Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Week in Separatist News, May 13-19: Mladić on Trial, Dalai Lama Poison Plot, Royal Catfight over Gibraltar, Israel Hunger Strike Ends

Photo of the week: Palestinian demonstrators mark Nakba Day, commemorating the expulsions at the founding of the state of Israel in 1948


Islamists in Azawad Block Aid Convoy to Timbuktu.  Ansar al-Dine, the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militia which is doing much of the governing in the newly created, Tuareg-dominated Independent State of Azawad, on May 15th blocked the progress of the first aid convoy carrying food and medical supplies to the beleaguered Azawadi city of Timbuktu.  The group objected to the presence of women among the aid workers.  The international community regards Azawad as the northern two-thirds of the Republic of Mali.  (See my recent blog article on the Azawadi declaration of independence, plus an earlier article on Mali in the context of other north–south splits in the Sahel.)

Al-Qaeda Trainers Flooding to Azawad from Pakistan.  Testimony from locals on the ground in Azawad, as well as Algerian news sources, are reporting that the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.)—the terrorist group that is governing Azawad with its affilitate militia Ansar al-Dine—is bringing terrorists from Pakistan to train recruits in weapons handling, money-laundering, and guerilla warfare.  These Pakistani jihadists apparently entered Azawad through Algeria.  Timbuktu’s mayor and local religious leader opposed to Islamist rule confirmed the reports.  This indicates that Azawad—like Sudan, southern Somalia, and Afghanistan before it—may be the new focus of Islamist terrorists looking to set up camp.  (See my recent blog article on the Azawadi declaration of independence, plus an earlier article on Mali in the context of other north–south splits in the Sahel.)

Citizens’ Movement Forms in Azawad to Resist Islamist Rule.  A new organization calling itself the Northern Citizens’ Collective announced its establishment in the self-proclaimed Independent State of Azawad on May 15th, aiming to resist “by any means” the rule by the Islamists al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Dine in the nominally Tuareg republic.  COREN stands for Collectif des Ressortissants des régions du Nord, the French name for the group.  Meanwhile, schools in Timbuktu and Gao, in the self-declared Independent State of Azawad, reopened May 7th for the first time since secession from Mali, but with a strict shari’a format: segregation by sex, full body and head covering for girls, and no more biology or philosophy.  (See my recent blog article on the Azawadi declaration of independence, plus an earlier article on Mali in the context of other north–south splits in the Sahel.)

Official Independent State of Azawad government vehicle

Ecowas Threatens to Reimpose Sanctions on Mali, Opens Talks with Islamists.  While still dragging their feet on whether to reimpose civilian rule in Mali and Guinea-Bissau with its 3,000-strong military force, the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (Ecowasthreatened a renewal of sanctions May 14th against the military junta that has ruled Mali since March.  Ecowas lifted sanctions last month after the junta’s leader, Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, promised a handover to civilian rule, but that has turned out to be mostly window-dressing—the junta still runs the one-third of Mali that has not seceded as the Independent State of Azawad—so they now may be reimposed.  And the foreign minister of Burkina Faso, an Ecowas member state, said May 17th that the organization is already engaged in talks not only with the Sanogo junta but with the Tuareg separatists and radical Islamist militias that have taken over the northern two-thirds of the country.  (See my recent blog article on the Azawadi declaration of independence, plus an earlier article on Mali in the context of other north–south splits in the Sahel.)

New Official South Sudan Map Includes Abyei and Heglig, Angering North.  A new official map of the Republic of South Sudan issued this month shows the disputed Abyei district and the Heglig oil fields—both claimed by the Republic of Sudan, from which South Sudan seceded last year with borders ill-defined—as part of the new country.  The Sudanese chairman of the joint committee from establishing the border said May 13th there was no basis for the inclusion.  The same day, Sudan’s government said it would not pull out of the disputed Abyei district until an administrative body is formed to prevent a power vacuum.  South Sudan has already pulled its forces out of Abyei following an internationally brokered agreement.

