Posts tagged ‘Africa’
New Drone base.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Headline rewritten to clarify U.S. forces not engaged in combat, just aiding ISR effort.
The United States has quietly sent hundreds of troops to West Africa, to help Cameroon’s army hunt the terrorists along the Nigerian border, according to a CBS News report Wednesday (December 16).
They’re searching for Boko Haram, the extremist group that has aligned itself with the so-called Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIl and Daesh). Boko Harma has killed more than 20,000 people in the region, mostly in Nigeria, over the past six years.
Cameroon is getting help from the U.S. military, which is setting up another drone base in Africa. Cameroon soldiers are learning how to use their own unarmed drones for surveillance. The U.S. base won’t be fully operational until next month, CBS says.
“The U.S. is providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to the Cameroonian forces,” Army Captain Victor Guzman told CBS News. He said the plan is for the Cameroonian troops to take the lead and fight the local threat.
The United States started unarmed drone surveillance flights out of Niger, to the north of Cameroon, in early 2013 to support French forces fighting Islamist militants in northern Mali.
The United Nations is seeking a record $2 billion in aid for North Africa’s Sahel region to counter poverty, insecurity and climate change that could tip the area over, generating a new wave of mass migration, Reuters reported Wednesday (December 9).
The U.N. has increased its appeal for the nine countries of the semiarid band stretching from Senegal on the Atlantic to Eritrea on the Red Sea more than tenfold over the last 10 years, but funding has fallen short each year.
Attacks by militants from the radical Islamist group Boko Haram in the Lake Chad basin, as well as efforts by regional armies to counter them, have already forced 2.5 million people to flee their homes — a figure that has tripled in 12 months, according to Reuters.
Toby Lanzer, a U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator, noted the thousands of refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East flooding into Europe. “Eventually, you are going to have thousands or tens of thousands of people [from the Sahel] who will seek opportunities elsewhere or, if worse comes to the worst, be forced to flee,” he told Reuters.
A portion of the 2016 funding, part of a $20.1 billion record U.N. humanitarian appeal, will also go toward education, which Lanzer hopes will encourage young girls to finish schooling and cap population growth in a region ill-equipped to cope with a forecast sixfold increase in population by 2100.
The biggest recipient in 2016 will be Chad with $567 million, which has suffered a series of Boko Haram suicide bombings in recent months, followed by Mali with $354 million and Niger with $316 million. Other countries in the Sahel include Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Sudan
The refugee appeal comes just a day after U.N. Security Council appealed for greater international security cooperation and more humanitarian aid to bring stability to sub-Saharan Africa.
Concern about terrorist safe havens in Libya and the humanitarian crisis caused by Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria, are at the heart of the Security Council’s warning.
In a presidential statement issued two weeks after the top U.N. regional official warned that the sub-Saharan Sahel region will become fertile ground for recruiting terrorists among its tens of millions of disadvantaged people, the 15-member Council called for a dual policy of combatting terrorism and its havens while eliminating its root causes through aid and development.
Another Mali Attack.
Two United Nations peacekeepers and a civilian contractor were killed in a rocket attack Saturday (November 28) on a U.N. base in northern Mali.
The attack on the dessert base near Kidal (see map) killed two soldiers from Guinea. More than 10,000 UN peacekeepers from several countries — mostly nearby West African nations like Guinea — have been patrolling violence-wracked Mali since 2013, according to the BBC.
The UN mission in Mali — criticized at the time of its approval because there is no peace deal to support — has suffered more casualties than any other in recent years, with 56 troops killed, the BBC indicated in a November 20 video report.
Olivier Salgado, spokesman for the UN’s deployment in Mali known as MINUSMA, told Al Jazeera the attack was launched before dawn with five rockets landing inside the UN compound. Salgado said 20 other people were wounded, four seriously.
“In the past we’ve had mortar shells land outside, but this time they made it into the camp,” he said.
