, degrade, and humiliate” ethnic Tigrayans. NGO Human Rights Watch 18 Aug also reported authorities conducted arbitrary detentions and forcibly disappeared at least 23 ethnic Tigrayans, mostly on apparent basis of ethnicity, in capital Addis Ababa in June-July. U.S. development agency (USAID) 19 Aug said govt’s obstruction of humanitarian aid and personnel creates looming food aid shortages in Tigray region; govt next day denied accusations. USAID 31 Aug accused Tigrayan forces of looting its warehouses in Amhara region in previous weeks. U.S. 23 Aug warned “large numbers” of Eritrean troops had re-entered Tigray after reportedly withdrawing in June (see Eritrea). Federal govt 5 Aug rejected Sudan’s offer to mediate Tigray conflict, prompting Khartoum to recall its ambassador 8 Aug (see Sudan). In west, Benishangul-Gumuz regional govt 14 Aug said its forces had killed 170 armed “anti-peace elements” allied to Tigrayan forces who had reportedly entered from Sudan, mid-Aug also arrested 32 suspected Tigrayan forces “operatives” after they reportedly crossed from Sudan in alleged attempt to destabilise region. Meanwhile, in Oromia regional state in centre, govt-appointed Human Rights Commission 26 Aug said OLA insurgents had killed some 150 ethnic Amhara in Gida Kiremu district 18 Aug, prompting retaliatory attacks which left 60 dead next day; OLA immediately denied it had targeted civilians, said Amhara militias initiated clashes.
Political jockeying continued ahead of 2022 general election, and diplomatic engagement with Somalia deepened further. Tensions between Deputy President William Ruto and President Kenyatta persisted ahead of general elections. Notably, Kenyatta 23 Aug asked Ruto to do “the honourable thing” and resign, accusing him of claiming credit for govt action and at the same time criticising it; Ruto next day dismissed call. Opposition leader Raila Odinga, Kenyatta’s de facto ally, 27 Aug reiterated call on Ruto to be “principled” and resign. Earlier in month, immigration officers 2 Aug prevented Ruto from travelling to Uganda, which he said was attempt by ruling Jubilee Party and govt to humiliate him; interior ministry 5 Aug denied any involvement. Amid infighting, One Kenya Alliance (OKA), formed by Kenyatta in March with four opposition parties, 17 Aug failed to agree on common presidential candidate for 2022 election and ruled out solely supporting Odinga. Court of Appeal 20 Aug upheld High Court’s ruling in May that attempt by Kenyatta and Odinga to amend constitution was illegal. In Mombasa county in south, police 11 Aug detained three individuals on suspicion of being members of terrorist group with networks in Uganda, Kenya, Somalia and Egypt. Following months-long tensions, Kenya and Somalia 8 Aug agreed to strengthen trade, security and diplomatic ties and 10 Aug to “reset relations”.
Electoral cycle remained behind schedule while Al-Shabaab attacks and counter-offensives continued. South West, Puntland and Galmudug states early to mid-Aug held delayed Senate elections, after electoral cycle kicked off in Jubaland 29 July; elections in Hirshabelle and Somaliland yet to start; only 29 out of 54 senators chosen by month’s end. Electoral process continued to face several hurdles; notably, pro and anti-federal govt supporters continued to spar for control of Somaliland process; bloc of 15 presidential candidates 23 Aug rejected new election procedures agreed by federal govt and member states previous day, arguing process gives state leaders too much power in selecting electoral delegates tasked with appointing lower house MPs; candidates and state leaders 24 Aug formed technical committee to resolve disagreement. Relations between President Farmajo and PM Roble soured; notably, in apparent bid to undermine Roble’s 10 Aug visit to neighbouring Kenya, Farmajo 6 Aug issued decree barring govt from entering new economic, political and security agreements with foreign countries during electoral period, which Roble 8 Aug dismissed. Meanwhile, Al-Shabaab continued to launch deadly attacks. Notably, in capital Mogadishu, suicide bombing 19 Aug killed at least two; in Lower Shabelle region, security forces 20 Aug reportedly repelled two attacks on Sabiid and Anole districts, killing 60 militants. Militants launched offensives in Galmudug state’s Mudug region, killing eight civilians near Baladweyne town 10 Aug and at least two civilians and four soldiers in Amara town 24 Aug; latter attack reportedly prompted same day U.S. airstrike in Galmudug which allegedly killed at least 90 militants; Galmudug authorities 28 Aug denied Al-Shabaab took over several areas, including Amara and Bacadweyne towns, after govt forces withdrew. Armed forces 16 Aug claimed to have killed over 250 militants across country in previous weeks. AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) 21 Aug said it was investigating reports that its troops were responsible for death of seven civilians in Lower Shabelle region 10 Aug; PM Roble same day ordered probe into killings. In Bari region, suspected Islamic State - Somalia militants 18 Aug reportedly temporarily seized Balidhidin town, killing mayor and several civilians.
Opposition coalition secured speaker’s position in parliament’s lower house following tight vote. Parliament’s lower house 3 Aug elected opposition coalition MP Abdirisaq Ahmed Khalif as its new speaker by one vote, cementing opposition’s control over lower house despite President Bihi’s attempts to win over opposition MPs ahead of vote.
Split within VP Riek Machar’s movement sparked deadly violence; govt faced new calls to stand down, and implementation of transitional security arrangements remained stalled. Military leaders from a rural headquarters of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) 3 Aug claimed to have ousted Machar as movement leader over alleged failure to represent group’s interests, appointed Simon Gatwech Dual as interim leader. SPLM/A-IO forces loyal to Machar and Dual’s splinter group 7 Aug clashed in Magenis area, Upper Nile state, reportedly leaving dozens killed; 17 Aug reportedly clashed again in same area. Few SPLM-A/IO commanders elsewhere publicly backed Dual; SPLM/A-IO deputy chairman and Mining Minister Henry Odwar 11 Aug however resigned from govt, next day said he supported Dual. Meanwhile, following months-long delay, Transitional National Legislative Assembly sworn in 2 Aug, paving way for implementing key steps of peace process including constitutional review and electoral preparation. Intergovernmental Authority for Development chairperson, Sudanese PM Abdallah Hamdok, 19-20 Aug failed to broker agreement between President Kiir and Machar on share of signatory groups in unified national army, with Kiir reportedly demanding 60% of recruits be drawn from his forces. After coalition of civil society groups late July called for country’s leadership to resign and mid-Aug called for countrywide anti-govt protests 30 Aug, govt deployed military and police forces in capital Juba, arrested several activists, shut down internet and threatened to use live bullets; streets 30 Aug remained quiet. Kiir 18 Aug accused members of coalition of non-signatory rebel groups South Sudan Opposition Movements Alliance (SSOMA) of carrying out “terror attacks”, after unidentified gunmen 16 Aug reportedly killed five people on Juba-Nimule road; SSOMA faction led by Thomas Cirillo, National Salvation Front, immediately denied responsibility; Kiir 30 Aug suspended govt’s participation in Rome peace talks with SSOMA, said negotiations would resume when SSOMA “cease killing innocent people”. Intercommunal violence persisted mainly in centre and south: 31 people killed 15-16 Aug in Tonj East county, Warrap state; seven dead 3-4 Aug in Terekeka county, Central Equatoria state; and about 20 killed and over 20,000 displaced late July-late Aug in Western Equatoria state.
Intercommunal violence persisted in west, govt made progress in implementation of Oct 2020 peace deal, and tensions with Ethiopia continued to run high. In North Darfur state, unidentified gunmen 30 July-10 Aug killed four people in separate attacks in Tawila and Kushna areas, reportedly over disputed agricultural lands; 6 Aug reportedly ambushed members of former rebel group Gathering of Sudan Liberation Forces, brought into govt forces by last Oct’s Juba Peace Agreement and allegedly sent to secure area, killing seven; Sovereign Council next day sent fact-finding committee to investigate violence. Also in North Darfur, cattle raid 25 Aug reportedly left two dead in Kutum locality. Sudan Liberation Movement/Army faction leader Minni Minnawi sworn in 10 Aug as governor of Darfur region in line with Oct 2020 peace deal; Sovereign Council head Abdel Fattah al-Burhan same day pledged peace deal signatories would immediately start forming joint force to protect civilians in Darfur. Families of victims of former President Bashir’s regime and 2019 uprising 4 Aug organised sit-ins in capital Khartoum, demanding authorities purge public prosecution and judiciary from Bashir’s supporters; notably, sit-inners accused interim Attorney General Mubarak Mahmoud of foot-dragging on investigations. Court in North Kordofan state 5 Aug sentenced six members of paramilitary Rapid Support Forces to death for killing six civilians during 2019 protest. Ethiopia 5 Aug rejected Sudan’s offer earlier that day to mediate conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region in its capacity as current chair of regional bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development, saying Khartoum was “not a credible party”; refusal reportedly prompted Sudan to recall its ambassador to Ethiopia 8 Aug. PM Hamdok and al-Burhan 16 Aug visited disputed al-Fashaga zone at border with Ethiopia; Hamdok said Sudan would not make any concessions on country’s territorial integrity. Govt 23 Aug said UN had acceded to its April request that Ethiopian soldiers part of UN peacekeeping force in disputed Abyei area at border with South Sudan be replaced.
Deadly gunfire erupted in economic capital Dar es Salaam, court case against opposition leader sparked tensions, and govt suspended newspaper. Unidentified gunman 25 Aug killed three police officers and one private security guard near French embassy in Dar es Salaam before being shot dead; six other people injured in incident. Police same day said attack could be linked to jihadist violence in neighbouring Mozambique. Earlier in month, police 5-6 Aug reportedly arrested several members of main opposition party Chadema during gathering at Dar es Salaam court in support of party chairperson Freeman Mbowe, currently facing terrorism charges. Meanwhile, govt 11 Aug temporarily suspended local newspaper Uhuru, owned by ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi party; Uhuru same day had alleged that President Suluhu Hassan would not run for president in 2025, which govt denied.
Clampdown on civil society intensified, security forces foiled suicide bomb attack, and unidentified assailants killed dozens in south. Govt 20 Aug suspended 54 NGOs for alleged non-compliance with laws and regulations; 15 face indefinite suspension, including prominent rights group Chapter Four, which immediately denied any “unlawful conduct”. Security forces 26 Aug reportedly arrested individual in northern Pader town on suspicions of planning suicide bombing at funeral of top police and army commander Paul Lokech next day; President Museveni 27 Aug blamed rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). In south, local authorities 27 Aug said unidentified assailants had killed 21 people with machetes since 22 July in Masaka and Lwengo districts; same day announced 38 suspects arrested. Museveni 3 Aug met king of powerful Baganda tribe Ronald Muwenda Mutebi in capital Kampala after govt announced plan to amend Buganda tribal kingdom’s land tenure system; reform plan allegedly part of Museveni’s attempt to weaken kingdom and bring Baganda people under his control after they failed to vote for him in last presidential election. Tensions ran high in Karamoja region (north east) over illegal guns, as forceful disarmament of ethnic Karimojong herders launched mid-July continued; defence forces 16 Aug said operation had led to 322 arrests so far.
Islamist militants faced major setback as joint Mozambican and Rwandan forces regained control of strategic Mocìmboa da Praia town and other key locations. In far north Cabo Delgado province, joint Mozambican and Rwandan forces early Aug launched large-scale offensive in Mocìmboa da Praia district, with intense fighting reported notably in and around Awasse and Mocìmboa da Praia towns 2-4 Aug. Mozambican and Rwandan defence ministries 8 Aug announced joint forces had regained full control of Mocìmboa da Praia town, under militant control since Aug 2020 and site of militants’ first attack in Cabo Delgado in Oct 2017. In following days, joint forces reopened Mocìmboa da Praia-Awasse road and pursued militants into thick forests around Mbau village, 50km south west of Mocìmboa da Praia, taking control of Mbau 20 Aug; 11 militants reportedly killed and some 100 hostages, mainly women and children, released. During their flight from Mocìmboa da Praia, Islamist militants 4-8 Aug reportedly attacked Mandimba, Chacamba, Nune and Quissama villages in neighbouring Nangade district; no casualty report available. Militants 16-20 Aug clashed with govt forces in Nangade district, notably in Litingina and Samora Machel villages; one civilian reportedly killed. In Macomia district, govt forces 10 Aug mistakenly killed two civilians in Mucojo area; militants 24 Aug killed ten fishermen in same area. In Muidumbe district, joint forces 27 Aug reportedly dislodged militants from their base near district capital Namacunde. U.S. 6 Aug put Bonomade Machude Omar, alleged “senior commander and lead coordinator” of Islamic State in Cabo Delgado province, on terrorist list. Southern Africa’s regional bloc SADC Standby Force in Mozambique formally launched 9 Aug; force will initially consist of 738 soldiers and 19 civilian experts in Cabo Delgado, far from 3,000 troops recommended by SADC technical mission in April. Meanwhile, some 900 former armed opposition Renamo forces 10 Aug claimed they had not received allowances – mandated under Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration process – for six months; Renamo opposition party leader Ossufo Momade 16 Aug called on govt and international partners to resolve situation. Nine high-ranking officers of Renamo Military Junta, Renamo armed dissident faction, demobilised 17 Aug in Sofala province (centre).
