The violence in the year 2006 slowly slipping past us is a sad reminder of the state of the World increasingly at the mercy of the bomb and the gun. Civilian deaths crossed the figure of 100,000 in Iraq which saw maximum violence during the year. While in other regions of West Asia, continued strife wrecked homes of thousands. Lebanon was the hardest hit when the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by the Hezbollah resulted in retaliatory air strikes by Tel Aviv killing thousands. For the first time, the Israeli population felt the heat of the war as Hezbollah rockets continued to rain on many of its vulnerable cities. The death count was supplemented by thousands who had to be evacuated including many from South Asia.
The internecine conflict in Palestine continues unabated with President Jimmy Carter now calling it apartheid against the Palestinians. Further South, Sudan and Chad saw continued fighting between rival factions and even the United Nations logistics complex was looted by miscreants. Congo held elections but bloodshed continues. Somalia is another African country in the critical area of the Horn of Africa which saw the Islamic Courts battling with the United Nations backed regime in Baidoa, the, 'notional capital' of the country supported by Ethiopia. The country is already a haven for pirates, with all ships warned to keep off the coastal areas notorious for way lading.
Coming further East to Afghanistan, NATO forces were trapped in their first bloody encounters after the Second World War as a resurgent Taliban struck back with vengeance in the southern belt of Kandahar and Helmand while Kabul continued to be under threat of suicide bombers. A hot summer is expected in Afghanistan particularly in the Southern areas and along the Durand line with Pakistan as the Taliban are reportedly well entrenched in Waziristan. Pakistan suffered a crippling blow with a suicide attack on the Punjab Regimental Centre at Dargai, a couple of hundred kilometers from Islamabad, the first such major strike on a Pakistani army camp which killed over 35 trainees. Baluchistan continued to be on the boil with the killing of Akbar Bugti, which resulted in uniting the Marri-Mengal-Bugti tribal clans against the Pakistani regime.
Further south in Sri Lanka, a virtual civil war, called by many analysts as Tamil Ealam IV erupted in the middle of the year and the deaths have reportedly crossed over 3500, the highest after the cease fire was put into place in 2002. With hardening stand by both sides, even the Norwegian peace mission is not hopeful of any respite in the fratricidal conflict in the Island, where the LTTE losing its hold on the Eastern parts is increasingly belligerent. India will have to plunge into Island politics to find a lasting solution and stop the blood shed; hopefully the inflection point for the same will be reached in 2007.
Bangladesh is in the midst of civil strife as it goes to elections next year, apart from a number of active fundamentalist groups as the Jamaat Mujaheedin Bangladesh. The safe sanctuary provided to Indian terrorist groups of the North East has been a point of bitterness between the two countries apart from frequent exchange of fire between the border guards. Myanmar too is indulgent towards the militants of Manipur and Nagaland, primarily as the power of the state does not reach the remote Indo Myanmar border. Bhutan the idyllic kingdom was also rocked by unrest and blasts in its southern town of Phuntsholing with a restive Nepali refugee problem rocking the state. Nepal is one state during the Year which showed promise of peace ahead as a historic come down by the monarchy in the face of popular public support to the Maoists and the Seven Party Alliance sees United Nations supported elections in 2007.
India's tryst with terror continued, the vilest attack being on Suburban trains in the commercial capital, Mumbai in which 187 people lost their lives in July. The Naxal threat looms large in the underdeveloped tribal belt of Central India engulfing several states and affecting over 160 districts, while Kashmir and the North East continue to throw up challenges to the nation's security establishment. A coordinated multi pronged response with a resolve to stay the course alone will see some light in the year ahead.
There were many discordant political issues during the year which affected even the developed World ranging from the trouble on the US Mexican border to the Quebecois in Canada, Russia's energy play, Nigeria's oil mafia and the coup in Fiji. As the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan demits office after a decade's service to bring peace; the flash points in a volatile World continue to engage our attention in the year ahead.