Saturday, June 30, 2012

Jihadists Imperil Nigerian Unity, al-Qaeda Takes Azawad; Kashmir Locked Down over Shrine Fire, Philippines Abduction, Channel Is. & Arizona Secession Chatter: The Week in Separatist News: 24-30 June 2012

Photo of the week: About 500 northern Cypriots protested while dressed like ghosts, to express their feelings of “invisibility,” outside the European Parliament in Brussels June 27th.  The protestcomes as the Republic of Cyprus prepares to assume the rotating E.U. presidency July 1st.  The E.U. regards the Republic of Cyprus as the government of the entire island of Cyprus, but the northern third has been administered since a Turkish invasion in 1974 as the de facto independent Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus—though it changed its name to the Cyprus Turkish Republic earlier this month (as reported in this blog).  Only Turkey recognizes the C.T.R.  Cyprus was admitted to the E.U. in 2004 despite the seemingly insoluble partition of the island.  (Never mind the fact that Cyprus is in Asia, not Europe, and so by definition should not be in the E.U.  Also, never mind that dressing in ghost-like white costumes makes no sense as a way to express feelings of “invisibility.”  Invisibility would be best represented by a square empty of all demonstrators, suggesting truly invisible ghosts.  Dressing like white ghosts makes sense only if Turkish Cypriots wish to make the point that their pseudostate’s legal status makes them feel weightless and luminescent.)


Jonathan Seeks “New Tactics,” Accuses Boko Haram of Inciting Civil War.  After days of more violence following a grisly June 17th suicide-bombing of a church and related violence that left 150 dead (as reported last week in this blog), President Goodluck Jonathan appeared on Nigerian national television June 24th to declare that “new tactics” were needed to control Boko Haram, the ultra-orthodox Islamist sect that has been making making country’s predominantly Muslim north ungovernable with its anti-Christian terrorism.  Jonathan warned that the group’s aim was to incite a Muslim–Christian civil war in Nigeria, adding, “They believe that when they attack a church, Christian youth will revolt against Muslim youth.  They don’t care about who dies in the process.  If the way they are attacking churches ... doesn’t work ... the same Boko Haram will start attacking mosques to instigate Muslim youth to attack Christians.”  Jonathan said that “it is time some other hands will have to come in to do things slightly differently,” referring to his freshly appointed national security advisor, Sambo Dasuki, a northern Muslim woho is cousin to an influential religious leader, the Sultan of Sokoto.  The president also held out the promise of dialogue—a difficult proposition with a shadowy, anonymous group.  He said, “Government will not dialogue with a faceless group.  You must have a face.  You must tell us the reason why you are doing what you are doing.  Then, of course, we’ll dialogue.”  Boko Haram means literally “Western education is sinful” in the Hausa language.  Its name in Arabic, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, means literally “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.”  More and more, media and analysts are talking about the partition of Nigeria into at least two separate states, Christian and Muslim, as a possible goal of Boko Haram—rather than merely the extension of shari’a (Islamic law) beyond the northern states where it is already in force.  (See my blog article listing northern Nigeria as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012,” as well as an article on the legacy of Nigeria’s Odumegwu Ojukwu, founder of the failed Republic of Biafra.)

Could Nigeria fly into pieces?

Amnesty Czar Asks Jihadists to Emulate Ogono, Come In from Cold.  In particular, the Chairman of the the Presidential Amnesty Office (P.A.O.), Kingsley Kuku, said Monday that Boko Haram should emulate Ogoni political groups in the Niger Delta region, such as the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), many of whom were granted amnesty three years ago by the P.A.O. when they agreed to dialogue.  That is perhaps an unfortunate example, since the many grievances of the Ogoni and other Delta peoples remain mostly unaddressed.  The world remembers how MOSOP’s spokesman, the novelist Ken Saro-Wiwa, was executed by the state in 1995, during the dictatorship of Ibrahim Babangida.  Kuku also suggests that illiteracy and poverty explain Boko Haram’s appeal, an excuse which Jonathan rejects.

President Goodluck Jonathan

Ijaw Activists Ban Azazi from Niger Delta Region, Citing Genocide.  In the Delta region itself this week, a spokesman for the paramilitary separatist Niger Delta Liberation Force (N.D.L.F.) has declared that Dasuki’s predecessor, who was fired last week, Owoye Andrew Azazi, who is from the Niger Delta region, was now persona non grata in the Delta, including his home town, for bringing shame to his ethnic group, the Ijaw, who live alongside Ogoni in the region.  The N.D.L.F. spokesman, Captain Mark Anthony, cited Azazi’s role in brutally suppressing the Delta region when he was director of military intelligence under President Oluṣẹgun Ọbasanjọ’s role, in particular what he called the “Ayakoromor genocide” of Ijaw people in 2010, while allowing Boko Haram to run wild.  President Jonathan, incidentally, is also an Ijaw from the Delta.

Owoye Andrew Azizi (right), banned from his homeland for “genocide”

Nigerian Senate President Urges Extreme Measures to Defeat Islamists.  The president of Nigeria’s Senate, David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark, a Christian who was formerly military governor of the west-central Niger State, warned June 25th at a legislative conclave in Akwa-Ibom State that Nigeria may need to take extreme anti-democratic measures to preserve its unity, saying, “We cannot just go with the rule of law.  The way Boko Haram is going, if nothing drastic is done to halt it, God forbid, it may result in the break-up of the country.”  Later in the week, the full Senate recommended that Nigeria set up a separate court system, with separate rules, specifically to handle Boko Haram’s terrorist violence—a move away from the rule of law that would bring Nigeria’s approach to terrorism more to the level of that of, oh say, the United States.  Simultaneously, however, the Nigerian executive branch reacted angrily to last week’s decision by the U.S. to label Boko Haram a “foreign terrorist organization,” for fear that that new designation could be applied so widely that Nigerians with only tenuous ties to Islamism could be subjected to travel restrictions and other harassment.

Islamists Free 40 Inmates in Nigerian Prison Raid; 34 Dead in Violence across North.  Meanwhile, the violence continues.  The same day Jonathan spoke, Boko Haram fighters stormed a prison in Damaturu, in Yobe—the northeastern state where 40 people were killed last week—freeing 40 inmates.  Two Boko Haram members, four security guards, and one prisoner were killed in the assault, and policemen were injured.  Boko Haram denied involvement in a foiled bomb attack on a mosque in Kano State on June 22nd, blaming instead Nigeria’s State Security Service (S.S.S.) of setting up the four arrested suspects as part of a “false flag” operation to discredit Boko Haram.  Meanwhile, Kaduna, site of last week’s bombing, remains under curfew, and in Damaturu and Kano, also in the north, terrorists attacked police stations with guns and bombs in Kano on June 26th, leading to gun battles that killed at least 17 Boko Haram members and at least one policeman.  The same day, a bombing and gun battle in Damaturu killed two civilians and two Boko Haram militants.  Explosions and gunfire were also heard in the outskirts of Kano and in Damaturu, and three officers were killed in a Boko Haram attack on a police station in Taraba State.  The day’s death toll was calculated at 27.  The next day, Boko Haram attacked a police station in Adamawa State.  A June 30th bombing of a nightclub in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, may or may not have been the work of Boko Haram.  No one was injured in that blast.

Map showing the states in Nigeria where shari’a (Islamic law) is in place.

Mastermind of Christmas 2011 Church Bombing Captured, Killed.  On the other hand, Nigeria’s Joint Task Force (J.T.F.) on June 21st confirmed the shooting death of Habib Bama (noms de guerre: Shuaibu Bama, Habib Mamman, etc.), a Boko Haram commander from the Kanuri ethnic group in extreme northeastern Nigeria, who was considered the mastermind behind atrocities such as the Christmas Day bombing of a Catholic church in Nigeria last year and a suicide-bombing of a United Nations building in the Nigerian capital last year.  Bama was interrogated before succumbing to his wounds.

