Posts tagged ‘al Qaeda’

AROUND AFRICA: Lawlessness in Nigeria; Terrorism in Burkina Faso; Counter Terrorism in Somalia

UPDATE: Includes HEALTH/EPIDEMICS –U.S. requiring Ebola Screening for travelers coming from Uganda; ECONOMY/MARKETS — Big African oil conference attendees react to OPEC cuts.

CONFLICT/TERRORISM

WEST AFRICA

NIGERIA: Women, children drown fleeing gunmen.

At least 18 women and children have drowned in Nigeria’s north-western Zamfara state as a gang of kidnappers opened fire on them, according to the BBC.

The 18 were among dozens of people trying to escape a night-time attack October 5, on the village of Birnin Wajje in the Bukkuyum area. The attackers shot dead at least six people and kidnapped seven other villagers before opening fire on the those fleeing in two boats, a resident told the BBC.

The shooting caused a panic capsizing the boats, the resident explained. A police spokesman confirmed to the BBC that there had been attack on the village and drownings, but could not give casualty figures. The resident said that 18 bodies had been recovered, but several others were still missing. The attackers have also abducted at least 16 people in the nearby village of Dargaje.

According to the Associated Press, the attack was the latest in a cycle of violence of armed groups targeting remote communities in Nigeria’s northwest and central regions. Authorities often blame the attacks on a group of mostly young herdsmen from the Fulani tribe who have been caught up in Nigeria’s conflict between farming communities and herdsmen over limited access to water and land.

Nigeria’s security forces are outnumbered and outgunned in many of the affected communities, while continuing to fight a decade-long insurgency launched by Islamist extremists in the northeastern part of the country.

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NIGERIA: Remaining hostages in March train attack freed.

Nigeria’s military says it has secured the release of the remaining 23 hostages taken during a train attack by gunmen in March, Reuters reported October 5. The attack in northern Kaduna state saw dozens of people kidnapped and six others killed.

Gunmen blew up the tracks and attacked the train traveling between the capital, Abuja, and Kaduna. The government blamed the attack on the Islamist insurgency Boko Haram. The attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train led to the suspension of a service that was popular with passengers who feared attacks and kidnappings by gunmen on Nigerian highways.

Usman Yusuf, secretary to the chief of defense staff, said in a statement that the military had “secured the release and taken custody of all the 23 passengers held hostage by Boko Haram terrorists.” He did not provide details.

Nigeria’s state railway company initially said it could not account for 168 people who had booked to travel on the train. Most were later traced to their homes, but 65 were confirmed missing. The kidnappers had been releasing hostages in batches.

Security is a major concern for Nigerians as the country prepares for February elections to replace President Muhammadu Buhari, a former army general who is stepping down after two terms leading Africa’s most populous country, noted the French press agency AFP.

No group took credit for the March 28 train attack, though officials have blamed jihadis cooperating with heavily armed criminal gangs who terrorize parts of northwest and central Nigeria with looting raids and mass abductions.

Analysts said the sophisticated attack involving explosives indicate Islamist militants could have participated. Nigerian government officials often use the term Boko Haram loosely to refer generally to armed groups.

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BURKINA FASO: Al Qaeda branch claims attack on Army convoy.

The Sahel-based branch of al-Qaeda  — Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM) — has claimed responsibility for an attack last month on a convoy in Burkina Faso that killed more than a dozen soldiers, the SITE Intelligence Group said October 4.

Islamist militants attacked a convoy taking supplies to a town in northern Burkina Faso on September 26, days before the West African country was hit by its second military takeover this year, Reuters reported.

JNIM claimed credit for the ambush and said it “caused significant economic losses to the enemy and ‘led to a shakeup’ in the army ranks, culminating in the military coup,” the SITE statement said.

Eleven soldiers were found dead and about 50 civilians were reported missing after the attack, the previous government said. But an internal security document seen by Reuters on October 4 gave a death toll of 27 soldiers.

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EAST AFRICA

SOMALIA: AFRICOM says airstrike targeted al-Shabaab leader.

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) says it conducted an airstrike against the al-Shabaab militant network in Somalia on October 1 in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia. The strike occurred near Jilib, about 370 kilometers (230 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu.

In an initial assessment, AFRICOM  said the strike killed an al-Shabaab leader and that no civilians were injured or killed.

