Posts tagged ‘Nigeria’
Libya appears to be sliding into anarchy as a raging fire, touched off by a missile strike, has closed the main airport and 61 people have been reported killed in just the last 24 hours, according to the Voice of America. VoA noted the death toll stands at 150 in two weeks of clashes across the North African country.
Two rival brigades of former rebels fighting for control of Tripoli International Airport have been pounding each other’s positions with rockets, artillery fire and cannons for two week — turning the south side of Libya’s capital into a battlefield, Reuters reported. On Sunday (July 27) a rocket struck and ignited a huge jet fuel storage tank — forcing closure of the airport as several foreign embassies have been evacuating their diplomatic personnel and hundreds of foreign nationals are trying to flee the country on Africa’s Mediterranean coast. The airport fire raged out of control Monday (July 28) and Libya’s interim government sought international assistance.
The violence, which has been escalating and spreading since Libyan strongman Muammar Qadaffi was deposed and killed three years ago, has prompted the U.S. Embassy to move the diplomatic staff out of Tripoli to Tunisia. The United Nations and Turkey have moved their diplomats out as well. According to the Pentagon, all embassy personnel were relocated, including the Marine security guards, by ground vehicle on Saturday (July 26) without incident. During the exodus F-16 fighter jets and MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft (carrying an Airborne Response Force) and unspecified intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets provided security.
Nearly 100 people have been killed by ongoing clashes at the airport since early July and scores more have been killed recently in Benghazi — where government forces clashed with Islamic militants — and in Tripoli, where rival militias are fighting.
At least eight foreign governments (Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey and the United States) are urging their citizens to leave Libya immediately. Libya’s neighbors and Western security analysts worry that the chaos will spread beyond Libya’s borders — and create a a safe haven for terrorists close to Europe. Already, many of the heavy weapons — like man-portable rocket launchers and truck mounted machine guns — have disappeared from Qadaffi’s armories and spread across North Africa.
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The wife of Deputy Prime Minister Amadou Ali was abducted in the northern Cameroonian town of Kolofata. A local religious leader, who was the town’s mayor, was also abducted in a separate attack. At least three people were killed in the raids.
Boko Haram has been increasing cross-border incursions into Cameroon in recent weeks and the West African country has deployed troops to the region bordering Nigeria. Officials said the attack on the vice prime minister’s house was the third in Cameroon since Friday (July 25). At least four soldiers were killed in previous attacks. About 22 suspected Boko Haram militants, in custody since March, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10-to-20 years in Maroua, Cameroon on Friday (July 25). It’s not known if the attacks are related to that. Militants have kidnapped foreign nationals in northern Cameroon before, including a French family and Chinese workers.
Meanwhile, at least five people were killed by a bomb in northern Nigeria and locals suspect Boko Haram is responsible. Nigerian police say the five victims were killed when a bomb was thrown at worshippers as they were leaving a church in Nigeria’s main northern city of Kano on Sunday (July 27, the BBC reported. A young female suicide bomber also wounded five police officers as she rushed towards them and blew herself up in a separate incident, they added
Boko Haram has been waging a five year terror war against the Nigerian government, Western influence and Christians in largely Muslim northeast Nigeria. The group’s name, in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria, has been translated to mean either “Western education is forbidden” or “Western education is false or fraudulent.” The concept stems from British attempts during the colonial era to force a unified education curriculum for Nigerian children that by-passed traditional Muslim schools in the rural north. Boko Haram wants to carve out an Islamic state in northern Nigeria under strict sharia law.
Last week, Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and Niger agreed to form a 2,800-strong regional force to tackle Boko Haram. Efforts to step up regional co-operation gathered momentum after Boko Haram abducted more than 200 girls from a boarding school in north-eastern Nigeria. The Nigeria government of President Goodluck Jonathan — who faces re-election this year — of doing too little, too late to find and rescue the girls.
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Ebola Threat Spreads
As the death toll from the Ebola epidemic continues to rise, the New York Times reports that panicked villagers in Guinea are blocking and even attacking international aid workers, fearing that it is the doctors who spread the deadly virus.
Workers and officials, blamed by panicked populations for spreading the virus, have been threatened with knives, stones and machetes, their vehicles sometimes surrounded by hostile mobs. Log barriers across narrow dirt roads block medical teams from reaching villages where the virus is suspected. Sick and dead villagers, cut off from help, are infecting others, according to a piece written by the Times’ Adam Nossiter.
