The United Nations reported on 20 June that the number of refugees and others fleeing their homes worldwide has hit a new record, spiking to 65.3 million people by the end of 2015.
According to the latest figures released by the UN, the number of people displaced globally rose by 5.8 million through 2015. The UN has indicated that counting Earth’s population at 7.349 billion, one out of every 113 people on the planet is now either internally displaced or a refugee. The agency has disclosed that they now number more than the populations of Britain or France, adding that it is “a level of risk for which UNHCR knows no precedent.”
While displacement figures have been rising since the mid 1990s, the rate of increase has jumped since the outbreak of Syria’s civil war in 2011. Of the planet’s 65.3 million displaced, 40.8 million remain within their own country while 21.3 million have fled across the borders and are now refuges. Palestinians are the largest group of refugees at more than five million. This includes those who fled at the creation of Israel in 1948 and their descendants. Syria is next on the list, with 4.9 million, followed by Afghanistan (2.7 million) and Somalia (1.1 million).
While Europe’s high-profile migrant crisis is the worst since World War II, it is just one part of a growing tide of human misery led by Palestinians, Syrians and Afghans. Globally, approaching one percent of humanity has been forced to flee. The UN refugee agency has disclosed that “this is the first time that the threshold of 60 million has been crossed.”
The figures, which were released on World Refugee Day, underscore twin pressures that are fuelling an unprecedented global displacement crisis. According to UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi, as conflict and persecution force growing numbers of people to flee, anti-migrant political sentiment has strained the will to resettle refugees, adding that “the willingness of nations to work together not just for refugees but for the collective human interest is what’s being tested today.”
A mixture of a number of factors have led to rising displacement and narrowing space for refugee settlement. The agency has disclosed that “situations that cause large refugee outflows are lasting longer,” including more than thirty years of unrest in both Somalia and Afghanistan. The UNHCR also indicated that news and intense conflicts as well as dormant crises that have been “reignited” are further fuelling the crisis, pointing to South Sudan, Yemen, Burundi, and the Central African Republic, side form Syria. The UNHCR also indicated that beyond the refugee hotspots in the Middle East and in Africa, there were also worrying signs in Central America, where growing numbers of people fleeing gang violence led to a 17 percent rise in those leaving their homes through 2015.
Israel’s defense minister has accused Turkey of purchasing oil from the so-called Islamic State (IS) group, thereby funding the militants’ activities.
Speaking in Athens, Greece, Moshe Yaalon disclosed that IS had “enjoyed Turkish money for oil for a very, very long period of time.” Speaking to reporters after a meeting with his Greek counterpart, Mr Yaalon further disclosed that “its up to Turkey, the Turkish government, the Turkish leadership, to decide whether they want to be part of any kind of cooperation to fight terrorism,” adding, “this is not the case so far. As you know, Daesh (Islamic State) enjoyed Turkish money for oil for a very, very long period of time. I hope that it will be ended.” Mr Yaalon also alleged that Turkey had “permitted jihadists to move from Europe to Syria and Iraq and and back.”
Turkey has denied allowing IS smuggling. Recently, the United States also rejected Russian claims that Turkish government officials were in league with the militants. While last month, US State Department officials rejected Russian allegations of Turkish government involvement, a state department spokesman did disclose that IS oil was being smuggled into Turkey via middlemen.
Efforts by Israel and Turkey to repair damaged ties already hit a set back earlier this month over demands for compensation for the deaths of ten Turkish activists on a ship that was carrying pro-Palestinian activists in 2010. They were killed in clashes with Israeli commandos who intercepted a flotilla that was trying to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza. In December, senior Israeli and Turkish officials met in a bid to try to repair relations, raising hopes of progress in negotiations to import Israeli natural gas.
IS has captured swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, which includes operating oil fields that are now under the militant group’s control.
Days after Nigerian President sought approval from parliament to borrow up to US $1 billion (£580 million) abroad, in order to help the armed forces tackle the security threat posed by Boko Haram, Nigeria’s National Assembly has broken up for a two-month recess, effectively meaning that approval for the loan will have to wait until at least September.
