Somalia, Iraq most unsafe places

July 2, 2009 12:00 am

, LONDON, Jul 2 – Somalia remains the world’s most dangerous country for minority groups, followed by Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan and Myanmar, a leading human rights group said on Thursday.

The five were in unchanged positions from last year’s Minority Rights Group International’s (MRG) list of countries where groups or peoples are most at risk of genocide, mass killing or other systematic violent repression.

In Somalia, the latest round of bloodletting in two decades of civil war kicked off in May when hardline Islamist groups launched a fresh offensive aimed at removing internationally-backed President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

Meanwhile, the report says that despite a reduction in the violence, Iraq remained a highly dangerous place, with between 300 and 800 civilians a month still dying violently over the last year.

Since the last report, MRG says the situation has deteriorated in Pakistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Georgia, Zimbabwe, Guinea, Niger, Kenya, and Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

In Pakistan, the report says minorities are at particular risk from the fight against violent extremism, specifically the conflict between different Islamist groups in the northwest and tribal areas, repression of dissidents elsewhere and what it calls "growing violence in national politics".

MRG director Mark Lattimer said: "Ethnic and religious minorities across West Asia are under greater threat than ever before as a result of escalating military operations against Islamic extremists."

Half the top 20 countries in the "Peoples under Threat 2009" report are African and six are in Asia.

Completing the top 10 are the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and the Palestinian territories, where the report said the war earlier this year in Gaza "leaves a continuing grave risk" to the lives of civilians.

"If the current push for peace led by the US administration and Arab states founders, there is a real risk of further radicalisation on both sides," it added.


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