Tracking Conflict Worldwide - August 2016

Global Overview AUGUST 2016

The month saw Yemen’s peace talks collapse with violence there intensifying, and the Syrian conflict escalate following Ankara’s launch of a cross-border ground offensive against Islamic State (IS) and Kurdish forces, days after a major terror attack in Turkey’s south east. Troop deployments in Western Sahara threatened to bring about clashes, and violence flared in the Central African Republic. In Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, security forces brutally suppressed anti-government protests, while in Gabon, the president’s disputed re-election triggered violent clashes. In Asia, a suicide bombing killed over 70 people in Pakistan, while suspected militants in Thailand’s southern insurgency launched attacks on targets outside the traditional conflict zone. In positive news, peace talks between the Philippines government and communist rebel groups resumed after a four-year hiatus. On 24 August, Colombia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) declared that they had reached a final peace accord, paving the way for an end to 52 years of armed conflict.

Trends and Outlook

Yemen suffered a significant uptick in violence after UN peace talks in Kuwait collapsed in early August. Huthi rebels launched indiscriminate rocket attacks into Saudi Arabia, while the Saudi-led coalition resumed airstrikes on Sanaa, the capital, and Huthi strongholds in the north. In the south, an IS suicide bomb attack on a pro-government militia compound in Aden killed at least 60. The violence aggravated an already desperate humanitarian situation, with​ at least 10,000 people killed and more than three million internally displaced since the conflict began. As Crisis Group has warned, without an inclusive negotiated settlement Yemen risks sliding further “into state disintegration, territorial fragmentation and sectarian violence”. The war is increasingly threatening Gulf security, as violence spills over the Yemeni-Saudi border and​, in southern Yemen, play​s​ into the hands of violent jihadist groups.

The conflict in Syria escalated and Turkey’s involvement grew, as Ankara launched a major offensive in northern Syria in an attempt to remove IS from the border area and contain Kurdish YPG forces’ territorial gains. Turkey’s military operation came days after a bomb attack on a Kurdish wedding in the country’s south east, assumed to be the work of IS, which killed 56 people, mostly children, and injured more than 90. In a significant gain for the Syrian regime, the rebel stronghold Darayya outside the capital Damascus surrendered to government forces on 25 August. Meanwhile, the battle for Aleppo between Russian-backed government forces and rebels continued to rage, reportedly killing over 600 civilians in August.

A tense standoff developed in Western Sahara. Morocco’s deployment of troops and roadworks in the UN buffer zone angered the Polisario Front armed independence movement, which sent in its own troops. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on 28 August he was deeply concerned by armed units from Morocco and the Polisario being “in close proximity”. In the Central African Republic, a convoy of former Séléka rebels, including leaders under arrest warrants, left the capital Bangui for their northern stronghold, shooting their way past security forces. The UN managed to arrest some, but others escaped, undermining already faltering efforts to disarm the country’s multiple armed factions.

In Ethiopia and Zimbabwe, security forces’ brutal responses to mounting protests have led to new spikes in violence. In Ethiopia, at least 87 protesters were reportedly killed in Oromia and Amhara regions. In Zimbabwe, hundreds protesting against the government’s economic misrule and calling for electoral reforms fought running battles with police, with at least 50 injured. In Gabon, supporters of opposition presidential candidate Jean Ping took to the streets and clashed with security forces as soon as the government announced President Bongo winner in the 27 August election.

In Asia, Pakistan suffered reportedly its worst ever attack targeting civil society. A suicide bombing at Quetta Civil hospital on 8 August killed over 70 people, mostly lawyers gathered to mourn Balochistan Bar Association President Bilal Anwar Kasi, who was killed the previous day. Tehreek-e-Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and IS both claimed responsibility for the attack. In Thailand, a series of deadly attacks on 11-12 August suggested the Malay-Muslim separatist insurgency in the Deep South may have entered a “disturbing new phase”, targeting locations outside the traditional conflict zone. Elsewhere in the region, the Philippines government and the National Democratic Front (NDFP), which includes the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army insurgent group, resumed peace talks and agreed to a ceasefire. The talks in Oslo are the first meetings since negotiations to resolve the 47-year-old conflict were suspended in 2012.

