MAHMUDIYA Residents gathered at the site of one of several car bomb attacks.
By YASIR GHAZI and ROD NORDLAND Published: July 23,
BAGHDAD — Al Qaeda in Iraq carried out one of the most coordinated and baldly sectarian series of attacks in years on Monday, aiming for Shiite targets with car bombs, checkpoint ambushes, and assaults on a military base and police officers in their homes in an offensive that its leadership appeared to equate with the Sunni-led uprising in neighboring Syria.
The offensive by Al Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni extremist group, left at least 100 people dead, in what the Iraqi authorities described as an ambitiously staged sequence of 40 attacks that covered a broad area of the country. The attacks reinforced fears that the civil conflict in Syria, which has become increasingly sectarian in nature, now threatened to spill over the border.
The attacks followed a declaration by Al Qaeda in Iraq’s leader, Abu Bakir al-Baghdadi, drawing parallels between its hostility to the Shiite-led government in Iraq and the predominantly Sunni revolt against President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, whose Alawite sect is closely aligned to the Shiites.
Mr. Baghdadi, in a 33-minute speech posted Sunday on a Web site often used for messages by Al Qaeda, promised that a new offensive, which he called Breaking Down Walls, would begin soon. He described the impending campaign as part of a battle by Sunnis against Iraq’s Shiite leaders and people.
Map of the districts of Cyprus, with English annotations, and showing the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, United Kingdom Sovereign Base Areas, and United Nations buffer zone. The TRNC section illustrates the current de facto district boundaries following this map as a guide. The northern districts are labelled in Turkish. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
June 9, 2012: Turkey announced that it will give the Tunisian government $100 million. The money is for economic and social development projects but will probably be spent very quickly since Tunisia is experiencing a severe economic crunch. Turkey will also loan Tunisia $400 million at a low interest rate. Tunisia’s Ennadha Party is a moderate Islamist party which models its political program on Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Several Tunisian politicians are warning that the country could face another political explosion unless it can revive the stalled economy and put people back to work. The AKP has told the Tunisian government that it strongly favors a secular democracy and that Turkey will try to help the Tunisian people manage the transition from dictatorship to democracy. At the moment that means providing economic aid.
June 8, 2012: Maps stir passions in the Balkans. Bulgaria’s foreign minister and Turkey’s Bulgarian ambassador met to discuss a map that appeared with educational materials published for schools in Istanbul three years ago. The map showed a Greater Turkey of a sort, with parts of Bulgaria (including Sofia) and Greece’s Thessalonica (Salonika) included as Turkish territory. All of Armenia, part of northern Iraq, and part of Georgia were also labeled as Turkish territory. Cyprus was also included as Turkish territory. The government of Turkey has assured Bulgaria that it does not have any territorial claims on any neighboring nations. Turkey has disavowed the map and said the maps, which appeared on a compact disk, were withdrawn from the schools when they were discovered and publicized.
Greece acknowledged that it now faces an energy crisis because it cannot pay its electricity, gas, and oil bills. The government and Greek energy corporations are looking for up to $400 million in emergency bridge loans in order to avoid power cuts during the summer tourist season. Though overall demand for energy has been declining, due to the economic crisis, Greece imports most of its power, including electrical power. Tourism is a major industry in Greece and despite numerous travel and tourist bargains, tourists have been reluctant to visit Greece because of the riots and other social turmoil accompanying the economic crisis.
Addis Ababa by SPOT Satellite (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
June 1, 2012 05:20 PM
Ten Somalis and one Kenyan are currently under trial in Addis Ababa for their alleged involvement in an al-Qaeda bombing plot after weapons and training manuals were seized in the Bale region of southeastern Ethiopia last December. The Kenyan, Hassan Jarsoo, has admitted his role in the alleged plot, but the others, who allegedly include several members of the army of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, have denied their involvement. Six of the defendants are being tried in absentia (Walta Info Online [Addis Ababa], May 20; Africa Review [Nairobi], May 22; AFP, May 18).
Ethiopia is one of the earliest homes of both Christianity and Islam, with its 85 million people being roughly 60 percent Christian and 30 percent Muslim. These communities have traditionally lived in harmony, but in recent years Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christians and Sufi-based Muslims have come under destabilizing pressure from external sources, primarily from American backed Christian evangelists and Saudi/Kuwaiti backed Salafists. Both of these trends have caused dissension in the religious communities by describing traditional Ethiopian forms of worship as deviations if not outright heresy and insisting that their adherents must convert to these new, more fundamentalist forms of worship. Ill-considered intervention by the central government has only inflamed the situation, and the result has been a growing wave of religious violence in a nation that has prided itself on religious tolerance.