Liberia, one of the affected countries, has closed most of its border crossings and communities hit by the epidemic face quarantine in an effort to halt the outbreak, deemed the deadliest by the United Nations. Screening centers are also being set up at the few major entry points that will remain open, such as the main airport, according to the BBC.
Meanwhile, Nigeria largest’s airline, Arik Air, has suspended all flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone after a man with Ebola flew to Nigeria last week and later died.
Two US aid workers are also being treated for Ebola in Liberia, including Dr Kent Brantly, who was the medical director at one of the country’s two treatment centres run by the group, Samaritan’s Purse. The other American, Nancy Writebol, works for the Serving in Mission (SIM) as part of the same team, BBC said.
On Saturday (July 26), one of Liberia’s most prominent health officials treating Ebola patients at the country’s largest hospital, Dr. Samuel Brisbane, died after contracting the disease, according to The Independent. A Ugandan doctor working in Liberia also died earlier this month, while last week the virus infected Sheikh Umar Khan, Sierra Leone’s chief Ebola doctor
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Air Algerie Crash
French officials are citing poor weather as the most likely cause of the crash of an Air Algerie flight over Mali in northwest Africa with 118 people on board.
Investigators at the scene of the crash in northern Mali concluded the airliner broke apart when it hit the ground, officials said, suggesting it was unlikely to have been the victim of an attack. But French authorities are not ruling out other causes, including terrorism, without a full investigation, the Associated Press reported.
The MD-83 twin engine jet liner — bound for Algiers, Algeria — disappeared less than an hour after takeoff from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Following on the heels of the shootdown of a Malaysian Airlines jet over Ukraine and the mysterious disappearance of another Malaysian jet bound for Beijing earlier this year the Algerian plane’s disappearance sparked concerns about a hijacking or a surface-to-air missile attack. Yhe area where the plane crashed was a conflict zone a year ago when nomadic Touregs and Islamic extremists launched a rebellion against Mali’s government and seizied half the country. French, Malina and Dutch troops from the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali secured the crash site. The plane’s black boxes have been recovered and will be studied for clues to what caused the plane to crash.
Scores of people are reported killed by a pair of explosions in the northern Nigerian city of Kaduna. Police say one of the bombs apparently targeted a moderate Muslin cleric who has criticized the Muslim extremist group, Boko Haram, the Voice of America reported.
About three hours after the first blast there was another explosion in a crowded Kaduna market “where a VOA reporter on the scene counted dozens of bodies,” VOA said. The second, deadlier, blast appears to have targeted opposition leader and former Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, according to Reuters. Buhari, who was riding in an armored vehicle, escaped harm but a Red Cross official said 50 people were killed in the market blast.
No group claimed responsibility for either blast, but Boko Haram has previously targeted markets and clerics who criticize the group’s hard line ideology and violence. The market blast could also have involved local politics rather than terrorism — given Buhari’s previous political battles with President Goodluck Jonathan. The explosions occurred on the same day that activists marked the 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April.
There were demonstrations Wednesday (July 23) in support of the high school girls kidnapped by the Islamist extremists 100 days earlier. But there is little apparent progress in Nigeria’s attempts to find the girls and return them to their families.
President Goodluck Jonathan met Tuesday (July 22) with the families of the 200-plus girls taken by force. He also pledged to ensure the girls “are brought out alive.” Jonathan also met with some of the schoolgirls who managed to escape their captors.
The suffering continues: In the three months since the girls were taken, 11 of their parents have died, the Associated Press reported. Seven of the kidnapped girls’ fathers were among 51 bodies brought to the Chibok hospital after an attack on the nearby village of Kautakari this month, said a health worker who insisted on anonymity for fear of reprisals by the extremists, the AP reported.
Meanwhile, Chibok, the town where the girls were kidnapped is cut off and Boko Haram has been atacking villages that are increasingly close to Chibok.
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EU Anti-Piracy Effort
The European Union has extended the mandate of its civilian anti-piracy efforts until the end of 2016.
The EU Foreign Affairs Council voted in Brussels, Belgium to extend the mission on regional maritime capacity building in the Horn of Africa (also known as EUCAP Nestor), the Kuwaiti News Agency reports.
The civilian mission is part of the EU’s comprehensive approach to fighting piracy in the Horn of Africa – alongside the EU Naval Force Somalia and the EU training mission for Somalia, the Council said in a statement.