Al-Shabaab is the largest and most kinetically active al-Qaeda network in the world and has proved both its will and capability to attack U.S. forces and threaten U.S. security interests. U.S. Africa Command, alongside its partners, continues to take action to prevent this malicious terrorist group from planning and conducting attacks on civilians,” AFRICOM said in a statement. “Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operations security,” the statement added.

Somalia has been in civil war since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew a dictator, then turned on each other.

Until then-President Donald Trump decided to pull U.S. troops out of Somalia, about 700 U.S. service members rotated in and out of Somalia, training the east African nation’s military and helping with their operations against al-Shabab, the largest and most well-funded wing of al Qaeda. But President Joe Biden decided to return up to 500 troops to the Horn of Africa, expediting airstrikes for counter terrorism operations.

“Somalia remains key to the security environment in East Africa,” AFRICOM said, adding the “Command’s forces will continue training, advising, and equipping partner forces to give them the tools that they need to degrade al-Shabaab.”

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HEALTH/EPIDEMICS

UGANDA: Ebola screening for Uganda travelers at 5 U.S. airports.

Federal officials will begin redirecting U.S.-bound travelers who had been to Uganda within the previous 21 days to five major American airports to be screened for Ebola, according to Reuters.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday issued an alert to health care workers to raise awareness about the outbreak but said there were currently no suspected or confirmed U.S. Ebola cases from the Sudan strain, which is behind the latest Uganda infections.

On September 20, 2022 Uganda health authorities declared an outbreak of Ebola disease, the deadly hemorrhagic fever, caused by Sudan virus, following laboratory confirmation of a patient from a village in Madudu sub-county, Mubende district, central Uganda, the World Health Organization announced on September 26. This is the first Ebola disease outbreak caused by Sudan virus in Uganda since 2012.

According to Uganda’s Health Ministry at least nine people have died of the disease in Uganda by October 3. Authorities in the east African nation announced the outbreak of the deadly hemorrhagic fever on September 20. There are 43 total cases.

Health workers treating Ebola patients in Africa in 2015. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

The screenings in the United States will begin rolling out immediately, the Associated Press reported. Travelers who have been in Uganda at any point during the past 21 days, which is the incubation period for the virus, will be redirected to one of five U.S. airports for Ebola screening: Kennedy International Airport in New York, Washington Dulles International Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The screening applies to any passenger who was in Uganda, including U.S. citizens. It involves a temperature and symptom check conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC will also collect contact information that will be shared with local health departments at the travelers’ destination.

The administration says about 145 people per day enter the U.S. from Uganda, with most already arriving at the five large airline hubs. Anyone scheduled to fly into a different airport will be rebooked by their airline, the government said.

Also on October 6, the CDC sent a health alert to doctors, urging them to get a travel history from patients who have Ebola-like symptoms.

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ECONOMY/MARKETS

   SOUTH AFRICA: Attendees at big African oil conference react to OPEC production cuts.

Delegates at Africa’s biggest oil conference have expressed concern about rising prices after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), plus nonmembers who also export oil, decided this week to cut production targets.

The OPEC nations, led by Russia and Saudi Arabia announced October 5 they will slash oil production by 2 million barrels per day.

The move prompted a blistering reaction from White House officials and reverberated almost immediately through domestic and global financial markets, threatening higher energy costs for the United States and European countries already grappling with inflation and economic instability, the Washington Post reported.

Russia will benefit from the cut, because lower production will increase the price of oil — helping Moscow finance its war effort in Ukraine. And it could further test Europe’s resolve to support Ukraine ahead of what economists project will be a sharp slowdown in economic growth throughout the continent. American consumers could also be strained by higher gas prices, potentially imperiling the Biden administration’s determination to lower gas costs ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

In Cape Town, South Africa at the Africa Oil Week conference, delegates expressed concern about rising prices, the VOA website reported.

Omar Farouk Ibrahim, secretary-general of the African Petroleum Producers Organization, said the move was aimed at ensuring stability in the global market and ensuring that prices don’t fall too low. “I believe it’s the right thing they did in order to save the industry,” he said, “and I totally think that every country has the responsibility to protect the interests of its citizens. And if by reducing production they see that as in their best interest, so be it.”

