Warzone News January 13, 2016

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Warzone News Update: Week of January 13, 2016

In Afghanistan, there is hesitant optimism as peace talks involving China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the U.S. began in Islamabad, Pakistan.

In Burundi, evidence that many who have died in the attacks in December were unarmed and have been buried in a mass grave.  After Burundi threatened to attack AU peacekeepers if they were deployed, Uganda warned Burundi on Friday that it should work with the AU. Tanzania also voiced its support for the AU forces.  The UN is currently ill-prepared to handle the worst-case scenario of violence in the country.

In Central African Republic, election counts showed two former prime ministers nearly tied. They will vie for the presidency in the final round of elections on January 31. The U.N. is urging patience after first round election results. Hundreds of Congolese U.N. peacekeeping troops withdraw from CAR and won’t be replaced. In August, three Congolese peacekeepers in CAR were accused of raping three female civilians, including one minor, but it is not immediately clear whether such allegations were the main factor behind the decision to withdraw Congolese troops.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 15 people were killed when rebels, allegedly part of the FDLR from Rwanda, attacked civilians on Thursday in Miriki, located in the conflict-torn North Kivu province. Opposition parties in DRC said they will stage rallies to put pressure on President Joseph Kabila to step down when his mandate expires at the end of the year.

In Iraq, more than 30 people were killed Monday in two separate — but similarly coordinated — bombing attacks at public places in Iraq, for which ISIS has claimed responsibility. On Tuesday, at least seven Sunni mosques and dozens of shops in eastern Iraq were firebombed.  Meanwhile, tensions between Iran (whose official state religion is Shia Islam) and Saudi-Arabia (whose official state religion is Sunni Islam) sharpen Iraq’s sectarian divisions.

In Israel and Palestine, some violent attacks in recent months seem to the work of a new brand of Jewish terrorism by a group of young extremists rebelling against the Israeli establishment, called “the Revolt.”

In Libya, The Libyan National Oil Corp has emptied oil storage tanks at the Ras Lanuf terminal as a precaution after IS militants attacked the country’s two biggest oil ports last week. Italy evacuated 15 Libyans on Monday for medical treatment after they were wounded in last week’s truck bomb attack against a police training center.

In Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi’s last-minute decision to join Myanmar peace talks could boost the chances of progress with rebel groups who have so far resisted joining the process.

In Somalia, there are differing reports of tragedies at sea.  According to Reuters, around 100 Ethiopian and Somali migrants died at sea when a boat, which had started its journey from the port of Bossaso two weeks ago and was heading to an unidentified port in the Arabian Peninsula, was recovered by the Somaliland Coast Guard.  Other sources report that refugees fleeing to Greece died when they were thrown overboard by human traffickers.  It is unclear if these are distinct events and much of the information is yet to be confirmed.

In South Sudan, warring parties agreed on Thursday to share ministerial positions in a transitional government of national unity, in which high-level positions will be given to members of both the rebel and loyalist groups. However, political analysts say the peace deal in South Sudan will not see the light of day if the root cause of the two-year civil war is not addressed and that “lack of trust among rivals remains a stumbling block.”

In Syria, aid convoys finally reached the civilians in areas under siege, including the town of Madaya, where people have been living without food or medical aid.  UN reports and Doctors without Borders said that 23 people starved to death in the town in December, six of them children.  Many are reporting that the recent news of famine may be “just the tip of the iceberg” and Amnesty International is drawing attention to the fact that starvation of civilians as a tactic in warfare is a war crime. According to the New Zealand ambassador to the UN, around 400 people in Madaya need to be urgently evacuated for medical treatment.

In Yemen, at least five people were killed and 10 others were injured when a projectile hit a Doctors without Borders hospital in the northern part of the country on Sunday. As Iran-Saudi tension builds in the region, the conflict in Yemen will be affected as well.

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