Posts tagged ‘Nigeria’

AROUND AFRICA: Nigeria Terrorism, Central African Republic, Elections

 FLASH POINTS

Nigeria-Terrorism

Nigeria map (CIA World factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World factbook)

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

Troops from France and Cameroon on patrol in the Central African Republic, (Photo by EMA; Copyright: Ministère de la Défense)

Troops from France and Cameroon on patrol in the Central African Republic.
(Photo by EMA; Copyright: Ministère de la Défense)

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.

Central African Republic (CIA World Factbook)

Central African Republic
(CIA World Factbook)

 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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ELECTIONS

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

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.

Algeria

ALGERIA

ALGERIA

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.

 

 

 

 

 

April 16, 2014 at 11:59 pm 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA: Central African Republic, Cameroon-Polio, Ebola in West Africa

 U.N. Troops to C.A.R.

French and African troops patrol the Muslim Quarter of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. (Photo by EMA. Copyright Ministère de la Défense)

French and African troops patrol the Muslim Quarter of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic.
(Photo by EMA. Copyright Ministère de la Défense)

The United Nations Security Council voted Thursday (April 10) to send 12,000 troops to quel violence and resore order in the strife-torn Central African Republic (C.A.R.).

Thousands have been killed and more than a million people are in need of aid following an explosion of sectarian violence after Muslim-led , Seleka rebels seized power a year ago and overthrew the government of President Francois Bozize – who had been in power for a decade. In a backlash, predominantly Christian anti-balaka militia members targeted Muslim civilians for revenge and attacked positions held by the mainly Muslim rebels.

U.N. Chief Ban Ki-Moon has warned of “ethno-religious cleansing” in C.A.R., with lynchings, decapitations and sexual violence going unpublished, the BBC reportedThe C.A.R. Is rich in gold, diamonds and other natural resources but most people remain poor after decades of unrest and government mismanagement.

Central African Republic (CIA World Factbook)

Central African Republic
(CIA World Factbook)

The U.N. Force will take over on September 15 from the 6,000-strong African-led peacekeeping mission. The Africans and about 2,000 French troops have been hard-pressed to halt the killing in the former French colony, according to the Voice of America.

The African troops will continue their military activities in the lead-up to the official transfer date in September. After being vetted, VOA reported, many of those troops will also be kep on as blue-helmeted U.N. Peacekeepers and join the new U.N. Mission, which will go by the acronym, MINUSCA.

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Cameroon-Polio

The government of the West African nation of Cameroon has announced it will mount a special polio Vaccin campaign for all children after haf a dozen cases were identified. There are fears that children fleeing dangerous situations – such as terrorist violence in Nigeria – are spreading the disease, according to the Voice of America website.

Cameroon and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Cameroon and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

 Nigeria is one of a few nations around the world which have not eradicated polio.

Cameroon’s Minister of Health Andre Mama Fouda said officials in his country thought they could declare the Cameroon polio free, but they detected four cases of the wild polio virus in the western part of the country. Three other cases were also identifed – indicating virus is spreading.

Some of the cases were reported in children fleeing northeast Nigeria – where Boko Haram Islamic militants have been committing random acts of violence.

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West Africa-Ebola

Meanwhile at least three West African countries are reporting cases of the deadly ebola virus.

Guinea has reported 157 ebola cases, with 101 leading to death. Almost half of the 21 cases reported in Liberia have proven fatal. In Mali, nine suspected cases have been reported. Both Liberia and Mali share a border with Guinea.

Guinea and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Guinea and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

A World health Organization official said the U.N. Agency expects ebola will engage its staff for months, according to the euronews website.“”This is one of the most challenging outbreaks that we have ever faced,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda of the WHO. And that’s because “we see a wide geographic dispersion of cases. So this has come in from a number of districts as well as a large city in Guinea, Conakry,” the capital, Fukuda added.

 

 

April 10, 2014 at 11:58 pm 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA Update: Sectarian Violence in C.A.R., Nigeria; Piracy Report; Uganda’s Oil,

FLASHPOINTS

Updates with new information about EU contingent, planning, proposed use of surveillance drones.

Christian Vs. Muslim CAR

Central African Republic (CIA World Factbook)

Central African Republic
(CIA World Factbook)

France is sending 400 more troops to former colony Central African Republic (CAR) as a wave of sectarian violence sweeps across the Texas-sized country.

The first task of European Union troops, who are also being committed to peacekeeping in the CAR, will be to create a safe haven area in the capital city, Bangui, the commander said Monday (February 17), Reuters reported.