The armed group Ansar Dine told the AFP news agency it was responsible for the attack. Hamadou Ag Khallini, one of the group’s senior figures told AFP by phone that the attack was “in response to the violation of our lands by the enemies of Islam.”
French forces intervened in Mali, a former French colony, when a rebellion by heavily-armed Tuareg nomads sparked an Army coup in 2012 because the government’s poor handling of the revolt. The Tuaregs, backed by al Qaeda-linked Islamist extremists, took advantage of the chaos and swept over half the country — threatening Bamako, the capital — before the French intervened with ground troops and aircraft.
But violence has picked up again. Five UN peacekeepers were killed in July, and just over a week ago a militant assault on a luxury hotel in Bamako left more than 20 people dead. On Friday (November 27), Malian forces arrested two men in connection with the hotel attack, the Voice of America website reported..
Other West African governments are also battling insurgents. Boko Haram, the leading armed group in the region, has this year extended its attacks from Nigeria to the neighboring states of Niger, Cameroon and Chad, Al Jazeera noted.
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The Islamic State-linked militant group Boko Haram is claiming responsibility for a suicide bombing in northern Nigeria Friday (November 27) that killed at least 22 people marching in a procession of Shi’ite pilgrims.
The blast near the village of Dakozoye, south of Kano, came just days after two female bombers blew themselves up at a local mobile telephone market in Kano, killing at least 14 people and wounding more than 100 others in the city of 2.1 million residents, the Voice of America reported.
A statement posted Saturday (November 28) on Twitter referred to the Friday blast as a “martyrdom-seeking operation.” It also vowed more violence would come as the extremist group presses its six-year campaign for an independent Islamic state, or caliphate, in northeastern Nigeria and the nearby countries of northern Cameroon, Chad and Niger.
Followers of The Islamic Movement of Nigeria were marching from Kano to Zaria through the village of Dakasoye on Friday when the attackers struck, according to Al Jazeera. The followers were on a “symbolic trek” to Zaria, where the Islamic Movement of Nigeria’s leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky is based, to mark the 40th day of Ashura – the death of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Hussein.
Meanwhile, Boko Haram has been labeled the world’s deadliest terrorist group, according to the New York Times.
The militant group that has tortured Nigeria and its neighbors for years, was responsible for 6,664 deaths last year, more than any other terrorist group in the world, including the Islamic State, which killed 6,073 people in 2014, according to a report released (November 18).
The report, by the Institute of Economics & Peace, said the Islamic State and Boko Haram were responsible for half of all global deaths attributed to terrorism. Last year, the deaths attributed to Boko Haram alone increased by more than 300 percent, the report said. The report also found a drastic increase in terrorist attacks last year, with the majority occurring in three countries: Iraq, Syria and Nigeria, where other militant groups besides Boko Haram operate.
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Five Polish sailors have been abducted from a cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria, according to the BBC and other news outlets.
Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said the men– including a captain and other three officers — were kidnapped Thursday night (November 26) from the cargo ship Szafir.
Pirates boarded the vessel as it traveled from Belgium to Nigeria, according to Polish media reports. Eleven other sailors evaded capture, apparently by locking themselves in the engine room.
Security experts classify the waters off Nigeria as some of the deadliest on earth, with pirates based in the country often targeting oil tankers, as well as hostages to ransom, Al Jazeera reported.
But the region has seen no documented attacks since February, when a crude carrier was boarded with the ship’s Greek deputy captain killed and three crew members taken hostage.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: [UPDATED 11/25/2015] Refugee Crisis; Winning Over Muslim Immigrants; Water Woes Behind Mass Migrations
Food for Thought: Double Trouble.
They’re worried that terrorists may be hiding among the refugees swarming into Europe — like one of the attackers in Paris who killed 129 people. They also fear that refugees from Muslim countries like Syria and Iraq — even if they’re fleeting terrorism — may become radicalized by anti-Western propaganda and turn into Islamist terrorists themselves.