On Wednesday, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan submitted an urgent request to borrow US $1 billion abroad to help the armed forces tackle the security threat posed by Boko Haram. In his statement to Parliament, which was read to deputies by the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives, the President stated “you are no doubt cognizant of the on-going and serious security challenges which the nation is facing as typified by the Boko Haram terrorist threat,” adding “for this reason, I seek the concurrence of the National Assembly for external borrowing of not more than $1 billion.” The president noted that this loan would be used to upgrade the equipment, training and logistics of the security forces and that such a loan could include a “government to government arrangement,” however he did not name any specific foreign country.
Nigeria’s parliament was expected to debate the issue at a time when Boko Haram’s five-year insurgency has gained international attention. However with the summer recess, both chambers of Parliament are not due to sit again until the end of their annual recess in September. While sources have indicated that it would normally take several days for such a loan to be approved the President’s request is likely to raise some questions as Nigeria’s 2014 budget already includes nearly US $6 billion in security spending while the government is facing allegations put forth by former central bank governor, Lamido Sanusi, who has stated that billions of dollars of oil revenues are failing to reach the national treasury. Once Parliament is back in session, both the lower and upper houses will debate the loan request. It will then pass the request to the committee and then back to the chamber for approval. If however the chambers differ on the request, a joint committee will be formed in order to reach an agreement on the amount the loan should be set at.
While Nigeria’s military is currently receiving training, advise and intelligence support from allies, including Britain, France, Israel and the United States, it is still struggling to counter the almost daily raids, frequent kidnappings and targeted bomb attacks carried out by Boko Haram militants. President Jonathan’s government has also been accused of not doing enough to protect civilians from such attacks.
9 July – Roadside bomb kills 1, injures 4
An Egyptian soldier was killed after a roadside bomb targeted armoured vehicle in El-Arish, in the Sinai Peninsula. The attack also wounded four soldiers.
Egypt experienced a short period of peace immediately following Egyptian President al-Sisi’s election; however, bombings and protests have resumed. On the one year anniversary of the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi on 3 July, the nation experienced a series of bombings in Kerdasa, Abbaseya, and Imbaba. Security forces and government buildings have been regularly targeted, but several incidents have killed and wounded civilian bystanders.
In Alexandria, police forces arrested four suspects on 7 June in connection with bomb blasts in a train station in Alexandria earlier in the week. The explosion took place between two of the cars of a train heading to Sidi Gaber neighbourhood, injuring seven. The suspects were reportedly “young members of the Muslim Brotherhood who were trained by high profile leaders to attack police facilities and public transportations”, according to Egypt’s Interior Ministry. In a statement released on Friday, the ministry accused the Muslim Brotherhood of attempting to create “a state of chaos”.
10 July – Islamic State seizes nuclear materials
Iraq’s envoy, in a letter to the UN, has warned that the militant group ISIS has seized nuclear materials in the Iraqi city of Mosul. The group obtained approximately 40 kilograms of uranium compounds, used for scientific research at a university. The UN atomic agency (IAEA) has said the low-grade material is not a significant security risk. US officials echoed these remarks, stating that the uranium was not believed to be enriched, and unlikely to be useful for weapons development.
The letter sent to the UN by Ambassador Mohamed Ali Alhakim called for international assistance to “stave off the threat of their use by terrorists in Iraq or abroad”. Al-Alhakim added, “Terrorist groups have seized control of nuclear material at the sites that came out of the control of the state […] These nuclear materials, despite the limited amounts mentioned, can enable terrorist groups, with the availability of the required expertise, to use it separately or in combination with other materials in its terrorist acts.” Despite the uranium’s lack of utility, an IAEA spokesperson said “any loss of regulatory control over nuclear and other radioactive materials is a cause for concern”.
A day before the letter was received, Iraqi officials confirmed that ISIS had militants captured the Muthanna complex, an abandoned chemical weapons factory northwest of Baghdad. The complex houses remnants of rockets containing nerve agents, including sarin gas. ISIS is now in control of an area between Iraq and Syria that is approximately the size of Belgium.
