ISIS

Iraq: thousands displaced in new battle for Sinjar

Clashes between the Iraqi military and a local Yazidi militia have forced more than 3,000 people to flee the northern town of Sinjar. Fighting erupted May 1, when the military launched an operation to clear the area of the Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS), a militia with ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Many of those displaced are Yazidis who survived the 2014 Islamic State genocide against the ethnicity. They are now distributed in camps across Iraq's Kurdish region. In 2020, Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) signed a pact to restore their joint control to the autonomous Yazidi enclave, known as Ezidikhan. The deal has not been implemented until now, despite growing pressure from Turkey, which has carried out intermittent air-strikes on the Sinjar area. (WaPo, AP, TNH)

Podcast: Somalia in the Great Game

In Episode 122 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the ongoing conflict in Somalia in light of both climate change and Great Power politics. Despite a pseudo-withdrawal of US forces, the Pentagon continues drone strikes against the Shaabab insurgents—as the Horn of Africa faces it worst drought in a generation, with millions on the brink of extreme hunger and possible starvation. A paradox of the situation is that "government-controlled" Somalia (the southern third of the country) is not controlled by any government, but wracked by insurgency. In contrast, the unrecognized de facto independent state of Somaliland in the north is a bastion of comparative stability and even social progress. Reports of Russian designs on Somaliland as a potential site for a naval base threaten to draw it into the imperial contest for control of the strategic Horn. Progressives in the West can demand international recognition for an independent and non-aligned Somaliland. We can also loan solidarity to the Sufi resistance now fighting both the Shaabab and the "recognized" Mogadishu quasi-government. Most importantly, we can support the secular and pro-democratic voices of civil society that are standing up for human rights and basic freedoms at great risk to themselves, and in spite of everything. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon.

Confused DRC peace dialogue in Kenya

The first round of talks between armed groups and the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo concluded April 28 in Nairobi. The Islamist Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) wasn't invited, however, while the Ituri-based CODECO was approached but didn't attend. M23 representatives were meanwhile ordered out after their forces resumed clashes with the DRC military. The list of participants was initially unclear and analysts seemed confused by the meeting's strategy as rebels arrived in dribs and drabs.

French forces out of Mali, into Niger

Lawmakers in Niger have approved a bill that clears the way for more foreign troops to be deployed in the country, which is fighting several jihadist insurgencies. The move comes as French and European forces withdraw from neighboring Mali, having fallen out with the ruling junta there. Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum had already announced plans in February to absorb some of the departing soldiers. But passing the bill through parliament formalizes the decision, amid rising anti-French sentiment in the country and the wider region.

EU ends Mali training as junta turns to Russia

The European Union announced April 11 that it is halting its military training mission in Mali, citing the presence of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group, who are said to have committed a slew of abuses in recent weeks alongside the Malian armed forces. The training mission, known as EUTM Mali, was launched in 2013 to help restore state authority after much of the country's north had been captured by jihadist and separatist rebels. Thousands of Malian troops benefited from courses, although the soldiers were not vetted for involvement in rights abuses before their training, or monitored for violations after. The EU was therefore accused of supporting an army that has killed more civilians than jihadists in some years. The EUTM suspension comes two months after France announced the withdrawal of its counter-jihadist forces in Mali following its feud with the country's ruling junta. Humanitarian needs are deepening amid the diplomatic and security shifts, while rights abuses have exploded since Wagner Group's arrival.

Russian mercenaries accused in Mali massacre

Malian armed forces and associated foreign soldiers are believed to have summarily executed an estimated 300 civilian men in a town they occupied in late March, Human Rights Watch says in a new report April 5, calling it "worst single atrocity reported in Mali's decade-long armed conflict." The men were detained at a marketplace in the central town of Moura, Mopti region, during a military operation that began March 27. Army troops and foreign soldiers—identified by several sources as Russians—are said by witnesses and survivors to have broken the detainees up into small groups and marched them to an area outside town before putting them to death. 

Israel: detention of 'terror suspects' without charge

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett instructed security services March 28 to hold any "terror suspects" in "administrative detention," even without charge. The order extends to Palestinians within Israeli a policy long applied to Palestinians on the West Bank. Bennett cited "a new situation that requires suitable preparations and adjustment by the security services to the circumstances within which extremist elements of Arab society, directed by extremist Islamic ideology, are carrying out terror attacks and taking lives." The order came a day after two Border Police officers were killed in a shooting attack at the coastal city of Hadera by two Israeli citizens who were said to be supporters of the so-called "Islamic State." The assailants were both shot dead by security forces.

Mali: crisis deepens as foreign forces withdraw

France and allied European countries are withdrawing their military forces from Mali after diplomatic relations broke down with the ruling junta that came to power in last year's coup d'etat. The junta has meanwhile reportedly welcomed in hundreds of mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group. The diplomatic crisis has overshadowed a worsening humanitarian emergency that has seen severe hunger hit the highest level since 2013, when the seizure of large parts of the country by jihadist rebels prompted the French intervention. Over 350,000 people have now fled violence linked to jihadist groups aligned to al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State—a nearly 70% increase from early 2020.

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