Rashid Ali Abdallah, executive director of the African Energy Commission, said it was too early to tell what the impact of the planned cuts would be. “I hope that the price is not shooting up, because in Africa we depend on oil products in power generation,” he said.

Gates Port Harcourt Refining Ltd in Alesa-Eleme, Nigeria. (photo by sixoone via wikipedia)

Natacha Massano, vice president of Angola’s National Agency for Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels, said she wasn’t sure how the announcement would affect her country. Angola is one of the two biggest oil producers in Africa; Nigeria is the other, and both are OPEC members.

“Some countries will be affected more than the others,” Massano said. “Some are benefiting — of course, the producers may benefit from the high prices, but at the same time they are paying also for all other commodities.”

October 6, 2022 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Ethiopia-Tigray Conflict; Into Somalia; Savage Attack in DRC

EAST AFRICA

Ethiopia-Tigray War

A convoy of food and other supplies arrived safely in the capital of Ethiopia’s war-torn region of Tigray on Friday (April 1). It was the first aid to arrive in Mekelle since December, the United Nations said.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said that more trucks and fuel would follow on Saturday morning (April 2) – a week after a humanitarian truce was agreed between the government and Tigrayan forces.

War broke out in the Tigray region in November 2020, pitting Ethiopia’s government and its allies against rebellious Tigrayan forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The TPLF is the political party that controls the Tigray region.

Last week, the federal government declared an immediate, unilateral truce to allow aid into Tigray. Tigrayan forces said they would respect the ceasefire as long as sufficient aid was delivered “within reasonable time”, Reuters reported.

It is unclear how much more aid might follow or how quickly. More than 90% of the 5.5 million people in the northern province of Tigray need food aid, according to the United Nations.

Around 100 trucks of aid per day need to enter to meet the population’s needs. No trucks have been able to enter since Dec. 15, due to a combination of bureaucratic problems and fighting.

WFP Ethiopia said another convoy with more than a thousand metric tons of food would be soon sent to the neighboring region of northern Afar “to communities in dire need”.

This week roads to Tigray from the Afar region had remained closed despite the ceasefire – with the warring parties trading accusations over who was to blame, according to the BBC.

Earlier a senior official of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front welcomed the truce as “a step in the right direction” but said there should be “a system in place to ensure unfettered humanitarian access for the needy.” The government has said it is committed to helping the safe passage of aid.

Malnutrition and food insecurity are rampant in northern Ethiopia, where an estimated 9 million people across the Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions need critical food assistance due to conflict, WFP says.

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Fighting al Shabab from Afar.

More than 13 months after President Donald Trump decided to pull U.S. troops out of Somalia, the head of U.S. Africa Command says the strategy is not working.

Previously, about 700 U.S. troops rotated in and out of Somalia, to train the east African nation’s and help with their operations against al-Shabab, the largest and most well-funded wing of al Qaeda. But now, says Army General Stephen Townsend, AFRICOM troops based in Kenya and Djibouti are only making visits to Somalia, Military Times reported.

Townsend said he believes periodic engagement, “commuting to work,” as some have called it, has caused new challenges and risks for the troops. The AFRICOM chief told a March 15 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that by his assessment the change “is not effective, it’s not efficient, and it puts our troops at greater risk.”

The issue is that though the Trump administration pulled troops out of the country, there was no change to the mission in Somalia, where the U.S. supports that government’s efforts to fight al-Shabab. Though U.S.-led strikes have continued, it’s a harder mission to do when it’s mostly remote, according to Military Times.

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WEST AFRICA

Bloody Attack in Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Fourteen people, including seven children, were killed with machetes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the Red Cross, Al Jazeera reports.

The attack took place in a displaced people’s camp in the country’s northwestern Ituri province on March 19, the humanitarian aid group reported.

Jean D’Zba Banju, a community leader in Ituri’s Djugu area, said the attacks belonged to the CODECO armed group, which has been blamed for a string of ethnic massacres in the area.

“CODECO militiamen entered Drakpa and started to cut people with machetes. They did not fire shots in order to operate calmly,” Banju told the news agency AFP March 20. “The victims are displaced people who had fled Ngotshi village to set up in Drakpa,” he said, adding that five others were wounded.

Gold-rich Ituri province has been plunged into a cycle of violence since late 2017 with the rise of CODECO, which has since split into rival factions. The group is a political-religious sect that claims to represent the interests of the Lendu ethnic group.

