Posts filed under ‘Africa’
The United States, Britain, France, Canada and China are among the countries pledging to assist Nigerian authorities locate and rescue hundreds of schoolgirls abducted by the violent Islamist group, Boko Haram.
According to the Voice of America, a military spokesman said almost a dozen staff officers were already in Nigeria and would form the core of the U.S. team to aid in finding the nearly 300 kidnapped schoolgirls. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said the team is “moving as quickly as possible.” About 10 more members from U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) will join the team within days.
The team will be based at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, and will help with communications, logistics and intelligence, VOA reported.
President Barack Obama directed the formation of an interagency coordination and assessment cell after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan accepted a U.S. offer of assistance, the colonel told reporters Wednesday (May 7).
Eight more Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted Sunday (May 4) in the turbulent northeast part of the country and the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram – which has admitted kidnapping hundreds of other girls last month — is suspected to be behind the latest attack, Reuters reported this week.
It happened at a village in Borno state, where their earlier mass abduction took place. That attack has prompted demonstrations in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital … a massive protest on Twitter … and calls for U.S. and British military assistance to help find the girls.
In addition to the U.S., Britain has promised to provide satellite imagery, France said it will send security agents and Canada offered surveillance equipment and personnel to run it. China became the latest nation to offer help on Thursday, VOA said.
Breaking a three-week silence, Abubaka Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, which wants to restore a very conservative version of Islamic law to the majority Muslim region of Nigeria, threatened to sell the girls his followers seized April 14 at their school in Borno state, Al Jazeera and other news outlets reported.
There has been a great deal of confusion about how many girls were taken, how many were still being held and what the Nigerian government was doing to find them and punish the kidnappers.
Government and school officials first claimed most of the girls had escaped or were returned, But complaints by parents led officials to concede more than 200 – as many as 279 – girls were still being held in a remote, densely-forested area on the Nigeria-Cameroon border.
UNICEF told the New York Times that the second kidnapping in the village of Chibok involved at least eight girls who were seized from their homes to prevent them from attending school. The girls taken Sunday were between the ages of 12 and 15.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and recently determined the continent’s largest economy has been rocked in recent months by increasingly violent attacks from Boko Haram.
Bomb attacks in April and again last week in Abuja, the capital, killed a total of 94 people. In February, 29 male college students in Yobe province were killed in an attack blamed on Boko Haram. And between 100 (the government’s figures) and 300 people (local residents’ count) were killed by suspected Boko Haram gunmen in another northeast Nigerian town on a busy market day Monday, the BBC reported.
The school abduction has embarrassed oil-rich Nigeria, which is hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa in Abuja this week. Jonathan, who has faced angry protests over the lack of progress in finding the girls, requested help Sunday from the U.S. and other nations.
The Los Angeles Times reported in March, that U.S. troops were helping the Nigerian army establish a special operations command to defeat Boko Haram. U.S. and French air forces fly unarmed Reaper surveillance drones over northern Nigeria, from Niamey in neighboring Niger, to collect intelligence, the L.A. Times noted. The U.S. also has stepped up efforts in North Africa and East Africa against al Qaeda-linked extremist groups.
Second Nigerian Bombing.
Another bomb has gone off near Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.
The blast Thursday (May 1) occurred in Nyana near the transit center where a suicide bombing last month (April 14) killed 70 people and injured more than a hundred. Initial reports indicate 12 have been killed and many more have been injured in the latest attack, which is believed to have been a car bomb, according to the BBC.
Thursday’s bomb exploded near a checkpoint across the road from the bus station hit by the April 14 blast, according to the Associated Press, and just days before Abuja hosts scores of world leaders, philanthropists and business leaders arrive for the World Economic Forum on Africa.
The violent extremist group, Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the April bombing – part of a five-year terror campaign to install Islamic sharia law in the predominantly Muslim parts of Africa’s most populous nation. There’s no word on any group claiming credit for the latest blast.
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Train Attack in India
A young woman was killed and several other people injured Thursday (May 1) when two blasts rocked a train in the south Indian city of Chennai.