EUCAP Nestor works to reinforce the ability of states in the Horn of Africa and along the Western Indian Ocean to better govern their territorial waters to help them fight piracy more effectively. The EU assistance includes advice, mentoring and training for coast guard, maritime criminal justice system and coastal police units. Work is being done in Somalia, Djibouti, the Seychelles and in Tanzania.
The EU mission has 80 international and 13 local staff in the headquarters in Djibouti as well as in several country offices. It has a budget of 11.9 million euros.
Efforts by the European Union, NATO and the United Nations have been successful in reducing pirate activity of the coast of East Africa, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
“In 2011 at the height of piracy, 237 attacks took place in the zone of the Horn of Africa, the Red Sea and the northwest Indian Ocean. So far in 2014, there have been seven attacks, all of which failed, according to the International Maritime Bureau,” the Monitor reported.
Efforts at sea have included the U.S.-led Combined Task Force 151, with navies from six nations. Operation Atalanta of the European Union Naval Force has a special mandate to protect aid shipments to Somalia. The third flotilla is NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield.
HOT SPOTS: Nigeria.
Another bombing and more deaths in Nigeria where the government is battling radical Islamist militants. This time, the blast was at a market in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, the birthplace of Boko Haram, the anti-Western extremisty group blamed for dozens of bombings, killings and kidnappings across Nigeria in recent weeks.
At least 56 people were killed by the car bombing, according to the Associated Press, which noted that Maiduguri, [see map] a city of more than 1 million people, has suffered several attacks. In March, twin car bombs killed more than 50 people at a late-night market where many were watching a football match on a big television screen.
But the violence has been widespread. On Sunday, suspected extremists sprayed gunfire on worshippers at four churches in a northeastern village and torched the buildings, killing at least 30 people, according to the AP. Last week, at least 42 people were killed in three blasts around the country, including 24 slain at the biggest shopping mall in Nigeria’s central capital Abuja.
President Goodluck Jonathan will be visiting Washington this summer to attend the United States-African Leaders Summit (August 5-6). On July 31 he will be speaking about his country’s turmoil at the National Press Club in Washington. Jonathan’s government has taken sharp criticism at home and abroad for its inability to stop the bombing attacks or rescue more than 200 high school girls kidnapped from a school in northeast Nigeria in April.
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A different kind of “summit” meeting is being held in Accra, Ghana where health ministers from 11 African countries are trying to “get a grip” on the worsening Ebola outbreak, the BBC reports.
So far, 763 people have been infected with the virus – and 468 of these have died. Most of the cases have been in Guinea where the outbreak started. But it has since spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The outbreak is the worst since the disease was identified in the 1970s, Peter Piot, director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told the Voice of America. Ebola causes fever, vomiting, bleeding and diarrhea. It is spread through contact with the blood or other fluids of infected people.
Meanwhile, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says anyone caught hiding suspected Ebola patients from authorities will be prosecuted. Sirleaf issued the warning on state radio Monday (July 1), expressing concern that some patients had been kept in homes and churches instead of receiving medical attention, al Jazeera America reported.
Sierra Leone issued a similar warning last week, saying some patients had discharged themselves from the hospital and gone into hiding. Health workers elsewhere in the region have encountered hostility and some have even been attacked.
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Drones Over the Congo
United Nations peacekeepers have begun flying unarmed, unmanned surveillance aircraft over the war-wracked eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Italian-made unmanned aircraft are the first acquired by the U.N. for peacekeeping missions but their presence is already posing questions about how the intelligence they collect will be used and who will get to see it, according to the New York Times. Another question is just how useful they will be in a country of distances far great than their 125 mile/200 kilometer flying range from their base in Goma [see map].
More and more, drones are flying over some of the toughest peacekeeping missions in the world, improving the United Nations’ intelligence-gathering capability, but also raising new issues about what to do with so much important data, the Times reported.
AROUND AFRICA: Nigeria and Cameroon Battle Boko Haram, Kenyan Governor Arrested, Ebola Out of Control
An explosion at a shopping mall in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, has killed 21 and injured 17, according to officials.
No organization has claimed responsibility for the attack at the Emab Plaza mall in Abuja’s upscale Wuse 2 neighborhood, the Associated Press reported, but many in Nigeria are blaming the radical Islamist group Boko Haram, which is behind a wave of bombings, killings and kidnappings.