Ituri and neighboring North Kivu have been under a state of siege since May 6, in an effort to combat armed groups including CODECO and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The ISIL (ISIS) armed group describes the ADF as its local affiliate.

Despite the crackdown, and support from the Ugandan military since late November, attacks have continued and more than 1,000 civilians have been killed from May 2021 to January this year, figures according to the Danish Refugee Council.

April 1, 2022 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Conflict in Burkina Faso and Mali

Conflict zones, flash points and issues to watch Around Africa.

Burkina Faso.

Despite its reputation for political calm, a bustling art scene and rich music culture, a wave of violent attacks and suspected terrorist activity has triggered a sudden humanitarian crisis in the West African nation of Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso refugees AROUND AFRICA 10-17-2019

A family displaced by violence within Burkina Faso finds shelter with relatives in Dori, May 2019. © UNHCR/Romain Desclous

Unlike neighboring countries, Mali and Niger, which have been plagued by terrorism and violence in recent years, Burkina Faso was once one of West Africa’s most tranquil nations, according to the New York Times.

In the space of just three weeks, the Times reported, citing the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR), the number of internally displaced people in Burkina Faso has increased by almost 70 percent to nearly half a million people, in a nation of 20 million. About one-third of the country’s territory has become engulfed in fighting between armed groups, making the area inaccessible to aid workers, UNICEF officials said.

Operating in sparsely populated, impoverished regions with little government presence, armed groups are roving across borders and expanding areas of influence. Attacks have already spilled over into Benin this year. Overall, 5.4 million people in the affected regions need urgent assistance, including 3.2 million in Mali, and 700,000 people in western Niger, according to the UNHCR.

MAP Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso and its troubled neighbors (Source: CIA World Fact Book)

Increased attacks along the border in the past few months have forced more than a quarter-million people to flee, the U.N. refugee agency says. While terrorist groups like the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara are active in northern Burkina Faso, much of the violence carried out in the country has gone unclaimed, the Times says. Experts attribute many attacks to personal disputes, ethnic tensions or conflicts between communities — rather than terrorist activity.

But the capital, Ouagadougou (PRON: wah-ga-doo-gu),  has not been immune to violence.  An August 2017 attack on the Aziz Istanbul restaurant in the capital left 19 people dead, including nine foreigners. In 2016, a terrorist attack targeted a hotel and another restaurant in Ouagadougou, killing 30 people.

More recently,  armed men stormed the grand mosque in the northern village of Salmossi on October 11, killing at least 16 people and wounding two others, according to the Associated Press via the Miami Herald.

On October 4, about 20 people were killed in an attack on a gold mining site in northern Burkina Faso. The attack took place in Soum province, not far from where fighters blew up a bridge linking two northern towns in mid-September, AFP news agency reported via Al Jazeera.

Mali.

Violence continues to wrack the Sahel, the North African region bordering the Sahara Desert. Twenty-five Malian soldiers were killed and 60 are missing after suspected jihadists attacked two army camps in central Mali on September 30.

West-Africa-map

The toll is among the highest suffered by Malian forces this year as they struggle to contain militant groups with links to al Qaeda or Islamic State that have set up operations in parts of Mali from where they launch attacks across the Sahel, according to Reuters via VoA.

In response to the attack, Mali’s army launched a joint operation with forces from neighboring Burkina Faso, backed up by French troops stationed in the region.

The West African country has been in conflict since 2012 when Islamists hijacked an ethnic uprising by Tuaregs in the north. More recently, the violence has moved to central Mali, where fighting between farmers and herders has surged this year.

October 17, 2019 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA/SPECIAL OPS: Seven Countries Host Special Operations Exercise

Flintlock 2017.

A U.S.-led multinational military exercise — Flintlock 2017 — is underway in seven northern and western African countries. Flintlock is an annual training exercise for Special Operations Forces (SOF) designed to reinforce cooperation and the capabilities of participating nations.

flintlock-2017-niger-troops

Nigerien armed forces participate in the opening ceremonies of Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, February 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Specialist Zayid Ballesteros)

Last year, Exercise Flintlock 2016 was hosted by Senegal and Mauritania. This year, seven countries are hosting Flintlock 2017: Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia.

