Posts tagged ‘France’

TERRORISM: String of Terror Attacks Kill, Maim Hundreds in Paris

Paris Attacked, Again.

French tricolor flag (Wikipedia)

French tricolor flag

As many as eight terrorists launched a series of shootings and bombings across Paris Friday (November 13) — from an international soccer match that the French president was attending to restaurants and neighborhood cafes, killing more than 100 people and wounding hundreds more, French officials said.

The situation is still fluid and casualty figures — as well as the number of attackers — have been changing throughout the night in reports from numerous news outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, BBC, Reuters and CNN.

French President Francois Hollande has declared a state of emergency and closed all French borders to facilitate the capture of any of the attackers still at large and to keep other terrorists from entering the country. “As I speak, terrorist attacks of unprecedented proportions are underway in the Paris area,” he said Friday evening adding: “It is a horror.”

Hollande said he had “mobilized all forces possible to neutralize the terrorists and make all concerned areas safe. I have also asked for military reinforcements. They are currently in the Paris area, to ensure that no new attack can take place.” As many as 1,500 troops were immediately mobilized in and around the city.

In Washington, President Obama said the attack was “not just on Paris,” and “not just on the people of France.” He added: “this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.” Obama pledged to “stand prepared and ready to provide whatever assistance that the government and the people of France need to respond. France is our oldest ally. The French people have stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States time and again. And we want to be very clear that we stand together with them in the fight against terrorism and extremism.”

Through the night, talking heads on television speculated on who could be behind the attacks, how they had managed to evade detection of such a large operation and what it means for Europe, the United States and the rest of the world.

Your 4GWAR editor has some questions and observations that we think could be key in coming days.

First, any way you look at it, this is an intelligence failure — an intelligence disaster — for France and its allies. There are reports that various intelligence agencies detected no chatter or unusual activity to indicate such a big operation in the days leading up to the attacks. Have the plotters discovered a new way to communicate with each other without using mobile phones, email or other electronic devices.?Have they resorted to the old New York Mafia ploy of meeting in crowded public places to avoid wire taps and video surveillance?

Many pundits believe the attacks were a well planned and executed operation by a presumably large network, but we wonder why the bombs at the soccer match went off outside the stadium harming few besides the suicide bombers. Were the attackers blocked at the gate? Did they panic and just blow themselves up to avoid capture or achieve martyrdom? Did they know Hollande would be at the game, and if so, why didn’t they plant more explosives around the stadium — like in stairwells — to cause more panic and possibly a fatal stampede?

If this attack were so well organized, why were there no secondary blasts and shootings to kill and maim first responders arriving after the initial carnage — as often happened in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Were these attacks actually prompted in response to the reported killing of ISIS executioner Jihadi John in a U.S. airstrike … or the Kurdish offensive against the Islamic State in Iraq, backed by U.S. and allied airpower?

Stay tuned. We expect much will be learned in the next few days.

November 14, 2015 at 12:35 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: U.S. Ebola Response, Nigeria College Attacked, U.N. Peacekeepers Killed in Mali UPDATE

Ebola Roundup.

UPDATES Ebola Roundup with aid pledge from Canada, Sierra Leone shutting down for three days and report of health workers and journalists found dead in Guinea.

Disinfecting personal protective garb and equipment at the J. F Kennedy Treatment Center in the capital of Liberia. (WHO photo by Christina Bamluta)

Disinfecting personal protective garb and equipment at the J. F Kennedy Treatment Center in the capital of Liberia. (WHO photo by Christina Bamluta)

The death toll from the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has gone over 2,600, according to the World Health Organization.

At least 2,630 people have died and at least 5,357 people have been infected, the WHO said Thursday (September 18), according to Reuters.

In an update on the epidemic, which is raging through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia – and has spread to Senegal and Nigeria, the U.N. health agency said there were no signs of the outbreak slowing, said Reuters.

Several Western governments – criticized for not doing enough — have stepped up their assistance in fighting the fast-moving virus, for which there is no known cure.

