drones

Multiple interventions continue in Syria

An air raid in eastern Syria along the Iraqi border made brief headlines Nov. 9. The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least 14 people were killed in the strikes, mostly fighters. The attacks hit a convoy of "fuel tankers and trucks loaded with weapons" in Deir az-Zor province, the Observatory said. (Al Jazeera) This set off immediate speculation that the raid was the latest in the small but growing handful of times over the course of the 10-year Syrian war that the US has bombed forces allied with the Assad regime, generally targeting the Iran-backed paramilitary network in the country. The Deir az-Zor strikes did immediately follow the slaying of a US aid worker in Iraq. (The National) However, Israel has for years also carried out sporadic air-strikes on similar targets in Syria, and has likewise come under suspicion in this attack. (ToI, Haaretz)

Massive military drills from North Sea to Caucasus

NATO on Oct. 17 opened an annual exercise to test nuclear deterrence capabilities in Europe, with the participation of 14 of the 30 member countries. The drill, this year dubbed "Steadfast Noon," will run two weeks and involve 60 aircraft. "As in previous years, US B-52 long-range bombers will take part; this year, they will fly from Minot Air Base in North Dakota," NATO said in a statement. "Training flights will take place over Belgium, which is hosting the exercise, as well as over the North Sea and the United Kingdom."

Iran strikes targets in Iraqi Kurdistan

At least 13 people were reported killed in Iranian missile and drone strikes on the Kurdish region of northern Iraq Sept. 28. UNICEF said a pregnant woman was killed and two children were among those injured as one missile struck a school in the refugee settlement of Koya. Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said it had struck Kurdish "separatist terrorists" who backed "riots," referring to the anti-government protests that have swept the country over the past two weeks. The IRGC named the targeted groups as Komala, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) and the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK). Komala confirmed that 10 drones targeted buildings in the Zargwez area, PAK said its headquarters in Sherawa was hit, and the PDKI said its bases in Koy Sanjaq were struck. (TNH, BBC News)

Erdogan invokes burning of Smyrna

Amid rising tensions between NATO allies Turkey and Greece, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan explicitly invoked the burning of Smyrna at the end of the Greco-Turkish War. "We have only one word to tell Greece: Do not forget Izmir," Erdogan said in a speech early last month, using the Turkish name for the coastal city that was the scene of atrocities targeting the substantial Greek populace after it was taken by Turkish forces in September 1922. "We may come suddenly one night," Erdogan added, using his oft-repeated phrase when he warned of launching an operation into neighboring Syria.

Crackdown on civil society widens in Crimea

Drone strikes and unexplained explosions on the Russian-annexed Criman Peninsula have prompted the Moscow-controlled administration to urge citizens to hunt for possible saboteurs. This comes amid widening repression on civil society, especially targeting the Crimean Tatar people. On Sept. 15, a local court jailed at least four people involved in a Tatar wedding in Bakhchysarai for performing a Ukrainian patriotic song, "Red Kalyna." Each accused performer was held for several days.

Turkey escalates drone strikes on Rojava

A Turkish drone strike on July 22 targeted three members of the Women's Protection Units (YPJ) who were driving in a vehicle near the northeast Syrian town of Qamishli. All three women were killed, and several passers-by injured by shrapnel. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR) said that it was the second drone strike on territory of the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration in North & East Syria (AANES) in the past 48 hours. The YPJ is the women's wing of the People's Protection Units (YPG), the territorial defense force of the autonomous zone, in the region known to the Kurds as Rojava. Turkey has carried out repeated drone strikes on targets within AANES territory this year, amid apparent preparations for a new military incursion into the autonomous zone.

Afghanistan: UN report details Taliban abuses

The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on July 20 released a report holding the ruling Taliban regime responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and inhumane punishments in the first 10 months since they seized power. In total, UNAMA found that Taliban forces engaged in 239 extrajudicial killings, 313 arbitrary arrests and detentions, 46 cases of incommunicado detention, and 73 instances of torture. Most of the incidents targeted former Afghan National Defense & Security Forces (ANDSF) soldiers, officials from the previous government, ISIL-KP members, or National Resistance Front fighters. UNAMA also identified an additional 217 instances of degrading punishments and 118 uses of excessive force against civilians. Finally, Taliban forces also engaged in at least 163 rights violations targeting journalists and 64 targeting human rights defenders.

Mali massacre: jihadism or ethnic war?

Scores of Malians demonstrated June 21 in the town of Bankass, in central Mopti region, to demand state protection after more than 130 civilians were killed by presumed jihadist militants in three nearby villages over the past days. The massacres in Diallassagou, Dianweli and Deguessagou localities are said to have been carried out by the Katiba Macina, a militant group led by Fulani preacher Amadou Kouffa. The gunmen burned huts and stole cattle in addition to killing villagers. The Katiba Macina is apparently an offshoot of the Qaeda-aligned Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (JNIM). However, in Mopti region, traditionally known to the Fulani as Macina, the violence appears to have taken on an ethnic cast. In March 2019, more than 160 Fulani civilians were massacred at the village of Ogossagou. (Africa News, Africa News, TRT, AFP, El Pais)

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