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21 May 2013
Comprehensive Information on Complex Crisis
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Iraq Mali Syria IED/Demining 1 2 3 4
This document provides complex coverage of global events from 14 – 20 May 2013 with hyperlinks to source material highlighted in blue and underlined in the text. For more information on the topics below or other issues pertaining to events in the region, contact the members of the Complex Coverage Team or visit our website at www.cimicweb.org.
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So far in May 2013, more than 300 people have been killed in sectarian violence, heightening fears among Iraqis that the country could slip into a civil war, according to Al Jazeera. The Washington Post reports that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s ability to contain violence in Iraq may hinge on Syria, where the conflict is beyond his control. Emboldened Iraqi Sunnis are now challenging their own Shi’ite-led government as demonstrated by a rise in sectarian attacks throughout the country. According to Global Intake, Anbar province saw more attacks than anywhere else in the country. Violence was also concentrated in Baghdad and the districts surrounding it, as well as in Mosul, Tikrit and Kirkuk further north. Some of this week’s security events are summarised below: Naharnet reports that at least fourteen people were killed on 14 May in Sunni-majority areas of west Baghdad. Two roadside bombs also injured 35 people. Attacks on 15 May struck Shi’ite neighbourhoods of Baghdad and other cities including Kirkuk, Mosul and Tarmiyah, killing 34, reports The Daily Star. On 16 May, a suicide bomber attacked Shi’ite mourners in Kirkuk, killing twelve, according to The Daily Star. Also on 16 May, tribal security forces in Anbar province threatened to launch attacks on Iraqi forces if they were not withdrawn immediately from tribal regions, reports UPI. Tribal security forces reported they had surrounded the Iraqi military headquarters in Ramadi after continued security raids in the region. May 17 was the deadliest day in Iraq in more than eight months as bombs struck Sunni districts in Baghdad and surrounding areas, killing 76 people, according to The Washington Post. On 19 May, CNN reports that sixteen people were killed across Iraq as gunmen and security forces clashed in several areas. Anbar province experienced fourteen deaths, with the deadliest incident occurring in Rawa, where gunmen attacked police, killing three officers. The same day, six police
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officers kidnapped on 18 May were found dead from gunshot wounds along a highway, west of Ramadi. A total fourteen people, mostly Shi’ites were abducted and killed. A wave of attacks on 20 May killed at least 95 people, according to Associated Press (AP). The attacks pushed the death toll over the past week to more than 240 victims.
Reuters reports that Jabhat al Nusra, the most effective jihadist group operating in Syria, is “eclipsed by a more radical jihadi force whose aims go far beyond” overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has recently side -lined the Syrian jihadist group and seeks to expand jihadists’ goals in the Syrian conflict to in clude the broader goals of an anti-Western jihad. The strategic shift could extend Syria’s conflict beyond any political accord reached between the Assad government and the Syrian opposition. The head of AQI, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, recently relocated to northern Syria to take control of the al Qaeda operations. A senior Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel commander states “Nusra is now two Nusras. One pursu es al Qaeda’s agenda of a greater Islamic nation and another that is Syrian with a national agenda to help us fight Assad”. Other Syrian rebels report that al Nusra has effectively collapsed, with many fighters leaving to join smaller jihadist groups in Syria. The first group of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK1) rebels arrived in the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq on 14 May to a warm welcome from their Iraq-based compatriots, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). Approximately 2,000 PKK fighters in Turkey have begun retreating to the safe havens of Iraqi Kurdistan upon the orders of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, who is calling for peace. Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki has sharply criticised the Turkish-Kurdish peace process currently underway, which could bring an end to a nearly thirty year fight for Kurdish autonomy in south-eastern Turkey, according to United Press International (UPI). Maliki states “The Iraqi government confirms its rejection of the withdrawal and the presence of armed men of the [PKK] inside Iraqi territory”. The United States recently allowed privately-owned Elaf Islamic Bank to conduct business with the US financial system, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). In July 2012, the US blacklisted the financial institution as a result of its business dealing with the Export Development Bank of Iran which Washington maintains is a “proliferator” of weapons of mass destruction.