After four years of talks in Cuba, Colombia and the FARC announced on 24 August that they had reached a “final, full and definitive” peace accord. The landmark agreement brings an end to one of the world’s longest-running armed conflicts. However, Crisis Group has cautioned that major challenges remain in the months ahead. The most immediate will be a binding plebiscite on 2 October, when Colombians will vote on whether to accept the peace deal.

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Africa

Burundi

President Nkurunziza consolidated control of ruling party as regime continued to repress opposition. Ruling party CNDD-FDD at congress 20 Aug replaced party president position with sec gen and appointed Nkurunziza’s former chief of staff and civil war commander Evariste Ndayishimiye to role. Commission for inter-Burundian Dialogue 23 Aug concluded from public consultations that most Burundians favour scrapping constitutional presidential term limit; opposition said findings fabricated. Govt 3 Aug rejected UNSC resolution to deploy 228 police to Burundi, calling it violation of sovereignty. UN Committee against Torture 12 Aug condemned forced disappearances of govt’s political rivals and its “genocidal rhetoric”. Govt repression targeted security force members believed opposed to Nkurunziza’s third term: police 20 Aug arrested and beat Major Clément Hamenyimana in Gitega; army 19 Aug said eleven officers refused to return after missions abroad fearing arrest. Search for journalist Jean Bigirimana, missing since 22 July, found two bodies in Mubarazi river, Muramvya province early Aug, neither identified as Bigirimana. Third body reportedly found in neighbouring Gitega province. Police 21 Aug arrested 54 members of WhatsApp group in Bujumbura for spreading false rumours.

Cameroon

Boko Haram (BH) continued deadly attacks in Far North, including: gunmen attacked Gambarou 10 Aug, killing five; suicide bombing at Mora 21 Aug killed four and injured 24. Military reportedly killed five BH members at Bourvari-Plateri 5 Aug in operation supported by civilian vigilante groups. Local media 16 Aug published open letter purportedly from “elites” of Adamawa region denouncing marginalisation of region.

Central African Republic

Over 30 ex-Séléka rebels, including leaders under arrest warrants, 12 Aug left capital Bangui and exchanged fire with security forces at checkpoints, stopped by MINUSCA next day 50km south of Sibut, ten arrested; Popular Front for the Central African Renaissance (FPRC) leaders Abdoulaye Hissène and Aroun Gaye escaped and 17 Aug reportedly arrived in Kaga Bandoro in north. Police 16 Aug raided Hissène’s house in Bangui, seized around 700 weapons and ammunition. 22 representatives of ten armed groups 20 Aug formed disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) platform in Bangui. MINUSCA 5 Aug arrested Jean-Francis Bozizé, son of former President François Bozizé, under 2014 international warrant for torture, involvement in assassination and personal use of public funds; court 9 Aug granted him provisional release.

Chad

Security forces used tear gas to disperse banned opposition rallies in N’Djamena 6-7 Aug; one protestor killed 7 Aug, day before President Déby’s inauguration for fifth term. French President Hollande received Déby in Paris 20 Aug, reaffirmed support for fight against terrorism and development in Lake Chad region. Four soldiers killed when vehicle hit Boko Haram landmine 27 Aug at Kaiga Kindji near Niger border.

Democratic Republic of Congo

President Kabila and electoral commission (CENI) delayed setting electoral calendar, while some opposition groups continued to reject dialogue. Kabila 4 Aug said electoral calendar would not be published before end of voter registration, launched 31 July; CENI 20 Aug said elections could not be held before July 2017 due to lack of finances and voter list. In support of political dialogue Catholic Church 10 Aug began consultations with ruling party and major opposition groups. To ease tensions Kabila 18 Aug met youth activists Lutte pour le Changement (Lucha) and govt 19 Aug said it would free 24 political prisoners; opposition claimed twenty of those 24 already free. Dialogue preparatory committee convened 23-27 Aug, set dialogue for 1-14 Sept. Some opposition parties, including Union for the Congolese Nation (UNC), took part in preparatory meetings; main opposition coalition Rassemblement boycotted committee and called for general strike to be held 23 Aug, with limited success: police arrested 32 people. Police dispersed with tear gas opposition rally in Lubumbashi, Haut-Katanga 29 Aug. Armed groups continued violence against civilians in N Kivu: army said Mai Mai and Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) 6-7 Aug launched attacks in several places in N Kivu, killing fourteen people; suspected Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) members reportedly killed 51 people in Beni, N Kivu night of 13-14 Aug; suspected ADF 22 Aug reportedly killed two people in Kiteya, N Kivu; crowd in Butembo, N Kivu killed two women suspected of supporting ADF. Attacks sparked protests in east; violent protest in Beni 17 Aug left three dead, including policeman and woman suspected of being ADF member.