In the United States, the governors of more than half the states say thousands of Syrian refugees President Barack Obama wants to bring to America are not welcome. Only 1,500 Syrian refugees have been accepted into the United States since 2011, but the Obama administration announced in September that 10,000 Syrians will be allowed to enter the country as refugees next year, according to CNN.
Meanwhile, some countries in Europe, which has been swamped this year by more than 700,000 political and economic refugees from the Middle East and Africa, say they won’t take in any more people. According to Reuters, 1,500 migrants remain trapped in northern Greece unable to cross the border into Macedonia after other countries in the Balkans began limiting their intake to Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis. Meanwhile, Poland cited the Paris attacks as the reason for not taking in 4,500 Syrian refugees as part of a European Union plan to spread the immigration burden, Britain’s Daily Mail reported. Instead, Poland’s new foreign minister suggested turning the refugees into an army to fight and “liberate their country with our help.”
Here at 4GWAR, we don’t have all the answers to these expanding problems, but we offer two pieces of research that could help point the way to a solution.
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Winning Muslims’ Trust.
You know the old saying “You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar”? Well, some academic researchers say their work shows harsh rhetoric and cold shoulders can make Muslims feel like they don’t belong in Europe or the United States — and that can lead to radicalization.
“Our research, forthcoming in Behavioral Science and Policy, and in partnership with the World Organization for Resource Development and Education, shows that making Muslims feel this way can fuel support for radical movements. In other words, many Western policies that aim to prevent terrorism may actually be causing it,” say in an article on “The Conversation” website via the Washington Post.
Lyons-Padilla, a research scientist at Stanford University’s Stanford SPARQ and Gelfand, a professor and Distinguished University Scholar Teacher at the University of Maryland, asked hundreds of Muslims in Germany and the United States to tell them about their experiences as religious and cultural minorities — including their feelings of being excluded or discriminated against on the basis of their religion. “We also asked how they balance their heritage identities with their American or German identities. We wanted to know if these kinds of experiences were related to their feelings toward radical groups and causes.”
Because you can’t pre-interview a potential terrorist, they measured two indicators of support for radicalism.
“We asked people how willing they would be to sacrifice themselves for an important cause. We also measured the extent to which participants held a radical interpretation of Islam. (For example, they asked whether it’s acceptable to engage in violent jihad.) “Finally, we asked people to read a description of a hypothetical radical group and tell us how much they liked the group and how much they would want to support it.” This hypothetical group consisted of Muslims in the United States or Germany upset about how they were treated by society and would stop at nothing to protect Islam.
“Overall, support for these indicators of extremism was very low, which is a reminder that the vast majority of Muslims do not hold radical views,” the researchers wrote. But the responses of some interviewees showed they felt marginalized and identified with neither the culture of their heritage nor the culture of their adopted country — in effect they were “culturally homeless.”
“The more people’s sense of self worth was threatened, the more they expressed support for radicalism,” the researchers said. “Our findings are consistent with a theory in psychology that terrorists are looking for a way to find meaning in their lives.” Extremists know and exploit these vulnerabilities, targeting Muslims whose sense of significance is low or threatened, they wrote.
The researchers add: “For people who already feel culturally homeless, discrimination by the adopted society can make matters worse. In our data, people who said they had been excluded or discriminated against on the basis of their religion experienced a threat to their self-esteem. The negative effects of discrimination were the most damaging for people who already felt culturally homeless.”
The research results suggest that cultivating anti-immigrant or anti-Islamic sentiment is deeply counterproductive. “Anti-immigrant discourse is likely to fuel support for extremism, rather than squelch it,” the authors said. To read the full article, click here.
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Beyond conflict, there is another contributing factor to the waves of refugee flooding Europe: water scarcity, according to a world renowned environment and development research organization.
