Posts filed under ‘Africa’
Army Purge Planned.
Nigeria’s army, long criticized for being ineffectual against the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram, while killing far too many civilians, is set to scrutinize itself and purge ineffectual or cowardly soldiers, several new organizations report.
The army intends to purge soldiers it determines to be unfit to carry out their constitutional mandate, a spokesman told Voice of America. Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman said the army will enforce discipline and professionalism among its ranks as the fight against Boko Haram continues. “Most of them were charged with offenses that border on cowardice, aiding the enemy, as well as desertion in the face of the enemy,” said Usman.
He said the process is detailed and unbiased — not an ethnic nor religious purge — and it will ensure soldiers uphold the agreement they signed before joining the army.
At least 200 soldiers have been dismissed for cowardice and failure to fight against Boko Haram militants, the BBC reported. Several soldiers told the British network that up to 4,500 other rank and file soldiers could be dismissed.
Usman, the army spokesman, told VoA there are three layers of the investigation: a board of inquiry, followed by a military police investigation. Then the directorate of army legal services reviews all the cases and advises what action to take, said Usman — including summary trial.
About 1.5 million people have been displaced and hundreds more abducted since Boko Haram launched its violent uprising in 2009, according to the BBC. More than 15,500 people have been killed in the fighting. Boko Haram is still holding many women, girls and children captives including more than 200 school girls kidnapped from a school in Chibok a year ago.
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Boko Haram Roundup.
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports that Boko Haram fighters killed at least 37 people and destroyed more than 400 buildings in an assault on the town of Gubio in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state.
The latest attack — which a military source said involved about 50 Boko Haram members storming Gubio — lasted for around five hours on Saturday afternoon (May 23). Reuters news agency reported via Al Jazeera. Details of such attacks often take a number of days to make their way from affected areas due to poor telecommunications in the remote northeastern region of Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and most populous nation.
The buildings burned by the fighters included eight mosques, four schools and a local government building.
Boko Haram, which captured large swathes of Northeast Nigeria in the past two years, has been driven out of nearly all the territory it captured by a series of offensives waged by Nigeria’s armed forces backed by troops from the neighboring states of Chad, Niger and Cameroon in the past few months.
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In Niger, authorities have detained and charged 643 people since February for their links to Boko Haram, according to Niger Security Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou.
Niger has deployed 3,000 soldiers to a joint regional force formed with Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria to quash the Boko Haram insurgency, Al Jazeera reports.
Several Boko Haram networks and sleeper cells have been dismantled in Niger’s southern Diffa region, which is on the border with Nigeria, since a state of emergency was declared there in February and troops deployed, Massaoudou told Niger’s parliament. “If this measure [detaining suspects] had not been taken, we could have had an uprising in the very interior of Diffa,” the minister told parliament Tuesday (May 26).
Those arrested and detained have been charged with acts of terrorism and criminal conspiracy, he said. Diffa came under heavy attack in February when Boko Haram, which wants to establish an emirate in northern Nigeria, carried out attacks in neighboring countries.
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The United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict has condemned Boko Haram for “waging war on women” by repeatedly raping their female captives and treating them as vessels for producing children for fighters.
“In this context, sexual violence is not merely incidental, but integral, to their strategy of domination and self-perpetuation,” Zainab Hawa Bangura said in a statement issued Wednesday (May 27).
“In the stories of those recently released from Boko Haram captivity, I hear poignant echoes of the words of the women and girls I met last month in the Middle East, who had been freed from sexual slavery by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant),” she said. “In both cases, they describe being treated as chattels to be ‘owned’ and traded, and as vessels for producing children for fighters.”
Her statement was issued a little over a year after the extremist group Boko Haram abducted 276 teenage girls in Chibok, Borno State, in Nigeria. Many of them remain in captivity, along with hundreds of others who have been abducted both before and since.
Earlier this month, United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon condemned what he called Boko Haram’s “continuing indiscriminate and horrific attacks” against the civilian populations of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, according to the United Nations.
In a statement released May 22, a UN spokesperson said Ban Ki-Moon is appalled by the continued abductions and use of children as so-called “human bombs,” as well as by testimony that many of the girls and women held by Boko Haram are repeatedly raped while in captivity and compelled to marry their captors as part of the group’s ongoing campaign of forced imprisonment and sexual violence.