Civilians Flee Fighting in North Darfur; 12 Injured in University Brawl.  Fighting again is disrupting life in Darfur, in the Republic of Sudan, this time in the north of the territory, with the town of Tabet being emptied around May 10th because of fighting between the Sudanese government and rebels from the Darfuri-dominated Sudan Liberation Army (S.L.A.).  Government forces were also sending air strikes against the town, killing at least one person.  Meanwhile, 30 people, including elders and human-rights activists, have been arrested in South Darfur, where the S.L.A. briefly captured the town of Gireida, near Nyala, last week (as reported in this blog).  At nearby Nyala University on May 15th, students affiliated with Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (N.C.P.), attacked a student activist from the Sudan Liberation Movement (the S.L.A.’s political arm) with sticks and batons, leading to a campus brawl in which the N.C.P.’s campus office was burned to the ground.  The next day government security forces stormed the campus arresting and beating any students not loyal to the N.C.P.

The flag of Darfur

First Planeload of Displaced South Sudanese Flown Home from Khartoum.  The first 164 (out of about 15,000) stranded and displaced South Sudanese were transported from Khartoum, Republic of Sudan, to Juba, capital of the Republic of South Sudan, on May 14th as part of a plan to repatriate southerners stranded in the rump state after South Sudan seceded in July 2011.  The airlift was organized by the International Organization for Migration.  The program will continue at the rate of six such flights a day.

High-Ranking Lord’s Resistance Army Commander Captured in C.A.R.  A commander in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance ArmyCaesar Achellamwas captured May 12th by Ugandan soldiers in the Central African Republic, near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, following a gun battle between Ugandan forces and about 30 L.R.A. fighters.  A Ugandan military spokesman called Achellam “a big fish.”  About 100 United States special forces are assisting a Ugandan-led multi-national force in hunting the 200-500 remaining members of the L.R.A., which began as an Acholi ethnic insurgency in northern Uganda.  As for Kony himself, recent reports suggest he is constantly on the move but currently possibly in southern Darfur, an area of the Republic of Sudan which has recently become a front in the war with South Sudan.

Caesar Achellam

European Union Bombs Pirate Bases in Galmudug.  One of several European Union warships off of the coast of the Horn of Africa launched helicopter air strikes on May 15th against an alleged pirate base near Harardhere in Somalia’s Mudug province.  Mudug is part of the self-governing Galmudug State of Somalia, a de facto independent state which has become a haven for pirates and which the international community recognizes as a constituent state of the dysfunctional, barely existent Republic of Somalia.  The E.U. says no Somalis were harmed, that the attack was coordinated with the “Somali government,” and that several pirate fast-attack craft were disabled.  These were the first E.U. air strikes in an anti-piracy effort dubbed Operation Atalanta.  (See my blog article on the fragmentation of Somalia.)

Puntland Rejects Centralism of Draft Somalia Constitution.  A review committee for the self-governing Puntland State of Somalia announced on May 11th its opposition to the new constitution drafted for the barely-existent Republic of Somalia.  In particular, Puntland objects to articles reserving natural-resources legislation for the federal parliament in Mogadishu instead of to the regions and a requirement that presidential candidates relinquish foreign citizenship, which Puntland says discriminates against the vast Somalian diaspora.  Puntland submitted ten pages of requested changes to Somalia’s internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.).  Puntland has been de facto independent since 1998 but regards itself as nominally part of Somalia.   (See my blog article on the fragmentation of Somalia.)

2 Puntland Officials Assassinated in Bosaso.  Two government officials for the self-governing Puntland State of Somalia were gunned down and killed by masked assailants on May 10th in Bosaso, the republic’s chief harbor town.  The two men, walking to a café, were approached by two armed masked men.  After the first official was shot, the second official tried to wrestle the gun away but was himself killed in the struggle.  The assailants escaped without being identified, but in the ensuing city-wide dragnet, seven suspects with ties to the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab terror network were arrested.  (See my blog article on the fragmentation of Somalia.)