The bombings come in the middle of India’s on-going general election, but officials can’t say if the two are related, the BBC reported. The incident happened minutes after the express train from Bangalore in southern India to the northeastern city of Guwahati arrived in the Chennai station.
Investigators said Chennai might not have been the target since the train was running an hour and a half late, according to the New York Times.
In April, another bomb ripped through a railway car parked at a station in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 13 people. The blast in the town of Sibi also wounded 35 people, the Associated Press reported.
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Chinese President Xi Jinping is calling for “decisive actions” against what he termed “terrorist attacks” following a deadly blast Wednesday (April 30) in a railway station in far Western China.
Xi was winding up a four-day visit to the restive region of Xinjiang when the attack occurred. Local police said three people were killed and 79 were injured when attackers used knives and detonated explosives at a railway station in the city of Urumqi, according to the BBC.
Officials believe two of the dead were the attackers, the Associated Press reported. It was the third attack in seven months by what officials call Xinjiang extremists, the AP said.
Officials in Beijing have blamed such attacks on separatists from the mainly Muslim Uighur minority who number about nine million. The Uighurs have complained for years about political, religious and cultural repression by the Chinese government in Xinjiang.
In March, 150 people were injured and 29 were killed in an attack at a Kunming train station by several men armed with long knives. Chinese officials blamed Uighurs for that attack.
Stopping the Madness
United Nations officials say they found hundreds of bodies piled up after an attack by rebels in South Sudan last week. A year ago in Mali, a rebellion by desert nomads reignited when Tuareg separatists who had fought as mercenaries for Muammar Qaddafi returned home with heavy weapons looted from Libya’s armories after the strongman’s fall.
All over the continent, from the Horn of Africa to the Sahel, conflict has erupted. National governments and international agencies are trying to head off future violence in Africa – and elsewhere around the world – through a multilateral treaty to regulate the $70 billion to $85 billion international conventional arms business.
The Arms Trade Treaty was overwhelmingly approved by the United Nations General Assembly in April 2013 and nearly 120 countries have signed the treaty. But the pact will only go into effect when 50 countries ratify the treaty. So far, only 31 have done so.
Treaty signatories have included some big arms exporters like the United States, Brazil and Sweden but others like Russia and China have not. And while more than 20 African countries have signed the treaty, only two – Mali and Nigeria – have ratified it.
The ATT regulates the international trade in conventional arms, from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships. The treaty’s aim is to foster peace and security by thwarting uncontrolled destabilizing arms flows to conflict regions — like Africa. “It will prevent human rights abusers and violators of the law of war from being supplied with arms. And it will help keep warlords, pirates, and gangs from acquiring these deadly tools,” according to the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs.
At a gathering hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank, on Wednesday (April 23) government experts on Africa and arms controls said signing and ratifying the treaty wasn’t enough to stop the flow of small arms like machine guns, grenades, mortars and rocket launchers.
“The ATT is not a solution in itself. It’s a tool,” said Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation, adding that it was important for individual governments to get control of “international transfers and national stockpiles of weapons” whether they were held by the military, local militias or demobilized rebel groups.
He said that securing weapons stockpiles was an area where the United States could help struggling countries. The State Department’s Bureau of Political and Military Affairs has helped countries like Niger, Burundi and Angola secure stockpiles or destroy old munitions. Since 2001, in Africa alone, 250,000 small weapons have been destroyed and 350,000 have been marked with unique serial numbers with U.S. assistance to maintain inventory controls of military and police arsenals and help track missing or stolen weapons.
Raymond Gilpin, dean of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University, agreed, saying the treaty is “by no means a silver bullet.”
He noted that in some explosions of violence in Africa like the Rwanda genocide of 1994, “machetes can be as deadly or more deadly” than firearms. One of the basic problems in controlling the movement of arms – legal and illegal – in Africa is the lack of basic data: Just how many guns does a government own? Who has control of them? “Most African countries don’t have a baseline for tracking weapons,” Gilpin said.