U.S. Strategist Warns of Merger between Boko Haram, al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab.  Most worryingly, Carter Ham, commander of the United States military’s African Command, warned June 25th that there is a growing convergence in aims, methods, and cooperation among geographically and ethnically disparate groups that have identified themselves vaguely under the Islamist banner of al-Qaeda: not just Boko Haram, but also Ansar al-Dine, considered a branch of the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.), which is running the self-declared Independent State of Azawad in northern Mali; al-Shabaab, which is resisting and morphing under pressure from Kenya and Ethiopia’s African Union–led invasion of its stronghold in southern Somalia—and, perhaps even, branches of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (A.Q.A.P.), most notably in Yemen (where central-government troops recently shut down a self-declared Emirate of Waqar (as reported in this blog)—and, increasingly, it is feared, in Syria.  In the Fund for Peace’s 2012 “Failed States Index,” released June 30th (read it here), Nigeria, once the hoped-for economic jewel of Africa with its oil wealth and foreign investment, ranks 10th on the continent and 14th in the world.  Of the 15 most failed states—Somalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Sudan (South Sudan was not ranked but would come right after Sudan, the report indicates), Chad, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Central African Republic, Iraq, Yemen, Haiti, Nigeria, and Guinea-Bissau—nine of them (Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Afghanistan, Pakistan, C.A.R., Iraq, Yemen, Nigeria) can blame their dysfunction partly or entirely on radical Islamist insurgency (perhaps more, if you consider that Mali really belongs high enough on that list to rank Guinea-Bissau down to 16th; Mali’s ranking at 79th, tied with calm and placid Bosnia and Herzegovina, indicates that the data were compiled before this year’s Tuareg rebellion picked up steam).  (See my blog article on Azawad’s declaration of independence, plus an article about Mali in the context of other north–south divides in the Sahel, plus an article on the fragmentation of Somalia and a listing of South Sudan, Balochistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, and South Yemen among of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Members of the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb, preparing to negotiate

... and now the news from the rest of the world ...


Jihadists in Azawad Claim Control of Gao, Timbuktu; 26 Dead in Fighting.  Something more closely approaching civil war between the secular Tuareg separatist Movement for the National Liberation of Azawad (M.N.L.A.) and al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamists has broken out in the self-declared Independent State of Azawad that the two groups have been uneasily co-governing since its secession from the Republic of Mali in early April, with Islamists now claiming control of Azawad’s largest city, Gao, as well as, more recently, Timbuktu.  The unrest began June 26th with protests over the killing the day before of a local schoolteacher allied with the central Malian government in Bamako.  According to witnesses, at least two were killed and 12 injured when the protesters were fired upon by M.N.L.A. troops.  The teacher, Idrissa Oumarou, had been the Gao municipal councillor for the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA), the political party of Mali’s interim civilian president, Dioncounda Traoré, who has vowed to defeat the M.N.L.A.  The M.N.L.A. denied a role in the shootings, and other reports suggest that the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militia, Ansar al-Dine, which co-governs the territory with M.N.L.A., may have been the ones who opened fire—or possibly the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), another al-Qaeda offshoot.  Then, on June 27th, MUJAO fighters stormed the M.N.L.A.’s Gao headquarters.  At least 21 were killed—including the M.N.L.A.’s Col. Bouna Ag Atouyoub—and at least 14 injured in gun battles that spread out to the suburbs as well, and by afternoon the Islamist flag had been raised atop all of the formerly M.N.L.A.-controlled public buildings in the city, including the governor’s palace.  The president of the M.N.L.A.’s unilaterally appointed Azawad governing council, Bilal Ag Cherif, was “accidentally” shot and had to be evacuated to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, for medical treatment.  By the end of the week, the death toll from the ongoing battles, which included exchanges of rocket fire between the M.N.L.A. and MUJAO in the city center, was put at 26, with 41 injured.  Among the dead was Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who arrived in Gao on June 28th with dozens of fellow Algerian members of the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (A.Q.I.M.) to join MUJAO and Ansar al-Dine’s struggle and was killed the next day.  With Islamists in solid control of Gao, it was reported on June 28th that Ansar al-Dine was in control of Timbuktu’s airport, and then later in the day witnesses were reporting that the M.N.L.A. had been forced to flee the entire city and its suburbs.  In the morning, Ansar al-Dine had given M.N.L.A. troops “two hours to leave,” and they seem to have complied.  By June 30th, witnesses were reporting that Ansar al-Dine fighters were demolishing mausoleums and other holy places in Timbuktu, which is already considered among the most threatened of Unesco World Heritage Sites.  The Islamists also claim control of Kidal, meaning all three of Azawad’s main towns are under their thumb, though the M.N.L.A. says it still controls 90% of the territory, which must mean just the barely populated rural areas outside the three towns and their outskirts.  (See my blog article on Azawad’s declaration of independence, plus an article about Mali in the context of other north–south divides in the Sahel.)

Anti-Islamist protestors in Kidal, Azawad, before things got nasty
(after which point, there are no news images as of yet)

Tuareg Rebels, Malian Unionists Rally at French Parliament.  In France, proponents and opponents of the self-proclaimed independent Tuareg state in northern Mali demonstrated outside the National Assembly in Paris on June 23rd.  The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (known by its French acronym M.N.L.A.) rallied in favor of the Tuareg-dominated Independent State of Azawad, which the M.N.L.A. declared in the northern two-thirds of Mali in early May, with the support of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist militia Ansar al-Dine.  A counter-demonstration was held by the Association of North Malians and Supporters, who, like the recently defeated French president Nicolas Sarkozy and his successor François Hollande, would like to keep Mali in one piece.  (See my blog article on Azawad’s declaration of independence, plus an article about Mali in the context of other north–south divides in the Sahel.)

Lord’s Resistance Army Blamed for Raid on Atomic Plant in Central African Republic.  The military of the Central African Republic (C.A.R.) said June 26th that it was in fact the feared Ugandan rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army (L.R.A.)—led by the fugitive Joseph Kony, who is hunted by the United Nations—and not a Muslim rebel group, as first thought, which had raided a nuclear-power plant in the Bakouma area in the Muslim-dominated north over the previous weekend.  (Why a country as pitifully dysfunctional as the C.A.R. is allowed to have nuclear power is beyond me.  This is what happens when you have France as a former-colonial patron.)  No damage was done to the plant, according to authorities, and the attackers mainly took food before retreating into the forest.  Originally, the government had blamed the attack on the Front Populaire pour le Redressement (F.P.R., the Popular Front for Recovery), which represents the predominantly-Muslim Fulani (a.k.a. Peul) ethnic group found in Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and the C.A.R.  The F.P.R. first arose in opposition to Chad’s ethnic-Zaghawa-led dictatorship and almost toppled it in 2008 but then shifted operations to the predominantly-Christian C.A.R., where it wreaks havoc with banditry and disrupts food and medical aid to the region.  Chadian cooperation with the C.A.R. has failed to dislodge the F.P.R. from its northern-C.A.R. stronghold.  Their charismatic leader, Abdel Kadder, a.k.a. General Baba Laddé, eludes capture.  Kony’s L.R.A. tends to operate in the ungovernable zone where the C.A.R., South Sudan, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo meet.  But the globally backed manhunt for Kony may be pushing the L.R.A. into territorial conflict with other groups, such as the F.P.R., with unforeseeable consequences.

Gen. Baba Laddé can now add nuclear terrorism to his résumé
... but, seriously, guys, we were just grabbing some food.

Cyrenaicans Sever Libya’s East-West Highway, Demanding More Autonomy.  Advocates of autonomy for Libya’s vast eastern region of Cyrenaica followed through this week on their threat to block transit routes between Cyrenaica and the western region of Tripolitania—where the capital, Tripoli, is—to try to secure guaranteed extra seats for Cyrenaica in the July 7th elections for the national legislature.  The main east–west highway in Libya was barricaded by military vehicles mounted with anti-aircraft guns, believed to be part of the security forces of the Barqa Council, or Congress of the People of Cyrenaica, which unilaterally declared autonomy in March (as reported in this blog).  Cyrenaica, which used to be independent before the formation of the Kingdom of Libya, contains most of the nation’s oil wealth and was the cradle of the 2011 uprising against the dictatorship of Col. Moammar al-Qaddafi.  Qaddafi’s cronies still dominate the internationally recognized Transitional National Council (T.N.C.) which succeeded him in Tripoli.  (See my blog article on Cyrenaica’s declaration of autonomy.)

