Posts filed under ‘Africa’

COUNTER TERRORISM: Kenya College Siege

147 Dead.

Kenya (CIA World Factbook)

Kenya
(CIA World Factbook)

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.

An official of al Shabaab, said the violent extremist group launched the attack as a reprisal for previous Kenyan military incursions into Somalia, where the group is based.

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.

 

 

 

 

April 2, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: Ex-General Wins Nigerian Presidential Election

NIGERIA: Jonathan Concedes, Buhari Winner.

Nigerian President-elect Muhammadu Buhari (Photo by Chatham House via wikipedia)

Nigerian President-elect Muhammadu Buhari
(Photo by Chatham House via wikipedia)

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.

 

March 31, 2015 at 3:09 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Buhari Wins Nigeria Election, Ebola Roundup [UPDATE 2]

NIGERIA: Jonathan Concedes, Buhari Winner.

Women at a health education session in northern Nigeria. (Photo by Susan Elden/DFID via Wikipedia)

Women at a health education session in northern Nigeria.
(Photo by Susan Elden/DFID via Wikipedia)

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has conceded to his opponent Muhammadou Buhari in the closest presidential election since democratic rule was restored to Africa’s most populous naion in 1999.

Although the final tally isn’t known yet, Jonathan — who defeated Buhari in 2011 — called his rival Tuesday (March 31) to concede 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.

The 72-year-old Buhari had a growing lead — 2.5 million votes — over Jonathan late Monday (March 30) with some 23 million votes counted in 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states, according to Reuters. The announcement of further results will resume Tuesday morning, 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.

While international bodies like the United Nations and the African Union initially said the Nigerian vote was largely free and fair, Britain’s and American’s top diplomats expressed concerns that election results “may be subject to deliberate political interference.”

The joint statement from Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said there were “disturbing indications” that such interference would mar the bitterly contested election, the Washington Post reported.

Problems with electronic fingerprint readers at several polling stations caused delays for voters already waiting in long lines. Nigeria has 60 million registered and turnout was predicted to be the largest since the country returned to democracy in 1999.

Population density in Nigerian states. (Wikipedia)

Population density in Nigerian states.
(Wikipedia)

Observers’ big concern is that no matter who wins, reports of fraud or intimidation could spark a repeat of the post-election violence in 2011 when Buhari lost to Jonathan, 57, a Christian from southern Nigeria. About 800 people were killed, most of them in the predominantly Muslim state of Kaduna in the north.

Buhari’s supporters in the All Progressives Congress (APC) party are already crying foul after Jonathan won a massive 95 percent of the vote in Rivers state, the volatile and hotly contested home of Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry. Some took to the streets in protest. In the oil city of Port Harcourt, police fired tear gas at a crowd of 100 female APC supporters demonstrating outside the regional offices of the election commission.

In addition to technical problems at the polls, voting was marred by reports of election-related violence in predominantly Muslim northern Nigeria.

Boko Haram launched several attacks on voters in the north-east on election day. Before dawn, extremists invaded the town of Miringa, in Borno state, torching people’s homes and then shooting them as they tried to escape the smoke. Twenty-five people died in the attack, The Guardian reported.

Another 14 people were killed in attacks on the towns of Biri and Dukku, in Gombe state, according to police and a local chief. Among the dead was a state legislator, AFP reported.

The election was delayed for six weeks to allow the government to launch an offensive against  Boko Haram — supported by troops from neighboring Niger, Cameroon and Chad, which have all suffered attack by the Islamist radicals who have sought union with the brutal Islamic State group terrorizing parts of Syria and Iraq.

*** *** ***

Ebola Roundup.

The three West African countries hit hardest by the Ebola virus outbreak are ramping up efforts to eradicate the deadly disease using lockdowns, restrictions on burials and warnings about the risks of unprotected sex.

Health workers treating Ebola patients in Africa. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

Health workers treating Ebola patients in Africa. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

The region’s Ebola outbreak has killed more than 10,000 people since cases were first recorded more than a year ago, with most of the dead coming from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the Associated Press reports.

LIBERIA: Safe Sex

In Liberia, hardest hit by Ebola, Liberian officials are urging Ebola survivors to refrain from unprotected sex beyond the recommended 90 days, following on the country’s first Ebola death in more than a month, the Voice of America reported.

The female patient who died Friday was married to a man who had the disease but survived. Officials fear she may have gotten sick through sexual transmission. The 44-year-old woman was its first confirmed case in more than a month.

GUINEA: 45-Day Health Emergency

Guinea’ President Alpha Conde has declared a 45-day “health emergency” in five regions in the west and south-west of the country to stem the spread of the disease.