Despite heightened political tensions in lead-up to 12 Aug polls, country witnessed peaceful transfer of power, with opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema sworn in as president. Tensions ran high ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections pitting incumbent President Edgar Lungu’s Patriotic Front (PF) against opposition candidate Hakainde Hichilema’s United Party for National Development (UPND): Lungu 1 Aug announced deployment of military to curb violence following late-July killing of at least two PF supporters; police 4 Aug said seven suspects arrested for murders. U.S. chargé d’affaires in capital Lusaka 9 Aug condemned voter intimidation and threatened to impose travel bans, visa restrictions and financial sanctions on individuals promoting violence and undermining electoral process. Hichilema 11 Aug claimed UPND was barred from campaigning in key Copperbelt province for second time that week. Elections held next day with high voter turnout of nearly 71% amid social media restrictions, internet shutdowns and reports of violence in several provinces. Notably, local PF leader and brother of another PF leader reportedly killed on polling day in North-Western province while police confirmed that unknown attacker(s) stabbed former Lusaka Mayor Miles Sampa in Lusaka; Lungu blamed UPND for electoral violence while UPND decried comments as “distraction tactic”. High Court 13 Aug ordered restoration of internet. With polls indicating Hichilema leading, Lungu 14 Aug called for nullification of results saying elections were “not free and fair”; five opposition leaders immediately challenged statement urging Lungu to concede defeat. Head of African Union election observer mission same day said voting was “peaceful, transparent” while European Union observers alleged campaign conditions favoured incumbent. Electoral Commission 16 Aug proclaimed Hichilema winner; Lungu same day conceded defeat in country’s third peaceful transition of power. Hichilema sworn in 24 Aug. Hichilema 29 Aug appointed new military chiefs and replaced all police commissioners, promising to end repression.
Authorities continued to intimidate and threaten opposition and civil society. In reference to Harare provincial authorities’ directive, issued in July, requiring NGOs to submit workplans or cease operations, ruling party ZANU-PF Secretary for Administration Obert Mpofu 4 Aug backed “blitz” on NGOs, saying sector aims at “demonising” govt; High Court 13 Aug reserved judgement in case challenging directive. As govt pushes for controversial Patriotic Bill which seeks to criminalise support for U.S. sanctions on Zimbabwe, National Security Minister Owen Ncube mid-Aug said parliament would soon punish “misguided elements who campaign for sanctions and punishment…under the guise of human rights narrative”. Cabinet 31 Aug approved changes to law governing private voluntary organisations, notably prohibiting them from getting involved in politics, citing need to curb money laundering and financing of terrorism. Nelson Chamisa led-faction (MDC-A) of main opposition party 15 Aug congratulated Zambian president-elect, opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, for winning 12 Aug election, praised “triumph for democracy in light of growing authoritarian consolidation” in region; Chamisa next day expressed hope that Zambia’s transition of power would “inspire” Zimbabwe ahead of 2023 general elections. In response, ruling ZANU-PF party days later accused MDC-A of “cardinal political immaturity”. President Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba 18 Aug said military would not allow Chamisa to “just rule”, suggesting ZANU-PF would not peacefully hand over power if electorally defeated. Meanwhile, govt 21 Aug said it will open talks about compensation for victims of Gukurahundi massacres in 1980s, during which security forces killed some 20,000 people, mostly ethnic Ndebele, as part of violent crackdown in Matabeleland region.
President Ouattara made new gestures of political appeasement, and former President Gbagbo took steps to regain control of his deeply divided party. In national address on occasion of Côte d’Ivoire’s independence anniversary, Ouattara 6 Aug said he would “support initiatives aiming at appeasement” and announced provisional release of 69 people detained in connection with Oct 2020 presidential election violence; also pardoned nine individuals convicted for alleged involvement in 2020 electoral violence, including former President Bédié’s Chief of Staff N’dri Kouadio Pierre Narcisse. Amid ongoing dispute between Gbagbo and his former PM Pascal Affi N’Guessan over control of Ivoirian Popular Front (FPI) political party, Gbagbo 9 Aug called on his FPI faction to prepare for “constitutive congress” to create new party; move, which aims to sideline N’Guessan, could presage Gbagbo’s presidential bid in 2025; N’Guessan same day said step was “dictated essentially by a thirst for power”.
Authorities continued to stifle dissent, and renewed clashes erupted between gold miners and locals in north west. Authorities 9 Aug ordered main opposition party Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea prominent leader Abdoulaye Bah to return to prison for allegedly violating conditions of his release after he questioned President Condé’s legitimacy on social media; Bah, who was detained in Nov 2020 on public disorder charges, had been released on parole in July. Police 15 Aug arrested Bogola Haba, from opposition coalition National Alliance for Change and Democracy, over civil disobedience accusations. Judicial authorities 25 Aug announced international arrest warrant against Sékou Koundourou, senior figure of civil society platform National Front for the Defence of the Constitution, for alleged involvement in violence during popular protests against Condé in March-Oct 2020. In north west, clashes between gold miners and local population 10 Aug left at least one dead in Kounsitel town, Boké region; tensions have been running high since discovery of gold mine in area earlier this year.
Hundreds of jihadists surrendered amid continued attacks in north east, while criminal, intercommunal and separatist violence persisted in other regions. In Borno state (north east), Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) killed at least six troops in three attacks 7-14 Aug; 30 Aug attacked Rann and Ajiri towns leaving at least 17 people dead. Army 10 Aug said 1,000 jihadists had recently laid down their arms; series of surrenders likely resulting from May killing of Boko Haram faction (JAS) leader Abubakar Shekau and subsequent clashes between ISWAP and remaining JAS elements when latter refused to join ISWAP. Armed groups continued to launch attacks in north west. In Zamfara state, armed group 15 Aug stormed public college in Bakura town, killing three and kidnapping 19; armed group same day attacked Randa village in Maru area, killing 13 and abducting over 30. In Kaduna state, armed groups 3 Aug killed 25 in four villages in Kauru area, 22 Aug killed at least nine in Zangon Kataf area. In Sokoto state, armed group 14 Aug killed nine in three villages in Goronyo area. Military reported over 200 armed group members killed 2-15 Aug in air and ground operations in Niger and Zamfara states. Intercommunal and herder-farmer violence flared in north central zone, notably Plateau state. Attacks by suspected herder-aligned gunmen on ethnic Irigwe villages in Bassa area 31 July-1 Aug killed at least 17; suspected Irigwe militia 14 Aug killed at least 22 Fulani Muslims near state capital Jos; gunmen 22 Aug killed at least 44 people in Yelwa Zangam village, Plateau state, and Guma area, Benue state. In south east, violence pitting security forces against suspected members of outlawed separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) rose again. In Imo state, gunmen 5 and 13 Aug attacked police stations in Orlu and Izombe towns, killing at least three officers; 16 Aug ambushed convoy transporting petroleum industry workers, killing seven; police blamed separatists, but IPOB denied involvement. NGO Amnesty International 5 Aug reported security forces carried out numerous abuses, including unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests and torture, in their response to violence in south east in Jan-June.
Tensions continued between Japan and China over contested island chain in East China Sea amid ongoing Chinese maritime presence. Japan’s defence ministry 2 Aug announced plans to deploy medium-range anti-aircraft and air-ship missile units along with 500-600 troops to Ishigaki Island by end of 2022 in response to China’s growing military capabilities and presence. After China’s annual summer fishing ban in East China Sea ended 16 Aug – marking start of period in which waters likely to become more congested and tense – 40 Chinese fishing vessels were spotted 18 Aug on high seas around disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. Japanese media 12 Aug reported Japan’s Coast Guard issued 80 exclusion orders in 2021 to Chinese fishing vessels suspected of illegally operating in territorial waters around disputed islands. Japan 19 Aug said that it would assign one of its largest patrol ships as early as Nov to Ishigaki Island, which has jurisdiction over maritime security of islands. At least 106 Chinese coast guard vessels entered into contiguous zones of disputed islands throughout month.
Pyongyang severed inter-Korean hotline reestablished late July amid tensions surrounding annual joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises. South Korea 8 Aug confirmed it would hold annual joint military exercises with U.S. on 10-26 Aug; Kim Yo-jong, senior North Korean official and sister of leader Kim Jong-un, 10 Aug pressured South Korea by warning that conducting the joint exercises would damage resolve of two Koreas to rebuild relations. Notwithstanding warnings, U.S. and South Korea 10 Aug began joint military exercises in limited form and with no ground troop activities. In protest at the exercises, North Korea same day ceased answering daily pro forma calls via cross-border hotlines between two Koreas that were restored late July and described by two Koreas as indicating a shared wish to have better ties. Head of North Korean ruling party’s United Front Department Kim Yong-chol 11 Aug vowed to make South Korea and U.S. “pay dearly” for their military activities, and said that they had squandered opportunity for improved inter-Korean relations. U.S. and South Korea militaries 16-23 Aug held pre-scheduled Larger Combined Command Post Training. U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Sung Kim 21 Aug arrived in South Korean capital Seoul for four-day trip, and 23 Aug met with South Korean counterpart, Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Noh Kyu-duk; following meeting, Kim said U.S. “does not have hostile intent toward” North Korea. International Atomic Energy Agency 27 Aug reported that North Korea appeared to have restarted nuclear reactor at Yongbyon site; U.S. senior official 30 Aug said report reflects urgent need for dialogue and confirmed U.S. is seeking to address issue with Pyongyang.
Cross-strait tensions continued between Beijing and Taipei as U.S. announced new arms deal with Taiwan and China conducted military exercises. After U.S. Deputy Sec State Wendy Sherman late July met Chinese FM Wang Yi, raising concerns over Beijing’s conduct across Taiwan Strait, U.S. State Dept 4 Aug approved arms sale to Taiwan valued at up to $750mn; China 17 Aug said U.S. was breaching commitments on arms sales to Taiwan made under 1982 Joint Communiqué. U.S. warship 28 Aug sailed through Taiwan Strait, eighth transit in 2021. U.S. also continued to deepen unofficial engagement with Taipei. Notably, U.S. and Taiwan 11 Aug held first meeting on coastguard-related cooperation; China 13 Aug expressed its opposition. Partly in response to U.S. arms sales, China 17 Aug conducted military drills near Taiwan’s southern coast, with warships and 11 aircraft. At least 34 Chinese military aircraft entered Taiwan’s Air Defence Identification Zone during month, according to Taiwan’s defence ministry. In rare interview with international media, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen 10 Aug stated that international concern over Taiwan Strait would prompt more cautious approach by Beijing, Taiwan would not give in to military pressure, and Beijing should cease crackdowns on Hong Kong and Xinjiang province, also rejected “one country two systems” model; China 11 Aug rebuked remarks. In response to Taiwan’s July decision to open representative office in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, China 10 Aug announced plan to withdraw its ambassador to Lithuania and has reportedly suspended direct rail freight between two countries; U.S. officials publicly expressed support for Vilnius. Representatives of Taiwan’s and Japan’s ruling parties 27 Aug held first ever security dialogue.