“A well-documented path can connect water scarcity to food insecurity, social instability and potentially violent conflict,’ say researchers at the World Resources Institute, a Washington think tank.”As climate change amplifies scarcity worries, more secure water supplies could help the lives of millions in conflict zones,” say WRI’s , and
They say drought and water shortages in Syria are likely to have contributed to the unrest that stoked the country’s civil war — now in its fourth year. Dwindling water resources and chronic mismanagement forced 1.5 million people — primarily farmers and herders — to lose their livelihoods and leave their land. The farmers then moved to urban areas, magnifying Syria’s general destabilization.
The unstable conditions are likely to deteriorate in coming decades. Syria is projected to be among the 11 most water-stressed countries in the world by 2040. And it’s not alone in the region. Fourteen of the 33 likely most water-stressed countries in 2040 are in the Middle East. Water stress is an underlying conflict multiplier that will not go away, the trio of researchers say.
Food prices and other food-supply disruptions are caused by a complex series of factors, including the global food trade and government subsidies. But local water stress can make the situation worse over the long term, the WRI researchers says. Part of the reason Middle Eastern countries had to import so much food is that water is relatively inaccessible compared to other food-growing regions, they added.
To read the entire article, including possible solutions to water stress, click here.
Gunmen Seize Hotel.
A hotel in the northwest African nation of Mali is under siege today after gunmen stormed the building in Mali’s capital city, killing at least three people and taking more than 100 hostages.
While many hotel guests and workers have been evacuated from the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali’s capital, 138 guests and hotel staff are believed trapped inside, according to the BBC.
The hotel has been surrounded by Malian and French troops. A U.S. defense official in Washington said about 25 U.S. military personnel were in Bamako at the time of the incident, and were helping to move civilians to safety, Reuters reported.
France said it was dispatching 50 elite counter-terrorism officers to Bamako immediately. Paris has troops in Mali helping to fight Islamists, but they are based in the desert city of Gao, 950 kilometers away, according to Reuters.
According to news reports, the gunmen arrived at the hotel in a truck bearing diplomatic license plates and started shooting when a guard tried to check their identification.
Mali’s president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was attending a regional conference in neighboring Chad and has cut short his trip and is reported heading back to his country.
The gunmen’s motivation and affiliation is unknown although some people who escaped the hotel said some of the gunmen shouted “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great.”
Mali, a former French colony, has ben wracked by a military coup and an uprising by separatist Tuareg tribesmen since 2012. The coup was sparked by young officers’ frustration with the government’s inept handling of the Tuareg rebellion in the country’s northern deserts. The ensuing chaos prompted the Tuaregs to sweep over more than half the country, including the ancient city of Timbuktu. Radical Islamists linked to al Qaeda hijacked the rebellion, turning it into a Muslim extremist campaign that imposed harsh sharia law and destroyed shrines and tombs deemed idolatrous.
France launched a military intervention in early 2013 at the request of the Bamako government. Together with troops from neighboring African nations, they rolled the rebels back and have been providing security — along with U.N. peacekeepers, now numbering 12,000, ever since.
French, Turkish, Chinese and Indian nationals were among the guests at the hotel, which is popular with United Nations personnel, businessmen and airline flight crews.
Northern Mali remains insecure and militant attacks have extended farther south this year, including the capital. In March masked gunmen shot up a restaurant in Bamako that is popular with foreigners, killing five people, according to the Associated Press.
About 1,000 French troops remain in the country. The Netherlands also has troops working with the UN mission in Mali. According to the Dutch defense ministry, some 450 Dutch military personnel are taking part in the mission along with four Apache and three Chinook helicopters. Most of the Dutch force is based in Gao, but there are a few officers at the U.N. mission headquarters in Bamako, AP reported.
Tanzania Vote Disputed.
Voters went to the polls in Tanzania Sunday (October 25) to pick a president and members of Parliament for the east African nation.
But the main opposition candidate, Edward Lowassa, has rejected the election results — citing alleged fraud, according to the Voice of America website.
For the first time since the country’s independence in 1961, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) — the longest serving political party in Africa — faced a formidable threat from a coalition of four main opposition parties dubbed Ukawa (Umoja wa Katiba ya Wananchi, which means Coalition for the People’s Constitution).
