2014 has been a brutal year. The death toll of Syria’s ongoing civil war likely eclipsed 200,000, while the hideous rise of the Islamic State spurred a U.S.-led bombing campaign. A separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine led to thousands of deaths and clouded relations between the West and Moscow, which is believed to be aiding the rebels. And an Israeli offensive against Hamas militants saw whole stretches of the Gaza Strip reduced to rubble.
Sadly, there was plenty of other mayhem and violence that didn’t make newspaper frontpages as often. Here are seven awful conflicts that merited more attention.
Pro-government Libyan forces, who are backed by locals, aim their weapons during clashes in the streets with the Shura Council of Libyan Revolutionaries, an alliance of former anti-Gaddafi rebels, who have joined forces with the Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia, in Benghazi Dec. 28, 2014. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori
Libya was supposed to be a success story. In 2011, the U.S. famously “led from behind,” as NATO air strikes helped a rebel alliance topple the long-ruling regime of dictator Moammar Gaddafi. But what followed has been a mess.
In 2014, Libya’s fragile democratic transition unraveled into open civil war between a hodgepodge of Islamist militias and tribal factions. It has drawn in rogue generals and foreign governments, and led to an absurd situation of two parallel governments claiming authority over the war-ravaged nation. Militants are battling over strategic oil towns. Just this weekend, Libyan jets pounded militant positions in the city of Misrata, once famed for its brave resistance to the Gaddafi regime.
Smoke rises from a neighborhood near the Yemeni state TV headquarters during clashes between Yemeni troops and Shiite Houthi fighters in Sana’a, Yemen, Sept. 20, 2014. (EPA/YAHYA ARHAB)
Another country that saw the departure of long-ruling autocrat in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, Yemen is in the grips of a disastrous civil war. A rebellion led by the Houthis, a political movement that draws key support from a prominent Shiite sect, has swept away the central government and opened what some warn may turn into a dangerous sectarian conflict between Shiites and Sunni militias, including units loyal to al-Qaeda.
In India’s restive northeast, many ethnic and tribal insurgencies persist. Contests over land and resources have seen frequent clashes between an array of groups, including the indigenous Bodo tribe and Muslim settlers in the state of Assam, whom some claim are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. The chaos over the years has led to tens of thousands fleeing their homes. Last week, an extremist faction of Bodo fighters massacred at least 72 people from another tribal community, prompting New Delhi to launch an extensive counter-terrorism operation.
Children look at the fin of a mortar projectile that was found at the Al-Abassi camp for internally displaced persons, after an attack by rebels in Mellit town, North Darfur in this March 25, 2014 photo. REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah
In the fledgling nation of South Sudan, some 10,000 people were killed and more than 1.5 million displaced amid battles between government forces and rebel groups since December 2013. It’s a depressing state of affairs for a country whose birth in 2011 was midwifed by Washington
To the north in Sudan, the conflict-wracked Darfur region saw further violence, and half a million displaced this year alone. Yet Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes, told The Washington Post earlier this month that the situation is calm and that U.N. peacekeepers should leave.
Rescuers and residents gather at the charred scene following a bomb blast at Terminus market in the central city of Jos, which killed at least 46 people, on May 20, 2014. (AFP/Getty Images)
There were hashtags and outrage, but little respite for Nigerians living in the shadow of Boko Haram. The Islamist extremist group, which has links to al-Qaeda, continued its campaign of terror, carrying out bombings, massacres and kidnappings. Despite an intense Nigerian government counterinsurgency in the northeast of the country, Boko Haram has grown more brazen, launching raids into neighboring countries. It has abducted hundreds of people, including many women and children. The fate of the missing Chibok schoolgirls, whose plight won worldwide attention, remainsvery much unclear.
Earlier this month, Pakistan experienced its worst single terror attack: a hideous Taliban assault on a school in the city of Peshawar. Many of the dozens of young students slaughtered were children of military personnel; the Taliban justified the massacre as revenge for Pakistan’s campaign against certain militant groups operating in Pakistan’s remote tribal regions along the border with Afghanistan. Dubbed Operation Zarb-e-Azb — a reference to the sword of the Prophet Mohammad — the offensive has involved air strikes and some 30,000 troops on the ground. By mid-summer, nearly a million civilians had been displaced by the conflict.
In the aftermath of the Peshawar massacre, Pakistan has intensified its strikes on the Pakistani Taliban. But critics still wonder when the Pakistani state will confront a larger history of incubating extremist Islamist groups.
Somalia and Kenya
Al-Shabaab, an Islamist group that’s also connected to al-Qaeda, had appeared in retreat in recent years, pushed back by U.S. counter-terror operations as well as an African Union peacekeeping operation in Somalia, the semi-lawless country where the extremists are based. But its attacks have not stopped. In 2014, suspected al-Shabaab fighters carried out a series of terror strikes in neighboring Kenya, including the slaughter of non-Muslims on a bus in November and at a quarry site a few weeks later. The violence has led to heavy-handed reprisals by the Kenyan government and fears that religious and ethnic tensions may deepen in the East African nation.