Tank Battles in Libyan City Kill 1 as Toubou, Militias Resume War.  Fighting erupted again on June 23rd, in the vast southern deserts of Libya’s Cyrenaica region, between members of the Toubou ethnic group and the Libyan Shield, a militia from last year’s civil war that joined the central government’s military rather than disband.  The battle, which included tanks, was in the center of the city of Koufra.  One person was killed, and four Libyan Shield troops were injured.  Tank shells also damaged a hospital and prompted evacuation of parts of the city.

Somalia, Somaliland Presidents Sign Reconciliation Declaration in Dubai.  The president of the Republic of Somalia’s internationally recognized but barely functional Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.), Sharif Sheikh Ahmedand his Republic of Somaliland counterpart, Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyo, met face to face in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), on June 28th in the sidelines of a conference on combatting sea piracy and signed a “Reconciliation Declaration.”  The atmosphere was warm, though neither side seems willing to budge on the question of whether Somaliland, which has been de facto independent since the collapse of Somalia’s central government following a 1991 coup d’état, will be formally separated from Somalia.  (See my blog article on the fragmentation of Somalia.)

Ahmed Mahamoud Silanyo and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed shake hands in Dubai

Puntland Miffed at Exclusion from Somaliland Summit in England.  The Puntland State of Somalia, which has been functioning as an independent country for decades but aspires to reunification with the currently dysfunctional Republic of Somalia, issued complaints this week that Puntland delegates were excluded from the talks (reported on in this blog last week), concluded June 21st at Chevening House in Kent, England, between representatives of Somalia’s internationally recognized Transitional Federal Government (T.F.G.) and the separatist Republic of Somaliland.  Puntland’s president, Abdirahman Mohamed Farole, sent his letter of protest to the European Union and United Kingdom diplomats who had hosted the summit, saying Puntland need not abide by any agreements reached by Somalia and Somaliland without Puntland’s participation.  Puntland and another self-governing Somalian state, Galmudug, boycotted last month’s Somalia summit in Istanbul, Turkey (as reported in this blog).  Puntland and Somaliland have considerably overlapping territorial claims in the north of what the world considers the single country of Somalia.  (See my blog article on the fragmentation of Somalia.)

Somaliland Marks 52nd Anniversary of Independence from Britain.  Events held throughout the de facto independent Republic of Somaliland on June 26th marked the 52nd anniversary of the territory’s peaceful separation from the United Kingdom.  British Somaliland was almost immediately absorbed into the new Republic of Somalia in 1960, with Mogadishu—in the former Italian Somaliland to the south—as its capital, but the date is still regarded as the national holiday of modern Somaliland, which seceded as an independent state after a 1991 coup d’état in Mogadishu.  To date no country has extended diplomatic recognition to Somaliland, but its president, Ahmed Mahmoud Silanyo, reminded his Twitter followers, “The citizens of Somaliland should know that Somaliland’s statehood is not up for discussion or compromise.”  (See my blog article on the fragmentation of Somalia.)

Suspected Khaatumo Separatists Kill 3 Villagers in Somaliland’s Sool Region.  The de facto independent Republic of Somaliland is condemning what it calls “barbaric” violence perpetrated June 19th by unknown gunmen in the Sool region disputed between Somaliland and the Puntland State of Somalia.  In the incident, terrorists stormed the village of Gaws-weyne and opened fire indiscriminately, killing three villagers and injuring four others.  Somaliland’s government blamed the violence on supporters of a struggling self-governing state in the disputed area called, variously, either the Khaatumo State of Somalia or the Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn (S.S.C.) State, who suffered a defeat at Somaliland’s hands the week before (as reported in this blog).  Then, on June 23rd, it was reported that a prosecutor in Sool’s main town of Las’anod was shot and killed by masked gunmen.  The prosecutor, Ahmed Haji Mahmoud Aw Ali, was also known by the name Du’un Kalaha.  By the next day, one suspect in the killing had been arrested, according to the police.  (See my blog article on the fragmentation of Somalia.)

Rebels Ambush Convoy in South Darfur, Kill 100; Nigerian U.N. Troops Mutiny.  East Jebel Marra and other areas of North Darfur came under heavy bombing June 24th from the Republic of Sudan’s air force, according to a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (S.L.A.) known as “S.L.A.–Justice (Katbino).”  Residents fled, and livestock were killed.  Meanwhile, the central-government-appointed deputy governor of West Darfur declared that state free of rebel militias, though peacekeepers from Nigeria serving in the African Union–United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) are staging a mutiny after two of the troops died from exhaustion and lack of care.  And on June 26th the ethnic-Zaghawi-dominated Minni Minawi faction of the S.L.A. (S.L.A.–M.M.) announced that it had ambushed a Sudanese military convoy near Nyala in South Darfur, killing four, including the convoy’s commander, and taking possession of 60 vehicles full of food and arms.  In the version of events given by the Sudan Revolutionary Front (S.R.F.) umbrella group that purports to embrace the S.L.A.–M.M., five vehicles were destroyed in addition to the 60 commandeered, three militants sustained injuries, and as many as 100 soldiers were killed, leaving the S.R.F. in control of much of South Darfur.  In West Darfur, on June 27th, the Sudanese air force was reported to be indiscriminately bombing four towns—Malam Menawashi, Abu Hamra, Girdeed, and Dabba-Nayra—with an as yet unknown number of casualties.  Meanwhile, the director of a family-owned Sudanese engineering firm operating in Darfur appealed this week to the S.L.A. faction known as the Justice and Equality Movement (J.E.M.) to release 24 employees who were abducted in East Darfur on June 8th.  The director denied accusations that his firm is an agent of the central government.

Zimbabwe Rests Treason Case against 3 Mthwakazi Liberation Front Members.  In the Republic of Zimbabwe, prosecutors rested their treason case on June 27th against three members of the Mthwakazi Liberation Front who were arrested in March for agitating for an Arab Spring–style uprising in the southern African dictatorship.  They are eligible for the death penalty if convicted, but some of the evidence given against them was conflicting.  The Mthwakazi Liberation Front was founded in South Africa in 2010 to fight for the rights of the people of Zimbabwe’s western region, Matabeleland, which was an independent constitutional monarchy until it was brutally absorbed into the British territory of Rhodesia in 1894.

One proposed flag for an independent Matabeleland


U.N. Court Acquits Karadžić of 1 Genocide Count; Srebrenica Charges Upheld.  The notorious Radovan Karadžić, the psychiatrist turned Serb ultranationalist war criminal accused of genocide during his presidency of the Serbian puppet state of Republika Srpska within Bosnia and Herzegovina in the early 1990s, was acquitted on June 28th of one of two genocide charges against him by the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (I.C.T.Y.) at the Hague, in the Netherlands.  Specifically, Judge O-Gon Kwon, who is from the Republic of Korea, ruled that there was not enough evidence to convict Karadžić of mass killings and expulsions in Srpskan municipalities during the Bosnian War.  But 10 other charges have been upheld and will continue to be brought, including genocide charges related to the Srebrenica massacre against Bosnian Muslims in 1995.  Karadžić was arrested in 2008, in Belgrade, Serbia, where he had been living openly but under a series of assumed names, and has been in U.N. custody since.  Meanwhile, the I.C.T.Y. on June 28th sentenced Vojislav Šešelj, founder of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, to two years in prison for contempt of court after he refused to remove from his website information about protected witnesses who have been testifying against him in his still-ongoing trial for war crimes including genocide in Bosnia, Croatia, and Vojvodina during the 1990s.

Ratko Mladić marveling at the gravity-defying coiffe of Radovan Karadžić,
whose pompadour was ruled by the International Criminal Court to be the worst genocidal-maniac hair
since Adolf Hitler’s greasy comb-over.

