Eight situations deteriorated in July 2106: South Sudan, Mali, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Kashmir, Armenia, Turkey, Syria.
July saw protracted conflicts intensify, attempts to resolve them derail and political crises erupt or deepen.
Turkey: On 15 July, a segment of the Turkish army attempted to topple the elected government and President Erdoğan, failing in the face of resistance from police, part of the army and citizens. At least 240 people were reported killed during clashes, while over 10,000 people were arrested, over 18,000 detained and some 60,000 public officials dismissed in the wake of the coup attempt. The scale of the backlash has prompted concerns in the West over Turkey’s commitment to the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as over divisions within the security bureaucracy and Turkey’s capacity to address security challenges including operations against the Kurdish insurgency in the south east.
In Syria, the Assad regime, assisted by re-intensified Russian airstrikes, severed the final supply line into areas of Aleppo city held by mostly non-jihadist opposition forces, amid renewed diplomatic manoeuvring between the U.S. and Russia. Scores were killed by fighting in and around Aleppo as airstrikes and rocket attacks hit civilian areas, where as many as 300,000 people are estimated to remain in encircled portions of the city with dwindling basic supplies. As the regime informed residents and rebels willing to surrender that they could leave through “humanitarian corridors”, the UN called for guarantees of protection and humanitarian access, and insisted no one can be forced to flee. Elsewhere, over 40 people were reported killed in an Islamic State (IS) bombing of Qamishli city near the Turkish border on 27 July, and activists reported that an U.S. airstrike on Menbij city killed at least 73 civilians on 19 July, making it allegedly the worst coalition attack on civilians.
In Bangladesh, a brutal attack on a café in an upscale neighbourhood of the capital Dhaka on 1 July left 22 people, mostly foreigners, dead. Although IS claimed responsibility, officials pointed to the likely involvement of local affiliates of al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent (AQIS), an ally of the group behind recent killings of secular and atheist bloggers and publishers. In a commentary published after the attack, Crisis Group noted that the government’s primary challenge is to tackle the growing local constituencies of both IS and AQIS, and adopt a counter-terrorism approach based on accountable and impartial law enforcement. IS also claimed responsibility for a joint suicide attack on ethnic Hazara protesters in the Afghan capital on 23 July which killed at least 80 people and injured over 250.
In South Asia, the killing by Indian security forces of Burhan Wani, operations chief of Kashmir’s largest militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, on 8 July, sparked a fresh crisis in India-administered Kashmir. As major protests broke out across Jammu and Kashmir in response to the killing, 49 people were reported killed and over 5,000 injured in clashes with security forces. Pakistan condemned the killing of Wani and violence against protesters, while India’s home minister blamed Islamabad for orchestrating the violence.
Armenia was rocked by an armed opposition group’s seizure of a police headquarters in the capital Yerevan on 17 July, taking several hostages and killing two police before surrendering at the end of the month. The gunmen were demanding President Sargsyan’s resignation over his handling of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with neighbouring Azerbaijan, amid speculation over his government’s possible concessions to Baku. Thousands of people joined daily protests in support of the gunmen, with dozens injured in clashes with police, and scores detained.
In Mali, the peace process in the north faced serious setbacks as fighting flared up between an ethnic Tuareg armed group allied with the government and a coalition of Tuareg fighters who favour northern secession, killing at least twenty. Meanwhile in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, four days of clashes between government forces and SPLA-IO former rebels left hundreds of fighters dead and dealt the peace process a major blow. The replacement of Riek Machar, long-time SPLA-IO leader, as first vice president split the former rebels, and more fighting in several areas in late July could signal further splits and an escalation in the coming weeks.
To pull South Sudan back from the brink, Crisis Group urged regional leaders, especially Uganda and Sudan, backed by the African Union, China and the U.S., to clarify the consequences for the warring factions if they do not halt the violence.
Improved Situations: None
Outlook August 2016 - Conflict Risk Alerts, South Sudan - Resolution Opportunities None