In rapid takeover, Taliban regained control over country, prompting fall of govt and ending 20-year U.S. occupation; uncertainty over new political order fuelled domestic and international security concerns. In dramatic shift, govt 15 Aug collapsed and Taliban gained control of most territory, including all border crossings and major urban centres – with notable exception of Panjshir Valley province (north). As Taliban reached capital Kabul, President Ghani 15 Aug fled abroad, along with many other govt officials. Govt’s fall prompted mass exodus of Afghans fearing Taliban retaliation, notably causing chaos at Hamid Karzai International Airport; two bombs 26 Aug exploded outside Kabul airport, reportedly killing as many as 200 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members; Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) claimed responsibility. Following Taliban’s takeover, U.S. mid-Aug froze Afghanistan’s central bank reserves in U.S. while International Monetary Fund and World Bank suspended payments to country; UN and humanitarian organisations called for continued assistance to country amid dire humanitarian crisis. Regional and international partners to Afghanistan had yet to announce positions on sanctions, financial aid and recognition of new govt by month’s end, waiting for Taliban to make meaningful compromises in new political order. Taliban’s rapid advances in early Aug partly due to local ‘surrender deals’ which granted safe passage to security forces in return for weapons and district centres as insurgents late July to mid-Aug launched simultaneous attacks on provincial capitals in south, east and north. Following initial hearty resistance, particularly in Helmand province (south), Kandahar city (south) and Herat province (west), insurgents captured provincial capitals in lightly defended areas. Taliban 6 Aug held first provincial capital in Nimroz province (south west), gaining control of last remaining border crossing to Iran under govt oversight; 7 Aug captured capital of Jawzjan province (north); 9 Aug captured provinces of Sar-e Pul (north) and Kunduz (north), second largest city in north; 12 Aug captured Ghazni (centre), Kandahar (south), Herat (west) and Badghis (north west). Loss of Herat and Kandahar, notably important cities, seemed to have broken security forces’ moral, who following day had abandoned provincial capitals of Helmand (south), Logar (east), Uruzgan (south), Zabul (south) and Ghor (centre) provinces.
Amid ongoing security concerns, authorities rejected U.S. plea to host Afghan refugees, and reiterated 1.1mn Rohingya refugees granted temporary shelter only. Security officials 16 Aug expressed concern that Taliban’s military victory in Afghanistan could galvanise homegrown militants; FM Momen next day said Bangladeshi terrorists, trained in Afghanistan, were “identified and uprooted” but govt would remain alert. Counter-terrorism police 11 Aug arrested three alleged New Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh militants in capital Dhaka; two alleged Ansar al-Islam militants 23 Aug in Khulna city; and one suspected Ansar al-Islam militant 25 Aug in Moulvibazar district. Meanwhile, FM Momen 2 Aug said Dhaka does not consider Rohingyas “refugees”, but “forcibly displaced Myanmar citizens”, will continue to prioritise repatriation. Rohingya refugees continued to flee Bhasan Char camp situated on flood-prone island; notably, after boat carrying around 40 Rohingyas capsized off Chittagong’s coast, authorities recovered 18 dead bodies, and local residents rescued 14 others who were then brought back to Bhasan Char. Rohingyas in Cox’s Bazar camps 25 Aug defied ban on outdoor protests to mark four years of asylum. Meanwhile, NGO Human Rights Watch 16 Aug highlighted credible evidence of routine enforced disappearances at hands of security forces over past decade, including about 86 people still missing. Police 18 Aug lodged cases against 155 Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) leaders and activists after security agencies prevented them from visiting party founder Ziaur Rahman’s grave in Dhaka previous day. Awami League (AL) activists 13 Aug allegedly killed opposition BNP leader and wounded two others in Noakhali district. Clash between paramilitary force responsible for internal security and AL leaders and activists 18 Aug left seven dead in Barisal district. Govt 11 Aug ended late-July COVID-19 lockdown despite rising COVID-19 infections and deaths; Health Minister Zahid Maleque next day warned that overcrowded hospitals could no longer accommodate COVID-19 patients.
Maoist violence continued in south and centre, farmers marked nine months of protests, and inter-province tensions remained high in north east. Maoist violence continued. In Telangana state (south), exchange of fire between militants and police 1 Aug killed one Maoist in Bhadradri Kothagudem district. In Chhattisgarh state (centre), Maoist IED attack 5 Aug killed one labourer and injured eleven civilians in Dantewada district; Maoists 20 Aug killed two paramilitary police personnel in Narayanpur district; security forces 24 Aug killed two Maoists in Sukma district. In Bihar state (east), Maoists 25 Aug killed two suspected police informers in Jamui district. Farmers’ protests against agriculture laws marked nine months on 26 Aug; Punjab chief minister 11 Aug urged PM Modi to withdraw laws, warned that protests had potential of posing security threats as Pakistan-supported forces were trying to exploit farmers’ anger. In north east, following late-July border dispute between Assam and Mizoram police forces, which left six Assam policemen dead, Assam residents 8 Aug lifted unofficial economic blockade on Mizoram state in place for ten days following govt intervention. Unidentified assailants 14 Aug bombed school in Hailakandi district, Assam state; authorities in Mizoram 17 Aug alleged Assam police opened fire on three Mizo civilians. Following 12th round of military talks with China about unofficial border known as Line of Actual Control (LAC), govt 6 Aug confirmed Indian and Chinese forces had disengaged from Gogra area of Eastern Ladakh, with sides having also verified dismantlement of all temporary structures, creating wider buffer zone. India mid-Aug held military exercises in East Sikkim district, close to LAC. Chinese media 25 Aug reported military drills in Tibet, described by Chinese commentators as warning to India.
Pakistan-India tensions ran high amid regional security concerns over Afghanistan and anniversary of India’s revocation of special status for Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). India, as UN Security Council (UNSC) president, 6, 17 Aug held meetings on security developments in Afghanistan, during which India’s External Affairs Minister Jaishankar 17 Aug told UNSC Pakistani-based militant groups operating with “impunity and encouragement”; Islamabad denied allegations, protested India’s decision to deny requests to attend UNSC meetings. Pakistani FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi 12 Aug blamed Indian intelligence for 14 July attack that killed ten Chinese workers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. On two-year anniversary of end of J&K special constitutional status, Pakistan’s foreign ministry 5 Aug summoned India’s High Commissioner to Islamabad to register “unequivocal rejection of India’s illegal and unilateral actions since 5 August” in J&K; People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, J&K opposition coalition, same day held protests in J&K while Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) celebrated anniversary of revocation. Political and religious leaders from Kargil and Ladakh regions 1 Aug met and rejected union territory status, demanding statehood and safeguards against outsiders buying land or obtaining jobs; govt 10 Aug told parliament two people only had purchased property in J&K since Aug 2019. Counter-insurgency operations and militant attacks continued. Police 14 Aug claimed to have foiled terrorist attack planned for following day (India’s Independence Day), arrested four alleged Jaish-e-Mohammed militants. Security forces 3 and 7 Aug killed two alleged Lashkar-e-Tayyaba militants in Bandipora and Budgam districts. Clashes between militants and security forces 6 Aug left two alleged militants dead in Rajouri district, 12 Aug killed five in Kulgam district including two civilians, and 17 Aug left one security personnel and one militant dead in Rajouri. Militants 3 and 7 Aug killed two police officers in Srinagar city and Kulgam; 9 Aug killed BJP member and wife in Anantnag district; 19 Aug killed leader of pro-BJP Apni party leader in Kulgam. Series of grenade attacks in Rajouri, Handwara and Baramulla districts 13 Aug, 16 Aug killed two including two-year-old.
PM Deuba faced criticism for his role in enabling split in largest opposition party as former PM and senior communist leader Madhav Kumar Nepal pledged to join ruling coalition. PM Deuba’s cabinet remained skeletal, with only four ministers appointed seven weeks after govt formation and Deuba overseeing 17 ministries. Lingering tensions within opposition Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist, or UML) delayed ruling coalition’s plans to expand cabinet as Deuba sought support from UML leading figure and former PM Madhav Kumar Nepal; Nepal – whose support was critical to Deuba winning vote of confidence in mid-July – 18 Aug formally split from UML and announced formation of Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Socialist), now fourth largest party with 23 seats in 271-member House of Representatives; new party 26 Aug announced it would join coalition govt. Deuba faced criticism for issuing ordinance 18 Aug lowering criteria for formation of new political party to enable UML’s breakup in move observers claimed was reminiscent of previous PM Oli-led govt’s reliance on “ruling by ordinance”.
Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan heightened concerns regarding associated security risks for Pakistan, while deadly militant violence persisted. Following Taliban takeover of Afghan capital Kabul in mid-Aug, President Alvi 17 Aug said that Islamabad wants assurances “that Afghan territory will never be used against any other country”; govt same day said they would make decision on recognising Taliban govt “after consulting with regional and international powers”. Military 27 Aug told journalists “cordial” relations were expected with incoming Afghan govt, which would take “effective measures” against Pakistan Taliban. Cross-border gunfire from Afghanistan 30 Aug killed two Pakistani soldiers; military retaliated, claiming it killed two or three attackers. Meanwhile, militant attacks and security operations persisted. In Balochistan province, Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) militants 8 Aug killed two police officers in provincial capital Quetta; security forces 10-11 Aug claimed to have killed five BLA militants in Quetta; attack on Frontier Corps vehicle 14 Aug killed one soldier in Loralai district; BLA militants 20 Aug in suicide attack in Gwadar district killed two children and injured Chinese national; bomb blast 21 Aug killed one officer and two soldiers in Gichik area; BLA militants 26 Aug killed four security personnel in Ziarat and Panjgur districts. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, militant attacks 1, 6 Aug killed three soldiers in North Waziristan and Khyber districts; 2 Aug killed police officer providing security to polio vaccination team in Dera Ismail Khan district. In South Waziristan, counter-insurgency operations 13, 18 Aug left two soldiers killed. Elsewhere, other violent attacks took place. Notably, in Sindh province’s capital Karachi, grenade attack 15 Aug killed 13 relatives of Awami National Party leader and of Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami local leader; clash between two Sunni factions 18 Aug left one dead. In Punjab province’s Bahawalgar city, grenade attack targeting Shia Muharram procession 19 Aug killed at least two and injured more than 50; counter-terrorism police 18 Aug arrested two alleged al-Qaeda members in Lahore city. Also in Punjab, Muslim mob 4 Aug vandalised Hindu temple in Bhong city after release of eight-year-old Hindu boy accused of blasphemy 24 July; 7 Aug 50 people suspected of participating in attack arrested.
Supreme Court suspended regulations linked to controversial Terrorism Act, while govt faced rising popular protests and spiralling COVID-19 cases. Supreme Court 5 Aug issued interim order suspending application of regulations issued by President Rajapaksa under controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) to establish “deradicalisation” programme for alleged religious extremists; ruling follows petitions by journalists and activists who claim regulations violate constitution. Seven UN special mandate holders 9 Aug requested govt withdraw regulations, calling them “contrary to Sri Lanka’s international legal obligations”. Govt 10 Aug indicted 25 individuals suspected of involvement in 2019 Easter bombings; magistrate same day remanded former minister and head of All Ceylon People’s Congress Rishad Bathiudeen, detained under PTA for alleged involvement in Easter attacks. Influential Catholic Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith 13 Aug rejected president’s response to bishops’ request for effective investigations and prosecutions into terror attacks, and called for prosecution of former president Sirisena, now allied with govt, for failure to prevent bombings. Meanwhile, nationwide protests continued throughout month, including farmers contesting president’s chemical fertiliser ban, teachers demanding better pay and students, teachers and trade unions demonstrating against govt-proposed Kothilawala National Defence University bill that critics say marks first step toward end of free public university education. Govt responded with aggressive crackdowns on protesting leaders, including numerous arrests; senior judges, with govt encouragement, reportedly took unprecedented step of instructing magistrates to ban protests on COVID-19 health grounds. Govt 4 Aug postponed scheduled parliament debate of university bill. Facing rapid rise in coronavirus cases, with daily death rate passing 200, and weeks of increasingly urgent calls from health experts for strong action, govt 20 Aug imposed island-wide lockdown. President 30 Aug declared state of emergency and issued price controls on essential items, as the economic and currency crises deepened. Govt made overtures to select civil society leaders; notably, Rajapaksa 3 Aug met Sri Lanka Collective for Consensus. However, longstanding fears of govt plans to restrict NGO freedoms surfaced again as cabinet 10 Aug approved proposal for new unified law for all NGOs, citing concerns about terrorist financing.