The restrictions include the quarantining of hospitals and clinics where new cases are detected, new rules on burials and possible lockdowns, the BBC reported.

The Ebola outbreak began in Guinea in December 2013. Last January, the World Health Organization reported a steady drop in cases in the three epicenterre countries.
But renewed concern has been triggered by fresh setbacks Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

On Sunday (March 30),  the head of the U.N.’s Ebola fighting force warned against complacency, while also hailing Guinea for tightening surveillance, AFP reported.

SIERRA LEONE: Lockdown Ends

Sierra Leone has just ended a three-day, countrywide lockdown where people were told to stay home while volunteers went door-to-door educating people on Ebola prevention.

Almost 4,000 people have died from Ebola in the West African country. The goal of the “Zero Ebola Campaign,” the Voice of America reported, is to stop the spread of the disease by educating people about the dangers and encouraging sick people to seek treatment.

 

March 30, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: Africa Command Tackling Violent Extremists and Other Challenges

Making Progress, but …

U.S. Marines from the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa are training Tanzanian park rangers in infantry skills such as patrolling, offensive tactics, land navigation and mounted operations to aid in countering illicit trafficking.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lucas J. Hopkins)

U.S. Marines from the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa are training Tanzanian park rangers in infantry skills such as patrolling, offensive tactics, land navigation and mounted operations to aid in countering illicit trafficking.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lucas J. Hopkins)

Africa’s security environment remains “dynamic and uncertain” with numerous countries through out the continent plagued by crime, corruption, as well as political and economic unrest, says the head of U.S. Africa Command.

Testifying today (March 26) before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army General David Rodriguez, AFRICOM’s commander, said the command has expanded collaboration with allies and partners to address the “growing threat in Libya, Mali and Nigeria” including “an increasingly cohesive network of al Qaeda affiliates a growing Islamic State (ISIL) … presence and Boko Haram.”

Rodriguez said al-Shabaab remains the primary security threat to U.S. interests in East Africa “despite progress by regional partners in liberating parts of southern and central Somalia from the group’s control.”  And in North and West Africa, Libyan and Nigerian insecurity “increasingly threaten U.S. interests. In spite of multinational security efforts, terrorist and criminal networks are gaining strength and interoperability,” he said.

Of five immediate priorities, the top two are countering violent extremism and enhancing stability in East Africa and in North and West Africa.

Rodriguez noted that AFRICOM’s engagement with partner nations has increased between Fiscal year 2013 and 2014.  “In Fiscal Year 2014, we conducted 68 operations, 11 major joint exercises, and 595 security cooperation activities,” he told the Senate hearing. By comparison, AFRICOM conducted “55 operations, 10 major joint exercises, and 481 security cooperation activities in Fiscal Year 2013.” But requirements are expanding faster than resources are increasing, he added.

More on this hearing later this weekend.

March 26, 2015 at 11:39 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Tunis Update; Attacks on and by Al Shabaab; Mali-UN Chopper Crash; Mali-Rebel Talks

Tunis Attack.

Tunisia in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Tunisia in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

The brutal extremist group that calls itself Islamic State is claiming responsibility for the attack Wednesday (March 18) on Tunisia’s popular national museum that left more than 20 people dead — most of them foreign tourists, the BBC reported.

Tunisian officials say two of the attacking gunmen were also killed and as many as three accomplices may have escaped. Officials in Tunis, the North African nation’s capital, say nine people have been detained for questioning in connection with the attack.

Initial reports Wednesday said the gunmen all attacked the National Assembly which is in the same compound as the museum and where lawmakers were debating a counterterrorism bill. here were no casualties at the legislative complex. Officials now say the museum and tourists were the attack’s targets.

The extremist group said the attack was aimed as “citizens of Crusader countries” and added that it was the “first drop of rain,” the Wall Street Journal and other news outlets reported.

The Bardo National Museum in Tunis, where more than 20 people were killed in a terrorist attack, is famous for its Greek, Roman and Carthaginian artifacts. (Photo by Alexandre Moreau via wikipedia)

The Bardo National Museum in Tunis, where more than 20 people were killed in a terrorist attack, is famous for its Greek, Roman and Carthaginian artifacts.
(Photo by Alexandre Moreau via wikipedia)

Twenty tourists from Britain, Colombia, France, Italy and Japan, came under fire as they disembarked from two tourist buses outside the Bardo National Museum. Others fled into the museum where some were taken hostage and some killed. At least two Tunisians, a female museum custodian and a security force officer, were killed in the attack.