Firing Squad for 17 Somalilanders after Land-Rights Riot Kills 7.  A military court in the de facto independent Republic of Somaliland handed down 17 death sentences on May 16th after a deadly riot the day before in Hargeisa, the capital, between security forces and civilians protesting land-distribution policy.  The executions will be by firing squad.  Seven were killed in that incident, including three police officers as well as two bystanders hit by stray bullets.  28 demonstrators were captured—nine of whom had injuries.  At issue was land which once belonged to Mohamed Siad Barre, the former dictator of Somalia, now a military base.  Dozens of Somalilanders, taking to the streets on May 17th to protest the harsh sentences, were dispersed by riot police on May 17th.  (See my blog article on the fragmentation of Somalia.)

Mombasa Separatists Suspected in Attack on Kenya Election Office.  A bloody raid by unknown assailants on the Kwale offices of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (I.E.B.C.) and other sites left three people dead and several computers missing.  Some are suspecting members of the Mombasa Republican Council (M.R.C.), which has threatened to disrupt elections in Coast province, which they would like to carve off as a separate, Muslim-dominated nation.  But the police chief of Kwale—which is in Coast province—said it was too early to point fingers.  The M.B.C. denied involvement.

A rare image of the secessionist flag used by the Mombasa Republican Council

Angola’s Cabinda Separatists Hold Out Olive Branch.  United Press International is reporting that the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) has announced the possibility of peace talks with the Republic of Angola.  FLEC is apparently interested in forming alliances with other groups coalescing in opposition to José Eduardo dos Santos, the military dictator who has ruled Angola since 1979 after leading a successful fight to secede from Portugal.  Cabinda, a tiny wedge of land separated from the rest of Angola by the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s narrow access to the Atlantic Ocean, was a separate Portuguese colony from the rest of Angola before rebel militias, supported by Cuban forces, overran the territory to make it part of an independent Angola.  (See my recent blog article featuring a profile of the Angolan anti-colonial leader Queen Nzingha of Ndongo and Matamba.)


Mladić’s Bosnian War Crimes Trial Begins in the Hague.  The charges included genocide as Ratko Mladić, the Serb commander responsible for many of the atrocities in the Bosnian War in the early 1990s, including the 1992-96 siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, mostly under the auspices of the Republika Srpska puppet state, began his trial at the United Nations war-crimes tribunal in the Hague, in the Netherlands, on May 16th.  Mladić, who is 70 years old, was arrested in Serbia in 2011.  He began the trial with defiant gestures and flamboyant displays of contempt for the court.  The proceedings were temporarily delayed the following day, for procedural reasons.

Ratko Mladić on trial

Bossi Anoints Maroni Successor to Northern League Leadership.  Umberto Bossi, the flamboyant founder of the right-wing, xenophobic Lega Nord (“Northern League”), which would like northern Italy to secede as an independent state called Padania, announced in the party’s daily newspaper May 15th that he will stay on as the party’s ceremonial president after resigning amidst a corruption scandal last month (as reported in this blog).  However, the leadership will fall to his rival Roberto Maroni, who will be the new party secretary.  Maroni served as Italy’s minister of the interior from 2008 to 2011 when the League was a junior partner in Silvio Berlusconi’s ruling coalition.  Maroni’s formal installation is to happen at the party’s national congress, which begins next month.  The League fared badly in last week’s nationwide municipal elections.  (See my blog article on Bossi’s dream of a “Greater Padania,” as well as a recent article featuring a profile of Bossi’s son Renzo Bossi.)

Umberto Bossi and Roberto Maroni pledge allegiance to Padania

Basques Ready for Talks, but Spain and France Not Interested.  The separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) (“Basque Homeland and Freedom”) announced this week that it had formed a delegation which is now ready to negotiate with the governments of Spain and France.  ETA laid down its arms in October, and this month the International Verification Commission has concluded that ETA is honoring its cease-fire, but the two countries’ governments still refuse to negotiate with them.  Spain’s minister of the interior, Jorge Fernández Díaz, specifically said Spain would “never” negotiate with ETA.  (See my recent blog article featuring a profile of the Basque separatist Idoia López Riaño.)