President Barack Obama says the United States will send 3,000 military personnel to West Africa where they will erect new treatment and isolation facilities, train health care workers and increase communications and transportation support, according to The Associated Press.

President Barack Obama convenes briefing on the Ebola virus at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.  (White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama convenes briefing on the Ebola virus at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.
(White House Photo by Pete Souza)

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the 3,000 troops would not provide direct care to Ebola patients, the AP reported. A substantial number will be stationed at an intermediate base in Senegal, Earnest said, with others at locations in Liberia where they will provide logistical, training, engineering and other support.

Obama said the Ebola outbreak is now an epidemic “of the likes that we have not seen before. It is spiraling out of control … The reality is that this epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better,” Obama said during a visit to the National Centers for Disease Control (CDC) where he consulted with health officials about the U.S. response to Ebola. “Right now, the world has the responsibility to act – to step up, and to do more. The United States of America intends to do more,” Obama added.

France says it will set up a military hospital in West Africa as part of its contribution to the fight against Ebola. President Francois Hollande said Thursday (September 18) that the facility will be set up “in the forests of Guinea, in the heart of the outbreak,” according to Reuters.


Earlier this week, Canada said it will donate $2.5 million worth of the specialized medical gear used to protect health-care workers who are treating Ebola patients, The Canadian Press reported.

In a bid to reduce its Ebola infection rate, Sierra Leone will “close down” the country for three days beginning Friday (September 19), according to information minister Alpha Kanu.

Current figures show there are 1,400 cases of the Ebola disease in Sierra Leone, according to Kanu, the Voice of America reported. Sierra Leone is one of three hard-hit Western African nations being overwhelmed by the rapidly spreading deadly virus.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports officials in Guinea searching for a team of health workers and journalists who went missing while trying to raise awareness of Ebola have found several bodies.

A spokesman for Guinea’s government said the bodies included those of three journalists in the team. The group was reported missing after being attacked Tuesday (September 16) in a village near the southern city of Nzerekore.

Guinea and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Guinea and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

On Thursday night, a Guinea government spokesman, Albert Damantang Camara, said eight bodies had been found, including those of three journalists.

He said they had been recovered from the septic tank of a primary school in the village, adding that the victims had been “killed in cold blood by the villagers”.

The reason for the killings is unclear, but correspondents say many people in the region distrust health officials and have refused to co-operate with authorities, fearing that a diagnosis means certain death, the BBC said. Last month, riots erupted on rumors that medics who were disinfecting a market were contaminating people.

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Nigeria College Attack

Gunmen have attacked a teacher training college in the northern Nigerian city of Kano, and officials say at least 15 people have been killed, the BBC reports. Another 34 people were injured in the Wednesday (September 17) attack.

The gunmen exchanged fire with police outside the college before running inside. While it is not clear who was responsible for the attack, the BBC said, suspicion will fall on the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which has been waging an insurgency in Nigeria since 2009. The group which wants to set up a separate Islamic state in Africa’s most populous country has already killed 2,000 people this year and kidnapped hundreds of high school-age schoolgirls.

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Peacekeepers Killed

A French AMX-10RCR armored reconnaissance vehicle in convoy near Gao, Mali in the drive against Islamist fighters in 2013. (Copyright French Ministry of Defense)

A French AMX-10RCR armored reconnaissance vehicle in convoy near Gao, Mali in the drive against Islamist fighters in 2013.
(Copyright French Ministry of Defense)

The United Nations mission in Mali says five of its peacekeepers from Chad were killed and another three wounded when their vehicle was hit by an explosive device in the north of the country on Thursday (September 18).

The attack brings the number of U.N. peacekeepers killed in the country this month to 10, according to Reuters. The U.N. mission, known as MINUSMA, said the blast happened between the desert towns of Aguelhok and Tessalit, in the Kidal region of the Wester African nation.

MINUSMA was deployed last year to help stabilize Mali following a three-pronged crisis which began with a Tuareg separatist uprising, followed by a military coup in the southern capital and a nine-month occupation in the north by al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants.