Tunisian officials said troops were guarding key points in major cities throughout the country in the wake of the attack. Some Mediterranean cruise lines have suspended calling at Tunis for the time being, USA Today reported.

Wednesday’s assault was the worst attack involving foreigners in Tunisia since an al Qaeda suicide bombing on a synagogue killed 21 people on the tourist island of Djerba in 2002, according to Reuters.

*** *** ***
Apache Down.

Aerial view of the area surrounding Gao, Northern Mali. (United Nations photo)

Aerial view of the area surrounding Gao, Northern Mali.
(United Nations photo)

Two Dutch United Nations peacekeepers were killed when their Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) Apache attack helicopter crashed in northern Mali, Al Jazeera reports. At a press conference in the Netherlands Tuesday (March 17), the Dutch military confirmed the crash, calling it an accident.

The helicopter was conducting a firing exercise on ground targets over uninhabited terrain with another Dutch Apache when it crashed, the RNLAF said.

The accident occurred 47 kilometres to the north of the Dutch compound. Immediately after the crash, the crash site was secured by a French attack helicopter. Dutch special forces secured and guarded the site on the ground. An investigation into the cause of the accident is being mounted.

The helicopter, from the U.N.’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), crashed about 20 kilometers (xx miles) from Gao in northern Mali. The pilot died on impact and he co-pilot died from his injuries at a French military field hospital at Gao on the River Niger. Both pilots were members of 301 Squadron based in Gilze-Rijen airbase in southern Netherlands.

Mali (CIA World Factbook) Click on image to enlarge

Mali
(CIA World Factbook)
Click on image to enlarge

MINUSMA has some 11,000 personnel on the ground in Mali, about 670 of them are Dutch. More than 40 peacekeepers with MINUSMA have been killed since the mission was created in 2013 to keep the peace between rebelling Tuareg tribesmen in the northern deserts and the government in Bamako to the south. Because of those numbers, according to Al Jazeera, MINUSMA is considered the most dangerous U.N. mission in the world.

*** *** ***

Mali Peace Talks.

Meanwhile, Mali’s government  said this week that it won’t participate in further talks with rebels seeking autonomy for northern Mali.

The collapse in peace talks could leave the north’s political status open indefinitely, a situation that Islamist militants active in the region could exploit, Reuters reports.

Mediators have been working for months to get talks going between a group of Tuareg-led rebels from the north and the government in Bamako the capital in the southern part of the vast northwest African country.

Bamako signed a preliminary proposal earlier this month but the rebels erected it, saying it did not grant their region, called Azawad, enough autonomy. Those rebels took  advantage of a 2012 military coup in the capital to sweep down from the north seizing territory and cities like Timbuktu. But their rebellion was hijacked by radical Islamist groups, some tied to Al Qaeda branches. They imposed harsh fundamentalist Muslim law and destroyed several holy sites revered by Muslims they consider heretics.

The rebels were threatening to capture Bamako in early 2013 when France intervened, sending troops, armored vehicles and aircraft to drive the rebels back. Eventually, a U.N. peace mission was created.

*** *** ***

Al Shabab Blamed.

The Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa

Four people have been killed in a terror attack in northeastern Kenya about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the border with Somalia, the BBC reports.

Security forces said hooded men locked people inside a shop, then lobbed a hand grenade in, causing a fire.

Al Qaeda-linked al Shabab militants in Somalia said they carried out the attack — the fourth in five days in the troubled northeast region. Kenya’s northeast region has often been attacked by al Shabab, which has vowed to get revenge on Nairobi for sending troops into Somalia in 2011 to help the United Nations-backed government battle the Islamists terrorists.

*** *** ***

Al Shabab Official Killed.

And last week, a U.S. drone missile strike killed a top official in al Shabab’s security service, the Amniyat, according to the Voice of America website.

The March 12 airstrike hit a car carrying Adan Garaar — described by the Pentagon as  working for al Shabab’s intelligence wing and also connected to the 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya that killed more than 60 people.

Last month al Shabab released a video that called for attacks on Western shopping malls. The Mall of America, one of the largest in the United States, is in Minnesota, which has a large Somali immigrant population.

Prosecutors say dozens of people from Minnesota, many of them Somali-Americans, have traveled or attempted to travel overseas to support groups such as the Islamic State or al Shabab since 2007.

U.S. law enforcement officials are concerned about the potential for radicalization among embers of immigrants communities.

March 19, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA/TERRORISM: 22 Dead in Tunis Museum Attack [UPDATE 2]

Previously Peaceful Tunisia.

