Assad regime and Russian warplanes continue to target civilians and basic infrastructure in the aerial assault on opposition-controlled Idlib province in Syria’s north. At least 12 were killed in a regime air-strike on a market in Maar Shurin village. Russian air-strikes destroyed the main water plant in Maarat al-Numan, a town already swollen with displaced persons who have fled the regime offensive. First responders are also apparently being intentionally targeted. A new report from the Syrian Network for Human Rights finds that Russian and Assad forces have struck 31 civil defense centers and vehicles in opposition-controlled areas of Idlib and Hama provinces since the current offensive began in late April. At least seven first responders and medics from the White Helmets and Violet Organization civil defense groups have been killed. The overall civilian death toll in the air-strikes on Idlib and Hama is placed at 550, including 130 children. (Photo via EA Worldview)
Trump retreats from military action against Iran after a US surveillance drone is shot down in the Strait of Hormuz. Was the man who destroyed Raqqa and Mosul suddenly concerned with a possible 150 human casualties, as he claimed in his tweet explaining the balk? Or do Washington and Tehran have too much invested in pursuing their common wars against ISIS and other Sunni militants in Syria and Iraq to want the encumbrance of war with each other? (Photo of Global Hawk drone via Wikipedia)
At least 38 were killed and many wounded in attacks on two ethnic Dogon villages in the Mopti region of central Mali—seemingly the latest in escalating reprisals pitting the Dogon and Fulani peoples against each other. The attacks targeted Dogon villages near the border with Burkina Faso. The following day, presumed jihadist fighters killed 17 civilians in a night-time raid on a village in the north of Burkina Faso. Authorities say a “massive” military operation is underway to hunt down the perpetrators of the attack. Although there was again no claim of responsibility, both the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara are active in the area. (Photo of Fulani herders in Mali from KaTeznik/Wikimedia Commons via Defense Post)
Human Rights Watch detailed abuses against civilians by both the Egyptian government and militants in the Sinai Peninsula, some of which HRW classified as war crimes or crimes against humanity. The information in the report was collected over a two-year investigation into conditions facing civilians in Sinai. Abuses include mass arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings, and unlawful air and ground attacks against civilians. These actions are part of the government’s fight against the ISIS-affiliated militants in Sinai. HRW claims that both groups are guilty of atrocities against civilians, but the Egyptian government is responsible for the majority of the abuses. (Photo: Egypt Daily News)
As Sri Lanka marks the 10-year anniversary of the end of its long internal war, a new wave of communal violence has erupted following the Easter Sunday terror attacks. In days of anti-Muslim riots, mobs have ransacked mosques and attacked shops with petrol bombs. The Buddhist militant group Bodu Bala Sena, which has been repeatedly linked to such pogroms since its founding in 2012, is named as having instigated much of the violence. But just as many Sri Lankan Muslims have held peace vigils to repudiate the Easter attacks and declare their solidarity with Christians, some Sinhalese Buddhists have repudiated the pogroms and declared their solidarity with Muslims. (Photo via SriLankaTweet)
Attacks by Islamist militants, military operations, and waves of inter-communal violence have left hundreds dead and tens of thousands displaced since January in Burkina Faso, triggering an “unprecedented” humanitarian crisis that has caught many by surprise. Homegrown militant groups, as well as extremists linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS, have been operating in the country’s north since 2016, but have expanded to new fronts. As the state struggles to contain the insurgencies, a growing number of “self-defense” militias have mobilized, escalating ethnic tensions in a country once considered a beacon of coexistence and tolerance in West Africa. (Photo: The New Humanitarian)
The final defeat of ISIS in Syria’s northeast has left many Arab-majority areas of the region under occupation by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)—a situation obviously fraught with risk. Over the past weeks, protests have mounted in Arab villages across Deir ez-Zor province against the SDF, with residents demanding better services, employment and a greater role in decision-making. Finally, SDF fighters opened fire on protesters in the village of Shheil, killing one person. The protest came after an overnight raid in the village, in which SDF fighters besieged a neighborhood and killed six people. (Image via Rudaw)
On the 104th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, revolutionary forces in Rojava established the Martyr Nubar Ozanyan Armenian Battalion. The battalion is named after Armenian guerrilla Nubar Ozanyan, who fought in the ranks of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and later as a commander with the Liberation Army of the Workers and Peasants of Turkey (TİKKO) in Rojava, the autonomous zone of the revolutionary Kurds and their allies in northern Syria. Formation of the brigade was anounced April 24, Armenian Genocide Memorial Day, especially commemorated by Armenians within Syria, where much of the genocide actually took place. (Photo: Abolition Media Worldwide)
Afghan government and NATO forces killed more civilians in the first three months of this year than the Taliban and other insurgent groups, according to the latest UN report on casualties in the conflcit. The findings from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) indicate that at least 305 civilians were killed by pro-government forces between January and March, constiuting 52.5% of total civilian deaths in this period. “UNAMA notes with concern that Pro-Government Forces were responsible for more civilian deaths than Anti-Government Elements during the first quarter of 2019,” the report states. (Photo: USAF)
ISIS claimed responsibility for the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka that left over 300 dead, and released a video purporting to show the militants behind the attacks pledging allegiance to the terror network’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. But Sri Lankan authorities had named a little-known militant group called National Thowheeth Jama’ath as behind the attacks. Leaders of the Muslim Council of Sri Lanka said they had warned military intelligence officials about National Thowheeth Jama’ath three years ago, saying the group was planning attacks on non-Muslims. (Photo: Sahad Shady via Twitter)
In Quetta, capital of Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province, at least 16 were killed and over two dozen injured in a blast that targeted members of the Shi’ite Hazara community. Eight of those killed in the blast at a crowded vegetable market were Hazara. This was the latest in a relentless wave of terror against the Hazara people in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. In March, three were killed and some 20 injured when a mortar attack struck a gathering in Kabul commemorating the death of Abdul Ali Mazari, leader of the Hazaras’ Hizb-e-Wadhat Party and a key figure in the Mujahedeen resistance movement of the 1980s. Assassinated in 1995 by the Taliban, he was recently awarded the title of “Martyr of National Unity.” The Kabul ceremony was attended by high officials and billed as a step toward national reconciliation. ISIS took credit for the attack, but the ongoing terror campaign leaves many Afghan Hazaras concerned about the current peace talks with the Taliban.
In an amusingly grim development, Donald Trump formally designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a “foreign terrorist organization,” and Tehran’s Supreme National Security Council immediately retaliated by declaring the Pentagon’s Central Command a “terrorist organization.” Both moves mark a first, applying the designation to government entities. The perverse irony, of course, is that both Trump and Tehran can be seen as perfectly correct. Left-secular forces in the Middle East have long decried that the region is caught between two poles of terrorism—that of political Islam and that of US imperialism. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are complicit with “sectarian cleansing” of Sunni Muslims in Syria. CENTCOM’s warplanes meanwhile virtually destroyed the city of Raqqa in the battle against ISIS—with civilian casualties nearly doubling after Trump took over. Yet in Iraq, the US and Iran were in a de facto alliance—both supporting Baghdad and fighting ISIS. And indeed, given Washington’s growing tilt to Assad in the Syrian war, an element of this alliance can be seen there as well. That’s why they call it a Great Game.