A car bomb targeting a graduation ceremony at a military academy in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi left at least eight soldiers dead and over 20 wounded March 17. A second car bomb later exploded elsewhere in the city, killing one person. Libyan Minister of Justice Salah Marghani responded: "Now it is not time for mourning or condemnation. It is about time for Libyans to declare war on terrorists who have been killing Libyans and foreigners in the cities of Benghazi and Derna in eastern Libya. What is going on in Benghazi and Derna is terrorism and we must declare the state of emergency in Benghazi and we fight back. Asking for international assistance in this fight is not violation of Libyan sovereignty. What violates our sovereignty is the killing of these youth in cold blood."
Years of violence have driven more than 5 million Colombians from their homes, generating the second largest population of internally displaced people in the world. Nowhere in Colombia is the problem of forced displacement worse today than in Buenaventura, a largely Afro-Colombian port on the country's Pacific coast. For each of the past three years, Buenaventura has led all Colombian municipalities in the numbers of newly displaced persons, according to government figures. In 2013, more than 13,000 Buenaventura residents fled their homes. Left-wing guerrillas operate in Buenaventura's rural areas and have historically been a major cause of displacement in the area. Currently, however, the violence and displacement in Buenaventura is concentrated in its urban center, where guerrillas have virtually no presence, and 90 percent of the municipality's population lives. Human Rights Watch visited Buenaventura’s urban center in November 2013 to investigate what was causing massive displacement there, and found a city where entire neighborhoods were dominated by powerful paramilitary "successor groups"—known as the Urabeños and the Empresa—who restrict residents' movements, recruit their children, extort their businesses, and routinely engage in horrific acts of violence against anyone who defies their will.
Leaders of the peasant protest encampment at the planned Conga mine project in Cajamarca, Peru, report a new attack by the National Police detachment assigned to protect the site. Protest leader Marco Arana said that as a procession of protesters marched to the threatened Laguna Cocodrilo on March 18, police agents and security personnel of the Yanacocha mining company closely followed it, taunting the marchers with insults and provoking a fracas. Police reportedly used tear-gas and fired shotguns, and detained several protesters. Protest leaders issued an appeal to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) for action in the case. (La Republica, March 19; CNDH, March 18)
Hundreds of students remain barricaded in Taiwan's Legislature in protest of the ruling party's push for a Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement with the People's Republic of China. Protesters, most of them college students, stormed into the assembly hall of the Legislative Yuan, breaking the glass doors and blocking the entrances by piling up lawmakers' chairs to prevent police from entering. The protesters also took over the podium and rostrum in the chamber. The action was prompted March 18 when the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) cut short review of the trade agreement and sent the pact directly to the plenary session for its second reading. In response, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) boycotted the plenary session. Student leader Fei-fan Lin, speaking at a press conference, said: "We want the agreement to be recinded—not just back to the committee, but we want it thrown out, and tell China we are not signing this." (China Post, March 20; Taipei Times, CNN, VOA, March 19; Ketagalan Media, March 18)
Russian President Vladimir Putin and representatives of Crimea's government signed a treaty March 18 incorporating the territory, including the autonomous city of Sevastopol, into the Russian Federation. The agreement follows a referendum two days earlier in which more than 95% of Crimean voters, largely ethnic Russians, elected to secede from Ukraine and request to join Russia. The US, EU and Ukraine all challenge the legitimacy of the referendum and refuse to recognize Crimea as either an independent nation or as a part of Russia. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk called the annexation "a robbery on an international scale." Thousands of Ukrainian soldiers reamin in Crimea, and are now facing off with Russian troops and pro-Russian paramilitary forces. At least one Ukrainian solider was reported killed in a clash at a base near Simferopol as Crimea's annexation was announced. Yatsenyuk said the base had been attacked, calling it a "war crime." Russian media said that a "self-defense member"—persumably, a pro-Russian paramilitary—was also killed. The slaying was blamed on a "sniper," who was reported to have been detained.
Syrian government troops backed by Hezbollah fighters on March 16 took the town of Yabroud near the Lebanese border, which was held by rebels inlcuding the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. Hours later, in apparent retaliation, the Shi'ite town of Nabi Othman in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley was struck by a suicide bombing that left four dead. (LAT, Reuters, March 17) Meanwhile, in comments sure to warm the heart of Bashar Assad, opposition leader Kamal al-Labwani of the Syrian National Council told Iran's Arabic-language al Alam new service that the Syrian opposition is willing to give up claims to the Golan Heights in return for Israeli military aid. "Why shouldn’t we be able to sell the Golan Heights because it is better than losing Syria and Golan at once," he said. (Haaretz, March 16)
Iraq's oil production surged to its highest level in over 30 years last month. In its monthly oil report published March 14, the International Energy Agency said Iraq's oil output jumped by half a million barrels a day in February to average 3.6 million barrels a day. The country hasn't pumped that much oil since 1979, when Saddam Hussein rose to power. (WSJ, March 14) Paradoxically, the jump comes amid a new outbreak of Iraq's terrorist insurgency. A series of car bomb attacks targeting commercial areas and a restaurant killed at least 19 people March 15 in Baghdad. On March 9, a suicide car bomber detonated his explosive-laden vehicle at a checkpoint where dozens of cars were lined up in the southern city of Hillah, killing 21 civilians—the deadliest of a series of attacks that killed 42 people that day. Last year, Iraq saw the highest death toll since 2007. The UN said violence killed 8,868 last year in Iraq. (AP, March 15; AP, March 9)
Crimean Tatars held protests in the peninsula on March 14 ahead of a referendum to join Russia. Around 500 demonstrators took to the streets calling for "Russian soldiers to return home." Tatar leaders have dismissed this weekend's poll as illegal and called for a boycott. (Euronews) Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has pledged to support Crimea's Tatars. "Turkey has never left Crimean Tatars alone and will never do so," he said, after a phone call to Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this month. Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu vowed to protect the "rights of our kinsmen" after meeting with Ukrainian officials and representatives of the Tatar community during a visit to Kiev. (AFP, March 13) In a move to reassure the Tatars, Crimea's parliament has passed a resolution guaranteeing the ethnic minority proportional representation in the body, and granting their language official status. (RT, March 11) Meanwhile, street clashes are reported from the eatsern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, with one young man killed in fighting between pro- and anti-Russian demonstrators. (The Guardian, March 14)