The militants were chased out by a French-led intervention, but pockets of insurgents remain in Mali’s vast desert north from where they have launched attacks on the U.N. peacekeepers.

September 18, 2014 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 8, 2013)

Warriors of the World

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael Petersheim)

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael Petersheim)

Members of the U.S. Marine Corps and the French Foreign Legion trained together last month at Camp des Garrigues near Nimes in the south of France.

In this photo, Legionnaires from the 2nd Foreign Infantry Regiment of France’s 6th Light Armored Brigade set up landing zone security for an MV-22B Osprey with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (SP-MAGTF) Crisis Response. It was the first time an Osprey landed on French soil as part of the week-long joint military exercise.

The Legionaire in the foreground is armed with a FAMAS (a French acronym for Assault rifle of the Weapons factory of Saint-Étienne).

SP-MAGTF Crisis Response is a self-mobile, self-sustaining force capable of responding to a range of crises to protect both U.S. and partner-nation security interests in the region. The unit also seeks to strengthen partnerships throughout the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command area of responsibility.

To see more photos from this exercise, click here.

November 8, 2013 at 1:50 am 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA Update: Mali, Meth in West Africa

Mostly Mali

Fierce fighting continues in northern Mali as French troops and their allies from Mali and Chad battle to clear violent Islamist extremists from mountain strongholds.

French troops supported Malin forces battling insurgents in Gao [see map below]Copyright Ministry of Defense

French troops supported Malian forces battling insurgents in Gao [see map below]
Copyright French Ministry of Defense

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said today (Feb. 26) that the fighting in the Ifoghas region – near the Algerian border – is targeting an area where the “most radical terrorist groups” have gone, according to the Voice of America.

Because of that, Le Drian says says it’s too soon to talk about withdrawing troops from the former French colony in West Africa, although costs of the nearly two-month intervention are growing.

The defense minister told France’s RTL radio that the French intervention in Mali has cost more than €100 million ($133 million), the Associated Press reported.

Mali [click on image to enlarge]CIA World Factbook

Mali [click on image to enlarge]
CIA World Factbook

France began airstrikes Jan. 11 against insurgents that have seized control of almost half of Mali and were threatening Bamako, Mali’s capital. There are now about 4,000 French troops in Mali and Paris has said it wanted to pull them out as soon as the threat diminished — perhaps as soon as March.

Late last week, officials in Chad announced 13 of their soldiers had been killed and five wounded in fighting with the militants in northern Mali. Officials said 65 insurgents were also killed.

To see some striking Aljazeera photos of the fighting and its aftermath in the northern Mali town of Gao, click here.

Meanwhile, Ivory Coast Foreign Minister Charles Koffy Diby says it will cost more than 700 million euros to pay for a multi-national West African military force to replace the French in Mali. The military option was approved in December by the United Nations Security Council and organized by the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which includes Mali and Ivory Coast.

The peacekeeping force is supposed to consist of 6,000 troops from ECOWAS countries and another 2,000 from Chad, which is not an ECOWAS member but borders Mali. More than 1,000 Chadian troops are already on the ground in Mali, as are contingents from Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso and Senegal.

According to the South African Press Association, Diby, whose country holds the ECOWAS chairmanship this year, estimated it would cost 715 million euros – more than twice the amount pledged by donor nations in January. Diby said the sum he had in mind took into account “the demands of an asymetrical war or a drawn-out conflict that the narco-terrorists … could bring about.”

Transnational Crime Threat

A United Nations report released today (Feb. 25) warns that the production of methamphetamine is on the rise in West Africa.

Powder meth in foil packet.(Justice Dept. photo)

Powder meth in foil packet.
(Justice Dept. photo)

While cocaine trafficking is the most lucrative criminal activity of transnational crime groups operating in the region, one “worrying development” is the emergence of meth production and related trafficking, according to the report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The main market for West African-produced meth is East Asia, although it is also going to South Africa.  Income from West African-made meth “is remarkably high” for a product that’s new to the market, the report said, adding that competition from drug rings in East Asia is likely to cut into those profits in coming years.