Spain’s Queen Boycotting Elizabeth II Jubilee over Gibraltar Dispute.  At the request of her government, Queen Sofía of Spain has cancelled a trip to London for Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee over the disputed United Kingdom territory of Gibraltar, according to a Spanish palace spokesman on May 17th.  This follows a milder kerfuffle the week before, when Spain complained of a planned visit to Gibraltar, which is attached to the Spanish mainland, by Prince Edward.  (It was Edward’s nephew the Prince of Wales’s deployment to the Falkland Islands earlier this year which caused a similar, more serious diplomatic crisis, between the U.K. and Argentina.)  Spain also boycotted the 1981 wedding of Prince Charles and Diana over Gibraltar.  Gibraltar was formally ceded from Spain to the U.K. in 1713, and in 2002 Gibraltarians voted 98% against shared Spanish sovereignty over their territory (which London had agreed to, pending a referendum), in favor of the status quo.  The Spanish government, hypocritically, plays the other side in a similar tussle over the African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, which it maintains as Spanish territory in defiance of claims by the Kingdom of Morocco.  (See my article discussing the Falklands, Gibraltar, and Ceuta & Melilla in detail.)

The Gibraltar flap could turn out to be Queen Sofía’s biggest diplomatic blunder
since she strangled two pandas to death during a state visit to China.

Russia Warns Kosovo against Training Syrian Rebels.  The government of the Russian Federation on May 14th gave a warning to the Republic of Kosovo—an independent state it does not diplomatically recognize—against offering training on its territory to forces participating in the uprising against the embattled regime in Syria, which is a Russian ally.  Three  delegates from the Syrian opposition arrived in Pristina, Kosovo, last month (as reported in this blog) to consult with Kosovars about overthrowing Bashar al-Assad.  But Kosovo’s foreign minister, Enver Hoxhaj, said this week that although Kosovo is “supporting very much their cause,” the Syrians are not receiving Kosovar training.  (See my blog article on the Kosovo dispute, plus an earlier article on the Syrian civil war.)

Russians Kill 9 Islamists in Dagestan, Including Several Most-Wanteds.  Russian police killed seven Islamist militants on May 11th in the Republic of Dagestan, including a traditional Islamic judge, according to the Russian Federation’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee.  The judge, Magomed Makhmudov, was on a terrorist wanted list and was killed in the firefight with the so-called “Kizlyar gang.”  Three police and four soldiers were injured.  On May 13th, media reported that Russian forces had also killed Sheikh Abdusalam, a native of Turkey and the leader of the “Sergokalinsky gang,” near Kich-Hamr and Utamysh in Dagestan’s Sergokalinsky district.  One special-forces officer was killed in that operation.  Among the militants killed this week was Shamil Gazimigamedov, the organizer of February 2011 terrorist attacks on Russian trains, and on May 15th a wanted terrorist leader and self-proclaimed Emir of Makhachkala, Hussein Mamaev, who uses the nom de guerre Hamza, was killed by Russian forces.  Mamaev was the alleged mastermind of the May 3rd double car-bombing in Makhachkala (reported on in this blog), which killed 13 people.  Islamists in Dagestan are fighting to create an independent Caucasus Emirate encompassing all of the North Caucasus.

One map of the proposed Caucasus Emirate

2 Get Prison for 2010 North Ossetia Suicide Bombing.  Two men accused of involvement in a 2010 suicide bombing of a market in Vladikavkaz, the capital of the Russian Federation’s Republic of North Ossetia–Alania, were found guilty and sentenced to prison terms of 24 and 16 years, it was reported on May 17th.  The bombing killed 19 and injured more than 200.


Russia Reveals Aid for Countries Recognizing South Ossetia.  Those who have long suspected, or known, that the handful of countries that diplomatically recognize the Russian puppet states of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were acting out of economic interest were vindicated on May 16th, when the Russian Federation’s ministry of finance released data showing cash payouts for Nicaragua and Nauru, two of the only six United Nations member-states that recognize the two Caucasus republics.  (The others are Venezuela, Vanuatu, and Tuvalu.)  Specifically, in 2010 Nicaragua, Nauru, and Kyrgyzstan shared a $50-million package of support from Russia for medicine, infrastructure, and education.  A Russian government spokesman denied any connection.  (See my blog article on last year’s disputed South Ossetian election.)

