In this week’s PSR: Guatemala elections; Nigeria suicide bomb; al-Qaeda leader killed in Somalia; Sudan strife; Brazil land activist killed; Colombian compensation for victims; US guns in Mexico violence; Burma clashes; Foreigners barred from Tibet; Philippine journalist killed; Belarus protests; Czech missile defense; Kazakh summit; Spy in Egypt; Libyan updates; Tunisian leader faces trial; Afghanistan most dangerous for women; Nepal landmine free; Pakistani police violence. 

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IPSI's Peace & Security Report (PSR) is a concise weekly e-publication intended to keep busy students, academics, advocates, and practitioners in the conflict management community briefed on pertinent global news, events, and trends.  Meticulously researched and written by IPSI, the PSR empowers us all to take a step back from our immediate deadlines each Friday and gain a greater understanding of the week's global events.

Featured Article


Guatemala Elections

Guatemalans go to the polls in September 2011 to elect a president, the Congress and local officials. The vote itself is likely to be reasonably free, but violence and unregulated campaign finance imperil the country's political institutions. Deteriorated security, drug traffickers' brutality and polarised politics leave candidates especially vulnerable to attacks. An exorbitant campaign, meanwhile, threatens to indebt office-holders to powerful financial interests, including organised crime, deepening corruption and widening the gulf between citizens and their politicians. State security agencies should redouble efforts to prevent bloodshed, especially in the most dangerous municipalities; politicians and parties must fully reveal who funds them, and the Public Prosecutor's office, electoral authorities and donors should press them to do so. Read Full Report >>

NIGERIA: Suicide bomb attack on Police Headquarters
A suicide bomber, the first such case in Nigeria, targeted the country's police headquarters in the capital city of Abuja on June 16 less than a mile away from the presidential office and residence, killing at least two and injuring many. A spokesman for Boko Haram, a radical Islamic Nigerian group, claimed responsibility for the explosion.  Comment: Boko Haram claimed responsibility earlier this month for a series of bombings that killed 16 people after President Jonathan's inauguration. The group is also blamed for the killings of Muslim and Christian religious leaders and at least three bomb attacks this month in Borno State. The group calls for strict Sharia law in Nigeria.  (AFP, AllAfrica, VOA, VOA)

SOMALIA: Senior al-Qaeda operative killed
U.S. and Somali officials confirmed on June 11 that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was killed in an exchange of fire with the Somali police in Mogadishu on June 8. Fazul Mohammed was allegedly the mastermind behind the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed 225 people, including 12 Americans. He was regarded as the most senior al-Qaeda operative in East Africa, and the U.S. had offered $5 million for information on his whereabouts. Comment: Many Al Qaeda members associated with the 1998 bombings took refuge in lawless regions of Somalia. Fazul's death is now expected to create a leadership vacuum. (CNN, LATimes, Reuters)  

SUDAN: Fighting continues ahead of split
The situation in Kadugli, capital of South Kordofan state, deteriorated further this week after intense fighting started two weeks ago. The North Sudan Army on June 16 vowed to continue fighting against the "armed rebellion" of the South Kordofan fighters. The UN pulled out its non-essential staff from South Kordogan in view of the situation even as additional peacekeepers were sent to the state. In the town of Abyei, adjacent to South Kordofan, Southern and Northern troops clashed despite an agreement earlier this week to demilitarize the area. Comment: 60,000 people are estimated to have been displaced from South Kordofan in the last two weeks, and roughly 100,000 people have fled southwards since northern troops entered Abyei in May. Southern Sudan is set to gain independence on July 9, although the current fighting points to the volatile situation in the region ahead of the impending split. (BBC, NYTimes, Reuters)   

BRAZIL: Fifth land activist killed within last month
Another land activist was found shot and killed over the weekend in the northern state of Para, the epicenter of Brazil's violent environmental struggle. The 31-year-old, father of three, was part of a landless settlement that occupied unused farmland, farming plots of land until a government redistribution program recognized their claim.  The victim allegedly argued with an illegal logger and according to one investigator, "...was a marked man from then on." The president of another landless camp stated, "We have a lot of problems with the loggers - they invade land, and clear out forest.  We fight them, but it's complicated. Men have stopped at my house looking for me. Now I have to be more careful." Comment:  In the last two decades, more than 1,150 rural activists have been killed in conflicts over land and logging. Amnesty International called on Brazil's authorities last week to put an end to the murders and virtual impunity for the perpetrators. The increased violence prompted the Brazilian government last month to offer increased protection for activists and scale up policing in the Amazon region. (Global Post, Miami Herald, BBC, AFP)

