Posts tagged ‘Disaster Relief’
French Hostage Released.
A Frenchman kidnapped by Islamist terrorists in North Africa more than three years ago has been freed, the French government announced today (December 9).
Details of the release of Serge Lazarevic were not disclosed but French officials have insisted that no ransom is paid or prisoners released in exchange for any French hostages. At one time 14 French citizens were being held by terrorists in Africa. A Malian security source told AFP that Lazarevic was released at Kidal in northern Mali.
French President Francois Hollande said there are “no more French hostages in any country in the world.” Another, Phillipe Verdon, who was abducted with Lazarevic in 2011 by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, was killed last year in retaliation for France’s military intervention in Mali to halt a revolt by Islamic extremists and nomadic Tuaregs.
While authorities denied or wouldn’t comment on reports that ransom was paid, a retired French anti-terrorism judge, Alain Marsaud, was more frank. He told France’s RTL radio: “There is no reease if there is no payment. Someone paid, if not the government, a business or insurance company.
A Malian newspaper and two sources, requesting anonymity, told Reuters that several Islamist-linked militants held in Mali were freed.
A Dutch tourist, Sjaak Rijke, kidnapped in Timbuktu in November 2011, has not been seen or heard from since he appeared alongside Lazarevic in a November AQIM video, the BBC reported.
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The World Health Organization reports new cases of Ebola are still rising in West Africa, with Sierra Leone overtaking Liberia with the highest number of cases.
Data published Monday (December 8) by the WHO shows Sierra Leone has recorded 7,798 cases of the deadly virus, making it the country with the fastest growing infection rate, according to the Voice of America website. Meanwhile, infection rates are dropping in Liberia, which now has just over 7,700 cases – but Liberia still has more Ebola deaths than any other country: a little more than 3,100.
Overall, Ebola has infected 18,000 people in Africa and killed 6,346. The vast majority of those cases have been in Liberia, Sierra Leone and neighboring Guinea.
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International Court Drops Kenyatta Charges.
The International Criminal Court has dropped its case against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta for alleged crimes against humanity.
The prosecution withdrew the charges Wednesday (December 5) against Kenyatta, citing a lack of evidence. But there were also allegations that because the Kenyan government did not cooperate with the international court’s investigation, the case was unable to proceed, according to the Voice of America website.
The ICC’s lead prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said there was not enough evidence to prove the charges against Kenyatta beyond a reasonable doubt. Bensouda said Kenya’s government failed to provide key documents to the prosecution, which undermined her investigations and “had a severe, adverse impact” on the case. She also said she reserved the right to file charges again if more evidence becomes available.
Kenyatta was charged for his alleged role — before he was president — in the ethnic violence that followed the 2007 Kenyan elections. More than 1,000 were killed and a half million more were displaced by the violence, which prosecutors claimed Kenyatta and his deputy president, William Ruto, incited.
After the ICC dropped the case, Kenyatta – son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta — called it a “travesty” adding that he felt vindicated, the BBC reported. In the Hague, prosecutors accused the Kenyan government of refusing to hand over evidence vital to the case and said officials in Nairobi had intimidated potential witnesses.
An airman role-playing as a simulated vehicle accident victim speaks with a first responder during an emergency response exercise on Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. Between them is a less-responsive “victim,” a role being played by a medical training mannequin. Both airmen are assigned to the 18th Security Forces Squadron, part of the 18th Mission Support Group.
The exercise tested the abilities of Kadena emergency responders — from firefighters to security forces and medical personnel — to administer life-saving techniques quickly in a stressful environment.
Defense Department officials have warned that training — whether it’s landing troops on a beach, flying a plane, putting out a fire or working together with foreign military partners — is one of the essential areas facing cutbacks because of congressionally mandated and White House-approved across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration.
To see more photos of the exercise, click here.
9/11 2001 and 2014
UPDATES with additional Obama remarks, criticism by Sens. McCain and Graham, Middle East coalition agreement and maps of Iraq and Syria by the Institute for the Study of War
It’s the 13th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania that left nearly 3,000 dead, hundreds injured and untold numbers traumatized by an surprise attack from a little known, but vicious, enemy.
Now America is gearing up to battle extremist terrorism again.
