Posts filed under ‘Counter Terrorism’

HOMELAND SECURITY: Sochi Security, DHS Chief, California Power Attack UPDATE

UPDATES WITH: Attempted airline hijacking to Sochi; Update on DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson speech; and new last item on probe of possible terrorism attack on California power station

Threats Real and Imagined

One day before the official opening of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games on Sochi, Russia, concerns continue to rise over security in and around the Black Sea resort town.

Sochi by Night  (Copyright 2014 XXII Winter Olympic Games)

Sochi by Night
(Copyright 2014 XXII Winter Olympic Games)

ABC, CNN and other news outlets have reported that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a bulletin to airlines – particularly those coming to Southern Russia from Europe and Asia – to be aware that terrorists might hide bomb-making ingredients inside common toothpaste tubes.

DHS would only say publicly that it “regularly shares relevant information with domestic and international partners.” At a speaking engagement in Washington Friday (February 7) DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said the agency “within the last 48 hours,” issued advisories “based on an abundance of caution.” He did not detail the nature of the advisories.

The advice was believed aimed at foreign carriers. Thousands of police and military are posted in and around the Olympic venue creating what President Vladimir Putin has promised will be a “Ring of Steel” to protect athletes, officials and spectators.

Meanwhile, a man who claimed he had a bomb and wanted an Istanbul-bound airliner diverted to Sochi was subdued and arrested by Turkish authorities when the flight crew instead landed in Istanbul. The Pegasus Airlines flight from the Ukrainian city of  Kharkov had 110  passengers. None were hurt, although the alleged hijacker — who did not have a bomb — may have been injured during his arrest, according to some reports. Here is how the Russian media played it.

Islamist militants in southern Russia’s turbulent Caucasus Region have threatened to attack the games and nerves were rattled by two suicide bombings in December at a train station and aboard a bus in nearby Volgograd that killed 34 people. Russia has battled Chechen separatists in the Caucasus since the days of the czars.

While Secretary of State John Kerry says his department isn’t telling Americans not to go to the 17-day (Feb. 7-23) event, but the State Department advises visitors to stay alert and be cautious. The U.S. Defense Department has sent two U.S. Navy ships to the Black Sea to assist with evacuation or communications in the event of a terrorist attack.

Black Sea region (Norman Einstein via Wikipedia)

Black Sea region
(Norman Einstein via Wikipedia)

Meanwhile, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Counterterrorism (START) is out with a new report, according to the Homeland Security News Wire, that assesses the risk of terrorism at Sochi based on the patterns of past terrorism attacks in Russia since 1992 as well as the history of terrorism and the Olympics going back to 1970. START is based at the University of Maryland.

The report indicates “that there is no consistent increase or decrease in the frequency of terrorist attacks during the Olympics,” the report’s author, Erin Miller, said in the introduction. And that suggests “efforts to reinforce security are generally effective at mitigating any potential threats that may exist,” added Miller, who is program manager for the Global Terrorism Database.

Click on the photo to enlarge image to see location of Sochi, Ukraine and Istanbul on the Black Sea

– — –

Jeh Johnson, DHS UPDATE

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson (DHS photo)

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson
(DHS photo)

Speaking of Homeland Security, the new head of the department, Jeh Johnson, delivered his first major public address Friday (February 7) at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think tank.

Johnson said the department has become “very focused” on foreign fighters from the U.S., Canada and Europe heading to Syria to fight in that battered country’s three-year-old civil war. DHS is concerned about  what these fighters will do when they return to their home countries, after being indoctrinated with a violent Islamist mission.

The DHS Secretary said this new threat was a constant topic of discussion at a recent meeting he attended with British, French, German, Italian and Polish security officials in Krakow, Poland. “Syria has become a matter of homeland security,” he added. For a more detailed post, click here.

Johnson, former General Counsel at the Defense Department, was sworn in on December 23, as the fourth Secretary of Homeland Security – the third largest Cabinet department. His address will be followed by a short question and answer session with Wilson Center President Jane Harman on Johnson’s priorities for the Department.