Comedy Film The Dictator So Funny It Is Banned in Tajikistan.  Sacha Baron Cohen’s new comedy  film The Dictator, in which he portrays Admiral General Aladeen, despot of the fictional Republic of Wadiya in the Horn of Africa, has been refused a distribution license in the Republic of Tajikistan.  A statement from Tajikistan said, “It’s wrong to compare us with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and with other countries.  We have a different mentality.  We’re not going to give Dictator a premiere because of these considerations.”  In 2006, Baron Cohen’s film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, which portrayed Kazakhstan as a backward, nuclear-contaminated wasteland, elicited an angry reaction from that country’s government, though it is considered responsible for a sudden spike in tourism to Kazakhstan after its release.  (See my recent blog article about the Republic of Wadiya.)

Admiral General Aladeen arriving at the Cannes film festival

Azerbaijani Soldier Shot at Nagorno-Karabakh Border.  A 19-year-old Azerbaijani army private was shot in the head at the border with the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, according to Azerbaijan on May 17th, and is in grave condition.  The Azerbaijani military says that the shooting was by Armenian soldiers across the cease-fire line.  The N.K.R.’s ministry of defense denied the charge.  Nagorno-Karabakh is an Armenian puppet state carved out of Azerbaijan by a war waged by Armenia, with Russia’s support, in the early 1990s.  (See my recent blog article on the geopolitical context of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.)

Rhode Island Recognizes Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.  The House of Representatives of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, the constituent state of the United States with the smallest land area and the most lengthy appellation, formally resolved this week to recommend that the U.S. extend diplomatic recognition to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (N.K.R.), a puppet state of the Republic of Armenia conquered from the Republic of Azerbaijan after the fall of Communism.  (Read the resolution here.)  Rhode Island has a fairly substantial Armenian-American population.  It is so far the only state to pass such a resolution.  If recognized, the N.K.R. would be only the 161st-largest such country in the world, in land area, ranked between Qatar and the Republic of the Gambia.  Rhode Island, by contrast, if it were independent, would rank 168th, between Cape Verde and Samoa.  (See my recent blog article on the geopolitical context of the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.)

The flag of Rhode Island

Turkish Fighter Jets Chase Israeli Plane out of Northern Cyprus Airspace.  The government of Turkey accused Israel on May 17th of violating the airspace of its unrecognized puppet state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, on May 14th.  An Israeli plane violated the republic’s airspace five times, causing Turkey to send fighter jets to chase it away.  Except for Turkey, the international community regards the de facto independent republic as part of the western-allied Republic of Cyprus.  The next day, the Turkish government warned Russian, Italian, Malaysian, and other foreign companies seeking licenses to extract oil and natural gas from Cyprus’s territorial waters to withdraw their bids or be banned from Turkish energy projects.  (See my recent blog article on Northern Cyprus.)

Iran Accuses Turkey of Hosting Azeri Separatists.  The foreign ministry of the Islamic Republic of Iran is objecting to the Republic of Turkey’s supposed lack of neutrality toward its neighbor by allowing an organization called the National Council for Azeris to form on its territory.  The aim of the group, according to Iranian media this week, is independence for Iran’s ethnically Azeri provinces, adjacent to the independent Republic of Azerbaijan.  (See my recent blog article discussing Turkey, Azerbaijan, and South Caucasus geopolitics.)

U.S. Drone Intelligence behind 2011 Turkish Massacre of Civilians.  Video intelligence from a drone aircraft manufactured and supplied to Turkey by the United States is being implicated in a December 2011 airstrike by the Turkish military against its own people, which killed 34 civilians, according to sources in the U.S. Department of Defense who spoke with the Wall Street Journal.  At the time, the U.S. gave Ankara information about a suspicious-looking caravan of people and pack animals moving in Iraq toward the border with Turkey.  Apparently without requesting further verification, the Turkish air force bombed the caravan, assuming they were members of the banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.).  (See my blog article on the latest Kurdish uprisinga more recent article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, and another piece on prospects for the partitition of Iraq.)

