Grupo Mexico's Southern Copper Corp on May 15 announced a 60-day halt in its huge Tia Maria project in southern Peru's Arequipa region following seven weeks of escalating protests in which three people have been killed and more than 200 injured. Company president Oscar Gonzalez said in a statement that the "pause" would let all sides air concerns and "identify solutions." Protesters in Cocachacra, the center of the conflict in Islay province, say they have no intention of backing down from their demand that the $1.4 billion project be canceled. Peru's President Ollanta Humala said canceling the project would expose the country to lawsuits and make it less attractive to investors.
Mali's government is boasting a deal with Tuareg leaders signed May 15 in the capital Bamako that grants autonomous powers to the northern homeland of Azawad. But the "Algiers Accord"—named for Algeria-brokered negotiations—was not signed by the main rebel factions. Two leaders of the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) signed, but not the body as a whole. The pro-Bamako militia known as the Tuareg Self-Defense Group of Imghad and Allies (GATIA) also signed. But the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and allied High Council for the Unity of Azawad boycotted the ceremony. Also absent were the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA), Coordination for the People of Azawad (CPA), and Coordination of Movements and Fronts of Patriotic Resistance (CM-SAF).
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that ISIS forces are advancing on the ruins of the ancient city of Palmyra, a UN World Heritage Site, where it is feared they will carry on their campaign against the archaeological treasures of the Fertile Crescent. ISIS militants have already seized parts of adjacent city of Tadmur. Palmyra and Tadmur are situated in a strategic area on the road betwee Damascus and the contested eastern city of Deir al-Zour, and close to gas fields (BBC News) ISIS militants have executed 26 civilians in villages they seized near Palmyra, according to the Syrian Observatory. "Daesh executed 26 civilians, including at least 10 by beheading, after accusing them of collaborating with the Syrian regime," said the Observatory. (AFP)
Gunmen on motorcycles stopped a commuter bus carrying Ismaili Muslims in Karachi May 13, boarded it and opened fire on the passengers, killing at least 45. Outside the hospital where some dozen wounded survivors were taken, and where the bus was parked, scores of grim-faced young Ismali men formed a human chain to block everyone but families and doctors—apparently fearing a follow-up attack. English leaflets left in the bus were headlined "Advent of the Islamic State!" The leaflet used derogatory Arabic words, blaming the Ismali community for "barbaric atrocities...in the Levant, Iraq and Yemen." Pakistani media said the attack was claimed by the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan, the Jundullah network, and militants claiming to represent ISIS. (AFP, BBC News, May 13)
Over the past two months, the ISIS international franchise has made foreboding gains from West Africa to the Indian subcontinent. In Nigeria, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS in March, according to the anti-terrorist monitoring group SITE. The pledge, attributed to Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau, was made in an audio posted on Twitter (and since removed). "We announce our allegiance to the Caliph... and will hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity," SITE quoted the statement. (Al Jazeera, March 8)
Activists in Spain staged a creative protest against the country's new "Citizen Safety Law" on April 10—projecting holograms of themselves that marched on the parliament building in Madrid. This was making the point that under the law, actual flesh-and-blood marches on government buildings would be banned—along with filming the police, failing to obey police orders, burning the national flag, or holding any protest without a permit. The ghostly hologram march was a joint effort by the groups No Somos Delito (We Are Not a Crime, the coalition that's come together to oppose the new "gag law") and the tech-savvy Hologramas por la Libertad (Holograms for Freedom). People worldwide were invited to record videos of themselves marching and holding signs, that were converted into holograms.
March 28 saw more angry protests in Mexico's conflicted southern state of Guerrero, as students from the rural college of Ayotzinapa clashed with police in the state capital Chilpancingo at a march demanding the return alive of the 43 abducted students from the school. Cars were set on fire as police attacked the marchers. The 43 students disappeared during protests in the Guerrero town of Iguala last September, and are now believed to have been turned over a murderous narco-gang by corrupt police. The weekend before the Chilpancingo demonstration, family members of some of the 43 missing students held a vigil in New York City's Union Square—one stop on a tour of US cities to raise awareness on their plight and protest Washington's "Drug War" aid to Mexico's brutal and corrupt police forces.