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Monday, October 1, 2012

Kenyan Force Enters Last Al-Shabab Stronghold in Somalia

The African Union (AU) armed forces have evicted the Islamist group al-Shabab from their former headquarters in Kismayo, Somalia. Kenyan officials, who led the operation, have claimed full control of the city after an amphibious midnight landing on Friday followed by tense fighting throughout the weekend. An al-Shabab spokesman announced their withdrawal on Saturday, ending the Islamists’ four year control of the second largest port in Somalia. The past few weeks have seen Kenyan Air Force strikes against Kismayo and other targets in the southern region of Somalia, which have led many al-Shabab fighters to flee into the mountains and deserts to the north. African Union forces have surrounded the city center today and intend to proceed slowly with their control of Kismayo. Al-Shabab’s Press Office indicated that while they have moved their administration out of the city, they will continue to contest the area for control.

South Africa Launches Inquiry into Lonmin Miner Shootings

Retired Judge Ian Farlam headed the Marikana Commission of Inquiry today as it began its initial investigation into the shootings that left 34 dead and at least 78 wounded last August at the Lonmin Platinum Mine in South Africa. Serious questions arose when it was discovered that a number of protestors were shot in the back and that many were killed or injured a significant distance from the police line, possibly while cornered in a barbed wire corral. Today Farlam’s commission toured the site of the shootings, the Marikana Hills, to get a physical sense for the chain of events that took place. The inquiry is expected to conclude early next year.

Medics’ Appeal Denied in Bahrain

Nine medics will go to prison for their role in the pro-democracy protests that shook the Kingdom of Bahrain last year. Dr. Ali al-Ekri and eight of his colleagues were working at Salmaniya Medical Center during the Arab Spring which saw massive protest in the Shia-majority country of Bahrain, (which is governed by a Suuni Royal Family) when they provided medical aid to protestors that had been injured in the clashes. The group of doctors has been convicted of carrying non-firearm weapons and taking part in illegal demonstrations. During the conflict last year 95 medics were arrested in total and 20 were convicted on various counts, though half of these convictions were later over turned. Having exhausted their appeals, al-Ekri and his colleague Dr. Ibrahim Damastani will face five and three years respectively. The rest were sentenced to up to a year; five of whom were released with time served.

Buddhist Temples and Homes Torched in Bangladesh

A mob numbering in the hundreds set fire to 10 buddhist temples and 40 homes yesterday in the Cox’s Bazar region of southeast Bangladesh. The demonstration began in response to a Facebook post: an area buddhist man was tagged in a picture of a burnt Quran. “We brought the situation under control before dawn and imposed restrictions on public gatherings,” said Salim Mohammad Jahangir, Cox’s Bazar’s police superintendent. The attacks are already being politicized: “In primary investigations, we have found that organized radical Islamic groups attacked the houses and places of worship,” said Home Minister Mohiudddin Khan Alamgir, “Activists of the opposition parties were also among the attacks.” The identity of the leaders of the mob is not yet clear.

Colombian President Wants Peace With FARC

Next month, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will send government representatives to Oslo to negotiate peace with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). “You can’t ask the FARC to simply kneel down, surrender and give us the arms. They will not do that, so there has to be some kind of way out, and this way out has to be you can be able to participate in the political arena. This is a way any conflict is settled, not only the Colombian conflict,” said Santos. As Colombia’s former Minister of National Defense and now President, Santos has dealt some of the most crippling military blows to the FARC during the 50 year war. The Santos administration now aims to re-integrate the guerrillas politically and to achieve a framework for peace within the coming year. The FARC has entered these types of talks before only to use the ensuing ceasefire to entrench new positions and re-arm its members. Santos has stipulated that this time “there will be cease-fire and we will stop any military operation when we reach a final agreement.” Until then, the Colombian government will continue its security operations against the FARC as normal.

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