Gabon

Violent protests broke out after opposition candidate Jean Ping rejected President Bongo’s victory in 27 Aug presidential election, announced 31 Aug. Both candidates 28 Aug claimed victory and accused each other of fraud; govt same day said process “satisfactory” despite irregularities. Govt 31 Aug announced Bongo won with 49.80% of votes, with Ping garnering 48.23%; opposition rejected results and called for recount in Haut-Ogooué province, Bongo stronghold where turnout was reportedly 99.93%. Ping supporters protested 31 Aug-1 Sept in Libreville and second city Port-Gentil, clashed with security forces, set fire to buildings including parliament building in Libreville; security forces dispersed protests with live rounds and tear gas; same night helicopters and presidential guard on ground attacked opposition HQ, reportedly killing two and injuring nineteen. Ping called for international assistance to protect population. UNSG Ban expressed “deep concern” about violence.

Rwanda

Police 17 Aug shot dead one suspected terrorist in Kigali and 19 Aug killed three more and arrested three others in Bugarama, Rusizi district.

Ethiopia

Clashes between anti-govt protestors and police and security forces 6-7 Aug in Amhara (NW) and Oromia regions (centre-south) reportedly left at least 87 protestors dead and hundreds arrested. At least seven protestors reportedly killed in clashes with police in Gondar, Amhara region 6 Aug and at least 30 protestors killed in clashes in Bahir Dar, Amhara capital 7 Aug. Residents in Gondar and Bahir Dar reportedly held strikes (“stay-home protests”) from mid-Aug. Security forces 6 Aug reportedly killed over 50 protestors across Oromia and dispersed protest in Addis Ababa. OHCHR 10 Aug stressed need for investigations into allegations of excessive use of force in both regions.

Kenya

Al-Shabaab attacks decreased: militants 6 Aug attacked police camp in Basuba, Lamu county, injuring four officers. Anti-terror police 28 Aug arrested two men suspected of links to Islamic State at Malindi, Kilifi county. Clan militias killed four and injured one in two attacks 28 and 29 Aug on border between Eldas and Wajir North constituencies, Wajir county. Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) 3 Aug agreed to resign following months of protests against its perceived pro-govt bias.

Somalia

Al-Shabaab continued attacks against civilians and police, and govt postponed elections. In Mogadishu, militants tried unsuccessfully to assassinate MP with hand grenade 8 Aug; suspected Al-Shabaab killed local govt official 12 Aug in drive-by shooting; militants 25 Aug attacked beach restaurant killing at least ten and detonated car bomb prematurely outside Turkish embassy; AMISOM and Somali National Army (SNA) 28 Aug arrested two suspected Al-Shabaab militants in joint operation; suicide car bombing 30 Aug outside presidential palace checkpoint killed 22 people and partly destroyed nearby hotel. Elsewhere, Al-Shabaab militants fired mortars in residential areas of Baidoa, Bay region 6 Aug, killing one; militants 21 Aug carried out twin suicide attacks in market and next to local govt HQ in Galkayo, Mudug region, killing at least twenty and injuring 30; militants’ roadside bomb 26 Aug injured three in Bardhere, Gedo region; Al-Shabaab 29 Aug launched assaults on four SNA checkpoints in Muri and K-50 neighbourhoods, Lower Shabelle, killing at least six. U.S.-assisted SNA troops 10 Aug attacked Al-Shabaab checkpoint in Saakow, Middle Juba region, killing three militants; SNA 12 Aug killed one Al-Shabaab commander and arrested three militants in Beledweyne, Hiraan region; SNA and AMISOM 16 Aug recaptured from Al-Shabaab four locations close to Bardhere, Gedo region. AMISOM 22 Aug said eight militants killed when Al-Shabaab ambushed its convoy near Baidoa, Bay region; SNA and AMISOM 27 Aug killed seven Al-Shabaab militants 15km from Burdhubo, Gedo region. Govt 7 Aug announced new electoral timetable: legislative elections scheduled between 24 Sept and 10 Oct, presidential vote 30 Oct. Talks to merge Hiraan and Middle Shabelle regions collapsed 18 Aug after Middle Shabelle elders refused to select proposed state’s congress before presidential vote.