In a televised address from the White House Wednesday night (September 10) President Barack Obama outlined plans to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the violent militant group that calls itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The extremist group has emerged from the Syrian civil war to rout Iraqi military units and seize a swath of northern Iraq. The group, also known as ISIL (for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) has killed captured prisoners, threatened non Sunni Muslims like Shia and Yazidi with extermination, killed two American journalists in gruesome videos and forced Christian Iraqis to convert to Islam, flee the country or be killed.
“ISIL is not “Islamic.” No religion condones the killing of innocents. And the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim,” Obama said in his 14-minute address. He added: “And ISIL is certainly not a state. It was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq, and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria’s civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government, nor by the people it subjugates. ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.”
The president outlined a strategy for eliminating ISIS, which critics claim has taken too long to evolve and doesn’t go far enough. Obama said he was sending 475 more troops to Iraq to serve as advisers and trainers of Iraqi forces. That would bring the number of American troops there to more than 1,500 — just a few years after the United States withdrew combat troops from the war-shattered country. Obama also promised more airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL in Syria as well as Iraq, a step he has declined to take in the past. Since August, the United States has launched 150 airstrikes against ISIS/ISIL targets in Iraq. The United States has also been dropping cargo pallets of food, water and other relief supplies to Iraqi refugees hiding in the mountains.
“Moreover, I have made it clear that we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are. That means I will not hesitate to take action against ISIL in Syria, as well as Iraq. This is a core principle of my presidency: If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven,” Obama said, noting U.S. actions against al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia. He also stressed that the additional forces will not have a combat mission. “We will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq,” he pledged.
But if ISIS/ISIL is left unchecked it could pose a treat to the Middle East and beyond, including the United States. American intelligence agencies believe that thousands of foreign nationals, including Europeans and some U.S. citizens have flocked to Syria over the last three years to fight against the Assad regime and other rebel groups. There is concern that those fighters, now battled-tested and exposed to extreme radical ideology, could return to their home countries and launch terrorist attacks. U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson made that point back in February.
Obama called on Congress to authorize and fund the training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels. He also said the United States will work with partner nations to redouble intelligence and counter terrorism efforts to prevent a terror attack by ISIS/ISIL in America. Lastly,Obama to keep support relief efforts for the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have fled their homes to avoid persecution by ISIS/ISIL. Obama pledged to head a coalition of partner nations to battle the threat. “Already, allies are flying planes with us over Iraq; sending arms and assistance to Iraqi security forces and the Syrian opposition; sharing intelligence; and providing billions of dollars in humanitarian aid,” Obama said.
Shuttle diplomacy by Secretary of State John Kerry has born fruit. Leaders from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and the Gulf Cooperation Council – an alliance of the Sunni Arab Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates – have pledged to “stand united” against “the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant,” according to The Guardian website.
But the British newspaper notes there are several thorny issues such as whether the Assad regime will allow coalition warplanes into its airspace to bomb ISIS/ISIL and whether U.S. advisers will enter Syria with the retrained rebels. There are also questions about what role pro-Assad Russia will play as well as Shia-majority Iran, which sees ISIS/ISIL as a threat on its border.
Dawn’s Early Lights
U.S. Air Force Capt. Erica Stooksbury adjusts the cockpit lighting controls as the sun rises following a humanitarian airdrop mission over Amirli, Iraq, Aug. 31, 2014. Two C-17s dropped 79 container delivery system bundles of fresh drinking water totaling 7,513 gallons. In addition, two U.S. C-130s aircraft dropped 30 bundles totaling 3,032 gallons of fresh drinking water and 7,056 meals ready to eat
Stooksbury is a C-17 Globemaster III pilot assigned to the assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron.
UPDATES with Mali president’s discussion of security issues in the Sahel at Washington think tank appearance.
Africa on the Potomac.
Leaders from nearly 50 African nations are heading home after a three-day business forum with U.S. corporate executives in Washington organized by President Barack Obama.
Obama did not meet privately with any of the African leaders but addressed the U.S.-Africa Business Forum and hosted a dinner for the African dignitaries on the South Lawn of the White House, the New York Times reported.
Obama also announced $12 billion in new funding for his administration’s Power Africa initiative, which aims to provide electricity to households across sub Saharan Africa. He also promoted $14 billion in new investments by American companies in Africa, including $5 billion from Coca-Cola, according to the Times.
The White House said those and other new commitments “amount to more than $33 billion, supporting economic growth across Africa and tens of thousands of U.S. jobs.”