– — –

Terrorism or Vandalism?

Photo by Yummifruitbat via Wikipedia

Photo by Yummifruitbat via Wikipedia

There’s a bit of a controversy out in California where somebody shot out 17 giant power transformers that supply electricity to Silicon Valley last April. The event, which surfaced in articles by the Wall Street Journal and Foreign Policy magazine, lasted some 19 minutes starting at 1 a.m. April 16, 2013.

According to the Journal, power company officials had to divert power around the site to avoid a blackout and it took utility workers 27 days to make repairs and bring the station back on line. Foreign policy sais at least 100 rounds were fired from a high powered rifle.

At about the same time, someone also cut telephone cables at an AT&T underground unit.

The FBI doesn’t think it was terrorism, according to the Journal but FP quotes a former PG&E executive as saying that’s exactly what it was. Whatever, the motive, according to an NPR piece on the controversy, the attack got the attention of the public utility industry and some companies told the Journal they are reviewing their security measures.

February 6, 2014 at 9:15 pm 1 comment

AFRICA: Global and Regional Threats Assessed in Somalia, Nigeria, the Sahel

Reason for Concern

Africa may have had some of the fastest growing economies in 2013, but the intelligence organizations that are the eyes and ears of the U.S. government, say several countries of the world’s second-largest, and second-most-populous continent are likely to experience unrest in 2014.

Last week the 17 government departments and agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community, presented their annual assessment of global and regional threats confronting the United States and its friends and allies. They include terrorism, transnational crime, the proliferation of nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction, cyber threats, economic disruptions and potential shortages of natural resources from food and water to energy.

The 31-page unclassified summary of Senate testimony about their threat assessment also includes dangers facing several regions of the world. Here’s a look at the problems facing North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa:

“The continent has become a hothouse for the emergence of extremist and rebel groups, which increasingly launch deadly asymmetric attacks, and which government forces often cannot effectively counter due to a lack of capability and sometimes will,” the report states.

– — –

The Sahel Region (Map courtesy of XXXXX XXXXXX)

The Sahel Region
(Wikipedia)

In the Sahel, the dry-scrub area bordering the Sahara Desert, the governments in Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania are at risk to terrorist retribution for their support of the January 2013 French-led international military intervention in Mali. But the region faces other pressures from a growing youth population and marginalized ethnic groups (like the Tuaregs of Mali) who are frustrated by a lack of government services, unemployment and poor living standards. Compounding the issue: corruption, illicit economies, smuggling and poor living standards.

Somalia in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Somalia in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

In Somalia, which is just starting to climb back up from decades as a failed state, the young government is threatened by persistent political infighting, weak leadership from President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and ill-equipped government institutions. There’s another challenge, the increasingly violent al-Shabaab Islamist group which has been conducting asymmetric attacks against government facilities and Western targets in and around the capital Mogadishu.

Kenya in Africa. Map from CIA World Factbook

Kenya in Africa. Map from CIA World Factbook

East African governments have beefed up their security and policing partnerships since the deadly al-Shabaab inspired attack last September on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. But the IC folks think those governments will have difficulty protecting a wide range of potential targets. They told Congress that al-Shabaab-associated networks might be planning additional attacks in Kenya and throughout the region including Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda to punish those troops that deployed troops to Somalia in support of its government.

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook)

In Nigeria, rising political tensions and violent internal conflicts are likely in the lead-up to Nigeria’s 2015 election, according to the U.S. Intelligence community. Nigeria faces critical terrorism threats from the violent Islamist group Boko Haram and persistent extremism in the predominantly Muslim north where “economic stagnation and endemic poverty prevail amid insecurity and neglect.” In the oil-rich south, the economy centered on Lagos, is one of the fastest growing in the world. These disparities and domestic challenges could mean the waning of leadership from Africa’s most populous country (174.5 million) and possibly hurt its ability to deploy peacekeepers around the continent.

