Posts tagged ‘Horn of Africa’
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.
Two U.S. Air Force pararescuemen — assigned to the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron — battle the elements to rush a simulated ” victim” to a Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter during Mass Casualty Exercise 12-1, which started in the Grand Bara Desert of Djibouti in September.
The exercise called for the employment of real-world assets. While French and U.S. forces conduct frequent combined training events, this was the first exercise of this type between the two nations in Djibouti. The U.S. forces involved are assigned to Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa, or CJTF-HOA. CJTF-HOA which works with coalition partners, such as the French, and with countries in East Africa to promote regional security and stability. To enlarge the photo, just click on the image.
Nigerian Pirates Extending Range
Piracy is on the rise in the waters off west Africa – especially in an around Nigeria – according to statistics from the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Global Piracy Report.
While the number of incidents and ships seized by pirates is down for the 1st Quarter of 2012, compared to the first three months of 2011, the threat of Somali pirates operating in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden remains high, with attacks off Nigeria, Benin and other West African countries increasing, said the Kuala Lampur-based IMB.
Worldwide, there were 102 incidents of piracy or armed robbery at sea during January to March 2012, compared to 142 incidents for the same period last year. In 2012, 11 vessels were reported hijacked worldwide, with 212 crew members taken hostage and four slain. Additionally, 45 vessels were boarded with 32 attempted attacks and 14 vessels fired upon. Five locations were responsible for 70 percent of the 102 incidents: There were 28 incidents near Somalia, 18 near Indonesia, 10 in the waters near Nigeria, 8 in the Gulf of Aden and 7 in the Red Sea.
Nigerian piracy has been “increasing in incidence and extending in range,” says Pottengal Mukundan, director of the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre. The number of reported incidents is twice what it was for the same period last year. At least six of the Nigerian incidents occurred more than 70 nautical miles from the coast “which suggests that fishing vessels are being used as mother ships to attack shipping further afield,” Mukundan said.
But Somalia continues to dominate with 43 attacks including the hijacking of nine vessels and 144 crew members taken hostage. That’s down from 97 incidents and 16 hijackings in the 1st Quarter of 2011. The IMB report suggests actions by numerous navies off the Horn of Africa are responsible for the drop in incidents.
However “it is unlikely that the threat of Somali piracy will diminish in the short to medium term, unless further actions are taken,” the report concluded.
Here is a link to the IMB’s Live Piracy Incident Map.
“I Was Misinformed”
U.S. Navy Lt. Scott Pennoyer, (right), reads Petty Officer 2nd Class Geoff Shepelew the oath of enlistment. As you’ve probably noticed, there’s something different about this photo since both men are underwater. They are both assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 2, Navy explosives experts who are also trained divers and parachutists.
It was Sheplew’s choice to re-enlist beneath the surface of the Gulf of Tadjourna. The Defense Department has presented similar photos in the past.
But what caught our eye is the location: off the coast of Moucha Island, Djibouti. Normally the photos that come out of Djibouti, home to Camp Lemonier the only U.S. base in Africa, look more like this …
The juxtaposition reminds us of the line in the iconic 1942 Humphrey Bogart film Casablanca, when Bogey’s character tells the local police chief he came to Casablanca for the waters.
“The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert!” the policeman blurts out.
“I was misinformed,” Bogey deadpans.
Guess we were misinformed about Djibouti. There’s more to it than desert.
By the Way, 2012 marks the 70th anniversary of the release of Casblanca, which won the Best Picture Academy Award in 1943.
Over the Waves
Reconnaissance Marines assigned to the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) conduct insertion exercises from a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter. The Marines, carrying diving fins, plunged into the waters of the Arabian Sea after 15-foot motorized rubber raiding craft were launched out the back of two very low-flying helicopters.
The photographer, Navy Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Alan Gragg, told the Marine Corps flickr page that because this helo was so close to the waters’ surface (about 5 feet) he had to underexpose the shot to see through the cloud of spray. (Click here to see another photo illustrating his point).
The 11th MEU is deployed aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8) as part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group. The group, part of U.S. Central Command, is supporting maritime security operations and security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet’s area of responsibility (AOR) in the waters of the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.