Posts tagged ‘Africa’
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.
– — –
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, 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.
Not Cars, Flying Boats
U.S. Sailors with Coastal Riverine Squadron 1 assemble a modular ramp before unloading a pair of 34-foot patrol boats from an Air Force C-5 Galaxy cargo plane at Camp Lemonnier in the East African nation of Djibouti, January 12, 2014.
In addition to training with the Air Force, CRS-1 conducts anti-terrorism, force protection and personnel recovery missions in the Horn of Africa area of operations.
Coastal Riverine Squadrons, formerly known as Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadrons, were established in the wake of terrorist attacks abroad, in particular the 2000 bombing of the guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG 67). Coastal Riverine Squadrons provide rapidly deployable defense personnel and assets for force protection and anti-terrorism operations.
Ugandan authorities are struggling with the increasing number of people fleeing the continued fighting in neighboring South Sudan, the BBC reports.
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’sthe 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 the issue of political detainees, on which neither side will budge.
The fighting began as a power struggle between South Sudan’s President Kiir and his chief rival, former vice president Riek Machar. The violence began in Juba, the capital city, on December 15 and has since spread to other parts of the country, pitting rival divisions of the armed forces and allied militias against one another, according to the VoA.
Political prisoners, who were detained by the government in the first days of the crisis, were accused of plotting a coup. The opposition has insisted that the detainees – who include Machar’s political allies – be released before agreeing to a cessation of hostilities.
Central African Republic
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.
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.
Updates with U.S. terrorist organization designation for al-Mulathamun Battalion; background on UN concerns; quote from Garvelink and background on Mokhtar Belmokhtar.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Africa’s vast Sahel region – on the southern edges of the Sahara Desert – has become the object of heightening international concern because of repeated droughts, political turmoil and violence. Many Western observers fear that the windswept region is becoming a breeding ground for disaffected Islamist extremists and terrorists spreading that violence across the continent — and possibly to Europe.
The U.S. State Department on Wednesday (December 18) named the al Mulathamun Battalion, a former al Qaeda-affiliated group operating in the Sahel, as a foreign terrorist organization. The group, once part of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), became a separate organization in late 2012 after its leader, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, split with AQIM.
A United Nations official says 16 million people in the Sahel are at risk of hunger in 2014 due to conflicts and rapid population growth — despite recent good harvests and rainfall, according to a Reuters report.
And U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that terrorism, trafficking in arms, drugs and people and other forms of transnational organized crime threaten security in the border region south of the Sahara. Because of the region’s vast size and porous borders, the security challenges can be addressed successfully “only if the countries in the region work together,” Ban told a U.N. Security Council meeting Dec. 12 on the Sahel situation.
Key to meeting those challenges is economic development and medical assistance, according to most of the panelists at a discussion Wednesday night on the troubled North African region at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank
A 2012 drought across the 10-nation region left 11 million people in danger from what the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calls food insecurity: They have used up their food stocks and are facing high food prices while awaiting the next harvest.
But violence in the area is on the increase, endangering outside aid workers trying to alleviate the crisis. “Never before has the intensity of conflict been so great,” said Santiago Martinez-Caro, general director of Casa Africa, the Spanish government’s diplomatic and economic outreach organization with Africa, where Spain once had colonies.
As the region’s economy continues to falter “the piracy issue is going to grow,” Martinez-Caro said, eventually sparking a multi-national military response like the one around the Horn of Africa on the continent’s eastern coast.
The people of the region are tough and resilient nomads, said journalist and film maker Donovan Webster. “All they need is water, education and some medical help,” he said, adding that clean water from newly dug wells has cut down on disease and migration.
But security remains a crucial issue for international organizations trying to assist victims of hunger, bad water and health problems, said Vivian Lowery Derryck, former assistant administrator for Africa at the U.S. International Development Agency (USAID).
“I think we can use development issues to promote peace,” said Lowery Derryck, who now heads The Bridges Institute. She noted that civil society – representing all aspects of a society – from the extended family to the state – can be a political catalyst to change governments without resorting to rebellions or military coups.
But the military can play an important role – positive or negative – when it comes to change, she added. She noted a number of factors can affect the actions of a soldier: mission, doctrine, religious considerations and respect from the civilian population. “Is he going to get paid?” Lowery Derryck asked, adding that if the soldier isn’t getting paid, he was likely to join AQIM, which does have money.