South Sudan

President Kiir contested UN-mandated regional protection force and former first VP Riek Machar travelled to Sudanese capital Khartoum, as limited fighting continued. Taban Deng Gai, who replaced Machar as first VP 26 July, received official welcome from presidents of Kenya and Sudan 16 and 21 Aug; U.S. Sec State Kerry 22 Aug and former Botswana President Mogae, chair of peace monitoring body, 28 Aug said leadership of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO) was internal matter; SPLA-IO loyal to Machar say his replacement violate Aug 2015 peace agreement. After fleeing Juba in early July, Machar late month crossed into Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and, at request of DRC President Kabila, UN provided flight within DRC; he subsequently travelled to Khartoum where he received medical treatment. Govt 5 Aug agreed in principle to deployment of regional protection force in S Sudan. Uganda 11 Aug said neither it nor Sudan would contribute troops to force. Govt 12 Aug announced new process to integrate armed groups into national army. UNSC same day authorised deployment of 4,000-strong regional protection force until 15 Dec; govt rejected resolution, 15 Aug said parliament would consider resolution. Kiir 15 Aug said govt would discuss with international community how implementation could serve “mutual interests”. Limited fighting between former SPLA-IO rebels and govt forces continued in several places in Equatoria region, most intensely in and around Yei, former Central Equatoria state.

Sudan

“Sudan Call” coalition of armed and unarmed opposition groups 8 Aug signed “roadmap” peace agreement, signed by govt in March. Govt 10-14 Aug engaged in direct talks with Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) on cessation of hostilities and humanitarian access in Two Areas (S Kordofan and Blue Nile) and with Darfuri rebel groups, Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement-Minni Minnawi (SLM-MM), on Darfur. Govt and SPLM-N rebels 10-11 Aug failed to agree on agenda of cessation of hostilities talks, 13 Aug accused each other of hampering process; talks faltered due to disagreements on direct transportation of humanitarian aid from outside country to Two Areas and govt’s insistence on discussing security arrangements. JEM and SLM-MM accused govt of refusing to make concessions. Thabo Mbeki, African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) mediator, 14 Aug suspended talks indefinitely; govt 20 Aug said talks will resume in Sept. Govt 23 Aug said Riek Machar, S Sudan rebel leader and former first VP, receiving medical treatment in Khartoum (see S Sudan).

Uganda

Inspector General of Police and regime loyalist Kale Kayihura and seven senior police officers failed to appear in court 10 Aug to answer accusations of police brutality against opposition supporters in July. After lawyer 26 Aug issued petition challenging Kayihura’s prosecution, court 29 Aug halted proceedings. Govt 11 Aug said neither Uganda nor Sudan would contribute troops to regional protection force that UNSC 12 Aug authorised to deploy in S Sudan (see S Sudan). UNHCR reported at least 97,947 S Sudanese refugees arrived in Uganda between 1 July and 30 Aug.

Angola

Clashes between rebel Front for the Liberation of Cabinda Enclave (FLEC) and Angolan Armed Forces (FAA) intensified late July and 4-6 Aug in several areas reportedly killing at least two FLEC and 42 FAA. Ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) party at congress 17-20 Aug re-elected sole nominee President dos Santos party leader and named his daughter Welwitschia and son José Filomeno to MPLA Central Committee.

Mozambique

Govt and armed opposition Renamo 17 Aug agreed to set up committee to draft new laws that could enable appointment of Renamo governors in six central and northern provinces where party claimed it won 2014 elections. Delegations suspended talks late month until 12 Sept having failed to agree ceasefire. Renamo continued attacks on civilians and police in Tete, Sofala, Manica, Zambezia and Niassa provinces including freeing 23 prisoners in Morrumbala, Zambezia 12 Aug; killing six at Nangue, Sofala 12 Aug; and wounding four in ambush between Vanduzi and Luenha river, Manica 22 Aug.

Zambia

President Lungu won another five-year term in 11 Aug elections with 50.35% of vote; Hakainde Hichilema of United Party for National Development (UPND) came second with 47.67%. Hichilema 19 Aug filed court petition challenging result claiming vote rigged, denied by ruling party and electoral commission. Police 16 Aug said it had arrested 133 people protesting against Lungu’s re-election for destroying property; govt late month shut down three private broadcasters.