On Monday (June 23) a bomb at a medical college in the northern city of Kano killed eight people. At least 14 more were killed last week in a bomb blast in Damaturu, a state capital in Nigeria’s violence-wracked northeast. That attack came at a World Cup television viewing site. In May, twin car bombs at Jos in the central part of the country left more than 130 people dead. A car bomb at a bus station killed 24 more in the Christian quarter of Kano.
According to the AP, two separate explosions in Abuja in April killed more than 120 people and wounded about 200 more at a busy bus station. Both of those blasts were claimed by Boko Haram.
Meanwhile, government officials are cautioning Nigerians to be on the alert in the wake of the Abuja blast. A government spokesman told Voice of America that the government will continue warning Nigerians about the dangers posed from terrorists. “We have issued the alert earlier on. It’s an ongoing event. Even yesterday we have a security awareness programs with principals of schools, an initiative that was introduced by the government,” said the spokesman Mike Omeri. “We have also been campaigning on the media for citizens to be more careful and they should be alert even before the World Cup, and the venues for viewing should be more secured.”
But critics say the government and security forces have not been doing enough — including finding and rescuing hundreds of high school girls kidnapped in April by Boko Haram. Despite worldwide condemation and pledges to provide assistance in locating and returning the girls, they still remain prisoners, their whereabouts uncertain. According to the Canadian news site CBC News, of 395 students who were at the secondary school in the village of Chibok, near the Cameroon border, on April 14, 219 remain unaccounted for. Meanwhile, witnesses say, Islamic extremists have abducted 60 more girls and women and 31 boys from villages in northeast Nigeria.
Cameroon’s Boko Haram Crackdown
Cameroon, Nigeria’s neighbor to the south, has been having its own troubles with Boko Haram militants and this week Cameroon’s military killed 10 suspected Boko Haram members in a clash near the border town of Mora. Officials said they also arrested 50 Nigerian businessmen on suspicion of collaborating with Boko Haram.
More is just across the border with Nigeria’s Borno state, where the Boko Haram insurgency has raged for five years. The group opposes Western teaching in Nigeria’s schools and wants to create Islamic state practicing strict Sharia law.
Colonel Chioka Pierre told Voice of America that Nigeria security forces have been conducting sweeps as part of an intensified crackdown on violent incidents, believed to be connected to Boko Haram. He said they have been searching more than half a dozen border villages to prevent incursions or to stop militants from using Cameroon as a hideout or launching pad for attacks. He said local residents were cooperating with the military to root out Boko Haram suspects in the area.
Kenya: Governor Charged
A regional governor in Kenya has been arrested and charged with terrorism and murder over attacks attacks in the Lamu district in which scores of people were killed.
Issa Timamy was charged over the attacks on the Mpeketoni town area. He faces several charges including murder. Kenya’s president has blamed the attacks on political networks, despite claims of responsibility by the Somali Islamist group al-Shabab, according to the BBC.
At least 60 people were killed in the attacks earlier in June killed, as gunmen descended on hotels and a police station.
NPR is reporting that an Ebola outbreak in West Africa is now the largest and most deadly wave of that virus ever recorded. The first cases were confirmed in Guinea in March. Health in West Africa officials thought they had the disease under control, but they did not. A rash of new cases has popped up in the neighboring countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization is calling for “drastic action” and announced an 11-nation summit meeting of the growing crisis.
As of Sunday, 635 cases of haemorrhagic fever – most confirmed to be Ebola – including 399 deaths have been reported across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, AFP reported via The Guardian. This week the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said the outbreak of the virus, which is deadly in up to 90% of cases, was “out of control,” AFP said.
U.S. Special Operations Forces and the FBI have captured one of the suspected leaders of the 2012 fatal attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack.
According to the Washington Post, the joint special operations and FBI Mission had been planned for months and was approved by President Barack Obama on Friday (June 13). The suspect was identified by the Pentagon as Ahmed Abu Khatallah. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said Khatallah is in U.S. custody in a secure location outside of Libya. There were no civilian casualties related to the operation, and all U.S. personnel involved in the operation have safely left Libya, Kirby said.
Officials said he would be brought to the United States in the coming days to face charges in a civilian court, the New York Times reported, adding that a sealed indictment sworn out secretly last July and made public on Tuesday (June 17) outlined three counts against him in connection with the deaths of Mr. Stevens, State Department official Glen Doherty and two CIA contractors – Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods.
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A suicide bomber has killed several people watching a televised World Cup soccer match in northern Nigeria’s Yobe state.
A hospital worker told the BBC that truckloads of injured people are being treated in overcrowded wards. “The injured people are so numerous I cannot count them,” the worker said after the blast in Damaturu town, BBC reported.
