AROUND AFRICA: Mali Mess, Pirate Hostages Released

November 7, 2012 at 11:58 pm 1 comment

Military Meeting

Mali (CIA World Factbook)

Mali

West African military leaders have adopted a plan to deploy troops and support Mali’s efforts to retake the country’s desert north from al Qaeda-linked militants, according to Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

The plan, reached by army chiefs meeting in Mali’s capital, Bamako, on Tuesday (Nov. 6) will be passed on to the presidents of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States, a regional economic development block, before being submitted to the United Nations Security Council on Nov. 26.

The West African country, which borders the Sahara Desert, was rocked by an uprising of nomadic Tuareg tribesmen in in March. That led to a military coup that deposed democratically elected president Amadou Toumani. And the rebellious Tuaregs, many armed with weapons they acquired while fighting for deposed Libyan strongman Muammar Gadaffi, used the chaotic situation to sweep down and seize more than half the country, an area larger than France, including the legendary city of Timbuktu.

Since then, Islamist extremists with ties to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), have seized power in many towns and cities, forcing strict Islamic law, or sharia, and imposed harsh punishments for violators including execution, limb amputation and other human rights abuses. They have also banned the veneration of Sufi Islamic saints and destroyed many of their historic tombs.

Meanwhile, one of the three armed al-Qaeda-linked groups controlling northern Mali says it is ready to negotiate with Mali’s transitional government, according to the Voice of America. A delegation from the group, Ansar Dine, has been meeting with the president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore. A spokesman for the group. Says Ansar Dine “rejects all form(s) of extremism and terrorism” but wouldn’t discuss with a VOA reporter any compromise on their demand for Sharia.

Before the military coup, Mali was considered a key partner is the battle against spreading Islamist extremism in the arid region known as the Sahel. Mali’s troops have participated in U.S.-sponsored counter terrorism exercises like Atlas Accord and Flintlock. Leaders in the region as well as some Western powers like France and Germany fear the rebellious zone could become a safe haven for terrorists.

Hostages Released

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook)

Here’s an update of a story we reported Oct. 17: Russian authorities say seven European sailors seized during a pirate attack on a French company’s ship off the coast of Nigeria have been released.

According to a Reuters report out of Moscow, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that the seven seamen – six Russians and an Estonian – were “feeling well” and would be flown home, but no other details were released.

The seven were kidnapped by pirates who attacked the Bourbon Liberty 249 was boarded in Nigeria Oct. 15. Nine other crew members brought the ship – which services offshore oil rigs – safely into port.

The ship is owned by Paris-based Bolurbon SA, an oil and gas services company. In a press release on its website, the company said that “despite difficult conditions while in captivity, [the crewmen] all appear to be in good health” and were being looked after by the Bourbon’s Emergency Unit in Nigeria.

The company thanked a number of foreign government agencies including Nigerian Police, Special Security Services and the Nigerian Joint Task Force, as well as the Nigerian, Russian, Estonian, Luxembourg and French governments.

For reasons of confidentiality and in order to preserve the privacy of the families, no information will be given about the demands, the context, the released crewmembers and their families,” the company said.

Pirate attacks are on the rise against oil industry shipping in the Gulf of Guinea off the oil-rich Nigerian coast, according to the International Maritime Bureau’s Piracy Reporting Centre.

There were 34 incidents between January 1 and September 30 this year – an increase of four incidents last year. The IMB said attacks are often violent and aimed at stealing refined oil products which can be easily sold on the open market.

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Entry filed under: Africa, Counter Insurgency, Counter Terrorism, National Security and Defense, News Developments. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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