He made several recommendations for closing the gap including public/private partnerships to make the supply chain more transparent and “muscular international diplomacy” with countries that aid and abet weapons trafficking.
LRA Commander Capture.
Uganda’s military says troops have captured a top commander of murderous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and freed 10 captives held by the notorious rebel group.
A military spokesman said African troops hunting the LRA in the Central African Republic captured Charles Okello, according to the Voice of America website. Most of those recued were children, the spokesman said.
The LRA started out as a guerrilla group in Uganda in the 1980s but morphed into a renegade band that has roamed Central Africa from South Sudan to the Democratic Republic of Congo, sacking villages, robbing and killing adults and seizing children to be sex slaves and child soldiers. The LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 2011, President Barack Obama sent about 100 U.S. special operations forces to advise the military and neighboring countries how to track and capture Kony.
In March, support aircraft and about 150 Air Force personnel were sent to Djibouti to help in the Kony search and capture mission.
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Arms Trade Treaty
With violent conflicts boiling up South Sudan, the Central African Republic and across North Africa, it’s timely to take a look at the effect the international Arms Trade Treaty could have on security issues in Africa. The Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington will be holding a panel discussion Wednesday (April 23) on the treaty’s potential impact on conflict.
Last year, the United States signed the ATT, a multilateral agreement to regulate international trade in conventional weapons. Nearly 120 countries have signed the treaty and 31 government have ratified the pact — which has not entered into force yet.
The potential for the treaty to reduce illicit trade could help improve security in areas that need it most — particularly in regions of conflict like Africa, the CSIS said. Speakers at today’s event include: Thomas Countryman, the State Department’s assistant secretary at the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation; Raymond Gilpin, dean of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University; and Jennifer Cooke, director of the CSIS Africa Program.
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Ebola Death Toll
The current outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa has killed more than 140 people, the World Health Organization.
In a statement Tuesday (April 22), the United Nations health agency said at least 230 suspected or confirmed case of Ebola have been reported in so far in Guinea and Liberia, the Associated Press reported. According to the WHO, there have been 129 deaths in Guinea and 13 in neighboring Liberia that were linked to the disease.
Ebola causes a high fever and external hemorrhaging. There is no cure no vaccine for the disease which has a very high mortality rate.
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Algerian Troops Killed
At least 14 Algerian soldiers were killed over the weekend (April 19) when their convoy was ambushed in the mountains east of the capital city, Algiers.
The soldiers were attacked Saturday night in the Tizi Ouzou region, 75 miles east of Algiers. Government officials blamed members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an affiliate of the radical Islamist terrorist group, al Qaeda, Reuters reported.
The soldiers were attacked as they were returning from a security deployment for last week’s presidential election[SEE Story Below], the Algerian Defense Ministry said in a statement. Three militants from AQIM, were also killed in the gunfight.
As expected, President Abdelaziz Boutefilka was elected to a fourth term with more than 81 percent of the vote. However, opposition leaders – who boycotted the election – accused Bouteflika and his supporters of widespread voter fraud, the New York Times reported.
The strongest challenger, former Prime Minister Ali Benflis only got 12 percent of the vote. Despite a stroke last year, that has put him in a wheelchair, Bouteflika has kept a strong grip on power, ignoring democratic changes prompted by the Arab Spring uprisings in other parts of North Africa.
Mauritania plans to hold its next presidential election in June.
President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has not yet announced his candidacy, but his party has asked him to run again, the Associated Press reported. Aziz came to power in a 2008 coup, ousting the West African country’s first democratically elected leader. But he has become a key ally of the West in the fight against terrorism in the Sahara.
The president’s office said elections will be held June 21, with a second round of voting July 5 — if needed.
Nigeria’s elections aren’t until next February, but the Islamist radicals’ campaign of violence has rocked President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and has politicians bickering as never before, according to the Associated Press.