Islam arrived in Ethiopia even before it had firmly established itself in Arabia, as the Prophet Muhammad urged his persecuted followers to flee Mecca in 615 and take refuge in northern Ethiopia, where he promised they would find protection from its just king and his Christian followers. While many returned when Mecca became safe for Muslims, there is some evidence that others stayed in Ethiopia, founding the first Muslim community in Africa. The first muezzin (prayer-caller) in Islam was the ethnic Ethiopian Bilal ibn Rabah (a.k.a. Bilal al-Habashi), one of the Prophet’s closest companions. The Ethiopian city of Harar is regarded in some traditions as the “fourth-holiest city in Islam,” with mosques dating back to the 10th century and over 100 shrines.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told parliament in April that the government was “observing tell-tale signs of [Islamic] extremism. We should nip this scourge in the bud” (Reuters, May 10). In response to fears of an incipient Salafist movement to establish an Islamic state in Ethiopia, the government is attempting to make a little-known and non-threatening Islamic sect known as al-Ahbash the dominant form of Islam in the country, a solution that has inflamed Sufis and Salafists alike. The Ahbash movement was founded by Abdullah al-Harari (a.k.a. Abdullah al-Habashi, 1910-2008), a Harari scholar of Islam whose views were regarded locally as divisive, resulting in his being forced to leave for Lebanon in 1950. Al-Harari founded al-Ahbash, also known as the Association of Islamic Charitable Projects, in the 1980s. Ethiopian Salafists have complained the government is importing Ahbash imams from Lebanon to teach local Muslims that Salafism is a non-Muslim movement (OnIslam.com, April 29).
Map of Kosovo UNMIK Mission (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Posted on May 22nd, 2012
The May 17 arrest of a young Serb employee of UNMIK’s north Mitrovica office suggests that the Kosovo Albanians have no intention of accepting a negotiated outcome for the region north of the Ibar River.
By Gerard M. Gallucci
The May 17 arrest of a young Serb employee of UNMIK’s north Mitrovica office removes any good reason for resisting the judgement that the Kosovo Albanians have no intention of accepting a negotiated outcome for the region north of the Ibar River. They do not want negotiations on the north, they just want the north. So, to head off any possibility of having to accept compromise, they will provoke the Serbs there into refusing to deal with them.
The young man arrested frequently travelled to visit family in the mixed north Mitrovica village of Suvi Do. To get there, he’d have to pass through an Albanian area. At that point, he would also have to pass by a unit of the so-called “regional” Kosovo police that EULEX allows free reign in this sensitive area. His routines were known. He could have been stopped at any time, as any of the Serbs living there can be. The decision to arrest him at this point on “suspicion” that he was involved in a demonstration in April to prevent the Kosovo Albanian police from setting up another provocative checkpoint – where there had just been a deadly explosion – was clearly political. (EULEX has still not managed to release any information on who might have been responsible for the explosion.) Many, many Serbs turned out for this. The targeting of a local UNMIK employee also allowed Pristina to take another shot at the UN office in north Mitrovica.
A cynic might say that the arrest was Pristina’s way of “recruiting” Serbs to take part in its “dialogue” over the north that it plans to unilaterally launch in September. The truth, however, is more basic than that. The Kosovo Albanians do not want to negotiate over the north, they want to have their “rule of law” imposed there so that they can use it to enforce more “returns” and eventually push the Serbs out entirely. They expected the internationals to do this for them; first UNMIK, then the ICO and EULEX. Having failed in that, they have mounted steady provocations since July 2011. Now they see the internationals pushing them to talk with the northern Serbs. So they provoke the Serbs, either to set off violence that they can use to justify new repression or to simply strengthen the hands of those Serbs opposed to talks.
By Javad Heydarian May 10, 2012
There are many reasons why Syria isn’t another Libya and so requires an alternative model of resolution, perhaps, similar to Yemen and Egypt where a political arrangement paved the way for leadership transition. This is precisely where the role of Syria’s main Asian allies is crucial to any kind of lasting progress.
Clearly, Syria is in the midst of a protracted humanitarian crisis. With thousands killed and ongoing deadly clashes between security forces and armed opposition – including a bombing attack Thursday in Damascus that killed dozens and shaved the facade off a military intelligence building – the international community is still struggling to effectively implement a roadmap to peace.
Ongoing shelling of opposition strongholds, especially in Homs and Idlib, has further intensified calls for some kind of international intervention, sentiments given voice at the Friends of Syria Summit at the end of March in Istanbul. Yet it’s also clear that there’s little appetite, especially among many NATO countries, for intervention, whether in the form of establishing humanitarian buffer zones or the imposition of a no-fly-zone.