COLOMBIA:  Government pledges to compensate victims of violence
An important gesture of reconciliation was made on Friday, when Colombian President Santos signed The Victims' and Land Restitution Law. An estimated 4 million families who have been affected by the country's long-running armed conflict will receive compensation through the return of an estimated 17 million acres of land and payment of damages to relatives of those killed.  UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon who attended the signing pledged the UN would help Colombia enact the legislation.  The law, which may cost up to $20 billion, is seen as largely symbolic by some. One member of the Embera Chami tribe stated, "This sounds like good news, but they've made a lot of promises before and look how we are. We barely make enough to feed ourselves."  Comment:  As combatants have no intention of simply returning land, officials fear violent backlash; some armed groups have already tried to undermine the process. Ten land-rights activists have been killed this year; the latest death on Tuesday. (UN, Miami Herald, BBC, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal)

U.S./MEXICO: U.S. guns fuel Mexico's violence
A U.S. Congressional report has blamed firearms traffic from the U.S. for the escalating drug-related violence in neighboring Mexico, pointing out that 70 percent of guns recovered from crime scenes in Mexico have been traced back to the United States. From 2009 to 2010, 20,504 out of 29,284 seized guns originated from the U.S. The report offers recommendation including background checks for sales at gun shows and a reinstatement of the assault weapons ban which expired in 2004.  One Congressman stated that publicizing the data would help "ensure that citizens and American politicians were aware of the seriousness of the problem."  Comment: Mexico's President Calderón has repeatedly called for the U.S. to implement stricter firearms laws.  Calderón claims the arms business continues despite the escalating violence "...because of the profit which the U.S. arms industry makes."  Mexico possesses only one gun store in the entire country, which is run by the military.  (BBC, El Universal, Washington Post, BBC)
Researched/Written by  Leah Cullins

East Asia
BURMA: Clashes near border with China displace thousands
Rebels from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) clashed with government troops for the eighth day on Thursday, after refusing to remove fighters from the Taping River where China's Datang Corporation is set to build two dams. The U.S. Campaign for Burma reports that 20 people have died and 2,000 have fled the area, many to China, as a result of the conflict. La Nam, a spokesman for the rebel group, told BBC, "We don't want the war to spread country-wide" and "We don't believe the negotiation between government and us could be possible to stop the conflict. We wish a powerful neighbour country to mediate between us to relax the tension," not specifying who the neighboring country might be. Comment: In 1994, the KIA established a peaceful agreement with the Burmese junta that lasted until 2010 when the government attempted to incorporate the group into a national border guard force under army leadership. Amid international sanctions for human rights abuses from the U.S. and Europe, Chinese investment in Burma accounted for 41 percent of total foreign investment last year; a sum of roughly $8.27 billion. (Irrawaddy, Daily Herald, AFP, BBCReuters)

CHINA: Foreign tourists temporarily barred from entering Tibet
A travel agent at China Travel Service in Lhasa told the Herald Sun that they will not be "admitting foreign tourists" to Tibet until July 26, while the Global Times quoted the manager of a Lhasa based travel company saying the ban would last until mid-August due to "safety concerts." China plans to hold celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of China's rule over Tibet sometime in July, though specific dates have not been announced. The Chinese government banned travel to the region for foreign tourists in March 2008 after violent anti-government protests and most recently ahead of the three-year anniversary of that event. Comment: The Chinese government is dealing with a recent string of demonstrations throughout the country, increasing their sensitivity to the possibility of future protests. Last Friday, migrant workers in Xintang ignited police vehicles and threw bottles and bricks at government offices after a pregnant woman from the south was pushed down in the street by the police. Earlier in the week, thousands clashed with police in Lichuan after a local city council member died amid speculation that he was beaten to death during questioning. (Herald Sun, Phayul, Asahi, Sydney Morning HeraldReuters

PHILIPPINES: Journalist slain; fourth this year  
Romeo Olea, an outspoken radio broadcaster who worked for the provincial radio station dwEB-FM in Iriga city, died on Monday after he was shot in the back on his way to work. Romeo's wife, Raquel, reports that he received threats against his life prior to the premiere of his radio program "Anything Goes," which began three months ago. Raquel expressed her husband's passion for his work in an interview on Monday, saying that her husband told her, "if he stopped making an exposé, nobody else will do the job." Local authorities have formed a task force to further investigate Romeo's death and are reviewing his previous broadcasts with the hopes of finding a possible lead. Comment: The Committee to Protect Journalists placed the Philippines in the number three spot on their list of places with high numbers of media killings, yet very few convictions, after only Iraq and Somalia. Since Democracy was restored in 1986 there have been 145 media killings in the Philippines, 100 of which were after 2001. (Irrawaddy, Bangkok Post, Phil Star, Inquirer, GMA News

