At least 18 FARC fighters were killed May 22 in an air-strike on a camp near the coastal village of Guapi in Colombia's southwest region of Cauca. The strike came little more than a month after President Juan Manuel Santos ended a suspension of aerial bombing in response to a guerilla attack that killed 11 soldiers. The army said the aim of the air-strike was intended to kill "Javier el Chugo," second-in-command of the FARC’s 29th front, although it wasn't immediately clear if he was among the dead. (Colombia Reports, May 22) The FARC responded to the bombardment by announcing its own suspension of a unilateral ceasefire the guerillas had declared in December. A statement from the FARC command said: "We did not seek the suspension of the unilateral and indefinite ceasefire proclaimed on Dec. 20, 2014 as a humanitarian gesture to de-escalate the conflict, but the incoherence of the Santos government has done it, through 5 months of ground and air offensives against our structures throughout the country." (Colombia Reports, May 20)
Nine Turkish miners who survived last year's Soma mining disaster face six years in prison for violating the law restricting demonstrations and damaging property during a protest to demand that the bodies of their co-workers be extracted from the mine. The protestors are alleged to have blocked a road and damaged a passing vehicle at a protest to demand justice over the disaster, in which 301 miners died in an explosion on May 13, 2014. The trial for the Soma disaster opened on April 13, during which the 45 suspects, including the eight former managers from the Soma Coal Mine Company denied charges of "killing with probable criminal intent," precipitating anger among the families of the victims.
Peru's authorities can't seem to put out the last flicker of the Sendero Luminoso insurgency. A generation ago, the Maoist guerillas seemed capable of toppling the government but are now largely confined to a remote pocket of jungle known as the Apurímac-Ene-Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM). But that happens to be a top coca cultivation zone, affording the insurgency access to funds. Now, authorities claim to have uncovered evidence that the neo-Senderistas are in league with one of the re-organized Colombian cocaine cartels, ironically known as the "Cafeteros" (coffee-producers). "For the first time in an objective and concrete manner, the state can corroborate the link between drug trafficking and terrorism in the VRAEM," Ayacucho regional anti-drug prosecutor Mery Zuzunaga told Cuarto Poder TV.
Thousands of Guatemalans took to the streets May 16, demanding the nation's President Otto Pérez Molina step down amid a scandal that has already forced the resignation of his vice president, Roxana Baldetti. Despite rain, protesters marched in 13 cities. Throngs filled the capital's central plaza, where a giant banner read "We are the people." The mobilization was largely leaderless, organized by social media under the hashtag #RenunciaYa (Resign Already). It all blew up in April, when the UN International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala released findings of an investigation into a customs bribery ring uncovered by Guatemalan prosecutors. Baldetti's private secretary, Juan Carlos Monzón, was named as the ringleader, forcing Baldetti to step down May 8—despite protesting her innocence. Pérez Molina likewise pleads ignorance about the ring, dubbed "La Línea," and pledges a crackdown on corruption. Monzón is on the lam and an Interpol warrant has been issued.
Mexico's drug cartels appear to have declared open season on any candidate for public office who will not toe their line in the run-up to June's midterm elections. On May 14, mayoral candidate Enrique Hernández Salcedo was shot to death by gunmen who fired from a passing truck as he was making a speech in the town of Yurécuaro, Michoacán. Three spectators were injured. Hernández was a leader of the town's "self-defense force," which took up arms to break the grip of the Knights Templar drug cartel in the region. He was running with the left-opposition Morena party.
The New York Times offers this sobering lede on the anti-ISIS summit now underway: "With Islamist militant fighters on the ground in Syria and Iraq moving faster than the international coalition arrayed against them, a meeting in Paris by coalition members on Tuesday seemed unlikely to reverse the momentum anytime soon. With the French and American governments playing host, 24 foreign ministers or their representatives have been meeting here in the aftermath of serious losses to the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria last month and the possibility that more territory will be lost in the coming days." Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, whose forces are virtually collapsing, was of course on hand to appeal for more aid. (Reuters) Disgracefully, no Kurdish leaders were invited to the summit—despite the fact that Kurdish forces have been by far most effective on the ground against ISIS. "The [Iraqi] federal government didn't invite any representative from Kurdistan to the Paris meeting and have participated in this gathering alone," reads a statement from the Kurdish Regional Government. "The Peshmerga are the only forces that have so far bravely battled the terrorists and driven them out of our territories." (IBT) Needless to say, no representatives of the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Syria were invited either.
The self-proclaimed "Supporters of the Islamic State in Jerusalem" on June 2 issued a 48-hour ultimatum for the Hamas administration to halt its crackdown on the group in the Gaza Strip, although it made no explicit threat of action if the deadline is not met. The militants also claimed responsibility for a rocket fired at Israel from Gaza last week. The rocket landed near Gan Yavne in southern Israel, according to Israeli military officials. One "Islamic State" militant has apparently been killed since the ultimatum was issued. A spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry identified the man only as a 'lawbreaker," and said he was shot dead after firing at security officers who came to arrest him. Over 100 alleged ISIS supporters have been arrested by Hamas security forces since the crackdown began a month ago, according to Israel Radio. (JP, IBT, i24 News, June 2)
Egyptian security forces killed 12 suspected militants during raids on the Sinai Peninusla towns of al-Arish, Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid last week, Egypt's state news agency MENA reported May 25. Security sources said 18 suspects were arrested in the raids, and that forces destroyed various "terrorist hotbeds." as well. One solider was killed in a clash with a "terrorist cell" in the town of Sheikh Zuweid. The armed forces announced two weeks earlier that "security operations" have left a total of 725 suspected militants killed between late October and late April. (Aswat Masriya via AllAfrica, May 26) Iran's Press TV on June 1 identifies the group involved in the clashes as the (ISIS-aligned) Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, which it now says has been renamed the Velayat Sinai. Although it has not been reported elsewhere, the account claims militants destroyed the (presumably Shi'ite) al-Rifa'i Mosque in Sheikh Zuweid, leaving it "flattened" with rocket-propelled grenades.