In addition to U.S. Green Berets from the 3rd Army Special Forces Group, which is regionally aligned to North and West Africa, SOF units from Australia, Belgium and Canada will be participating in the three-week exercise. The 20 personnel from Canada will include staff from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment and medical specialists from Canadian Forces health services group, according to the Ottawa Citizen

Other countries sending troops, 20 in all,  include:  Algeria, Cape Verde, Nigeria, Senegal,  Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom.

west-africa-map

The region where Flintlock is taking place is threatened by violent radical groups like Boko Haram and al Qaeda. Brigadier General Donald Bolduc, head of Special Operations Command Africa, said the training is focused on helping partners coordinate a regional response to extremist threats from al Qaeda-aligned groups and the Islamic State (ISIS), according to Stars and Stripes.

“These threats are a shared challenge we can only meet together,” Bolduc said during the Flintlock opening ceremony in Chad,” according to U.S. Africa Command. The exercise will pay special attention to protecting borders and guarding against cross-border attacks. Boko Haram, the Nigerian-based terrorist group, has launched attacks on neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

flintlock-2017-green-berets-saluting

Colonel Major TN Pale, Burkina Faso’s Army Chief of Staff, salutes U.S. Army Green Berets during the opening ceremony of Flintlock 2017 at Camp Zagre, Burkina Faso on February 27, 2017.  (U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Benjamin Northcutt)

March 2, 2017 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Attacks in Nigeria, Mali and Tunisia

Suspected Boko Haram Attack.

Nigeria in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Nigeria in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

More than 100 people are reported to have been killed this week  by suspected Boko Haram Islamist extremists in northeastern Nigeria, according to area residents.

Dozens of militants stormed three remote villages in Borno state “slaughtering residents and setting houses ablaze in the bloodiest day of attacks by the extremist group since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in May,” AFP, the French news agency reported. The terrorists attacked worshipers just after prayers at several local mosques. Buhari, a Muslim and former army commander, has vowed to crush Boko Haram, which launched a terrorist campaign to establish a strict Islamic state in 2009.

Gunmen killed at least 97 people in the village of Kukawa on Wednesday (July 1). In two other villages about 50 kilometers (31 miles) away near Monguno, gunmen killed 48 people and injured 11 others, AFP reported. All three communities are located near Lake Chad (see map), close to where Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon intersect, and has been a focal point of the unrest. Boko Haram has stepped up its campaign of violence, since Buhari was elected, killing some 400 people.

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook map)

According to Amnesty International, at least 17,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since 2009, BBC reported. Boko Haram has affiliated itself with the self-styled Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL) which has spread a reign of terror over parts of Syria and Iraq.

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U.N. Peacekeepers Killed.

Mali (CIA World Factbook)

Mali
(CIA World Factbook)

Six United Nations peacekeepers were killed and five were wounded when their convoy was attacked in northern Mali Thursday (July 2), according to the Voice of America website.

A statement from the U.N. peackeeping force in Mali — MINUSMA — said the convoy was attacked about 45 kilometers (27 miles) southwest of the city of Timbuktu. The U.N. said all of the killed and wounded were from Burkina Faso. The statement also said the latest attack brings to 42 the number of peacekeepers killed and 166 wounded in hostile action in Mali since 2013.  No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Violence has continued in northern Mali despite a French-led military campaign in January 2013 to drive al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels that seized control of nearly half the sprawling North Africa country after a Tuareg uprising led to a military coup that plunged the country into chaos.

French troops meet with soldiers from Burkina Faso outside Timbuktu. (Copyright French Ministry of Defense)

French troops meet with soldiers from Burkina Faso in 2013 outside Timbuktu.
(Copyright French Ministry of Defense)

Meanwhile, Reuters reports, officials in neighboring Mali are reinforcing security along its northern border after recent attacks just across the border in Mali that are being blamed on Islamic insurgents.

Ivory Coast  (CIA World Factbook)

Ivory Coast
(CIA World Factbook)

Armed men attacked and briefly took control of Fakola, a town in Mali’s southern region of Sikasso, close to the border with Ivory Coast, on Sunday (June 28). The raid followed a similar attack weeks earlier during which dozens of suspected Islamist militants hit a police station in the nearby town of Misseni, Reuters said.