Kurdish Rebels Kidnap Turkish Mayor; 4 Soldiers Killed.  Members of Turkey’s banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) kidnapped a mayor (district chairman) on May 14th, according to media.  Police are in the process of trying to track down the kidnappers and their victim, who is Veysel Çelik, chairman of Kulp district in Diyarbakir province, in Turkey’s southeastern Kurdistan region.  Later, on May 17th, the P.K.K. attacked a gendarmerie post in Hatay province, near the border with Syria, leaving three soldiers dead.  Four P.K.K. fighters were, according to Turkish media, “rendered inactivity”—which could mean either captured or killed.  The same day, the P.K.K. killed another Turkish soldier in Hakkari province.  (See my blog article on the latest Kurdish uprising and a more recent article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle.  Also, see my blog article on Turkey’s annexation of Hatay in 1939 and another article on the prospects for the partition of Syria.)

Mayor Veysel Çelik (right), before his capture by Kurdish rebels


Kurds Reject Iranian Accusation of Israeli Collusion.  The autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) in northern Iraq on May 12th rejected recent accusations by the Iranian consul in Arbil that Iraqi Kurdistan was being used by Israel’s intelligence service to launch operations against Iran.  The K.R.G. added in a statement, “This is an attempt to draw Kurdistan into the fight between Israel and Iran, and we do not want to be part of this.”  (See my blog article on the latest Kurdish uprisinga more recent article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, and another piece on prospects for the partitition of Iraq.)

Iraqiya M.P. Promises Coalition with Kurds against Maliki.  A member of parliament from the Iraqiya bloc of political parties that represents Iraq’s large Sunni Arab minority said this week that his group is in the process of negotiating an alliance with the Kurdistan Blocs Coalition (K.B.C.) of parties to form a united front against the increasingly authoritarian rule of Iraq’s Shiite Arab prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.  The M.P., Talal al-Zubayee, said there would be an “announcement of a new alliance” soon.  Some Kurdish M.P.s denied Zubayee’s statement.  These developments come about two weeks after a high-profile summit (reported in this blog) in Arbil, in the autonomous Kurdish region, between non-Sunni leaders, including Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, and Ayad Allawi, the head of Iraqiya.  (See my blog article on the latest Kurdish uprisinga more recent article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, and another piece on prospects for the partitition of Iraq.)

Widow of Kurdish Mayor Who Died in Jail Cell Rejects Probe Findings.  The widow of the district governor (i.e. mayor) of Sulaimaniyah, in Iraq’s northern autonomous Kurdistan region, who died April 14th in a jail cell (as reported in this blog), has rejected the findings of an internal investigation that reiterates the Kurdistan Regional Government’s original finding that it was a suicide.  The widow, Sakar Jamal, says that if a court now mulling the matter does not probe more deeply, “then we will resort to international courts.”  Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, seems to support the family’s suspicions.  He says that there is no evidence that the mayor, Zana Hama Salih, was involved in the corruption of which he was accused and arrested in the first place and that the Asayish—the Kurdish security forces who ran the jail—are responsible for Salih’s death even if it was a suicide.  As reported earlier in this blog, there are also indications that some of the testimony against Salih was extracted through torture.  (See my blog article on the latest Kurdish uprisinga more recent article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, and another piece on prospects for the partitition of Iraq.)