An emergency has been declared in three states, including Yobe, amid attacks by suspected Boko Haram militants.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian military has arrested more than 400 people traveling in southern Nigeria on suspicion they are members of Boko Haram. The men, and reportedly a few women, were traveling in more than 30 buses when they were stopped by the army Sunday (June 15) and detained at an army barracks in Abia state, according to the Voice of America.
Local officials said they were suspected of being members of Boko Haram, an Islamist insurgent group that has killed thousands of people in the past five years, mostly in the northeast part of the country. But a traditional leader from the north told VoA that the travelers were traders, looking to do business in the south.
Tensions have risen since a church bomb in another southern Nigerian city over the weekend raised fears that Boko Haram is seeking to operate in the southern part of the country. Another attack was reported in the strife-torn north, where more than 20 people killed Sunday (June 15) in the village of Daku. And more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April remain missing, despite pledges from Nigerian authorities and governments around the world to free them.
The United States, Britain, France, Canada and China are among the countries pledging to assist Nigerian authorities locate and rescue hundreds of schoolgirls abducted by the violent Islamist group, Boko Haram.
According to the Voice of America, a military spokesman said almost a dozen staff officers were already in Nigeria and would form the core of the U.S. team to aid in finding the nearly 300 kidnapped schoolgirls. Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said the team is “moving as quickly as possible.” About 10 more members from U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) will join the team within days.
The team will be based at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, and will help with communications, logistics and intelligence, VOA reported.
President Barack Obama directed the formation of an interagency coordination and assessment cell after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan accepted a U.S. offer of assistance, the colonel told reporters Wednesday (May 7).
Eight more Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted Sunday (May 4) in the turbulent northeast part of the country and the militant Islamist group, Boko Haram – which has admitted kidnapping hundreds of other girls last month — is suspected to be behind the latest attack, Reuters reported this week.
It happened at a village in Borno state, where their earlier mass abduction took place. That attack has prompted demonstrations in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital … a massive protest on Twitter … and calls for U.S. and British military assistance to help find the girls.
In addition to the U.S., Britain has promised to provide satellite imagery, France said it will send security agents and Canada offered surveillance equipment and personnel to run it. China became the latest nation to offer help on Thursday, VOA said.
Breaking a three-week silence, Abubaka Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram, which wants to restore a very conservative version of Islamic law to the majority Muslim region of Nigeria, threatened to sell the girls his followers seized April 14 at their school in Borno state, Al Jazeera and other news outlets reported.
There has been a great deal of confusion about how many girls were taken, how many were still being held and what the Nigerian government was doing to find them and punish the kidnappers.
Government and school officials first claimed most of the girls had escaped or were returned, But complaints by parents led officials to concede more than 200 – as many as 279 – girls were still being held in a remote, densely-forested area on the Nigeria-Cameroon border.
UNICEF told the New York Times that the second kidnapping in the village of Chibok involved at least eight girls who were seized from their homes to prevent them from attending school. The girls taken Sunday were between the ages of 12 and 15.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and recently determined the continent’s largest economy has been rocked in recent months by increasingly violent attacks from Boko Haram.
Bomb attacks in April and again last week in Abuja, the capital, killed a total of 94 people. In February, 29 male college students in Yobe province were killed in an attack blamed on Boko Haram. And between 100 (the government’s figures) and 300 people (local residents’ count) were killed by suspected Boko Haram gunmen in another northeast Nigerian town on a busy market day Monday, the BBC reported.
The school abduction has embarrassed oil-rich Nigeria, which is hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa in Abuja this week. Jonathan, who has faced angry protests over the lack of progress in finding the girls, requested help Sunday from the U.S. and other nations.
The Los Angeles Times reported in March, that U.S. troops were helping the Nigerian army establish a special operations command to defeat Boko Haram. U.S. and French air forces fly unarmed Reaper surveillance drones over northern Nigeria, from Niamey in neighboring Niger, to collect intelligence, the L.A. Times noted. The U.S. also has stepped up efforts in North Africa and East Africa against al Qaeda-linked extremist groups.
Second Nigerian Bombing.
Another bomb has gone off near Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.
The blast Thursday (May 1) occurred in Nyana near the transit center where a suicide bombing last month (April 14) killed 70 people and injured more than a hundred. Initial reports indicate 12 have been killed and many more have been injured in the latest attack, which is believed to have been a car bomb, according to the BBC.