William Garvelink, former U.S. ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, noted that the U.S. government has closed most of its diplomatic missions in the Sahel, where institutions are weak and many governments are corrupt. A mediator in many of the region’s disputes — former Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi, “is gone,” he added — killed in a revolt that has released a flood of small arms and other weapons. Garvelink now is senior adviser for global strategy at the International Medical Corps.
After the split with AQIM, Mokhtar Belmokhtar merged al Mulathamun Battalion with another violent group: Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, according to the State Department. The new group, al Murabitoun, “constitutes the greatest near-term threat to U.S. and Western interests in the Sahel,” the State Department said.
The one-eyed Belmokhtar was the mastermind behind a January attack on a gas facility in Algeria that left left 38 civilians dead, including three U.S. citizens, according to the New York Times.
A Great Man’s Passing
Nelson Mandela, a boxer turned lawyer who fought for freedom and justice in his homeland and became the first black president of South Africa, has died.
Mandela, 95, passed away Thursday (December 5) at home in Johannesburg after years of declining health.
After 27 years in prison for battling the racist apartheid government in South Africa, Mandela was released in 1990, at age 72, following worldwide pressure on the white government in Pretoria. Mandela went on to become South Africa’s first president of color in the country’s first free, multi-racial elections in 1994.
He led the racially-polarized nation to reconciliation after years of brutality and injustice during apartheid. Mandela stepped aside after serving one five-year term, saying it was time for others to lead. It was a seldom-followed example for other African leaders.
Called “the father of his nation” by his many admirers, Mandela was praised by President Barack Obama. Mandela was mourned across Africa and praised by world leaders and ordinary people.
Central African Republic
The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved on Thursday (December 5) the deployment of French and African troops in the Central African Republic, where a coup in March has dissolved into chaos and violence, CNN reports.
The Security Council also voted to impose an arms embargo on the CAR, which lies east of Cameroon and north of the Democratic Republic of Congo (see map).
France’s president, Francois Hollande, says a French-led operation to protect civilians in the CAR will be launched immediately following the latest outbreak of sectarian fighting, according to the BBC. Hollande said a contingent of 650 troops will be “doubled within a few days, if not a few hours.” The French troops, under U.N. auspices, will join up with an existing African peacekeeping force.
Hollande said the the French role will be different from the one mounted in Mali, where French and African troops hunted down Islamist militants in the desert. Instead, they will act more like gendarmes, separating violent factions, the BBC reported. The CAR’s prime minister, Nicolas Tiangaye welcomed the move, the BBC said.
Meanwhile, a senior crisis response adviser for the human rights group, Amnesty International, expressed concern about the security situation in the CAR following the clashes between rival armed groups in the capital, Bangui, the Voice of America reported.
An official with the medical relief group, Doctors Without Borders, told the New York Times that at least 50 people have been killed in the fighting, with 100 others wounded. Other reports put the death toll at around 100, the Times reported.
Threat Rises in Afghanistan
A United Nations official says aid workers in Afghanistan are under an increasing threat in the war wracked country as most U.S. troops are preparing to leave by the end of next year.
Nine Afghan aid workers were killed in separate attacks on two days last month. Suspected Taliban gunmen killed six aid workers in northern Faryab province (see map) November 27. An explosive device killed three other aid workers in southern Uruzgan province the previous day, the Voice of America website reported.
An October report from the Aid Workers Security Database identified Afghanistan as the most dangerous country for aid workers, VoA added.
Mark Bowden, the U.N.’s Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan, said in a statement Saturday (November 30) that he’s “extremely concerned” about the rise in attacks on civilian aid workers during a time of transition when Afghanistan soldiers and police will be taking over security responsibilities from U.S. and NATO coalition forces.
“These tragic incidents illustrate the growing risks surrounding the delivery of aid and the increasing disrespect for humanitarian personnel in Afghanistan,” Bowen said.
“These tragic incidents illustrate the growing risks surrounding the delivery of aid and the increasing disrespect for humanitarian personnel in Afghanistan,” Bowen said.