“The perpetrators of these despicable acts must be brought to justice,” the Secretary-General declared.
Preparing for New Challenges.
TAMPA, Florida — Battling pirates off the Horn of Africa, violent extremist groups across Africa and the Middle East, transnational crime organizations in Latin America and rogue states in Europe and Asia doesn’t begin to address all the threats facing America in the 21st century, says the head of U.S. Special Operations Command — known as SOCOM.
“SOCOM is looking beyond our current conflicts, in order to gain an understanding of the evolving strategic environment,” says Army General Joseph Votel, SOCOM’s commander. SOCOM’s success in that dynamic environment “hangs on this priority,” Votel stressed.
To that end, Votel told the National Defense Industry Association’s 2015 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) in Tampa on Tuesday (May 19) that SOCOM analysts were keeping tabs on worldwide technical progress, demographic changes and economic trends to avoid strategic surprise.
Votel, himself an Army Ranger, oversees training and equipping policies for U.S. commando units in all of the armed services: Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
Considering the many threat issues and the effect of the congressional budget- trimming strategy, known as sequestration, Votel said SOCOM needs to invest in equipment interoperability and integrate with “our international partners,” of which there are nearly 60.
Even if SOCOM continues to avoid the budget ax, cuts to the conventional forces could hurt the command’s abilities to perform its missions because SOCOM relies heavily on the services to supply transportation and logistical support among other things.
The Coup That Wasn’t.
In Bujumbura, Burundi today (May 14) the presidential office said President Pierre Nkurunziza is back in the Central African country — rocked this week by an attempted coup.
Nkurunziza’s office said the president salutes the army, police and Burundian people. Security forces are looking for the coup leaders so they can be brought to justice, the presidential office said. But the Voice of America website said it is not yet possible to verify if the president has returned to Burundi.
The coup broke out after weeks of protests in tiny Burundi following Nkurunziza’s announcement he would seek a third term if office, which critics said is barred by the country’s constitution. A senior advisor to Nkurunziza said the election is a constitutional mandate and Burundi must be careful not to create an institutional vacuum, VoA reported.
Meanwhile, one of the renegade generals who tried to seize power in Burundi says he recognizes that their attempt to overthrow the president has failed, the BBC reports, quoting an AFP story. General Cyrille Ndayirukiye told the AFP news agency that most in the military wanted to keep the current government in power.
Throughout the day, there were fatal clashes in the Bujumbura, leaving at least five soldiers dead. The whereabouts of the man who launched the coup, Major General Godefroid Niyombare, are unknown.
Before announcing his return, loyalists of the president said they were in control of the major strategic assets, such as the airport and presidential offices. They also said they still controlled the state broadcaster despite the heavy fighting, according to Al Jazeera.
Nkurunziza, the president, was in Tanzania at a summit of African leaders when General Niyombare — was fired as intelligence chief in February — declared he was dismissing the president and his government. A day later, Army Chief of Staff General Prime Niyongabo said the coup had failed, Al Jazeera reported. “Loyal forces are still controlling all strategic points,” the chief of staff said in a state radio broadcast.
AROUND AFRICA: Army Rescue in Nigeria; Nigerien Army Drives Terrorists from Island; Mali Rebels Attack UN Peacekeepers
Army Rescues 293 from Boko Haram.
The Nigerian Army says it has rescued nearly 300 female captives from the radical Islamist terror group, Boko Haram.
On Tuesday (April 28), the military said it freed 200 girls and 93 women from an area where Boko Haram is active. However, the Army said the girls abducted from a school in Chibok in April 2014 were not among the captives released, according to the BBC.
The military said the girls and women were freed during major operations ending in the seizure of four Boko Haram camps in the Sambisa Forest that borders Cameroon.
Whomever they are, many of the women and girls may not be able to go home because Boko Haram has destroyed their houses, families or businesses, or continues to threaten their towns, a Nigerian psychologist and counterterrorism adviser to the government tells Voice of America.