Researched/Written by  Matthew McGrath 

Europe & Central Asia
BELARUS: Police disperse crowds in Minsk; President vows not to allow further protests
On Wednesday, up to several thousand people turned out in Minsk to protest economic hardship, defying a warning by President Lukashenko that he would not allow further protests in the country. The police sealed off Oktyabrskaya Square in Minsk, which is close to Mr. Lukashenko's main administration building, but several hundred people gathered in nearby streets for a largely silent protest which was then peacefully dispersed. The demonstrators responded to repeated calls on social media sites for a public show of dissatisfaction with the government, to which Lukashenko responded that he would "strike hard" against them. Comment: On Sunday and Monday, police forcibly broke up a protest by motorists on the border with Poland who were demanding that authorities revoke a decision to limit the amount of gasoline and other goods that can be taken out of Belarus. U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday extended, by another year, a measure blocking any property in the United States owned by Belarusian leader Alexandr Lukashenko and some other Belarusian government officials. (RIA Novosti, BBC, RFE/RL, Belarus News)

CZECH REPUBLIC: Czechs withdraw from U.S. missile defense plans
The Czech Republic and U.S. abandoned plans to deploy a missile early warning center as part of a European missile defense system in the Czech Republic, Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra stated Wednesday. After meeting with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn, Vondra expressed his country's frustration at having a minor role in a new U.S. plan, stating the Czech Republic did not want a "consolation prize" from the U.S., but instead "will look for other options to participate in the project." He said the U.S. reconsidered its intentions, and the system will instead be part of NATO's structure. Comment: The Bush administration planned to install a missile defense radar base southwest of Prague, but the Obama administration scrapped the plan in 2009 as part of the reset with Russia and proposed establishing an early warning center. (České Noviny, RFE/RL, RIA Novosti, Prague Daily Monitor, NYT)

REGIONAL: Kazakhstan hosts SCO 10th anniversary summit
Leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states (China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) met on Tuesday and Wednesday in the Kazakh capital, Astana, for a summit to discuss regional stability and security, including the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking. The meeting was also attended by the leaders of observer states (Iran, Pakistan, India, and Mongolia) and Afghanistan, which is currently seeking observer status. The summit included, among other things, discussions on stability in Afghanistan, Iran's nuclear program, the conflict in Libya, and NATO missile defense plans, which the group opposed in a declaration on Wednesday. Comment: The six-member SCO was set up in 2001 as a security counterweight to NATO that would allow Russia and China to rival U.S. influence in Asia, but it is now also looking to cooperate at an economic level. Just one day after China and Kazakhstan signed a strategic partnership agreement, this week's summit is the latest in a series of international meetings hosted by Kazakhstan in recent months, including a summit of the OSCE and the annual meeting of the EBRD. Kazakhstan portrays itself as Central Asia's most stable and prosperous state, and President Nazarbayev on Wednesday proposed the creation of a regional security group within the SCO. (Central Asia Newswire, RIA Novosti, ITAR-TASS, Reuters)

Researched/Written by  Mark Simeone

Middle East & North Africa
EGYPT: Israeli-American charged with spying; arrested in Cairo 
On Sunday, Egyptian authorities arrested an Emory University Law student in a five-star hotel in downtown Cairo.  Ilan Grapel, a former Israeli paratrooper, was arrested on suspicion of "spying and trying to influence protesters during the uprising," which took place last February.  An official announced that the prosecutors suspect Garpel paid protesters to incite clashes with military members, and drum up the tensions between Christians and Muslims. He reportedly entered al-Azhar mosque to entice protesters, before heading to a Jewish Synagogue to meet with "non-Egyptian individuals."  Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that he "has no idea why Ilan Grapel should be detained," denying the student is a spy for Israel. Comment: In Late May, Egyptian authorities had also made an arrest to an Iranian diplomat on suspicions of organizing "spy rings." Qassem al Husseini was expelled from Cairo soon after as he enjoyed diplomatic immunity.  Egypt and Iran have not had strong diplomatic relations since Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. (CNN, Alarabiya, AFP, RadioSawa, Aljazeera)     