8 July – Israel, Palestine attacks continue
An Israeli military spokesman has said that since Monday, Israeli air forces attacked 750 targets and dropped 800 tons of bombs. Palestinian militants fired 230 rockets from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. On 9 July, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that Israel has expanded Operation Protective Edge in response to the continuing rocket attacks, he has also called on reservists suggested that a ground phase could occur. Fighting has escalated after three Israeli teens that went missing were found dead. The Israeli government accused Hamas, which has denied responsibility. Retaliatory attacks on Palestinians have left 75 dead, including 15 children.
7 July – ISIS Leader suggests Jordan is next target
ISIS leader and self proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has suggested that Jordan will be the next target for ISIS, and refugees who have fled there could be first in the line of fire. The Jordanian military has been on the offensive for several weeks as ISIS gained traction in Iraq, but it is now believed that Syrian civilians at the Azraq camp near the Iraqi border are in the danger zone.
Oraib al-Rantawi, a Jordanian political analyst, called the threat by ISIS “real and imminent”, adding, “We cannot afford the luxury of just waiting and monitoring. The danger is strategic – and getting closer.”
The US Department of Defence has awarded a contract to Raytheon and Lockheed Martin to supply twenty Javelin Block 1 tactical missiles to Jordan’s military, to be completed by 30 September.
7 July – 28 arrested in Lebanon for suicide bomb plot
Twenty-eight people, reportedly members of the militant group ISIS, have been charged with buying equipment to carry out suicide bomb attacks in Beirut. Seven of the group are in custody. The names and nationalities of those charged have not been released.
Lebanon has been in the crossfire of sectarian violence do to conflicts in Syria and the ISIS insurgencies in Iraq and Syria. The nation has suffered a series of attacks in recent weeks. On 20 June, Lebanon’s General Security service narrowly escaped a suicide bombing near the Syrian border. On 23 June, a suicide bomber blew up his car near an army checkpoint in Beirut, killing himself and a security officer. Two days later, a Saudi suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the Saudi embassy, wounding three security officers.
Lebanese authorities have carried out a series of security raids in the capital and other parts of the country in recent weeks. In mid June, security forces detained 17 people at a Beirut hotel on suspicion of planning attacks; the French foreign ministry confirmed that at least one of the men detained was a French National. All were released the following day.
15 June – Hiftar facing dwindling support
Libya’s rogue general, Khalifa Hifter, is losing support for his revolt against militants in Eastern Libya. Many Libyans initially supported Hifter’s plan to drive extremists out of Benghazi, particularly as the weakened government had failed to take significant action in the region. However, Hifter troops have been unable to gain the advantage against the rebels, and many believe his actions are laying the ground for his political aspirations.
In Benghazi, the militant group Ansar al-Sharia is responsible for a great deal of violence in the region. Hifter initially set out to target this group, but his mission expanded to include other Islamists in the region. Hifter’s expanded mission and subsequent standoff has resulted in damage to homes, farms, and livestock. One tribe in Benghazi has demanded that Hifter’s troops leave the area or it would join the fight against him, officials and residents there said.
Hifter also oversaw the storming of the GNC building in Tripoli in May, convincing some that the 71 year old general has political goals. He called for an emergency government to replace the GNC and guide the country toward new elections. Since then, Hifter has made blanket indictments of Libya’s nonmilitant Islamists as well as the insurgents. Many believe he is styling himself after Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, led a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt over the past year. During a recent news conference, Hifter called the Libyan branch of the Muslim Brotherhood an “epidemic” that “the Libyan soil will not absorb.” Many Islamist supporters who disagree with militant actions now feel targeted.
One member of Libya’s General National Congress said, “Hifter inserted himself into a scenario where he is the cavalier on a white horse who came to save the day.” He added, however, “Hifter’s military power is actually quite limited. He hasn’t been able to control the situation.”
An anonymous former member of a brigade in Benghazi said, “Both sides — Ansar al-Sharia and Hifter — are illegal bodies working outside the state. So it’s a dilemma for everybody, and we don’t like either of them. We are worried about where this violence will take us.”