Major General Philippe Ponties told a Brussels news conference that the EU force also plans to use surveillance drones in the CAR — provided EU governments are prepared to supply them. In previous  United Nations peacekeeping missions to Africa, Irish and Belgian troops have used unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. The U.N. last year authorized the purchase of two unmanned air vehicles for deployment with peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The surge in French troops will boost their number to about 2,000, according to the Voice of America. There are also about 5,000 troops from various nations belonging to the African Union. The United States has provided airlift support to bring some of those forces into the country. Last week, the European Union voted to send about 500 troops to bolster peacekeeping efforts in CAR, where thousands may have been killed and hundreds of thousands have fled into neighboring Cameroon and Chad, creating an international refugee crisis, according to the United Nations.

French and African troops began a major operation last week to disarm local militias, known as the anti-balaka. The militias are accused of revenge attacks against Muslim neighborhoods in the capital Bangui and elsewhere around the country.

The chaos began last March when a largely Muslim rebel coalition known as Seleka came down from the northern part of the CAR, overthrew the government, and began brutal attacks on the neighborhoods and villages of the majority Christian population, killing and looting as they went.

That sparked a backlash by the Christians who formed vigilante groups called anti-balaka (for anti-machete). The anti-balaka degenerated into revenge killers who looted and burned Muslim areas. Now some two thousand people are dead and tens of thousands, mostly Muslims, have been driven out into the countryside or over the border.

Muslim Vs. Christian Nigeria

Nigeria's location (CIA World Factbook)

Nigeria’s location
(CIA World Factbook)

There have been renewed attacks and mass killings in two villages and a town in northeastern Nigeria, where the government has been battling an insurgency by the radical Islamist group Boko Haram.

Authorities and villagers say the group was responsible for an attack Saturday (February 15) on the village of Izghe, near the border with Cameroon, that left more than 100 slain – either shot or hacked to death, according to the BBC.

Boko Haram fighters attacked the town of Konduga earlier this month and killed 51 people, Reuters reported. President Goodluck Jonathan ordered extra troops into northeast Nigeria to try and crush the insurgents, who want to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, which is largely Muslim, but Boko Haram retreated into a remote area, bordering Cameroon, from where they have mounted numerous attacks, said Reuters.

And CNN reported that militants also attacked Doron Baga, a fishing village along Lake Chad. A survivor told CNN gunmen fired indiscriminately, stole foodstuff, fish and vehicles before setting fire to the village. A Nigerian official confirmed the attack but couldn’t give details, saying it occurred in an area under the jurisdiction of the Multinational Joint Task Force (MJTF). Consisting of troops from Nigeria, Niger and Chad, the MJTF was created in 1998 to battle weapons proliferation in the region but is now also battling the Boko Haram insurgency, CNN said.

Boko Haram, which means, “Western education is forbidden” in the north’s Hausa language, has killed hundreds of Christians and Muslims in the north since it launched its campaign of mass violence against the government in 2009. The U.S. State Department labeled Boko Haram a terrorist group last year. The continuing violence and the Army’s inability to eliminate Boko Haram as a threat poses a major political headache for Jonathan, who faces re-election next year, Reuters noted.

Nigeria is the most-populous nation in Africa and one of its biggest oil exporters.

TRANS-NATIONAL CRIME

Piracy Update

East Africa (Map courtesy of WikiSpaces.com)

East Africa (Map courtesy of WikiSpaces.com)

Piracy at sea has dropped to its lowest level in six years – largely because of a decrease in incidents off the Horn of Africa, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

IMB’s annual global piracy report says there were 264 pirate attacks reported around the world in 2013, a 40 percent drop since Somali piracy peaked in 2011. Only 15 incidents were reported off Somalia in 2013, down from 75 in 2012 and 237 in 2011.

Pottengal Mukundan, the director of the IMB, says “the single biggest reason” for the drop in worldwide piracy in 2013 “is the decrease in Somali piracy off the coast of East Africa.” IMB says Somali pirates were deterred by a combination of factors including patrols by international navies, building anti-pirate features into vessels, the use of private armed security teams and increased stability (a relative term here) brought by Somalia’s central government.

For more than two decades, Somalia has been considered a failed state with widespread lawless activity, warring factions and extreme poverty.

While the situation is improving on the East Coast of Africa, piracy has been on the rise of the West Coast of the continent. Nineteen percent of worldwide pirate attacks last year occurred off West Africa. In 2009 there were 48 actual or attempted attacks in the waters off West Africa. That rose to 62 in 2012 and dropped slightly to 52 last year.

