Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called a meeting of his National Security Council (MGK) June 29—being widely portrayed in the Turkish media as preparation to establish a "buffer zone" in northern Syria in response to Kurdish territorial gains against ISIS. Over the weekend, Erdogan told reporters: "I am saying this to the whole world: We will never allow the establishment of a state on our southern border in the north of Syria. We will continue our fight in that respect whatever the cost may be." Turkish newspapers including the pro-government Yeni Safak are reporting that the military has received to seize a strip 110 kilometers long and 33 kilometer deep along the border. One anonymous official told Hurriyet Daily News there is a "need" to "prevent more clashes between the ISIL and the Kurdish forces led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), prevent the PYD from taking full control over the Turkish-Syrian border and create a safe zone against a new wave of refugees on Syrian territory, no longer in Turkey." The PYD is the Kurdish political party whose military wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), have been making gains against ISIS.
Up to 28 people were killed in an attack by presumed ethnic Uighurs on a police traffic checkpoint in China's restive Xinjiang region June 23. The attack apparently began when a car sped through a traffic checkpoint in Tahtakoruk district of Kashgar (Chinese: Kashi) city. Assailants armed with knives emerged from the vehicle and rushed the checkpoint, while others quickly arrived by motorcycle. At least one improvised bomb was used in the attack. Two of the dead were said to be by-standers. The slain also included 15 suspects. (RFA, June 23) The attack came as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) expressed "deep concern" over reports that Chinese authorities are again restricting observance of the Ramadan holy month in Xinjiang. The OIC charged that Uighurs "are denied the right to practice the fourth pillar of Islam," fasting during Ramadan. Authorities have reportedly barred civil servants, students and teachers from fasting, and ordered restaurants to remain open. (Arab News, June 27) Perversely, authorities are said to be holding "beer festivals" in Uighur villages to tempt those observing Ramadan to break their fast. (PRI, June 26)
Bolivia's Vice-Minister of Government Alfredo Rada was asked by a reporter from TV show "Levántate Bolivia" June 25 how he viewed the controversial highway that would cut through the Isiboro Secure Inidgenous Territory and National Park (TIPNIS) in light of Pope Francis' recent encyclical on the dangers of climate change. Implicitly referencing the repression of protests against the highway in 2011, which resulted in suspension of the project, Rada responded: "At the time I considered, and still consider, that TIPNIS has been one of the errors of the government." (ANF, June 25; ENS, June 18) Just weeks earlier, President Evo Morales made a statement indicating that the highway project would be revived. At a ceremony marking the 45th anniversary of founding of Villa Tunari municipality, Cochabamba, which would be a hub on the new highway, Morales said: "This road, compañeros, will be realized." Alluding to the neighboring jungle department of Beni as a stronghold of the right-wing opposition, he added: "First, it will liberate Beni. Second, it will bring greater integration between the departments, we are convinced of this." He claimed the project has the support of the governments of Cochabamba and Beni departments, both now controlled by Morales' ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS). (La Razón, June 25)
Thousands of protesters marched in Honduras on June 26 calling for the resignation of President Juan Hernández and demanding an independent investigation into his role in an ongoing corruption scandal. Hernández is accused of knowingly using money from a $200 million embezzlement scandal at the Honduran Institute of Social Security (IHSS) to help pay for his 2013 presidential campaign. Hernández last week acknowledged that his campaign did receive funds from people involved with the scandal, but stated he and his party had not been made aware of where that money had come from.
The ISIS franchise in Libya, the self-declared "Islamic State in Cyrenaica," was largely driven from the eastern city of Derna last week, although fighting continues in one neighborhood that remains under ISIS control. The offensive against ISIS is apparently being led by the Abu Salim Martyrs Brigade, linked to the local Mujahedeen Shura Council, one of the more radical elements in the Libyan Dawn coalition. Confusingly, one of the militias allied with with the Abu Salim brigade is named as Ansar al-Sharia, which had previously been described as an ISIS affiliate. The fighting erupted on June 9 after ISIS militants assassinated Nasser Aker (also rendered Nasir Atiyah al-Akar), a senior figure in the Shura Council. The battle seems to represent a struggle between jihadists loyal to ISIS and al-Qaeda. In any case, it represents a jihadist enclave opening in Libya's east, heretofore under control of the secular-leaning "official" government now based in Tobruk, the next major town to the east of Derna. (See map) (AFP, June 21; IBT, June 15; Long War Journal, June 14)
Seemingly coordinated attacks left over 140 dead across four countries June 26, in what social media users are dubbing "Bloody Friday." In France, an assailant drove his van into a factory in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, outside Lyon, causing an explosion that killed 37 and wounded a similar number. His boss, the owner of a delivery firm, was found beheaded alongside flags containing Islamic inscriptions in Arabic. (BBC News) At least 39, mostly foreigners, were killed and nearly as many injured as a lone gunman opened fire on a beach in the Tunisian resort town of Sousse before being gunned down himself. (BBC News) In Somalia, dozens of soldiers were killed as al-Shabaab overran an African Union base in the village of Lego, northwest of Mogadishu, (The Guardian) And an explosion tore through a Shi'ite mosque in Kuwait City after Friday prayers, killing at least eight and wounding several others. (Al Jazeera) The attacks come amid the holy month of Ramadan, and days before the anniversary of the declaration of a "caliphate" by ISIS.
After years of debate and a 2014 referendum, the Spanish town of Castrillo Matajudíos—yeah, that's right, "Fort Kill the Jews"—has officially changed back to its original name of Castrillo Mota de Judíos, or "Jew's Hill Fort." It's believed that the town, in Burgos province of Castile and León region, was originally a Jewish town. Residents had to convert under threat of death (generally being burned at the stake) or exile under the 1492 Edict of Expulsion, and adopted the new name as a way of proving their loyalty to the Catholic kings. No self-identified Jews live in the town today, but many residents have Jewish roots and the town's official shield includes the Star of David. The city's mayor Lorenzo Rodríguez led the initiative, saying that the name was offensive to many. (No, ya think?) (NPR, June 23)
ISIS, retreating before an advance by Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria, launched a new attack on the Kurdish town of Kobani June 25, with a wave of at least three car bombs as well as random shootings of inhabitants, leaving 45 civilians dead. "Groups of ISIS fighters are driving around Kobani's alleys and streets killing civilians," a local Kurdish commander told Rudaw news agency. CNN said ISIS militants disguised as Kurdish fighters infiltrated the town. Eyewitnesses said some gunmen spoke Kurdish and knocked on doors telling locals to come out. "People rushed out and were killed," one resident said. Al Jazeera also reported that ISIS fighters were wearing Kurdish and Free Syrian Army uniforms. Kobani was liberated from an ISIS siege in January after months of heavy fighting. The town became a powerful symbol of resistance, some calling it the "Kurdish Stalingrad."