February 3, 2014 at 11:55 pm 1 comment

COUNTER TERRORISM: U.S. Facing Continued Terrorist, Overseas Stability Threats

Security Challenges

Official seals of members of the U.S. Intelligence Community (ODNI photo via Wikipedia)

Official seals of members of the U.S. Intelligence Community
(ODNI photo via Wikipedia)

The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, and other leaders of the U.S. Intelligence community, known in Washington as the IC, were up on Capitol Hill this week to present their assessment of the global and regional threats facing the country.

But Clapper’s less-than-honest testimony before Congress last year about cell phone data collection seemed to gather most – but not all – of the news media attention – along with his continuing concerns about the disclosures of rogue National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

So 4GWAR would like to focus on the range of threats the IC – which includes the Office of National Intelligence, the NSA, CIA, FBI, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Counterterrorism Center – believes are facing the United States as of January 15, 2014 (when their assessment report was completed).

Global threats listed by the 31-page public report include cyber attacks by hostile nations like Iran and North Korea, terrorist organizations and criminals; homegrown and international terrorist plots by groups like al-Qaeda branches like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; transnational organized criminal groups like the Mexican drug cartels that are expanding their influence across the Atlantic Ocean to West and North Africa.

“Competition for and secure access to natural resources (like food, water and energy) are growing security threats,” the report states. Risks to freshwater supplies are a growing threat to economic development in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia and that could have a destabilizing effect not only on local economies but on governments and political institutions in many places where democracy is fragile or non-existent.

As polar ice recedes in the Arctic, “economic and security concerns will increase competition over access to sea routes and natural resources,” according to the report. Vast deposits of oil and natural gas – as much as 15 percent of the world’s undiscovered petroleum and 30 percent of its natural gas may lie beneath Arctic waters where the ice is receding more and more each year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The report predicts Sub-Saharan Africa will “almost certainly see political and related security turmoil in 2014.” The continent has become “a hothouse for the emergence of extremist and rebel groups,” threatening governments in Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania.

National Operations Center (Dept. of Homeland Security photo)

National Operations Center
(Dept. of Homeland Security photo)

The report also notes the attacks in Somalia and East Africa by the extremist Islamic al-Shabaab movement as well as sharp ethnic/religious/economic divides that are causing death, destruction, starvation and and mass migration in Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

4GWAR will have more on this report this weekend.

January 31, 2014 at 2:07 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (January 31, 2014)

Ready for “Harm’s Way”

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michelle L. Turner)

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michelle L. Turner)

“I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way.”

–John Paul Jones

Today U.S. sailors take vessels like this riverine command boat (RCB) into harm’s way. Sailors assigned to Task Group 56.7.4 cross the Arabian Gulf in an RCB during a training exercise in the Arabian Gulf. RCBs provide a multi-mission platform for the U.S. 5th Fleet by focusing on maritime security operations, maritime infrastructure protection, and security cooperation efforts with other services and militaries. Oh, and they take part in offensive combat operations, too.

These fast moving boats ar armed with M240 7.62mm machine guns as well as heavier .50 caliber machine guns.

To see a short training video of an RCB in action in the Arabian Gulf, click here.

January 31, 2014 at 12:39 am 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA: African Union, Somalia, South Sudan

AFRICAN UNION

Ethiopia in Africa (Map from CIA World Factbook)

Ethiopia in Africa
(Map from CIA World Factbook)

With violence spinning out of control in several African countries, heads of state and government will meet in Ethiopia Thursday (January 30) for a summit organized by the African Union (AU).

The leaders will be discussing a development agenda, called Agenda 2063, at the meeting in Addis Ababa, the Ehiopian capital, but peace and security will also be high on the list of topics, the AU’s deputy chairman told Voice of America.

Somalia, South Sudan and Central African Republic are all dealing with insurgencies, near civil war or religious and ethnic strife. Founded in 1999, the AU is an international economic and development body seeking to integrate the continent into the world economy.