Zana Hama Salih and Sakar Jamal, in happier times

Iran Reveals Balochistan Assassination Plot against Ahmadinejad.  The ministry of intelligence in the Islamic Republic of Iran revealed this week that in 2007 it foiled an assassination plot against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by southern Iranian terrorists.  Three suicide bombers were to attack Ahmadinejad as he gave a speech in Iranshahr, in Sistan and Balochistan province, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan in the southeast.  The terrorists—four of whom were killed, along with four intelligence agents, as the plot was disrupted—were from the Jundallah (“Soldiers of God”) armed group, which supports rights for Iran’s Sunni Muslim minority and is linked both to al-Qaeda (weakly) and, much more solidly, to the United States–backed movement for self-determination for the Baloch people.  The Balochistan region also covers parts of Pakistan, where there is also a separatist movement suspected of receiving U.S. backing.  (See my blog article listing Balochistan as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Palestinians Commemorate 1948 Expulsions as Mass Hunger Strike Ends.  In the Palestinian Territories, ceremonies and protests marking Nakba Day on May 15th, standing for the 64th anniversary of the expulsion from their lands by Israeli settlers, also marked the end of a two-month hunger strike by more than 1,600 Palestinian prisoners in Israel’s prisons.  In the deal, partly brokered by the government of Egypt, Israeli use of detention without trial and solitary confinement will be eased and some prisoners will be released, while Palestinians agree not to co-ordinate terrorist activities from prison.  Nakba Day marches in East Jerusalem involved rocks hurled at Israeli soldiers and tear gas and rubber bullets fired in return.  Many of the speeches and demonstrations focused on the issue of the millions of Palestinians living in exile as a result of the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.  Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of the Palestinian National Authority in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, said, “Our message to the refugees is that we will not give up the right of return.  We will not accept any project that abandons the right of return or affects our sacred rights to the homeland.”  (See my blog article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Nakba Day 2012

Former South Yemen President Touts Partition as Way to Defeat al-Qaeda.  The last ruler of the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen (a.k.a. South Yemen), before its reabsorption into the Republic of Yemen in 1990, told an interviewer on May 16th that the reestablishment of an internationally recognized South Yemen would be the world’s best bet to crush al-Qaeda in the region.  The former leader, Ali Salim al-Beidh, who held South Yemen’s highest political office, Socialist Party general-secretary, described today’s united Yemen as “a collection of tribal, military, and security cliques fighting over who’ll hold power” who are “not capable of building a democratic, civil state.  The northern mentality cannot live within a state, whereas the mentality of the south cannot live without one.”  (See my blog article listing South Yemen as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Yemen Separatists Seize 2 Army Bases in South.  Dozens of rebels believed to be part of the movement for South Yemen to reestablish a state separate from the Republic of Yemen raided and took control of two military outposts in Ad Dali’ province, in the south-central part of the country, it was reported May 12th.  The separatists also took control of the bases’ arsenals.  (See my blog article listing South Yemen as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)


6 Killed in Kashmir Border Battle.  A border clash along the “Line of Control” separating portions of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir administered by India from those controlled by Pakistan killed at least six soldiers on May 10th.  The battle occurred at Uri in the Baramulla district, near Srinagar, the Indian portion’s capital.  According to Indian reports, the incident began when forces from the Pakistani side tried to cross the border.  Then, on May 14th, separatist militants launched a grenade attack on an army patrol in Sangam, in Indian-controlled Kashmir, injuring four.

Kuki Separatists Stage General Strike in Northeast India.  An organization pushing for a separate state within India for the Kuki ethnic group launched a 72-hour general strike in all Kuki-populated areas in India, which stretch across several separate states in India’s ethnically diverse northeast.  One activist for the Kuki State Demand Committee (K.S.D.C.) reminded media of Kukis’ important role in the struggle for Indian independence and emphasized that Kukis wished to remain in India, but in their own state.

The flag of Kukiland.  No, really, I’m totally serious.  This is the flag of Kukiland.

Mizoram Police on Alert after Reports of Hmar Terror Plots.  Police in India’s far-northeastern state of Mizoram, near the borders with Burma and Bangladesh, are stepping up security after intelligence revealed violent plans by the Hmar People’s Convention–Democrats (H.P.C.–D.), which is fighting for an autonomous region for the tiny Hmar ethnic group in Mizoram.  Hmar are also found in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, and Tripura.

Sri Lanka Uncovers Massive Tamil Tigers Arms Cache.  In Sri Lanka, security forces this week found an arms cache dating to the decades-long civil war which ended in 2009.  The cache was near a former bunker belonging to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (L.T.T.E.), who fought for a separate state in the north.  An army spokesman said it was enough explosives to “blow up a town.”  (See my recent blog article featuring a profile of the Tamil activist Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam.)