Earlier this month, the human rights group Amnesty International published a report saying that Boko Haram, which is fighting to create an Islamic state in largely Muslim Northeast Nigeria, has abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since the start of 2014, Al Jazeera reported. In addition to forcing them into sexual slavery, Boko Haram has used girls and women as suicide bombers, sending them into crowded market places and elsewhere.
Boko Haram has been responsible for killing thousands of people mostly in the north but also in bombing attacks in large cities, including Abjua, the capital. About 300 teenaged girls were kidnapped from a school compound during a Boko Haram attack last April, sparking international outrage and widespread dissatisfaction with President Goodluck Jonathan, who failed to win re-election last month. Dozens of the girls managed to escape their captors as they were driven away from the school but 219 are still missing.
Newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army general who once took over the country in a coup 30 years ago, has pledged to crush Boko Haram. Buhari takes office on May 29. In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, the new leader said he could not promise that Nigerian authorities will be able to find and rescue the missing schoolgirls, but: “I say to every parent, family member and friend of the children that my government will do everything in its power to bring them home.”
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Nigerien Army vs. Boko Haram
Government officials say Niger’s military has regained total control of the island of Karamga in Lake Chad after an attack by Boko Haram.
In a statement, Niger’s government said Monday (April 27) that its security and defense forces have cleared the enemies from the island, the Associated Press reported. (via FOX News)The government said 46 Nigerien soldiers and 28 civilians were killed in the attack, according to AFP (via News 24 South Africa). Government officials said 126 terrorists were also killed in the attack on the island’s army base.
The island was seized by hundreds of Boko Haram militants aboard motorized canoes at dawn on Saturday (April 25, their second attempt to capture it since February, army and government sources told Reuters.
Lake Chad’s islands, which lie in dense swampland, are an ideal base for mounting surprise attacks on the countries bordering the lake: Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria. Niger suffered a wave of attacks and suicide bombs in its southern border region of Diffa in February and March, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency there.
Niger joined a regional offensive in January that has been credited with retaking large swaths of territory from the Nigeria-based militant group Boko Haram, whose fighters had months of gains in Nigeria and pushed across borders. A February attack on Karamga killed seven Nigeran soldiers, and Niger towns bordering Nigeria have also been targeted.
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Swedish peacekeepers in Mali say they have repelled a rebel attack on Timbuktu twice in two days. Heavily armed rebels in trucks fitted with machine guns retreated north of the city on Wednesday (April 29), a Swedish commander told the BBC.
Fighting has also intensified in other parts of the northwest Africa country in recent days. A pro-government militia said it had recaptured the eastern town of Menaka, while a coalition of Tuareg rebels claimed to have taken the town of Lere, the BBC said.
Timbuktu and the north of Mali were taken over by Tuareg rebels allied with jihadist groups in 2012. France intervened in January 2013 and the UN began deploying 10,000 peacekeepers in July of that year.
Peace negotiations have been complicated by the number of rebel groups with widely differing agendas.
They include secessionist Tuaregs, religious extremists and armed militias vying for control of lucrative trafficking routes.
AROUND AFRICA: Hostage Rescue in Mali; Kenya College Attack; Yemini Refugees; C.A.R. “Ceasefiire” [UPDATE2-April 10]
French Commando Rescue.
A Dutch national held hostage by Islamist extremists in North Africa for three years has been freed in a daring raid by French commandos.
Sjaak Rijke, abducted while vacationing in Timbuktu in November 2011, was set free in a raid on Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb by French special forces on Monday (April 6), AFP reported.
French President Francois Hollande said a number of suspected jihadists were killed during the rescue. Hollande added that the French soldiers were unaware of the hostage’s location before the raid against the extremists near Tessalit in Mali’s far north, close to the border with Algeria.
Kenyan warplanes bombed militant camps in Somalia, following a vow by President Uhuru Kenyatta to respond “in the fiercest way possible” to a massacre of college students by al-Shabab extremists, the Associated Press reported.
The airstrikes Sunday (April 5) and Monday (April 6) targeted the Gedo region of western Somalia, directly across the border from Kenya, a Kenyan military official said, adding that al-Shabab camps, which were used to store arms and for logistical support, were destroyed, but it was not possible to determine the number of casualties because of poor visibility.
The Somalia-based militant group claimed responsibility for last week’s attack at Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya in which 148 people were killed — most of them students.