Erastus Mwencha noted the cooperation between the AU and its international partners, like France and the United States, but “at the end of the day peace cannot be brought from any external resources. It must be internally generated, the AU deputy chair said. He noted that the 28-member AU is moving forward on creating a standby force that could quickly engage in conflict resolution.

– — –

SOMALIA

Map courtesy of University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center

Map courtesy of University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center

Sources in Somalia say a U.S. drone strike Sunday (January 26) nearly hit the leader of al Shbaab, the Voice of America reported.

A militant sopurce and sources close to the African Union mission in Somalia told VOA’s Somali service that Abdi Godane, head of the militant Islamist group, was in the vicinity of the drone strike — north of Barawe, in the Lower Shabelle region.

Meanwhile, a senior aide to Godane was killed by a missile on Sunday (January 27). Ahmed Abdulkadir Abdullahi, known as “Iskudhuuq,” was killed when a car he was riding in was struck by a missile in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, the VOA reported.

Rebel sources told VOA’s Somali service that the Abdullahi was a senior aide to Godane and was recently appointed the head of the group’s health unit.

A Somali intelligence official confirmed the attack, describing the dead man as a “dangerous” member of the group, the Associated Press reported. His driver was also killed in the attack, the official said on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to reveal the information. On Monday (January 27) a Pentagon spokesman confirmed the drone attack but gave few details.

The U.S. military launched several drone strikes targeting the al Qaeda-linked group’s leaders in Somalia. In October a missile strike killed al Shabaab’s top explosives expert.

– — –

SOUTH SUDAN

U.S. Marines and sailors help U.S. citizens into a Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules airplane in Juba, South Sudan, during an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy, Jan. 3.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III)

U.S. Marines and sailors help U.S. citizens into a Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules airplane in Juba, South Sudan, during an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy, Jan. 3.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III)

South Sudan, the world’s newest country, is facing a humanitarian crisis with more than 825,000 people displaced by violence.

United Nations Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos said Wednesday (January 21) that more than 702,000 people are internal refugees and another 123,000 have fled to other countries, the VOA reported.

Aid workers have been unable to reach more than 300,000 displaced people because of security threats. Doctors Without Borders suspended activities in Malakal last week after its compound was looted by armed men and its staff threatened.

Just last week, after five weeks of fighting that left as many as 10,000 dead, South Sudan’s government and rebels signed a ceasefire agreement after talks in Ethiopia. Under the deal, signed in Addis Ababa, the fighting is due to come to an end within 24 hours, the BBC reported.

Neighboring countries and global powers, including the United States and China, pressured the two sides to reach an agreement because of fears the fighting could escalate into a protracted civil war or an even wider conflict, the New York Times reported. Ugandan troops have been fighting alongside government forces, helping to push back the rebels.

The ceasefire is merely a first step. The Associated Press reported that additional talks are scheduled to resume in early February. The government is concerned the rebel leaders will not be able to control disparate groups of fighters. The head of South Sudan’s negotiating team, was worried that since many on the rebel side are civilians who took up arms, and may not follow the cease-fire agreement.

The rebels are demanding that 11 former government leaders imprisoned by President Salva Kir must be released. Kir has said the 11 must first be subjected to South Sudan’s judicial process.

Seven of the 11 were released Wednesday (January 29) and turned over to officials in Kenya, according to Al Jazeera.

January 29, 2014 at 11:57 pm 1 comment

FRIDAY FOTO (January 23, 2014)

Long Patrol

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Bertha A. Flores

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Bertha A. Flores

Afghan National Army commandos with the 3rd Special Operations Kandak (battalion) and U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Berets) with a 12-man Operational Detachment-Alpha, or A-Team, approach a compound during a clearing operation in Dewai Kalay village, Maiwand district in  Kandahar province, Afghanistan.

To see more photos from this operation, click here.

January 24, 2014 at 12:32 am 1 comment

LAT AM REVIEW: Mexican Vigilantes, Ecuador’s Drone, Colombian Ceasefire Ends

Soldiers vs Vigilantes vs Drug Gangs

The Mexican government’s attempts to quell violence between vigilantes battling drug gangs in the southwesterrn state of Michoacan have turned deadly in a confrontation between the military and civilians.

