Post-Cold War hot spots


January 21, 1996

During the Cold War, the world seemed a dangerously violent place. It remains so. Last week, Russia bombed hostage-taking rebels on the fringes of Chechnya, a coup toppled the president of Sierra Leone, and a militia in Liberia slaughtered civilians and members of a peacekeeping force. Below is a summary of the conflicts - some of them one-time explosions, others simmering for decades - with the potential to change the map of the world.


Civil war erupted in 1992, when guerrilla groups overran Communists installed by the former Soviet Union. The guerrillas then turned their guns on each other. A faction called Taliban, led by former Islamic religious students, is the government's most dangerous challenger and vows to impose strict Islamic law.


Democracy never had more than a shaky hold. But fighting broke out between the military-backed government and Muslim fundamentalists in 1992 after the army canceled national elections because a religious party seemed certain to win. More than 30,000 people have been killed. In recent months, the government has regained the upper hand in the cities.


No one knows whether the peace brokered last year by the United States will hold. The peace plan calls for Bosnia to become a two-part federation, one governed by Bosnian Serbs, the other by a coalition of Bosnian Muslims and Croats. Tensions still simmer between Croatia and Serbia.


It is a disaster in the making, with rival Tutsi and Hutu tribes killing more than 100,000 of their countrymen since 1993. Hutus are the majority, but Tutsis control the military and police. There are concerns that the conflict could escalate into a catastrophe similar to the ethnic war in neighboring Rwanda.


The Khmer Rouge, the guerrilla group that won control of the country and then murdered more than 1 million of its fellow Cambodians, has not been completely subdued by the government. Clashes continue in parts of the countryside, including the area around the country's main tourist attraction, the temple complex at Angkor Wat.


At the end of 1994, Russia sent troops to end the region's self-declared indepen-dence. After thousands of casualties, Chechen rebels agreed to disarm and Russia pledged to withdraw most of its troops. But the rebels are carrying out bold attacks, including the hostage drama of the past two weeks.


Southern Lebanon is the only active battlefront in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Hezbollah, a guerrilla group backed by Iran, is leading the effort to drive Israeli troops and a client militia from the Lebanese territory Israel has controlled since 1985. It remains a province of artillery duels and car bombs.


A separatist rebellion in this Indian provi nce, the only one in which Muslims outnumber Hindus, is more than a distraction for the government. India has virtually sealed off the province, and in the past two years more than 15,000 people have been killed. The conflict adds to tensions between India and Pakistan.


A civil war based more on greed than ideology is in abeyance, but the country remains a textbook of West Africa's ills. A United Nations-sponsored West African peacekeeping force is policing the country, but massacres have occurred in outlying areas as recently as this month. No firm plans exist for replacing the interim government with a more stable structure.


Karachi, the country's financial capital, has been the site of ethnic fighting that last year claimed more than 1,600 lives. The ,, Muhajir Qaumi movement claims that the mostly Hindu government discriminates against Muslims. Both the Muhajir activists and the police have been accused of targeting civilians.Peru The Shining Path guerrilla force fights on despite a series of government victories, including the capture of the Maoist group's leader. More than 30,000 people have died.

Sierra Leone

As in Liberia, the fighting is distinguished mainly by its brutality. It is less a conflict about tribes or ideologies than for contr ol of the country's rich diamond deposits. Of the country's 4 million people, more than one-third have become refugees.


Warlords are fighting over towns large and small; last week, the forces of Gen. Mohamed Farah Aidid seized the southwest town of Haddur. Somalia has been without a government since 1991. The last U.N. peacekeeping troops left in March - but peace is not in sight.

Sri Lanka

For 13 years, the Liberation Tigers have been fighting for an independent Tamil homeland on the island. The guerrillas say the Tamil minority faces widespread discrimination from the Sinhalese majority, which controls the military and government. The conflict has killed more than 37,000 people.


Neither the government in Khartoum nor the rebels in the south seem capable of victory in their 13-year-old civil war. The government, intent on imposing its harsh version of Islamic law, has resorted to diverting food and other supplies from the south, where the Christian and animist rebels control large areas.


Turkey has intensified its attacks against Kurds in the eastern third of the country and in northern Iraq. Kurds, whose efforts are not helped by violent rivalries among themselves, have sought for much of this century to create a country of their own.

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