Zimbabwe

Clashes between anti-govt protestors and police intensified as opposition parties joined forces. Police 3 and 17 Aug broke up anti-govt protests in Harare using batons, tear gas and water cannon. Main opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and ex-Deputy President Joice Mujuru held joint rally 13 Aug, called for protest in Harare 26 Aug to demand electoral reforms before 2018 vote. Police 26 Aug fired tear gas and water cannon at opposition leaders and hundreds of demonstrators sparking running battles between protestors and police in large parts of Harare, at least 50 people injured; police arrested 68 people for public violence including burning buses, police vehicles and shops. Opposition call for protest strike 31 Aug not heeded in Harare, minor clashes broke out in second city Bulawayo.

Burkina Faso

Koglweogo civilian self-defence group members 6 Aug demanded govt free members arrested following late June clashes with youths in Zongo near Ouagadougou. Koglweogo member arrested for murder in Koulpelogo province (centre-east) 23 Aug. Koglweogo 27 Aug handed over to security forces 130 weapons they had seized.

Côte d’Ivoire

Following 22 July National Assembly vote in favour of constitutional referendum, President Ouattara 7 Aug said proposed new constitution will include creation of VP position and senate; opposition reiterated rejection of referendum process and proposed amendments. Voter rolls displayed 20-27 Aug in preparation for Sept/Oct referendum and Nov/Dec parliamentary elections. Antoinette Rouissa Mého, opposition party Ivorian Popular Front (FPI) member and defence witness for former President Gbagbo and his wife Simone, arrested 10 Aug, indicted 17 Aug for crimes including breach of state security.

Gambia

Govt crackdown on dissent continued: Tina Faal, opposition Gambia Democratic Progress party member, arrested 8 Aug. Solo Krummah, opposition United Democratic Party official detained since arrest in May, admitted to hospital 8 Aug under guard and died after operation 20 Aug, party said govt did not explain why he needed operation; Krummah second party member to die in custody since May; U.S. 22 Aug called for independent investigation.

Guinea

Estimated half a million people took part in largely peaceful opposition rally in Conakry 16 Aug; police reportedly shot dead one onlooker. Opposition party Union of Democratic Forces of Guinea (UFDG) MP Ousmane Gaoual Diallo 12 Aug received two-year suspended prison sentence for insulting President Condé.

Guinea-Bissau

Amid ongoing parliamentary standoff, ECOWAS Commission chair Marcel Alain de Souza and new ECOWAS representative in G-B Blaise Diplo met PM Djá, President Vaz and main political leaders 14-15 Aug in effort to restart political dialogue, said regional bloc’s mission (ECOMIB), deployed since 2012, will withdraw, citing high costs and pressure from African heads of state.

Mali

After significant deterioration in security late July, rival Tuareg armed groups clashed again in Kidal region and suspected jihadist groups continued attacks in north and centre. Ethnic Imghad Self-Defence Group of Imrad Tuareg and Allies (GATIA), member of pro-unity Platform coalition, 8 Aug clashed with ethnic Ifoghas High Council for Unity of Azawad (HCUA), member of main rebel alliance Coalition of Azawad Movements (CMA); informal talks between parties in Bamako failed to reach agreement. Unidentified armed men attacked two army convoys near Tenenkou, Mopti region 8 Aug killing at least five soldiers; forced gendarmes to evacuate position in Nantaga, Mopti region 19 Aug; attacked Gathi Loumo, Mopti region, burning city hall 21 Aug; same day attacked security forces on Gossi-Hombori axis in Timbuktu region. One MINUSMA peacekeeper killed when vehicle hit mine 7 Aug in Kidal region. Inter-ethnic clashes left five dead near Tenenkou, Mopti region 27 Aug. Arrest of radio presenter Mohamed Youssouf Bathily or “Ras Bath” in Bamako 16 Aug for criticising govt sparked riots, police killed demonstrator; Ras Bath released 18 Aug but judicial process ongoing. Former Ansar Dine member Almed al-Faqi al-Mahdi appeared before International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands 22 Aug charged with destruction of mausoleums in Timbuktu.

Niger

Alleged Boko Haram attack at Kimégana, Diffa region (SE) 15 Aug killed at least five, injured one. Opposition party National Movement for Development of Society-Nassara mid-Aug decided to join ruling majority, responding to President Issoufou’s call to form unity govt.