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa grower and French-speaking West Africa’s largest economy, is emerging from a decade-long political crisis and now is in the midst of an economic revival.

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Tunisia Beach Attack.

Tunisia in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

the Tunisia in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

Eight suspects, including a woman, are being held in custody on suspicion of being directly linked to the June 26 deadly attack on vacationers in the Tunisian resort of Sousse, the BBC reports.

Thirty -eight people were killed when a gunman opened fire on tourists staying in the popular resort of Port El Kantaoui, just north of Sousse. The self-described Islamic State, a violent extremist organization that has captured parts of Syria and Iraq, claimed responsibility for the attack.

Thirty of the victims were British and were staying at the Hotel Rui Imperial Marhaba and neighboring Hotel Rui Bellevue Park. Dozens more are still being treated in hospitals. The other victims were from Belgium, Germany, Russia, Ireland and Portugal, according to CNN.

Tunisian authorities have identified 28-year-old student Seifeddine Rezgui as the gunman. In March, two gunmen killed 22 people in an attack at the famous Bardo museum in Tunisia’s capital, Tunis. Islamic State has built a significant presence in Libya, Tunisia’s neighbor, and it thought to control the major towns of Derna and Sirte, the BBC said.

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

COUNTERTERRORISM: Obama Strategy for Countering Violent Extremist Groups

Long War Strategy.

President Barack Obama and National Security Adviser in the Oval Office. (White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama and National Security Adviser Susan Rice in the Oval Office.
(White House photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama says the United States is not at war with Islam. Rather,  “we are at war with people who have perverted Islam,” he told officials from more than 60 nations at a three-day summit on countering violent extremism that ended Thursday (February 19).

The White House called the Washington gathering — following a wave of recent terrorist attacks in Canada, France, Australia and Denmark — to develop an international coalition to wage an ideological battle against violent extremist organizations such as the so-called Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) in parts of Syria and Iraq, and radical Islamist groups like Boko Haram in West Africa and al Shabaab on the Horn of Africa in the eastern part of the country.

Among the tactics proposed was delivering a strong message to young people to counter the propaganda and recruitment efforts of extremist groups through social media. “We must acknowledge that groups like al Qaeda and ISIL, are deliberately targeting their propaganda to Muslim communities, particularly Muslin youth,” Obama said, adding: Muslim communities, including scholars and clerics therefore have a responsibility to push back, not just on twisted interpretations of Islam, but also on the lie that we are somehow engaged in a clash of civilizations; that America and the West are somehow at war with Islam or seek to suppress Muslims; or that we are the cause of every ill in the Middle East. ”

As a step in that direction, Obama said the United States was joining with the United Arab Emirates (UAE, a Gulf State), to create a new digital communications hub to work with religious and civil society and community leaders to counter terrorist propaganda.

Obama also called on foreign leaders to cut off funding “that fuels hatred and corrupts young minds.” He also called for free elections, religious and ethnic tolerance.”We have to address the political grievances that terrorists exploit.” But a number of the countries represented at the meeting, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Uganda, are far from democratic and tolerant, the New York Times noted.

And conservatives and Republicans criticized Obama’s emphasis on expanding human rights, religious tolerance and peaceful dialogue. “The solution here is not expanded Medicaid. The solution is the full force of U.S. military power to destroy the leaders of ISIS,” Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and possible presidential candidate told Politico. “They have declared war … jihad on the United States. Jihad is another word the president doesn’t say.”

Critics like Cruz have also complained that Obama doesn’t use terms like “Muslim,” “Islamic” or “jihadist,” when talking about Middle East terrorism. The White House says its part of strategy to avoid giving credence to the IS doctrine that the West is at war with Islam.

February 20, 2015 at 12:58 am Leave a comment

WASHINGTON: Ashton Carter to Replace Chuck Hagel as Defense Secretary [UPDATE]

Obama Makes Change at the Pentagon.

President Barack Obama introduces Ashton Carter as his nominee to be the next Secretary of Defense Friday (Dec. 5)

President Barack Obama introduces Ashton Carter as his nominee to be the next Secretary of Defense Friday (Dec. 5)

UPDATES with Obama announcing selection of Ashton Carter to be next Secretary of Defense — subject to Senate confirmation.

It’s official, President Barack Obama has picked veteran Pentagon official Ashton Carter as his nominee to succeed Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense.