According to Bowen, there were 237 attacks on Afghanistan’s aid workers through November – with 36 people killed, 46 wounded and 96 detained or abducted. Last year, there were 175 attacks, with 11 people killed, 26 wounded and 44 detained or abducted, the New York Times reported.
UN Drones Patrol Congo Skies
U.N. Peacekeepers have deployed two unarmed, unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) in the Democratic Republic of Congo to monitor rebel activity near the borders with Rwanda and Uganda, the BBC reports.
It is the first time U.N. peacekeepers have deployed a drone bought and paid for by the United Nations – rather than bringing them from their home countries, which Belgian and Irish troops have done in previous African peacekeeping missions.
The drones, two Falcos manufactured by Selex ES, a unit of Italian aerospace contractor Finmeccanica, were launched in the skies over Goma, a citry in the eastern DRC briefly occupied byM23 rebels. The rebels are mostly ethnic Tutsi fighters who were integrated in the DRC Army in 2009, but mutinied in 2012 over their alleged mistreatment by the DRC Army.
More than 800,000 people fled their homes due to the violent revolt, which M23 leaders ended last month after U.N. Peacekeepers took the gloves off and pursued an offensive against the rebel group.
The drones will be used to see if any neighboring countries are supplying the rebel militia. Both Rwanda and Uganda have denied aiding the M23 rebels. UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the BBC that if successful in the DRC, the Falco UAVs could be used in other U.N. Peacekeeping missions.
AROUND AFRICA: Joseph Kony Surrender Talk; Nigeria vs. Boko Haram, Swedish Drone on East African Anti-pirate Patrol
End of the Road for LRA Leader?
Is he really sick? Does he seriously want to surrender? Those were the questions swirling around Joseph Kony, leader of the infamous, brutal rebel group, the Lord’s Resistance Army. An African Union official told reporters at United Nations headquarters Wednesday (November 20) that many reports say Kony – who has been indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court – is seriously ill and on the run along the borders of Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR), according to the Associated Press.
Ambassador Francisco Madeira told reporters the nature of Kony’s illness isn’t known, but he said Michael Djotodia, president of the Central African Republic (CAR) told him that his people had been in contact with Kony.
A spokesman for Djotodia went even farther, telling the Voice of America that Djotodia has talked with Kony by phone and that Kony said he is ready to put down his arms and come in from the bush.
The spokesman said Kony is in the southern part of the CAR near the Democratic Republic of the Congo with some 7,000 fighters. Past estimates have placed Kony’s troop strength as less than a thousand.
But U.S. Officials are skeptical that Kony means to surrender, the BBC reported. A State Department official told the British broadcaster that while some rebels have been in contact with authorities but Kony is not among them. Kony created the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the 1980s as a popular uprising against the Ugandan government. But the LRA was driven out of Uganda in 2005 and has been wandering between the CAR, the DRC and South Sudan, wreaking havoc, killing villagers and soldiers and abducting children to serve as child soldiers and sex slaves.
A contingent of U.S. Special Operations Forces have been advising African troops in the hunt for Kony and the LRA. The U.S. is offering a $5 million reward for him.
Battling Boko Haram
Lawmakers in Nigeria have approved a six-month extension of a state of emergency declaration in areas of the West African nation where troops are fighting Islamist militants, the Voice of America reports.
President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in the northeastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa in May, as part of an effort to defeat the violent militant group Boko Haram.
Last week (November 13) the U.S. State Department declared Boko Haram and a splinter group, Ansaru, as foreign terrorist organizations. The U.S. government finding labeled Boko Haram a “militant group with links to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)” – al Qaeda’s North African affiliate.
The State Department designation held Boko Haram responsible “for thousands of deaths in northeast and central Nigeria over the last several years – including targeted killings of civilians.” It accused the group of a “brutal campaign” against Nigerian military, government and civilian targets including a September attack that killed more than 160 civilians in Benisheikh and a 2011 suicide bombing at United Nations headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, that left 21 dead and dozens injured.
U.S. officials accused Ansaru, a smaller group which split with Boko Haram in January 2012, of attacking the Nigerian military and Western targets like the kidnapping and execution of seven international construction workers earlier this year.