Attacks on a girl’s school in the north and a bombing at a bus station in the capital have shaken the military’s claims that the insurgents’ war-fighting ability was on the wane.
The country’s two main political parties have each accused the other of supporting the Islamic insurgency for ulterior motives. Some politicians from the predominantly Muslim north say that keeping the insurgency going is a way to weaken the north before the elections. While other politicians accuse some members of the military of keeping the strife going — by colluding with the extremist group Boko Haram — so they can profit financially from the five-year conflict.
Before he dismissed the entire military command in January, Jonathan said he believed there were Boko Haram sympathizers and supporters among his cabinet members and high-ranking military.
Meanwhile, Jonathan will chair a meeting of the National Security Council Thursday (April 24) in Abuja, that will include Nigeria’s 36 state governors and military service chiefs, according to the news site ThisDay Live.
Boko Haram Mayhem
The radical and violent Islamist group Boko Haram is claiming responsibility for a bus station bombing in Nigeria’s capital that killed 75 people last week, according to press reports.
“We are the ones who carried out the attack in Abuja,” Boko Haram’s leader — Abubakar Shekau — said in a video message obtained by the French news service, AFP on Saturday (April 19). The 28-minute video threatened future attacks with the ominous statement: “We are in your city but you don’t know where we are.” AFP reported.
Monday’s bombing in Abuja, which also injured 141 people, was the first attack in two years on Nigeria’s capital. The death toll is expected to rise, the Associated Press reported, as pathologists determine how many people were blown apart by the huge blast.
The Boko Haram video made no mention of the mass abduction of scores of high school girls from a school compound in turbulent northeast Nigeria. The Nigerian government and local officials in Borno state — where the school is located — have blamed Boko Haram.
Officials originally said all but 85 of the girls have escaped their abductors, but family members dispute those claims, saying 234 girls are missing, according to the AP.
The militant group, whose name is translated as either “Western education is sinful” or “Western education is forbidden,” in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria, has mounted numerous attacks on schools and students as well as churches and government facilities in a five-year campaign to have the largely northern part of Nigeria declared subject to Islamic, “sharia” law. Thousands have been killed in the conflict.
The bombing in the heart of Nigeria, hundreds of miles from Boko Haram’s strongholds has underscored the threat the terrorist group poses to Africa’s most populous nation and biggest economy and oil producer.
Scores of teen-age girls have been kidnapped from their secondary school in Northeast Nigeria late Monday (April 14) by armed men believed to be members of the radical Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.
The raid comes just a day after a deadly bus station bombing in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, prompting critics to question the government’s claims of progress in its campaign to suppress the militant group. Hundreds have died this year in attacks attributed to Boko Haram, which means ‘Western education is forbidden (sinful),” in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria.
There are conflicting reports about the number of girls taken and how many escaped their captors. The BBC quoted the Nigerian military as saying all but eight of 129 kidnapped girls have escaped. “But the BBC’s Will Ross in Abuja says there is no independent confirmation of this,” BBC added. Reuters reported between 50 and 100 girls were taken and at least 14 had managed to escape, according to officials.
The Associated Press reported that “about 100 girls” between the ages of 16 and 18 were kidnapped and some of the girls escaped by jumping off a slow-moving truck in the kidnappers’ retreating convoy. Citing a security source, AFP said it was told more than 100 girls remained in captivity.
The gunmen killed a soldier and police officer guarding the girls’ school at Chibok in Nigeria’s Borno state – one of three under an 11-month state of emergency. All schools in Borno state were closed three weeks ago because Boko Haram has been targeting schools and killing or driving off students. The girls’ school was reopened, however, so they could take their final exams, a local government official told reporters.
The girls were believed to have been taken to the rugged Sambisa Forrest near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, where Boko Haram is reported to have bases. The Islamic extremists have kidnapped girls in the past to serve as cooks and sex slaves.
On Sunday, 75 people were killed and more than 140 wounded in the bombing of a bus station in Abuja just a few miles from the capital’s government buildings. That attack raised concerns that militants’ attacks were no longer confined to the strife-torn northeast, where traditional rivalries between mostly Christian farmers and mainly Muslim herders over land and water rights have morphed into increasingly violent attacks.