Gulf of Guinea via Wikipedia

Gulf of Guinea via Wikipedia

In 2013, Nigerian pirates and armed robbers committed 31 of the region’s 51 attacks, taking 49 people hostage. Worldwide, more than 300 people were taken hostage. Nigerian pirates have ranged as far south as Gabon and as far west as Ivory Coast. They were linked to five of the region’s seven vessel hijackings. Just a few days after IMB issued its report in January, a Greek-owned, Liberian-flagged oil tanker was reported hijacked off the coast of Angola by pirates who allegedly stole a large part of the cargo. But the Angolan Navy disputes the crew’s story.

The IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre has been monitoring world piracy since 1991.e

ECONOMICS/BUSINESS

Oil Deal

Uganda has reached an agreement with three international oil companies to develop the East African country’s petroleum resources.

Uganda's location (CIA World Factbook)

Uganda’s location
(CIA World Factbook)

After years of negotiations, officials in Kampala earlier this month (February 7), signed a memorandum of understanding with Britain’s Tullow Oil, France’s Total and China’s Cnoc. Gloria Sebikari, of the ministry’s petroleum department said the memorandum goes behind simply developing oil fields, the Voice of America reported. “The plan provides for use of petroleum for power generation, supply of crude oil to the refinery to be developed in Uganda, and then export of crude oil to an export pipeline or any other viable option to be developed by the oil companies,” Sebikari said, according to VoA.

Uganda, East Africa’s third-largest economy, discovered hydrocarbon deposits in the western part of the country in 2006. But commercial production has been delayed and is not expected to start until 2016 at the earliest. Analysts blame the delay on negotiations over the planned refinery, according to Reuters.

Uganda has agreed to build a pipeline that will run to neighboring Kenya’s planned Indian Ocean port at Lamu, which is expected to become an export terminal for crude oil from Uganda, Kenya and other regional states, Reuters said.

Uganda has sub-Saharan Africa’s fourth-largest oil reserves, behind South Sudan, Angola and Nigeria with an estimated 3.5 billion barrels of crude oil, according to Oilprice.com. The oil and energy news website said East Africa has been identified as the next big oil and gas production area with more than four countries – including Kenya and Ethiopia – announcing oil and gas finds.

February 17, 2014 at 4:17 pm Leave a comment

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

Reason for Concern

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

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

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

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

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The Sahel Region (Map courtesy of XXXXX XXXXXX)

The Sahel Region
(Wikipedia)

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

Somalia in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Somalia in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

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

Kenya in Africa. Map from CIA World Factbook

Kenya in Africa. Map from CIA World Factbook

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

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook)

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

February 3, 2014 at 11:55 pm 1 comment

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

Security Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National Operations Center (Dept. of Homeland Security photo)

National Operations Center
(Dept. of Homeland Security photo)

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

4GWAR will have more on this report this weekend.

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

AROUND AFRICA: Joseph Kony Surrender Talk; Nigeria vs. Boko Haram, Swedish Drone on East African Anti-pirate Patrol

UPDATE1

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.

Uganda and neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Uganda and neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

 

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.

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook map)

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 Skeldar V-200 UAS (Photo by Stefan Kalun, Copyright Saab AB)

Saab Skeldar V-200 UAS
(Photo by Stefan Kalun, Copyright Saab AB)

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.

November 20, 2013 at 11:58 pm 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA: Hostages Released, Somali Drone Strike; Kenya Mall Attack Arrests, Another Pirate Attack

(Click on images to enlarge)

Hostages in Niger Freed

Map of Niger (CIA World Factbook)

Map of Niger
(CIA World Factbook)

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.

U.S. Air Force photo via Wikipedia

U.S. Air Force photo via Wikipedia

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).

Nairobi Westgate Mall before the attack.  (Photo via wikpedia)

Nairobi Westgate Mall before the attack.
(Photo via wikpedia)

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.

Gulf of Guinea via Wikipedia

Gulf of Guinea via Wikipedia

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.

October 29, 2013 at 11:54 pm 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA: China-Nigeria Deal, Obama-Africa, Food Security,

Billion Dollar Deal

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook)

China has agreed to provide $1.1 billion in low interest loans to oil-rich Nigeria to pay for much-needed infrastructure in Africa’s most populous country.

The money will help build roads, airport terminals in four cities and a light rail line for Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. China is investing heavily in Africa as a source of oil and other natural resources, according to the BBC. Chinese companies, under contracts worth $1.7 billion, are already building roads across Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer.

The agreement was signed Wednesday (July 10) by Nigerian Prersident Goodluck Jonathan and Chinese leader Xi Jinping during Jonathan’s four-day visit to Beijing.