In remarks at the White House, Obama characterized Carter as someone who knows the Defense Department “inside and out.” The president added that Carter would “hit the ground running” if the Senate confirms the nomination — which most observers expect.

Carter was deputy defense secretary under Leon Panetta, but Obama passed over him in early 2013 to tap Hagel as SecDef. Numerous news outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times indicated earlier this week that Carter was Obama’s choice this time around.

While he has never served in the military, Carter held key posts in the Clinton and Obama administrations at the Pentagon. In addition to serving as the No. 2 official at the Pentagon from October 2011 to December 2013, Carter, 60, has served as the Pentagon’s chief of acquisition, technology and logistics – the head weapons buyer for the military.

“As a top member of our Pentagon team for the first five years of my presidency, including two years as deputy secretary, he was at the table in he Situation Room; he was by my side navigating complex security challenges that we were confronting,” Obama said.

Then-Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter speaks to U.S. troops before a Patriot missile battery at a Turkish army base in 2013. (Defense Dept. photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Then-Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter speaks to U.S. troops before a Patriot missile battery at a Turkish army base in 2013.
(Defense Dept. photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Carter is known for a keen, well-educated mind – he has a doctorate from Oxford in theoretical physics and degrees in physics and medieval history from Yale. Your 4GWAR editor was impressed by Carter’s candor, intelligence and laid-back but articulate manner at the 2013 Aspen Security Forum, explaining the expansion of cyber security in the wake of the mess caused by the National Security Agency revelations and other disclosures by rogue contractor Edward Snowden.

While the White House hasn’t confirmed Carter’s nomination, the choice isn’t expected to run into much opposition on Capitol Hill. From the moment Hagel’s resignation was announced last month, Carter was among the names Washington insiders considered most likely for the post. The reported front-runner, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Michele Flournoy, took her name out of contention, as did Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat and former Army Ranger who sits on the Armed Services Committee.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel discusses his resignation during a White House news conference with President Barack Obamal Nov. 24. Hagel will continue to serve as defense secretary until a successor is confirmed by the Senate.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel discusses his resignation during a White House news conference with President Barack Obamal Nov. 24. Hagel will continue to serve as defense secretary until a successor is confirmed by the Senate.

The fact that Hagel’s departure was announced without a successor standing by, surprised Washington pundits, who speculated that it showed more disorder in an Obama White House, contending with a shooting war in Iraq, Russian belligerence, global jihad and Taliban resurgence while the United States is winding down its combat role in Afghanistan – all with less money from Congress.

But CNN reported that Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, declined to accommodate his resignation announcement until the White House settled on a nominee.  On Thursday (December 4) Hagel discounted reports that he resigned over differences with Obama, Reuters and other news outlets report. However, Hagel did not attend today’s White House event with Carter, according to The Hill.

All we can say is … Stay tuned.

December 4, 2014 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Brazzaville Blast, Kidnapped Aid Workers

Republic of Congo

CIA World Factbook

At least 200 people were killed when a series of blasts rocked an arms depot in Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of Congo.

The explosions were felt across the three-mile-wide Congo River in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), formerly known as Zaire.

It’s not clear what started the fire at a tank regiment’s barracks located in a densely populated neighborhood, the Associated Press reported. The depot is used to store weapons, including mortars, according to an official at President Denis Sassou-Nguesso’s office told the AP.

Among the dead and injured were several Chinese construction workers building low income housing near the depot, according to China Daily.

Mali

An al Qaeda splinter group in northwest Africa is seeking $39 million (30 million euros) for the release of three aid workers kidnapped in Algeria last Fall, the AFP news agency says.

The group, which calls itself “The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa,” is claiming responsibility for the kidnapping of two Spanish nationals and an Italian. The two women and one man were seized in October at Tindouf, a refugee camp in western Algeria. The splinter group is led by Malians and Mauritanians, experts told AFP.

The group broke off from al Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb to focus on spreading jihad to west Africa, according to experts.

