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EUROPE –Former USSR
The Balkans edition of the Islamic State’s Rumiyah magazine published an article threatening action against Serbs, Croats and the Balkans in general. The article says the group will seek revenge for the Muslims killed in Bosnia and Kosovo.
Echoing this publication, a Serbian paper states that up to 5,000 Islamic State militants are present in Bosnia & Herzegovina. These kinds of articles show up from time to time in the region but it is difficult to determine their validity.
Analysis: The Balkans have been fertile ground for the recruitment and transit of IS fighters, as confirmed by the EU’s annual Terrorism Situation and Trend Report, which was released June 15.
Bosnia & Herzegovina has been identified as a particularly attractive location for recruiting new fighters and a haven for returned IS fighters.
Assessment: In response to the Rumiyah article, Serbia’s defence minister said his country was strong enough to defend itself against all threats. Though there have been several reports of recruitment and some reports of arrests of suspected IS associates, there are no reports of major IS attacks.
The region needs to be closely monitored for IS expansion. IS attacks could destabilize the region, which is already prone to instability. In addition, we are witnessing a fight for influence between many Al Qaeda and IS in Africa. The IS’s attempt to gain ground in the Balkans might trigger AQ to try to spread over the Balkans as well.
The state of emergency, which has been in effect in Tunisia for a year and a half following a series of bloody jihadist attacks, has been extended by four months.
Analysis: The state of emergency grants exceptional powers to the police. It allows the prohibition of strikes and meetings « likely to provoke disorder » or the adoption of measures « to ensure control of the press ». This exception has recently been used by the government to launch an anti-bribery strike.
Since the 2011 revolution, Tunisia have lived under the regime of the state of emergency. A measure in effect continuously throughout the territory since the attack on a bus of the presidential guard on 24 November 2015 in Tunis.
A part of the Tunisian civil society and the media are afraid of the tendencies that accompany – or may accompany – the establishment of the state of emergency, and which challenge the freedoms of the citizens.
In a report published in February, Amnesty International even goes so far as to denounce 23 cases of torture and ill-treatment since January 2015, thousands of people and searches often without judicial warrant. At least 5,000 people have reportedly been banned from traveling since the state of emergency was reinstated.
Assessment: The security and political situation is to be observed with care since the country has not yet recovered from the 2011 revolution and remains under the pressure of religious extremists, be it the Ennahdha Islamic party or the multiple attempts to The Islamic State to gain a foothold in Tunisia.
Burkina Faso Armed Forces has received 2 Bell UH-1H helicopters donated by the government of Taiwan.
The aircraft would support operations conducted by the Anti-Terrorist Forces Groups (Groupement des Forces Anti-Terroristes, GFAT), currently deployed on the border with Mali.
The aircrafts arrived in May 2017, along with a team of 17 Taiwanese personnel tasked with making the helicopters operational and training Burkinabe personnel.
The Taiwanse Embassy estimated the value of the 2 aircrafts at USD8 million.
The Nigerian military has received the first 25 of 177 Streit armoured vehicles, which include Typhoon and Spartan armoured personnel carriers.
The 4×4 Typhoon can transport up to ten passengers and can be configured for a wide range of roles including command and control, explosive ordnance disposal, patrol, convoy support, forward observation and medical evacuation.
The Spartan 4×4 light armoured vehicle is based on the Ford F550 with protection against small arms fire, grenades and shell splinters. It can be configured with a range of weapons platform options – including a manual or electric rotating turret with machineguns or a 40 mm grenade launcher.
Deadly attack at Mali resort
Five suspects were arrested and four assailants were killed after the June 18 jihad attack on the Kangaba camp near Bamako, a vast « ecolodge » and a relaxed resort frequented by foreigners. The Malian special forces were supported in their intervention by troops from the French anti-Jihadist operation Barkhane.
According to the record given by the authorities, 2 people were killed. At least 36 others were rescued, including a dozen injured in the attack. Four assailants were killed, the security minister said, without specifying whether some had escaped.