Kenya’s response to the attack has gone beyond military action. Nairobi is ordering the closure of 13 money transfer firms to prevent Islamist extremists from using them to finance attacks, the BBC reported. The bank accounts of 85 individuals and “entities” had also been frozen, according to government officials. Among those targeted: a Somali-linked bus company and hotel.
Nearly 500,000 Somali refugees are in Kenya – many of whom fled decades of conflict and drought in Somalia.
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Refugee Crisis Expected.
Violence in the Arabian Peninsula, across the Gulf of Aden from East Africa is expected to drive thousands of refugees to the Horn of Africa, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The UNHCR reported Friday (April 10) that at least 900 people have made the journey by boat in the past 10 days. The report noted the vast majority of he new arrivals were “Somalis but also Yemenis and a small number of Ethiopian and Djiboutian nationals.” All received food and water, and health and medical checks on arrival, the UNHCR said.
The U.N. estimated that clashes between rebels and supporters of the ex-president in Yemen have killed more than 500 people and left 1,700 others wounded in less than two weeks.
And that is expected to drive thousands of refugees to Djibouti and Somalia, putting a huge strain on local resources, according to Newsweek. Djibouti has a population of just 870,000 so a large influx of people would put a huge strain on its resources, said Frederic Van Hamme, an official at the UNHCR’s Djibouti base.
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Rival Central African Republic (CAR) groups have signed a ceasefire deal in Kenya to provide the strife-torn country with a political solution.
According to al Jazeera, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted the signing of the accord Wednesday (April 8) between Anti-Balaka leader Joachim Kokate and former president and ex-Seleka leader Michel Djotodia. The two factions have been in talks in Kenya since November. Their agreement includes a deal “to stop hostilities” and another to “open a new chapter of political stability in their country” by adhering to the transitional roadmap.
But CAR’s president has said he does not recognize these talks, and they are not recognized by either the French or the United Nations.”
Gunmen said to be al Shabab Islamist extremists attack a university campus in Kenya Thursday (April 2), battling security forces for more than 15 hours before the school was secured.
Officials said 147 people at the school — including two security guards — were killed in the siege. Four gunmen also were killed and at least one other person was arrested, according to the BBC and other news organizations.
Garissa University College, about 230 miles (370 kilometers) east of Nairobi (see map) was the scene of the carnage. Kenya’s Interior Minister Joseph Nkaissery said the gunmen were wearing suicide vests which exploded, killing them in an exchange of gunfire with government security forces.
More than 500 students were rescued during the attack and 79 were injured. The most seriously hurt were transported to Nairobi for treatment.
The school is located about 125 miles (200 kilometers) from the border with Somalia and has, in recent years, been the site of sporadic gun and grenade attacks blamed on al Shabab, the Voice of America reported.
NIGERIA: Jonathan Concedes, Buhari Winner.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan conceded to his opponent Muhammadou Buhari today (Tuesday, March 31) in the closest presidential election since democratic rule was restored to Africa’s most populous nation in 1999.
Although the final tally isn’t known yet, Jonathan — who defeated Buhari in 2011 — called his rival to concede defeat and congratulate the retired major general. It is the first time a sitting president has lost an election in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and leading oil producer, according to the BBC, Reuters, VoA and CNN.
More than 20 million votes were cast in an election marred by insurgent attacks, charges of fraud and technology glitches at polling places. Saturday’s voting had to be extended to a second day, Sunday (March 29), as tens of millions turned out to vote, either to stay the course with Jonathan or try Buhari’s promise of change — including a more robust campaign against violent Islamist insurgents who have killed thousands.
By late Monday (March 30) the 72-year-old Buhari had a growing lead — 2.5 million votes — over Jonathan, some 23 million votes counted in 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states, according to Reuters. The announcement of further results will resume Tuesday morning, said Nigeria’s Independent National Election Commission (INEC).
Buhari, a Muslim from Nigeria’s north, promised to root out the corruption that has plagued Jonathan’s administration and the ruling People’s Democratic Party. Buhari also vowed to crush the radical Islamist group Boko Haram, whose attacks over the last five years have killed 10,000 people and driven thousands more. Buhari seized power in a military coup and ruled Nigeria for almost two years in the 1980s.