Despite the inroads Nigerian security forces have made against the jihadist group in urban areas, Boko Haram killings and kidnappings have increased in rural areas, says John Campbell, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations. On the CFR Blog, Africa in Transition, Campbell says there are reports Boko Haram is now targeting – and beheading – truck drivers on the road between Kano and Maiduguri (see map, click to enlarge image) in northeast Nigeria, where the group is trying to impose strict Islamic sharia law.
Horn of Africa
Saab’s Skeldar Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) has been operationally deployed aboard a Spanish naval vessel on anti-piracy duty in the Gulf of Aden off the Horn of Africa, the African defense and security website Defence Web reports.
Skeldar is an unmanned rotary wing short-to-medium range aircraft. Mikael Franzen, director of tactical UAS for the Swedish defense contractor, said the Skeldar V-200 is being operated together with a manned helicopter to extend the ship’s surveillance reach in counter piracy activities by the European Union’s Operation Atalanta anti-piracy mission in the Indian Ocean .
The unmanned helo is based on the Spanish Navy offshore patrol vessel BAM Meteoro. Prior to being deployed in the Atalanta mission, Skeldar unerwent successful sea trials aboard the BAM Relampago in the waters off the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, Defence Web said.
Money’s Tight but Threats Are Growing
U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) may be best known for rescuing pirate captives in and around the Horn of Africa and taking out al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in Pakistan …
… but that’s only a small part of what the SOF community does, says Adm. William McRaven, head of U.S. Special Operations Command – which oversees the organization, training and equipping of SOF in the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
“Our core competency is understanding this human domain,” McRaven, a Navy SEAL, said during a panel discussion at last month’s Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) conference in Washington. He was referring to understanding the language, culture, history and human networks of any given battle space before operations begin – whether counter insurgency or hostage rescue.
And that competency will be crucial in future conflicts where landpower intersects with the human and cyber domains, said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, another member of the panel discussing the human nature of war and its implications for strategic landpower at AUSA. “Human interaction in a complex environment is going to be key to our success in the future,” Odierno said, noting: “I see SOF as the connective tissue between the [local] population and the conventional forces.”
McRaven has been telling audiences that as threats rise globally – but defense funding dwindles in coming years – SOF is going to have to partner with foreign allies, NATO forces and other agencies within the U.S. government like the State Department to accomplish its missions.
“We have limited resources, we have to figure out where we’re going to apply those resources,” McRaven told the Aspen Institute Security Forum in July. But he noted that working with partners is nothing new to SOF. “The larger part of what we do is help build partner capacity,” McRaven told the Aspen, Colorado conference.
To read more of this article, go to the Institute of Defense and Government Advancement‘s website.
MALI: Journalists Found Slain
Two French radio reporters were found slain in Mali Saturday just hours after they were kidnapped and a website in neighboring Mauritania says an al Qaeda affiliate is claiming responsibility for the murders, Reuters reported.
The dead were identified as Claude Verlon and Ghislaine Dupont. Their bodies were found Saturday (November 2) by a French patrol eight miles (12 kilometers) outside the town of Kidal (see map), where a Tuareg uprising last year plunged Mali into chaos, leading to a coup in the capital Bamako and the occupation of the northern half of the country by militants linked to al-Qaeda.
The news website Sahara Medias said on Wednesday (November 6) it had received a claim of responsibility from al Qaeda’s regional wing for the killing of two journalists.
According to Reuters, a Sahara Medias reporter said a spokesman for a senior regional commander for al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), had called by satellite phone to read a communique in Arabic. The caller had started by speaking in Tamashek, the language spoken by Tuaregs in northern Mali.
The communique said the killing was just a part of the price France will pay for this year’s military intervention by France, which drove out Islamist militants who had seized half the country.
Meanwhile, Paris says its timetable for withdrawing troops from Mali remains firm despite an upsurge in violence, according to the Voice of America. France has about 3,000 troops in Mali and intends to withdraw about 2,000 of them by year’s end.
The abduction of the two journalists came just days after the liberation of four French hostages in neighboring Niger. The men had been held by AQIM for three years.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists a total of 42 journalists have been killed around the world so far this year, the New York Times reported.
M23 Rebels Give Up
The M23 rebel group in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is ending its insurgency, hours after the government claimed military victory, the BBC reports.
The M23 movement said it would adopt “purely political means” to achieve its goals and urged its fighters to disarm and demobilise. Meanwhile the government says the last remaining rebels had either surrendered or fled the country.