LIBYA: Gadhafi suspected of using UNESCO World Heritage site to hide weapons
On Tuesday, CNN reported NATO refused to "rule out" the shelling of the well-preserved Roman ruin Leptis Magna; rebels fighting Gadhafi's forces claim the Libyan military is hiding equipment and Grad type missiles in the historic site.  The rebels also believe that Gadhafi forces use hospitals, mosques, schools and "wherever difficult for NATO to strike," to hide equipment and launch missiles. A NATO official said Tuesday they would continue to "strike military vehicles, military forces, military equipment or military infrastructure that threaten Libyan civilians as necessary."  UNESCO has called on both the Libyans and NATO to protect heritage sites.  Comment: NATO forces have been bombarding Gadhafi's military for almost three months.  The rebels have had success gradually approaching the capitol Tripoli with NATO's continuous pressure on the Libyan military.  Despite NATO's winning offensive, NATO faces a number of challenges internally, mainly concerning further funding to "see the mission through."    (Time, UPI, UNnews, Newser, Alquds, Salon, FT)

TUNISIA: Former Tunisian leader Zine Al Abedine Ben Ali and wife face trial
On Tuesday, Tunisia's interim Prime Minister Beji Caid announced that former president Ben Ali will be tried in absentia on Monday of next week in both civilian and military courts.  The former president of Tunisia faces a number of charges against him, possibly resulting in a five to20 year prison sentence. His wife Leila also faces charges of drug and weapons possession and embezzlement.  Earlier this month, UAE froze the accounts of Ben Ali and another 120 Tunisians after his lawyer in Paris said that he is "unfairly portrayed and discredited by political opponents seeking to make a break with their country's past." Recent searches at his former offices were "merely stage dressing," according to Ben Ali, who claims the charges are meant to discredit him. Comment: Ben Ali faces up to 90 different charges, yet Tunisia has been unable to receive a response from Saudi Arabia on his extradition.  Ben Ali has been sheltered in Saudi since he fled his country last January. Many Tunisians are dissatisfied with the decision to try him in absentia, demanding Ben Ali's presence during trial.  Tawfiq Brik, a prominent political activist, said that this move by the interim government is nothing more than a "publicity stunt to manipulate public opinion."  (Aljazeera, Alittihad, Maghrebia, WSJ, Maktoob

Researched/Written by Ibrahim Al-Hajjri

South Asia
AFGHANISTAN: Most dangerous place for women
On Wednesday, a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll named Afghanistan the most dangerous place in the world for women. The country was ranked worst in three of the six categories including health, non-sexual violence, and lack of access to economic resources. The continued conflict and strict societal practices also contributed to the ranking. Comment: Ranked behind Afghanistan, the top five worst countries include: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, India, and Somalia respectively. Standings for both India and Somalia surprised some experts, but as the chief executive of the foundation, Monique Villa, noted the, "survey shows that 'hidden dangers' like a lack of education or terrible access to healthcare are as deadly, if not more so, than physical dangers like rape and murder which usually grab the headlines." (BBC, Outlook Afghanistan, Reuters, Trust Law)

NEPAL: Officially landmine free
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Khanal declared Nepal a landmine free country. The last mines were cleared this week in Phulchowki by the Nepal army. During the civil war, over 50 mine fields were laid by the government and in the five years since the conflict ended, over 470 Nepalese were injured by mines. Comment: Nepal is the second country in Asia to be landmine free, after China. News of Nepal's accomplishment was met with applause from the international community, including the UK which contributed £5 million to the cause. (BBC, eKantipur, The Himalayan Times

PAKISTAN: Police kill unarmed man, spark investigation for justice
The Supreme Court on Tuesday, called for the removal of five police officers suspected of involvement in the killing of a young student, Sarfaraz Shah. The killing, which was filmed by a nearby observer, occurred on June 8 in Karachi's Benazir Bhutto Park. Video footage portrays an unarmed Shah pleading with officers to release him before he is killed. Comment: The officers and a park gatekeeper are facing murder and terrorism charges. The incident comes in the wake of the Mumbai attack hearings, during which Pakistan's security forces were implicated in the violence. Increased corruption among the government and police agencies is threatening stability in the country. (Amnesty International, BBC, The Daily Times, Pak Tribune)

Researched/Written by  Kamila A. Badat

June 17, 2011
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In This Issue
Featured Article
East Asia
Europe & Central Asia
Middle East & N. Africa
South Asia

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