Libya appears to be sliding into anarchy as a raging fire, touched off by a missile strike, has closed the main airport and 61 people have been reported killed in just the last 24 hours, according to the Voice of America. VoA noted the death toll stands at 150 in two weeks of clashes across the North African country.
Two rival brigades of former rebels fighting for control of Tripoli International Airport have been pounding each other’s positions with rockets, artillery fire and cannons for two week — turning the south side of Libya’s capital into a battlefield, Reuters reported. On Sunday (July 27) a rocket struck and ignited a huge jet fuel storage tank — forcing closure of the airport as several foreign embassies have been evacuating their diplomatic personnel and hundreds of foreign nationals are trying to flee the country on Africa’s Mediterranean coast. The airport fire raged out of control Monday (July 28) and Libya’s interim government sought international assistance.
The violence, which has been escalating and spreading since Libyan strongman Muammar Qadaffi was deposed and killed three years ago, has prompted the U.S. Embassy to move the diplomatic staff out of Tripoli to Tunisia. The United Nations and Turkey have moved their diplomats out as well. According to the Pentagon, all embassy personnel were relocated, including the Marine security guards, by ground vehicle on Saturday (July 26) without incident. During the exodus F-16 fighter jets and MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft (carrying an Airborne Response Force) and unspecified intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets provided security.
Nearly 100 people have been killed by ongoing clashes at the airport since early July and scores more have been killed recently in Benghazi — where government forces clashed with Islamic militants — and in Tripoli, where rival militias are fighting.
At least eight foreign governments (Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey and the United States) are urging their citizens to leave Libya immediately. Libya’s neighbors and Western security analysts worry that the chaos will spread beyond Libya’s borders — and create a a safe haven for terrorists close to Europe. Already, many of the heavy weapons — like man-portable rocket launchers and truck mounted machine guns — have disappeared from Qadaffi’s armories and spread across North Africa.
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The wife of Deputy Prime Minister Amadou Ali was abducted in the northern Cameroonian town of Kolofata. A local religious leader, who was the town’s mayor, was also abducted in a separate attack. At least three people were killed in the raids.
Boko Haram has been increasing cross-border incursions into Cameroon in recent weeks and the West African country has deployed troops to the region bordering Nigeria. Officials said the attack on the vice prime minister’s house was the third in Cameroon since Friday (July 25). At least four soldiers were killed in previous attacks. About 22 suspected Boko Haram militants, in custody since March, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10-to-20 years in Maroua, Cameroon on Friday (July 25). It’s not known if the attacks are related to that. Militants have kidnapped foreign nationals in northern Cameroon before, including a French family and Chinese workers.
Meanwhile, at least five people were killed by a bomb in northern Nigeria and locals suspect Boko Haram is responsible. Nigerian police say the five victims were killed when a bomb was thrown at worshippers as they were leaving a church in Nigeria’s main northern city of Kano on Sunday (July 27, the BBC reported. A young female suicide bomber also wounded five police officers as she rushed towards them and blew herself up in a separate incident, they added
Boko Haram has been waging a five year terror war against the Nigerian government, Western influence and Christians in largely Muslim northeast Nigeria. The group’s name, in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria, has been translated to mean either “Western education is forbidden” or “Western education is false or fraudulent.” The concept stems from British attempts during the colonial era to force a unified education curriculum for Nigerian children that by-passed traditional Muslim schools in the rural north. Boko Haram wants to carve out an Islamic state in northern Nigeria under strict sharia law.
Last week, Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and Niger agreed to form a 2,800-strong regional force to tackle Boko Haram. Efforts to step up regional co-operation gathered momentum after Boko Haram abducted more than 200 girls from a boarding school in north-eastern Nigeria. The Nigeria government of President Goodluck Jonathan — who faces re-election this year — of doing too little, too late to find and rescue the girls.
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Ebola Threat Spreads
As the death toll from the Ebola epidemic continues to rise, the New York Times reports that panicked villagers in Guinea are blocking and even attacking international aid workers, fearing that it is the doctors who spread the deadly virus.
Workers and officials, blamed by panicked populations for spreading the virus, have been threatened with knives, stones and machetes, their vehicles sometimes surrounded by hostile mobs. Log barriers across narrow dirt roads block medical teams from reaching villages where the virus is suspected. Sick and dead villagers, cut off from help, are infecting others, according to a piece written by the Times’ Adam Nossiter.
