AROUND AFRICA: Nigeria bombing, missing school girls; EU Anti-Piracy mission

Kaduna bombings.

Scores of people are reported kiled by a pair of explosions in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna. Police say one of the bombs apparently targeted a moderate Muslin cleric who has criticized the Muslim extremist group, Boko Haram, the Voice of America reported.

About three hours after the first blast there was another explosion in a crowded Kaduna market “where a VOA reporter on the scene counted dozens of bodies,” VOA said. The second, deadlier, blast appears to have targeted opposition leader and former Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, according to Reuters. Buhari, who was riding in an armored vehicle, escaped harm but a Red Cross official said 50 people were killed in the market blast.

No group claimed responsibility foreither blast, but Boko Haram has previously targeted markets and clerics who criticize the group’s hard line ideology and violence. The market blast could also have involved local politics rather than terrorism — given Buhari’s previous political battles with President Gooluck Jonathan. The explosions occurred on the same day that activists marked the 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April.

Grim Milestone

There were demonstrations Wednesday (July 23) in support of the high school girls kidnapped by the Islamist extremists 100 days earlier. But there is little apparent progress in Nigeria’s attempts to find the girls and return them to their families.

President Goodluck Jonathan met with the families of the 200-plus girls taken by force. He promised to continue efforts He also pledged to ensure the girls “are brought out alive. Jonathan also met with some of the schoolgirls who managed to escape their captors.

The suffering continues: In the three months since the girls were taken, 11 of their parents have died, the Associated Press reported. Seven of the kidnapped girls’ fathers were among 51 bodies brought to the Chibok hospital after an attack on the nearby village of Kautakari this month, said a health worker who insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisals by the extremists, the AP reported.

Meanwhile, Chibok, the town where the girls were kidnapped is cut off and Boko Haram has been atacking villages that are increasingly close to Chibok.


July 23, 2014 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (July 20-26)

Fort Shelby Falls.

Attack on Fort Shelby

Attack on Fort Shelby

On July 20, three days after a British-led force open their attack on Fort Shelby (in what is now Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin) outnumbered U.S. forces surrender the fort to the enemy.

The surrender terms: Lieutenant Joseph Perkins and his men can leave the fort and return to U.S. Army headquarters for the Upper Midwest outside St. Louis in Missouri Territory — but the fort and the Americans’ arms, ammunition and provisions now belong to the British. Perkins leaves with 60 soldiers from the U.S. 7th Infantry Regiment — seven of them wounded. They had faced a combined force of British and Canadian regulars, Canadian militia and a large contingent of Native Americans. Three Native Americans were wounded in the fray.

Meanwhile a U.S. relief force of 120 regulars and rangers is heading up the Mississippi in six boats, but they are ambushed by several hundred Sauk, Fox and Kickapoo warriors at the Rock Island Rapids on July 22. Major John Campbell was able to fight clear of the ambush when the Governor Clark — the supply boat driven down river from Prairie du Chien by British canon fire –  emerged from the waters of the Mississippi, driving off the Indians. Campbell’s relief force loses 35 casualties.

*** *** ***

Bloody Lundy’s Lane

Battle of Lundy's Lane

Battle of Lundy’s Lane

Fighting resumes on the Canadian side of the Niagara River. After the Battle of Chippawa (July 5). British and Canadian forces under Major General Phineas Riall withdraw north to Fort George where the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario.

The Americans pursue two days later, stopping at Queenstown five miles away from Fort George. But the U.S. commander, Major General Jacob Brown realizes he doesn’t have enough troops or heavy artillery to attack the fort and withdraws  south of the Chippawa River on July 24. Now the British commander, Major General Phineas Riall, follows Brown south with 1,000 men and stops for the night at Lundy’s Lane.  On July 25, Brigadier Winfield Scott, with about 1,000 men, attacks Riall, who orders a retreat.

But when British Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond — the lieutenant governor of Upper Canada — shows up with 2,000 reinforcements. Riall turns around and attacks Scott’s troops. It’s 6 p.m. — time when most soldiers break off fighting for the day, but Lundy’ Lane is turning out to be an unusual and bloody battle.