Acts of resistance and deadly clashes between regime and insurgents continued amid deadly COVID-19 wave; regional bloc ASEAN appointed special envoy for Myanmar. Bombings in urban areas increased, notably around anniversary of 8 Aug 1988 (“four eights”) uprising, which activists across country marked with flash demonstrations. Targeted assassinations of military personnel, alleged informants and members of paramilitary Pyusawhti network continued; notably, series of bombs and shootings 7-9 Aug targeted junta officials and military officers chiefly in Yangon city. During raid in Yangon, regime forces 10 Aug arrested three and seized homemade bombs, while five activists jumped from building to avoid arrest, killing two and sparking widespread shock on social media. Security forces next day arrested over 30 youths in Yangon amid parallel administration National Unity Govt’s talk of so-called “D-Day” operation to unseat junta. Series of explosions 26-27 Aug hit several locations in Yangon and Mandalay regions. Elsewhere, civil resistance group Yaw Defense Force 23 Aug ambushed military convoy on Gangaw-Kale highway, Magwe region, reportedly killing some 30 soldiers. COVID-19 crisis worsened, with hundreds dying daily in Yangon. On diplomatic front, South East Asia regional body ASEAN 4 Aug confirmed Brunei’s second FM Erywan Yusof as bloc’s special envoy to Myanmar. During virtual ASEAN-European Union (EU) Ministerial Meeting, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borell 6 Aug called for “meaningful dialogue” between regime and parliamentary committee in exile, National Unity Govt, ethnic minority groups and pro-democracy forces. In response, State Administration Council FM Wunna Maung Lwin expressed opposition to contact between ASEAN special envoy and aforementioned entities, rejected ASEAN-mediated dialogue with opposition. In first official contact, U.S. Deputy Sec State Wendy Sherman 4 Aug called National Unity Govt FM Zin Mar Aung; U.S. 10 Aug announced provision of $50mn for Myanmar people in humanitarian assistance. Separately, U.S. 6 Aug announced charges against two Myanmar nationals detained on U.S. soil for allegedly organising attack on Myanmar’s Permanent Representative to UN who had aligned with National Unity govt. In sign of gradual recognition of military-backed State Administration Council, China 11 Aug transferred $6mn to junta under regional cooperation fund.
Low-level violence persisted in south, while clashes between govt forces and communists killed at least two dozen. In Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in south, violence between govt and armed groups persisted, while smaller elements of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Islamic State-linked Abu Sayyaf Group surrendered to govt. IED allegedly planted by BIFF militants 6 Aug killed one soldier and injured seven soldiers in Datu Hoffer municipality, Maguindanao. Ten BIFF militants 13 Aug surrendered to military in Shariff Aguak town, Maguindanao. Campaign against Abu Sayyaf Group continued; notably, nine militants 11 Aug surrendered to military in Indanan town and further four 14 Aug surrendered in Talipao town. Meanwhile, fighting between govt security forces and communist New People’s Army continued at relatively higher levels than July in Visayas islands in centre, Mindanao island in south and Luzon island in north, killing at least 24 and injuring eight during month. Notably, military 16 Aug confirmed deaths of 16 communist fighters during raid on suspected hideout in Dolores municipality, Eastern Samar province. Leaders of ruling party PDP-Laban 6 Aug endorsed President Duterte as VP candidate in 2022 elections, ahead of conclusion of presidential term in 2022; Duterte 24 Aug confirmed he would run for vice presidency. False information on lockdown restriction 6 Aug circulated online, prompting scuffles amid vaccination rush in capital Manila and cities of Las Pinas and Antipolo. COVID-19 daily cases 20 Aug reached over 17,000, highest peak since pandemic began.
South China Sea
Region witnessed uptick in military activity as China as well as U.S. and its allies held naval exercises; Washington deepened diplomatic ties with claimant parties. U.S. 1 Aug concluded joint naval exercise off Australian coast, involving 17,000 military personnel from Australia, UK, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. U.S. 4 Aug announced further combined naval and amphibious exercise running until 27 Aug with Australia, Japan and UK, coinciding with global naval exercises, largest since 1981, that included two U.S. aircraft carriers and UK’s carrier; China 4 Aug announced military drills in SCS 6-10 Aug reportedly in response to “US military’s Indo-Pacific exercise”, according to state-run media. Malaysian military 6-12 Aug carried out exercise “Taming Sari” in SCS, including test-fire of three live anti-ship missiles. On diplomatic front, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 3 Aug announced launch of “strategic dialogue” with Indonesia and reaffirmed commitment to freedom of navigation. Blinken 9 Aug reaffirmed that “it is the business” of U.S. to resolve dispute in SCS and urged every member to “peacefully resolve disputes”; Chinese Deputy Ambassador to UN Dai Bing same day responded that U.S. failure to ratify UN Convention on Law of the Sea gave it “no credibility” and that U.S. is “biggest threat to stability” in region. U.S. VP Kamala Harris 22-24 Aug visited Singapore, affirming “commitment to a longstanding relationship...with the Indo-Pacific region”; Harris 24 Aug rebuked China for “coercion” in SCS. In Vietnam 24-27 Aug, Harris told Vietnamese officials that U.S. supports upgrading ties from comprehensive to strategic partnership. China 27 Aug issued new regulations requiring, from 1 Sept, range of foreign vessels to notify authorities when entering what Beijing claims are China’s territorial waters.
Regular and large-scale anti-govt protests resumed in capital Bangkok, leading to clashes with police, while violence continued in deep south. Hundreds of anti-govt protesters 1 Aug demonstrated in Bangkok, demanding resignation of PM Prayuth Chan-ocha; protesters launched projectiles at police, injuring 13 officers, and police responded with water cannons, rubber bullets and tear gas, arresting 11 protesters. Over 1,000 anti-govt protesters 7 Aug clashed with police near Victory Monument en route to Government House; police used water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets against demonstrators, leaving at least two civilians and three police officers injured. Protesters 10 Aug gathered for rally and clashed with police in Din Daeng district; police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, arresting at least 48 people. Near-daily clashes continued 11-19 Aug in Din Daeng. During protest at Government House, 15-year-old protester was shot 16 Aug; police denied using live ammunition. Protesters 20 Aug marched to Swiss, U.S. and Chinese embassies to air grievances against govt. Police 24 Aug arrested seven men in Nakhon Pathom province with 18 small improvised “ping pong” bombs, allegedly for use in upcoming anti-govt rally. Meanwhile, media outlets and human rights lawyers 2 Aug petitioned Civil Court to void PM Prayuth’s late-July order to censor online criticism of govt’s COVID-19 response; court 6 Aug ruled emergency decree order was unconstitutional, forcing Prayuth 10 Aug to rescind order. Opposition 16 Aug filed no-confidence motions against PM and five other ministers, chiefly triggered by alleged mismanagement of pandemic. Violence continued in deep south. Security forces 2 Aug killed insurgent in Nong Chik district, Pattani province. At least 15 militants next day attacked ranger camp on Kolok River, (Tak Bai district, Narathiwat province) on Thailand-Malaysia border, killing one ranger and injuring four others. Pipe bomb 23 Aug injured one soldier in Myang district, Yala province. Militants 28 Aug ambushed cargo train in Rangae district, Narathiwat. Bomb same day in Muang district, Yala province, wounded local official.
Europe & Central Asia
Maritime and diplomatic tensions continued between Greece and Turkey. In letter to EU Commission VP Margaritis Schinas, Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi 3 Aug accused Turkey of endangering migrants, claimed Turkish Coast Guard escorted inflatable raft carrying migrants off Lesbos island and abandoned them when waves capsized raft. Turkish defence ministry 8 Aug published video allegedly showing Greek Coast Guard offloading vessel full of migrants on Turkish islet Başak, near Kastellorizo island; Ankara 11 Aug issued advisory for firing exercises east of Rhodes island 18-19 Aug; Athens 13 Aug issued advisory for aeronautical exercises held in same area 21 Aug. Turkish naval authorities 11 Aug announced vessel would conduct scientific research in uncontested waters in Aegean Sea 12 Aug-1 Sept. On diplomatic front, despite mutual support to address late July-early Aug unprecedented wildfires in both countries, ties continued to face strains. Notably, Turkey 1 Aug issued diplomatic note to Greek embassy in Ankara, claiming plain-clothed individuals killed Turkish citizen in cross-border fire on border area of Evros/Meriç; Greece same day rejected allegations and reminded Ankara of its obligation not to “allow the activity of traffickers”. Turkish authorities at Istanbul airport 13 Aug detained and deported President of Pan-Pontian Federation of Greece George Varythymiadis; Greek embassy in Ankara issued emergency démarche.
Parliament failed to adopt non-binding resolution calling for implementation of U.S.-brokered 2020 deal with Serbia. Opposition Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK) 6 Aug introduced resolution to parliament calling on govt to implement Sept 2020 Washington-backed deal with Serbia; deal concerns economic issues and notably requires Serbia to pause efforts aimed at de-recognition of Kosovo; 57 ruling Vetëvendosje party members – out of 83 MPs present – abstained from vote.
Deadly clashes with Azerbaijan continued on international border, while Russian border guards deployed in north-eastern region. Clashes on international border persisted throughout month, which – combined with late July hostilities – constituted deadliest period since 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war. Fighting in Aug reportedly killed two Armenian soldiers and left one Azerbaijani and one Armenian wounded. Nearly all incidents occurred in two locations along border, namely between Azerbaijan’s Kelbajar and Armenia’s Gekharkunik provinces and at crossing of Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan enclave, Armenia’s Ararat district and Turkey. Meanwhile, defence ministry 5 Aug announced Russian border guards had deployed to Voskepar village in north-eastern Tavush region bordering Azerbaijan; Russian troops formed new military post near road connecting Armenia with Georgia, and Armenian media outlets reported plans for similar Russian posts in more than ten other locations along Armenian-Azerbaijani border, indicating Moscow’s willingness to establish presence in hotspots of ongoing tensions. PM Pashinyan 18 Aug announced formation of new unit of border guards in next five years to replace regular military units at border. Pashinyan 19 Aug appointed former Parliament Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan as FM, filling post left vacant since late May. Parliament 27 Aug adopted new govt programme for next five years, expressing Yerevan’s readiness to normalise relations with Turkey.
Deadly clashes with Armenia continued on international border. Clashes on international border persisted throughout month, which – combined with late July hostilities – constituted deadliest period since 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war. Fighting in Aug reportedly killed two Armenian soldiers and left one Azerbaijani and one Armenian wounded. Nearly all incidents occurred in two locations along border, namely between Azerbaijan’s Kelbajar and Armenia’s Gekharkunik provinces and at crossing of Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan enclave, Armenia’s Ararat district and Turkey. Meanwhile, after sentencing 13 Armenian soldiers to six years imprisonment in late July, Baku military court 2 Aug sentenced two Armenians detained in Oct 2020 during Nagorno-Karabakh war to 20 years’ imprisonment; according to Armenia’s longstanding position, all detainees are prisoners of war, who should be released.
Breakaway territory Abkhazia received Russian support amid new wave of COVID-19 cases, and breakaway South Ossetia signed dual citizenship law with Moscow. In Abkhazia, de facto govt 12 Aug announced ban on mass gatherings as daily COVID-19 cases rose during month, notably reaching 162 on 17 Aug; de facto authorities 27 Aug confirmed total of 372 deaths and 24,952 cases to date among total population of approximately 200,000 people. In show of support, Russian defence ministry 17 Aug constructed field hospital with 100 beds in de facto territory, and following de facto President Aslan Bzhania’s late July visit to Russian capital Moscow, Abkhazia received delivery of some 5,000 Russian-made coronavirus vaccines purchased with diaspora-raised funds. In breakaway territory South Ossetia, Russian President Putin 4 Aug signed new law on dual citizenship with de facto leadership, facilitating access to Russian citizenship for young people in breakaway region; Georgia 5 Aug condemned law as “a continuation of policy of unlawful occupation and de-facto annexation”.
