Conflict update: December 20 2016

Germany

The death toll from yesterday’s truck attack in Berlin is now up to 12, and ISIS has claimed responsibility. Their statement used language that the terror group typically uses to describe “inspired”/”lone wolf” attacks for which it later claims credit. To make matters worse, the man who was arrested last night on the belief that he was the driver of the truck…apparently wasn’t the driver of the truck:

The day began with what seemed to be a breakthrough, as the authorities announced that they were interrogating a 23-year-old Pakistani asylum seeker, arrested the previous night, who arrived in Germany last December. Yet within hours, doubts arose that he was the perpetrator, and by evening the federal prosecutor said the man had been released because there was no evidence linking him to the crime. An examination of the cab of the truck turned up no sign that he had been in it, the prosecutor said.

Consequently, the search for the attacker is still–or, I guess, back–on. And considering that ISIS has spent most of the year calling for lone actors to undertake attacks in Germany, this is pretty troubling. And given the possibility that the attacker came from among the refugees that her government has allowed in to Germany, it should come as no great surprise that right-wing nationalists are targeting Angela Merkel for blame here.

Turkey

An attack on a bus in Kayseri that killed 13 Turkish soldiers on Saturday has been claimed by the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK).

Right, Kayseri. I probably should have mentioned that yesterday, but it kind of got washed out by Andrey Karlov’s assassination in Ankara. On that subject, it seems that the Turkish government is very invested in portraying the assassin, Mevlut Mert Altıntaş, as a Gülenist. Without discounting the possibility that Altıntaş was a Gülenist (Ankara has released some information about him that is highly suggestive of Gülenist ties, assuming any of it is true), they could have a few reasons for pursuing this line. One, it deflects attention from Turkey’s failure to protect the Russian ambassador, which is a huge failure. Two, it lets Ankara point the finger at the United States, since Gülen is living here, which is presumably just fine with Russia as well. Three, it deflects attention from the possibility that Altıntaş was not a Gülenist but rather an Islamist, which would be problematic for Tayyip Erdoğan since some of his best friends are Islamists. The words Altıntaş spoke after the killing, all caught on camera, are suggestive of Islamist leanings, but the explanation for this in Turkey seems to be that Altıntaş was a Gülenist pretending to be an Islamist in order to embarrass Erdoğan. Yeah, I know.

As I noted yesterday, the Gülen movement has opposed Erdoğan’s efforts to rid Syria of Bashar al-Assad, so a Gülenist would be unlikely to shout slogans about Aleppo to justify carrying out an assassination. Unless, of course, he was doing some kind of 12th dimensional false flag thing.

Also, the US embassy in Ankara closed today after a man reportedly fired a shotgun into the air outside the building.

Syria

Bashar al-Assad’s regime is continuing to consolidate control over eastern Aleppo, and evacuations are expected to be complete within “days.” Roughly 37,500 people have already been evacuated, with Assad’s forces preparing to enter the final parts of the city still technically in rebel hands. Parallel evacuations in the Idlib villages of Fua and Kefraya, which are being besieged by the rebels, also appear to be continuing.

Meanwhile, Russia claims that it’s drawing up a “declaration” to serve as a roadmap for Syrian peace, after a meeting between Russian, Iranian, and Turkish diplomats in Moscow today. With Aleppo finally back in Assad’s hands, there’s a decent chance that Moscow and even Tehran are going to start leaning on their client to find a political way out of the war to whatever extent he can. Neither Russia nor Iran has any interest in propping Assad up indefinitely, and while extremist groups are undoubtedly going to keep fighting, there’s a sense that both of Assad’s patrons would like him to reach a settlement with less extreme rebels, maybe over a shared interest in defeating ISIS. Easier said than done, obviously.

Iraq

Three people were killed in an attack on an aid distribution point in the Zahour neighborhood in eastern Mosul. Otherwise news out of Mosul has been pretty slow.

The offices of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI) in Koy Sanjak were hit with a bomb today in an attack that killed six people. No information on who might have been behind the attack but obviously the Iranian government is high on the list of suspects.

