Darfur’s gold mines complicate conflict

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
October 8, 2013

Fighting in Darfur escalates over gold, information emerges on the target of one failed U.S. mission in Somalia as the consequences of another unfold, and public workers in India strike to protest the splitting of a southern state. Today is Tuesday, October 8, and this is the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner.

Gold mine workers wait to get their raw gold weighed at a gold shop in the town of Al-Fahir in North Darfur, September 24, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah

Darfur’s gold rush. Long stricken with sectarian and political conflict, Darfur now struggles with a new source of tension – gold buried beneath the hills of North Darfur in western Sudan:

In the past year or so the precious metal has begun to alter the nature of the decade-old conflict in Darfur, transforming it from an ethnic and political fight to one that, at least in part, is over precious metal. Fighting between rival tribes over the Jebel Amer gold mine that stretches for some 10 km (six miles) beneath the sandy hills of North Darfur has killed more than 800 people and displaced some 150,000 others since January. Arab tribes, once heavily armed by the government to suppress insurgents, have turned their guns on each other to get their hands on the mines. Rebel groups that oppose the government also want the metal. The gold mine death toll is more than double the number of all people killed by fighting between the army, rebels and rival tribes in Darfur in 2012, according to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s quarterly reports to the Security Council.

South Sudan seceded from Sudan in 2011, taking with it billions of dollars in oil revenue. In an effort to bolster its economy, the Sudanese government has been encouraging people to dig for gold. According to gold traders, Khartoum’s central bank pays artisanal miners 20 percent more than the global market price to increase exports – a charge the bank denies. A fellow at the Rift Valley Institute think tank says “the government is so desperate for the gold that they are willing to stoke conflict to get artisanal mines under its control.” Industry sources say approximately one quarter of Sudan’s gold is smuggled out of the country. Read the full special report on Darfur’s dangerous gold industry here.

Protesters take part in a demonstration against the capture of Nazih al-Ragye in Benghazi, October 7, 2013. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

U.S. anti-militant strikes follow up. Details have emerged on the target of an unsuccessful weekend raid by U.S. forces in Somalia. Analysts say that Abdikadar Mohamed Abdikadar, known as Ikrima, is a Somali-based operator who plotted attacks on Kenya:

Kenyan and Western security agencies have identified Ikrima… as the link man for commanders of the al Shabaab Islamist group in Somalia with al Qaeda and Kenya’s home-bred militants…. he plotted to attack Kenya’s parliament, assassinate top Kenyan politicians and hit U.N. offices in Nairobi, according to a Kenyan intelligence report leaked to media and also obtained by Reuters.

The U.S. successfully completed a separate raid on Libya over the weekend, capturing al Qaeda suspect Nazih al-Ragye, alias Abu Anas al-Liby, in Tripoli. Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan said on Tuesday that the attack won’t harm relations between the countries adding, adding that Libyan suspects should be tried on Libyan soil:

His comments reflected a desire to keep on board a key foreign ally in the fight to control worsening violence at the same time as appeasing Islamist militants who have taken over swathes of Libya and use it as a safe haven. Militant groups angered by Saturday’s raid have taken to social networking sites to call for revenge attacks on strategic targets including gas export pipelines, planes and ships, as well as for the kidnappings of Americans in the capital.

Liby is a suspect in the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 civilians.

Protesters stop a crane as they block a road with burning tires during a protest against the creation of Telangana state, at Vizag in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, October 5, 2013.REUTERS/Stringer

Split strike. Blackouts hit parts of India’s Andhra Pradesh state as public workers continue to protest the government’s decision to split the state in two:

The move to carve out a new state called Telangana triggered violent protests over the weekend and officials said a curfew was imposed for two days in Vizianagaram, one of 13 districts of coastal Andhra Pradesh where many people are opposed to the state being divided…. The ruling Congress party approved the creation of Telangana in July, fanning the embers of political division within the state.… Supporters of the split say the Telangana region’s economic development has been neglected in favor of the richer and more powerful coastal region of Andhra. Critics say the Congress party had long resisted calls for the new state and only took the step to win votes in coming elections. The undivided state sent 34 members of parliament to the national parliament for Congress and its allies in 2009, making it an important political prize.

Government employees have been on strike since mid August, but electricity workers did not join until Sunday.

Nota Bene: North Korea puts army on alert and warns U.S. of a “horrible disaster.”

Standouts:

C is for correspondent - Cookie Monster makes his news debut on BBC. (BBC)

Costly ceremony - A Chinese local Communist party official was fired over his son’s $260,000 wedding. (Associated Press)

Tokyo talent - Japanese adults have the highest literacy and numeracy rates in the world. (Time)

Bike backlash - Indian city Kolkata says bikes and rickshaws are hurting its economy. (Quartz)

Razor’s edge - One Roman knife-sharpener is among the last of his kind. (New York Times)

From the File:

  • Putin demands Dutch apology for alleged attack on Russian diplomat in The Hague.
  • Egypt considers security cameras at tourist sites.
  • China dismisses worries over Turkey missile deal.
  • Rebels freed as Myanmar gives amnesty to 56 political prisoners.
  • Higgs boson wins Nobel physics prize.
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