Queen Shakes Hands with Former I.R.A. Commander McGuiness.  In her diamond-jubilee year, Queen Elizabeth II made history on June 27th by shaking hands with the former Irish Republican Army (I.R.A.) commander Martin McGuinness at a closely choreographed event in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  McGuinness, the leader of the I.R.A.’s political arm Sinn Féin, is Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, the Protestant-dominated self-governing territory of the United Kingdom which his party would like to see incorporated into the predominantly-Catholic Republic of Ireland.  The day after the historic handshake, McGuiness told Parliament in London that the U.K. has still failed to “acknowledged its role as a combatant in the conflict” over Northern Ireland, though he also says he regrets “every single life” lost in the strife—presumably including the 1979 assassination of the Queen’s cousin, the First Earl Mountbatten of Burma, five years after McGuinness says he left the I.R.A.

QE2 and the IRA

U.K. Tax-Shelter Probe Prompts Jersey’s No. 2 to Suggest Independence.  The possibility of the Bailiwick of Jersey seceding from the United Kingdom was raised by the island’s assistant chief minister, Sir Philip Bailhache, this week as the semi-autonomous mini-state’s government came under increasing pressure from London over financial scandals that threaten a crackdown on Jersey’s status as a tax haven.  The television comedian Jimmy Carr, host of the game show Eight out of Ten Cats, is being investigated along with 1,000 others for illegally sheltering their wealth on Jersey.  Bailhache said, in comments published in the Guardian on June 27th, “Independence is quite a long way down the road, but I do feel, and I have been saying for quite a long time, that we should not close our eyes to the possibility,” adding, “There are many small countries ... which are considerably smaller than us which manage to cope with sovereignty.  If it should become in our interests to break the ties with the U.K. then I think we should be ready to do that.”  Jersey, with a population of almost 100,000 on a 46-square-mile parcel of land in the English Channel, is one of three British Isles territories—the others are the nearby Bailiwick of Guernsey and the larger territory of the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea—which are almost entirely independent except for defense, currency, and some aspects of foreign policy.  They are part of the U.K. but not part of the European Union.  Other politicians in Jersey warned that Bailhache’s opinions do not represent the majority.

Plaid Cymru Leader Predicts Independent Wales “within a Generation.”  The leader of the Welsh nationalist political party Plaid Cymru, Leanne Wood, said during a visit to Scotland June 29th that Wales would be independent within a generation—echoing comments she had made in an article in the newspaper The Scotsman.  She was visiting Scotland to attend a meeting of the European Free Alliance (E.F.A.)—a talking club of separatist and pro-autonomy political parties, including Scots, Breton, and Cornish nationalist parties along with Plaid Cymru.

Police Arrest 2 Basque Terrorists in France; U.K. Busts 2 in London.  Security forces arrested two alleged members of the Basque terrorist group ETA in southwestern France, it was reported this week, after coordinating with Spanish authorities.  The two men, Ugaitz Errazquin Telleria and José Javier Oses Carrasco, were believed to be recruiting new members.  ETA—which stands for Euskadi Ta Askatusana, or “Basque Homeland and Freedom”—suspended last year its decades-long struggle for independence from France and Spain, but the two countries’ governments refuse to negotiate with the now defanged group.  Then, it was announced June 29th that two other Basque terrorists were arrested in West London, in England, on terrorism charges.  The two men, Ignacio Lerin and Antonio Troitino, were captured in a raid and had been on the lam and wanted for some time.  (See my blog article listing the Basque warrior Idoia López Riaño, a.k.a. la Tigresa, as one of “The World’s 21 Sexiest Separatists.”)

German Court Ruling against Circumcision Enrages Jews, Muslims.  One would think that in Germany of all places lawmakers and judges would have enough decency and sense of history to not let Islamophobic hysteria get so out of control that they start lobbing Jewish babies out the window with the bathwater, but that’s not what happened when a judge in Cologne ruled on June 26th that penile circumcision, as practiced on infants by Jews and Muslims, was a form of mutilation that should be delayed until children were old enough to choose it themselves.  The court said that the “fundamental right of the child to bodily integrity outweighed the fundamental rights of the parents” and that “the religious freedom of the parents and their right to educate their children would not be unacceptably compromised if they were obliged to wait until the child could himself decide to be circumcised.”  Condemnation from Jewish and Muslim groups was rapid.  Ali Demir, of the Religious Community of Islam in Germany, called the ruling “adversarial to the cause of integration and discriminatory,” while Dieter Graumann, president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, called it “egregious and insensitive” and an “unprecedented [and, in Germany, that’s really saying something] and dramatic intervention in religious communities’ right of determination.”  Experts agreed that the ruling, even if it survives an appeal to a higher court, may be unenforceable, both legally and in terms of what is politically practicable.

Russian Ultranationalists Plan Volunteer Forces to React to Ethnic Strife.  A far-right Russian-nationalist group called the Congress of Russian Communities (K.R.O.), established in the 1990s to protect the rights of ethnic Russians in former Soviet territories where they are outnumbered, is planning to create volunteer brigades to fan out to ethnic-conflict hotspots across the Russian Federation.  The group’s leader, Aleksey Zhuravlev, who is a member of Parliament for the party United Russia, says, “There are far more than two or three hot points in Russia.  We can’t be blind to it; otherwise, there’ll be an explosion.”  The Congress plans, as a first step, to compile a map of areas of ethnic conflict in the former Soviet Union.

The Congress of Russian Communities, on the march

Insurgents in Dagestan Assassinate Bureaucrat, Imam; 2 Warlords Killed.  In the Russian Federation’s Republic of Dagestan, the regional head of a Russian pension fund for the republic, Abdull Aliyev, was assassinated outside his office on June 25th by gunmen who fled in a car.  Two hours later, police tracked down two suspects in the killing but when they refused to surrender there was a gun battle, in which one suspect escaped, one was arrested, and a police officer was shot in the head and killed.  The day before, in the village of Shauri, in Dagestan, a police checkpoint was fired upon by unknown persons, injuring one officer.  Then, on June 26th, in Khasavyurt, Dagestan, a police captain was shot and killed by an unknown assailant next to a gas station.  On June 27th, a police sergeant was killed in Dagestan during a counter-terrorist raid.  The same day, in what might have been unrelated incidents, police shot and killed two Dagestani gang leadersMagomed “al-Bara” Abdusalamov, head of the “Izerbash gang,” who was killed near Khuchni while he was transporting a bomb, and Nazhmudin “Abu-Zeit” Nazhmudinov, head of the “Tsumada gang.”  During the Nazhmudinov hit, one other militant and one policeman were also killed.  Then, on June 29th, police announced that Magomedkamil Gamzatov, a revered imam who had preached an end to Dagestan’s violence, was killed by masked gunmen along with another man within his Buinaksk district mosque, which was then set on fire.

Female Kabardino-Balkaria Suicide Bomber Arrested in Chechnya.  Police in the Russian Federation’s Republic of Chechnya have arrested a 19-year-old woman they claim was planning on carrying out a suicide bombing in the nearby Republic of Dagestan.  The woman, whose husband is imprisoned and who says she was planning on attending an Islamic religious school in Dagestan, is from the Kabardino-Balkar Republic.  Authorities seized a “martyrdom letter” that she allegedly wrote to be read after her death.  (See my blog article featuring a profile of the Chechen separatist Akhmed Zakayev.)


Georgian Lawmaker Warns of Turkish Plot to Annex Adjara.  A member of the Republic of Georgia’s parliament called this week for a June 30th protest in the country’s southeastern Autonomous Republic of Adjara to stop what he called a plot by the Republic of Turkey to seize the territory.  The M.P., Jondi Bagaturia, noted that the government has issued Georgian passports to 25,000 ethnic Turks who have moved into Adjara, which borders Turkey on the north, and he suspects “radical forces may come to power in Turkey,” leading to a replay of the Russian Federation’s seizure, after the end of the Cold War, of Georgia’s territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  Adjara was part of the Ottoman Empire until the Soviet Union absorbed it belatedly in 1920 and attached it to the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic.  Its residents are Muslim (while Georgians are overwhelmingly Christian) and in culture quite Turkified, though they speak Georgian.  When Georgia’s current president, Mikheil Saakashvili, took power in the 2003 “Rose Revolution,” he ended more than a decade of de facto Adjaran independence by expelling Russian troops, deposing Adjara’s authoritarian ruler, and reabsorbing the territory into Georgia.  Bagaturia’s paranoia has possibly been fed by a scandal earlier this month (as reported in this blog) when curricular materials from Istanbul’s school district turned out to contain a map showing an expanded Turkey swallowing parts of Georgia, SyriaIraqGreece, and Bulgaria, plus all of Armenia and Cyprus.  (See my recent article on South Caucasus and Turkish Geopolitics.)