Comment : The assault lasted several hours despite the rapid intervention of the Malian forces and the French special forces. Around 4 pm, two small groups of armed men attacked the lodge. The former arrived very well armed at the main door. They shot in the air before heading for the pools. They shouted Allahu Akbar and clearly seeking « whites. » Another group infiltrated the top of the building to open fire on the customers. Some soldiers on leave would have seized their weapons to reply, rapidly defeating the assailants.
The alliance that claimed the attack, Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen, was created earlier this year from a merger of local groups and is led by a notorious Tuareg commander. It was later endorsed by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Mali has long been a tourist destination. But today, there are practically no tourists in Mali. Since 2012, the North has fallen to the jihadists but despite the intervention of French forces and a UN military mission, the terrorist danger still persists in the North. And it starts to gangrene the Centre and even the South of the country where Bamako is located.
Analysis: In recent years, the Malian capital has been targeted by several terrorist acts: at the restaurant La Terrasse and at the Hotel Radisson (2015), at the Hotel Nord Sud (March 2016). On June 9, the US embassy issued a security warning for its nationals, informing them of a « threat of attack”.
But how can we assess the real risks in a capital subject to a state of emergency?
The city lives as a besieged citadel. The attacks are almost daily in this vast country. The latest occurred on Saturday 18 June, near Timbuktu, in the north: the military camp of Bintagoungou was attacked by mysterious assailants.
The Malian president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, is seeking to impose a referendum on 9 July, strengthening his powers but also arousing a mobilization of the unprecedented opposition. All the ingredients of an explosive drift seem to be in place in Mali.
Republic of Central Africa
The clashes on Tuesday 21 June in Bria, centre-east of the country, have caused a hundred deaths, according to the mayor of the city, Maurice Belikoussou.
Comment: The violence occurred while 13 rebel groups out of 14 in the Central African Republic signed an agreement on Monday 20 June for an immediate ceasefire.
Fighting has taken place in the city since Saturday between pro-Christian militias and other relatives of the Muslim movement of the Popular Front for the Liberation of the Central African Republic.
A deep Security Situation on Central Africa will be published later.
EUROPE – Former USSR
An Azerbaijani man set himself on fire in front of a bank in Baku to protest the difficult conditions for paying back bank loans. The man was unable to pay off a loan that had considerably increased in value after two devaluations of the manat, the local currency. The economy in Azerbaijan has been deteriorating since 2014.
Azerbaijan has yet only minimal signs of protests, but this is likely due more to increased security measures than public disinterest. The Ministry of Communications and High Technologies secured a court order in May that allowed it to block media outlets that oppose the government.
The last bout of large protests in Azerbaijan came in late 2016; reports of arrests and increased security measures soon followed. The government appears to be maintaining control for now. They spoke of a stable currency, lower inflation and growth in non-oil sectors. The government is interested in courting private businesses and attracting investment to help mitigate the country’s economic problems. Opposition news agencies, however, report that the general populace is living in poor economic conditions.
Assessment: it is too soon to envisage this event as the start to a wider protest that could spread to a wider movement. But we now know that governments have been ousted in the recent years while the starting point was nothing but “usual and minor incident”. It is important for current repressive regimes not to underestimate people’s sentiments of economic frustration.
On June 11, the country’s capital, Rabat, reportedly experienced the largest protest since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising (15.000 to 20.000 demonstrators). It was part of ongoing protests calling for improved social conditions and economic opportunities in the country’s northern Rif region.
Comment: This demonstration led to several opportunistic recovery attempts, facilitated by the leaderless side of the protest movement and by the inability of the major political parties to play their role as mediators. As in the 2011 demonstrations, the Islamic Justice and Charity’s supporters of Sheikh Mohamed Abbadi, who never launched autonomous actions, seized the opportunity of social movements to display their strength. Also present were the far-left organizations such as Voix démocratique (Democratic Voice) of Mustapha Brahma, the Unified Socialist Party of Nabila Mounib and the Moroccan Human Rights Association of Ahmed El Hayej.
