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NightWatch 20110401

NightWatch

For the Night of 1 April 2011

Afghanistan: Afghan protestors, after learning about and seeing video of the burning of a Quran in the US, attacked a U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan compound in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh Province, in north central Afghanistan, killing up to 20 UN workers. Two were beheaded.

A police spokesman said that at least eight foreigners were killed after attackers took out security guards, burned parts of the compound and climbed up walls to topple a guard tower. Five of the protestors were killed and around 20 were wounded.

The dead included a Norwegian military officer. Norway supports the provincial reconstruction team for Balkh.

The governor of Balkh Province said that Insurgents used the protest as cover to attack the compound, which they had planned for some time. Security forces announced they caught the "mastermind" of the plot.

Comment: This was the worst violence against UN workers since the overthrow of the Taliban.

Syria: Thousands of people protested in Daraa, Baniyas, Damascus and Latakia. Security forces dispersed protesters with tear gas in the Douma area of Damascus. Unidentified witnesses said three people were killed when security forces opened fire on 2,000 protesters at Municipality Square in the Damascus suburb of Douma.

About 600 Syrian protesters locked themselves inside the Al-Rifai mosque in the Kfar Sousa area of Damascus after they were attacked after Friday prayers.

An estimated 5,000 people demonstrated in the southern city of Daraa, where activists reported ten protestors were killed by snipers.

The Syrian government announced that 1 April would be a working day for public offices and schools. This was an attempt to keep the protest turnout low.

Syria-Russia: Syria's ambassador to Russia said that Russia must decide, independently, whether it wants to establish a full-scale base in Syria's Port Tartus, although, Moscow has not contacted Damascus over this proposal and Syria has learned from media reports that Russia is no longer considering the base expansion, according to Interfax.

Comment: Russia might not be interested at this time. but evidently the Syrians are willing.

Egypt: Update. Thousands gathered in Alexandria and Cairo on 1 April, calling for the military rulers to follow through on promises of transparency and democracy. The April 6 Youth Movement and the January 25 Coalition were among the opposition groups behind the protests. The demonstrators, including thousands at Tahrir Square, called for three of former President Hosni Mubarak's closest allies to face charges.

Comment:  The protests are too little, too late to affect the direction of the government now. Mubarak is gone, but his system abides.

Libya: News services reported fighting centered on Misrata, which is the only town in western Libya still in rebel control, and near the oil port of Brega, in the east, which the rebels again failed to take back . There was a lot of shooting at Brega, but hardly any fighting. The rebels brought up Russian GRAD truck-mounted multiple round rocket launchers and fired them in the general direction of Brega.  One man shot himself in the stomach with his own hand gun.

When the Qadhafi forces began to bracket the rebel position with counter-battery fire, the rebels ran and drove off east. No casualties were reported, according to a composite account posted by the VOA.

Al Jazeera reported that the United Nations is currently seeking to reach a credible ceasefire that is both real and easy to monitor. The UN envoy to Libya told the media he discussed a ceasefire in Tripoli yesterday, 31 March. He traveled to Benghazi for ceasefire talks on 1 April.

In Benghazi, the rebel leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil told the envoy, "We want the United Nations to grant the Libyans full freedom to express themselves. Al-Qadhafi troops must lift their tight siege of key Libyan cities, including Sirte, Misrata, and Tripoli."

He also said, "We will agree to a ceasefire. This is a main demand. In fact, it is a UN demand which we have to respect. However, Al-Qadhafi troops are the main force on the ground now."

Comment: The ceasefire offer appears to be for the benefit of the UN envoy and the media. Benghazi proposed terms that obviously were intended to be unacceptable to Tripoli, but that made it appear to cooperate with the UN. Tripoli promised nothing on the 31st and Qadhafi rejected the Benghazi offer on the 1st, as expected. Jalil's comments are noteworthy because they betray his awareness of the weakness of the rebel position.

Update. Libyan foreign intelligence chief Abu Zaid Durdah denied leaving Libya during a phone call to Libyan state-run television channel Al-Jamahiriyah on 31 March. Durdah said media fabrications against Libya are nothing new, adding that he is loyal to his friends and his homeland.

Qadhafi's security people reportedly have taken the wife of former foreign minister Moussa Koussa into custody for interrogation.

Ivory Coast/Cote d'Ivoire: Update. Forces loyal to Gbagbo repulsed northern "Republican Forces" from the Presidential Palace and the presidential residence today. Fighting continued on 2 April.

During this Watch, Alassane Ouattara condemned looting and destruction in Abidjan in the past two days. Ouattara blamed the lawlessness on organized gangs of terrorists.

The commander of ground forces for the pro-Gbagbo Defense and Security Forces (FDS), General Detho Letho, declared on the TCI television station, controlled by Alassane Ouattara, that he had joined the Ouattara camp. Letho said he made the decision due to the absence of his boss, General Philip Mangou, who has taken refuge with his family at the residence of the South African ambassador in Abidjan.

Another senior FDS officer, Colonel Jules Yao Yao, used the same television station to call on the country's armed forces to back Ouattara. He said the structure of the military has changed and that it now operates under Ivory Coast's Republican Forces.

Comment: The UN Operation in the Cote d'Ivoire totals more than 9,000 soldiers and police from 51 countries. It is a peacekeeping mission with little to do since the fighting resumed in late February.

France: The French Defense Ministry announced it sent an additional 150 soldiers to reinforce the French troop contingent in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, raising the total to 1,100. On 31 March the French began reinforced patrols in the south of the city to protect French nationals from looters.

End of NightWatch for 1 April.

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