Thursday’s bomb exploded near a checkpoint across the road from the bus station hit by the April 14 blast, according to the Associated Press, and just days before Abuja hosts scores of world leaders, philanthropists and business leaders arrive for the World Economic Forum on Africa.
The violent extremist group, Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the April bombing – part of a five-year terror campaign to install Islamic sharia law in the predominantly Muslim parts of Africa’s most populous nation. There’s no word on any group claiming credit for the latest blast.
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Train Attack in India
A young woman was killed and several other people injured Thursday (May 1) when two blasts rocked a train in the south Indian city of Chennai.
The bombings come in the middle of India’s on-going general election, but officials can’t say if the two are related, the BBC reported. The incident happened minutes after the express train from Bangalore in southern India to the northeastern city of Guwahati arrived in the Chennai station.
Investigators said Chennai might not have been the target since the train was running an hour and a half late, according to the New York Times.
In April, another bomb ripped through a railway car parked at a station in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 13 people. The blast in the town of Sibi also wounded 35 people, the Associated Press reported.
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Chinese President Xi Jinping is calling for “decisive actions” against what he termed “terrorist attacks” following a deadly blast Wednesday (April 30) in a railway station in far Western China.
Xi was winding up a four-day visit to the restive region of Xinjiang when the attack occurred. Local police said three people were killed and 79 were injured when attackers used knives and detonated explosives at a railway station in the city of Urumqi, according to the BBC.
Officials believe two of the dead were the attackers, the Associated Press reported. It was the third attack in seven months by what officials call Xinjiang extremists, the AP said.
Officials in Beijing have blamed such attacks on separatists from the mainly Muslim Uighur minority who number about nine million. The Uighurs have complained for years about political, religious and cultural repression by the Chinese government in Xinjiang.
In March, 150 people were injured and 29 were killed in an attack at a Kunming train station by several men armed with long knives. Chinese officials blamed Uighurs for that attack.
LRA Commander Capture.
Uganda’s military says troops have captured a top commander of murderous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and freed 10 captives held by the notorious rebel group.
A military spokesman said African troops hunting the LRA in the Central African Republic captured Charles Okello, according to the Voice of America website. Most of those recued were children, the spokesman said.
The LRA started out as a guerrilla group in Uganda in the 1980s but morphed into a renegade band that has roamed Central Africa from South Sudan to the Democratic Republic of Congo, sacking villages, robbing and killing adults and seizing children to be sex slaves and child soldiers. The LRA’s leader, Joseph Kony, has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands for war crimes and crimes against humanity. In 2011, President Barack Obama sent about 100 U.S. special operations forces to advise the military and neighboring countries how to track and capture Kony.
In March, support aircraft and about 150 Air Force personnel were sent to Djibouti to help in the Kony search and capture mission.
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Arms Trade Treaty
With violent conflicts boiling up South Sudan, the Central African Republic and across North Africa, it’s timely to take a look at the effect the international Arms Trade Treaty could have on security issues in Africa. The Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington will be holding a panel discussion Wednesday (April 23) on the treaty’s potential impact on conflict.
Last year, the United States signed the ATT, a multilateral agreement to regulate international trade in conventional weapons. Nearly 120 countries have signed the treaty and 31 government have ratified the pact — which has not entered into force yet.
The potential for the treaty to reduce illicit trade could help improve security in areas that need it most — particularly in regions of conflict like Africa, the CSIS said. Speakers at today’s event include: Thomas Countryman, the State Department’s assistant secretary at the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation; Raymond Gilpin, dean of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University; and Jennifer Cooke, director of the CSIS Africa Program.
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Ebola Death Toll
The current outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa has killed more than 140 people, the World Health Organization.
In a statement Tuesday (April 22), the United Nations health agency said at least 230 suspected or confirmed case of Ebola have been reported in so far in Guinea and Liberia, the Associated Press reported. According to the WHO, there have been 129 deaths in Guinea and 13 in neighboring Liberia that were linked to the disease.
Ebola causes a high fever and external hemorrhaging. There is no cure no vaccine for the disease which has a very high mortality rate.
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Algerian Troops Killed
At least 14 Algerian soldiers were killed over the weekend (April 19) when their convoy was ambushed in the mountains east of the capital city, Algiers.
The soldiers were attacked Saturday night in the Tizi Ouzou region, 75 miles east of Algiers. Government officials blamed members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), an affiliate of the radical Islamist terrorist group, al Qaeda, Reuters reported.