Pierre Lapaque, the West and Central Africa representative for the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime says meth is an attractive product for West African criminals because it is easy to make, the Voice of America reported.  “You can do that in your kitchen, if you wish,” he said, adding: “You go on the internet, you get the recipe and you cook.”

Although the flow of cocaine out of West Africa peaked at 47 tons in 2007, officials believe cocaine trafficking is back up to 30 to 35 tons a year.

Much of that cocaine comes from Brazil where Nigerian crime groups are exporting the drug.  the report said, adding that those crime groups have been using containerized consignments and maritime shipping to smuggle the drugs. The small country of Benin on the West Coast of Africa is seeing more use as a departure point for air couriers headed for Europe, the report said.

The report also noted that while human trafficking between West Africa and Europe had declined in recent years, there are still problems with pirates off the coasts of Nigeria and Benin as well as trafficking in firearms and fraudulent medicines.

“The recent flood of 10,000 to 20,000 firearms from Libya does represent a serious threat to stability in the region, a threat that appears to have been realized in northern Mali,” the report said.

February 26, 2013 at 12:26 pm Leave a comment

4GWAR Blog News: 2012 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for the 4GWAR blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 210,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 4 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a (very) small country in Europe!

Last year 4GWAR was thrilled to receive more than 134,000 visits. This year’s visits totaled 209,970.

Most of those views came from the United States (84,926). In descending order, the top 10 foreign viewing countries were. 1. Britain (8,645); 2. Canada (7,008); 3. India (4,568); 4. Germany (4,082); 5. Australia (3,292); 6. France (3,271); 7. Brazil (2,288); 8. Poland (2,192); 9. Russia (1,984); 10. Pakistan, (1,795).

Indonesia was close behind at 1,769 views. The African country with the biggest viewership was South Africa with 840. Three of the five most viewed 4GWAR posts were about Africa.

Thanks to all who visited 4GWAR in 2012, we hope to see more of you in 2013!

January 2, 2013 at 11:24 pm Leave a comment

COUNTER TERRORISM: Basque Separatists Ending Violence Campaign

Peace in the Basque Country Still Uncertain 

While the demise of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi sparks headlines around the world, another development on the international terrorism front is largely being overlooked: in Europe, the militant Basque separatist group, ETA, has announced it is ending its decades-long campaign of bombings, shootings and kidnappings to win independence.

ETA announces end of violent Basque independence campaign.

The group, founded in 1959, called for “direct dialogue” with Spanish and French officials, the New York Times and other news outlets reported.

The Basque country, which straddles the border between northwest Spain and southwest France, includes the cities of Bilbao and Pamplona in Spain and Bayonne in France.

ETA, which stands for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna — “Basque Homeland and Freedom,” in the Basque language — has mounted a violent campaign against officials and police in both countries since the 1960s. Targets have also included journalists, academics, businessmen, railroads and a nuclear plant under construction. More than  800 people have been killed and thousands injured in Spain alone by ETA attacks.

ETA has declared, and then broken, ceasefires four times before. The group has been labeled a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States.

An international group of peacemakers that included former United Nations  General Secretary Kofi Annan met in Spain’s Basque country last week and issued a communique Oct. 17 calling for an end to “the last armed confrontation in Europe.” On Oct. 20 ETA issued a statement and a video (viewable on the website of Britain’s Guardian newspaper) declaring “definitive cessation of its armed activity.” The Spanish government welcomed the ETA proclamation but several thorny issues have yet to be addressed. ETA did not say it was disarming, and it is expected to seek the release of  hundreds of Basque prisoners being held in Spain, France and elsewhere.

The military dictatorship of Generalissimo Francisco Franco, who ruled Spain from 1939 to 1975, banned the Basque language and other cultural activities in the region. In 1979,  Spain granted its part of Basque country a degree of autonomy.