Mexican military forces in Michoacan state in 2007 (Photo by Diego Fernandez via Wikipedia)

Mexican military forces in Michoacan state in 2007
(Photo by Diego Fernandez via Wikipedia)

There are contradictory reports on the number of casualties in the town of Antunez where soldiers were reported to have opened fire early Tuesday (January 14) on an unarmed crowd blocking the street. The Associated Press is reporting that its reporters saw the bodies two men said to have died in the incident. AP journalists said they also spoke with the family of a third man reportedly killed in the same incident.

The Los Angeles Times reported that 12 people were said to have died in the clash, according to the Mexican newspaper Reforma. The self-defense groups began organizing last year to protect local people from the drug gang known as the Knights Templar, who were extorting and otherwise terrorizing residents of Tierra Caliente, an important farming region west of Mexico City.

Local citizens said they had to arm themselves because federal troops failed to guarantee their security. On Monday (January 13) Mexico’s interior minister, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, urged the vigilantes to lay down their arms, the BBC reported.

The Knights Templar, who control much of the methamphetamine trade to the United States, say the vigilantes have sided with a rival gang, the New Generation cartel. But the self-defense groups fiercely deny that.

– — –

Ecuador’s First Drone

Ecuador map from CIA World Factbook

Ecuador map from CIA World Factbook

Ecuador has developed its first domestically made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).  Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa revealed the country’s first drone on local television Saturday (January 11), according to the Russian television network, RT (Russia Today).

The drone, called the UAV-Gavilan (Spanish for hawk), cost half a million dollars, a significant savings for Ecuador — which, 2007 paid $20 million for six Israeli-made UAVs, according to the Associated Press.

The gasoline-powered, carbon fiber and wood UAV was designed by the Ecuadorian Air Force to help the country, which borders both the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, fight drug trafficking, Correa said. He added that the Gavilan tracked a ship loaded with drugs for six hours before authorities intercepted the vessel.

Its video cameras and sensors will help the Euadorian Air Force monitor the country’s borders and hard-to-reach areas, like the Amazon rainforest, as well as assisting investigations. Ecuador plans to produce four of the UAVs for itself and then sell others to interested countries in Latin America.

– — –

FARC Ends Ceasefire

Colombia’s Marxist rebels announced  Wednesday (January 15) that they were ending their unilateral holiday ceasefire with government forces.

Colombia map by CIA World Factbook

Colombia map by CIA World Factbook

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — widely known by their Spanish acronym FARC –announced in Havana, Cuba, where it has been in peace negotiations with the government that it was ending the ceasefire it declared December 15, Reuters reported.

The rebels, who have battled the government in Bogota for five decades, accused government armed forces and police units of pursuing “aggressions and provocations.”s

theThe FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, declared a one-month ceasefire on December 15 and said in a statement issued on Wednesday, “we lived up to our word… despite permanent aggressions and provocations by the government’s armed forces and police units.”

While the FARC has repeatedly called for both sides to end hostilities, President Juan Manuel Santos has refused to agree. The rebels previously observed another unilateral cease-fire that lasted two months, the Associated Press reported.

The FARC has been fighting the government in a brutal guerrilla war that has claimed more than 200,000 lives in jungle and urban attacks. The revolt began as a peasant movement seeking land reform but in recent years the FARC — branded a terrorist organization by the United States — is reported to have aligned itself with Colombian drug cartels, obtaining much of its funding through narcotics sales. The FARC is the oldest active guerrilla army — estimated to number 8,000 — in the Western Hemisphere..

January 15, 2014 at 2:40 pm 2 comments

CLOSE ENCOUNTER: Ariel Sharon and Me

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, died Saturday (January 11) eight years after a massive stroke put him in a deep coma.

Nearly 30 years ago our paths crossed in a New York courtroom.