Hostilities intensified in conflict zone, while Russian-mediated talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan on regional transportation links resumed. Exchanges of fire between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces increased in Nagorno-Karabakh (NK), mainly near Shusha town controlled by Azerbaijani forces. Notably, Azerbaijani troops 11 Aug launched unprecedented combat drone attack against positions of local “Nagorno-Karabakhi military troops” since Autumn 2020 war, which prompted Russian peacekeepers to record ceasefire violation for first time in their daily public reports. Russian peacekeepers 20 Aug started regular patrols in three areas in NK, including two along south of front line close to Shusha. De facto NK defence ministry 28 Aug reported one of its soldiers wounded in clashes with Azerbaijani soldiers near Tagavard village. Deadly clashes also continued along state border (see Armenia and Azerbaijan). On diplomatic front, negotiations stalled. Armenian PM Pashinyan 12 Aug called for talks under Minsk Group mediation, while Azerbaijan throughout month insisted that NK conflict had been resolved, implying Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe Minsk Group’s mediation mandate is over, said it prefers bilateral talks with Yerevan, Russian-only mediation or 3+3 format including Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia and Iran. Azerbaijani media and experts during month criticised Russian peacekeepers for allegedly favouring Armenian troops in NK; Azerbaijani President Aliyev 14 Aug criticised Russia for not doing enough to implement ceasefire agreement. Despite dim prospect for peace negotiations, trilateral working group on NK comprising Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia 17 Aug resumed talks in Russian capital Moscow on regional transportation routes; talks were launched with Russian mediation in Jan 2021 and had remained deadlocked since May. Aliyev seeks corridor connecting Azerbaijan with Turkey, while Armenia desires cargo transit through Azerbaijani territory to Russia. Turkish President Erdogan 29 Aug expressed readiness for talks on regional transportation and economic cooperation with Armenia if Yerevan joins Ankara’s proposed 3+3 format uniting Russia, Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia (see Armenia).
Ahead of Sept elections, authorities criticised regional body OSCE’s decision not to send electoral monitors, and continued to take steps restricting space for opposition. Ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for 17-19 Sept, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) 4 Aug announced that it will not send election observers for first time since 1993, citing COVID-19-related restrictions on number of observers imposed by Russian authorities. FM Sergei Lavrov 9 Aug accused West of preparing group to challenge election results and using international organisations to complicate elections, while Head of Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights Valery Fadayev 18 Aug accused OSCE of portraying elections as “unfair” and “illegitimate”. Ruling United Russia party 24 Aug held congress, attended by President Putin. Authorities continued to restrict space for opposition. Notably, court 3 Aug sentenced opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s associate to one-and-a-half years’ restrictive freedom for violating health regulations during unsanctioned protest in Jan; authorities 6, 16, 20 and 25 Aug indicted and sentenced six other Navalny associates on similar charges. Investigative Committee 11 Aug also brought new charges against Navalny, accusing him of founding non-profit organisation Anti-Corruption Foundation with aim of “popularising and spreading his convictions”; reports surfaced during month that police in capital Moscow visited citizens associated with his organisation. Marking one-year anniversary of Navalny’s poisoning, UK and U.S. 20 Aug announced sanctions on seven individuals “directly responsible for planning or carrying out the attack”. Human rights centre Memorial 18 Aug reported number of political prisoners had increased from 349 to 410 since early 2021. Meanwhile, security forces in Russian-annexed Crimea 18 Aug detained two leaders and three members of international jihadist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islam.
Amid new Western sanctions to mark first anniversary of disputed presidential election, govt continued crackdown on dissent and allegedly lent support to border crossings of illegal migrants. Authorities continued to target opposition, independent media and civil society. Notably, Prosecutor-General’s Office 3 Aug ordered closure of four NGOs, bringing total number of civil society organisations shut since mid-July to over 60. Authorities 6 Aug sentenced opposition leader Mikalay Kazlou to three months’ imprisonment for disclosing confidential information; police 11 Aug detained over 20 members of opposition Skhod initiative, next day detained presidential candidate of 2020 election Andrey Dzmitryyeu; police 26 Aug reportedly arrested youth opposition leader Dzyanis Urbanovich and two associates. International NGO Committee to Protect Journalists 12 Aug also called on govt to immediately release journalist sentenced on 2 Aug to 18 months imprisonment for allegedly insulting President Lukashenka and two police officers; court 13 Aug designated prominent news outlet Tut.by and its associated website as “extremist”; police 18 Aug detained staff and searched offices of news agency BelaPAN in capital Minsk. Marking first anniversary of disputed election in which Lukashenka claimed victory, U.S., UK and Canada 9 Aug unveiled additional financial sanctions, including against businesspeople, state-owned companies and Belarusian National Olympic Committee. Foreign ministry 11 Aug requested U.S. reduce its embassy staff to five people by 1 Sept and revoked consent to appoint ambassador. Amid surge in illegal crossings of asylum seekers and migrants that transited from Iraq to Lithuania, Poland and Latvia via Belarus, EU 10 Aug welcomed Iraq’s decision to suspend flights to capital Minsk. Lithuanian President Nauseda 13 Aug deployed armed forces to border, while U.S. Deputy Sec State Wendy Sherman same day called on Lukashenka to “immediately halt a campaign of orchestrating irregular migrant flows across its borders”. German Chancellor Angela Merkel 17 Aug accused govt of using crossings as “hybrid way to undermine security”, while EU interior ministers 18 Aug held emergency meeting, accusing Belarus of conducting “direct attack aimed at destabilizing and pressurizing the EU”.
Low-level clashes continued in Donbas conflict zone and President Zelenskyy hosted international conference to draw attention to Russian-annexed Crimea. Deadly violence in Donbas conflict zone continued, leaving nine govt soldiers killed during month, including from anti-tank rocket attacks on 7, 10 Aug and sniper fire on 16, 19 Aug, according to Ukrainian military press corps. Ukrainian researchers reported combat 1 Aug killed at least one Russian-backed fighter, and Russian-backed armed groups claimed over ten fighters killed throughout month. Unknown assailants 11 Aug killed one civilian by live fire, and 5, 9 Aug injured at least two others, according to Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. On diplomatic front, German Chancellor Merkel 22 Aug visited President Zelenskyy in capital Kyiv, pledging support should Russia abuse its growing energy dominance or further undercut Ukraine’s sovereignty, but gave no public indication of what actions Germany might take. Kyiv 23 Aug launched Crimea Platform conference, aimed at drawing international attention to Russian annexation, with presence of 42 foreign envoys; Russian FM Sergey Lavrov 25 Aug called initiative “a futile, Russophobic display”. Trilateral Contact Group on Donbas peace process 26 Aug met following hiatus of nearly one month. Security and Defense Council 20 Aug voted to impose sanctions against judges, civil servants and security personnel in Russian-occupied Crimea, as well as persons associated with media outlets deemed harmful to country’s national security, resulting in blocking of anti-govt news site Strana.ua. U.S. State Dept 20 Aug announced new sanctions connected to Nord Stream II pipeline against one Russian vessel and its Russian insurers; move does not affect Washington’s May 2021 decision to waive sanctions on company leading pipeline’s construction and its head.
Tensions persisted on island over passport dispute, while international partners criticised Turkish Cypriot plan to reopen section of Varosha/Maraş. Republic of Cyprus 23 Aug announced it would cancel or refuse to renew passports of handful of Turkish Cypriot officials of “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”), notably “TRNC” leader Ersin Tatar, citing their actions that “undermine the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and security of the Republic of Cyprus”; Tatar called move “an assault on the efforts to find a settlement”. Criticism continued of Turkish Cypriot’s Ankara-backed initiative in July to reopen section of Varosha/Maraş, area under Turkish military since 1974. After EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell late July said EU will consider taking punitive measures, president of EU Parliament 1 Aug urged Ankara to stop “unacceptable violations” in Varosha. In letter to Republic of Cyprus President Anastasiades, Russian President Putin 2 Aug called violations of UN Security Council resolutions “unacceptable” and expressed support for finding solution to Cyprus issue within “framework of international law”. Tatar 2 Aug reiterated that “Varosha is within the borders of the TRNC”. Meanwhile, reports mid-month surfaced that UK, in particular, had intensified efforts to forge dialogue for relaunch of formal negotiations, seeking to take advantage of presence of Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders at UN General Assembly scheduled for late Sept. Tatar 9 Aug underscored desire for two-state solution, saying “it is time for the world to recognise the reality that we have two different states, [and] any effort to push us into a mixed marriage is doomed to fail”.
Authorities continued to target pro-Kurdish opposition, and to launch operations abroad against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK); concerns grew over potential new wave of Afghan refugees. Govt continued efforts to delegitimise pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Police 1 Aug detained 11 people on propaganda-related charges who participated in HDP demonstration in Istanbul; security forces 14 Aug detained five individuals in Muş province, including HDP provincial co-chair, on terrorism charges, and 20 Aug detained 19 individuals, including HDP officials, in Istanbul. Lawsuit to ban HDP continued; HDP lawyers 16 Aug requested additional time from Constitutional Court to prepare for defence. Meanwhile, PKK 12 Aug conducted mortar attack on Turkish military base in northern Iraq, killing one Turkish soldier. Reported Turkish drone and airstrikes 16-17 Aug around Iraq’s Sinjar district targeting PKK-linked Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) and medical clinic killed at least ten people, including civilians and senior YBS member Said Hassan (see Iraq). Turkish airstrikes targeting Peoples Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria continued (see Syria). Security forces also continued operations against Islamic State (ISIS) across country, with police detaining some 70 individuals for their alleged ISIS links. Notably, police 14, 19 Aug detained 20 ISIS suspects, majority of them foreign nationals, during raids in Istanbul. Following Taliban’s seizure of Afghan capital Kabul (see Afghanistan), Ankara expressed concern over potential new mass influx of refugees; 22 Aug beefed up security at border with Iran and accelerated border wall construction. President Erdogan 16 Aug acknowledged risk of new refugee wave, said govt would work with Pakistan to bring stability, and 19 Aug said Turkey had no intention of becoming “Europe’s migrant storage unit”. Meanwhile, intercommunal tensions increased between Syrians and locals in Ankara’s Altındağ district when group of Turkish citizens 12 Aug attacked shops and homes belonging to Syrians after fight between Turkish and Syrian youths left one Turkish citizen dead.
Border tensions continued with Tajikistan. Border force 23 Aug announced officials held talks with Tajik counterparts in Batken region to resolve new flare-up; talks held following incident previous day in which unknown individuals attacked Kyrgyz cars when reports emerged that Tajik authorities had begun construction work at disputed Golovnoi water facility, scene of deadly escalation in April; construction reportedly halted after talks. President Japarov 30 Aug said border talks with Tajikistan have “intensified” and urged both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to “continue negotiations based on principle of mutual respect”. Presidents of five Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – 6 Aug met in Turkmenbashi city, Turkmenistan, to discuss range of issues, including regional cooperation and “earliest possible settlement of the situation in neighboring Afghanistan”. Meanwhile, international NGO Committee to Protect Journalists 10 Aug urged Japarov to reject bill approved late July by parliament, which introduces new state powers for monitoring and overseeing online content, said legislation “threatens to seriously undermine the country’s fragile press freedoms”; Japarov 24 Aug however signed bill into law. Japarov 27 Aug also signed into law series of electoral changes approved in April 2020 referendum, including reducing number of lawmakers. State Committee for National Security 14 Aug detained Islamic State recruiter.
Following Taliban’s takeover of major Afghan cities, country faced influx of Afghan military aircraft and forces; meanwhile, border tensions with Kyrgyzstan persisted. Presidents of five Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – 6 Aug met in Turkmenbashi city, Turkmenistan, to discuss range of issues, including regional cooperation and “earliest possible settlement of the situation in neighboring Afghanistan”. Kyrgyz, Russian and Tajik armed forces 10 Aug concluded joint military exercises close to Afghan border, held amid “threat of penetration of radical terrorist groups into the border countries of the Central Asian region”. Following Taliban’s seizure of major Afghan cities including capital Kabul (see Afghanistan), reports mid-month surfaced that dozens of Afghan military aircraft and hundreds of soldiers crossed borders into Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan; following talks with Pakistan FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi, President Rahmon 25 Aug called for “inclusive [Afghan] government with the participation of all ethnic minorities, especially the Tajiks of Afghanistan”. Meanwhile, Kyrgyz border force 23 Aug announced officials held talks with Tajik counterparts in Kyrgyzstan’s Batken region to discuss new flare-up; talks held following incident in which unknown individuals attacked Kyrgyz cars when reports surfaced that Tajik authorities had begun construction work at disputed Golovnoi water facility, scene of deadly escalation in April; construction reportedly halted after talks. Delegation to Tajik-Uzbek border demarcation commission 24-29 Aug held talks with Uzbek counterparts. Ahead of 30-year anniversary of country’s independence on 9 Sept, President Rahmon 30 Aug proposed amnesty for some 16,000 people, including prisoners and those suspected or accused of crimes.
