Africa
DRC

Massacre claim overshadows DRC peace talks

A third round of peace talks between the Democratic Republic of Congo and rebel movements opened in Kenya. More than 50 armed and civil society groups are present at the dialogue. Rwanda, accused of backing the M23 rebels, has also been invited to this round—but not the M23 themselves. And the talks are overshadowed by accusations of a massacre of 50 civilians by the M23 in the town of Kishishe, Noth Kivu province. In a statement, the M23 rejected the claims and accused the DRC government of preparing a “genocide” against Congolese Tutsi. The M23 meanwhile continue their advance on the provincial capital of Goma. (Map: CIA)

Europe
Pushilin

Podcast: Ukraine: against the ‘Nazi’ calumny

In Episode 152 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls out the relentless propaganda exploitation of the Azov Battalion to tar Ukraine as “Nazi” by the same pseudo-left hucksters (e.g. the inevitable Grayzone) who engage in shameless shilling for the fascist regime of Bashar Assad in Syria—which is beloved of the radical right and which employed fugitive Nazis to train its security forces. These hucksters also (of course) join with far-right figures such as Marjorie Taylor Greene and NickFuentes in openly rooting for Putin and opposing aid to Ukraine. And while hyperventilating about the Azov Battalion (which years ago purged its far-right leadership), they make no note of the Nazis fighting on the Russian side in Ukraine. This is both pseudo-pacifist war propaganda and fascist pseudo-anti-fascism. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Denis Pushilin, head of the Russian-backed Donetsk “People’s Republic,” giving an award to one of his thugs who is wearing two Nazi insignia on his sleeve. Credit: The Sun. Fair use rights asserted)

Europe
Hagal

Propaganda exploitation of Italy neo-Nazi bust

Italian police carried out raids against an armed neo-Nazi network called the Order of Hagal, arresting five suspected militants. Searches in Naples and other cities turned up large caches of fascist regalia. In addition to swastika flags and Mussolini portraits was a banner of Ukraine’s Azov Battalion, with whom one member of the network is said to have fought. This is avidly jumped on by Putin propaganda outlet Grayzone, under the headline: “Blowback: Italian police bust Azov-tied Nazi cell planning terror attacks.” Grayzone of course fails to mention that in the press photos where the regalia is displayed, the Azov Battalion ensign appears directly below that of the European Solidarity Front for Syria, a pro-Assad formation rooted in Italy’s far-right Casa Pound movement. (Photo: IPA/Fotogramma via  Sky TG24. Fair use rights asserted.)

Africa
Lundin

Swiss oil CEO faces trial for Sudan war crimes

The Supreme Court of Sweden ruled that the trial of Alex Schneiter, a Swiss citizen and former CEO of Lundin Oil charged in connection with war crimes in Sudan between 1999 and 2003, may proceed in the Swedish courts. While Lundin Oil is a Swedish-based company, Schneiter claims that he cannot be tried in Sweden because he is neither a citizen nor a resident. The high court held that Schneiter’s alleged crimes are subject to “universal jurisdiction,” which allows anyone to be prosecuted anywhere in the world for serious international crimes. The case concerns an area called Block 5A in southern Sudan, which was then wracked by a pro-independence insurgency. The indictment holds that Lundin demanded that government forces and allied militias provide security for its operations, knowing that this would entail deadly force and enflame the conflict. (Map via Rixstep)

Greater Middle East
syria

Multiple interventions continue in Syria

An air raid on the convoy of an Iran-backed militia in eastern Syria’s Deir az-Zor province left 14 presumed fighters dead and made brief headlines. There was immediate speculation that the raid was the latest in the small but growing handful of times over the course of the 10-year Syrian war that the US has bombed forces allied with the Assad regime. The strikes did immediately follow the slaying of a US aid worker in Iraq. However, Israel has for years also carried out sporadic air-strikes on similar targets in Syria, and has likewise come under suspicion in this attack. Getting far less media attention are ongoing air-strikes by Russia and the Assad regime on the remaining pocket of rebel control in Syria’s northwest. Just three days before the Deir az-Zor attack, Russian or regime strikes in Idlib province targeted a displaced persons camp, leaving at least seven noncombatants dead—and winning few international headlines. (Image: Pixabay)