Hamid Chabat, secretary-general of the Istiqlal, who blame the Interior Ministry for his post-election setbacks, had delegated two of its main lieutenants, Abdallah Bakkali and Adil Benhamza. The former Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane was represented by one of his close relations, Abdelali Hamidine, to demonstrate that he always has a place on the national political spectrum and he’s legitimate to candidate for a third term at the head of the Justice and Development Party.
Analysis: Until now, these demonstrations were limited to Rif. It is important to monitor for signs that the protests are spreading to other parts of the country and if they could undermine the monarchy or the Islamist-led government that was recently formed after six months of post-election wrangling.
The protests don’t appear to be symptomatic of broader unrest. No one seems to be trying to sustain the movement. Meanwhile, on June 13, a Moroccan court sentenced 25 demonstrators and suspected members of a grassroots protest movement to 18 months in prison. It has also sentenced a man named Nasser Zefzafi, leader of a protest movement called al-Hirak al-Shaabi that has been active in Rif for months. The crackdown shows that the government is unafraid of popular backlash.
Seif el-Islam released
According to Zintan authorities, who held Gaddafi’s son since 19 November 2011, Seif el-Islam, was released on 10 June without anyone being able to say where he is now. The news of this release was confirmed by the municipality and the military council of the city.
Seïf el-Islam was detained in Zintan where he enjoyed VIP detention conditions, with villa and internet connection.
Analysis: The question today is where he was able to go.
It is out of the question for Seif el-Islam to go to Tripoli, where a court sentenced him to death in absentia in July 2015. He would remain a man in danger, to be shot down or captured for several militias.
The Supreme Council of Tribes also said in a recent statement, that « when the Jamahiriya returns, Seif el-Islam will demand accountability to France for all this. »
He may go to El-Beida, his mother’s region of origin, in the east of the country. But this would implicitly placing himself under the protection of the strong man of Cyrenaica, General Khalifa Haftar and thus, to recognize Haftar’s legitimacy. But the latter is considered by the followers of the Gaddafi clan to be a traitor, the general having defected after his capture in Chad in the late 1980s. A leader of the Supreme Council of Tribes who advocates a return of the Jamahiriya and who has chosen Seif el-Islam as leader ensures that Seif el-Islam is not in the region. The Supreme Council of Tribes also said in a recent statement, that « when the Jamahiriya returns, Seif el-Islam will demand accountability to France for all this. »
Moreover, it is not certain that General Haftar wants to share power with another strong man.
Then there is the Fezzan in the south, where Ali Kana, who led the Kadhafi forces during the revolution, set up a small army affiliated with the Supreme Tribal Council in Ubari, a western city where tribal leaders have long been faithful to Muammar Gaddafi.
It is unlikely that Seif el-Islam is abroad. The announcement of his release was taken seriously by the International Criminal Court (ICC) that stated on 14 June that « the arrest warrant issued against Mr. Gadhafi on 27 June 2011 for crimes against humanity, murder and persecution remains valid « . Hard to imagine that a country agrees to welcome Seif el-Islam in this condition.
Assessment: Some European diplomats would have tried to reopen the discussions with the one who was perceived as the natural successor of Gaddafi and a new actor in the Libyan puzzle. Yet many grant only a « role of the shadow » for the second son of the « Brother guide ».
For many Libyans, Seif el-Islam is the « Saviour of the Nation« . It would be the only one to overcome the ideological, tribal and regional divisions that fragment the country. Despite his years of detention, he would have maintained close contact with the Islamists of the former Islamic Fighting Group in Libya (GICL), for whom he organized their released in 2008.
Seif el-Islam could wait until the end of Ramadan to issue an official statement about its intentions or not to play a political role.
Democratic Republic of Congo
The European Union adopted on 29 May restrictive measures against 9 individuals for “having contributed to acts constituting serious human rights violations” in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The 9 include various current and former government ministers.
The restrictive measures are effective immediately and cover a ban on entering the EU and an asset freeze for the listed individuals.
Among the blacklisted names are police chief Ramanzani Shadari, intelligence head Kaley Mutondo, Security Minister Evariste Boshab, and government spokesman Lambert Mende.