Amid concerns over regional security, country faced influx of Afghan military aircraft and forces following Taliban’s takeover of major Afghan cities. Presidents of five Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – 6 Aug met in Turkmenbashi city, Turkmenistan, to discuss range of issues, including regional cooperation and “earliest possible settlement of the situation in neighboring Afghanistan”. Presidential envoy to Afghanistan Ismatulla Irgashev 11 Aug met senior Taliban leadership in Qatar alongside senior Russian and Turkmen officials to discuss bilateral relations, border issues, economic projects, as well as security situation. Following Taliban’s seizure of major Afghan cities including capital Kabul (see Afghanistan), reports mid-month surfaced that dozens of Afghan military aircraft and hundreds of soldiers crossed borders into Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan; notably, Uzbek defence ministry 16 Aug said air defence downed Afghan aircraft that had crossed into Uzbek airspace, later said collision with Uzbek fighter jet caused crash. Delegation to Tajik-Uzbek border demarcation commission 24-29 Aug held talks with Tajik counterparts. Meanwhile, ruling Liberal Democratic Party 7 Aug announced it will nominate President Mirziyoev as candidate for presidential election scheduled for 24 Oct.
Latin America & Caribbean
Amid implementation of 2016 peace deal’s justice provisions, court ruled case of former army chief charged in false positives scandal should remain with transitional justice tribunal. Attorney general 25 Aug accused former army commander Gen Mario Montoya of overseeing killings of 104 civilians in 2007-2008 as part of “false positives” scandal, during which soldiers murdered civilians and registered them as guerrilla fighters killed in combat; Bogota’s Superior Tribunal 30 Aug however refused to allow trial in ordinary courts, said Montoya is under jurisdiction of special transitional justice tribunal (JEP) created by 2016 peace accord between govt and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). President Duque 3 Aug ratified law creating 16 reserved seats in Congress for victims of decades-long civil conflict, as mandated in 2016 peace deal; seats will be up for election in forthcoming 2022 ballot. In first address to Truth and Reconciliation Commission, non-binding transitional justice body, former President Uribe 16 Aug said he did not recognise legitimacy of commission or any institution deriving from 2016 agreement; also denied responsibility in “false positives” scandal, arguing that while he had demanded strong results, soldiers had “tricked” him with body counts. Two former enemies during civil conflict, former top commander of right-wing paramilitary group Salvatore Mancuso, and former FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, 4 Aug appeared together before truth commission, apologised to victims for war atrocities. Govt 5 Aug said police had foiled attack by FARC dissident group Segunda Marquetalia in capital Bogotá, detaining two people and seizing explosives; police 4, 16 Aug said authorities had re-activated Interpol Red Notices for four Segunda Marquetalia members, including group’s leader Ivan Marquez, also requested latter’s extradition from Venezuela. Authorities 15 Aug killed Anderson Perlaza Caicedo (alias Borojó), alleged leader of FARC dissident group Guerrillas Unidas del Pacífico in Tumaco town, Nariño department in south. Govt 19 Aug for first time extradited alleged members of National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla group to U.S., with two of them due to appear before U.S. federal court on drug trafficking charges. Thousands of U.S.-bound migrants still stranded at month’s end in Necoclí town (Antioquia province).
Govt and main opposition alliance held Norway-facilitated talks for first time since 2019, and in major strategic shift opposition announced participation in upcoming elections. In renewed attempt to ease political stalemate, President Maduro’s govt and alliance of main opposition parties 13-15 Aug held Norway-facilitated talks in Mexico for first time since 2019; agreed to continue dialogue with view to “establishing clear rules for political and social coexistence”. To reach potential agreement, Maduro has demanded that U.S. and European sanctions be lifted, while opposition coalition has called for electoral calendar leading to anticipated presidential election, release of imprisoned activists, and humanitarian aid including COVID-19 vaccines for Venezuelans; talks set to resume 3 Sept. Authorities 15 Aug conditionally released Freddy Guevara, close ally of opposition leader Juan Guaidó, a month after he was jailed on terrorism charges following rash of gang violence in capital Caracas; Guevara may join Mexico talks in place of Guaidó’s negotiator Carlos Vecchio, whose presence Maduro objected to given Vecchio’s role as Guaidó’s U.S. representative. Meanwhile, ruling United Socialist Party 8 Aug held primary elections to select candidates for Nov elections for governors and mayors. Opposition figure and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles 11 Aug confirmed opposition party Justice First’s participation in polls; alliance of main opposition parties 31 Aug announced participation in polls, ending three-year boycott; Guevara same day called for “coexistence” with Maduro. Govt 19 Aug named country’s envoy to China Felix Plasencia as new FM in cabinet shakeup; several other ministers also replaced. Central Bank 5 Aug announced it will slash six zeroes from bolívar currency to facilitate its use amid hyperinflation. Govt telecommunications agency 3 Aug called off air radio show known for being critical of govt. After floods in Merida state (west) killed at least 20, Venezuela’s Bishops Conference 30 Aug accused “some civilian authorities” of preventing part of humanitarian aid from reaching affected population; press workers’ union same day denounced attacks by authorities against journalists covering floods.
Rifts continued to deepen between President Bolsonaro and top court. Supreme Court 4 Aug opened investigation over President Bolsonaro’s unsupported claims that electronic voting system is riddled with fraud; Bolsonaro next day decried move as unconstitutional. Armed forces 10 Aug staged rare military parade with combat vehicles in streets of federal capital Brasília, reportedly in response to Bolsonaro’s order few days earlier; move seen by media commentators and opposition as show of force as Congress debated Bolsonaro’s proposal to revive use of paper ballots in next year’s general election; Lower House hours later voted down proposal. In WhatsApp message, Bolsonaro 14 Aug asked group of followers to take to the streets on 7 Sept to support “quite likely and necessary counter-coup” against judiciary. Bolsonaro 20 Aug asked Senate to impeach Supreme Court judge Alexandre de Moraes, who is overseeing cases which could affect govt; Congress 25 Aug rejected request.
Political tensions persisted as authorities appointed controversial figure as new top anti-corruption prosecutor, and anti-govt protests continued, albeit at lower intensity. After thousands in July protested dismissal of Juan Francisco Sandoval as head of Special Prosecutor’s Office Against Impunity (FECI), Attorney General Maria Porras 3 Augannounced head of Electoral Crimes Prosecutor’s Office, Rafael Curruchiche, would take over Sandoval immediately criticised appointment, accusing Curruchiche of protecting corrupt individuals; U.S. 5 Aug said move “does not add confidence in [FECI’s] ability to independently investigate and prosecute corruption cases”. Members of farmers and indigenous groups 9 Aug blocked roads across country, calling on President Giammattei and Porras to resign and accusing them of dismantling judicial independence; during renewed protest in capital Guatemala City, police 19 Aug prevented clashes between protesters and dozens of reported shop owners who threatened to dissolve rally with bats. U.S. newspaper The New York Times 24 Aug alleged President Giammattei received bribes from Russian delegation in April in exchange for concessions at Santo Tomás maritime port; Giammattei immediately denied accusations.
Authorities expanded tax-free zones despite opposition and launched major anti-gang operation. Congress 13 Aug approved law that allows tax-free Zones for Employment and Economic Development (ZEDEs) to sign agreements with municipalities, 126 of whom have rejected move so far. Combined police and military force 13 Aug launched operation against criminal gangs in at least 12 cities; public ministry same day claimed operation was successful, resulting in 138 people detained, 35 guns and $160,000 seized. Authorities 27 Aug arrested Jerry Hynds, mayor of Caribbean island Roatán, and three other men on drug trafficking charges. Over 75 NGOs 18 Aug called on Supreme Court to order release of eight environmental activists who have been detained for two years; request comes after Public Ministry in June requested extension of their provisional detention, which was granted 26 Aug for another six months. National Electoral Council 4 Aug approved budget of HNL1,000mn ($42mn) for Nov general elections, next day announced approval of digital results transmission system aimed at considerably speeding up counting of votes.
Authorities presented constitutional reform plan seeking to extend presidential term and rejected new evidence pointing to talks between govt and gangs. Govt 13 Aug presented constitutional reform draft to foreign diplomats; reform, which includes 215 constitutional amendments, notably seeks to extend presidential term from five to six years and allow president to be re-elected after one term out of office instead of two. Public opinion poll which surveyed 2,400 people 18 Aug showed 85% approval rating for President Bukele, highest among Central America’s presidents. Police 1-17 Aug registered average of 1.6 murder daily, lowest reported crime rate in recent years; yet, at least five public transportation companies decided to limit their operations as of 12 Aug, citing increase in gang extortion. Online news outlet El Faro 23 Aug published leaks of 2020 Attorney General’s Office’s investigation showing govt officials met with main gang leaders in jail; Bukele and other officials next day downplayed publication and denied talks. Supreme Court 24 and 26 Aug halted extradition of two MS-13 gang leaders to U.S. International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2 Aug unlocked $400mn to help country address COVID-19 pandemic; IMF late July had warned against using crypto assets as national currencies as El Salvador prepares for becoming first nation worldwide to make Bitcoin legal tender in Sept. Hundreds 27 Aug marched through capital San Salvador to voice concerns about use of Bitcoin, citing its volatility.
Despite govt’s growing international isolation, crackdown on opposition and independent media continued ahead of Nov general elections. Authorities targeted opposition party Citizens for Freedom (CxL): notably, police 3 Aug placed under house arrest CxL VP hopeful in Nov polls, Berenice Quezada, for allegedly “inciting hatred and violence”; Supreme Electoral Council 6 Aug removed CxL’s legal status, de facto disqualifying party from presidential contest; interior ministry 8 Aug annulled passport of CxL president, Carmella Rogers Amburn (alias Kitty Monterrey), who 10 Aug said she had left for Costa Rica; police 9 Aug detained CxL figure and former diplomat, Mauricio Díaz. Police 20 Aug arrested opposition movement Blue and White National Unit official Roger Reyes for allegedly undermining country’s sovereignty. Space for independent media and NGOs also under attack as authorities 13 Aug raided offices of main independent newspaper La Prensa, allegedly as part of investigation into “customs fraud and money laundering”, next day detained one senior editor. Govt 16 Aug also cancelled operating permits of six international NGOs for allegedly violating transparency law, and 26 Aug banned another 15 national NGOs accusing them of “failing to meet their legal obligations”; moves bring to 49 total number of NGOs prohibited to work in Nicaragua since 2018. Internationally, EU 2 Aug sanctioned eight public officials and govt allies, including VP Rosario Murillo (who is also President Ortega’s wife) for human rights violations or undermining democracy or rule of law; U.S. 6 Aug imposed visa restrictions on 50 relatives of Nicaraguan lawmakers, prosecutors and judges reportedly allied with Ortega and Murillo; U.S. Senate same day passed RENACER act, which calls for stronger sanctions on govt. Govt 9 Aug said it had recalled its ambassadors to Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica and Argentina for “consultations”; move comes after all four countries recently recalled or suspended appointment of their ambassadors to Nicaragua to protest against crackdown on dissent. Costa Rican authorities 9 Aug said they had received 10,077 refugee applications from Nicaraguans in June-July, highest number since 2018 protest movement.
Concerns rose over judiciary’s ability to investigate President Moïse’s killing, and gang violence disrupted earthquake relief. Ombudsman-like govt agency Office of Citizen Protection 1 Aug warned Moïse’s assassination could go unpunished, said Haitian judicial system “is held hostage by certain sectors”. In letter to UN Sec-Gen Guterres, govt 3 Aug called for “international commission of inquiry” to probe president’s killing. Judicial clerk assigned to investigation, Ernst Lafortune, found dead 11 Aug, days after Magistrate Bernard Saint-Vil said some judicial officials had been pressured to revise names and other details in enquiry reports on Moïse’s death. National Association of Haitian Legal Clerks 12 Aug said Lafortune had “heated dispute” with judge overseeing case, who resigned next day. Lawyers representing owner of firm that hired former Colombian soldiers allegedly involved in Moïse’s assassination 6 Aug claimed plot sought to change govt, not kill Moïse; Dominican and Colombian news channels 18 Aug broadcast testimonies of detained Colombian suspects who said plan was to kill president. Meanwhile, electoral council 11 Aug postponed constitutional referendum and first round of legislative and presidential elections, originally scheduled for 26 Sept, to 7 Nov; second round due 23 Jan 2022. After 7.2 magnitude earthquake 14 Aug hit country’s south-western peninsula, leaving at least 2,200 dead, UN Children’s Fund representative in Haiti next day called for “humanitarian corridor” in gang-held areas to ensure aid can reach affected regions; in following days, gangs reportedly did not follow suit, instead hijacking aid trucks and ambulances; leader of G9 gang alliance Jimmy Cherizier 22 Aug said G9 would change course, now assist in relief efforts; news channel Al Jazeera 25 Aug reported aid was flowing through gang-controlled Martissant neighbourhood west of Port-au-Prince.