Riall is wounded and captured. Brown shows up with reinforcements. The Americans capture the British cannon but lack the skills and equipment to turn the canons on the British. Three times they counter British attempts to recapture the guns at a bloody cost. The fighting is often hand-to-hand.

Scott is severely wounded, taking him out of the war. Brown is also wounded. The main battle lasts from 8:45 p.m. until midnight. Troops on both sides are exhausted. Brown withdraws, planning to regroup and attack again in the morning. But that doesn’t happen and Brown leads his army South to Fort Erie where this latest invasion of Canada began less than a month earlier.

Lundy’s Lane is considered one of the bloodiest of the war with both sides losing more than 800 each in dead, wounded, captured and missing.

July 21, 2014 at 12:19 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 18, 2014)

Wet Work.

U.S. Marine Photo by Corporal Henry Antenor

U.S. Marine Photo by Corporal Henry Antenor

Two Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) soldiers and two U.S. Marines emerge from the water ready for action while practicing small unit techniques as part of the Japan Observer Exchange Program at Kin Blue beach, Okinawa, July 16.

The soldiers, with JGSDF’s Western Army, have been observing the Marine of L Company for approximately six weeks. The Marines are with the Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The program provides observation and education opportunities on small unit concepts, tactics, and amphibious operations to further enhance interoperability between the two forces as well as security in the region.

July 18, 2014 at 12:23 am Leave a comment

ARCTIC: Ex-Coast Guard Chief Named U.S. Special Arctic Envoy

Getting Serious.

Arctic ice in Greenland. NASA photo by xxxxxxxx

Arctic ice in Greenland. (NASA photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry announced Papp’s appointment Wednesday (July 16). Admiral Papp retired as commandant in May after 39 years in the Coast Guard. Among his accomplishments was restoring the heavy ice breaker Polar Star to service. “I could not be happier that he agreed to postpone his well-deserved retirement and join our effort in a cause about which he is both passionate and wise,” Kerry said in a statement.

The United States is one of eight nations with territory in the Arctic that make up the Arctic Council, which deals with issues such as climate change, the environment, shipping, oil and gas and indigenous peoples.  The Arctic is growing hotter faster than any part of the globe. Global warming has melted sea ice to levels that have given rise to what experts describe as a kind of gold rush scramble to the Arctic, according to the Associated Press.

Next year the U.S. will take over the revolving chairmanship of the council. “The United States is an Arctic nation and Arctic policy has never been more important,” Kerry said. U.S. officials estimate the Arctic holds 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and 30 percent of undiscovered gas deposits.

Polar bears need ice to hunt (NOAA photo by K. Elliott, 2005)

Polar bears need ice to hunt (NOAA photo by K. Elliott, 2005)

Former Alaskan Lieutenant Governor Fran Ulmer was also named special adviser of Arctic Science and Policy.  She is currently chair of the President’s U.S. Arctic Research Commission.

July 17, 2014 at 11:49 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (July 13-19, 1814)

Forts under Siege.

Sauk Chief Black Hawk

Sauk Chief Black Hawk

A mixed force of British regulars, Canadian militiamen, volunteers and hundreds of Native American (Indian) warriors arrives at Prairie du Chien, a village where the Wisconsin River runs into the Mississippi. The U.S. Army has built a small wooden fort, Fort Shelby, just outside the village — considered a strategic location for controlling the fur trade on the Upper Mississippi River.

Since 1808, when the United States established the first military installation in the Louisiana Territory at Fort Belle Fontaine (near present day St. Louis, Missouri), the Americans have been battling with the tribes of the upper Midwest who oppose increasing white encroachment on their lands — particularly the Sauk and Fox. They are backed by the British who want to reclaim the land between the  borders of the original  13 states and the Mississippi River.

Fort Osage, built under the direction of General William Clark (of the Lewis and Clark Expedition) was established in 1808 on the Missouri River in what is now far western Missouri.War 1812 Fort_Osage_Map Fort Osage was established as a military outpost in the newly acquired Louisiana Territory to put Spain, France and Great Britain on notice that the United States meant to protect its territory by military strength and to establish relations with local Native American tribes, especially the Osage.