The soldiers were attacked as they were returning from a security deployment for last week’s presidential election[SEE Story Below], the Algerian Defense Ministry said in a statement. Three militants from AQIM, were also killed in the gunfight.
As expected, President Abdelaziz Boutefilka was elected to a fourth term with more than 81 percent of the vote. However, opposition leaders – who boycotted the election – accused Bouteflika and his supporters of widespread voter fraud, the New York Times reported.
The strongest challenger, former Prime Minister Ali Benflis only got 12 percent of the vote. Despite a stroke last year, that has put him in a wheelchair, Bouteflika has kept a strong grip on power, ignoring democratic changes prompted by the Arab Spring uprisings in other parts of North Africa.
Mauritania plans to hold its next presidential election in June.
President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz has not yet announced his candidacy, but his party has asked him to run again, the Associated Press reported. Aziz came to power in a 2008 coup, ousting the West African country’s first democratically elected leader. But he has become a key ally of the West in the fight against terrorism in the Sahara.
The president’s office said elections will be held June 21, with a second round of voting July 5 — if needed.
Nigeria’s elections aren’t until next February, but the Islamist radicals’ campaign of violence has rocked President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and has politicians bickering as never before, according to the Associated Press.
Attacks on a girl’s school in the north and a bombing at a bus station in the capital have shaken the military’s claims that the insurgents’ war-fighting ability was on the wane.
The country’s two main political parties have each accused the other of supporting the Islamic insurgency for ulterior motives. Some politicians from the predominantly Muslim north say that keeping the insurgency going is a way to weaken the north before the elections. While other politicians accuse some members of the military of keeping the strife going — by colluding with the extremist group Boko Haram — so they can profit financially from the five-year conflict.
Before he dismissed the entire military command in January, Jonathan said he believed there were Boko Haram sympathizers and supporters among his cabinet members and high-ranking military.
Meanwhile, Jonathan will chair a meeting of the National Security Council Thursday (April 24) in Abuja, that will include Nigeria’s 36 state governors and military service chiefs, according to the news site ThisDay Live.
Boko Haram Mayhem
The radical and violent Islamist group Boko Haram is claiming responsibility for a bus station bombing in Nigeria’s capital that killed 75 people last week, according to press reports.
“We are the ones who carried out the attack in Abuja,” Boko Haram’s leader — Abubakar Shekau — said in a video message obtained by the French news service, AFP on Saturday (April 19). The 28-minute video threatened future attacks with the ominous statement: “We are in your city but you don’t know where we are.” AFP reported.
Monday’s bombing in Abuja, which also injured 141 people, was the first attack in two years on Nigeria’s capital. The death toll is expected to rise, the Associated Press reported, as pathologists determine how many people were blown apart by the huge blast.
The Boko Haram video made no mention of the mass abduction of scores of high school girls from a school compound in turbulent northeast Nigeria. The Nigerian government and local officials in Borno state — where the school is located — have blamed Boko Haram.
Officials originally said all but 85 of the girls have escaped their abductors, but family members dispute those claims, saying 234 girls are missing, according to the AP.
The militant group, whose name is translated as either “Western education is sinful” or “Western education is forbidden,” in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria, has mounted numerous attacks on schools and students as well as churches and government facilities in a five-year campaign to have the largely northern part of Nigeria declared subject to Islamic, “sharia” law. Thousands have been killed in the conflict.
The bombing in the heart of Nigeria, hundreds of miles from Boko Haram’s strongholds has underscored the threat the terrorist group poses to Africa’s most populous nation and biggest economy and oil producer.
Scores of teen-age girls have been kidnapped from their secondary school in Northeast Nigeria late Monday (April 14) by armed men believed to be members of the radical Islamist militant group, Boko Haram.
The raid comes just a day after a deadly bus station bombing in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, prompting critics to question the government’s claims of progress in its campaign to suppress the militant group. Hundreds have died this year in attacks attributed to Boko Haram, which means ‘Western education is forbidden (sinful),” in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria.
There are conflicting reports about the number of girls taken and how many escaped their captors. The BBC quoted the Nigerian military as saying all but eight of 129 kidnapped girls have escaped. “But the BBC’s Will Ross in Abuja says there is no independent confirmation of this,” BBC added. Reuters reported between 50 and 100 girls were taken and at least 14 had managed to escape, according to officials.
