Ariel Sharon buried under Iron Dome

After lying in state at the Knesset, where Israelis lined up to pay tribute, Ariel Sharon was buried Jan. 13 on his family's ranch in the Negev desert. The Israeli military deployed the Iron Dome missile shield, lest Gaza-based militants tried to target the burial with rockets. In fact, "two projectiles" did hit the nearby Shaar HaNegev region, the military said, reporting no casualties. Earlier in the day, Israeli air-strikes hit a Gaza refugee camp, ostensibly in response to prior ineffectual projectile attacks. US Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement to Israel: "Our nation shares your loss and honors Ariel Sharon's memory." News of Sharon's death set off spontaneous joyful celebrations at Lebanon's Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. (Algemeiner, AFPAFPJP Updates)

Bangladesh: another Islamist charged in war crimes

A leader in Bangladesh's main Islamist party was charged on Dec. 31 in connection with war crimes during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War with Pakistan. Abdus Subhan, who was arrested last September, was formally charged after Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal (ICTB) conducted an investigation. However, human rights groups say that the tribunal, which was set up in 2010 to investigate abuses committed in that war, does not meet international standards and supporters of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) say the tribunal is used politically to eradicate its leaders. The Bangladesh war of independence caused an estimated 10 million civilians to flee to India, and an estimated 3 million deaths. Subhan has denied all charges.

Brazil: indigenous reserve attacked in Amazon

The Tenharim indigenous reserve at Manicore in Brazil's Amazonas state was attacked Dec. 27, with several houses set afire by local farmers and loggers. Townspeople in the region say members of the indigenous group abducted three contractors on Dec. 16. The men were all in employ of business interests seeking to develop the region, including Eletrobrás Amazonas Energia. The popular theory is that the three were seized in retaliation for the death of a Tenharim cacique, or traditional leader, Ivan Tenharim, who was found mortally wounded on a roadside Dec. 3. On Dec. 25, some 3,000 residents rallied in the town of Humaitá to demand that police enter the reserve to hunt for the missing men. The march turned violent, with protesters attacking and torching the local offices of the government's indigenous agency FUNAI, as well as a health clinic established for Tenharim residents, a boat used to ferry the Tenharim from their reserve to the town, and several vehicles. The riot was finally put down when a detachment of some 150 federal police were mobilized to the town. Several Tenharim families sought refuge at the nearby base of the army's 54th Jungle Infantry Battalion, fearing attack. On Dec. 28, Brazil's Justice Ministry ordered a 200-strong special federal police task-force to search the Tenharim reserve. (HispanTV, BBC Mundo, Dec. 29; G1, Brazil, Radio New Zealand, Dec. 28; BBC News, Acritica, Manaus, Lingua Ferina blog, Brazil, Dec. 27; AP, Rondoniagora, AcriticaCombate Racismo Ambiental blog, Brazil, Dec. 26)

Syria: massacres and hypocrisy

A massacre at Adra, outside Damascus, is being attributed to the Nusra Front, which on Dec. 16 may have killed over 100 civilians after seizing the town, targetting Alawites, Druze, and Christians. Some civilians were reportedly "saved" by regime army troops, who stormed houses where they were being held. These claims are aggressively plied by the official media in countries that back the Assad regime (Russia TodayVoice of RussiaTehran TimesXinhua) and the "alternative" media in countries that oppose the Assad regime (Antiwar.comIntifada Palestine—which is, very significantly, not based in Palestine, where Assad is actually very unpopular). The anti-Assad Linux Beach blog is skeptical about the claims, noting that the presumably more objective BBC News account put the death toll at 10, not the 100 attributed elsewhere to anonymous regime sources. Linux Beach also engages in the cyber-sleuth routine to argue that some photos supposedly taken by the jihadists of bodies they'd mutilated were actually recycled from other, unrelated atrocities (a trick the Assad-supporters are always accusing the mainstream media of). Linux Beach more astutely points out that the Adra claims come just as "the death toll from a 10-day Syrian regime air offensive on Aleppo rebels passed 400," in the words of AFP. Most have been killed by the regime's improvised "barrel-bombs," seemingly designed to win the maximum number of civilian casualties. ("Aleppo rebels" actually means rebel-held areas of the city; we may assume a high proportion of non-combatant deaths.) A Google News search for "Aleppo" brings up such mainstream US sources as the Washington Post, LA Times and CNN. Pretty predictable, eh?

Congo: intervention force against Islamist rebels?

The bodies of at least 21 people, including women and children, were found after an attack near Beni in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN "peacekeeping" mission MONUSCO said Dec. 16. Local civil organization North Kivu Civil Society blamed the massacre on Ugandan Islamist group ADF-NALU. (AFP, Dec. 17) Days earlier, MONUSCO announced that following the defeat of M23 rebels in North Kivu province, UN and government forces will shift focus to northeastern Orientale, giving armed groups there a two-week ultimatum to surrender their weapons and return to civilian life. Said MONUSCO commander Gen. Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz: "We are going to use force. We will do everything we can to allow the FARDC [DRC armed forces] to take on these armed groups." He named ADF-NALU, along with the Congolese People's Liberation Army (ALPCU) and the Patriotic Resistance Front in Ituri (FRPI). (IRIN, Dec. 13) The Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda has operated in the DRC-Uganda borderlands since 1995. (International Crisis Group)

Protests as Bangladesh executes Islamist leader

The Bangladesh government on Dec. 12 executed Abdul Quader Mollah, assistant secretary general of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party. Mollah was convicted by Bangladesh's International Crimes Tribunal (ICTB) for crimes committed during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War and sentenced to life in prison; however, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh in September sentenced Mollah to death without appeal. Mullah's execution has sparked widespread protests throughout the country, with opposition groups calling for a countrywide strike on Dec. 15.

Colombia: kingpin named in Trujillo Massacre

The Fiscalía, Colombia's public prosecutor, on Dec. 9 formally charged a notorious drug kingpin for masterminding several massacres between 1988 and 1994 in which hundreds of people were killed. The crimes, dubbed the Massacre of Trujillo after the town where they were committed in Valle del Cauca department, resulted in the deaths of up to 342 people. Among the victims were unionists, alleged guerrilla supporters, and a priest. Some of the victims were tortured and dismembered as a warning to rebel groups FARC and ELN, and their sympathizers. Diego Montoya AKA "Don Diego" is accused of conspiring with members of the army, police, regional politicians and paramilitary groups aligned to the infamous Cali Cartel. Several members of the security forces have also been charged for their alleged role in the killings.

French troops to Central African Republic

France is escalating its military mission in the Central African Republic, airlifting troops and equipment to the capital Bangui ahead of an anticipated UN-backed intervention. With some 400 French troops stationed in Bangui presently, at least another 1,000 are on their way, said Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. Paris, echoing the findings of rights groups, says the country has descended into chaos since the Seleka rebel coalition, many of its fighters apparently from neighboring Chad and Sudan, ousted president François Bozize in March 24. (France24, Nov. 29) With the French announcement, Amnesty International issued a statement calling for the UN Security Council to "authorize a robust peacekeeping force" for the CAR. "If the Security Council does not act now to stem the horrific cycle of violence in the Central African Republic, that failure will hang heavily on the international community for years to come," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty's secretary general. (AI, Dec. 12)

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