While the blame for last week's feeble attempt at securing world peace can be laid at the feet of a bunch of angry football fans and confused Buddhists, this week good, old-fashioned terrorists are the main culprits.
On December 18, 2011, the US officially declared that its combat troops withdrew from Iraq and that the Iraqis were happy and all set up to protect themselves. However, there was no ushering in of an era of prosperity and peace. Instead the violent sectarian rivalry between Sunni and Shia Muslims that dominated "post-victory" Iraq is threatening to blow up once again. On Saturday in Baghdad, at least 32 Shia pilgrims commemorating the death of Imam Musa Kadhim in 799 AD were killed in two separate suicide car-bombings. One bystander talking to AP said: "We took many people out from the buses, and all of them were burned, it was terrible. I will never be able to forget this scene." Happy days :( The Wednesday before, 72 people were killed and 250 wounded across the country in a series of gun and bomb attacks that the Sunni militant group The Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for. These two major incidents, along with a number of smaller attacks, brings the amount of those killed since May up to over 200. These are tough times for the Iraqi authorities, who desperately need to prove their security capabilities (lest they end up begging the Americans for assistance once again) or risk a very violent and destabilizing sectarian civil war.
Nigeria's ongoing and bloody struggle with the Islamic militant group Boko Horam continued this week, as the group claimed responsibility for a series of church bombings that killed 21 people and wounded dozens more in Kaduna state on Sunday. Since 2002, Boko Horam have been fighting to create an Islamic state in Nigeria under Sharia law. Interestingly, their name translates to the catchy "Western Education Is a Sin." Over the past few years, the group have stepped up their attacks and targeted politicians, the press (see the video above), and even the UN, managing to reach the capital Abidjan and the coastal hub of Lagos. As it turns out, this latest attack was supposed to avenge a series of attacks on the Muslim community by Christians. In turn, it sort of led Christian youths to riot, taking down any Muslims in sight. In a statement released by the group's spokesperson, Boko Horam claimed: "Allah has given us victory in the attacks we launched today against churches in Kaduna and Zaria towns which resulted in the deaths of many Christians and security personnel." Nice guys, right? The statement then went on to warn Christians to "either embrace Islam or never have peace of mind." For his part, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has vowed to "crush" Boko Horam by June. Good luck, Jonathan.
The honeymoon period of Libya's Arab Spring revolution came to an abrupt end this week, as NTC [National Transitional Council] troops were sent into the western town of Zintan to quell six days of clashes between rival militia groups. The fighting broke out in December, after a Zintan militia fighter was allegedly shot dead by a member of the al-Mashashia tribe. Interestingly, as a tribe the al-Mashashia never rose up against Gaddafi. Since then, the two militias have been sparring occasionally and the most recent violence cost 16 people their lives. This instability does little to silence the critics of intervention who claim the toppling of Gaddafi has created a massive security vacuum with rival militias fighting for control, human rights abuses on a large scale, and an influx of hi-tech and dangerous weaponry destabilizing the whole region. These clashes will also cool the option of intervention in Syria at a time where it's almost becoming a "now or never" kinda deal.
Speaking of which, the Syrian conflict has ultimately regressed to a February/ March level of violence as the UN monitor mission, whose job it was to make sure both the regime and rebels adhered to Kofi Annan's ceasefire, was suspended on Saturday. Citing earlier instances of their vehicles being attacked by pro-regime civilians and militia and being halted from entering massacre sites, the leader of the mission, Norwegian Major General Robert Mood, said, "The observers will not be conducting patrols and will stay in their locations until further notice." Predictably, the violence has increased since the announcement, with Homs facing another brutal artillery barrage that killed at least 40 on Monday alone. Both sides now see this as a chance for them to eliminate their opposition by intensifying their actions for longer periods of time without being interrupted by the UN. Though this will certainly be more of an advantage to the regime than the rebels.
Last week, Hillary Clinton claimed Russia was supplying Syria with attack helicopters to help crush the increasingly confident Free Syrian Army. This week she was sort of proved right, as a Russian-owned cargo ship traveling to Syria from Russia's Kaliningrad port was halted off the coast of Scotland. The ship was found to be laden with attack helicopters and missiles, and so its insurance was canceled forcing it to return to Russia. Furthermore, this week an unnamed Russian naval source announced that Russia was sending two warships full of marines to its base in the Syrian port of Tartarus in an attempt to secure the safety of Russian citizens in the country, and any equipment at the base. According to The Telegraph, Western defense analysts see this as Russia establishing a non-tolerance stance towards any Western intervention. This move has upped the stakes and could end up calling the West's bluff; they know diplomacy has failed in Syria, but they don't want to send troops and risk clashing with Russia. All in all, it's the Syrian people who are losing out.
This week's round-up ends in Paraguay, where 17 people—both security forces and civilians—were killed over land reform disputes. The violence broke out on Friday after police moved in to evict landless farmers from a privately owned farm in the eastern Canindeyu province. The police described themselves as "being surprised" by the violence. But then I suppose any situation where you're ambushed by farmers armed with automatic weapons is surprising. During the 1954-89 reign of General Alfredo Stroessner, 6.5 million hectares of land were taken from farmers and distributed amongst his allies. Since his reign ended, the Paraguyan government have promised to give back the land to the farmers but this has yet to happen, so this kind of thing is relatively routine. It's also set to continue that way, as the new Interior Minister said that the evictions would continue. Next time I imagine the police should come a little better prepared. Lesson learned, don't fuck with farmers!
For more heartwarming stories on the different ways humans suck at being nice to each other, check back next week.
Or maybe you could follow Henry on Twitter: @Henry_Langston. He really likes depressing people.