Africa

Russia blocks UN statement against Sudan massacre

Russia, joined by China, blocked a bid at the UN Security Council to condemn the killing of civilians in Sudan and to issue a pressing call for an immediate halt to the violence. According to the latest update by the Central Committee of Sudan Doctors, over 100 people were killed by militiamen of the Rapid Support Forces who stormed the sit-in site in Khartoum and opened fire on the protesters. (Photo: Radio Tamazuj)

Africa

Sudan transition deal suspended after massacre

The paramilitary Rapid Support Forces and other troops under the command of Sudan’s Transitional Military Council unleashed the deadliest attack yet against protestors at the sit-in site in Khartoum, leaving at least 35 dead and hundreds injured. The sit-in had been called to demand a swift transition to civilian rule, and followed a two-day general strike. In the wake of the massacre, TMC leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan cancelled the recent power-sharing agreement with the opposition coalition and called for elections within nine months. Opposition leaders reject any elections that take place under military rule, and are calling for protests to continue despite the state of siege. (Photo: 3ayin)

Africa

Suit against French bank over Sudan atrocities

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed a district court’s dismissal of a class action lawsuit against French bank BNP Paribas over aiding atrocities in Sudan. The lawsuit was brought by 21 refugees from Sudan’s ethnic-cleansing campaigns Darfur and South Kordofan regions, alleging that the bank conspired with, and aided and abetted, the Sudanese regime. The plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that BNP processed thousands of illegal transactions through its New York offices, which financed weapons purchases and funded militias in a “well-documented genocidal campaign.” (Photo: Radio Dabanga)

Africa

Burkina Faso faces ‘unprecedented’ crisis

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)

Iraq

Shi’ite militia forces ‘sweep’ Iraq-Syria border

Baghdad’s irregular Hashd al-Shaabi militia has joined with the National Defense Forces, one of the Assad regime’s paramilitary militias, to conduct “sweeps” along the Iraqi-Syrian border for remnant ISIS cells. These are both sectarian Shi’ite formations backed by Iran. The use of such sectarian militias has been concomitant with widespread abuses of the Sunni population of the region. Human Rights Watch is now urging the Iraqi government to reject a plan for the indefinite detention of whole families with suspected ISIS affiliations. Under the plan, up to 300,000 could be interned in camps in the desert. (Photo: Defense Post)

Syria

Assad, Russia launch Idlib offensive

The Assad regime and allied militias, backed by Russian air-strikes, this week launched the long-feared offensive on Idlib, the northwest Syrian province that is the last under rebel and opposition control. The offensive places at risk the lives of more than 4.5 million civilians. Just this month, a further 150,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Idlib, joining the ranks the displaced. The UN has previously warned that an assault on Idlib could cause “the worst humanitarian catastrophe the world has seen in the 21st century.” At particular risk are 350,000 people living in displacement camps, who have no protection from the bombs. The more recently displaced are now without any shelter on lands near the Turkish border, which Ankara has shut to prevent a refugee influx. (Photo: EA Worldview)

Iran

Russia-Iran alliance in Syria unraveling?

Reports are emerging of a clash between Russian forces and an Iran-backed militia in Syria—pointing to mounting tensions between the two most significant foreign powers backing the Assad regime. At least 11 were killed in the fighting in the city of Aleppo, which quickly escalated to the use of heavy weaponry. The clash followed Israeli air-strikes on Iranian targets near Aleppo, and Tehran-backed factions apparently accused Russia of green-lighting Israel’s attacks, or even coordinating with Tel Aviv on the strikes. (Photo via Syria Call)

The Andes

Venezuela: troops fire on indigenous protesters

Venezuelan army troops reportedly opened fire on indigenous protesters who were blocking a road near the Brazilian border, leaving several dead. Protesters, including many from the local Pemón indigenous group, contended with troops attempting to bar the passage of trucks filled with aid coming in from Brazilian territory. As many as 14 are reported killed. Several troops, including the commander on the scene, were subsequently taken captive by Pemón warriors and are being held at the nearby indigenous community of Kumarakapay. Paramilitary forces are said to be gathering at the army barracks in the vicinity, and an attack on Kumarakapay may be imminent. (Photo: Américo de Grazia via Twitter)

The Andes

Colombia sliding deeper into internal war

Under pressure to address the ongoing wave of targeted assassinations in Colombia, President Iván Duque for the first time spoke before the National Commission to Guarantee Security, formed by the previous government to address continuing violence in the country—which has only worsened since he took office last year. Duque said 4,000 people are now under the government's protection program for threatened citizens. But his office implied that the narco trade is entirely behind the growing violence. Interior Minister Nancy Patricia Gutiérrez told the meeting: "This great problem is derived from the 200,000 hectares of illicit crops that we have in Colombia." However, it is clear that the narco economy is but part of a greater nexus of forces that fuel the relentless terror—all related to protecting rural land empires and intimidating the peasantry. (Photo via Contagio Radio)

Syria

Russia dispatches Cossacks to Venezuela?

Numerous media sources are reporting that Vladimir Putin has dispatched a team of private mercenaries to Venezuela to back the besieged government of Nicolás Maduro. Reuters cites claims that some 400 contractors from the Wagner group have arrived in Caracas. Wagner PMC (Private Military Company) is a Russian firm already contracted by Moscow's Defense Ministry to provide personnel for the wars in Ukraine and in Syria. Moscow Times cites Yevgeny Shabayev, ataman (commander) of the Khovrino Cossack paramilitary group, as saying that Cossacks had been recruited for the force to serve as a kind of Praetorian Guard for Maduro. "Our people are there directly for his protection," he said. Russian media cited Shabayev saying a "military conspiracy had been discovered in Maduro's inner circle, and therefore it was necessary to replace his personal security with loyal people." (Image: Voices from Russia)

The Andes

Colombia: UN concern over political assassinations

Gilberto Valencia, a young Afro-Colombian cultural worker, became 2019's first casualty of political violence in Colombia, when a gunman opened fire on a New Years party he was attending in his village in Cauca region. As the death toll from around the country mounted over the following weeks, the UN Mission to Colombia  warned President Iván Duque that he must address "the issue of the assassinations of social leaders and human rights defenders." Colombia's official rights watchdog, the Defensoría del Pueblo, acknowledges that there was an assassination on average every two days in the country last year—a total of 172, and a rise of more than 35% over 2017.  (Photo via Caracol Radio)

The Andes

Forgotten voices in Venezuela crisis

Trump, the great enthusiast for dictators, suddenly develops a touching concern with democracy in Venezuela, grasping at the opportunity for long-sought regime change. Predictably overlooked in the world media's Manichean view of the crisis are voices of Venezuela's dissident left that takes a neither/nor position opposed to both the regime and the right-wing leadership of the opposition. Also unheard are voices of indigenous dissent and resistance. In an episode that received little coverage, December saw protests in the remote Orinoco Basin after a leader of the Pemón indigenous people was killed in a confrontation with elite Military Counterintelligence troops. The military operation was ostensibly aimed at clearing the region of illegal mining—while the Pemón themselves had been protesting the mining. The indigenous leaders view the militarization of the region as intended to make way for corporate exploitation under the Orinoco Mineral Arc plan. (Photo: EcoPolitica Venezuela)