Toronto Star

Conflicts that deserved more attention in 2014


It has been a brutal year. The death toll in Syria’s ongoing civil war likely eclipsed 200,000, while the hideous rise of the Islamic State spurred a U.S.-led bombing campaign. A separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine led to thousands of deaths and clouded relations between the West and Moscow, which is believed to be aiding the rebels. And an Israeli offensive against Hamas militants saw whole stretches of the Gaza Strip reduced to rubble.

Sadly, there was plenty of other mayhem and violence that didn’t make front pages as often. Libya Libya was supposed to be a success story. In 2011, the U.S. famously “led from behind,” as NATO airstrikes helped a rebel alliance topple the long-ruling regime of dictator Moammar Gadhafi. But what followed has been a mess. In 2014, Libya’s fragile democratic transition unravelled into open civil war between a hodgepodge of Islamist militias and tribal factions. It has drawn in rogue generals and foreign government­s and led to an absurd situation of two parallel government­s claiming authority over the war-ravaged nation. Yemen Another country that saw the departure of a long-ruling autocrat in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, Yemen is in the grips of a disastrous civil war. A rebellion led by the Houthis, a political movement that draws key support from a prominent Shiite sect, has swept away the central government and opened what some warn may turn into a danger- ous sectarian conflict between Shiites and Sunni militias. Assam In India’s restive northeast, many ethnic and tribal insurgenci­es persist. Contests over land and resources have seen frequent clashes between an array of groups, including the indigenous Bodo tribe and Muslim settlers in the state of Assam, whom some claim are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The chaos over the years has led to tens of thousands fleeing their homes. Last week, an extremist faction of Bodo fighters massacred at least 72 people from another tribal community, prompting New Delhi to launch an extensive counterter­rorism operation. The Sudans In South Sudan, some 10,000 people have been killed and more than 1.5 million displaced amid battles between government forces and rebel groups since December 2013. To the north in Sudan, the conflict-wracked Darfur region saw further violence and half a million displaced this year alone. Yet Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is wanted by the Internatio­nal Criminal Court on charges of war crimes, told the Washington Post earlier this month the situation is calm and UN peacekeepe­rs should leave. Nigeria There were hashtags and outrage, but little respite for Nigerians living in the shadow of Boko Haram. The Islamist extremist group, which has links to Al Qaeda, continued its campaign of terror, carrying out bombings, massacres and kidnapping­s. Despite an intense Nigerian govern- ment counter-insurgency in the northeast of the country, Boko Haram has grown more brazen, launching raids into neighbouri­ng countries. It has abducted hundreds of people, including many women and children. Pakistan Earlier this month, Pakistan experience­d its worst single terror attack: A hideous Taliban assault on a school in the city of Peshawar. Many of the dozens of young students slaughtere­d were children of military personnel; the Taliban justified the massacre as revenge for Pakistan’s campaign against certain militant groups operating in Pakistan’s remote tribal regions along the border with Afghanista­n. Dubbed Operation Zarbe-Azb — a reference to the sword of the Prophet Mohammad — the offensive has involved airstrikes and some 30,000 troops on the ground. By midsummer, nearly a million civilians had been displaced. Somalia and Kenya Al Shabab, an Islamist group connected to Al Qaeda, had appeared in retreat in recent years, pushed back by U.S. counterter­ror operations as well as an African Union peacekeepi­ng operation in Somalia, the semilawles­s country where the extremists are based. But its attacks have not stopped. In 2014, suspected Al Shabab fighters carried out a series of terror strikes in neighbouri­ng Kenya, including the slaughter of non-Muslims on a bus in November and at a quarry site a few weeks later. The violence has led to heavy-handed reprisals by the Kenyan government and fears that religious and ethnic tensions may deepen.

 ?? ANUPAM NATH/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Ethnic and tribal clashes in India’s Assam region have led tens of thousands of civilians to flee their homes.
ANUPAM NATH/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Ethnic and tribal clashes in India’s Assam region have led tens of thousands of civilians to flee their homes.

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