Drug cartel violence continued, with journalists at particular risk; U.S. policy toward migrants and refugees came under scrutiny. Heavy fighting throughout month persisted in Zacatecas state (centre north), allegedly between Jalisco Cartel New Generation (CJNG) and Sinaloa Cartel-affiliated groups, leaving at least 28 dead 3-13 Aug. In video released 8 Aug, men claiming to speak on behalf of CJNG leader threatened to kill prominent TV journalist Azucena Uresti over what they deemed to be unfair coverage of battle between cartel and vigilante groups in Michoacán state (centre). Unidentified gunman 19 Aug shot dead radio journalist Jacinto Romero Flores in Ixtaczoquitlán town, Veracruz state (east). Meanwhile, federal govt 4 Aug filed lawsuit in U.S. court against 11 U.S. gunmakers and arm dealers for alleged negligent practices encouraging illegal arms trafficking to Mexico. In blow to President López Obrador, referendum on trying former presidents 1 Aug fell short of 40% turnout required to make it binding. Head of Mexico Supreme Court 6 Aug said he would conclude his term as planned in late 2022 despite Congress’s controversial decision in April to extend it by nearly two years. In possible strategic move ahead of 2024 presidential election, López Obrador 26 Aug appointed governor of his home state of Tabasco, Adán Augusto López Hernández, as new interior minister. UN refugee agency 11 Aug expressed concern after U.S. late July began deporting Central American undocumented migrants and asylum seekers to southern Mexico under COVID-19-related public health order. U.S. Supreme Court 24 Aug required U.S. President Biden’s administration to reinstate former U.S. President Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy, which forced tens of thousands of Central American asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for U.S. courts to hear their immigration cases; U.S. govt same day said it would challenge ruling. Meanwhile, caravan of about 500 migrants and asylum seekers from Central America and Caribbean 28 Aug left southern city of Tapachula for Mexico City to protest slow asylum process as govt deployed hundreds of security forces, videos on social media showed National Guard troops and govt’s migration agency officers allegedly beating and detaining migrants.
Middle East & North Africa
Supreme Court offered deal to Sheikh Jarrah residents, Gaza factions fired rockets at Israel, and Israel exchanged retaliatory attacks with Hizbollah for first time in years. Israel’s Supreme Court 2 Aug offered compromise deal to Palestinian families under threat of expulsion from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, East Jerusalem, that would allow residents to remain in homes as tenants providing they pay annual fee to settler organisation; both residents and settlers rejected deal. In West Bank, Israel 11 Aug issued initial approval to begin construction of 863 housing units for Palestinians in villages in Area C (under full Israeli civil and military control) for first time in years, and pushed plans for 2,000 settlement homes. Elsewhere in West Bank, Palestinians in Beita town near Nablus city 6 Aug clashed with Israeli forces, leaving Palestinian man dead and dozens injured. Undercover Israeli forces 16 Aug killed four Palestinians in Jenin refugee camp during arrest raid of individual suspected of ties to Gaza-based militant factions. During raid on Balata refugee camp near Nablus, Israeli forces 24 Aug killed 15-year-old boy; Israeli forces have shot and killed over 40 Palestinians in West Bank since May. Israeli Defence Minister Gantz and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas 29 Aug held first high-level meeting in decade to discuss security and economic cooperation. In Gaza, ceasefire between Israel and Hamas grew increasingly fragile after rockets fired from Gaza at Israel for first time since May; factions 16 Aug fired two rockets at Israel. Hundreds of Palestinians 21 Aug marked 52nd anniversary of burning of Al-Aqsa mosque along border wall, where Israeli forces fired tear gas and live ammunition, injuring over 40 Palestinians. Israel same day launched air raids on four Hamas targets, wounding 11 Palestinians. Separately, Hizbollah claimed responsibility for salvo of rockets fired from Lebanon 6 Aug at disputed Shebaa farms area, triggering retaliatory attacks with Israel, including first Israeli air force strikes in Lebanon since 2013/2014 (see Lebanon). PM Bennett 27 Aug met U.S. President Biden, reportedly presenting “Plan B” strategy on Iran comprising small military and diplomatic actions.
Central Bank’s cut of subsidies dramatically worsened fuel crisis and sparked unrest; Hizbollah and Israel exchanged fire. On economic front, worsening fuel crisis led to drastic shortages. Central Bank governor Riyadh Salameh 11 Aug halted provision of heavily subsidised exchange rates to energy importers, citing foreign currency reserves reaching lowest legal limit; decision would have forced importers to impose five-fold increase on prices for gasoline, but ministry of energy refrained from adjusting tariffs, leading to severe supply and distribution disruption. Resulting shortages caused generator operators to cut further service hours, hospitals to issue warnings about inability to care for intensive-care patients and kilometres-long queues at gas stations, where gunfire caused several casualties during month. Notably, security forces 14 Aug raided fuel storage to prevent hoarding or smuggling of fuel to Syria, causing gas explosion that killed more than 30 civilians and soldiers and injured dozens more. In response, President Aoun, govt and Central Bank 21 Aug agreed to extend fuel subsidies until end Sept at lower level, limiting price increases. Reports late month indicated violent incidents related to shortages of gas and other goods continued, including in Maghdouche and Anqoun southern towns. Meanwhile, PM-designate Najib Mikati 5 Aug reported gradual progress toward formation of new cabinet and called meeting same day with Aoun “positive step forward”; Mikati and Aoun during month engaged in frequent direct negotiations on govt composition. By end of month, however, no breakthrough had been reached. Unclaimed rockets fired from southern Lebanon 4 Aug struck Israeli border town Kiryat Shimona; Israeli air force next day retaliated with air strikes in first such attacks inside Lebanon since 2013/2014. In response, Hizbollah 6 Aug launched 19 rockets at uninhabited areas of disputed Shebaa farms area, triggering Israeli mortar response. In incident underscoring lingering sectarian tensions, brother of teenager killed in Sept 2020 clashes near capital Beirut between Hizbollah and Sunni Arabs 31 July shot dead alleged Hizbollah-linked perpetrator in southern town of Jiyeh; relatives of teenager 1 Aug ambushed attendees at alleged perpetrator’s funeral, clashes left another five dead before army deployed to end confrontation.
Govt forces continued to target rebels in south west, hostilities persisted between Kurdish and Turkish-backed forces in north east, and Idlib ceasefire held despite violations. In Daraa province in south west, regime throughout month renewed attacks on Daraa city’s besieged al-Balad neighbourhood as Russian-mediated talks continued to falter, reportedly over local leaders’ refusal to surrender rebels and weapons; fighting killed at least 32, including 12 civilians, and displaced at least 38,000 people by 24 Aug. U.S. and EU 4 Aug condemned escalation of violence; UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen 12 Aug warned civilians face shortages of basic goods and said “near siege-like situation must end”. In Hasakah province in north east, Turkish-backed armed groups 18-23 Aug and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) shelled one another’s positions. Suspected SDF explosive device 19 Aug reportedly killed one Turkish soldier and two Turkish-backed combatants in Ras al-Ayn countryside. Turkish airstrikes targeting Peoples Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria continued during month. In north west, March 2020 ceasefire held despite reported clashes, artillery shelling and Russian airstrikes in countryside throughout month that killed at least 23; notably, regime artillery shelling reportedly killed four children in Qastoun village in Hama province 7 Aug and nine people in separate attacks on Balshun and Kansafra villages in Idlib province 19-20 Aug. Explosion at training camp of jihadist rebel group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham 24 Aug killed at least eight militants near Ram Hamadan village. In central desert, Russia continued airstrikes against suspected Islamic State (ISIS) targets, reportedly killing at least nine militants throughout month. Suspected ISIS explosive device 12 Aug reportedly killed two Iran-linked fighters. Israel reportedly launched airstrikes on Iran-linked targets near Hader town, Quneitra province, 17 Aug and on Homs province and weapons depot in Damascus countryside 19 Aug; latter reportedly killed four Hizbollah combatants. President Assad 10 Aug approved new cabinet; main portfolios unchanged.
President Raisi took office, Vienna talks remained paused as Tehran continued nuclear activities, and international powers condemned Iran over recent maritime incident. Ebrahim Raisi sworn in 5 Aug as country’s eighth president, completing conservative takeover of centres of powers across Islamic Republic; Raisi same day indicated that “sanctions against Iran must be lifted and we will support any diplomatic plan that achieves this goal”. Indirect U.S.-Iran negotiations in Austrian capital Vienna, however, remained on hold with new administration in capital Tehran yet to set date for resumption. Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear activities continued apace. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 16 Aug reported that Iran’s production of enriched uranium metal had yielded 200g enriched to 20% and next day confirmed that number of centrifuge cascades enriching uranium to 60% had doubled to two; IAEA Board of Governors set to produce quarterly report on status of Iran’s nuclear activity in Sept. Amid diplomatic impasse, U.S. Treasury Dept 13 Aug blacklisted “individuals and business involved in an international oil smuggled network” linked to Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Tensions in maritime theatre continued, fuelling international opprobrium against Tehran. Following late-July deadly attack on tanker off Oman coast, Tehran 4 Aug submitted letter to UN Security Council denying involvement. U.S. military investigation 6 Aug concluded explosive-laden Iranian-made drone caused “extensive damage”; G7 same day condemned Tehran, underscoring “all available evidence clearly points to Iran”, while U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken 9 Aug told UN Security Council that “it is on all of our nations to hold accountable those responsible”. In separate incident, UK Maritime Trade Operations 3 Aug warned of “potential hijacking” of tanker off United Arab Emirates’ coast. As total COVID-19 fatalities rose, surpassing 100,000 deaths since Feb 2020 on 19 Aug, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei 11 Aug described pandemic as “country’s number one problem today”. Raisi 16 Aug said U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan (see Afghanistan) “should become opportunity to restore life, security and lasting peace”; UN during month warned in worst-case scenario as many as 150,000 Afghan refugees could flow to Iran in next six months (see Afghanistan).
Divisions emerged within political factions ahead of Oct elections, security operations targeted Islamic State (ISIS), and intra-Kurdish rivalry boiled over in Kurdistan. Tensions rose within ethno-sectarian political blocs ahead of 10 Oct parliamentary elections. Within Sunni bloc, rivalry between Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi, politician Mohammed al-Kabourli and challenger Khamis al-Khanjar escalated throughout month into acts of sabotage, including removal of campaign advertisement. Among pro-Iran Shia parties, tensions arose between factions of paramilitary coalition Population Mobilisation Forces (PMF), chiefly Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kataib Hezbollah, which early Aug publicly accused each other of corruption. Hamid al-Yaseri, leader of PMF group Ansar al-Marjaiya, 14 Aug delivered speech describing resistance groups’ loyalty to Iran as “treasonous”. Shiite cleric and leader of largest parliamentary bloc Muqtada al-Sadr 27 Aug reversed July decision to boycott Oct election. In northern Baghdad, security forces 14 Aug launched large-scale anti-ISIS operation, arresting seven suspected ISIS members, and next day killed ISIS leader Mustafa Hassan Ismail. In Diyala province, security forces 18 Aug arrested three suspected ISIS members for attack on power lines. PM Kadhimi 23 Aug announced second operation in Tarimyah town, north of Baghdad. In Kurdistan region, infighting within prominent political faction escalated. Co-chair of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Bafel Talabani 2 Aug issued decision to expel his cousin and co-chair Lahur Talabani from Iraq, in move that escalated July power struggle between two leaders; Lahur 3 Aug declared authorities had issued warrant for his arrest and said he had no intention of leaving, raising prospect of clash between Peshmerga brigades under each leader’s command. President Barham Salih 3 Aug intervened to mediate, alleviating tensions. Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) 12 Aug conducted mortar attack on Turkish military base in northern Iraq, killing one Turkish soldier; reported Turkish drone and airstrikes 16-17 Aug around Sinjar district targeting PKK-linked Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) and medical clinic killed at least ten people, including civilians and senior YBS member Said Hassan. Internationally, govt 28 Aug hosted regional summit with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, the Emirates and some European countries to discuss avenues for cooperation, especially on economy and energy.
