Iraq. Afghanistan. Syria. Human history has been plagued by war, and 2015 is no different. Many of the world’s current violent conflicts are highly publicized by media outlets, yet for every war that is publicly acknowledged, there are probably three others that most people exposed to mainstream media don’t know about.
In 2011, U.S. Special Forces were deployed in around 75 countries. In 2014, they were deployed in over 125. So while people know about U.S. involvement in the popular wars throughout the Middle East, there are 120 other conflicts that America is involved in that most people will never hear about.
The same goes for the rest of the world: You think ISIS is only operating from Syria, Iraq, and Libya? Well, they’re also in other areas of the Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia. Many of the ongoing wars around the world are internal, and many of them have been going on for over 50 years. Here are 10 ongoing wars that you might not know are currently happening.
10. The Sinai Insurgency in Egypt
The Sinai Insurgency began in 2011 along the Sinai Peninsula, after the fallout of the Egyptian Revolution. Islamist militants, mostly composed of tribesmen and local Bedouins, attacked government and foreign facilities and used the area as a base, whence to attack Israel.
The Egyptian military responded by attacking back in what was known as Operation Eagle, in 2012. In 2013, Islamist militants abducted Egyptian officers, and violence surged in the Sinai once again. Since the 2013 ousting of Mohamed Morsi, “unprecedented clashes” have occurred, and in 2014, some members of the insurgence claimed allegiance to ISIS. The conflict is ongoing; over 1,000 people were killed in 2013, and around 600 in 2014.
9. The Central African Republic Conflict
The Central African Republic is in a civil war that began at the end of 2012. The Séléka rebel coalition accused the government of President François Bozizé of failing to abide by peace agreements that had been signed in 2007 and 2011.
The rebel group known as Séléka (“Union”) captured major towns towards the end of 2012. Many African nations (Chad, Cameroon, Gabon, Angola, South Africa, the Congo) sent troops to aid Bozizé in holding back the rebel advance to the capital, Bangui.
The capital was seized in 2013, and the president fled the country, which led to rebel leader Michel Djotodia declaring himself president. The government under Djotodia became quickly divided. In 2014 fighting between the former Séléka coalition (mainly Muslim) and a Christian coalition began. Djotodia resigned in January 2014, and was replaced, but the conflict continued.
8. The Xinjiang Conflict in China
There has been an ongoing conflict in the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) far-west province of Xinjiang since the 1960s. A group of Uyghur separatists refer to the region as East Turkestan, and claim that it is not part of China, but has been under Chinese occupation since the Soviet supported Second East Turkestan Republic was invaded by the PRC in 1949. The separatist movement is led by a Turkic Islamist militant organization known as the East Turkestan independence movement, and is against the national Beijing government.
There have been over 2,000 deaths associated with the conflict since 1989, and the fighting has recently escalated, with over 500 people dying in 2014 alone. Multiple incidents and crises have occurred since 2007, including a 2008 attack that resulted in the deaths of 16 police officers just four days before the Beijing Olympics. In 2014, there have been no less than nine attacks and suicide bombings by separatists, including an attack by a knife- and axe-wielding gang that killed 37 civilians and 59 attackers on July 28, a bomb blast that killed 50 people on September 21, and a suicide bombing on October 12 that killed 22.
7. The Insurgency in the North Caucasus in Russia
On April 16, 2009, the decade-long Second Chechen War in Russia officially ended. Despite that, violence has continued in many North Caucasus republics, including Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, and more. The violence has occurred in many surrounding areas, but the Security Council of Russia secretary, Nikolai Patrushev, has mentioned that the worst violence has occurred in Dagestan. The extremism rate in Dagestan, apparently, is now higher than is was during the Chechen War. There have been 399 terrorist acts in the North Caucasus in 2013, and 242 of those were committed in Dagestan.
Dagestan is the most religious and populated North Caucasian republic. It consists of several dozen ethnic groups, though the conflict is between Sufist believers – a form of Islam which includes local customs and recognizes the state – and Salafist believers – a traditional form that rejects secular rule and insists Salafist-interpretation of Islam should govern over all aspects of life. 575 deaths were attributed to the conflict in 2013, and about half that number in 2014.
6. The Naxalite-Maoist Insurgency in India
The Naxalite-Maoist insurgency is a conflict between the Indian government and Maoist groups known as Naxalites. The conflict began after the 2004 formation of the rebel CPI-Maoist groups, composed of PWG (People’s War Group), and the MCC (Maoist Communist Centre). In 2005 talks between the state government and CPI-Maoists broken down after rebels accused authorities of not addressing their written truce demands, release of prisoners, and redistribution of land. The conflict has taken place over nearly half of India’s 28 states, with hundreds of people being killed annually since 2005.