But during the War of 1812, Washington determined the territory guarded by Fort Osage was under no threat and its troops were needed elsewhere, so the post was abandoned in 1813.

Fort Madison,  also built in 1808, came under Indian attack almost immediately by local tribes, particularly the Sauk under their famous leader Black Hawk In 1812 the Sauk laid siege to the fort, but were driven off by canon fire. Attacks resumed again in July 1813 leading to another siege. Conditions were so dangerous that the bodies of soldiers killed outside the fort could not be recovered. After several weeks, the Army finally abandoned the post, burning it as they evacuated.

U.S. Army uniforms 1812-1815

U.S. Army uniforms 1812-1815

The British-Canadian-Native American force of about 650 outside Fort Shelby in July 1814, called for the commander, Lieutenant Joseph Perkins of the 24th U.S. Infantry Regiment to surrender. Perkins only had about 100 regulars and volunteers inside the fort and on a nearby 32-oar riverboat, but he refused to give up the fort. The attackers opened fire and both sides traded musket fire. But the British also had a 3-pounder canon and one of its canon balls struck the riverboat,. which contained most of the fort’s ammunition and supplies. The boat was forced to withdraw downstream.

By July 19, the Americans are running low on ammunition and supplies — and their well had run dry. When the British commander, Captain William McKay of the Michigan Fencibles (a British unit recruited in Canada), threatened to set the fort ablaze by firing red hot canon balls inside the walls, Perkins offered to surrender — if McKay could guarantee the safety of his men. McKay agreed, but told Perkins to await a day while he negotiated with his Indian allies.

July 14, 2014 at 1:31 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (July 11, 2014)

Stealthy Snipers.

U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Steven K. Young

U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Steven K. Young

Honduran commandos demonstrate their sniper and camouflage skills before a graduation ceremony in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, June 19, 2014. Soldiers from the U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group and Colombian national policemen trained the commandos to succeed at missions like capturing high value narco-trafficking and criminal targets.

Among the distinguished guests at the ceremony was Brigadier General Sean Mulholland, the head of Special Operations Command Souththe command that oversees Green Berets, Navy SEALS, Army Rangers and other special operations forces attached to U.S. Southern Command, which is responsible for all of Latin America south of Mexico.

With shrinking defense budgets and more and more crises developing around the world, Pentagon planners have said the United States will have to rely more and more on partner nations like Honduras to defend themselves against insurgencies, narco cartels and terrorists.

To see more photos of this awards ceremony and some of the skills the Honduran commandos learned, click here.

July 10, 2014 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (July 6-July 12)

Battle Scars.

During the War of 1812, Fort George served as the headquarters for the Centre Division of the British Army.  (Photo: Parks Canada)

During the War of 1812, Fort George served as the headquarters for the Centre Division of the British Army.
(Photo: Parks Canada)

After the Battle of Chippawa (July 5, 1814), both sides claim victory and both sides are exhausted from the engagement.

Within a few days, the American commander, Major General Jacob Brown, outflanks the British at  Chippawa Creek, forcing the British to fall back to Fort George on the western (Canadian) side of the Niagara River near its mouth at Lake Ontario.

But Brown lacks the necessary troops and heavy artillery to attack this well fortified position. And because the Royal Navy still controls Lake Ontario – Brown can’t get adequate supplies from Sackett’s Harbor on the New York side of Lake Ontario. The British, however, are able to get shipments of fresh troops and supplies in from York (Canada).

Niagara Frontier 1813-1814 (Map courtesy Parks Canada and the Royal Canadian Geographic Association)

Niagara Frontier 1813-1814
(Map courtesy Parks Canada and the Royal Canadian Geographic Association)

Seeing his current position outside Fort George as untenable, Brown begins slowly retreating down the Canadian side of the Niagara River. The British, under Major Phineas Riall, follow Brown’s troops – setting up one of the bloodiest battles of the 1812 war: Lundy’s Lane.

July 9, 2014 at 12:09 am Leave a comment

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