Huthis continued cross-border attacks and anti-corruption authorities arrested hundreds of officials. Saudi-led coalition reported interception of Huthi drones/missiles targeting Khamis Mushait city on 4, 13, 22, 24, 27, 28, 29 and 30 Aug. Notably, authorities said Huthi drone attack 30 Aug targeted Abha airport, injuring at least eight people; coalition same day announced retaliatory attacks in Yemen’s capital Sanaa. Anti-Corruption Commission 9 Aug announced July-Aug arrest of 207 current and former govt officials accused of bribery, abuse of power, and forgery in anti-graft crackdown spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia reportedly terminated contracts of hundreds of Yemeni white-collar workers without official justification, raising prospect of potentially severe impact on remittances. Qatar 11 Aug appointed first ambassador to Saudi Arabia since intra-Gulf dispute erupted in 2017.
Fighting lulled in north but violence persisted in south amid tensions between govt and southern separatists; UN Sec-Gen appointed new special envoy, and UN sounded alarm over risk of famine. In north, fighting quietened with post-Eid al-Adha reduction in fighting largely continuing throughout month. Huthis continued cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia (see Saudi Arabia). In south, Huthis made advances towards Shebwa governorate and other territories controlled by Yafa tribal confederation; Huthi pressure increased fragile security situation amid wave of tit-for-tat assassinations targeting govt and Southern Transitional Council (STC) officials. Alleged Huthi attack targeting Saudi-led coalition’s al-Anad military base in Lahj governorate 29 Aug killed at least 30 soldiers and wounded at least 50 others. Saudi mediation attempts to broker power-sharing accord between Hadi govt and STC remained stalled. After govt-aligned speaker of House of Representatives 28 July decided to hold parliamentary meeting in eastern Hadramawt governorate, part of pre-1990 independent south, protesters 1 Aug in response to STC call for civil disobedience reportedly burnt tyres, blocked roads and closed shops in Seiyun and Mukalla cities in Hadramawt governorate. STC during month made series of unilateral security appointments; mid-month threatened to enforce independent local exchange rate in areas under STC control as Yemeni riyal early Aug fell below record YR1,060 to $1 in govt-controlled areas. On diplomatic front, UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres 6 Aug announced selection of Swedish diplomat and current EU Ambassador to Yemen Hans Grundberg as new UN special envoy for Yemen; govt officials, Saudi Arabia and Oman 7 Aug welcomed appointment while Huthi chief negotiator next day said talks with Grundberg would be futile without progress toward reopening ports and airports. UN Assistant Sec-Gen for the Middle East Khaled Khairi 23 Aug raised alarm over fuel shortages, called on govt to allow entry of essential supplies into Hodeida port and urged all parties to stop “weaponizing the economy” amid Huthi-govt standoff over tax and customs payments at Hodeida port. UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths same day warned two thirds of population dependent on humanitarian aid and 5mn people in immediate danger of famine.
UAE took steps to improve relations with main regional rivals Tur-key and Qatar. In effort to de-escalate regional tensions and focus on economic growth, UAE National Security Adviser Sheikh Tahnoun Bin Zayed Al Nahyan 18 Aug met with Turkish President Erdoğan in Turkish capital Ankara; Erdoğan same day announced prospect of “serious” UAE investments in Turkey and said he was open to meeting with UAE’s de facto ruler Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Erdoğan’s office 31 Aug announced Erdoğan and Al Nahyan had spoken by phone about bilateral relations and regional issues; UAE presidential diplomatic adviser Anwar Gargash same day commented call “very positive and friendly”. In first visit of senior Emirati official to Qatar since resumption of diplomatic ties in Jan, Sheikh Tahnoun Bin Zayed Al Nahyan 26 Aug headed delegation visiting Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in Qatari capital Doha; discussions included bilateral relations, enhancing economic and trade cooperation and investment projects.
Political tensions ran high as deadly wildfires sparked violence in Kabylia and govt cut diplomatic relations with Morocco. Angry mob 11 Aug lynched man to death in Kabylia region’s Tizi Ouzou province, accusing him of sparking deadly wildfires which devastated region starting 9 Aug; victim, Djamel Bensmail, had reportedly travelled to help fight fires and assist in rescue operations; wildfires, deadliest in country’s history, had killed at least 90, including 57 civilians and 33 soldiers, by mid-Aug. Prosecutor 12 Aug ordered investigation into killing, and authorities in following days reportedly arrested around 90 people for suspected involvement. After video calling for Kabylia to be wiped off Algeria’s map circulated on social media, NGO Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights 17 Aug filed legal complaint for “incitement to hatred and violence”. President Tebboune’s office next day blamed wildfires on recently outlawed Movement for the Self-Determination of Kabylie (MAK) and Islamist movement Rachad, said MAK receives support from neighbouring Morocco. Govt 24 Aug cut diplomatic ties with Morocco, citing “hostile actions”; relationship between Algiers and Rabat has long been strained, notably over Western Sahara conflict. UN, Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and others next day called for dialogue between Algiers and Rabat to avoid escalation. Algiers prosecutor 26 Aug issued international arrest warrant against MAK leader Ferhat Mehenni for movement’s alleged involvement in lynching of Bensmail. Meanwhile, court in Tamanrasset town (south) 12 Aug sentenced journalist Rabah Karèche to eight months in prison on charges of “publishing false information endangering national unity and state security”, after he reported on protest movement by ethnic Tuareg minority in Ahaggar area earlier this year. Tebboune 28 Aug set early municipal and provincial elections for 27 Nov.
Amid ongoing violence in Sinai Peninsula, security forces faced accusations of extrajudicial killings. In Sinai Peninsula, army vehicle 9 Aug struck explosive device south of Rafah town, leaving one army colonel killed and several soldiers wounded. Roadside bomb 12 Aug killed seven soldiers including officer and wounded six others near New Rafah town; Islamic State (ISIS) later claimed responsibility. Sniper fire targeted security forces throughout month in New Rafah area, leaving one soldier dead 20 Aug. Armed forces 1 Aug said they had killed 89 suspected ISIS militants in recent operation, and published video showing killings of two unarmed people; NGO Amnesty International 5 Aug called on public prosecution to investigate newly released video which apparently showed security forces engaging in extrajudicial killings in North Sinai. President Sisi 18 Aug signed into law bill granting Supreme Constitutional Court power to decide whether international agreements and court decisions are applicable in Egypt, potentially providing means for authorities to avoid enforcing country’s human rights commitments. Meanwhile, U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken throughout month faced pressure from range of parties, including Democratic caucus at House of Representatives and NGO Amnesty International, not to use national security waiver to release $300mn in military aid for Egypt conditioned on human rights record. U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director William Burns 15 Aug met with President Sisi and General Intelligence Service Director Abbas Kamel in capital Cairo, discussed ways to “enhance security and intelligence cooperation” on various issues including Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, Libya, Afghanistan and Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Implementation of UN-backed peace process stalled amid tensions between rival armed coalitions and rising blockages between parliament and govt. Leader of Arab Libyan Armed Forces (ALAF) Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar 9 Aug ordered raft of appointments and promotions of senior military officials under his command; move came two days after Presidency Council (supreme armed forces commander as per UN-brokered political transition roadmap) cautioned against unilateral decisions to nominate or promote military officials. 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC) – comprising military officers loyal to now dissolved UN-backed Govt of National Accord (GNA) and others affiliated with ALAF – 14 Aug called on Govt of National Unity (GNU) to suspend military agreements with all countries, said it had agreed on measures for “urgent removal of foreign forces and mercenaries”; GNA-aligned political and military figures accused JMC of overstepping its authority. UN 26 Aug welcomed creation of joint security force comprising members of rival coalitions to secure key water pipeline; joint force 29 Aug reportedly prevented sabotage attempt by gunmen affiliated with former Qadhafi-era official. Meanwhile, delegates of UN-backed Libyan Political Dialogue Forum 11 Aug failed to reach consensus on legal framework to hold elections in Dec, and House of Representatives (HoR) mid-Aug said it is drafting bill for direct presidential election. Amid repeated govt failure to obtain HoR approval of 2021 state budget, Oil and Gas Minister Mohamed Oun 16 Aug warned budget stalemate put oil production at risk. After HoR speaker 25 Aug demanded that PM Dabaiba appear before chamber to be questioned about govt’s performance or face no-confidence vote, Dabaiba 27 Aug accused HoR of obstructing govt and hindering elections, said body’s reasons for delaying budget approval were “unrealistic and flimsy”. Military prosecutor’s office 5 Aug issued arrest warrant for Qadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Qadhafi, over alleged ties to Russian security personnel suspected of war crimes in Libya in 2019; move came days after Saif Qadhafi revealed ambitions for political comeback in interview with U.S. newspaper The New York Times. Islamic State (ISIS) 23 Aug claimed responsibility for previous day car bomb attack against ALAF checkpoint in Zella area (south).
In worst political crisis since 2011, President Saïed extended parliament’s suspension indefinitely, consolidating his power grab. Following late-July move to dismiss govt, suspend parliament and assume public prosecutor’s powers, Saïed 5 Aug said there was “no turning back”, dismissed “dialogue except with the honest” and pledged “rights and freedoms” would not be violated. Several prominent civil society organisations same day jointly called on Saïed to swiftly release roadmap for ending exceptional measures. Parliament Speaker Rached Ghannouchi 11 Aug acknowledged public anger over country’s economic and political situation, pledged his Islamist-inspired An-Nahda party – which was part of coalition govt and largest group in parliament – would “engage in self-criticism” and review its policies to match Tunisians’ aspirations; also stressed situation does not justify taking “step back from democracy”. Saïed 23 Aug however extended suspension of parliament “until further notice”. Dismissal of senior govt officials continued, including Economy Minister Ali Kooli and Communications Technology Minister Mohamed Fadhel Kraiem 2 Aug. Reshuffle of top security officials also under way: Saïed 18 Aug reportedly appointed new director general of national security and new commander of National Guard, while interior ministry next day appointed nine senior officials including new intelligence chief. Meanwhile, authorities 6 Aug placed senior An-Nahda official and former Minister Anouar Maarouf under house arrest over alleged abuse of authority; 12 Aug arrested 14 individuals including public officials and issued arrest warrants for three others, including former industry minister, for alleged corruption; former head of anti-corruption body Chawki Tabib placed under house arrest 20 Aug after security forces earlier same day took control of body’s headquarters in capital Tunis. NGO Amnesty International 26 Aug said at least 50 people, including judges, senior state officials and civil servants, arbitrarily barred from travelling abroad over past month, noted total number facing travel bans likely to be far greater; Saied 16 Aug said travel bans form part of efforts to prevent people suspected of corruption or of posing security threat from leaving country. Egypt 3 Aug expressed support for Saïed’s “historic measures”, while U.S. 13 Aug urged “swift return to...parliamentary democracy”, stressed “need to appoint a PM-designate”.
Tensions persisted as Polisario Front independence movement contested Rabat’s economic and diplomatic moves on disputed territory. Polisario Front’s representative in Spain, Abdulah Arabi, 7 Aug protested airline Binter Canarias’ recent decision to resume flights to and from Morocco-controlled Western Sahara, arguing it constitutes “violation of international law” and reiterating “any economic activity in the territory requires the consent of the Sahrawi people”. Algeria 24 Aug cut diplomatic ties with Morocco, citing “hostile actions”; relationship between Algiers and Rabat has long been strained, notably over Western Sahara conflict (see Algeria). UN Sec-Gen Guterres 27 Aug appointed Russian diplomat Alexander Ivanko as head of UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO); search for UN Sec-Gen’s personal envoy for Western Sahara still ongoing. Sierra Leone 30 Aug opened consulate to Morocco in Dakhla city in Morocco-controlled Western Sahara.