Nigeria

Military continued offensive against Boko Haram (BH) in NE of Borno state, vandalism eased in Niger Delta, communal and religious violence flared in several areas. Islamic State 3 Aug named Abu Musab al-Barnawi new BH leader, replacing Abubakar Shekau, who rejected appointment. Army said it killed sixteen insurgents 14 Aug repelling BH attack in Kangarwa; air force said it killed some 300 insurgents including three key commanders 19 Aug. BH attacked Kuburubu 20 Aug killing six and abducting thirteen; next day burnt down Shawa village near Chibok. BH 14 Aug released video showing some 50 of over 200 girls abducted in Chibok in 2014, demanding govt free captured fighters in exchange for their release; President Buhari 28 Aug said govt ready to negotiate. In Niger Delta, attacks on oil installations declined relative to July. Unidentified gunmen 7 Aug killed three soldiers in Nembe area, Bayelsa state. New armed group Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate claimed three attacks on oil pipelines in Delta state 18, 19 and 30 Aug. Niger Delta Avengers and other groups late Aug suspended attacks, laid out conditions for talks. Herder-farmer clashes continued: suspected herders killed 30 in Kodomun, Adamawa state 29 July-1 Aug; killed two in Ndiagu Attakwu, Enugu state 25 Aug. Communal and religious violence flared in five other states killing at least 47: unidentified gunmen killed eleven near Godogodo, Kaduna state 2 Aug; at least five killed in clash between Share and Tsaragi communities in Kwara state same day; ten soldiers, seven civilians killed in clash between military and civilians in Kpaidna, Niger state 4 Aug; at least six killed in clash between ethnic Igbo indigenes and Hausa residents in Akokwa, Imo state 11 Aug; mob 22 Aug burnt eight to death over alleged blasphemy against Islam in Talata-Mafara, Zamfara state. Military launched operations against armed groups in Benue and Bauchi states 6 and 20 Aug, and in Niger Delta 29 Aug.

Asia

China (internal)

People’s Liberation Army Daily 16 Aug reported govt tested 21 new pieces of “security equipment” including drones and assault helicopters in five-day counter-terrorism exercise in S Xinjiang. Xinjiang regional govt 5 Aug passed new counter-terrorism law prohibiting spread of “distorted Islamic ideas”.

China/Japan

Tensions escalated as Japan protested increasing Chinese activities in disputed East China Sea (ECS). Japan defence ministry 2 Aug released annual defence white paper; reported interception of record high of 571 Chinese aircrafts in 2015 fiscal year; also cited “deep concern” over Chinese maritime assertiveness. China responded accusing Japan of distorting China’s “justified and reasonable defence work” and “attempting to deceive” international community. Tokyo lodged series of complaints to Chinese ambassador throughout month on Chinese activities in disputed waters in ECS: Japanese FM said Chinese Coast Guard vessels had entered contiguous zone around Senkaku/Diaoyu; Japan Coast Guard 6 Aug said some 230 Chinese fishing vessels had entered contested waters in ECS since 5 Aug, escorted by Chinese Coast Guard; Japan’s Kyodo News 7 Aug reported a record thirteen Chinese Coast Guard vessels sighted in contested waters since 5 Aug. Tokyo 5 Aug issued protest against China’s installation of first radar unit on offshore gas platform near disputed waters in ECS. Group of Japanese cabinet members and political leaders 15 Aug visited controversial Yasukuni Shrine to commemorate anniversary of Japan’s WWII surrender; China condemned visit, urged Japan to “face up to and reflect upon the history of aggression”. Japanese and Chinese FMs 24 Aug met in Tokyo, agreed to “make efforts” to resolve disputes and build “good atmosphere” for talks between President Xi and PM Abe at Sept G20 Summit in Hangzhou.

