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World in conflict

The top 15 disputes in the world today

Major conflict involving at least two armed groups which results in the deaths of at least 1,000 people in any single calendar year. A long-running armed dispute with significant occurrences in 2006.


Following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S., the George W. Bush administration launched Operation Enduring Freedom, a military campaign to destroy the al-Qaeda terrorist network and overthrow the Taliban government that protected it. While successful in that respect, the NATO forces now occupying the country continue to face a determined Taliban insurgency. Militants launched 117 suicide attacks in 2006, killing 54 Afghan security personnel and 18 NATO soldiers. In total, more than 3,900 people, including over 1,000 civilians, were killed in 2006, four times the death toll of the previous year. 2006 was a bloody year for Canadians in Afghanistan, with 36 soldiers and one diplomat killed.



The separatist ambitions of this northern Caucasus republic have been continually frustrated since it first declared independence from Russia in 1991. Russia has invaded twice, recapturing the would-be breakaway republic at a cost of approximately 500,000 lives, mostly Chechen civilians. The second Russian offensive in 1999 installed a Moscow-friendly government and was a serious blow to the Chechen independence movement. Sporadic clashes between separatist and Russian forces continued in 2006, including the death of Chechen guerilla leader Shamil Basayev, killed by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) in July.



Home to a bloody decades-long civil conflict between insurgents, paramilitary groups and government forces, as well as ongoing violence resulting from the drug trade. Two major insurgent groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) have staged a guerilla war against the government since the 1960s, and a counter-insurgency group, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), entered the fray in 1997.

Colombian police report 17,206 people died violent deaths in 2006, a figure largely attributable to clashes between armed groups and the country's drug trade, one of the world's largest.


Democratic Republic of the Congo

A ceasefire was declared in the last days of December 2006 but who knows how long it will last. Neighbouring Rwanda is mediating talks between a government delegation and renegade Congolese General Laurent Nkunda. A 2003 peace deal officially ended Congo's six-year war that killed an estimated four million people, but clashes between the Congolese army and local militias, like that of Nkunda's, have continued despite the presence of the world's largest UN peacekeeping force. Congo's recent presidential election, judged by observers as democratic and transparent, has buoyed hopes for peace.



Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's attempt to create a national unity government caused a resurgence in factional violence that has spilled over in 2007. At least 40 Palestinians were killed by factional fighting in 2006; another 600 or so were killed by Israeli military operations in both Gaza and the West Bank.

Within the Palestinian Authority, tensions raged after Abbas proposed a snap election, to be held as early as spring 2007. Hamas, the Islamic group that surprised the world when it won parliamentary elections in January 2006, vowed to boycott any election and accused Abbas and his Fatah party of facilitating a U.S.-endorsed coup. The Bush administration has pledged $86 million to bolster Abbas's security forces and curb the violence. On Jan. 5, 2007, Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haneya of Hamas agreed to end factional fighting in Gaza.



The U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 ousted Saddam Hussein's brutal Ba'athist regime, but a resulting Sunni Muslim insurgency has brought the country to the brink of civil war, if not beyond. The recent execution of Saddam threatens to inflame the insurgency further. New figures showed almost 3,000 civilians were killed in November 2006 alone. A recent study by Johns Hopkins University says as many as 655,000 Iraqis have been killed since 2003.


Ivory Coast

Ivory Coast remains split between a government-controlled south and a rebel-held north since a military insurrection and presidential assassination attempt in 2002. The two sides signed a peace agreement in January 2003, but persistent disagreements continue to hamper the disarmament process and delay a presidential election. New Forces rebel leader Gillaume Soro recently contacted President Laurent Gbagbo, offering to open a direct dialogue seeking to reunite the country by the end of January 2007. The UN Operation in Ivory Coast (UNOCI) has deployed nearly 10,000 military and police in the area.



War erupted after Hezbollah troops killed two Israeli soldiers and captured a third in a cross-border raid in July 2006. Israeli forces responded with massive artillery and airborne offensives, an air and naval blockade and an eventual ground invasion aiming to disrupt Lebanese infrastructure and cripple Hezbollah. More than 1,400 people, mostly Lebanese civilians, were killed in the brief conflict.

A ceasefire went into effect on Aug.14, although Israeli troops continued to occupy parts of Lebanon until early December. Several nations have called for Hezbollah to disarm but the group has ignored such demands. The UN has refused responsibility for disarming the party that Canada, as well as several other nations, lists as a terrorist organization.