10 July – ISIS to Qatar: “Cancel the World Cup or we’ll bomb it”
In a message posted on an ISIS media forum, the group has warned FIFA, the governing body of world football, that they will bomb the World Cup if it is held in Qatar in 2022. The group said they would target the event with long-range Scud missiles. The full message reads:
“Dear Joseph, [Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, President of FIFA]
We had sent a message to you back in 2010, when you decided or were bribed by the former Amir of Qatar to have the 2022 world cup in Qatar. Now, after the establishment of the Caliphate state, we declare that there will be no world cup in Qatar since Qatar will be part of the Caliphate under the rule of the Caliph Ibrahim Bin Awad Alqarshi (Al Baghdady’s full name) who doesn’t allow corruption and diversion from Islam in the land of the Muslims. This is why we suggest that you will decide upon a replacement country instead of Qatar. The Islamic state has long-rang scud missiles that can easily reach Qatar, as the Americans already know.
Photos released earlier this month show ISIS militants parading a Scud ballistic missile through the streets of Raqqa in Syria. It is likely the insurgents captured the missile from a Syrian military base in 2013. However experts do not believe the missile is operable. One astute blogger wrote, “The only danger that Islamic State scud is to anyone at the moment is if they accidentally run over a pedestrian showing it off”.
8 July – Saudi Arabia faces security crisis on two borders
Three mortar bombs landed inside Saudi Arabia, near a block of flats outside the northern town of Arar, near the Iraqi border. There were no casualties reported, however the mortars stoked fears in citizens who are facing ISIS on their Iraqi border. Last week, King Abdullah announced an increase in security after Islamic State declared a caliphate and made advances in Iraq. The kingdom is deploying 30,000 troops to its borders. Saudi authorities fear that the militant group could radicalise their citizens.
In the south, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is based in Yemen, has long had the goal of bringing down the House of Saud and establishing a cross-border caliphate in Islam’s holy city of Mecca. Over the weekend, six Saudi members of al Qaeda launched an attack on al-Sharurah, near the border with Yemen. Two of the militants grabbed 10 hostages and shut themselves into a government building where they blew themselves up on Saturday. Five attackers were killed and one was captured in clashes with security forces. Four border guards and one hostage were also killed.
8 July – Popular Radical Australian Cleric joins Islamic State
Musa Cerantonio, a radical Muslim cleric who renounced his Australian citizenship last year, has travelled to Syria to support the newly established Islamic State, making him the third cleric from Australia to travel to Syria to support the jihadist cause. Cerantonio left Australia in 2013 and was believed to be hiding in the Philippines, possibly taking shelter with one of several al Qaeda-linked jihadist groups in the area. The cleric openly supported ISIS prior to their declaration of a caliphate, and subsequently travelled to Syria to fulfil the request made by the Islamic State on 1 July for Muslims, especially those with needed skills, to join the caliphate.
Cerantonio, a popular figure in radicalised circles, relies on effective social media to spread his message. He has re-tweeted ISIS statements as well as his own support for the group while calling for the death of Western leaders. A 2014 by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation concluded that one in four foreign fighters followed Cerantonio’s Twitter account and that his Facebook page was the third-most ‘liked’ page among radicalised militants.
Meanwhile, a UN report released on Tuesday suggests that the Middle East could become embroiled in wider sectarian warfare. The report states, “Growing numbers of radical fighters are targeting not only Sunni (Muslim) communities under their control but also minority communities including the Shi’ites, Alawites, Christians, Armenians, Druze and Kurds.” The report adds, “ISIL has shown itself willing to fan the flames of sectarianism, both in Iraq and in Syria. Any strengthening of their position gives rise to great concern.”
9 July – Tunisia raises terror alert level
Tunisia has raised its security alert level in cities and at sensitive sites, especially during iftar, the breaking of fast at sunset during Ramadan. The move came following a landmine blast that killed four soldiers July 2nd on Jebel Ouergha, El Kef province. A mine blast in the same area wounded six troops a day earlier.
During the funeral of the four slain soldiers, Defence Minister Ghazi Jeribi vowed that security forces would track down and besiege the terrorists to prevent new attacks on civilian and military targets. He stated that the war on terror “is of concern to all Tunisian people and requires that all be mobilised to protect our homeland.”
Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa echoed these sentiments: “We are no longer waiting for terrorism to come to us, but have gone to its hotbeds in order to confront it and eliminate them.”
Security forces have begun to storm terrorist hideouts in the mountains along the Algerian border, between Jendouba and El Kef provinces. Tunisian forces have been fighting al-Qaeda affiliated militants barricaded in the mountains for over a year.