Map showing the locations of Abkhazia (green), South Ossetia (purple), and Adjara (lower left)
within (if you think of it that way) the Republic of Georgia

Abkhazia Puts Hope for Negotiation in Georgian Opposition, Not Saakashvili.  The foreign minister of the de facto independent Republic of AbkhaziaViacheslav Chirykba, told media with this week that his country is willing to have a dialogue with the Republic of Georgia, but not while Mikheil Saakashvili is its president.  Abkhazia, along with South Ossetia, seceded from Georgia after the fall of Communism and have sought international recognition since their sovereignty was ensured by Russia in a 2008 war.  Chirykba cited Irakli Alasania and the billionaire businessman Bidzina Ivanishvili as Georgian opposition leaders with whom Abkhazia could conceivably negotiate pragmatically.  Meanwhile, one of Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream Party campaign workers, an ethnic-Armenian activist named Georgy Mkhchyan, from Georgia’s predominantly-Armenian Javakhk region, was arrested June 24th on supposed fraud charges connected to a land deal, an arrest that Armenian–Georgian groups say is part of a government campaign to neutralize Armenian activists.  (See my blog article on South Ossetia’s contested presidential election.)

Abkhaz Declare New Orthodox Church Separate from Russia’s or Georgia’s.  In the de facto independent Republic of Abkhazia, two priests of the Russian Orthodox Church who had last year declared the first see of an independent Abkhaz Orthodox Church announced this week that they had finally severed all ties with their old parent church.  Abkhazia, which like Georgia and Russia is predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christian, seceded from the Republic of Georgia after the fall of Communism but is recognized only by its military sponsor, Russia, and a handful of minor nations.  The two priests, Archimandrite Dorofrey and Hieromonk Andrey, had initially been banned by the Russian Orthodox bishop of Maikop and Adygei (a diocese which includes Abkhazia) after declaring a Holy Metropolitan See of Abkhazia in 2011.  Archimandrite Dorofrey told reporters in Sukhumi, Abkhazia, this week, “We didn’t even read those decrees.  We tore them up and gave them back.  Now we have nothing to do with” the Russian Orthodox Church.

Barzani Condemns New Turkish Air Strikes on Kurdish Bases in Northern Iraq.  For the second time in as many weeks (see report from this section last week), Turkey’s military, said June 24th that it had carried out three days of air strikes on supposed Kurdish rebels operating just over the border in Iraq.  The nine targets were caves and other hideouts of Turkey’s banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), mostly in the Qandil region, in the inaccessible mountains near where Iran, Iraq, and Turkey meet.  The targets lie inside the territory of Iraq’s northern Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.), whose president, Massoud Barzani, condemned the air strikes in strong terms, despite the fact that Turkey and the K.R.G. have grown politically and economically closer in the past months.  Barzani’s condemnation, surprisingly, referred also to K.R.G. opposition to “the operations that are carried out inside Turkey,” as well as “the air raids that are carried out by Turkey in areas in Iraqi Kurdistan.”  (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, plus another article listing Kurdistan as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

3 Turkish Government Posts Attacked; 6 Killed throughout Kurdistan.  Members of Turkey’s banned separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) attacked three separate government targets on June 24th.  A P.K.K. rocket attack on a traffic-registration office in Bitlis province in southeastern Turkey started a fire and inviting return fire.  P.K.K. rebels backed by the banned Turkish Workers’ and Peasants’ Liberation Army (TIKKO) attacked a gendarmerie post in Tunceli province, in east-central Turkey, which invited return fire, causing the P.K.K. and TIKKO to retreat.  And, also in Tunceli province, in the afternoon, P.K.K. fired at another gendarmerie post with long-range weapons and rockets, resulting in a brief gun battle and the dispatching of helicopters.  There were no casualties reported in any of the three attacks.  On June 24th, one Turkish policeman was killed and three wounded when their vehicle was bombed in Derik, in Mardin province.  Then, on June 25th, in Hakkari province in southeastern Turkey near the point where Iran, Iraq, and Turkey meet, a battle between Turkish forces and the P.K.K. killed one Turkish soldier and wounded three others.  On the same day, Turkish military discovered 50 kilograms of explosives, supposedly planted there by the P.K.K., in Tunceli province, in a spot indicating they may have been laid as a landmine; two days later, 80 kilograms of explosives were discovered forming an apparent P.K.K. road mine in Muş province in east-central Turkey.  Then, also on June 27th, in Siirt province, not far from the Iraqi border, four Turkish soldiers were killed in two separate battles with P.K.K. rebels.  The same day, a remote-control bomb in a trash can in Trabzon province, on the Black Sea, injured three Turkish soldiers, and in Bitlis province, two teachers who had been kidnapped May 14th by the P.K.K. (as reported in this blog) were released, but a soldier kidnapped in the same incident remains unaccounted for.  (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, plus another article listing Kurdistan as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Turkish Security Forces Round Up Scores of Kurdish Trade Unionists.  Turkey’s “anti-terrorist” police raided dozens of labor-union facilities in Ankara, Istanbul, Diyarbakir, and elsewhere June 25th as part of a crackdown on the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK), which they see as allied with the ethnonationalist Kurdistan Communities Union (K.C.K.).  At least 65 trade unionists, nearly all Kurds, were arrested, including Lami Özgen, who heads KESK.  Widespread protests by unions followed the arrests.  Özgen was later released, on June 29th.  (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle.)

KESK members protesting mass arrests in Turkey

P.K.K. Blamed for Natural-Gas Pipeline Explosion in Ağrı.  An explosion on a natural-gas line in remote area of Ağrı province, in Turkey’s Kurdistan region, it was reported June 29th, has halted shipments of gas between Iran and western Turkey.  Sabotage is blamed for the blast.  The banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.) is suspected.  Authorities say the pipeline should be up and running in four or five days.  (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisings and another article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle.)


Blasphemy Laws in Autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan Alarm Rights Groups.  The international non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch (H.R.W.) is raising the alarm about a new law being considered by the legislature of northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) which allows for prison terms, fines, and the shutting down of media organizations for “swearing at and mocking God” and “swearing at, mocking, insulting, and portraying prophets inappropriately.”  H.R.W. called the bill “an invitation to arbitrary arrest and enforcement” and said it “flies in the face of [the K.R.G.’s] carefully cultivated image of a political authority that respects civil liberties.”  In May (as reported in this blog), hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Arbil, the K.R.G. capital, to protest against a magazine article that the K.R.G. also agreed was offensive to Islam.  (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisingsanother article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, plus another article on prospects for the partition of Iraq.)

Israeli Media Say Iran Abducted Kurdish Journalist Missing in Iraq.  Israeli news sources are saying that an Iranian-born (and possibly part-Jewish) Kurdish journalist who was last seen in Iraq’s northern autonomous Kurdistan region on June 9th (as reported last week in this blog) has been kidnapped by the Iranian government.  The journalist, Mouloud Anfand, had been told by Iran to shut down the magazine he edits—Israel-Kurd, which promotes friendship between Kurds and Israel—but he refused.  Nationalist politicians in Iran regularly fulminate about friendliness toward Israel on the part of northern Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.).  (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisingsanother article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, plus another article on prospects for the partition of Iraq.)

Iraqi M.P. Asserts Autonomous Kurdish Region’s Right to Annex Disputed Areas.  A Kurdish member of Iraq’s parliament claims that the northern autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.) has the right to annex under its control areas that were left in dispute after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.  Latif Mustafa, who represents the Change Movement party, points out that Iraq’s constitution, in Article 140, mandates “normalization” and a census and referendum by 2007 in Kurdish-populated areas left out of the K.R.G.’s territory.  Normalization, says Mustafa, would mean expelling Arabs that Hussein settled in the north to dilute the Kurdish share of the population.  “The central government and the K.R.G.,” Mustafa told the media, “have the same authority over these territories since the deadline has passed for solving this constitutional article,” and therefore the K.R.G. has the right to move in and administer them.  (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisingsanother article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, plus another article on prospects for the partition of Iraq.)

