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Surge in Nigeria's communal violence punctuates peace conference

A suspected Boko Haram attack and a land dispute claimed as many as 42 lives Saturday, but did not deter those trying to heal a culture of fear.
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Umar Farouk Mohammed, of Kaduna's Interfaith Mediation Center, on a site visit to Redo, a community plagued with violence between Muslims and Christians. He stands with the head of a Muslim family whose home, in the background, was set ablaze in the communal violence. (Allan Leonard/GlobalPost)

KADUNA, Nigeria — The momentum of communal violence here doesn’t pause for peace conferences.

At the close of an inspiring week of shared perspectives at a six-day International Forum for Cities in Transition, delegates from around the world packed their bags and headed back to their own divided societies while Nigeria’s Sunday newspapers told of the mounting violence that continues apace.


Delegates from divided societies offer help in Nigeria

Christian-Muslim violence has claimed thousands of lives here, but survivors from Lebanon, Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq, Israel and Palestine are working with local leaders to quell the conflict.

KADUNA, Nigeria — The bridge over the Kaduna River divides this city.

In many ways Kaduna stands as a microcosm of Nigeria itself, with Christians living to the south and Muslims in the north. Like all of Nigeria, it suffers from desperate poverty that cuts across both communities and shares a pervasive culture of fear as the country continues to plunge into communal strife that has claimed nearly 20,000 lives since 1999.


Peacemakers gather under heavy guard to confront Nigeria's Christian-Muslim violence

An Irish activist and scholar who has dedicated much of his life to bringing peace to places like South Africa, the West Bank and Northern Ireland has convened a special meeting in Nigeria.
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Pastor James Wuye (L) and Imam Muhammad Ashafa (R) with conference organizer Padraig OMalley (C) in Kaduna, Nigeria. (Allan Leonard/GlobalPost)

KADUNA, Nigeria — Soldiers with automatic weapons flanked our convoy and armored personnel carriers guarded the entrance as we arrived at the opening of a peace conference here.

This city, which has been a flashpoint in Nigeria’s ongoing violence among Christians and Muslims and a counter-insurgency campaign against Islamic militants, is serving as host of the 4th International Conference of the Forum for Cities in Transition.


Qatar: A poet sits in a desert cell for reciting his work at home

Op-Ed: Poet Mohammed al-Ajami will spend 15 years in prison for his Arab Spring-inspired poem — unless Qatar's new emir can be convinced to grant him a pardon.
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Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly on September 24, 2013 in New York City. (Brendan McDermid-Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

DOHA, Qatar — We stood outside the guard house in the desert wind on the outskirts of the city. Doha Central Prison rose on the horizon of a barren, rock-strewn landscape, electric wires cutting across a cloudless sky. We had been told we had permission to visit Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami, whose 15-year sentence for two poems had been confirmed the previous day by the high court.


US soldiers in Afghanistan adapt to life further from the fight

Combat situations are the bread and butter of infantrymen, but US forces are learning to go without as Afghans take over.

KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — The glowing hot embers of America's war in Afghanistan, embodied by the military's far-flung combat outposts, are winking out one by one. The few remaining outposts will be turned over to the Afghan military soon, as the US drawdown advances to its uncertain conclusion next year. 


In Afghanistan, 'force protection is the mission'

The measures soldiers take to defend themselves and their equipment have reached a new level as the threat of insider attacks rises.
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A "Guardian Angel" stands outside a meeting between his battalion commander and the provincial police chief in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan. Guardian Angel duty was prompted by the spate of attacks on US soldiers by uniformed members of the Afghan security forces. (Ben Brody/GlobalPost)

KAPISA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Attacks on US forces by uniformed Afghan security personnel are now Afghanistan's signature threat, just as improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, were in Iraq.

And that new and disquieting reality has me thinking hard about the idea of ‘force protection’ here and how it is changing, or, more precisely, needs to change.

During my first trip to Afghanistan in 2010, it was shocking to see how lax the soldiers there seemed to be in their own force protection.

On a small combat outpost in Kandahar, armed Afghan soldiers mingled freely with Americans day and night. The outpost lacked proper defensive measures to prevent a car bomb attack on the front gate, and some of the guard towers had obstructed views of the surrounding fields.


Back to Afghanistan as America ends its longest war

Correspondent Ben Brody lands at Bagram Airfield, the largest US base in Afghanistan, to begin reporting on the US drawdown of troops.



Pakistan: As third bomb hits Peshawar, Christians caught in the middle

One week after 84 churchgoers were killed in the northern city of Peshawar, militants struck with two additional bombings on other targets. Pakistani Christians remember how vulnerable they are.
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A Pakistani Christian woman mourn the death of relative, who was killed in suicide bombing, near damage at the All Saints Church in Peshawar on September 24, 2013. A devastating double suicide attack on a church in northwest Pakistan has triggered fears among the country's beleaguered Christian community that they will be targeted in a fresh wave of Islamist violence. (A. Majeed/AFP/Getty Images)

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — There is little sign now of the blood and human remains that were strewn across the courtyard of the All Saints Church when two suicide bombers detonated their vests after Sunday mass last week.


Live Chat with journalists about 'Egypt in Crisis'

What happened to Egypt? Join GlobalPost's Charles Sennott, FRONTLINE's Marcela Gaviria and NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin today at 3 pm ET to discuss the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood and the return of the "deep state."
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Supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi raise up posters with the four finger symbol during a demonstration against the military backed government in the Egyptian capital Cairo, on September 13, 2013. Thousands of Morsi supporters rallied in Cairo after Friday prayers chanting angry slogans against the military, with clashes reported elsewhere in Egypt. The four finger symbol, known as 'Rabaa', meaning four in Arabic, is used to remember those killed in the crackdown on the Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp in Cairo in July. (Mahmoud Khaled/AFP/Getty Images)

GlobalPost's Charles Sennott and FRONTLINE spent much of the summer reporting from Egypt to find out how the promise of the popular uprising that took down Hosni Mubarak dissolved into social division and the military's reassertion of power.


Violence between rebel factions hints at civil war in Libya

Gaddafi's ghost hangs over a country with competing visions of what it means to be a Libyan.
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Libyan firefighters extinguish a fire caused by a powerful blast near a foreign ministry building on September 11, 2013 in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. The explosion comes on the first anniversary of an attack by militants on the United States consulate in Benghazi, which killed four Americans, including the ambassador. (Abdullah Doma/AFP/Getty Images)

Correspondent Bill Wheeler was awarded the first annual GroundTruth fellowship for field reporting on emerging democracies in the Middle East. In this final segment of a five-part blog series for GroundTruth, Wheeler goes inside the militias that are still holding sway in the chaotic aftermath of Libya’s civil war (see links to all five pieces at the end of this segment).