Drug wars claimed at least 2,000 lives last year as rival cartels fought for ascendancy in the huge cross-border drug trade to the U.S. Drug-related murders were frequent and sometimes gruesome in 2006. In September, gunmen dumped five severed heads onto a bar dance floor in the city of Uruapan and authorities have unearthed mass graves in several cities. New President Felipe Calderon flexed military muscle in December, sending 7,000 troops into the violent western state of Michoacan. Over 4,000 troops poured into Tijuana, a drug-trafficking border town where underpaid policemen are suspected of acting as hitmen for the cartels. Police weapons were confiscated so ballistics checks could be made against recent drug-related murders and officers were forced to patrol the city unarmed.



Notorious Marxist Leninist revolutionary group Shining Path vowed to fight the Peruvian government and protect Peru's booming drug trade. Mexican drug cartels have entered Peru and anti-drug efforts in Colombia have shifted cocaine operations into the country. Production of coca, cocaine's main ingredient, has risen 40 per cent in recent years and drug-related violence is on the rise. Shining Path took credit for a roadside ambush in December that killed five policemen. Violence may escalate in 2007: The Peruvian government intends to combat Shining Path to prevent it becoming another narco-terrorist group like Colombia's FARC. Experts also fear that Shining Path's ideological turnaround, from Communist revolution to drug trafficking, may put it at odds with rival guerrilla group the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.



2006 was a year of civil unrest as the forces of the Islamic Courts Union (UIC), an alliance of Sharia courts, ousted the warlords who have ruled the country since 1991, capturing the capital Mogadishu. However, the UIC's gains were short-lived after the Ethiopian military intervened on behalf of Somalia's new Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Ethiopia declared war on the UIC on Christmas Day and Ethiopian-backed TFG forces re-took Mogadishu three days later. 2007 is off to an inauspicious start: The TFG's demand that warring clans disarm has been largely ignored, al-Qaeda has called for Islamic militants to "rush in support of your brothers in Somalia," and Ethiopian troops were met with hostility by Somalis, the result of bloody historical animosity between the two countries.



2006 came to a violent end as the Basque separatist group ETA violated the "permanent ceasefire" it had declared in March. The group, founded in 1959, is believed to be responsible for over 900 deaths and dozens of kidnappings over the years in its fight for Basque independence. A delicate peace process was in the works until the ETA bombed Madrid's Barajas International Airport on Dec. 30. The ETA blames the Spanish government for derailing the peace process, claiming it was unwilling to make concessions. The Spanish government broke off all contacts with ETA and the recent discovery of nearly 180 kilograms of explosives in the Basque region has authorities bracing for further violence.



More than 200,000 people have been killed and two million others left homeless after fighting erupted between government forces, allied militias and rebel groups in 2003. In May 2006, the Sudanese government and Darfur's largest rebel group, the Sudan Liberation Movement, signed the Darfur Peace Agreement, but some rebel groups rejected the accord and widespread violence continues throughout the region. Both the Sudanese government and government-sponsored militias have launched offensives against the rebel groups, causing more deaths and displacements. The UN estimates that four million people now depend on humanitarian assistance, but recent fighting along the Sudan-Chad border has left nearly a quarter of a million refugees cut from aid.


Sri Lanka

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also known as the Tamil Tigers, have waged a violent secessionist campaign against the Sri Lankan government since 1970, a fight that has claimed more than 65,000 lives. The LTTE seeks independence for the northeast region of the island, the traditional home of the the Tamil ethnic group. A 2002 Norwegian-brokered ceasefire is officially still in place, but international monitoring groups say it only exists on paper; the two sides have violated the agreement more than 3,000 times but 2006 was a relatively peaceful year, at least as far as civilian casualties went. Recent UN calls for peace went unheeded as the government launched airstrikes against LTTE bases in early January, one of which killed six children.



Last year saw some positive signs from the decades-long civil war in Uganda. The UN World Food Program said 230,000 Internally Displaced Persons returned to their homes this year thanks to increased security. Over 1.4 million Ugandans were uprooted in an insurgency dating back to 1987. The rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) signed a ceasefire agreement in August but peace talks are proceeding slowly. LRA leader Joseph Kony is reluctant to sign a peace deal unless the International Criminal Court in The Hague drops indictments for war crimes against him and four LRA commanders.