Lowassa told reporters Wednesday (October 28) in the capital, Dar es Salaam, that results from the opposition coalition’s tallying unit showed the opposition was leading the vote count before police raided the unit Monday (October 26), the VoA reported.
The opposition Chadema party, part of the coalition, said police detained 40 of its volunteers who were tallying results. The police commissioner said the arrests were based on “violations of electoral procedures.”
Ethnic tensions over elections are virtually unheard of in the country of more than 100 ethnic groups, according to the BBC.
The incumbent, Jakaya Kikwete, has served the maximum two terms and is not seeking re-election. Over the past decade, a series of high-level corruption scandals have tainted the government and seen a reduction in financial assistance to the country, one of Africa’s largest aid recipients, the BBC said.
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Zanzibar Vote Voided.
Meanwhile, officials in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago have annulled the vote, sparking tension on the islands and raising questions about the national presidential result, according to Al Jazeera.
Zanzibar’s electoral commission said Wednesday (October 28) that elections on the Indian Ocean islands – where the 500,000 registered electorate had also voted on Sunday for Tanzania’s national president – must be carried out again, citing “violations of electoral law”.
“The process was not fair and had breaches of the law … I declare all the results to be null and void,” Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairman Jecha Salim Jecha said, reporting alleged violations including double-voting and cheating.
The annulment is likely to delay the announcement of full national results. Counting continued for a third day on Wednesday (October 28), with the ruling party presidential candidate in the lead.
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Ivory Coast Landslide.
And in west Africa, the president of Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), Alassane Ouattara has won a second term in office. He received 83 percent of votes Sunday (October 28),according to official results announced overnight.
Ouattara won a landslide victory. Second place candidate, ex-Prime Minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan, got just 9 percent of the vote, according to VoA.
More than 3,000 people were killed in post-election violence in 2010 and 2011 when incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat.
Internationally accepted results showed Ouattara had won the November 2010 election.
Gbagbo was removed from office after French troops and United Nations peacekeepers intervened in the crisis. He is now awaiting trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity. Ivory Coast is a former French colony and still has French troops stationed there.
Two Big Conferences.
But this week, we want to call your attention to two important conferences running almost simultaneously in the Washington D.C. area.
UNMANNED SYSTEMS DEFENSE
The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) — the trade group of robotic and autonomous systems makers, researchers, developers and users — holds their annual meeting with the military, technology experts and the defense industry. Presentations and panel discussions will review the Pentagon’s programs for drones and robots that fly in the sky, roll or walk across the ground or swim in or under the sea. In fact, the gathering used to be called the program review but now it’s called Unmanned Systems Defense.
It runs for three days, starting Tuesday (October 27) at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Arlington (Pentagon City), Virginia. Each day is dedicated to a different battlespace: maritime, air and ground. Speakers will include program managers and officers from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard — along with several congressmen and officials from Special Operations Command and DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
For more information, click here.
The companies and organizations that supply goods, servcies and technology to peacekeepers, relief groups, advisers and other non-governmental organizations are also meeting in the Washington area this week. The International Stability Operations Association (ISOA) is holding its 10th summit at the National Press Club starting Wednesday (October 28).
ISOA says it represents companies and organizations “whose work lays the foundation for long term stability and growth in the world’s most unstable places. We serve the implementing community, providing member services focused on contracting, partnerships, regulatory and legal developments, research initiatives, policy movement, and whatever else our members deem important.”
We last wrote about ISOA in 2013, when some ISOA members expressed interest in possible using drones to obtain intelligence about possible danger in remote locations, finding refugees who have fled violence or food shortages and where the greatest need for food is in vast regions with few roads.
Among the speakers ISOA members will hear from at the two-day event: the former head of U.S. Africa Command, General Carter Ham (ret.); Ambassador Brett McGurk, the deputy special presidential envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS and the Islamic State); the former deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), rerired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Program Support), Gary Motsek.