No group has claimed responsibility for either the bus station bombing or the mass abduction but President Goodluck Jonathan and other leaders blame Boko Haram, which launched a violent insurgency in 2009 to make the country’s predominantly Muslim north into an Islamic state governed by conservative sharia law. Since 2010, the violence has claimed an estimated 3,600 people in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and biggest oil producer.
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Central African Republic
Fifteen United Nations and private humanitarian agencies are appealing for $274 million to fund emergency aid for people fleeing violence in the Central African Republic, the Voice of America reports. Nearly 200,000 people have fled the C.A.R. since December, but the U.N. expects that number to grow to more than 360,000 by the end of the year.
The crisis stems from months of sectarian violence in one of Africa’s poorest nations. The mayhem began when Muslim-led Seleka rebels seized power a year ago and overthrew the government of longtime President Francois Bozize. In a backlash, predominantly Christian anti-balaka militia members targeted Muslim civilians for revenge and attacked positions held by the rebels.
The U.N. Security Council voted last week (April 10) to send 12,000 troops to quel violence and restore order in the C.A.R. U.N. peacekeepers will relieve about 6,500 African Union soldiers and 2,000 French troops who have struggled to keep the peace in the former French colony.
In Geneva, U.N. officials said the $274 million would be used to meet the needs of refugees from the C.A.R., who have escaped to neighboring Cameroon, Chad, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Officials in the DRC, where thousands of refugees have fled, are worried the conflict could threaten the security of the entire region.
Lambert Mende, the DRC’s information minister, says his government is concerned because it shares a 1,600-kilometerf border with the C.A.R. “So whatever can happen there, can impact our security,” he told the Voice of America. He added that the DRC was “very eager” to contribute to the stabilization effort. The DRC has sent a battalion of soldiers and a unit of plainclothes policemen to the C.A.R, according to Mende.
Chad has withdrawn all of its 850 soldiers in the AU peacekeeping contingent following accusations that Chadian troops aided Muslim rebels in the C.A.R. – which Chad’s government denied, the BBC and AFP reported.
Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno ordered the pullout after a U.N. investigation found that Chadian troops “opened fire on the population without any provocation” in the capital, Bangui, on March 29. Thirty people were killed and another 300 were injured, according to the U.N. Chad’s foreign ministry dismissed the findings as “malicious,” adding that Chad was being unfairly blamed for the C.A.R.’s woes.
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President Blaise Compaore has been run Burkina Faso since 1987, but a provision of the West African nation’s constitution bars him from running again when his term expires in 2015.
But 50,000 people turned out for a rally calling for the constitution to be amended so Compaore can seek another term, according to an Associated Press report via Al Jazeera.
The rally Saturday (April 12) follows a series of defections of high-level officials in Compaore’s ruling party over concerns that the president would indeed try to change the constitution so he could seek anothjer term.
Algerians go to the polls Thursday for a presidential election that incumbent President Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika is widely expected to win, the Voice of America reports. Bouteflika, 77, is seeking his fourth term in office, although he has made few public appearances since suffering a stroke last year.
He faces five opposition challengers, but Bouteflika continues to have the backing of the ruling National Liberation Front party. In February, three Algerian opposition parties called for a boycott of the elections after the government announced Bouteflika would seek another five-year term.
Unemployment is now high in Algeria, especially among youth. And despite the North African country’s vast oil and gas resources, much of the population remains poor.
U.N. Troops to C.A.R.
The United Nations Security Council voted Thursday (April 10) to send 12,000 troops to quel violence and resore order in the strife-torn Central African Republic (C.A.R.).
Thousands have been killed and more than a million people are in need of aid following an explosion of sectarian violence after Muslim-led , Seleka rebels seized power a year ago and overthrew the government of President Francois Bozize – who had been in power for a decade. In a backlash, predominantly Christian anti-balaka militia members targeted Muslim civilians for revenge and attacked positions held by the mainly Muslim rebels.