March 5, 2012 at 1:18 am Leave a comment

PAKISTAN: Militants Attack Karachi Naval Base (Update 5/23/2011)

Another Blow to the Military Establishment

Heavily armed gunmen attacked a Pakistani naval base outside the economic center of Karachi Sunday night (May 22), killing at least a dozen people and destroying two long-range naval surveillance aircraft presented to Pakistan by the U.S., according to te Washington Post and other news outlets. Pakistani security forces did not regain control of the base until late Monday afternoon (May 23), the Los Angeles Times reported

P-3C aircraft in Pakistan after delivery from the U.S. (Central Command photo)

The Pakistani Taliban took credit for the attack, saying it was to exact vengeance for the U.S. commando raid inside Pakistan that killed al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden on May 1.

It was the second attack on Pakistani naval forces in as many months. In April, three people were killed and more than 30 wounded when bombs were detonated near two buses carry navy personnel. The Karachi attack was the worst on Pakistani military installation since extremists attacked Pakistan army headquarters in 2009, leaving 23 people dead, including nine militants. The Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency – the main Pakistani intelligence service — has also seen its headquarters bombed.

The attacks call into question how well Pakistani security forces can safeguard their own military facilities, especially the country’s nuclear arsenal — believed to contain about 100 warheads, said the Financial Times. Seventeen U.S. and Chinese technicians at the naval aviation facility were evacuated safely, Pakistani officials said.

Authorities said 12 Pakistani commandos and soldiers were killed in the attack. Another 14 were injured. Officials did not reveal how many of the militants were killed. The Karachi attackers also destroyed two Lockheed Martin Orion P-3C maritime surveillance aircraft transferred to the Pakistani Navy in 2010. The four-engine, turboprop aircraft were deliberately targeted in the attack, the Pakistani Navy said. The P-3Cs were the first of eight to be handed over to Pakistan by 2012, according to U.S. Central Command.

Updates with attack ending, new casualty figures, Chinese and U.S. technicians safe, blow to Pakistani security services’ prestige, and two aircraft destroyed.

May 22, 2011 at 11:13 pm Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: Trains and Cell Phones

Can You Hear Me Now?

The Federal Communications Commission(FCC)  is teaming up with federal emergency officials and wireless communications companies to launch a public alert system that will send warnings to people’s mobile phones when they are in a threat area.

Cell phone towers will relay emergency alerts. Photo by Dori

Known as PLAN (for Personal Localized Alerting Network), the new public alert system will allow mobile phone customers to receive geographically-focused text-like messages about imminent threats to safety.

The alerts will be localized – say within a few blocks of a suspicious vehicle or within a few miles of an approaching tornado or hurricane – through short, relayed messages from a local cell phone tower.

The service is slated to start by the end of the year in New York City and Washington, and in the rest of the country by mid-2012. All major U.S. Cell phone systems will participate in the system, which is being supervised by the FCC and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – a branch of the Department of Homeland Security.

The wireless industry will have to add a necessary chip that only a few types of phones have right now. They have agreed to add the chip to new phones and wireless devices rolling out by 2012.

The chip means people in threatened geographic areas with enabled phones will receive the alerts regardless of where they are from or where the phone was purchased, according to the New York Post.

—  — —

Was al Qaeda Getting into Training?

Amtrak, the U.S. National Railroad Passenger Corp., used to advertise with the catch phrase “America is Getting into Training.”

Amtrak (Photo: FreeFoto.com)

According to the documents seized by U.S. agents in Pakistan following the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, it appears the terrorist organization he founded and led planned to do a little “training,” itself.

Information obtained following the raid on bin Laden’s compound indicates the terrorist organization was planning – as recently as February 2010 – to launch attacks on U.S. passenger trains,possibly during the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Although the U.S. has long labeled al Qaeda a threat to air transportation, the terrorist network has also launched attacks on big city transit systems — in London (July 2005) and Madrid (March 2004) — killing and injuring hundreds of people.

The intelligence coming out of the bin Laden compound raid led Sen. Charles Schumer of New York to suggest imposing a “No Ride List” for Amtrak similar to the “No Fly List” of known and suspected terrorists to be kept off airline flights. The New York Democrat wants the Department of Homeland Security to expand the Secure Flight program that pre-screens airline passengers for terrorists, to Amtrak in order to protect the nation’s railroad infrastructure.

Amtrak says such a system may be worth looking into, but an awful lot of planning has to go into any such security system to ensure passenger rights are protected and commerce isn’t slowed down, according to Fox News.

May 10, 2011 at 11:59 pm 1 comment


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