South Asia

ISIS terror targets restive Baluchistan

A suicide bomber killed at least 130 at a campaign rally in Pakistan’s Balochistan province— the deadliest attack in the country since 2014. A local candidate with the Balochistan Awami Party was among the dead. The local franchise of the Islamic State took credit for the attack. Radio Free Europe portrays the BAP as part of the Pakistani military establishment’s plan to undermine Baluch ethno-nationalist groups. Balochistan province is part of the larger region of Baluchistan, homeland of the Baluch people, long divided between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. There are movements for Baluch independence in each of these countries, but they have been unable to unite across the nation-state boundaries. The attack may point to an ISIS strategy to disrupt electoral ethno-nationalist initiatives, and co-opt the Baluch struggle across all three borders, wedding it to Sunni extremism. (Map via Atheer)

Syria

Assad turns oil over to Putin for military protection

Bashar Assad arrived in Russia to publicly thank Vladimir Putin for his military support in the ongoing re-conquest of Syria—prominently including the deployment of new missile systems. Undoubtedly discussed behind closed doors was the  new “energy cooperation framework agreement” between Moscow and Damascus, under which Russia is to have exclusive rights to exploit oil and gas in Syria. (Photo of Vityaz missile launcher via Wikipedia)

Greater Middle East

Egypt refers 555 terror suspects to military court

Egypt's chief prosecutor referred 555 individuals suspected of joining a local ISIS affiliate to military court. The charges against them arise out of a series of attacks carried out by dozens of small militant groups situated in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula. The suspects will faces charges for the planned and executed killings of security personnel, attacks on military checkpoints, and the destruction of a gas pipeline between Egypt and Jordan. The charges come amid growing concerns over torture, lengthy solitary confinement and other rights abuses in Egypt's prisons. (Photo: Egypt Daily News)

The Andes

Colombia: protests over ‘catastrophic’ oil spill

A state of emergency has been declared in Barrancabermeja, the oil hub on Colombia’s Río Magdalena, following a rupture on a pipeline delivering crude to the city’s refinery. The spill at the Lizama 158 well, run by parastatal Ecopetrol, contaminated local waterways that flow into the Magdalena, and which local campesino communities depend on. The affected area includes habitat for jaguars and manatees. The Fracking-Free Colombia Alliance called it a “catastrophe of unequaled magnitude” in a long history of oil spills in the area, and said the impacts could last 30 years. Colombia’s attorney general has opened an investigation to determine if there is criminal liability in the spill. (Photo: Contagio Radio)

Syria

Afrin and Ghouta: fearful symmetry

The imminent fall of rebel-held Ghouta to Russian-backed Assad regime forces approaches just after the fall of Kurdish-held Afrin to Turkish-backed rebel forces. As Arab and Kurd are pitted against each other, the Great Powers carve up Syria. But both sides are preparing to advance on Idlib next. Even as Trump talks of getting the US out of Syria, potential builds for a superpower confrontation.  (Photo of Aleppo ruins from UNHCR)

The Andes

Oil contracts at issue in Peru political scandal

Seemingly irregular oil contracts have emerged as a factor in the ongoing political scandal that last week brought down Peru's president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Following accusations from left-opposition congressmembers, state agency PeruPetro admitted that hours before leaving office, Kuczynski had issued a Supreme Decree initiating the process of approving five offshore oil concessions with a private company—but without the involvement of PeruPetro in vetting the contracts, as required by law. Calling the deals "lobista," Dammert is demanding that new President Martín Vizcarra declare the contracts void. (Photo: Gestión)

The Amazon

Peru: ‘Station 6’ case against indigenous leaders

Legal proceedings continue in Bagua, a town on the edge of the rainforest in Peru's Amazonas region, against 25 Awajún and Wampis indigenous activists over deadly violence at a pumping station for the North Peru Oilduct in June 2009. Station 6 had at that time been under occupation by indigenous activists opposed to expansion of oil operations into their Amazonian homelands. Violence broke out at the occupied pumping station on June 5, 2009, when word reached the activists there of that morning's Bagua massacre, precipitated by National Police attacking an indigenous roadblock. Ten agents of DINOES, the National Police elite anti-riot force, were slain in the clash at Station 6. Prominent indigenous leader Alberto Pizango, already cleared of charges connected to the violence at Bagua, is now among those being tried for the bloodshed at Station 6. (Photo: Radio Reina de la Selva)

North Africa

Environmental protester shuts Libyan oil-field

The company operating Libya's biggest oilfield, Sharara, announced that it had been shut down after a citizen closed the pipeline that pumps the field's oil. The field is run by a joint venture between Libya's National Oil Corporation and several multinationals. The individual claimed the pipeline caused environmental damage to his lands, and had also closed the pipeline last year to press his demands for a clean-up. With this latest closure, Libya's oil output dropped to a six-month low of 750,000 barrels per day. National Oil Corporation chairman Mustafa Sanallah described those who shut down oil-fields as "terrorists." (Photo: Libya Observer)

The Andes

Colombia: popular pressure to save ELN talks

Colombia’s government is under pressure from both the United Nations and impacted communities in the conflict zones to rebuild a ceasefire with the ELN guerillas and return to the dialogue table. As a 100-day ceasefire ran out, ELN fighters attacked the Caño Limón oil pipeline, forcing a suspension of pumping operations. The guerillas also attacked a military base in Arauca department. President Juan Manuel Santos responded by recalling his peace negotiator from Quito, where a fifth round of talks with the ELN was set to begin. The ELN peace delegation reacted in a statement, pledging: “We maintain our determination, previously expressed, to agree on a new bilateral ceasefire.” (Photo: Colombia Reports)

Planet Watch

Arctic oil scramble in offing after GOP tax bill

As a part of the Republican tax overhaul bill, Congress voted  to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and natural gas drilling, after more than four decades of contestation on the matter. Drilling is still years away at best, due to depressed oil prices, a lengthy review process, and likely legal challenges. But oil companies are already arguing over who will have rights to the reserve—while Native Alaskan communities that depend on its critical caribou habitat see impending cultural extermination. (Photo: FWS)

The Amazon

Peru: indigenous resistance defeats oil contract

Peruvian authorities turned down a bid to renew Frontera Energy's oil contract for Bloc 192 in the upper Amazon after the oilfield was occupied by indigenous protesters, prompting the Canadian company to declare force majeure. Local communities launched the occupation to demand that they be consulted before a decision was made on renewing the contract.

The Amazon

China wins contract for Amazon mega-project

Peru's Transport and Communications Ministry signed a contract with Chinese state-owned engineering giant SinoHydro to build the Hidrovía Amazónica, a mega-project aimed at turning the major rivers of the Amazon into arteries for delivering the resources of the rainforest basin to foreign markets. The government claims to have carried out a "prior consultation" with impacted communities along the rivers, having won 40 agreements to proceed with work.