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15 January 2013
Comprehensive Information on Complex Crisis
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Iraq Mali Syria IED/Demining 1 2 3 5
This document provides complex coverage of global events from 08– 14 January 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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Iraqi Sunni and Kurdish ministers boycotted a Cabinet meeting in order to show support for the many massive protests against Shi’ite Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki’s government, according to Hurriyet Daily News. On 14 January, in an effort to appease Sunni protesters, the Iraqi government released more than three hundred prisoners currently held under Iraq’s anti-terrorism laws, according to Pan Armenian. Meanwhile, thousands of Iraqi Shi’ites took to the streets to show their support for the Prime Minister. As thousands of protesters continued to camp out in Anbar province where demonstrators blocked the Teraibeel border crossing with Jordan, Iraqi leadership closed the border crossing in what appears to be a move to exert greater economic pressure on the Protesters at the Teraibeel Border Crossing local economy and protesters, a move likely to backfire on the government, according to Voice of America (VOA). On 13 January, a bomb meant to assassinate the Iraqi Minister of Finance, Rafia al Issawi, exploded as his convoy passed, missing the finance minister, according to Associated Press (AP). Issawi is a central figure in protests by minority Sunnis against the Shiite-dominated Baghdad government. The closing of the border crossing, compounded by the bomb attack, could spark another round of Sunni protests against the Source: al Arabiya government.
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In other security news, on 09 January twelve Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK1) militants and one Turkish soldier were killed in clashes along the Turkey-Iraq border, reports Reuters. The skirmish began after Turkish soldiers at the remote Karatas military outpost in Turkey responded to PKK gunfire from across the Iraqi border. The clashes coincide with efforts by Turkey to end a near three-decade insurgency through talks with the jailed leader of the PKK militant group. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict between Turkey and the PKK. Gulf Today reports that on 10 January, a series of bombings and shootings in Baghdad and Diyala province killed ten and wounded over twenty others. In Baghdad, a car bomb killed three people near a police station in a predominately Shi’ite neighbourhood of the capital, while a roadside bomb in southeastern Baghdad struck a police patrol, killing one civilian and wounding three officers. In Diyala province, bodyguards of Diyala University’s president, along with an army officer, were gunned down in an armed attack. Iraqi authorities announced on 12 January that twelve prisoners, including some al Qaedalinked inmates awaiting execution, escaped from Taji prison near Baghdad, reports AP. A police official said the prisoners escaped through cell windows and seized weapons from guards who were manning two observation towers. Several security guards have been detained for questioning as there are suspicions the inmates may have been assisted in the escape. Agence France-Presse (AFP) reports that attacks by militants on Iraqi soldiers at a checkpoint in Samarra killed three soldiers on 13 January. On the same day, a roadside bomb exploded near Fallujah, killing a seven year old boy, according to AP. UN envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, encouraged both protesters and the Iraqi government to show restraint. Kobler called for “protesters to refrain from violence and to maintain the peaceful character of their demonstrations and on the security forces to show the utmost restraint in maintaining law and order”, according to United Press International (UPI). Additionally, Kobler called for “peaceful and constructive” dialogue to address the challenges facing Iraq. Meanwhile, opponents of Maliki are working to secure enough parliamentary signatures to call the prime minister for questioning before lawmakers, according to Reuters. Sunni-backed Iraqiya party lawmaker Jaber al Jaberi stated that the “first step is questioning him and we presented a request today, the next stage will be a vote of no confidence if we can get enough votes”. This is parliament’s second attempt at a vote of no confidence against Maliki. Direct exports of Kurdish crude oil to Turkey may reach 20,000 barrels per day (bpd) in a few weeks, according to Reuters. The increase in Kurdish crude exports by truck underscores the Kurdish Regional Government’s (KRG) growing frustration with Baghdad while it also signals the region’s willingness to forge closer ties with Turkey. In response, Reuters reports that the Iraqi Ministry of Oil and Iraq’s State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO), issued a statement saying the government “shall reserve the right to take all legal actions against any company or entity that deal with bodies other than SOMO in addition to the confiscation of cargoes smuggled across borders as well as suing sellers, purchasers and transporters”. While the statement made no reference to a specific company, it was released after Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region had given permission for Genel Energy to deliver crude directly to Turkey.