8 July – Thousands of families flee fighting in Amran
As many as ten thousand families have fled the Yemeni city of Amran, 30 miles north of the capital Sanaa. The families evacuated to escape a battle between Shi’a rebels and the military. Clashes broke out last week between Yemeni troops and the Houthis, a rebel group which seeks greater autonomy for northern Yemen. The attack ended a ceasefire that had been set in place on 23 June. Local officials claim that over 200 people had been killed and 100 wounded on Tuesday as rebel groups captured the area. The officials also reported dozens of bodies were lying in the streets.
The Houthis, a Shi’a group, have said their fight was against members of the Sunni Islamist Islah political party. The Houthis claim to have no intention of attacking Sanaa, but Amran has long been a stronghold of the the Bani al-Ahmar tribe, whose members hold prominent positions of the party.
The Houthis have accused the Yemeni government of breaking the ceasefire and blame army units loyal to Islah for advancing in the Jawf province. The government responded that the advance was prompted by the failure of Houthis to vacate positions as they had promised.
The Yemeni Red Crescent has issued a call for help. It is believed that nearly 5,000 families remain trapped inside the city.
Ghana’s President John Mahama has warned that Islamist militants pose a threat that could destabilise the whole of West Africa. This announcement comes just days after Niger’s President indicated that Islamist militants, who attacked two sights in Niger, had come from southern Libya. It also comes at a time when Nigeria’s army announces that armory belonging to the Lebanese group Hezbollah is discovered in northern Nigeria.
Ghana’s President Mahama has indicated that while his country has not directly been affected by the threats, no country in the region was safe if an insurgency were to take place in the region. He further stated that while the French-led military operation had helped secure stability in Mali, the conflict was far from being over, stating that “there is the danger of asymmetric attacks like we saw in Niger the last few days, and so it is a matter that worries all of us in the sub-region.” In turn, the operation to drive out al-Qaeda, and other allied Islamist groups, from northern Mali had showed how the whole Sahel region had “become an attractive foothold for insurgents.”
Meanwhile in Nigeria, an army spokesman, Brigadier Gen. Ilyasu Isa Abba has confirmed that a cache, including 11 anti-tank weapons, four anti-tank mines, a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and 21 RPG missiles, 17 AK-47’s, two sub-machine guns and 76 grenades, have been found in a warehouse in the northern city of Kano. He further indicated that three Lebanese nationals have been arrested while a fourth is still at large. According to a military statement, one suspect, Mustafa Fawaz, was arrested on May 16 and his “confession unveiled other members of the foreign terrorists network.” A second suspect, Abdullah Tahini, was arrested several day later while attempting to board a flight to Beirut from the airport in Kano. The third detained Lebanese national, Talal Roda, was arrested at the Kano home on May 26 while the fourth suspect, who has been identified as Fauzi Fawad, remains to be at large. Nigeria’s State Security Service has stated that the weapons were intended to be used against “Israeli and Western interests,” with Bassey Ettang, director of the State Security Service in Kano, noting that “this is the handwork of Hezbollah.” He further indicated that “investigations are still ongoing to determine” if the Lebanese nationals “are really connected to Boko Haram.”
This is the first time that Nigerian authorities have alleged that Hezbollah has had an operational interest in the country. Kano, and the north-eastern region of Nigeria, have suffered multiple attacks in the last three years, ever since the home-grown Islamist militant group, Boko Haram, launched an insurgency. According to Mr. Ettang, “you can be sure that if a group like this is existing then it may even lend support to some of the local terrorista we have on the ground.” Hezbollah is a Shiite military and political movement that is based in Lebanon. It is considered to be a terrorist organization by the United States.
Reacting to the latest claims, a security official in Israel has indicated that Nigeria was a “destination state for Shiite terror and global Jihad groups, which are boosting their efforts in Africa as part of international efforts.” The source further indicated that “the cell exposed and arrested is part of a Shiite terror campaign against Western and Israeli targets around the world which has been taking place for a number of years…the possibility that members of the cell acted under Hezbollah’s orders in other African states, such as Benin, the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Sierra Leone, is also being examined.”