Free Syrian Army Says Kurds Side with Assad; P.K.K. Bars Rebels from North.  The main opposition force in Syria’s civil war, the Free Syrian Army (F.S.A.), is accusing the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (P.K.K.), a Marxist separatist army based in Turkey, of keeping them out of Syria’s Kurdish region, along the border with Turkey, and thus hindering their ability to organize against the Baathist Shiite dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad.  Syria’s P.K.K.-affiliated Democratic Union Party (P.Y.D.) says that the P.K.K. is acting to prevent the civil war from spreading to Kurdish cities, which it so far mostly has done.  The F.S.A.’s chief of staff, Mustafa al-Sheikh, told a Turkish newspaper, “The Syrian regime is trying to use the Kurds.  The P.K.K. has been mobilized in Syria on orders of the regime.  The Syrian regime is supporting the P.K.K. now against the interests of Turkey.  It’s necessary for the Kurds to join the F.S.A. and work together as other nations are doing to topple this regime.  This is the only way we can create a free Syria for all.”  The F.S.A. also claims it is trying to recruit hundreds of Syrian officers of Kurdish ancestry who defected to Iraq to return to Syria and join the fight.  (See my blog article on this spring’s Kurdish uprisingsanother article on shifting alliances in the Kurdish struggle, plus another article on prospects for the partition of Syria.)

Hamas Accuses Mossad of Killing High Official in Damascus.  The Islamic Resistance Movement, the jihadist terrorist group which governs the Palestinian National Authority’s Gaza Strip territory and which is better known by its acronym Hamas, accused Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, of assassinating a Hamas member killed in his home in Damascus, Syria, by housebreakers the night of June 27th.  The member, Kamal Hosni Ghanaja, who used the nom de guerre Nizar Abu Mujahid, had been a deputy to Mahmoud Abdel Rauf al-Mabhouh, the Hamas military commander assassinated in 2010 in Dubai, also at the hands—it is suspected by United Arab Emirates officials that killing—of Mossad.  The Local Coordination Committees of Syria (L.L.C.), on the other hand, speaking on behalf of Hamas, asserted that it was President Bashar al-Assad’s “Shabiha” shock troops who tortured Ghanaja to death, beheaded him, stole documents, and “set his house on fire to destroy the evidence of their heinous crime.”  An L.L.C. spokesman added, “The Mossad would have killed him differently, this was not its M.O.  Israeli assassins would have done it quicker and cleaner and would not have wasted time needlessly abusing the body.”  Also: “He was visiting Syria and nobody knew he was in the country apart from the security services who gave him permission to enter.”  Israel’s minister of defense, Ehud Barak, said of the killing only, “He was not one of the greatest saints of our generation.”   Hamas, though predominantly Sunni, for many years received covert aid from or via the Shiite radicals running Iran and Syria, but since the Syrian civil war began last year Hamas shifted its support to the Sunni-dominated Syrian opposition, and most Hamas operatives have fled Syria.  (See my blog article on the Syrian civil war, plus another article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Kamal Hosni Ghanaja, murdered in Damascus

Israel Evicts 30 Families from Disputed West Bank Settlement.  The government of Israel finished removing 30 families from a disputed Jewish settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on land privately owned by Palestinians, concluding a drawn-out politically and theologically charged legal dispute.  A hard core of 15 right-wing settlers prolonged the process by barricading themselves within for several hours before relenting.  Six were arrested.  As part of the deal to relocate them, the government promised to build 800 homes elsewhere in the West Bank.  (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Putin Visits Holy Land, Meets Netanyahu and Abbas.  The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, visited the Palestinian Territories on June 26th, touring Bethlehem and meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian National Authority, a day after he met with Israel’s president, Benjamin Netanyahu.  Putin and Abbas discussed the deadlocked talks between Israel and Palestine—Russia being the most pro-Palestinian delegation in the so-called “Quartet” of negotiators (along with the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations), and the only one of the four willing to deal with Hamas, the Islamist terror group that governs the Gaza Strip.  Putin’s Israeli visit focused mainly on Iran.  (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Vlad and Bibi: why, Putin hasn’t gotten along this well with a fellow mass murderer since George W. Bush!

Palestine Treated as Separate State in Unesco Heritage Site Listing for Bethlehem.  An independent Palestine’s edging toward recognition by the United Nations advanced another step June 29th as the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco) listed the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem—regarded as the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth—under “Palestine,” not Israel, in its inventory of World Heritage Sites.  The Palestinian National Authority is treated, for all practical purposes, as a sovereign government by some U.N. institutions, including Unesco, but its aspirations to membership in the U.N. General Assembly are for the foreseeable future blocked by the United States’ veto power on the U.N. Security Council.  The government-in-exile of the State of Palestine declared independence in 1988, and currently the majority of the world’s countries—130 out of (depending on how you count them) 193 or so—have granted Palestine diplomatic recognition.  (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Palestinian Demonstrators Demand Arrest of Israeli Vice Prime Minister.  About 15 Palestinian demonstrators outside the attorney general’s office in Ramallah, capital of the Palestinian Territories, demanded on June 28th that Palestinian authorities arrest Israel’s vice prime minister, Shaul Mofaz, during his visit to the city for negotiations on July 1st.  They accused him of “crimes against our people in Gaza and the West Bank.”  (See my article listing Palestine as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Conflicting Stories Cloud Deadly Rally in Yemen; Strife, Crackdown Ongoing.  Separatist violence in Yemen continued June 28th, with suspected rebels committed to the reestablishment of an independent South Yemen throwing two hand grenades at a local-government building in Aden, the former South Yemeni capital, injuring three policemen.  The suspects escaped after a shoot-out with unionist troops.  Meanwhile, new details and questions emerged about the fatal clash between police and South Yemen separatists in Aden on June 22nd (as reported last week in this blog).  Three protesters were initially reported shot dead by police in a thousands-strong rally for the separation of the South from the Republic of Yemen, which it rejoined in 1991.  The rally was centered on the funeral of one Ahmed Jamal Haidrah, who had been killed by police two days earlier for joining a demonstration for the re-erection of a protest tent-city police had cleared from Martyrs’s Square earlier this month.  The funeral became a march on Martyrs’ Square, with marchers demanding the dispersal of the Central Security Forces occupying the square.  Security forces opened fire, killing either two or three, which might or might not have included a child, depending on which version of events one believes.  Nine were injured.  Security forces also reportedly burned the South Yemeni flag.  Some sources say eight protesters had been killed during that week in Yemen.  More disturbingly, reports are filtering out from Aden that the city and surrounding areas have become a government free-fire zone, with unionist soldiers enacting a “shoot on sight” policy toward secessionists that is keeping the entire city shuttered behind closed doors.  (See my article listing South Yemen as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Land Mines from “Emirate of Waqar” in Yemen Kill 73 Civilians in a Week.  Yemeni officials said June 26th that 73 civilians had been killed in the previous week from exploding land mines left over from the pseudostatelet called the Emirate of Waqar maintained by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (A.Q.A.P.) for about a year until Yemeni troops dismantled it two weeks ago (as reported in this blog) around the cities of Zinjibar and Jaar in southern Yemen’s Abyan province.  In addition, government engineers have removed about 3,000 mines.