Ariel Sharon in xxxx. (Photo by Jim Wallace, Smithsonian Institution)

Ariel Sharon in 1998.
(Photo by Jim Wallace, Smithsonian Institution)

Sharon, who had been a political and military leader for nearly the entire 65-year history of the State of Israel, was praised by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair at a state memorial service in Israel on Monday (January 13). At the same time, Palestinians in Gaza and parts of the West Bank celebrated the death of one of their most reviled enemies. In the 1950s he commanded a commando outfit, known as Unit 101, that launched reprisal attacks against Palestinian guerrillas. In the 1970s, 80s and 90s he espoused building Israeli settlements in the disputed West Bank area.

Sharon joined the Haganah, the underground paramilitary force that was the precurser to the Israeli Defense Forces in the 1940s. He rose to command in Israel’s wars with its Arab neighbors in 1948, 1956, 1973 and 1982.

The Litigant

It was an allegation about what he did or didn’t do in that last conflict that caused our paths to cross in the Fall and Winter of 1984-85 at the federal courthouse for the Southern District of New York. Sharon was suing Time magazine for libel — and $50 million — and your 4GWAR editor, then a reporter with the Associated Press in New York, covered the trial.

Sharon claimed he had been libeled by a 1983 Time magazine article about a massacre at two Palestinian refugee camps in Israeli-occupied West Beirut. The attack, which killed hundreds, was conducted by Lebanese Christian militiamen seeking revenge for the assassination of their leader Bashir Gemayel. No Israeli troops were involved.

The lawsuit all came down to a single paragraph in the Time story which indicated Sharon, then Israel’s defense minister, had given the Gemayel militiamen the go-ahead to attack the camps, where women and children, as well as fighting men, were killed. Sharon denied the allegation and went on the offensive in a case packed with high drama. The rotund former general was a feisty witness who gave as good as he got from Time’s lawyers. His chief accuser, Time correspondent David Halevy, had been a tank commander under Sharon in the ’73 war.  The federal judge, Abraham Sofaer, negotiated with the Israeli government about releasing a classifed report about the massacre. Sharon’s trench-coated bodyguards frequently set off the metal detector as they entered the courtroom  but neither they nor the federal marshals guarding the door would say if the two Israeli security men were armed. However, they did reflexively reach under their coats when jostling TV camera crews on the courthouse steps sent a newspaper reporter flying into Sharon as he exited the building.

The Wait

One day outside the courtroom, Sharon was pelted with questions in Hebrew by Israeli reporters. Answering in Hebrew he pointed up toward the ceiling. When the Israelis pressed him, he pulled a black yarmulke, the skull cap Jews wear in the synagogue. When we American reporters pumped them about what had been said, the Israelis told us Sharon had said even if he did not win, his accusers would have to answer to a higher court — pointing toward Heaven. When some of the Israelis questioned whether he was really that pious, Sharon dug the yarmulke out of his pocket, proffered it and gave a “What do you think?” shrug.

Everything was complicated about the case — even the verdict. The jury had to make three separate findings: was the Time report false? They deemed it was? Was it defamatory and had Time been careless or reckless about publishing it? Again, the jury said yes. While waiting for the jury’s decision on the final legal requirement — Was the false and defamatory paragraph published with malice? — I asked Halevy if he was worried. He replied that the tense wait for the jury was nothing compared to receiving orders in 1973 to send his outnumbered tank unit to attack a line of Egyptian tanks in the Sinai.

On January 24, 1985 the jury decided the article had not been published with malice but jurors also issued a statement chiding Time for sloppy reporting and fact-checking. Both sides claimed victory at dueling news conferences on the courthouse steps.

January 14, 2014 at 1:40 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: South Sudan, Central African Republic, Tunisia

South Sudan

Ugandan authorities are struggling with the increasing number of people fleeing the continued fighting in neighboring South Sudan, the BBC reports.

