Authorities in Mali said July 31 that a once-powerful jihadist leader has been arrested by French military forces in the northern desert town of Gao. Yoro Ould Daha was a commander of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), which controlled Gao for nearly a year before the French intervention of 2013. Ould Daha was the MUJAO commander who announced the death of French hostage Gilberto Rodriguez-Leal, who was captured in November 2012 while traveling in Mauritania and Mali. He also took responsibility for the abduction of five humanitarian workers who were later released. (AP, July 31)
Iraq's government persuaded a US judge in Texas to order the seizure of $100 million of oil inside a tanker anchored off Galveston that it claims was illegally pumped from wells in Kurdistan. Kurdish officials “misappropriated” more than 1 million barrels of oil from northern Iraq and exported them through a pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan, according to a complaint filed in Houston federal court. Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson in Galveston authorized US marshals to seize the cargo and have it moved ashore for safekeeping until the dispute is resolved. However, as the vessel remains outside US territorial waters, the order cannot be carried out. "Either they’ll bring the oil into port, where we'll take possession of it, or they'll sail off somewhere else," Phillip Dye Jr., Houston-based attorney for the Iraqi Oil Ministry, told Bloomberg, adding that his clients don’t know who bought the cargo. A State Department spokesman said last week that the government would warn potential buyers of oil from Iraqi Kurdistan the legal risks involved. (Bloomberg, WSJ, July 29)
Davi Kopenawa, traditional shaman and internationally renowned spokesman for the Yanomami people in Brazil's Amazon rainforest, has demanded urgent police protection following a series of death threats by armed thugs reportedly hired by gold-miners operating illegally on Yanomami land in Roraima state. In June, armed men on motorbikes raided the Boa Vista office of Brazil's non-governmental Socio-Environmental Institute (ISA), which works closely with the Yanomami, asking for Davi. The men threatened ISA staff with guns and stole computers and other equipment. After the assault, one of the men was arrested, and reportedly told police that he had been hired by gold-miners. In May, Yanomami Association Hutukara, headed by Davi, received a message from gold-miners saying that Davi would not be alive by the end of the year.
A fire from fuel tanks near Tripoli's international airport set ablaze by rocket strikes is out of control as clashes between rival militias continue in the area, Libya's National Oil Company reports. Six million liters of fuel were set ablaze by a rocket late on July 27, with a second depot hit the following day, darkening the city's sky. "The situation is very dangerous after a second fire broke out at another petroleum depot," the statement said, warning of a "disaster with unforeseeable consequences." The Libyan government appealed for "international help" fighting the blaze amid heavy fighting that the government says has killed more than 150 people in Tripoli and Benghazi during two weeks of fighting. (Al Jazeera, July 29) Fighting continued July 28, the first day of Eid al-Fitr, with bombs and explosions heard across Benghazi. (Libya Herald, July 28)
Highly vulnerable "uncontacted" indigenous bands who recently emerged in the Brazil-Peru border region have said that they were fleeing violent attacks in Peru. FUNAI, Brazil's indigenous affairs agency, has announced that the uncontacted bands have returned once more to their forest home. Seven members of the band made peaceful contact with a settled indigenous Ashaninka community near the Ríó Envira in Brazil's Acre state three weeks ago. A government health team was dispatched and has treated seven band members for flu. FUNAI has announced it will reopen a monitoring post on the Rió Envira which it closed in 2011 after it was overrun by drug traffickers. Survival International called the emerging news "extremely worrying," noting that isolated indigenous groups lack immunity to the flu, which has wiped out entire tribes in the past. Brazilian experts believe that the isolated bands, who belong to the Panoan linguistic group, crossed over the border from Peru into Brazil due to pressures from illegal loggers and drug traffickers on their land.
Gunmen killed at least 20 Egyptian military border guards near the frontier with Libya in a July 19 raid. An army spokesman said the attackers were "terrorists"—the term Egyptian authorities use for Islamist militants. A weapons storage facility was reportedly blown up by a rocket-propelled grenade during the attack, which took place in Wadi al-Gadid governorate, bordering Libya and Sudan. At least two militants were reportedly killed in the clash. (Radio Australia, July 20) The attack comes three weeks after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi flew to Algiers for a meeting with his Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Commentators in the region say the meeting was intended to coordinate support for Libyan Gen. Khalifa Haftar, who has launched a unilateral offensive on Islamist militants in Benghazi. (Middle East Monitor, June 27)
Nicaragua's Commission for the Development of the Grand Canal on July 7 approved a route for the proposed inter-oceanic canal through the Central American country. The waterway, to be built by Chinese company HKND, is slated to run from the Río Punta Gorda (South Atlantic Autonomous Region) on the Caribbean Coast to Brito (Rivas department) on the Pacific coast—a route more than three times as long as the 48-mile Panama Canal. The Commission said the canal will be operational by 2020, but questions have been raised on how the Hong Kong-based company plans to finance the project, estimated at $50 billion—nearly four times greater than Nicaragua's national economy. The canal is to be privately owned and operated. Ecologists have raised concerns about impacts on Lake Nicaragua (also known as Cocibolca), Central America's largest lake and an important fresh-water source for the country. There are fears the the water used by the canal's locks could seriously deplete the lake. The Río San Juan, which feeds the lake and forms the border with Costa Rica, would be dammed to feed the locks. Costa Rica has formally demanded the right to review environmental impact studies for the project before work begins. The Rama-Kriol indigenous people, whose territories in the Punta Gorda river basin would be impacted, are demanding to be consulted on the project. (La Prensa, Nicaragua, July 17; Tico Times, Costa Rica; July 15; Nicaragua Dispatch, Reuters, El Financiero, Mexico, July 8)
Bolivia's President Evo Morales will run for re-election in October, the ruling Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) announced July 14. But the opposition accuses Morales of defying the constitution, which allows a president two consecutive terms in office. Morales was first elected in 2006 and then again in 2009. The term limit was adopted in 2009, with the constitutional reform overseen by Morales himself. In 2013 the Plurinational Constitutional Trbunal (TCP) ruled that his first term should not be counted as it preceded the new constitution. Morales is the clear frontrunner, polling at about 44%. His nearest rival, cement tycoon Samuel Doria Medina of the Unidad Demócrata (UD), trails by almost 30 points. Morales, anticipating a contentious campaign, appealed to MAS supporters for restraint, saying "I ask you all not to enter into a dirty war." (La Razón, La Paz, July 17; Los Tiempos, Cochabamba, July 16; EFE, July 15; The Guardian, July 14)