The gathering was overshadowed in part by the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa and ongoing violence in a number of countries like Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic. Some African leaders bristled at press questions about the Ebola epidemic, which has claimed 900 lives in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The presidents of Liberia and Sierra Leone skipped the business summit to deal with the health crisis in their countries.
One of the delegates to the business forum, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali will be speaking Thursday (August 7) at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The topic is Security in the Sahel, where military coups, revolts, kidnappings of foreigners and terror attacks by Islamist militants have rocked the arid North Africa region south of the Sahara. Your 4GWAR Editor monitored his talk and the ensuing question and answer session. See next item.
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Before heading home from the U.S.-Africa Business Forum, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
Keita told an overflow crowd a CSIS that international assistance – especially military logistics — had helped bring his country back from the brink following a 2012 military coup and rebellion in Mali’s northern deserts by nomadic Tuaregs and radical Islamist militants. But the threat to Mali, the region and the world isn’t over, Keita warned. “We’re at a strategic nexus. This is a completely lawless region,” Keita, who spoke in French and sometimes English, said through an interpreter.
For decades, the Tuaregs have rebelled against the government in Bamako, claiming their health, education and economic needs were being ignored in the southern capital. Because of the harsh physical and economic landscape of the north. “rebels are in a situation of despair” and that makes them receptive to the message of outsiders armed with cash as well as guns and preaching jihad against westerners and Bamako, he said. “New jihadists may be trained in that region” and that poses a danger for world peace, said Keita, who was elected president in July 2013. Compounding the problem, a flow of heavy weapons out of neighboring Libya and Tuareg mercenaries who know how to use them after the fall of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi in 2011
He said Bamako wants to assist the north and has pooled “millions of dollars” for that purpose, but asked how could the government develop the region or build a school amid constant fighting. “We have no other choice but to move toward peace. We need peace to rebuild Mali,” Keita said.
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Ebola Toll Rises
In Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has declared a state of emergency as the country grapples with the deadly Ebola virus.
Speaking on national television she said some civil liberties might have to be suspended, the BBC reported. The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 930 people in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria — where a second death has been reported, according to the Voice of America.
World Health Organization (WHO) experts are meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss a response to the outbreak. The two-day meeting will decide whether to declare a global health emergency, according to the BBC.
Meanwhile, President Obama said it is “premature” to send an experimental medicine for the treatment of Ebola. Obama said Wednesday (August 6) that he lacked enough information to green-light a promising medicine called ZMapp that was already used on two American aid workers who saw their conditions improve by varying degrees, Al Jazeera America reported. There is no known cure for the virus which has a fatality ate between 60 and 90 percent.
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Attack in Cameroon
Ten people were killed and a child was kidnapped in an attack by suspected Boko Haram militants on a remote part of northern Cameroon.
Police said the militants gunned down nine civilians and a soldier in the town of Zigague. State-run radio reported the kidnapped child is he daughter of a local chief, the Voice of America website reported.
Boko Haram extremists have killed thousands of people in its five-year campaign to turn northern Nigeria into a strict Islamic state. Their violence often spills over into neighboring countries like Cameroon. The latest attack follows the deployment of more than 1,000 soldiers along Cameroon’s long and porous border with Nigeria last month.
Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya last week dismissed two senior army officers leading the battle against Islamist militants just two days after militants abducted the deputy prime minister’s wife and her maid from the northern town of Kologata, according to the BBC. The raiders also kidnapped a local religious leader who is also the town’s mayor
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Brooks Graham (left) directs a landing craft air cushion (LCAC) into the well deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu following a training exercise in the Pacific Ocean, June 25, 2014.
The Peleliu was on its way to Hawaii to participate in the multi-national sea-and-air exercise, Rim of the Pacific 2014. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel participated in what is billed as the world’s largest maritime exercise — commonly known as RIMPAC — in and around the Hawaiian Islands.
To see more photos of RIMPAC 2014, click here.
Video of an LCAC in action
4GWAR’s FRIDAY FOTO feature didn’t take a day off for the Fourth of July holiday. A summer storm in the Washington, DC area Thursday afternoon (July 3) caused a power outage at 4GWAR “World Headquarters” knocking out our cable/internet access until today. We apologize to our visitors for the delay.
Black Hawks Up
UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from the 1st Battalion, 140th Aviation Regiment, 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, depart Camp Roberts, California in a tactical formation. The Black Hawks were on their way to pick up California National Guard soldiers for an air assault mission. The troops also trained for disaster relief and emergency response.