The Associated Press reported that China’s demand for crude oil produced in Nigeria is expected to rise tenfold to 200,000 barrels a day by 2015, according to information provided by a team accompanying Jonathan.

Zang Chun, an expert on Africa at the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Studies, told the AP that Nigeria is important to China because it has the largest economy in West Africa and because it has oil.

* * * *

Obama in Africa

Crowds watch President Obama's motorcade in Tanzania. (White House photo)

Crowds watch President Obama’s motorcade in Tanzania. (White House photo)

During his three-nation tour of Africa earlier this month, President Barack Obama pledged U.S. investment in a plan to double electrical capacity in sub-Saharan Africa.

Obama, who visited Senegal in West Africa, South Africa and finally the East African nation of Tanzania during his eight-day trip, spoke about food security and announced a $7 billion investment to double electrical capacity in sub-Saharan Africa.

On his last day in Tanzania, Obama visited the Ubungo Symbion Power Plant near Dar es Salaam, to focus on the lack of electrical power for most residents of sub-Saharan Africa.  investing $7 billion in financial support for an initiative called “Power Africa.” Tanzania is one of the initial six participating countries where the government hopes to add 10,000 megawatts of generation capacity and reach 20 million households that lack electricity.

“Public and private resources will be matched with projects led by African countries that are taking the lead on reform,” Obama said. “In this case, African governments commit to energy reforms.  And the U.S. is committing some $7 billion in support, and private sector companies have already committed more than $9 billion.  And this is just the beginning,” he added “because we look forward to even more companies joining this effort.”

Speaking to U.S. and African business leaders in Dar Es Salaam, Obama announced that new U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker would lead a “major trade initiative” to Africa in her first year at the Commerce Department, the New York Times reported.

* * * *

Food Security Threat

Uganda via CIA World Factbook

Uganda via CIA World Factbook

A deteriorating food security situation in northeastern Uganda could affect an estimated 1.2 million people, according to reports from the government and aid agencies.

A June 2013 analysis, led by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, revealed that up to 975,000 people in the semi-arid Karamoja region face “stressed” levels of food insecurity, while 234,000 more cannot meet their minimum food needs, according to IRIN.

Food security – or the lack of it – is considered a potential security issue by U.S. Intelligence officials. In their 2013 Worldwide Threat Assessment, the U.S. Intelligence Community says “terrorists, militants and international crime organizations can use declining food security to promote their own legitimacy and undermine government authority. Growing food insecurity in weakly governed countries could lead to political violence and provide opportunities for existing insurgent groups to capitalize on poor conditions, exploit international food aid and discredit governments for their inability to address basic needs.”

Meanwhile, African leaders meeting in Ethiopia earlier this month pledged to make agriculture a higher priority in their national policies and increase spending witrh a goal of ending hunger across the continent by 2025, The Guardian reported.

At the conclusion of meeting at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, ministers committed to working with the private sector, farmers’ groups, civil society and academia to increaase productivity – while addressing the underlying causes of malnutrition.

Despite strong economic growth across many parts of Africa over the past 10 years, nearly a quarter of the population – about 240 million people – are undernourished, of whom more than 40 percent are children under five, according to the Guardian.

Of the 20 countries in the world suffering from prolonged food shortages, 17 are in Africa, according to José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

In an interview with the news agency Inter Press Service, da Silva said Africa is entering a new era “with greater investment in agriculture, and that stronger coordination between governments, civil society organizations and the private sector would make the goal of zero hunger in Africa realistic by 2025.”

 

July 12, 2013 at 4:31 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Hezbollah in Nigeria; Piracy in West Africa

Arms Cache Found

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook)

Nigerian authorities say they have uncovered a large cache of automatic weapons and explosives belonging to the Lebanese terrorist group, Hezbollah, the BBC reports. Authorities say they found the weapons, including rocket propelled grenades, hand grenades, AK-47 assault rifles and anti-tank mines in a warehouse in the northern city of Kano.

Three Lebanese were arrested, an Army spokesman said, insisting that officials had uncovered a Hezbollah cell. Northern Nigeria, where Kano sits, has been wracked by violence over the last three years since Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group launched an insurgency to overthrow Nigeria’s government and establish fundamentalist Sharia law in Nigeria. An estimated 3,000 people have died in Boko Haram-sparked violence, the government said.

President Gooluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency in three regions – Borno, Yobe and Adamawa – and he has admitted that the government has lost control in parts of those states, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Pirates Attack oil tanker

Armed pirates attacked an oil products tanker off the coast of Nigeria in West Africa and abducted an unknown number of crew, Reuters reports. Shipping costs have increased as acts of piracy increase in the Gulf of Guinea region, which includes Africa’s leading oil producer Nigeria. According to Reuters, gunmen boarded the Nigerian-flagged MT Matrix in the early hours Saturday (May 25) about 40 nautical miles off the coast of Nigeria in a stretch of water often targeted by pirates.