Sudan and South Sudan from CIA World Factbook

Sudan and South Sudan from CIA World Factbook

More than 20,000 South Sudanese are now crammed into a refugee camp meant to hold 400. And the numbers keep growing as more than 2,000 arrive every day. Food is inadequate, there is no shelter and hardly any water. The BBC’s the camp’s health centre is overflowing with pregnant women, children and the elderly.

There are also reports of ethnic fighting between the Dinka and the Nuer at the camp which is only a transit centre, so authorities cannot separate the warring ethnic groups yet.

Meanwhile, South Sudan’s army is advancing on the key rebel-held centres of Bentiu and Bor, as rebels strengthen defences in Bentiu. Reports say hundreds have fled violence in Bor and at least 1,000 people have been killed in fighting since December 15.

Thousands have fled Bentiu, capital of oil-rich Unity state. The city was said to be a ghost town with even the hospital reportedly deserted, the Guardian said.

And in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, peace talks between the rival South Sudanese factions appear deadlocked, the Voice of America reported Thursday (January 9). The stumbling block appears to be

P

Central African Republic

Central African Republic (CIA World Factbook)

Central African Republic
(CIA World Factbook)

The entire transitional assembly of the Central African Republic (CAR) has flown to Chad to attend a summit aimed at restoring peace in the country, the BBC reports. Regional leaders said the 135 member-assembly had been summoned because only they could decide the fate of their country.

The CAR’s interim leader, Michel Djotodia, is facing pressure to step down at a summit of regional leaders on Thursday because of his inability to halt the bloodshed that has forced about a million people to flee their homes, according to The Guardian.

Djotodia, who seized power in March at the head of the Seleka rebels, already lacked legitimacy in the eyes of other African governments. But he is considered an even greater liability as the country has descended into chaos amid reprisal attacks from mainly Christian militias against the largely Muslim rebel group. However, the VoA says Djotodia’s spokesman insists he will not resign.

The fighting in the CAR is neither a jihad nor a crusade, according to the Christian Science Monitor. The battle is over political power and the capital city of Bangui is the prize.

Tunisian Shift

Tunisia in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Tunisia in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

Tunisia’s Islamist prime minister resigned Thursday (January 9). The action by Ali Larayedh of the Ennahda Party, ends the two-year-old rule of his party, which has dominated the country’s political scene since the popular uprising that initiated the Arab Spring, the New York Times reported.

The resignation makes way for an interim government of independents under a plan to end months of political deadlock and mounting social unrest, the state news agency said, according to Aljazeera America.

.

.

January 10, 2014 at 1:02 am 2 comments

TERRORISM: Student, Top Police Official Die in Pakistan Attacks

Two Deadly Incidents

Two recent incidents have resulted in death at the hands of terrorists in Pakistan: A brave 15-year-old high school student and a senior police official in Pakistan’s struggle against the Taliban.

Pakistan map via CIA World Factbook

Pakistan map via CIA World Factbook

Tributes have been pouring in for the Pakistani teenager who was killed on Monday (January 6) when he tackled a suicide bomber targeting his school in northwest Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the BBC reports.

Fifteen-year-old Aitzaz Hasan was with friends outside school when they spotted a man wearing a suicide vest. Despite the pleas of his classmates, he decided to confront and capture the bomber who then detonated his vest, his cousin told the BBC.

Aitzaz is being hailed as a hero in an outpouring of praise on social media. He has has been declared a “great hero” by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinvial government, according to The News International. Locals are calling for the boy’s sacrifice to be acknowledged on a federal level “as he not only demonstrated bravery but also intelligence and courage,” the Pakistani news website said.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, a senior Pakistani policeman was killed in a bombing as his convoy was travelling through Karachi. He was killed along with at least two other officers, The Independent reported.

A faction of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing, following up on repeated vows through the years to have him killed, the New York Times reported.

The police official, Muhammad Aslam Khan — widely known as Chaudhry Aslam — had survived at least nine previous assassination attempts. His hard-charging public crusades against Karachi’s entrenched criminal enterprises and sectarian violence earned him many admirers, but also many enemies, officials said, according to the Times.

January 9, 2014 at 11:48 pm 1 comment

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