U.N. Chief Ban Ki-Moon has warned of “ethno-religious cleansing” in C.A.R., with lynchings, decapitations and sexual violence going unpublished, the BBC reported. The C.A.R. Is rich in gold, diamonds and other natural resources but most people remain poor after decades of unrest and government mismanagement.
The U.N. Force will take over on September 15 from the 6,000-strong African-led peacekeeping mission. The Africans and about 2,000 French troops have been hard-pressed to halt the killing in the former French colony, according to the Voice of America.
The African troops will continue their military activities in the lead-up to the official transfer date in September. After being vetted, VOA reported, many of those troops will also be kep on as blue-helmeted U.N. Peacekeepers and join the new U.N. Mission, which will go by the acronym, MINUSCA.
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The government of the West African nation of Cameroon has announced it will mount a special polio Vaccin campaign for all children after haf a dozen cases were identified. There are fears that children fleeing dangerous situations – such as terrorist violence in Nigeria – are spreading the disease, according to the Voice of America website.
Nigeria is one of a few nations around the world which have not eradicated polio.
Cameroon’s Minister of Health Andre Mama Fouda said officials in his country thought they could declare the Cameroon polio free, but they detected four cases of the wild polio virus in the western part of the country. Three other cases were also identifed – indicating virus is spreading.
Some of the cases were reported in children fleeing northeast Nigeria – where Boko Haram Islamic militants have been committing random acts of violence.
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Meanwhile at least three West African countries are reporting cases of the deadly ebola virus.
Guinea has reported 157 ebola cases, with 101 leading to death. Almost half of the 21 cases reported in Liberia have proven fatal. In Mali, nine suspected cases have been reported. Both Liberia and Mali share a border with Guinea.
A World health Organization official said the U.N. Agency expects ebola will engage its staff for months, according to the euronews website.“”This is one of the most challenging outbreaks that we have ever faced,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda of the WHO. And that’s because “we see a wide geographic dispersion of cases. So this has come in from a number of districts as well as a large city in Guinea, Conakry,” the capital, Fukuda added.
A U.S. pararescueman assigned to the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron lowers into the ocean from an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter as part of a water rescue exercise near Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, March 22, 2014.
Pararescuemen, commonly known as PJs (for Pararescue Jumpers) are part of U.S. Air Force Special Operations Command and Air Combat Command. They are the only Defense Department personnel specifically trained and equipped to conduct conventional and unconventional recovery operations – over land and water.
The PJ’s primary function is to recover personnel in emergency situations. They are trained in emergency trauma medical capabilities for both humanitarian and combat environments. Their motto — “That Others May Live” — says it all.
The 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron is the Air Force first responder unit charged with personnel recovery in the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa area of responsibility. Based in Djibouti, their mission is to recover aircraft personnel using both fixed wing aircraft and helicopters to get to the scene.
To see more photos of this training exercise, click here.
Hunt for a Warlord
The Obama administration is sending military aircraft and support personnel to assist the efforts of African Union troops to hunt down renegade warlord Joseph Kony and his vicious rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
At a press briefing Monday (March 24) the Pentagon’s press secretary confirmed the Defense Department was deploying four CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, as well as two C-130 Hercules transport planes and a KC-135 aerial refueling tanker to northern Uganda to aid the counter-LRA effort and “specifically to support the air transport requirements of the African Union Regional Task Force.”
The spokesman, Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby, said the aircraft along with 150 aircrew and support personnel will be conducting periodic deployments to Uganda to support the counter-LRA effort. All the aircraft and personnel are based in the East African nation of Djibouti, home to the only fixed U.S. military base in Africa.
They join about 100 U.S. Special Operations troops that have been posted in Central Africa since October 2011 to advise African militaries pursuing senior LRA commanders and protecting civilians. The aircraft deployment was first reported by the Washington Post.
