Amid moves toward peace in Colombia, the goad of the war—the country's lucrative cocaine trade—clearly remains robust. In an international operation announced June 30, Colombian police joined with US and Italian authorities to confiscate a whopping 11 tons of cocaine in refrigerated containers ostensibly shipping tropical fruits to Europe. The stuff was mostly seized in Colombia, but was bound for the US and Europe. Of the 33 arrested in the operation, 22 were popped in Colombia and the rest in Italy. (El Tiempo, June 30)
Members of Mapuche Ancestral Resistance in the pre-dawn hours of July 19 burned two excavator machines belonging to British business magnate Joe Lewis, that were being used to build a hydroelectric dam at El Bolsón, in Argentina's Río Negro province. The dam is planned for the headwaters of the Río Escondido, on Lewis' private property, and is being built in cooperation with Edenor electric company, of which Lewis is the biggest stock owner. The militants left leaflets headlined "Lewis Out of Patagonia," and listing their demands for the release of political prisoners and the eviction of oil, mining and hydroelectric companies from Mapuche traditional territories. Liberty was especially demanded for Facundo Jones Huala, who was arrested in May and is being held pending an extradition request by Chile, where he is wanted for "land usurpation." Mapuche territory is bisected by the Chile-Argentina border. (The Bubble, Buenos Aires, Clarín, Buenos Aires, July 19; Crónica, Chubut, June 29)
A team of two gunmen killed three security officers and two civilians in an attack on police station and an office of the National Security Committee (KNB) in Kazakhstan's commercial capital Almaty July 18. While no group has yet taken responsibility for the attack, the shootings come a month after a deadly assault in the northwestern town of Aktobe. In the June 6 incident, a number of militants in Aktobe stole guns from sporting goods stores and attacked a military post. In the ensuing shoot-out, 12 of the attackers were killed and nine were detained. Within days, a court in Aktobe convicted the nine and three alleged accomplices of plotting the attack on behalf of ISIS. The suspects in the Almaty attack remain at large. A "terrorism alert" has been declared in the city. While this is the first report of an ISIS franchise in Kazakhstan, depressed oil prices are causing economic chaos in the Central Asian nation. (Russia Direct, EurasiaNet, NYT, Bloomberg)
More than 1,000 are being held in horrific conditions, facing disease, malnutrition and torture, as part of Cameroon's crackdown on Boko Haram, Amnesty International charges in a new report. Entitled "Right cause, wrong means: Human rights violated and justice denied in Cameroon's fight against Boko Haram," the report details how the military offensive has resulted in widespread rights violations against civilians in the Far North region of the country. "In seeking to protect its population from the brutality of Boko Haram, Cameroon is pursuing the right objective; but in arbitrarily arresting, torturing and subjecting people to enforced disappearances the authorities are using the wrong means," said Alioune Tine, Amnesty's West and Central Africa regional director. "With hundreds of people arrested without reasonable suspicion that they have committed any crime, and people dying on a weekly basis in its overcrowded prisons, Cameroon's government should take urgent action to keep its promise to respect human rights while fighting Boko Haram."
French President Francois Hollande announced that he will extend the state of emergency for another three months in light of the Nice attack—just hours after saying he would lift it. Both Hollande's earlier Paris announcement that he would lift the emergency provisions and the Nice attack came amid official Bastille Day celebrations. Speaking to a crowd on the Champs-Elysées, Hollande said that the state of emergency—in place since November's Paris attacks— would not extend beyond July 26: "We can't prolong the state of emergency forever. That would make no sense, it would mean that we were no longer a republic with laws which can apply in all circumstances." The state of emergency was extended three times by parliament—most recently in an effort to to ensure security through the Euro-2016 soccer match.
The Turkish government is blocking access for independent investigations into reports of mass abuses against civilians across southeast Turkey, Human Rights Watch said this week. The alleged abuses include unlawful killings of civilians, mass forced civilian displacement, and widespread unlawful destruction of property. Since the July 2015 breakdown of a peace process to end the decades-long conflict between the Turkish state and the armed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), violence and armed clashes in the southeast region have escalated. During security operations since August, the authorities have imposed blanket, round-the-clock curfews on 22 towns and city neighborhoods, prohibiting all movement without permission. The curfews also prevent non-governmental organizations, journalists, and lawyers from scrutinizing those operations or any resulting abuses by security forces or armed groups. Authorities have blocked rights groups—including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Physicians for Human Rights—from trying to document abuses even after curfews and operations ended.
Egypt's National Security Agency (NSA) is abducting, torturing and forcibly disappearing people in an effort to intimidate opponents and wipe out peaceful dissent, Amnesty International charged in a new report July 13. "Egypt: 'Officially, you do not exist': Disappeared and tortured in the name of counter-terrorism" reveals a trend which has seen hundreds of students, political activists and protesters, including children as young as 14, vanish without trace at the hands of the state. Three to four people are being seized each day—usually when heavily armed security forces led by NSA officers storm their homes. Many are held for months at a time and often kept blindfolded and handcuffed for the entire period.
The US will send an additional 560 troops to Iraq to help secure a newly retaken air-base as a staging hub for the long-awaited offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said during an unannounced visit to the country July 11. Most of the new troops will be devoted to the perparing the Qayara airbase, some 64 kilometers south of Mosul. They will help Iraqi forces planning the drive on Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. The increase brings the total US force in Iraq to 4,647. Unofficially, that figure is probably closer to 6,000, as troops who deploy on temporary assignments are not included in the Pentagon's official tally. Taqqadum, a base in Anbar governorate where US troops train Iraqis., served a key role in the taking of Ramadi late last year, and more recently Fallujah. (Al Jazeera, WP)