Korean Peninsula

DPRK 3 Aug test-launched ballistic missile into Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) off coast of N Japan; PM Abe called test “serious threat” to Japan. U.S. Strategic Command and ROK military said second missile was fired simultaneously, exploding immediately after launch. DPRK 24 Aug test-fired third missile from waters off NE coast; reportedly first instance of DPRK missile landing in Japan’s air defence identification zone (ADIZ), prompting further condemnation from Japan; ROK FM said ROK prepared to “thoroughly respond” to any provocation from DPRK. UNSC 26 Aug issued unanimous statement condemning DPRK’s missile launches. In first ever response to foreign media inquiries, Pyongyang 17 Aug confirmed resumption of plutonium production in interview with Japan’s Kyodo News. U.S. responded same day, calling DPRK’s plutonium production “clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions”, urged DPRK to cease uranium enrichment. Following 24 Aug trilateral meeting in Tokyo, FMs of China, Japan and ROK urged DPRK “to exercise self-restraint regarding its provocative action, and to observe the UN Security Council's resolutions”. ROK unification ministry 17 Aug confirmed defection of DPRK deputy ambassador to London, Thae Yong Ho, to South Korea, reportedly most senior DPRK official to defect since 1997; 31 Aug reported that DPRK had executed high ranking Minister Kim Yong-jin and banished two others for re-education in July.

Afghanistan

Taliban 10 Aug captured four strategic districts surrounding Helmand provincial capital Lashkar Gah; Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) prevented capture of city. Taliban 14 Aug captured Dahan-e-Ghori district, Baghlan province; 20 Aug temporarily captured Khanabad district, Kunduz. After five days of fighting, Taliban 26 Aug reportedly took control of Janikhail district, Paktia province. Hizb-e-Islami representative Ghairat Baheer 6 Aug said peace talks with Kabul govt expected to resume shortly. Unidentified militants 24 Aug attacked American University in Kabul, killing at least thirteen, mostly students. President’s office reportedly said National Directorate of Security (NDS) had “reliable evidence” attack was coordinated from Pakistan; President Ghani 25 Aug asked Pakistani Army Chief General Raheel Sharif to take action against culprits in Pakistan. Ahead of end of National Unity Government’s (NUG) two-year arrangement in Sept, oppositions groups reportedly criticised NUG for failure to deliver on key reforms. CEO Abdullah Abdullah 11 Aug denounced Ghani as unfit to govern, intensifying inter-factional tensions. Abdullah 8 Aug said NUG had developed roadmap for electoral reforms; President Ghani’s press office 15 Aug said finalised electoral law amendments would be sent to cabinet for approval.

Bangladesh

Govt crackdown on suspected jihadists including those responsible for July Gulshan and Sholakia attacks continued. Security forces 27 Aug killed three alleged militants in Dhaka, including Bangladeshi-Canadian, Tamim Ahmed Chowdhury, accused of masterminding Gulshan attack. Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) 4 Aug killed two alleged militants in Mymensingh district, reportedly linked to 7 July Sholakia attack. Law enforcement arrested at least ten alleged Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB) operatives throughout month, including five reportedly arrested with explosives and detonators 11 Aug. Police 5-6 Aug detained at least eighteen suspected jihadists in four different districts, including fourteen Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and activists allegedly possessing jihadist propaganda. Police 4 Aug detained Bangladeshi-UK national Hasnat Karim and Bangladeshi Canadian permanent resident Tahmid Hasib, both present at café during attacks, for suspected involvement. Officials 13 Aug said investigation had yielded evidence of Karim’s involvement, Hasib interrogation ongoing. Police 12 Aug said they had identified another “top-level militant organiser” responsible for coordinating attack. Following July announcement of plans for national convention against militancy, Bangladesh National Party (BNP) continued efforts to forge “national unity” against jihadist violence; smaller opposition parties raised objections to participating in platform that would include BNP ally Jamaat-e-Islaami, several of whose members were detained for suspected involvement in attacks. BNP 6 Aug constituted new national executive committee, prompting criticism from PM Sheikh Hasina for inclusion of family members and personal staff of convicted war criminals Salauddin Quader Chowdhury and Abdul Alim. Dhaka court 17 Aug issued arrest warrants for 67 leaders and activists of BNP-led opposition alliance, in connection with Feb 2015 arson case. Two separate Dhaka courts 10 Aug granted BNP chief Khaleda Zia bail in sedition and nine arson cases. International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) 10 Aug sentenced one former Jamaat-e-Islaami lawmaker to death, seven others to life imprisonment for crimes committed during 1971 war.

India (non-Kashmir)

Suspected Bodo militants 5 Aug opened fire on market in Kokrajhar, Assam, killing at least thirteen civilians; security forces reportedly killed one alleged militant following attack. National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) denied accusations of involvement. Security forces 17 Aug reportedly killed four alleged Maoists in raid in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh. All Bodo Students Union (ABSU), National