In the news:
Following reports of Boko Haram’s pledge of allegiance to Islamic State, some experts wonder at the practical significance of such a move. Although some experts suggest that the Nigerian government might not be doing everything in its power to stop the militant group, progress has nonetheless been reported as a joint ground and air offensive by forces from Niger and Chad enabled them to reclaim two northeastern Nigerian towns. The Nigerian authorities announced their military had retaken a total of 36 towns. Nevertheless, Boko Haram continues its deadly attacks, leaving 68 dead in a small village that they then burned down, selectively killing men and boys of the same tribe as the Chadian forces that had dealt major blows to the group, and appearing responsible for the suicide bombing committed by a teenage girl causing 34 deaths.
As the Iraqi forces, alongside Shi’ite militia and the revolutionary guard troops backed by Iran, continued the offensive on the Iraqi town of Tikrit, ISIS militants were setting fire to oil wells near the city in an attempt to obstruct the assault. However, early last week, the Iraqi forces reclaimed a strategic town north of Tikrit and by mid-week had captured approximately ninety percent of the city. ISIS militants began to withdraw, although the offensive was still being slowed by the extremist group’s use of snipers and bombs. Although there have been as yet no reports of any such incidents, some worry about possible sectarian violence between the Shi’ite and the Sunnis living in Tikrit. There have been other advances against the Islamic State as well – its militants were pushed out of Al-Baghdadi by Iraqi forces with coalition support, the leader of the commander of the Al-Nusra front was allegedly killed in an airstrike carried out by the Syrian military, and reports are appearing of dissents, defections and setbacks on the battlefield.
In other parts of Iraq, ISIS militants bulldozed an ancient Assyrian palace in Nimrud, which UNESCO qualified as a war crime, and desecrated the ancient capital of Khorsabad. Furthermore, a new video was released purporting to show the killing of an Israeli hostage at the hands of a child soldier. The young hostage was abducted as an alleged Israeli spy, but his father has denied this, explaining that his son was tricked into joining ISIS and then killed for trying to escape.
Although European officials are not ready to stiffen sanctions against Russia, the U.S. has decided on new sanctions against Ukrainian separatists and Russians. Despite increasing political pressure at home however, Obama has decided to send only non-lethal aid to Ukraine. As the pro-Russian rebels are removing all their heavy weaponry, Russia has announced its decision to fully withdraw from the European arms control treaty. On a separate note, the conflict between Ukraine and Russia has been described as constituting the most significant use of drones in warfare on two opposite sides of a battlefield.
Around the web:
The plight of child soldiers. ISIS has been training and indoctrinating children as young as 10 to use as soldiers and executioners. An article describes the ruthlessness with which the extremist group uses children as human shields, suicide bombers and blood donors. As the use of child soldiers remains a constant of the majority of armed conflicts today, a former child soldier sends a message of hope to those children who have regained their freedom.
Pakistan’s nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. Pakistan has successfully tested a ballistic missile seemingly capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to all parts of India. The Pakistanis are trying to maintain a credible deterrence against India as the South Asia arms race continues.
On the blog:
From students to refugees for a day. By leading college students into a simulation of what being a prisoner of war is like, our IHL Action Campaign successfully rose to the challenge of improving these students’ knowledge and willingness to promote IHL. This semester, the campaign also involved curious seventh graders and participants of the Midwest Regional Amnesty International Conference.
New York students engaged with IHL. High school students and college students alike have been working on spreading knowledge about the situation of refugees in armed conflict. By working in teams, they are able to both educate themselves on the topic of IHL as well as to involve their communities.