The desert town of Kidal in northern Mali is under siege, divided into hostile camps by rival Tuareg factions—the pro-government Platform coalition, led by the GATIA militia, and the separatist Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA). Jihadist insurgents meanwhile harass the UN peacekeeping force MINUSMA in sporadic attacks form the desert. (Reuters, Oct. 17) Now there are signs that the jihadists are again trying to draw the separatist Tuarges into an alliance. On Oct. 9, renegade North African al-Qaeda leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar issued an online statement eulogizing Sheikh ag-Aoussa, a CMA leader who was killed in an explosion in Kidal the day before. Ag Aoussa's car blew up as he was leaving a meeting at the town's MINUSMA compound. Authorities maintain the car hit a land mine, but CMA followers charge that Ag Aoussa was assassinated. (LWJ, Oct. 14)
ISIS and the Pakistani Taliban both claimed responsibility for the Oct. 24 suicide attack at a police academy in Quetta that killed at least 60 and wounded more than 120. But Pakistani officials claim another jihadist group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami carried out the assault. At least three fighters armed with assault weapons, grenades, and suicide vests attacked the dormitory of the academy as cadets were sleeping. Two of the suicide bombers detonated their vests, causing the bulk of the casualties, while the third was shot by security guards. Pakistan's Frontier Corps said that a cell of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi network carried out the attack, and claimed that the assault team communicated with handlers based in Afghanistan. The Islamic State's "Khorasan province" also took responsibility for the attack in a statement released on Amaq News Agency, the ISIS propaganda arm. The Karachi faction of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan also claimed credit for the attack. In an email received by Long War Journal, the group said four of its "suicide fighters" executed that attack, which was carried to "avenge the martyrdom of our mujahideen." (LWJ, Oct. 25)
Rights activists and indigenous protesters clashed with riot police in Tegucigalpa Oct. 20 following the murder of two prominent campesino leaders—the latest in a wave of repressive terror. The protest at the Public Ministry was called to demand justice in the case of José Ángel Flores and Silmer Dionosio George of Unified Campesino Movement of the Aguán (MUCA). The two were slain by unknown gunmen Oct. 18 as they left a community meeting in Tocoa, Colón department. Tocoa is in the Lower Aguán Valley, the center of a longstanding conflict between campesinos and large landowners accused of acquiring their lands in contravention of Honduras' agrarian reform laws. The two activists were supposedly under protective measures ordered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The orders were issued in May 2014 for several campesino leaders in the Aguán following a wave of killings and death threats. (Human Rights Watch, HispanTV, Oct. 21; Honduras Solidarity Network, Oct. 18)
Argentine federal judge Rodolfo Canicoba Corral on Oct. 20 called upon authorities in Iraq to arrest Iranian diplomat Ali Akbar Velayati, accused of being an intellectual author of the 1994 bombing of the Buenos Aires Jewish community center. Velayati was Iran's foregn minister at the time of the attack on the Argentine Jewish Mutual Association (AMIA). The bombing, which left 85 dead and some 300 injured, is considered the deadliest anti-Semitic attack carried out anywhere since World War II. The team of special prosecutors on the AMIA case formally petitioned Canicoba Corral to seek the arrest warrant when it became aware of Velayati's arrival in Baghdad. Because Velayati is not currently the subject of an Interpol "red notice," any arrest and extradition process will need to be processed through bilateral agreements between Argentina and Iraq. The prosecutors maintain that Velayati oversaw an August 1993 meeting of Iran's Supreme National Security Council where the decision to undertake the bombing was arrived at. (Buenos Aires Herald, Oct. 21; InfoBae, Oct. 20)
Peru's National Forestry and Wildlife Service (SERFOR) is investigating the death of some 10,000 frogs whose bodies have been found in the Río Coata, which flows into Lake Titicaca. The alert was sounded by the local Committee Against the Pollution of the Río Coata, which accused the authorities of ignoring the river's severe pollution. Activists brought 100 of the dead frogs to the central square in the regional capital, Puno. Said protest leader Maruja Inquilla: "I've had to bring them the dead frogs. The authorities don't realize how we're living. They have no idea how major the pollution is. The situation is maddening." The committee has long been petitioning for construction of a sewage treatment plant for the river, and also for bringing informal minig camps up the river under control. Last year, arsenic, presumably from unregulated gold-mining in the area, was found to have contaminated several wells in the Coata watershed. The Puno regional health department conducted the study following a campaign by local campesino communities.
Yaqui indigenous communities on opposite sides over a proposed gas pipeline through Mexico's Sonora state clashed Oct. 21, leaving at least one dead by gunfire. The confrontation involved close to 300 people from the neighboring communities of Loma de Bácum (Bácum municipality) and Loma de Guámuchil (Cajeme). The former community is opposed to the pipeline project, while the latter is in favor. Bácum community leaders won an amparo (injunction) against the pipeline, which resulted in temporary suspension of construction in the area, and Bácum residents set up a protest camp at the idled construction site. The clash erupted when company workers arrived to resume construction—allegedly in violation of the amparo, and with the support of Guámuchil leaders and local politicians. Accounts are unlcear as to which side the fatality was on, but 13 vehicles belonging to Bácum residents were torched. There were also several injuries, and reports of a second death still not acknowledged by state authorities. The battle lasted three hours before a mixed force of state and federal police backed up by army troops intervened.
As a US-led mixed Kurdish and Arab force advances on ISIS-held Mosul, an apparent ISIS "sleeper cell" of at least some 30 fully armed militants came to life in Kurdish-held Kirkuk, attacking government, police and security buildings. At a power station in Dubis, on the outskirts of the city, several engineers and workers were killed as militants detonated car-bombs and suicide vests. US-led coalition warplanes bombed a building in central Kirkuk that had been taken by the militants, and street-fighting rages across the city. The death toll so far is put at nearly 60, with twice as many wounded. (Rudaw, BasNews, KUNA)
UN humanitarian agencies operating in Iraq are bracing for what could be a displacement catastrophe of massive proportions as the US-led offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS is launched. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warns that up to one million people may be forced from their homes in the operation, which is expected to last months. (UN News Centre) The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Fillippo Grandi arrived in Erbil Oct. 17 to discuss preparations for the anticipated deluge. (Rudaw) With fighting now underway on the outskirts of the city, at least 2,000 residents have massed on the border with Syrian Kurdistan, hoping to cross over to safety. Another estimated 3,000 Mosul residents have arrived at an IDP camp near Hasakah in northern Syria. (BasNews)