Tunisia and its neighbors. (Map from CIA World Factbook)

Tunisia and its neighbors.
(Map from CIA World Factbook)

Nine people have been arrested in connection with the deadly attack on a museum in Tunisia’s capital, killing at least 23 people  — 20 of them foreign tourists, the BBC reports.

And the brutal extremist group that calls itself Islamic State is reportedly taking credit for the bloodbath in the North African nation, according to Reuters, CNN and other news organizations.

Officials have not confirmed the IS claim of responsibility, which was made in an audio recording that praised the two attackers slain in the assault as “knights of Islamic State.”

Gunmen tried to storm the country’s national assembly Wednesday (March 18) while lawmakers were debating an anti-terrorism bill. When that attack was thwarted, the gunmen — some wearing military-style uniforms — attacked tourist buses outside the National Bardo Museum across from the government building.

According to the Voice of America, the attackers took a small group of tourists hostage. There were about 100 tourists in the museum, one of he capital’s top tourism sites, when the attack began. Prime Minister Habib Essid said 17 foreign tourists were among the dead. They were said to come from Colombia, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain. Two Tunisians, a female museum custodian and a security officer, were also killed — as were two gunmen. Tunisian authorities say they are searching for up to three accomplices.

The attack was a blow to Tunisia, one of the bright spots in the Arab Spring. Except for al Qaeda attacks on security forces along Tunisia’s borders, there has been no large scale political violence in the country. Tunisia has been making progress on a democratic transition since a popular revolt unseated the autocratic regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in January 2011. Since then there have been violent uphevals in Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world.

The attack on such a prominent target is a blow for a small North African country that relies heavily on European tourism, said Al Jazeera. The Wall Street Journal reports that “about 12 percent of Tunisia’s gross domestic product relies on tourism.”

More later in AROUND AFRICA this evening …

March 18, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

DEFENSE: UK Defence Secretary Worried About Rising Instability in Africa, Middle East

Failing States.

UK Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon (Ministry of Defence photo)

UK Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon
(Ministry of Defence photo)

Since he became Britain’s Secretary of State for Defence last July, Michael Fallon has seen Libya dissolve into chaos and threaten southern Europe with waves of refugees and potential terrorist attacks. There’s also been the shootdown of a Malaysian airliner carrying many Europeans over Ukraine … the rising threat of the Islamic State to Syria, Iraq and the West … and continued Russian aggression in Ukraine and the Baltics.

But the thing that has most surprised him so far is “the number of states that look to be on the brink of failing,” he told a Washington think tank audience Wednesday (March 11).

Fallon, a member of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s cabinet, said he’s worried about “the instability across great swathes of Africa and the Middle East.”

Nearly four years after a NATO air campaign led to the overthrow of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddaffi, the country has been torn by civil war, become a training ground for insurgents across North Africa and the Levant and also served as a haven for terrorists — including those that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in 2012.

Fallon said Western governments and their partners in the region have got to “redouble efforts to drive some sort of political settlement” among Libya’s warring factions.

On other security issues, Fallon said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression toward former Soviet Union states that are now NATO members — like all three Baltic countries, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia — have left those governments feeling “very exposed.”

Last week (March 6) the Defence Ministry announced it was sending a shipment of non-lethal equipment to Ukraine, including helmets, first aid kits GPS units and helmet-mounted night vision goggles. “NATO needs to make clear to President Putin that we will react … to defend any member of NATO that is attacked,” Fallon said.

On the pro-Russian insurgency in Ukraine, Fallon reminded the audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) that the former Soviet republic is not a NATO member. There “can’t be a military solution” alone for this crisis, Fallon said. But for a political solution to work “we need reassurances” from Russia and Russian-backed rebels that they will honor the ceasefire terms of the Minsk agreement, Fallon said.

A Russian bomber photographed from a Royal Air Force jet off the coast of Britain in October 2014.  (Sac Robyn Stewart/British Ministry of Defence photo)

A Russian Bear long-range bomber photographed from a Royal Air Force jet off the coast of Britain in October 2014.
(Sac Robyn Stewart/British Ministry of Defence photo)

He was asked about numerous Russian military flights — including the flight of two Russian bombers over the English Channel — that have led the Royal Air Force to scramble jets to escort the Russian planes away from Britain.

While none of those Russian jets have actually entered UK airspace, there has been no response from the Russian pilots, no radio or transponder communication at all. “We see that as Russia’s testing our response,” said Fallon, adding the radio-silent flights are “provocative and frankly, they’re dangerous.”

Fallon and new U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter will be meeting for the first time later in the day at the Pentagon.

March 11, 2015 at 12:32 pm Leave a comment

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