A day after Malian troops repelled an incursion into southern Mali by Islamist groups from northern Mali, on 08 January, the African Union urged NATO countries to send forces to assist Mali and regional West African forces in retaking northern Mali, according to AFP. The incident is the first time rebels engaged with Malian troops. Responding to the incursion from the North, Mali leadership sent reinforcements in anticipation of additional attacks from northern militants, reports Reuters. On 10 January, another advance by rebels against the Malian army resulted in the militants capturing the central city of Konna, according to AP. The capture of Konna is a serious blow to the army, threatening the security of a nearby military airport. The loss also raises concerns that Malian forces were not capable of protecting areas farther south from the rebels. AP reports that militants possess outfitted SUVs with high-calibre machine guns; recently released videos also showcase their array of anti-aircraft weapons. Islamists stated they will retaliate against French interests. Militants also indicated that “sleeper cells” are positioned in all the capital cities of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) countries; the ECOWAS is currently planning a military intervention in northern Mali. The sudden offensive by the 1,200 rebel fighters resulted in an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council on 10 January to discuss the crisis, reports the Globe and Mail. Amid growing concerns that the Islamist stronghold in northern Mali, with links to al Qaeda, could become a base for terrorism throughout West Africa, France and Belgium advocated for a more rapid intervention against the rebels to the UN Security Council. France’s UN Ambassador Gerard Araud disclosed on 10 January that Mali’s interim president, Dioncounda Traore, formally requested France’s assistance to help counter the military advance by radical Islamists, according to VOA. Responding to Traore’s request on 11 January, France deployed armed forces into Mali to combat Islamist groups, reports the New York Times (NYT). French forces, which included paratroopers and helicopter gunships, engaged with Islamists. Within twenty-four hours, French forces successfully dispersed the Islamists from Konna. AP reports that as French forces engaged Islamists, members of ECOWAS authorised the immediate deployment of troops to Mali, accelerating an initial time frame from a September 2013 intervention. Again, on 14 January, al Qaeda pushed into territory controlled by the Malian army taking control of
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is considered a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the United States, the European Union and NATO.
15 January 2013
Diabaly, a small town south of the rebel controlled North, despite French airstrikes, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ). French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian stated that the new advance into Diabaly opens up another route to the capital city of Bamako only 250 miles away. The new push south, met by French warplanes, dramatised the extent to which the irregular Islamist forces, well-armed and mobile, remain a threat even after four days of French bombings and the deployment of more than five hundred French soldiers to fortify the overwhelmed Malian army, according to the Washington Post. France’s Le Monde newspaper reported that the number of French ground troops will increase to 2,500, reports the National. Le Drian said the Islamist offensive comprised two columns heading south from northern Mali. One column attacked Konna and headed toward Mopti, 300 miles northeast of Bamako, reports the Washington Post. Combatants were mainly composed of members from the Movement of Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which is a spin-off of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb2 (AQIM). The second column Le Drian confirmed, made up of AQIM fighters, moved further west along the Mauritanian border. The column quickly moved on 13 January toward Diabaly but was met with stiff resistance due to Malian troops aided by French air power. Despite intensive aerial bombardments by French warplanes, Islamist insurgents grabbed more territory on 14 January, including a strategic military camp, according to AP. Once the garrison in Diabaly was seized, the French embassy immediately ordered the evacuation of sixty French nationals from the region surrounding Segou. Segou, only hours away, is reportedly a looming target of several small groups of rebel fighters.
Source: American Interest
On 12 January, French President Francois Hollande raised the country’s domestic terror threat levels due to military action it had taken in Mali and a separate operation in Somalia, according to AP. According to The National, Islamist insurgents threatened terror attacks in France on 14 January and warned that the French military intervention had “opened the gates of hell”. Of concern is that AQIM may attempt to widen the war by opening new fronts within Mali, according to The Telegraph. An aid worker in the region voiced fear that operatives had already infiltrated Bamako where attacks could be carried out. Nigeria’s president Goodluck Jonathan announced in Abuja on 14 January that Nigerian troops will be deployed before the end of next week to Mali in order to “restore peace in that country”, reports Vanguard. The Telegraph reported that the UK is “committed to supporting” a European Union (EU) training mission that would put up to five hundred European troops into Mali within weeks. Responding to France’s request for support, the US was reviewing ways in which it could support the interventions against the rebels in Mali, according to World News. Following the occupation of Konna by militant Islamists, hundreds of residents of the city fled to areas further south, according to Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that many families have fled their homes in Konna, as well as Amba and Boré toward Mopti and Sévaré further south. Backed by the ICRC, volunteers from the Mali Red Cross are assessing the most urgent needs of the newly displaced people. “Large numbers have been arriving in Mopti and Sévaré”, stated Jean-Nicolas Marti, head of the ICRC delegation covering Niger and Mali.
In a BBC interview aired on 09 January, UN envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi said “in Syria, in particular, I think that what people are saying is that a family ruling for 40 years is a little bit too long” thereby ruling out a role for President Assad in a transitional government, according to Reuters. Brahimi’s remarks were welcomed by the Syrian opposition who said that “he [Brahimi] hasn’t criticised Bashar al Assad before, but now after he despaired of Assad after his Sunday speech, he had no other alternative than to say to the world that this rule is a family rule, and more than 40 years is enough”. Brahimi commented that Assad’s address to Syrians on 06 January was a repeat of previous initiatives that have previously been rejected. As Brahimi prepared for talks aimed at negotiating a deal, the Assad regime denounced the UN envoy as “flagrantly biased”, according to the Daily Star. Talks in Geneva on 12 January between Brahimi, Russian, and US diplomats failed to yield a breakthrough, according to Reuters. The parties continued to reiterate the need for a political solution to the crisis in Syria. Russia, however, continues to insist that President Bashar al Assad’s removal cannot be a precondition for a deal to end the violence in Syria, reports Reuters. The Russian Foreign Minister stated, “we [Russia]
For a more detailed discussion of Islamic militants operating in the Maghreb, refer to the CFC’s Al Qaeda and the African Arc of Instability, December, 2012.