Burning of Sufi Shrine in Kashmir Sparks Riots, Strike, Arrest of Leaders.  A fire of unknown origin destroyed a centuries-old Sufi shrine in Srinagar, capital of the Indian-controlled portion of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir, on June 25th, sparking riots in anger over the slow response of firefighters and a crippling one-day general strike in the state the next day called by all the major separatist factions.  By the end of that second day, the government had placed at least eight key Kashmiri separatist leaders, including the revered Syed Ali Shah Geelani, under house arrest.  The shrine contained relics of the 11th-century Persian–Kurdish Sunni sheikh Abd al-Qadir al-Gilani (a.k.a. Ghaus-e-Azam), who was born in what is now in Iran and buried in Baghdad but is considered the patron saint of the Kurdish people as well as being revered by South Asian Muslims.  (The relics are safe, having been in a fireproof vault that was removed during the fire.)  Kashmir is predominantly Sunni Muslim, while India as a whole is overwhelmingly Hindu.  The fire started on the roof just after morning prayers.  Being wood, the structure was quickly destroyed.  Crowds began throwing stones at firefighters before the fires had even been put out.  Rallies demanding Kashmir’s independence from India quickly followed throughout Srinagar.  At least 40 demonstrators and 10 police were injured in street battles that followed.  One separatist leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, in calling for a general strike in Kashmir for June 26th, said that he had heard that the fire had started in at least three different spots in the shrine and that the government was covering this fact up.  (Later, Farooq was among those placed under house arrest.)  Government claims that the fire was the result of a short-circuit were dismissed by a spokesman for the separatist Muttahida Ullema Ahl-e-Sunnat (MUAS), who pointed out that there was no electricity on that day.  At press time, much of Kashmir was still shuttered and deserted and under a security lockdown, and on June 28th “unidentified miscreants” assumed by the government to be Kashmiri separatists shot two rocket-propelled grenades into a military camp in Srinagar, without any damages or casualties.  No group claimed responsibility for that attack.  Perhaps most worryingly of the late developments, a Shiite Muslim shrine in Mirgund, near Srinagar, was “partially gutted” by fire and a copy of the Quran was desecrated there—leading to an ad hoc street demonstrations by hundreds.  Surrounded Kashmiri separatists were engaging in a gun battle with Indian troops in the Kupwara district of Kashmir at press time on June 30th, with at least one separatist killed and at least one government soldier injured.  And the government of Pakistan angered Indians this week by inviting a delegation from the Kashmiri separatist umbrella group known as the Hurriyat Conference to meet the Pakistani foreign secretary in New Delhi on July 3rd during the minister’s state visit to India.

The burning of a Sufi shrine in Kashmir sparks massive unrest

Baloch Nationalists Blamed for Railway Station Bomb; 7 Dead.  Authorities in Pakistan are suspecting Baloch rebels for a June 28th railway-station bombing in Sibi, near Quetta, in the state of Balochistan.  Seven were killed and 20 injured in that attack, which targeted travelers from Punjab at a tea shop in the town’s rail station.  Two days earlier, authorities in Quetta had announced the arrest of two suspects—one of them a citizen of Denmark—in earlier deadly railroad bombings linked to Baloch separatists.  The two men are reportedly in the pay of Brahamdagh Khan Bugti, a tribal leader who is founder and leader of the Baloch Republican Party.  (See my article listing Balochistan as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

Indian Communists Say Tripura Separatists Planning Pre-Election Violence.  Communists in India’s far-eastern state of Tripura accused separatist elements in the local political opposition on June 25th of planning to unleash violence in order to dislodge left-wing parties from power in February 2013 elections.  Bijon Dhar, Tripura state secretary of the Communist Party of India–Marxist (C.P.I.–M) pointed fingers in particular at a coalition between the Indian National Congress party and the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (I.N.P.T.) for “trying to use the underground militants to unleash violence ahead of the crucial assembly elections.”  He compared the situation to that in the late 1980s, when the Tripura National Volunteers (T.N.V.) militia killed 100 people, resulting indirectly in the departure from power of the C.P.I.–M’s favored Left Front party after the 1988 election.  In response, the Congress party said June 27th that Tripura’s government were the ones courting violent separatists for electoral gain, by recently withdrawing criminal charges against 736 captured guerillas—including some from the All Tripura Tiger Forces (A.T.T.F.) and National Liberation Front of Tripura (N.L.F.T.).


China Urged Not to Turn Back on 10,000 Kachin Refugees.  Human Rights Watch (H.R.W.) issued a warning June 26th about food and water shortages facing possibly as many as 10,000 members of Burma’s Kachin ethnic group in refugee camps over the border in the People’s Republic of China’s Yunnan province.  H.R.W. demanded that China protect them and allow the United Nations in to help them.  The group also says Beijing is sending many Kachin back to Burma, where civil war still rages.  The rapidly liberalizing junta that rules Burma as the United Republic of Mynamar has a nominal cease-fire in place to end the Kachin’s decades-long separatist insurgency, but violence against the Kachin continues in Burma.  The Kachin are sparsely populated in a vast border region where Chinese firms are plundering natural resources.  (See my blog article on prospects for Burma’s ethnic minorities.)

A Kachin refugee camp in China.
(Monthly swimming-pool inspection.)

China Arrests 6 Uyghurs in Supposed Airplane “Hijacking.”  Just days before the third anniversary of a deadly ethnic uprising in the People’s Republic of China’s vast western predominantly-Muslim Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Chinese authorities reported what it called a foiled hijacking attempt by six men in Xinjiang on June 29th.  The hijacking allegedly occurred just after takeoff from Hotan, in southern Xinjiang, in a Tianjin Airlines flight to the region’s capital, Urumqi.  Passengers and crew subdued the six hijackers, official reports said, and the plane landed safely again at Hotan after only 22 minutes in the air.  But Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the human-rights group World Uyghur Congress, based in Germany, said that, according to sources in Hotan, the incident was a squabble over seating assignments between Uyghur passengers and those from the Han, China’s dominant ethnic group.  (Uyghurs are Turkic-speaking Muslims related to ethnic groups in neighboring former Soviet republics in central Asia.  Some Uyghurs want Xinjiang to become a separate state to be called East Turkestan.)  The next day, Chinese authorities reported the arrest of six Uyghur men, adding that four crew members had been injured in the incident.  The Uighur American Association, an American exile group, reports that tensions are high in Xinjiang, with an Islamic school being raided by authorities in Hotan and security forces conducting searches of citizens’ homes.  One thing you have to understand about Chinese official policy: everything bad that happens in Tibet is the fault of the Dalai Lama, and everything bad that happens in Xinjiang is the fault of Uyghur separatists.  Meanwhile, on Saturday, 17 people were injured in a magnitude-6.6 earthquake in northwestern Xinjiang.  I bet the Uyghur separatists are behind that too.

Malay Rebel in Thailand Gets Life Sentence; Bombings Drag On in Pattani Region.  An appeals court in the Kingdom of Thailand handed down a life sentence on June 27th to a member of the Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO), a rebel group committed to establishing a separate state for the predominantly Muslim Malay provinces in the south of the majority-Buddhist kingdom.  The conviction of the rebel—who is named Koseng, a.k.a. Useng, a.k.a. Cheloh—reverses an earlier court ruling clearing him of all charges, for lack of evidence.  He avoided a death sentence because he provided useful testimony.  Meanwhile, violence in the Pattani region continued this week, with three men shot and killed in Pattani province by gunmen in military uniforms on June 25th, a roadside bomb in Narathiwat province injuring eight soldiers and six civilians on June 26th and, the same day, the shooting death of a village headman in Yala province.

Koseng, sentenced to life in prison


Jordanian Reporter, Crew Missing in Philippines; Muslim Militants Suspected.  There is still no solution to the mysterious disappearance of a television reporter from Jordan andd his two Filipino colleagues who disappeared June 12th while en route to interview a radical Islamist in the southern Philippines.  The journalist, Baker Abdulla Atyani, who is the Southeast Asia bureau chief for the network al-Arabiya, was last seen on the island of Jolo (a.k.a. Sulu), in the Philippines’ self-governing southern Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), boarding a mini-bus with his Filipino camera and sound technicians, Rolando Letrero and Ramelito Vela.  They were on their way to interview Yasser Igasan, a radical Muslim rebel linked to the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jemaah Islamiyah militia, which aims to establish an Islamic caliphate embracing the Muslim areas of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.  Philippine authorities now say that Atyani was trying to interview members and hostages of Abu Sayyaf, a terror group trying to establish a separate Islamic state in the southern Philippines, and some analysts say that must be who is imprisoning him now, though, as a presidential spokesman said, “It is difficult to say if it is the Abu Sayyaf or not.  These individuals change identities like they change clothes.”  Philippine authorities also say that Atyani had been assigned government minders but he had eluded them, and that he has apparently been separated from Letrero and Vela as well.  The Philippines’ president, Benigno S. Aquino III, opined that Atyani had no one but himself to blame for the predicament.  But new statements from the Philippine secretary of defense, Voltaire Gazmin, said June 26th that local Philippine military in the south report Atyani “moving around with his crew from one camp to another, in the Abu Sayyaf camp, the M.N.L.F. camp.  So from that you can easily deduce that he is not a captive.”  (M.N.L.F. is the Moro National Liberation Front, a southern Muslim separatist army.)  Meanwhile, the Philippines’ national police announced that in Zamboanga City on June 22nd they had captured the Abu Sayyaf leader Alawai Pasihul, who uses the nom de guerre Ustadz Asman.  Pasihul is considered responsible for the kidnapping and decapitation in 2001 of Guillermo Sobero, a United States citizen.