International donors pledged USD 4.2 billion for peace building and stabilisation programmes in Mali on 15 May at a muchanticipated diplomatic conference, reports Voice of America. The number far exceeds the USD 2.5 billion the Malian government hoped it would raise. Held in Brussels the joint donor conference was hosted by the European Union (EU) and France and attended by heads of state, Malian officials and dignitaries from more than a dozen countries. Interim President Dioncoundra Traoré told the Associated Press (AP), “This conference was a total success”. The biggest donors included the EU, France and the United Kingdom, which pledged USD 675 million, USD 363 million and USD 195 million, respectively. Additionally, Germany and the United States are expected to commit USD 128 million and USD 180 million in 2014, according to the AP. At the conference, Malian officials talked extensively about the need for roads and schools, and, although funding details were not immediately released, projects will likely focus on infrastructure, agriculture and reconciliation efforts targeting the country’s ethnic minorities. At the conf erence, Traoré also reiterated that elections would be held on 28 July, three days before the 31 July deadline established by the country’s transitional roadmap. A dozen candidates are expected to run in the ballot initiative. However, many experts including the European Parliament and the Congressional Research Office suggest the elections will face significant security and logistical challenges. A spokesperson for the extremist group Ansar Dine turned himself in to officials in Mauritania over the weekend, reports the Washington Post. Sanda Ould Boumana, a native of Mauritania, emerged as a de factor leader in Timbuktu after the city fell to extremists. He was instrumental in the imposition of sharia law, overseeing amputations and collaborating closely with al-Qaeda members, according to the AP. From Timbuktu, he moved to Kidal and then fled the city when international forces advanced in January 2013. After surviving an alleged assassination attempt in April, he marched eighty kilometres from Kidal, in northern Mali, to the Algerian border. Apparently hoping to turn himself over to authorities in Algeria, he contacted the North African media outlet Noukachott Information Agency (ANI), an online syndicate that jihadists often use for communication. According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Burkina Faso, Djibril Basso, talks will resume between the Malian government and National Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). A secular group in northern Mali’s Kidal region, the MNLA seeks to establish a Tuareg homeland. “In the days to come, contact will be made with all the players and partners from the international community so that favorable conditions can be set up for holding elections in a calm atmosphere with the participation of all ,” said Basso. In April, talks were suspended when MNLA leadership refused to disarm prior to negotiations, a precondition required by Traoré. Interim President Traore, installed after a military coup last year, is “willing to negotiate with the MNLA provided it drops its demand for
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States, the European Union an d NATO.
21 May 2013
independence”, reports Chicago Tribune. According to reports, the MNLA will accept autonomy within Mali but refuses to put down weapons ahead of talks. The MNLA took over governance of Kidal when French and Chadian forces withdrew in early 2013. MNLA continues to exert influence, collect taxes, and deliver basic services to citizens. However, Malian troops entered Kidal territory last week to reassert control of the region in the event talks fail, reports Reuters. “There is still time for negotiation before any military action,” said an anonymous army source. Currently, the town of Kidal is “under an awkward joint occupation” by MNLA and French troops, reports a separate Reuters article. As Euronews describes, French and Malian troops are currently operating within the greater Kidal region and French troops are reportedly camped outside the town.
An estimated thirty Lebanese Hezbollah fighters were killed in fierce fighting on19 May in the rebel stronghold of Qusayr Syria, according to Reuters. Hezbollah has not commented on the deaths, but several funeral processions were seen in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley on 20 May, and local hospitals appealed for blood donations to treat the wounded. The Hezbollah death-toll reflects the highest daily casualties of Hezbollah fighters in the conflict to date, underscoring the growing role of the Lebanese militant group in the Syrian war. Meanwhile, six rockets originating from Syria struck the Hezbollah stronghold of Hermel in the Bekaa Valley on 19 May, reports The Daily Star. In response, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman condemned the attack and warned Syrian opposition groups to respect Lebanon’s sovereignty. On 20 May, RFE/RL reports that US President Barack Obama expressed US concern over Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria during a phone conversation with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman. UPI reports Hezbollah’s steadily growing role in the crisis - fighting against largely Sunni opposition forces - increases the likelihood of a sectarian showdown as the war spills over into Lebanon. Lebanese analyst Hanin Ghaddar, editor of Now Lebanon, says tension between Lebanese Sunnis and Shi’ites “has reached unprecedented levels ... [m]any Lebanese Sunni groups are also moving to Syria to join the fighting” adding that the “Lebanese SunniShi’ite war is already taking place but in Syria”. On 18 May, Mohammed al Shalabi, the leader of Jordan’s al Nusra Front, dec lared war on Hezbollah. Shalabi announced that Hezbollah, not President Assad, is “enemy number one of Sunnis”. According to the head of Aleppo Judicial Committee’s military arm, Mohammed Najib Bannan, Jabhat al Nusra, the jihadist group affiliated with AQI has split, reports The Telegraph. Al Nusra fighters in eastern Syria have begun calling themselves the “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria”; the name preferred by the international al Qaeda leadership. The rebranding of the al Nusra fighters has disillusioned many fighters who deem themselves “Syrians first” and joined al Nusra with the sole motive of expelling President Assad. Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that the European Unions’ recent easing of oil sanctions on Syrian opposition rebels has resulted in the unintended consequences of empowering the jihadist group Jabhat al Nusra. With a stranglehold on the oil fields between al Raqqa and Deir Ezzor, al Nusra has become better funded and equipped than other Sunni groups fighting in Syria. Israel submitted another complaint to the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) along the Israeli-Syrian border after shots fired from Syria hit Israeli-occupied Golan Heights on 20 May, reports AFP. Minor flare-ups continue to occur along the Golan Heights. On 16 May, Israel delivered a clear warning to Assad, stating that Assad risked forfeiting his regime if he fulfils his vow of retaliation against further airstrikes, according to The Daily Star. On 17 May, The Guardian reports US CIA Chief John Brennan met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon, military chief of staff Benny Gantz and Mossad chief Tamir Pardo in Israel in the wake of recent Israeli airstrikes into Syria. On 19 May, satellite footage revealed the positioning of Syrian surface-to-surface Tishreen missiles aimed toward Tel Aviv, Israel. According to Reuters, Netanyahu said his country was “preparing for every scenario” in Syria and would not rule out additional airstrikes into Syria to stop Hezbollah from obtaining advanced weapons. On 15 May, Russia voted against a UN resolution that condemns Assad’s escalation of attacks on civilians, according to Australian Associated Press (AAP). The vote passed with 107 states in support. In other news, Time reports that Russia, in an effort “to hedge their bets”, provided Syria S-300 anti-aircraft systems and Yakhont “ship-killer” missiles to Syria. Russia claims the weapons will “set the right conditions” for negotiating Assad’s departure. Meanwhile, Russia has deployed twelve ships in three months to its Tartous naval base in an effort to deter Western intervention in the conflict, reports Christian Science Monitor (CSM). US Secretary of State John Kerry travelled to the Middle East to participate in the US-Russian led peace conference on Syria, reports Voice of America (VOA). UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to quickly find a negotiated solution to the on-going conflict. AFP reports that in anticipation of a June peace conference, the Arab League committee on Syria would hold an emergency meeting, attended by foreign ministers from Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to discuss the crisis.
21 May 2013
In a rare interview, Assad stated that he has no intention of stepping down as Syrian President. He advised the West to focus efforts on restricting the flow of weapons to “terrorists” who were responsible for attacking Syria, reports BBC. Increased violence and atrocities in the Syrian conflict has fuelled pessimism regarding international efforts to end the fighting, according to The New York Times (NYT). According to Nadim Houry, director of Human Rights Watch in Beirut , “the conflict is getting more visceral”. Houry added there is a “complete disconnect between diplomacy and events on the ground”. According to reports, entire families were killed as government troops went house to house. There were reports of the troops using concrete blocks to smash the skulls of family members. Syrian activists provided lists of 322 victims who require identification. In the wake of mass atrocities, Ahmad Abu al Khair, a blogger from Baida, states, “how can we reach a point of national forgiveness?” Meanwhile, in the aftermath of a video depicting a Syrian opposition soldier eating the organ of a regime soldier emerged online, the FSA pledged to punish atrocities perpetrated by opposition soldiers fighting in the conflict, according to the Daily Star. In other news, Syrian attackers briefly abducted three UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights on 16 May, reports the AFP. The peacekeepers were released unharmed after five hours. Several chemical weapons attacks have been alleged since the 19 March incidents, reports BBC. Confirming the attacks is problematic as Syria continues to restrict journalists’ movements and the UN-mandated investigation team access to Syria. Responding to mounting claims that Syrian military forces deployed chemical weapons, British Foreign Minister William Hague pledged to continue to work with partners to increase pressure on the Assad government to allow unrestricted UN access, according to UPI. The unabated violence has accelerated the exodus from Syria over the past four months, according to the United Nations. Nearly one million persons have registered with United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) since January 2013 for a combined total of more than 1.5 million registered Syrian refugees.
IED & Demining
GLOBAL NEWS Afghanistan: A roadside bomb tore through an American military convoy in Kandahar province on 14 May, killing at least three soldiers, reports The New York Times. Click on the map for more IED events. Iraq: A wave of attacks on 20 May killed at least 95 people, according to Associated Press (AP). Click on the map for more IED events. United States: LA Police continue to investigate a 29- year-old man in possession of seventeen pipe bombs hidden in his apartment, reports United Press International (UPI). Click on the map for more IED events.
The CFC publishes a weekly IED and Demining Events map. This global compilation links to articles reporting significant IED related-events and demining efforts. This report covers 14 to 20 May 2013.
The Re-Awakening of Anbar
Iraq Complex Coverage
Mali Complex Coverage
Syria Complex Coverage
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21 May 2013
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