Kony, who is being sought by the United Nations on human rights violation charges, has been leading the LRA on a rampage of pillage, rape, murder and kidnapping across Central Africa for decades, according to the U.S. State Department. U.S. strategy in the area has been to help the governments of Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) and South Sudan as well as the African Union and the United Nations “end the threat posed to civilians and regional stability by the LRA.” In addition to military advisers and air transportation, since 2010, the United States has provided $87.2 million to support food assistance, humanitarian protection and other relied activities in areas affected by the LRA.
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The death toll in Guinea from a rare Ebola virus outbreak has risen to 63, according to health officials in the West African nation. International aid workers have set up quarantine centers in the country’s south to isolate patients with the deadly and highly infectious disease, the Associated Press reported.
United Nations agencies and medical charities such as Doctors Without Borders are scrambling to help Guinea – one of the world’s poorest countries – to cope with the virus, amid fears that it could spill over borders into neighboring countries, according to Reuters. Five deaths from the suspected infection were reported in Liberia, which borders southeastern Guinea. And in neighboring Sierra Leone officials said two deaths are suspected to be linked to Ebola.
Ebola is one of a handful of diseases so deadly and contagious that they pose a risk to national security, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Bloomberg reported. The CDC lists Ebola as a Category A bioterrorism agent, along with anthrax and smallpox. The virus identified as the one causing the Guinea outbreak is known as the Zaire strain, the most common and the most deadly variety.
There is no known cure or vaccine for the hemorrhagic fever which is spread by close personal contact with people who are infected. The disease killed between 25 and 90 percent of its victims. Symptoms include internal and external bleeding, diarrhea and vomiting, according to the BBC.
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Pirate Activities Shifting
While pirate activities have dwindled off the Horn of Africa there are concerns about an increase in illegal activity in the waters of West Africa.
In its latest ‘Piracy Analysis and Warning Weekly Report,” the Office of Naval Intelligence OPINTEL report lists two kidnappings from tugboats off the coast of Nigeria, but zero incidents off the Horn of Africa, according to MarineLink.com
But officials in Ghana are becoming increasingly concerned about piracy off their coast. At a three-day conference on coastal and maritime surveillance in Accra last week, a Ghana Navy official said that while Ghana’s waters were spared pirate activities, there were 50 incidents of ship hijackings in West African waters in 2013.
Captain Issah Yakubu, the director of Naval Administration, said the incidents included ships being taken hostage, their cargo stolen, the crew molested, sometimes even killed. “Fortunately we (Ghana) haven’t suffered any of these insecurities, but then we are not complacent,” he told the Ghana website myjoyonline.com.
Yakubu said security chiefs in the countries around the Gulf of Guinea are also concerned about drug trafficking, citing a recent seizure of a ship carrying 400 kilograms of cocaine from South America to Ghana’s waters, the website noted.
Modern Face of War
UPDATES with additional information and links
The camera that took this photo was using a night vision lens, just like the night vision goggles worn by these combat air traffic controllers, a little known speciality (outside the military community) in the U.S. Air Force and Special Operations Forces. They are the first to arrive at hazardous landing areas (either because of enemy action or damage from natural disaster) to set up aircraft landing or parachute drop zones. Combat controllers are FAA certified air traffic controllers who provide the link between the air and ground forces in direct action, special reconnaissance, humanitarian assistance and foreign internal defense operations.
This Combat Controller Team is from the 720th Special Tactics Group, based at Hurlburt Field, Florida. In this photo they are relaying wind speed and aircraft direction to a C-130 H3 cargo plane during night operations on an airfield in northeastern Niger, late last month (Feb. 28) during Joint Exercise Flintlock 2014. Troops from Canada, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom — as well as 6 north and west African nations participated in Niger this year.
Flintlock is an annual, African-led, military exercise focused on security, counter-terrorism and military humanitarian support to outlying areas. Each year a different government in west Africa plays host to the exercise, which includes U.S. forces and troops from other non-African countries. To see an Africa Command slide show of the wide variety of Flintlock 2014 activities, click here.