Baker Abdulla Atanyi

Papuan Activists Arrested; Witnesses Question Police Version of Rebel Leader’s Killing.  News coming out of Indonesia’s far-eastern Papua region is of an ongoing crackdown on supposed separatist unrest, with police in Jayapura, capital of Papua province, arresting at least eight Papuans for “spreading fear and terror,” including an attack on a German tourist last month and rioting that followed the June 14th shooting by police of the Papuan separatist leader Mako Tabuni (as reported in this blog).  Police continue to insist that Tabuni was killed because he resisted arrest and reached for a police officer’s gun, but witnesses say the police who killed him fired from their car.  (See my article listing Papua as one of “Ten Separatist Movements to Watch in 2012.”)

New Caledonia Pro-French Unionist Warns of “Radicals,” after Moderate Gains.  A radically anti-independence politician in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia is warning of a turn to what he calls radical politics, now that the conservative party he leads, Le Rassemblement–U.M.P.—affiliated, as its name suggests, with France’s Union pour un Mouvement Populaire—has lost power.  The politician, Pierre Frogier, was outflanked on the nationalist right on some issues in this year’s elections for the National Assembly in Paris by Philippe Gomès’s normally center-right Calédonie Ensemble (“Caledonia Together”) party, which, for example, opposes the display of separatist Kanak flags alongside the French national flag.  Frogier has angered some French nationalists in the Melanesian territory by favoring supporting plans for an early referendum on independence in the hopes that it would fail.

Amnesty Criticizes Australia for Northern Territory Aboriginal Policy.  The international human-rights organization Amnesty International is coming down hard on the government of Australia for extending its “intervention in” (i.e. illegal overriding of the self-government of) the vast Northern Territory’s aboriginal communities without subjecting it to required constitutional tests through the parliamentary human-rights committee.  Amnesty calls the legal measures—which come under the Orwellian rubric “Stronger Futures”—violations of Australia’s international human-rights commitments.

2 Prominent World War II Māori Battalion Vets Die in New Zealand.  The last remaining senior officer in New Zealand’s 28th Battalion, an all-Māori infantry unit in the Second World War, died June 25th in a hospital in Tauranga, New Zealand, at the age of 91.  The officer, Maj. Hone Hikitia Te Rangi Waititi, also known as “John the Major,” was wounded three times during the war.  The 28th, with 3,600 men—of whom 649 never returned—was the only all-Māori battalion.  Earlier, on June 21st, another Māori Battalion veteran, William Ratahi “Bill” Pitman, also died, in his nineties.  Pitman fought in Italy and North Africa during the war and later was president of the Māori Battalion Association.

William Ratahi “Bill” Pitman


Harper Gladhands at Quebec’s Fête National in Attempt to Slow P.Q.’s Rise.  Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, made conciliatory noises on June 24th as he visited St.-Narcisse-de-Beaurivage, near Quebec City, to celebrate Quebec’s national holiday, Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day.  Harper’s minister of industry said Ottawa would be willing to work with any Quebec government, even the separatist Parti Québécois, which has gained hugely in popularity in the past months.  Harper’s Conservative Party does poorly in the province and holds only 5 of the Quebec National Assembly’s 75 seats.  Meanwhile, a poll found that 49% of Canadians outside Quebec “don’t really care if Quebec separates from Canada.” (See my blog article on language policy and Québécois nationalism.)

B.C. Court’s Thumbs-Down Kicks Tsilhqot’in Land-Claim over to Ottawa.  A provincial court in British Columbia upheld on June 27th an earlier ruling against a comprehensive land-claim by the Tsilhqot’in First Nation, making an appeal to Canada’s Supreme Court likely.  The Tsilhqot’in—also known as the Chilcotin, speakers of the southernmost branch of the Northern Athapaskan or Northern Dene language family—were seeking exclusive rights to use an area of about 1,700 square miles in the province’s arid southern interior region, which is nonetheless only about 5% of the nation’s traditional territory.  Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman of the Tsilhquot’in National Government in Williams Lake, B.C., told media, “This just sets up for another fight at the Canadian Supreme Court.”  The B.C. ruling, however, affirmed Tsilhqot’in rights to use the territory.

Cree Blockades in Quebec Land-Claim Declare End to Unwanted Logging.  Indigenous Atikamekw people in Canada blocked three logging roads and a railroad with barricades around their claimed traditional territory, Nitaskinan, in south-central Quebec June 26th in protest over logging practices.  The grand chief of Opitciwan, an Atikamekw community, Christian Awashish, said in a press release, “The time where outsiders could exploit our natural resources without respecting our rights is over.  From now on, the exploitation of natural resources on our land will be done with our consent and our participation.”  The other two Atkiamekw communities, Womataci and Manawan—all three are part of the Cree ethnolinguistic group—are also participants in the barricade, which is mainly directed at Kruger Products, which operates two sawmills in Atikamekw territory.  Tourists and locals were allowed passage, but all other traffic was halted.  Ghislain Picard, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (A.F.N.Q.L.), supports the blockade and urged Quebec’s government to negotiate with the Atikamekw “nation to nation.”

New York Court Rules for Iroquois, Winnebago in Interstate Tobacco Case.  The Supreme Court of the State of New York decided June 18th that the state had no legal authority to seize untaxed tobacco manufactured on Indian land and sold to Indian reservations elsewhere.  The court ordered state police to return $2 million worth of cigarette and cigar cartons and loose tobacco which they had confiscated from a distribution firm operated by the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska in January.  The tobacco had originated with the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, based in New York, which is part of the Iroquois League, or Haudenosaunee.  The supposed contraband had been rifled through and confiscated by Border Patrol officers quite improperly without a warrant.  New York’s attorney general plans to appeal the ruling.

Fox Reporter Urges Arizona Secession after Court Dilutes Immigration Law.  In the United States, a reporter for Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing Fox News Radio, advocated Arizona’s secession from the U.S. on his Twitter feed after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling which struck down many portions of the state’s controversial draconian immigration law.  The journalist, Todd Starnes, tweeted, “I live in Arizona and I’m thinking we should consider secession about ... now” (ellipses Starnes’s), and, “I hear rumblings in some of the southern states, too.  Very sad what is happening to our nation.”  The next day, on the air, he asked Mitt Romney, the moderate Republican candidate for the U.S. presidency, “Why weren’t you down on the border with a bullhorn in hand ... vowing to defend American soil from the Mexican invaders?”

Todd Starnes proudly displaying his medal for “Fox News Moron of the Week.”
Competition was fierce.


Argentina Rejects U.K. Fears of Politicization of Olympics over Falklands.  The United Kingdom’s foreign office has written to the International Olympic Committee (I.C.C.) about intelligence it has received that the Argentine Republic is planning to use next month’s Olympic Games in London as a forum for airing its grievances over the Falkland Islands, which it claims as its own territory and tried to conquer from the U.K. in a 1982 war.  The Telegraph newspaper referred to fears that Argentine athletes “could put on a black power–style protest”—referring to the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, when two African-American athletes from the United States raised their black-gloved fists during the medals ceremony.  Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, said, however, on June 26th that Argentina would strive to keep politics out of the Olympics.  She went so far as to warn Argentine athletes against provocations, saying, “Go and represent your country on English soil with great pride and with more caution than ever.  If somebody out there makes you angry, stay calm.  Show an example of what it is to be an Argentinian representing your country.”  (See my blog article on the dispute over the Falklands, plus another article on the Falklands in the context of the United Nations’ decolonization program.)

[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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