Watching the Shadows
Kremlin

Wagner Group revelations expose Kremlin lies

Russia’s heretofore secretive private mercenary force, the Wagner Group, has opened its first official headquarters, in an office building in the city of Saint Petersburg—with a stylized W logo and the words “Wagner Center” in Russian emblazoned on the glass door facing the street. Putin-allied oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin last month also publicly confirmed for the first time that he is the founder of the mercenary outfit. These are amusing developments after years of claims that the Wagner Group—which is accused in a string of horrific human rights abuses both in Ukraine and across Africa—doesn’t actually exist. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Southeast Asia
Pyu Saw Htee

Guerillas harass paramilitaries in Burma

Faced with a growing insurgency from regional guerilla cells integrated into the armed resistance network known as the People’s Defense Force (PDF), Burma’s junta has been training its own paramilitary corps made up of conservative Buddhists, Burman ethno-nationalists and other regime supporters—named the Pyu Saw Htee, after a legendary king of the ancient Pagan Dynasty. Its strongest base of support is in the Ma Ba Tha (Patriotic Association of Myanmar), which has long been accused of fomenting attacks on Muslims and ethnic minorities. But the Pyu Saw Htee’s efforts to establish local control are being met with effective guerilla harassment. (Photo of Pyu Saw Htee militia from pro-junta media outlets, via Myanmar Now)

Africa
Burkina Faso

‘War footing,’ paramilitary drive in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso’s new military government said that the country is on a “war footing,” and launched a drive to recruit 50,000 civilian defense volunteers to help the overstretched army fight jihadist insurgents. The recruits receive two weeks of basic training and then join the Volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland (VDP), a village-based militia network.  But the VDP has been accused of targeting the pastoralist Fulani people in extra-judicial killings. A campaign of hate speech on social media has described all Fulani as “terrorists”—even though they are also often the victims of jihadist attacks. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Africa
Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso coup a France-Russia pivot?

Army captain Ibrahim TraorĂ© has been officially appointed president of Burkina Faso after ousting Paul-Henri Damiba, who had himself taken power in a January coup. A two-day standoff in Ouagadougou came to an end as religious and community leaders mediated Damiba’s resignation. Damiba had promised to stem rising attacks by jihadist groups when he took charge, but violence only worsened under his watch and frustration mounted within the army. Tensions also built around Damiba’s perceived closeness to France—the country’s former colonial ruler—and reluctance to pivot towards Russia (as the junta in neighboring Mali has). Supporters of TraorĂ© initially claimed Damiba was plotting a counter-coup to return to power from a French military base. France denied this, but the charge appeared to galvanize support for the new leader and led to protests outside the French embassy. TraorĂ© has said he won’t stay in power for long, but much remains uncertain—including whether there will be peace talks with the jihadists. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Africa
Sahel

Report sheds light on Wagner Group crimes in Africa

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) issued a new report on the Wagner Group’s activities in the Central African Republic and Mali, and it makes for chilling reading. The Russian mercenary group has targeted civilians in more than half of its operations in CAR and over 70% in Mali. Its CAR deployment was initially limited to training the national armed forces, but it took on a direct combat role in late 2020 as rebels threatened the capital. It won praise for helping the state capture major towns, but abuses have now angered large parts of the civilian population. In jihadist-hit Mali, the mercenaries have also been involved in a number of high-profile abuses—mostly notably in the central town of Moura, where hundreds of non-combatants were massacred. (Map: Wikivoyage)

Greater Middle East
syria

US strikes Iran-backed militias in eastern Syria

The US carried out a new round of air-strikes against Iran-backed militias in Deir ez-Zor province of eastern Syria. The militias had been firing rockets on US positions, including the base at al-Tanf, which came under fire last week. The US strikes apparently targeted the Ayash Camp of the Fatimiyoun group of Afghan fighters. According to local reports, at least six Syrians and foreigners were killed. The situation escalated the following day, as two other US bases, Conoco and Green Village, came under rocket fire. The US struck back with attack helicopters, killing “two or three suspected Iran-backed militants conducting one of the attacks” and destroying vehicles, according to Pentagon Central Command. (Image: Pixabay)

South Asia
naxals

Podcast: India’s forgotten wars

In Episode 137 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores two of the many under-reported internal conflicts in India, which are rooted in unresolved issues left over from the colonial era in spite of 75 years of Indian independence. In the east-central interior, the Naxalite insurgency has been met with harsh repression from the security forces—especially against the Adivasis, or indigenous peoples who make up the movement’s support base. In the remote Northeast, the long struggle of the Naga people is still met with massacres at the hands of the military today. For three generations the Naga have been fighting for their independence, keeping alive their indigenous culture, and protesting the genocide of their people—to the silence of the international community. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via MIM)