Mosque in Astana, Kazakhstan, 2 February 2013. FLICKR/ Erman Akdogan.

Thousands from Central Asia joining ‘Islamic State’

At least 2,000 Central Asians are believed to have joined “Islamic State,” a new report found. Marked by poverty and radicalization, the region has become a growing source of foreign fighters, as Deirdre Tynan tells DW.
The fallout from the conflicts in Syria and Iraq has become a major security concern for Central Asian governments. Crippled by corruption, the five former Soviet Central Asian countries – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – are seen as having done little to address the issue of radical Islam.

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When the big moment finally came on 7 January, it was hard to avoid the feeling that an opportunity has been lost. Some two weeks after an enigmatic statement had promised a “special announcement”, a video posted on the website of the National Liberation Army (ELN) celebrated at length the Fifth National Congress of Colombia’s second-largest guerrilla group. An accompanying “political declaration” ratified the ELN’s support for peace talks but lacked specific commitments. This was certainly an announcement but it did not seem all that special. Nonetheless, the outcomes of the Congress still represent valuable progress toward a definitive political settlement of the Colombian conflict.

Local hunter known as Vigilante armed with locally made gun and knife on way to support Nigerian army fighting with Boko Haram, 6 December, 2014. AFP/Mohammed Elshamy

“The soldiers are less motivated than the Boko Haram insurgents”

Throughout 2014, we saw a significant increase in the intensity and frequency of Boko Haram attacks. This has been compounded by further violent attacks at the beginning of this year, most notably a massacre in Baga in the northeast of Nigeria. In this interview, Nnamdi Obasi, Crisis Group’s Senior Nigeria Analyst, speaks about what exactly it is that the insurgents want, how their activities have evolved, and why the government is ill-prepared to handle the insurgency.

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South Sudan
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyetta (front L) at the 27th Extraordinary Summit IGAD Heads of State and Government at the National Palace in Addis Ababa, 25 August, 2014. AFP

South Sudan and IGAD:
Seize the Day

The upcoming Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) summit, delayed once again, is a rare window of opportunity for the regional body, and its partners, to compel South Sudan’s warring parties to make the compromises necessary for peace. Pressure is increasing on the parties to sign onto a power-sharing deal amidst an uptick in troop movements, military skirmishes and hostile rhetoric about impending offensives. But this pressure is not yet enough. Without a sufficiently detailed agreement on power-sharing and security arrangements by the end of the summit, the entire IGAD peace process will be in jeopardy, with a likely return to intense conflict and deepening regionalisation of South Sudan’s war.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka’s upcoming presidential election has created excitement with President Mahinda Rajapaksa facing challenge from his ex-colleague, Maithripala Sirisena, who promises reforms to curtail executive powers. Alan Keenan is International Crisis Group’s Sri Lanka Project Director. Speaking with Sameer Arshad, Keenan discussed the significance of the first major challenge to Rajapaksa in a decade, threats of election-day violence against minority groups – and fears of Rajapaksa using extra-constitutional methods to retain power

Sri Lanka

As the clock ticks down to Sri Lanka’s 8 January presidential election, voters appear to face a clear choice between an incumbent committed to increasingly centralised presidential authority and an opposition pledging to reverse that trend and restore power to the legislature. Following a month of often bitter campaigning, fears are growing the vote could be marred by polling-day abuses and possible post-election violence and fraud. The campaign has already seen frequent attacks on opposition rallies and supporters and what appears to have been a significant level of misuse of state resources by the incumbent, President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The growing possibility of an opposition victory looks set to heighten risks over both the integrity of the vote and post-election stability.

Screenshot from a video of alleged Uzbek jihadi training camp in Syria, June 2014.

From Central Asia to Syria: A Teenage Girl’s Jihad

As part of research for a report on Central Asians jihadis, to be published later this month, Crisis Group has interviewed numerous fighters and their families. In the excerpts printed here with the permission of the family, the father, Ramaz, tells about his two daughters, one of whom suddenly left home to join the jihad in Syria (and get married there), the other of whom has disappeared and might have joined her sister.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro during the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) trade bloc annual presidential 47th summit in Parana, December 17, 2014. REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian

Venezuela: A Lost Opportunity to Restore Institutional Rule

The Venezuelan government has chosen to further centralise power prior to a crucial parliamentary election next year, rendering a peaceful, democratic solution to the country’s political crisis much more difficult. In filling the posts of ombudsman, attorney general and comptroller general, it has acted according to a legally suspect method. By battening the hatches in this way, the government of Nicolás Maduro will weaken its own legitimacy and that of the Venezuelan state itself.

Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto leaves after delivering a message to the press following a meeting with parents of 43 missing students at the Los Pinos presidential palace in Mexico City, 29 October 2014. AFP/Yuri Cortez

Mexico: Upheaval and Paralysis

Mexico remains embroiled in a political crisis over the disappearance of 43 students, apparently at the hands of police and local thugs and assisted by city officials, in the southwestern state of Guerrero. Protests, sometimes destructive, continue, while on this issue the government seems paralyzed: President Peña Nieto’s security and justice reform package is stuck in Congress and his approval ratings have sunk to record lows.
The popular outrage reflects not only Mexicans’ exhaustion with criminal violence but also their deep distrust of a political class widely associated with corruption. So far the government seems unable to turn the tide of public opinion and undertake the institutional reforms needed to combat violence in a country where powerful criminal groups still dominate many areas.

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  • 4 February 2014

    CrisisWatch Interactive Map

    CrisisWatch interactive map provides busy readers in the policy community, media, business and interested general public with a succinct regular update on the state of play in all the most significant situations of conflict or potential conflict around the world.

  • 24 June 2014

    The Central African Crisis

    In this series of video interviews, Thierry Vircoulon, Crisis Group's Central Africa Project Director, discusses the conflict in the Central African Republic.

  • 27 May 2014

    Iran's Nuclear Crisis

    Ali Vaez, Crisis Group's Iran Senior Analyst, discusses the latest developments in nuclear negotiations between the P5+1 and suggests a way forward that would satisfy all sides.