World Brief: Islamists in Ghana, Iraq violence, El Salvador abortion

Islamists threaten Africa, Iraq on the brink of war, the Supreme Court of El Salvador denies a woman an abortion that could save her life. Photo: Cabezas/AP

WEST PALM BEACH, FL, May 31, 2013 — Ghana’s President warns that radical Islamist militants could destabilize West Africa, the UN envoy says violence in Iraq is “ready to explode” and the El Salvador Supreme Court refuses an abortion for a seriously ill woman whose fetus has little chance for survival.

Ghana warns of Islamist threat.  President John Dramani Mahama of Ghana is warning that Islamist militants pose a significant threat to stability in West Africa. Mahama said the ability of extremists to take over northern Mali after a coup last year shows how easy it would be for dormant extremists to reactivate and take control over areas in the Sahel, the region between the Sahara desert in the North and the Sudanian Savannas in the south. Mahama further reminded the world that while French-led troops had disrupted Islamist control in Mali, the groups are still operating in the region.

Africa has suffered several Islamist attacks over the last several months. Islamists capitalized in the chaos after the coup in Mali and instituted Sharia law in the north. They also desecrated World Heritage sites which they considered blasphemous, instituted beatings and maimings, and ordered women to cover themselves. Radical Islamists took hostages at a BP plant in Algeria in revenge for French participation in Mali, and last weeks, Islamist have launched asymmetric attacks in Niger on a military base and a French uranium mine.

Islamist groups remain active throughout Africa, and increasing intelligence suggests they are linked with al-Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups around the world. Large swatches of Africa have little government control, providing relative safehavens for radicals to operate without fear of observation or molestation. If radical groups are allowed to entrench in these locations, they would likely not only destabilize individual countries, but also the entire region. Moreover, they could use these bases as springboards to plan operations in other areas of the world, including attacks on U.S. interests in Africa and elsewhere.

UN envoy says violence in Iraq ‘ready to explode.’  After yet another wave of violence yesterday that killed at least 24 people, the UN envoy to Iraq urged the country’s leaders to “engage immediately to pull the country out of this mayhem”.

His statements came after five bombs in Baghdad killed 21 and wounded others, and a suicide bombing killed three others in Mosul.

So far this week, more than 120 people have died in violence. The death total for May is 400. In April, more than 700 died.

The violence is the result of simmering Sunni-Shiite tensions which were contained, but not eliminated while U.S. troops were in Iraq, but have re-erupted since the troop withdrawal. The Sunni minority, approximately 30% of the population, were favored under Saddam Hussein and lost significant power after his ouster. Most Sunnis boycotted the election that brought Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to power, and say Maliki has moved to consolidate power with Shiite’s. Last year, he ordered the arrest of the Sunni Vice President who fled to the Kurdish-held region.

Several militant groups contribute to the violence. Al Qaeda, which is a Sunni group, has increased violence and again raised retaliatory attacks. It carries out attacks not only to create fear but also to undermine the Shiite government. Officials say the Army of the Men of the Naqshabandi Order, which has ties to members of Saddam Hussein’s now-outlawed Baath party, has also become active in recent months. The Shiite Mukhtar Army recently delivered leaflets to Sunni residents in several neighborhoods, warning them to leave.

The new wave of bloodshed is raising concerns that Iraq is destined to return to the civil war that killed thousands. Attacks are particularly vicious during Sunni or Shiite religious events, and terrorists specifically target pilgrims.

Unless the government makes radical changes and institutes a true power sharing agreement, violence is likely to continue to escalate, potentially erupting into full-fledged civil war. Not only will the instability create chaos in the country, it creates a ripe environment for extremists to exploit.   

El Salvador refuses abortion for seriously ill woman.  The Supreme Court of El Salvador announced yesterday that it will not allow an abortion for a pregnant woman who is seriously ill. The Court ruled 4-1 against the procedure even though her fetus has little chance of survival.

Court documents show that the woman, a 22-year-old called “Beatriz”, is suffering from the chronic immune disorder lupus and kidney failure and that her health is fragile. Doctors provided testimony that continuing the pregnancy will place her life in risk.

Doctors also provided evidence that the fetus Beatriz is carrying is highly unlikely to survive due to anencephaly. It is missing at least part of the brain and may lack any brain at all.  Almost all babies with anencephaly fail to live to birth or die shortly after birth.

In their ruling, the judges said: “This court determines that the rights of the mother cannot take precedence over those of the unborn child or vice versa, and that there is an absolute bar to authorizing an abortion as contrary to the constitutional protection accorded to human persons ‘from the moment of conception’.”

The Constitution of El Salvador, which reflects the values of the predominantly Roman Catholic country, protects the right to life “from the moment of conception”.

Abortions are illegal in El Salvador under any circumstance, and any doctor performing an abortion faces arrest on criminal charges. Mothers who have abortions also face prosecution.

Although supporters are now investigating taking Beatriz out of El Salvador to have the procedure, doctor’s note that the fragility of her health may make it impossible. They say that as her pregnancy progresses, she will become more and more weak, complicating efforts to treat her.


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Lisa M. Ruth

Lisa M. Ruth started her career at the CIA, where she won several distinguished awards for her service and analysis.  After leaving the government, she joined a private intelligence firm in South Florida as President, where she oversaw all research, analysis and reporting.

Lisa joined CDN as a journalist in 2009 and writes extensively on intelligence, world affairs, and breaking news. She also provides investigative reporting and news analysis. Lisa continues to write both for her own columns and as a guest writer on a wide variety of subjects, and is now Executive Editor for CDN and edits the Global, Family and Health sections.  She is also a regular contributor to Newsmax and other publications.

Contact Lisa M. Ruth


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