Liberia, one of the affected countries, has closed most of its border crossings and communities hit by the epidemic face quarantine in an effort to halt the outbreak, deemed the deadliest by the United Nations. Screening centers are also being set up at the few major entry points that will remain open, such as the main airport, according to the BBC.
Meanwhile, Nigeria largest’s airline, Arik Air, has suspended all flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone after a man with Ebola flew to Nigeria last week and later died.
Two US aid workers are also being treated for Ebola in Liberia, including Dr Kent Brantly, who was the medical director at one of the country’s two treatment centres run by the group, Samaritan’s Purse. The other American, Nancy Writebol, works for the Serving in Mission (SIM) as part of the same team, BBC said.
On Saturday (July 26), one of Liberia’s most prominent health officials treating Ebola patients at the country’s largest hospital, Dr. Samuel Brisbane, died after contracting the disease, according to The Independent. A Ugandan doctor working in Liberia also died earlier this month, while last week the virus infected Sheikh Umar Khan, Sierra Leone’s chief Ebola doctor
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Air Algerie Crash
French officials are citing poor weather as the most likely cause of the crash of an Air Algerie flight over Mali in northwest Africa with 118 people on board.
Investigators at the scene of the crash in northern Mali concluded the airliner broke apart when it hit the ground, officials said, suggesting it was unlikely to have been the victim of an attack. But French authorities are not ruling out other causes, including terrorism, without a full investigation, the Associated Press reported.
The MD-83 twin engine jet liner — bound for Algiers, Algeria — disappeared less than an hour after takeoff from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Following on the heels of the shootdown of a Malaysian Airlines jet over Ukraine and the mysterious disappearance of another Malaysian jet bound for Beijing earlier this year the Algerian plane’s disappearance sparked concerns about a hijacking or a surface-to-air missile attack. Yhe area where the plane crashed was a conflict zone a year ago when nomadic Touregs and Islamic extremists launched a rebellion against Mali’s government and seizied half the country. French, Malina and Dutch troops from the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali secured the crash site. The plane’s black boxes have been recovered and will be studied for clues to what caused the plane to crash.
The King in the North.
After the bloody standoff at Lundy’s Lane on July 25, U.S. Major General Jacob Brown leads his battered force 16-miles back along the Niagara River to Fort Erie where this latest invasion of Canada began 23 days earlier. U.S. forces under Brigadier Generals Winfield Scott and Eleazer Ripley captured the lightly defended fort from the British — without much of struggle — in a July 2-3 night attack. Now Scott is gravely wounded and sent back the United States. Brown, who has also been wounded at Lundy’s Lane, turns over command of the remaining U.S. invasion force to Brigadier Gen. Edmund Gaines, before being evacuated across the river to Buffalo, New York.
The British commander, Lieutenant General Gordon Drummond, begins pursuing Brown’s force, intending to besiege and capture the Americans at Fort Erie .
On July 31, U.S. Commodore Isaac Chauncey finally sails out of Sackets Harbor, New York and regains naval superiority on Lake Ontario from the forces of King George III, but it is too late to assist Brown’s campaign on the Niagara Frontier. Chauncey’s nine-vessel squadron blockades Kingston (in what is now Ontario) preventing Drummond from receiving supplies by water. Reinforcements march overland to Drummond, however, increasing the size of his force to more than 3,000 compared to less than 2,000 U.S. troops at Fort Erie. The delay in supplying by land, however, gives the Americans time to reinforce the French-and-Indian War-era fort before Drummond’s troops arrive in early August.
Meanwhile, an American expedition to recapture Fort Mackinac at the western edge of Lake Huron finally arrives at the rocky island commanded by the small fort on July 26. The expedition consists of five brigs and gunboats under Commodore Arthur Sinclair and an invasion force of 700 men commanded by Lieutenant Colonel George Croghan. The U.S. force includes a battalion of Army regulars from the 17th, 19th and 24th Infantry regiments and a battalion of volunteers from the Ohio militia. There are also a couple of cannon.
Fort Mackinac, which a British-Canadian-Native American force captured by surprise attack in July 1812 — before the American garrison had received word from the East that war had been declared — was considered a strategic point straddling Lakes Michigan and Huron. The easy British victory convinced many Native American tribes taking a wait-and-see attitude about this new white man’s war to ally with His Majesty’s Forces. Facing the American assault force is about 350 Canadian regulars, British artillerymen and sailors as well as Native Americans — mostly Menominee Indians from the Wisconsin River area. The British force holds the high ground.
