Archive for October 18, 2011
UPDATE: Disabled French kidnap victim dies in Somali hands. (See below)
U.S. officials say a small contingent of combat-equipped troops have been sent to the Central African nation of Uganda to assist in the elimination of the violent renegade rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Meanwhile, Kenya – which lies to the east of Uganda – has sent several hundred troops across its eastern border into neighboring Somalia to subdue the radical Islamist group, al Shabab.
Central Africa Terror
President Barack Obama notified congressional leaders Oct. 14 that he was sending advisers to Uganda help officials there and in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan defeat the LRA and its leader, Joseph Kony. Along with three of his aides, Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity, the Voice of America reported.
“For more than two decades, the LRA has murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women and children in Central Africa,” Obama said in his notification letter to Congress. He added that a law passed by Congress and signed by him in 2010, “expressed support for increased comprehensive U.S. Efforts to help mitigate and eliminate the threat posed by the LRA to civilians and regional stability.
The 4GWAR Blog reported on the depredations and atrocities of the LRA (April 15, 2010) detailed in a Human Rights Watch report. A senior Defense Department official said Oct. 14 that the U.S. has provided $33 million in support for the Ugandan military’s counter-LRA efforts since 2008. The U.S. Is also supplying logistical support, non-lethal equipment, training and intelligence gathering assistance to other militaries in the region fighting the LRA.
Obama made clear that the 100 or so troops, while armed for combat, would not engage the LRA — unless attacked.
Some military and diplomatic analysts wondered why Obama was committing any U.S. resources to Central Africa while still enmeshed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some politicians, like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had serious misgivings, but U.S. Sen. James Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican, and a staunch supporter of many African assistance programs, praised the move — although he did not mention Obama in his press statement.
At the Kenya-Somalia Border
According to Kenyan security officials, the New York Times reported, Kenyan soldiers crossed into Somalia on Sunday (Oct. 16) in armored trucks and tanks, backed by helicopters which bombed and strafed al Shabab positions.
The government in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, blamed al Shabab for a series of kidnappings of Westerners from Kenyan territory. Some analysts say the kidnappings are the work of Somali pirates, not Islamist militants.
A British tourist was killed and his wife was abducted last month at a resort, 500 kilometers southeast of Nairobi. On Oct. 1, a 66-year-old disabled French woman, was kidnapped from a house on nearby Manda Island by gunmen, according to Bloomberg. And aid workers employed by the medical assistance group Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) were kidnapped near a refugee camp in northeastern Kenya by a group of armed men from Somalia on Oct. 13.
The French woman, Marie Dedieu, has died, according to French officials. The exact circumstances of her death are not yet known, the BBC reported, but France’s Foreign Ministry speculates her kidnappers may have withheld “the medication we sent her,” Britain’s Press Association reported. Ms. Dedieu, who used a wheelchair and suffered from cancer and heart problems, was taken from her beachfront home on an island off Kenya’s coast.
In all, three European women remain in Somali kidnappers’ hands: the British woman, Judith Tebbut, and two Spanish aid workers for Doctors Without Borders, who were seized at a refugee camp near the Kenya-Somalia border.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports, Somalis fleeing war and famine have poured across the border this year and Kenya now reluctantly hosts 590,000 Somali refugees.
Last year, al Shabab claimed responsibility for several bombings in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, that killed scores of soccer fans who has gathered to watch the World Cup on television in pubs and other public venues. Those attacks were reportedly in reprisal for the thousands of African Union peacekeeping troops from Uganda and Burundi.
The group denies responsibility for the spate of kidnappings along the Kenyan border and has vowed to seek revenge against Kenya – in the form of suicide bombings – for the incursion into Somalia, the Associated Press reported.