Chiapas: roads blocked to protest paramilitarism

Indigenous Chol Maya villagers from Nueva Esperanza hamlet, Tila municipality, blocked a main road through the highlands of Mexico's Chiapas state Nov. 9 to demand justice four months after the murder and disappearance of a community leader. Followers of indigenous organization Laklumal Ixim-Norte Selva said Toni Reynaldo Gutiérrez López was detained by municipal police and paramilitary gunmen in late July—to be found days later dead and with signs of torture on a local ranch. There have been no arrests in the case. Laklumal Ixim in a statement named as responsible a local political boss, Limber Gregorio Gutiérrez Gómez, who they said is a leader of the right-wing paramilitary group Paz y Justicia.

Iraq: sectarian terror in battle for Baiji

The oil refinery city of Baiji was taken from ISIS Oct. 21 by Iraqi security forces and their Shi'ite militia allies. Key to the fighting was the Popular Mobilization Units or Hashid al-Shaabi militia. (Long War Journal, Oct. 19) After driving ISIS forces from the city, the PMU reported the discovery of at least 19 mass graves containing "365 bodies of Daesh terrorists"—the Arabic acronym for Islamic State. It was not clear how long the bodies had been buried there or how they were identified as ISIS fighters. (AFP, Oct. 21)

AKP-ISIS collaboration in Ankara massacre?

The aftermath of the Oct. 10 Anakara massacre—in which some 100 were killed in a double suicide attack on a peace rally—has been a study in the Orwellian. Authorities have arrested at least 12 sympathizers of the Kurdish PKK rebels, who are accused of tweeting messages indicating foreknowledge of the attack. But the actual tweets indicate they were warning of a potential ISIS attack on the rally. "What if ISIL blows up?!," one tweeted. Another voiced fear of an ISIS "intervention" at the event. This was an all too legitimate speculation, given the similar terror attack on a gathering of leftist youth in the southern town of Suruc just three months earlier. In fact, Turkish police have named one of the Ankara bombers as Yunus Emre Alagöz, the brother of  Sheikh Abdurrahman Alagöz, the ISIS operative who blew himself up in the Suruc attack. (The Guardian, Oct. 15; Anadolu Agency, Oct. 14)

Philippines: mining link seen to paramilitary terror

In the latest of a wave of deadly attacks on indigenous peoples in the southern Philippines island of Mindanao, a community leader was gunned down by armed men on a motorcycle in Agusan del Sur province on Sept. 28. Lito Abion, 44, a leader of the indigenous organization Tagdumahan, was slain in  Doña Flavia village, San Luis municipality, where he long been an advocate for land rights and local autonomy—especially opposing large-scale gold-mining operations in the area. This year has seen several killings and violent attacks on Lumads, as the indigenous peoples of the region are collectively known. Following a call from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, the central government has formed a commission to investigate the attacks, led by Edmundo Arugay, director of the National Bureau of Investigation. But local rights advocates see the government's hand in the violence, pointing to a paramilitary group called the Magahat Bagani Force, said to be linked to the Philippine army. Some 3,000 Lumad residents of the municipalities of Lianga, Marihatag, San Agustin, San Miguel and Tago have been displaced by fighting in their villages and are currently taking shelter at a sports complex in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur province. The abuses have escalated along with a new counter-insurgency offensive against guerillas of the New People's Army (NPA) in recent weeks. (, Oct. 1; PIPLinks, Sept. 30 Inquirer, Sept. 6)

Colombia accord to include trials for rights abuses

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader leader "Timochenko" announced in Havana Sept. 24 that they have set a six-month deadline to sign a peace deal, which will include establishment of a special justice system to try human rights abusers. "We're not going to fail! This is the chance for peace!," President Santos said. "On March 23, 2016 we will be bidding farewell to the longest-running conflict in the Americas." Timochenko later posted on the rebels Twitter feed: "Let's join efforts to achieve peace." But terms of the proposed justice process are meeting controvery, within Colombia and internationally.

Paramilitarism in Venezuela-Colombian border crisis

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Aug. 21 indefinitely closed a busy border crossing with Colombia and declared a 60-day state of emergency in several nearby towns after three soldiers were shot and wounded in an apparent clash with smugglers. Authorities said two assailants on a motorcycle fired on a patrol in the border town of San Antonio del Táchira, wounding a civilian as well as the two army lieutenants and a captain. Maduro has mobilized some 15,000 troops the area, and says the Simon Bolívar International Bridge, over the Río Táchira that forms the border, will remain closed until the assailants are apprehended. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has protested the border closure, signaling another flare-up between the uneasy South American neighbors.

Turkey: state terror in 'anti-terrorist' guise

The Turkish military carried out air-strikes against PKK positions Sept. 7, a day after a guerilla attack on a military convoy near Daglica, Hakkari province, in which either 16 or 31 soldiers were killed (whether you believe the government or the PKK). Turkish fighter jets have struck 23 targets in the area, in what the military called a "heavy air campaign." (NYT, AP, BGN, Sept. 7) There is no word yet on casualties from the air-strikes, which are presumably on villages thought to be PKK strongholds. But world leaders and media are largely giving the Turkish state a free ride in its efforts to cast its campaign of state terror in "anti-terrorist" terms. Turkey will be "cleaned of terrorists no matter what happens," Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu boasted to the official Anadolu news agency. Daily Sabah boasts in its headline, "World stands by Turkey against terrorism," noting that the French Foreign Ministry denounced the "terrorist attack claimed by the PKK against military vehicles in the southeast of Turkey" and pledged "solidarity with the Turkish authorities." But the ongoing attacks on Kurdish civilians by Turkish state forces are conveniently invisible to the outside world...

Brazil: Guarani leader slain by gunmen

A Guarani-Kaiowa indigenous leader was shot dead Aug. 29 at Douradina municipality in Brazil's Mato Grosso do Sul state, one week after his community occupied part of their ancestral lands. Community leaders had warned of an imminent attack, after their encampment was surrounded by gunmen in 30 vehicles. Semião Vilhalva of the Nanderu Marangatu community was killed when the gunmen, hired by local ranchers, finally stormed the encampment—reportedly in the presence of government agents. The encampment was re-established after the attack, but suffered a second assault on Sept. 3. "They came in and began to shoot everywhere," said one Guarani leader. 

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