paramilitaries

Iraqi forces take Kirkuk, lower Kurdistan flag

Iraqi government forces, including elite troops of the US-trained Counter Terrorism Service and irregulars of the Shi'ite militia Hashd al-Shaabi, began an attack on Peshmerga-controlled areas south and west of Kirkuk at midnight Oct. 15, and took the disputed city the following day. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered Iraqi forces take down the Kurdistan flag in the city, and hoist only the Iraqi national flag. Iraqi forces have also taken control of the K-1 military base and Baba Gurgur oilfield outside the city, as well as the airport, and key infrastructure and roads. Thousands of Kurdish civilians have fled the city, heading toward Erbil and Sulaimani, within the official borders of the Kurdistan Region. Peshmerga forces are apparently abandoning their positions to avoid conflict, and no casualties are reported. US officials said they were "engaged with all parties in Iraq to de-escalate tension," while President Trump said the White House is "not taking sides." (Rudaw, BBC News)

Colombia: Supreme Court justice gets prison

Francisco Javier Ricaurte Gómez, one of the most powerful men in Colombia's justice system for the past 15 years, on Sept. 20 became the first former chief magistrate of the country's Supreme Court to go to prison. Bogotá daily El Tiempo reports that Ricuarte faces four charges related to the corruption scandal now unfolding in Colombia's highest judicial body. The Fiscalía, the country's top prosecutor, says he is one of the brains behind a ring that took in millions of pesos to pervert criminal cases.

Baghdad and Kurdistan at odds on independence

As results come in from the Kurdistan Regional Government's referendum on independence from Iraq, the Baghdad government is rejecting the vote as illegitimate, refusing all talks on the matter and threatening punitive action. "We are not ready to discuss or have a dialogue about the results of the referendum because it is unconstitutional," said Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi  in a speech broadcast on state TV.  Raising the stakes, Abadi has given the KRG until the end of the week to surrender control of its two international airports or face a shutdown of international flights.

Philippines: Duterte in bed with narco gangs?

Is it really possible that Philippine President Rodirgo Duterte—who has unleashed a "war on drugs" that has now reached the point of mass murder, and used charges of narco-corruption to lock up his political opponents—is himself mixed up in the drug trade? With the Philippine Senate now launching multiple investigations into the drug-related violence, charges of involvement in the narco trade have reached some of Duterte's closest family members.

Colombia: still no peace for social leaders

Colmbia's highest judicial body, the Fiscalía General, has opened investigations into the slaying six demobilized FARC fighters and nine family members of demobilized guerillas in apparent reprisal attacks since the peace accord took effect late last year. The attacks took place in the departments of Caquetá, Antioquia, Putumayo, Tolima, Cauca and Valle del Cauca. (El Espectador, July 27) But the wave of deadly attacks on social leaders across Colombia has also persisted, in spite of the peace process. Human rights group Global Witness, which annually releases a report on the world's most dangerous countries for environmental defenders, this year names Colombia as second only to Brazil. The group counts 37 environmental activists slain in Colombia in 2016, compared to 26 in 2015. In the first six months of 2017, the figure was already up to 22. (El Colombiano, July 19)

Duterte calls for genocide against drug users

Police in the Philippines killed 32 people in a wave of anti-drug operations north of the capital, Manila—making Aug. 16 the single deadliest day so far of President Rodrigo Duterte's ultra-deadly war on drugs. Over 100 were also arrested in the sweeps—overwhelmingly street-level dealers—and dozens of firearms reportedly seized. The operations were jointly carried out by National Police and Bulacan provincial authorities. Duterte expressed open enthusiasm for the bloodshed—and warned that it is just beginning. "There were 32 killed in Bulacan in a massive raid, that's good," he said in a speech. "Let's kill another 32 every day. Maybe we can reduce what ails this country."

Thousands of Rohingya trapped on borderlands

Satellite data released by Human Rights Watch shows widespread fires burning in at least 10 areas of Burma's Rakhine state, following a new military offensive targeting the country's Rohingya people. Burmese authorities say some 100 have been killed since Aug. 25, when supposed militants of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched pre-dawn raids on police outposts. The army has responded with a massive operation to encircle the Rohingya rebels and block their escape into Bangladesh. But troops are accused of putting whole villages to the torch and carrying out extrajudicial killings. More than 8,700 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh since since the offensive was launched, but at least 4,000 more are stranded in the no man's land between the two countries near Taung Bro village. Temporary shelters now fill a narrow strip between the Naf River and Burma's border fence.

Afghanistan attacks 'may amount to war crimes'

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a special report Aug. 20 detailing human rights violations committed during attacks on Mirza Olang village (Sayyad district, Sari Pul province) earlier this month. During the three-day assault, Taliban and Islamic State fighters reportedly killed at least 36 people in the predominantly Shi'ite village. Those killed included both civilians and members of a pro-government militia who were unarmed prior to execution. While UNAMA verified the killings and the separation of women and children, it could not verify other claims of beheadings, abductions of women, or sexual assault. Further investigations are required to ascertain whether the attacks amounted to sectarian violence. According to the report, "These killings, corroborated by multiple credible sources, constitute violations of international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes." The Taliban have rejected the claims and denied the involvement of IS fighters.

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