Jordan

Amid the search for the terrorist network that was behind Sunday’s attack in Karak, four Jordanian police officers were killed today in another shootout in that same city. ISIS also claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack today.

Yemen

The Saudi-led Coalition to Obliterate Yemen Restore Yemen’s Government announced that it will stop using cluster bombs. Which is nice. But that also means they’ve now admitted to using cluster bombs, which is one of those things that isn’t a war crime but really, really should be. Cluster bombs scatter explosives over a wide area, they inevitably come into contact with civilians, and they often don’t go off for as long as decades after they’ve been deployed, which makes them akin to mines in the “gift that keeps on giving” department.

Libya

The Libyan National Oil Company announced that it’s reopening pipelines in the western part of the country that could begin sending almost 300,000 barrels of oil per day to market. This could be a major boost to the Government of National Accord, which controls most of western Libya, but it comes as kind of a blow to OPEC considering they’re trying to reduce oil production these days.

The United States announced that its anti-ISIS operation in Libya is over now that Sirte has been cleared. So that’s nice?

Tunisia

Tunisians are protesting last Thursday’s killing of a Tunisian national, Mohammed Zawari, who was apparently the head of Hamas’s drone program. Zawari was killed in the eastern Tunisian city of Sfax, in an attack that Hamas has blamed on Israel. The Tunisian government is investigating the possibility that a foreign actor carried out the killing, which would obviously be considered a breach of Tunisian sovereignty if indeed that’s what happened.

South Sudan

Plans to impose an arms embargo on the potentially genocidal nation are still stalled at the UN Security Council, naturally. Japan is among the countries still refusing to support the embargo, likely due to concerns that its peacekeepers in the country will be targeted in the event that an embargo is imposed.

The Gambia

You’d better be sitting down for this: incumbent ex-President Yahya Jammeh insists he’s not going anywhere. Lesser men might let something as trivial as “losing an election” drive them from office, but this is the man who once said he would serve a billion years in office and, goddammit, he’s going to do it whether literally anybody else wants him to or not. President-elect Adama Barrow has already said he won’t prosecute Jammeh upon taking office, so the theory that Jammeh has been holding out for immunity from prosecution is becoming harder to sustain.

Mali

The Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), the main Tuareg separatist movement in northern Mali, has decided to pull out of the ongoing process of implementing a 2015 peace deal. The CMA cited a lack of progress on promised reforms in its statement, but left open the possibility that it would rejoin the process if its conditions are met.

Central African Republic

A new armed group calling itself “Return, Reclamation, Rehabilitation” (3R) has emerged in CAR over the past year, and a new report from Human Rights Watch says they’ve been responsible for displacing 17,000 people and killing at least 50. The group reportedly formed to protect the Muslim Peul or Fula peoples of the CAR from attacks by Christian militias, but they’ve apparently become much more, shall we say, proactive over the past several months.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Congolese forces have so far killed at least 26 people protesting President Joseph Kabila’s decision not to let a silly thing like term limits keep him from remaining in office indefinitely. Protests have apparently broken out in cities all over the country.

Indonesia

Indonesian police say they killed three suspected militants and recovered several bombs in a raid in the outskirts of Jakarta. They claim the militants were planning an attack or attacks for New Year’s Eve. Indonesia has had a growing ISIS problem, though it’s not clear whether these three were affiliated with ISIS.

China

Beijing has returned the underwater US drone it seized last week in the South China Sea, so I guess World War III is postponed for a little while longer.

Switzerland

Authorities believe they have the perpetrator of yesterday’s mosque shooting, and it is indeed the person who’s dead body was found near the scene. He was a Swiss citizen of Ghanaian descent who may also have killed a friend the day before and who apparently killed himself after the attack on the mosque. At this point it would be a stretch to say that this attack had any terrorist or hate crime implications.

Ukraine

Ukrainian authorities are investigating a suspected cyber attack on the Kiev power grid over the weekend.

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One thought on “Conflict update: December 20 2016

  1. Pingback: Conflict update: December 21 2016 | and that's the way it was

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