More than 800,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the turbulent region of the DRC since M23 — mostly ethnic Tutsis fighters who were integrated into the DRC Army in 2009 but then mutinied and revolted in 2012 over their alleged mistreatment by the Army.
The rebels announced they would disarm and pursue political talks just hours after government forces drove the rebels out of their last two hilltop bases of Tshanzu and Runyoni, Aljazeera reported. A two-week UN-backed offensive had cornered the rebels in the hills along the border with Uganda and Rwanda.
AROUND AFRICA: Hostages Released, Somali Drone Strike; Kenya Mall Attack Arrests, Another Pirate Attack
(Click on images to enlarge)
Hostages in Niger Freed
French hostages abducted from a uranium mine in Niger in 2010 have been released, French President Francois Hollande announced today (October 29). He said France’s foreign and defence ministers have left for Niger’s capital, Niamey, and the hostages would return home as soon as possible, according to the BBC.
The four men were seized in September 2010 in raids targeting two French firms operating a uranium mine near Arlit, northern Niger. The al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group said it was responsible for the kidnappings.
Drone Targets al Shabab?
A U.S. missile strike destroyed a car in Somalia Monday (October 28) believed to be carrying a top leader of the al Shabab Islamist militant group, the Associated Press and other news outlets reported.
The attack was believed to be launched from an unmanned aircraft, or drone, but that has not been officialy confirmed. If a drone strike in southern Somalia is confirmed, it will further illustrate the increasing importance placed by estern powers on counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa, the AP noted. Among the dead in the attack was al Shabab’s top bombmaker, Ibrahim Ali, one of the group’s members told the AP.
Three weeks ago, U.S. Navy SEALS launched an unsuccessful raid at Baraawe on the Somali coast that targeted a Kenyan of Somali origin, known as Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, who went by the name “Ikrimah.” He was identified as the main planner of al-Shabab attack on Kenya’s parliament building and the United Nations’
The New York Times noted that the Obama administration has been reluctant to launch drone strikes in Somalia with the regularity it has in Pakistan and Yemen. The Times said that may be in part over whether the U.S. could legally target al Shabaab, which has not tried to attack on American soil. There are also concerns that drone strikes might only incite al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab, transforming the group from a regional organization aimed at driving Kenyan, Ethiopian and African Union troops out of Somalia into one with an agenda as violent and international as Al Qaeda’s.
Arrests in Nairobi Mall Looting
Two Kenyan soldiers have been fired – and arrested – for stealing cell phones and other items during last month’s deadly siege at an upscale mall in Nairobi, the Voice of America reported today (Oct. 29).
More than 60 people were killed during the four-day siege at the Westgate shopping center.
Security camera footage showed several soldiers taking things from various shop counters and walking away from stores carrying plastic bags during four-day ordeal.
At first the Kenyan military said soldiers only took water from the mall’s shops while battling Islamist militants. But after the carnage was over, shopkeepers claimed stores had been looted, including break-ins at automatic teller machines and banks themselves in the mall. Earlier, the Kenyan military said soldiers only took water from the Westgate shopping center as they battled Islamist militants.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the raid, saying it was retaliation for Kenya’s military intervention into Somalia two years ago. Kenya sent troops to Somalia to help battle al-Shabab, which has been fighting to turn Somalia into a strict Islamist state.
West African Pirates
The new Tom Hanks film, “Captain Phillips” illustrates how dangerous the waters off the coast of East Africa were just a few years ago.
But now the seafarers’ danger zone is on the other side of the continent, in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, the Christian Science Monitor relates.
While Somalia’s pirates tend to engage in protracted hostage-takings that could stretch for months or even years, pirates in the Gulf of Guinea prefer smash-and-grab operations to steal cargo, according to the Monitor, adding “They especially favor refined oil products like gasoline and diesel that can be sold elsewhere.”
In the latest incident, two American merchant seamen – the captain and chief engineer of the C-Retriever – a 222-foot oil platform supply vessel, were seized by pirates in the waters off Nigeria, where pirate incidents have boomed lately.
The merchant sailors’ whereabouts are currently unknown.
The C-Retriever is owned by the company Edison Chouest Offshore in Louisiana. The ship and 11 other members of the crew were released, the Associated Press reported.