15 January 2013
firmly uphold the thesis that questions about Syria’s future must be decided by the Syrians themselves, without interference from outside or the imposition of prepared recipes for development”. According to CNN, US officials are discussing with Middle Eastern governments the steps necessary to ensure Syria’s chemical and biological weapons sites are secured when President Assad leaves power. However, US Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that preventing Syria from using chemical weapons once Assad’s military had moved to use them “would be almost unachievable”. Switzerland signalled its intention to file a petition, signed by fifty-two countries calling for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to open a case on war crimes in Syria, according to al Arabiya. Switzerland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Didier Burkhalter, stated that “[S]erious war crimes are being committed in Syria. We must make sure they not go unpunished.” Qatar revived a proposal that would send Arab forces into Syria to help quell the violence, according to Reuters. Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani stated that “Arabs must think seriously about sending forces to ensure security in Syria if diplomatic efforts fail to resolve the crisis”. Qatar raised a similar proposal in September 2012. As the humanitarian situation worsens, Syrian refugees at the al Zaatari camp, home to nearly 50,000 refugees in Jordan, attacked aid workers with sticks and stones on 08 January, frustrated after strong winds swept away their tents and rains flooded muddy streets, reports AP. The unrest broke out after the region suffered its first major winter storm. The World Food Programme (WFP) announced that it was unable to assist one million Syrians who are going hungry inside the country. WFP said that the lack of security and the agency’s inability to use the Syrian port of Tartus meant that large numbers of people will not receive help. Additionally, WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs reported that the Syrian Arab Red Crescent was overstretched and had no capacity to expand operations further in the country. Finally, women interviewed by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) cited Source: Associated Press (AP) sexual violence as the primary reason they fled Syria, according to The Guardian. In 240 interviews of Syrian women and girls now residing in Lebanon and Jordan, IRC found that many women and girls experienced rape and torture by armed men. The rapes, sometimes by several men, often occurred in front of family members. Fighting flared on 08 January at the Yarmouk Palestinian camp where five civilians were killed, according to the Daily Star. Activists reported intense clashes taking place on the edges of the camp where approximately half of the 150,000 Palestinian residences had fled seeking safety from earlier violence in the camp. On 12 January, activists reported that 88 people were killed during operations by Syrian government troops in several cities of the country, according to Anadolu Agency, a Turkish news source. Also, the Syrian Revolution General Commission (SRGC) reported that 48 Syrian soldiers, including some high-ranking officers, quit Assad’s forces and joined the Free Syrian Army (FSA). After battling over Taftanaz, a strategic airbase in northwestern Syria for over three weeks, Syrian rebels declared victory on 10 January, according to AP. The airbase is home to the largest airfield for helicopters used to bomb rebel-held regions in the north and to deliver supplies to regime forces. Now in rebel possession are helicopters, tanks and multiple rocket-launchers. Continuing the strategy, Syrian rebels pushed towards two military airports in the northern province of Aleppo on 12 January, a day after capturing Taftanaz military base, according to Australian Associated Press (AAP). “Heavy fighting is taking place between rebels and troops manning Al-Ming military airport in Aleppo’s countryside, resulting in many casualties in government forces ranks”, reported Abu Omar al-Halabi, a commander in the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Rebels were also targeting Aleppo’s Nairib military camp. Meanwhile, Syrian troops captured most of a Daraya, a strategic Damascus suburb where rebels have launched numerous attacks on key regime facilities, according to AP. On 13 January, Reuters reports that Syrian forces killed at least 36 people, 14 of them children, in a bombardment of rebel-held areas of Damascus. Fuelling calls for a war crimes probe in Syria, activists reported on 14 January that at least 26 children were killed in violence, according to AFP.
Palestinian Refugee Camps in Syria Winter Storm Hits Zaatari Camp, Jordan
Source: UN OCHA
15 January 2013
IED & Demining
The CFC now publishes a weekly IED and Demining Events map. This global compilation identifies and links to articles pertaining to IED events as well as demining efforts. (Reporting period from 08 - 14 January 2013) GLOBAL NEWS Greece: The Guardian reports that bombs were placed and detonated outside of several Greek journalists’ homes on 11 January. An anarchist group called “Lovers of Lawlessness” claimed responsibility for the bombings and said the attacks were protests against the perceived “government-friendly way” in which the five have reported the country’s financial crisis. India: Maoist insurgents in Jharkhand state have begun hiding explosive devices in the corpses of their enemies according to the New York Times. Indian police stated this was a new tactic in the long battle between Indian security and the insurgents.
Indonesia: Police discovered a cache of more than twenty homemade bombs in central Indonesia on 09 January, according to Channel News Asia. Home raids conducted in the southern district of Enrekang revealed over twenty pipe-bombs stored in Tupperware containers. In other raids conducted in the area, 75 kilograms of bomb making materials were discovered.
For more IED & Demining news click here or click on the map above.
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15 January 2013