The Associated Press reported that “about 100 girls” between the ages of 16 and 18 were kidnapped and some of the girls escaped by jumping off a slow-moving truck in the kidnappers’ retreating convoy. Citing a security source, AFP said it was told more than 100 girls remained in captivity.
The gunmen killed a soldier and police officer guarding the girls’ school at Chibok in Nigeria’s Borno state – one of three under an 11-month state of emergency. All schools in Borno state were closed three weeks ago because Boko Haram has been targeting schools and killing or driving off students. The girls’ school was reopened, however, so they could take their final exams, a local government official told reporters.
The girls were believed to have been taken to the rugged Sambisa Forrest near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, where Boko Haram is reported to have bases. The Islamic extremists have kidnapped girls in the past to serve as cooks and sex slaves.
On Sunday, 75 people were killed and more than 140 wounded in the bombing of a bus station in Abuja just a few miles from the capital’s government buildings. That attack raised concerns that militants’ attacks were no longer confined to the strife-torn northeast, where traditional rivalries between mostly Christian farmers and mainly Muslim herders over land and water rights have morphed into increasingly violent attacks.
No group has claimed responsibility for either the bus station bombing or the mass abduction but President Goodluck Jonathan and other leaders blame Boko Haram, which launched a violent insurgency in 2009 to make the country’s predominantly Muslim north into an Islamic state governed by conservative sharia law. Since 2010, the violence has claimed an estimated 3,600 people in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and biggest oil producer.
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Central African Republic
Fifteen United Nations and private humanitarian agencies are appealing for $274 million to fund emergency aid for people fleeing violence in the Central African Republic, the Voice of America reports. Nearly 200,000 people have fled the C.A.R. since December, but the U.N. expects that number to grow to more than 360,000 by the end of the year.
The crisis stems from months of sectarian violence in one of Africa’s poorest nations. The mayhem began when Muslim-led Seleka rebels seized power a year ago and overthrew the government of longtime President Francois Bozize. In a backlash, predominantly Christian anti-balaka militia members targeted Muslim civilians for revenge and attacked positions held by the rebels.
The U.N. Security Council voted last week (April 10) to send 12,000 troops to quel violence and restore order in the C.A.R. U.N. peacekeepers will relieve about 6,500 African Union soldiers and 2,000 French troops who have struggled to keep the peace in the former French colony.
In Geneva, U.N. officials said the $274 million would be used to meet the needs of refugees from the C.A.R., who have escaped to neighboring Cameroon, Chad, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Officials in the DRC, where thousands of refugees have fled, are worried the conflict could threaten the security of the entire region.
Lambert Mende, the DRC’s information minister, says his government is concerned because it shares a 1,600-kilometerf border with the C.A.R. “So whatever can happen there, can impact our security,” he told the Voice of America. He added that the DRC was “very eager” to contribute to the stabilization effort. The DRC has sent a battalion of soldiers and a unit of plainclothes policemen to the C.A.R, according to Mende.
Chad has withdrawn all of its 850 soldiers in the AU peacekeeping contingent following accusations that Chadian troops aided Muslim rebels in the C.A.R. – which Chad’s government denied, the BBC and AFP reported.
Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno ordered the pullout after a U.N. investigation found that Chadian troops “opened fire on the population without any provocation” in the capital, Bangui, on March 29. Thirty people were killed and another 300 were injured, according to the U.N. Chad’s foreign ministry dismissed the findings as “malicious,” adding that Chad was being unfairly blamed for the C.A.R.’s woes.
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President Blaise Compaore has been run Burkina Faso since 1987, but a provision of the West African nation’s constitution bars him from running again when his term expires in 2015.
But 50,000 people turned out for a rally calling for the constitution to be amended so Compaore can seek another term, according to an Associated Press report via Al Jazeera.
The rally Saturday (April 12) follows a series of defections of high-level officials in Compaore’s ruling party over concerns that the president would indeed try to change the constitution so he could seek anothjer term.
Algerians go to the polls Thursday for a presidential election that incumbent President Abdel-Aziz Bouteflika is widely expected to win, the Voice of America reports. Bouteflika, 77, is seeking his fourth term in office, although he has made few public appearances since suffering a stroke last year.
He faces five opposition challengers, but Bouteflika continues to have the backing of the ruling National Liberation Front party. In February, three Algerian opposition parties called for a boycott of the elections after the government announced Bouteflika would seek another five-year term.
Unemployment is now high in Algeria, especially among youth. And despite the North African country’s vast oil and gas resources, much of the population remains poor.