On top of the mission creep associated with the Libyan intervention, Syria’s superior defensive capabilities, relatively astute and intact leadership, densely populated landscape, and lack of hydrocarbon resources has so far deterred any direct intervention. Yet what makes Syria so special is the degree to which it enjoys tremendous operational, diplomatic, and strategic support from three Asian powers: namely, Iran, China, and Russia.
This means that there only two realistic options: first, the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) plan to step up its logistical and financial support for the Free Syrian Army (FSA) in order to reverse the regime’s military edge; or an international mission followed by independent monitoring and an eventual political settlement between the government and all relevant factions in the opposition, especially the Syrian National Council (SNC).
Two separate military coups in Mali and Guinea-Bissau threaten the stability of the region. But will an intervention by ECOWAS actually resolve these conflicts or just complicate them?
By Scott Baldauf, Staff Writer
posted May 4, 2012 at 2:39 pm EDT
As military junta leaders in Mali struggle to retain control, West Africa’s group for trade, the Economic Community for West African States, is preparing to send in troops to protect citizens and oversee a transition of power back to civilian rule.
At a leadership summit held in Dakar, Senegal on Thursday, ECOWAS announced it was also preparing to send troops to the West African country of Guinea-Bissau, where another military coup toppled the civilian government of President Raimundo Pereira and his prime minister, Carlos Domingos Gomes, Jr.
While the coup in Mali has drawn the most attention – with Tuareg separatist rebels taking advantage of the disarray to effectively take control of northern Mali – the two separate coups together threaten the security of the entire region, says Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, the current chair of ECOWAS.
“We would like for all the new Malian leaders to work together for a reunified Mali,’’ said Mr. Ouattara, who himself came to power through foreign intervention. Ouattara won Ivory Coast’s Nov. 2010 elections, but the incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down, and launched a four-month civil war that killed thousands. French peacekeepers stationed in Ivory Coast provided air support while troops loyal to Ouattara swept through the country and arrested Gbagbo in his palace.
Ouattara said that ECOWAS would soon begin negotiations with northern Mali’s rebels.
If ECOWAS does end up intervening, it will be a test of the West African organizations’ political will to solve regional problems before they spread across borders. Like the larger continent-wide body, the African Union, ECOWAS has evolved from a mainly trade talk-shop into a venue for conflict-resolution, and its member nations, led primarily by Nigeria, have increasingly shown a willingness to use military force if necessary.
Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 10 Issue: 8
April 20, 2012 02:50 PM By: Jacob Zenn
Zhou Yongkang (left), member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), shakes hands with a local Uygur farmer in Kashi. (Xinhua)
China typically exercises caution when making public statements about terrorist attacks in Xinjiang. When China blames attacks on Pakistan-based terrorist organizations, such as the possibly defunct East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), it risks adding tensions to the Sino-Pakistani “all-weather” friendship.  However, when China blames attacks on local Uyghurs it is tantamount to an admission that its policies in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region have not created a “harmonious society.”
In unprecedented fashion, China recently pointed the finger at Pakistan after a February 28 attack in Yecheng, a city 200 kilometers from the oasis city of Kashgar, close to the border with Tajikistan. The Chairman of the Xinjiang Regional Government decisively remarked on March 7 that the attackers had “one thousand and one links” to Pakistan (Times of India, March 8). China further implicated Pakistan on April 6, albeit indirectly, when it published on the Ministry of Public Security website profiles of six Uyghurs from China who allegedly operate in “South Asia” as members of the ETIM.  Despite these allegations, there is almost no evidence that the recent attack in Yecheng was plotted from Pakistan and there are only inconclusive reports that the two major attacks in Xinjiang in 2011 were planned in Pakistan. there is scant evidence that recent attacks in Xinjiang have actually been plotted from Pakistan. It is possible that China is publically citing Pakistan as the source of terrorism in Xinjiang to put pressure on Pakistan for strategic purposes or to deflect attention from the regional government’s inability to contain outbreaks of violence in Xinjiang.
One of the strongest pieces of evidence establishing a Pakistan tie to terrorism in Xinjiang comes from a martyrdom video posted on the Shmukh al-Islam online forum in September 2011 that showed Memtieli Tiliwaldi training with the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) in what appears to be the mountainous tribal regions of Pakistan (see Terrorism Monitor, January 26).  Tiliwaldi had been killed by Chinese security forces days after taking part in attacks on Han Chinese pedestrians and diners in Kashgar on July 30 and July 31, 2011 that left ten people dead. The video, which was allegedly created by Nurmemet Memetmin, one of the six Uyghurs profiled on the Ministry of Public Security website, seems to prove that Tiliwaldi trained in Pakistan with the TIP and then carried out attacks in Kashgar. However, one of several issues with this video is that it is unclear why the TIP would honor only Tiliwaldi and not the other dozen “martyrs” that took part in the Kashgar attacks if the TIP was indeed responsible.