Ottawa Demands Probe into Murder, Castration of Tamil Canadian in Sri Lanka.  The government of Canada this week demanded the Sri Lankan government investigate the murder of a Canadian citizen of Tamil ancestry in his native northern Sri Lanka the week before.  The Canadian, Andrew Mahendrarajah Antonipillai, who was 53 and lived in Montreal, Quebec, was killed and genitally mutilated (his penis cut off) by men in baclavas just outside Killinochchi, the former capital of Sri Lankan’s separatist Tamil minority.  Killinochcchi was also the site of former properties that Mahendrarajah lost during the decades-long civil war that ended with the Tamils’ defeat in 2009.  The properties included shops that were confiscated by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (L.T.T.E.) during the war and are now owned by a Sri Lankan supermarket chain, among others.  A pro-L.T.T.E. website claims that Mahendrarajah’s movements were being monitored by Sri Lanka’s military intelligence service and that he had come into conflict with the military during attempts to build a home on what he claimed as his land.  (See my recent blog article featuring a profile of the Tamil activist Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam.)

Andrew Mahendrarajah Antonipillai (1959-2012)


Dalai Lama Tells British Press of Chinese Poison Plot.  The 14th Dalai Lama, on a visit to the United Kingdom this week, told a newspaper that the People’s Republic of China, which demonizes him for encouraging self-determination for Tibet, has been training female agents to pose as religious pilgrims seeking his blessing in order to poison him, though he admitted the reports were unconfirmed.  A Chinese state-run newspaper denies the accusations, pointing out that it hardly had need of such a roundabout method since the Chinese government could have the Dalai Lama killed whenever it wanted.  The Dalai Lama was in London to receive the Templeton Prize on May 14th.  (Coincidentally, the new satirical novel about United States–China diplomacy, They Shoot Puppies, Don’t They?, by Christopher Buckley, features a Chinese conspiracy to poison the Dalai Lama.)  Later, the U.K.’s prime minister, David Cameron, and his deputy, Nick Clegg, met privately with the Dalai Lama, angering Beijing.  (See my blog article on Buddhism and Tibetan self-determination, as well as a more recent article featuring profiles of three celebrity pro-Tibet activists.)

China Complains to Japan about Uyghur Summit, Visa for Dissident.  The People’s Republic of China lodged a formal complaint on May 14th against Japan for not only hosting the annual World Uygur Congress in Tokyo but for granting a visa (as reported last week in this blog) to a the Congress’s head, a Uyghur separatist living in exile in the United States whom Beijing regards as a dangerous separatist.  The activist, Rebiya Kadeer, was imprisoned in 2000 for “endangering state secrets” and later defected to the United States.  She also angered the Chinese government for visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors some Japanese war heroes who fought against China in the 1940s.  Many Uyghurs, who are indigenous Turkic-speaking Muslims of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, China’s largest and westernmost province, would like to form a separate state to be known as East Turkestan.

Rebiya Kadeer

Roadside Bomb, Shooting in Southern Thailand Blamed on Malay Separatists.  Sixteen Thai soldiers were injured on May 14th when a military convoy was hit by a roadside bomb made of dynamite in Pattani, one of the provinces in southern Thailand where predominantly-Muslim Malays are fighting to form an independent state.  Also this week, a noodle vendor in a village in Pattani was shot and injured in a drive-by motorcycle shooting on May 12th, and on the same day M-16s were fired at a police checkpoint elsewhere in the province, with no injuries.

This week’s roadside bomb in Pattani


Police and Aboriginals Square Off in Queensland Protest Camp.  In Queensland, Australia, police used what was called “excessive force” to break up an Aboriginal protest camp in Brisbane’s Musgrave Park on May 16th, leading to a clash between about 80 protesters and about 200 armed officers with tasers.  The activists were protesting mining operations on Aboriginal land.  A march on the parliament building to protest the police brutality ensued.

Aboriginal activists and police square off in Brisbane, Queensland


Pataxó Indians Win Land-Rights Case against Ranchers in Brazil.  The Supreme Court in Brazil ruled this week in favor of the indigenous Pataxó Hã-Hã-Hãe people in a long-simmering, occasionally violent dispute between settlers and indigenous people in the state of Bahia (a dispute reported on recently in this blog).  The court has ordered ranchers to remove themselves from Pataxó territory, in accordance with protections enshrined in Brazil’s constitution.

[Also, for those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  Look for it in spring 2013.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]

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