There were 12 Pakistani and five Nigerian crew members aboard the vessel when it was attacked, sources told Reuters. International navies have not launched counter-piracy missions in the Gulf of Guinea – as they have in East Africa – leaving the many vessels in Nigeria waters vulnerable to attack.

Piracy is on the rise in West Africa, according to a Reuters analysis, but the police and coast guard in most of the countries in the region, like Ivory Coast,  are too weak and poorly armed to challenge the pirate gangs. In 2010, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which has monitored global piracy since 1991, recorded 33 attacks in the Gulf of Guinea. But that figure jumped to 58 last year.

May 30, 2013 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

COUNTER TERRORISM: Obama’s Plan, London Attack, Marathon Bombing-Related Shooting

A reset for America’s counter terrorism strategy was announced by President Obama Thursday (May 23) … authorities in London are collecting evidence a day after the brutal slaying of an off-duty British soldier by two men allegedly protesting the treatment of Muslims … meanwhile a man in Florida said to have links to one of the Boston Marathon bombers is slain after an altercation with the FBI.

(White House photo by Pete Souza)

(White House photo by Pete Souza)

Recalibrating War on Terror

President Obama today (May 23) outlined his revised plan for countering terrorism and ending the global war on terror.

Speaking at the National Defense University in Virginia, Obama pledged to continue “our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations” but, he added, “this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”

The president layed out a series of policy changes and clarifications as well as calling for Congress to allow the closing of detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where 166 alleged terrorists – many now conducting a hunger strike – have been held for years without trial.

Obama also said he was setting new guidelines for when U.S. citizens and foreign nationals can be targeted for death by missile-armed unmanned aircraft, the so-called drones. He defended the use of drone attacks in the past but said the threat has changed in Afghanistan and elsewhere and only when targets pose a “continuing, imminent threat” to the United States and only when avoiding civilian casualties is a “near-certainty,” the Washington Post reported.

His remarks came a day after the White House revealed that four U.S. Citizens have been killed in drone strikes since 2009. For an outline of the plan, click here.

– — –

Horror in London

An off-duty British soldier was run over by a car and then hacked to death May 22 by two men believed to have ties to radical Islamist groups. Both of the alledged attackers were shot and wounded by London police responding to 9-1-1 calls. One of the suspects men held up a bloody knife and meat cleaver in hands red with blood as he ranted to passersby about his reasons for the attack.

The soldier was identified as Lee Rigby, 25, a drummer with the 2nd Battalion, of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, according to CBS. Rigby, who served in Afghanistan, leaves a wife and two-year-old son. He was not in uniform at the time of the attack which took place near the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, a section of Southeast London.

The man waving the bloody blades and justifying his attack to passersby who filmed him with their cell phones, was identified as 28-year-old Michael Adebolajo, a British-born convert to Islam of Nigerian descent. The second suspect, also hospitalized with gunshot wounds, was not identified.

Authorities in Britain took two other people into custody on conspiracy charges today (May 23) and government investigators were looking into whether the alleged attackers were “lone wolves” or part of a larger terrorist organization.

Rigby is the first person to have died on British soil in an apparent attack by Muslim extremists since the 2005 suicide bombings on London’s transit system, in which 52 people were killed, the Los Angeles Times reported. An additional 1,200 police officers were out patrolling London May 23.

– — –

Marathon Bombing Mystery

There’s been a new wrinkle in the investigation of last month’s bombing of the Boston Marathon.

A man identified as a friend of one of the two alleged bombers was shot to death in Orlando, Florida May 22 after allegedly attacking an FBI agent who has questioning him, the Associated Press reported.

Ibragim Todashev, a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was himself slain in a gunbattle with police just days after the bombing, was shot after attacking the FBI agent who did not suffer life-threatening injuries. Todashev, a mixed martial arts fighter from Russia, had lived in the Boston area before moving to Orlando, Fla., over the past couple of years.

Tsarnaev’s younger brother, Dzhokhar, was captured and charged in the bombing.

The FBI gave no details on why it was interested in Todashev except to say that he was being questioned as part of the Boston investigation. But some of Todashev’s former roommates said that he knew Tsarnaev from athletic circles in Boston and that the two Russian immigrants might have trained together, the AP reported.

And officials are looking to see if there are any links between Tsarnaev and a triple muder in Boston a year-and-a-half ago.

May 24, 2013 at 12:28 am Leave a comment

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