The Naxalites frequently target tribal, police, and government workers in what they say is a fight for improved land rights and more jobs. They control territory throughout Bihar, Jharkhand, and Andhra Pradesh states. The insurgency gained international attention after the 2013 Naxal attack in Darbha Valley resulted in the deaths of 24 Indian National Congress leaders. There have been over 300 reported deaths in 2014 attributed to the insurgency, and almost 14,000 since 2005.
5. The Jammu and Kashmir Insurgency in India
There has been an ongoing internal conflict between Kashmiri insurgents and the Indian government since 1989. Some of the insurgents, known as “ultras” (extremists), favor Kashmiri accession to Pakistan, while others seek Kashmir’s complete independence. The roots of the conflict are tied to a dispute over local autonomy. In the 1990s, the Kashmir insurgency, which sought the state’s secession from India, escalated into the most important internal security issue in India.
As of 2009, 47,000 people have died during the fighting between insurgents and the government. A slow-moving peace process between India and Pakistan has caused the number of insurgency-related deaths to decline in recent years, although nearly 200 deaths have been attributed to the insurgency in 2014.
4. The Moro Insurgency in the Philippines
The Moro insurgency has been ongoing for 35 years. In 1969, political hostilities developed between the Philippine government and jihadist rebel groups – first the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and then a splinter, more aggressive and radical group known as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The conflict has claimed nearly 120,000 lives, though that number might be misleading since the conflict dates back to the Uprising of the Bangsamoro people from 1899, where the people fought to resist foreign rule from the United States.
The radical splinter group, MILF, seeks to establish an Islamic state within the Philippines, and they have been active since 1978. The catalyst of the conflict was the Jabidah massacre of 1969, where members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are said to have massacred 60 Moro, Filipino Muslims. Around 300 people were killed during the conflict in 2013, and nearly 100 have been killed in 2014.
3. The Internal Conflict in Burma
The internal conflict in Burma is one of the world’s longest-running civil wars. It began shortly after the country gained independence from the UK in 1948, and since then has been the source of around 210,000 deaths. The central government of Burma (or Myanmar) have fought a myriad of political and ethnic rebellions since the civil war began in 1948.
Early insurgencies were instigated by Burmese, “multi-colored” left-wing groups and the Karen National Union (KNU), who fought to create an independent Karen state from Burma. Other ethnic rebellions started in the 1960s after the central government refused to consider a federal government structure, although politically-based insurgencies had withered away by the 1980s, while ethnic-based insurgencies continued. Under a new Burmese government, a Three-Phase Peace process has been implemented by state and union levels, although three out of 17 ethnic armed groups are still fighting with governments to this day.
2. The Colombian Conflict
Since 1964, there has been an ongoing war between the Colombian government, crime syndicates, paramilitary groups, and left-wing guerrillas such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and the National Liberation Army (ELN), all vying to increase their influence in Colombia. The conflict is rooted in the 1948 assassination of populist political leader Jorge Eliécer Gaitán, which sparked the conflict known as La Violencia.
The FARC and other guerrilla movements claim to fight for the rights of the poor in Colombia, to protect themselves from government violence, and to provide social justice through communism. The Colombian government claims to fight for order and stability, while paramilitary groups claim to be reacting to guerrilla threats. All of the parties involved in the conflict have been criticized for numerous human rights violations. According to Colombia’s National Centre for Historical Memory, around 220,000 people have died in the conflict between 1958 and 2013, with around 177,000 of those being civilians. More than five million civilians were displaced from their homes between 1985 and 2012, generating the world’s second largest population of internally displaced persons.
1. The Islamist Insurgency in Nigeria
The Islamist insurgency in Nigeria, also known as the Sharia Conflict, began in 1999 with the establishment of Sharia law in several Muslim-majority states in Northern Nigeria, despite the secular Constitution of Nigeria and the Christian minority’s objections.
Occasional riots began in 2000 between Christians and Muslims, resulting in thousands of deaths, and the conflict has become more violent since 2009, when the Islamist group Boko Haram started an armed rebellion against the secular government. By 2013, the annual death toll exceeded 1,500, while 2014 has claimed nearly 6,000 lives.
Muslims make up a majority of about 50.5% of the population, and most of them are Sunnis living in the northern regions, while Christians make up 48.2% of the population, and predominantly live in the south. Despite the narrow majority of the population, many Muslims demand introduction of Sharia and Islamic law as the main source of legislation, and 12 northern states have already introduced Sharia law as a basis of the executive and judicial branches of government.