The American ships try to bombard the fort for two days but their guns can’t get enough elevation and the shots fall harmlessly outside the fort. The Americans make plans to attack the fort on August 4.
Belize River Patrol
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Galla trains with the Belize Special Boat Unit during Southern Partnership Station 2014 on the Moho River, Belize, July 8, 2014.
Southern Partnership is a U.S. Navy deployment, sponsored by U.S. Southern Command, focusing on exchanging expertise with partner nation militaries and security forces.
Galla is a gunner’s mate assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron 2.
To see more photos of this riverine training exercise, click here.
Counter Terrorism Strategy.
The Pentagon’s top intelligence adviser says terrorists in Syria, Yemen and the wild region along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border still pose the greatest threat to U.S. security.
While the number of groups “aspiring to the jihadi philosophy has expanded” and the number of attacks have grown they are mostly focused on internal or neighboring enemies in the Middle East and North Africa, says Michael Vickers. But “the most dangerous threats to the American homeland emanate from Syria, from Yemen and still from the tribal areas of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region,” Vickers, said during a panel discussion on counterterrorism Thursday (July 24) at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
Vickers said the extremist movement that has swept out of war-torn Syria and seized a large slice of Iraq under the name Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is “in a competition for leadership of the global jihad with al Qaeda … and they’re a threat not to be discounted as well.”
Before he became the principal intelligence adviser to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his successor, Chuck Hagel, Vickers served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity & Interdependent Capabilities, where he oversaw strategic forces, conventional forces and special operations forces – as well as advising the secretary of defense on counter terrorism and irregular warfare.
From 1973 to 1986, Vickers served as an Army Special Forces non-commissioned officer, Green Beret officer and CIA operations officer. During the 1980s he was the principal strategist for the covert paramilitary operation that drove the Soviet army out of Afghanistan (“Charlie Wilson’s War”).
Another security concern for Vickers: the number of foreign fighters streaming in and out of Syria who have passports from Western nations. He said they number in the thousands “so it’s a serious problem.” He noted that the number of foreign fighters streaming into Syria-Iraq is much greater than the flow of foreign fighters during the height of the Iraq War.
“I think Syria is a disaster from a threat perspective” because there are thousands of foreign fighters who a very hard to track, said another panelist, Juan Zarate, a former Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for Combating Terrorism during the George W. Bush administration. He said Syria was “animating the movement” and “drawing adherents” from around the world. “Any time you give terrorist groups — those with global ambitions and potential reach — the breathing space to operate, to innovate, to strategize, to make connections, that’s a prescription for disaster. And I think that’s a real problem with Syria as it festers.”
Vickers also praised the armed Predator drone as the single most important asset for wearing down al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Yemen.
Scores of people are reported killed 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 for either 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 Goodluck 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.
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 Tuesday (July 22) with the families of the 200-plus girls taken by force. 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.
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EU Anti-Piracy Effort
The European Union has extended the mandate of its civilian anti-piracy efforts until the end of 2016.
The EU Foreign Affairs Council voted in Brussels, Belgium to extend the mission on regional maritime capacity building in the Horn of Africa (also known as EUCAP Nestor), the Kuwaiti News Agency reports.
The civilian mission is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to fighting piracy in the Horn of Africa – alongside the EU Naval Force Somalia and the EU training mission for Somalia, the Council said in a statement.
EUCAP Nestor works to reinforce the ability of states in the Horn of Africa and along the Western Indian Ocean to better govern their territorial waters to help them fight piracy more effectively. The EU assistance includes advice, mentoring and training for coast guard, maritime criminal justice system and coastal police units. Work is being done in Somalia, Djibouti, the Seychelles and in Tanzania.
The EU mission has 80 international and 13 local staff in the headquarters in Djibouti as well as in several country offices. It has a budget of 11.9 million euros.
Efforts by the European Union, NATO and the United Nations have been successful in reducing pirate activity of the coast of East Africa, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
“In 2011 at the height of piracy, 237 attacks took place in the zone of the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea and the northwest Indian Ocean. So far in 2014, there have been seven attacks, all of which failed, according to the International Maritime Bureau,” the Monitor reported.
Efforts at sea have included the U.S.-led Combined Task Force 151, with navies from six nations. Operation Atalanta of the European Union Naval Force has a special mandate to protect aid shipments to Somalia. The third flotilla is NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield.
Fort Shelby Falls.
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.
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Bloody 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.
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.