Basque country map courtesy of The Basque Culture On-Line

The Basque Country On-Line

October 21, 2011 at 8:52 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: Cocoa Economics and Politics

EU Imposes Ivory Coast Trade Sanctions, Neighboring Militaries Prepare

Ivory Coast is the world’s leading cocoa producer and incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo is counting on the proceeds from that valuable crop to keep him power.

Gbagbo lost the Nov. 28 presidential election – according to the United States, United Nations, European Union and his country’s electoral commission – but has refused to step aside for the man who won: former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara.

Cocoa pods. Wikipedia photo

Ouattara, a former World Bank economist, is trying to cut off Gbagbo’s funding – and with it, his ability to pay soldiers and civil servants loyal to him. Meanwhile, West African militaries are prepared to send troops into Ivory Coast to remove Gbagbo, a Nigerian general told AFP.

Speaking in Bamako, Mali where military chiefs of the Economic Community of West African States have been meeting, the Nigerian general said military iforces are ready to intervene if the political leaders of ECOWAS nations give the word to launch operations.

The United Nations has more than 9,000 peacekeepers in Ivory Coast, and plans to deploy 2,000 more even though Gbagbo has ordered all U.N. troops out. Manu of the U.N. Peacekeepers surround the Abidjan hotel where Ouattara is conducting his campaign to take over the government. Militants loyal to Gbagbo surround the U.N. troops.

Nigerian forces are expected to play the largest role in any military intervention in Ivory Coast, supplying a combat squadron and attack helicopters, AFP reported.

The small Ivory Coast Air Force was destroyed on the ground by France in 2004 in reprisal for an attack on a French peacekeeping post that left nine French soldiers dead. At the time, Ivory Coast said the attack was an error but French didn’t see it that way.

Ivory Coast reportedly has built up its air force with retreads from France, the U.S., Russia and Ukraine although the operational capabilities of any of the aircraft is questionable.

Complicating matters, the E.U. has imposed trade sanctions, barring member-ships from taking on cargo in Ivory Coast’s two main ports, Abidjan and San Pedro. That includes cocoa and coffee, another major cash crop. The market uncertainty has driven the price of cocoa commodity futures up, according to Bloomberg. Ouattara and West African officials are trying to block Gbagbo’s access to the Central Bank of West African States, Bloomberg reports. Both Gbagbo and Ouattara have been pressuring local businessmen – including cocoa exporters to pay fees and duties only to them and not the other side.

Meanwhile, violence is on the rise according to the Associated Press and the Voice of America. The death toll from violence has risen to 260 and the U.N. Reports about two dozen women have been raped in the western part of the country.

January 20, 2011 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

COUNTER TERRORISM: U.S. and Europe Grapple with Bomb Threats

Guarding Against More Cargo Plane Bombs

Following the recent attempt to smuggle package bombs into the U.S., Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano spoke with leaders from the major air cargo companies about how to make things safer in the wake of the Yemen bomb plot.

Napolitano spoke with officials Thursday (Nov. 4) from UPS, DHL, FedEx and TNT, to discuss enhanced air cargo screening and security efforts following last week’s disrupted attempt to conceal and ship explosive devices onboard aircraft bound for the U.S. from Yemen.

According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Napolitano said she is committed to partnering with the shipping industry to strengthen cargo security through enhanced screening and other preventative measures, including terrorism awareness training for personnel.

Following her call with shipping industry leaders, Napolitano spoke with Giovanni Bisignani, director general of the Geneva-based International Air Transport Association (IATA). They  iscussed continued DHS collaboration with private sector partners and international allies to secure the global supply chain through a layered security approach.

France Arrests Brothers on Terrorism Charges

Meanwhile, bomb threats and bomb plots continue to bedevil several countries in Europe. CNN reports that French authorities have arrested two brothers on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack. The pair, who are French, were taken into custody Wednesday (Nov. 3).

France is at its second-highest level of terror alert and 85 people have been arrested on suspicion of links to terrorism this year. About 27 of them are still in custody, officials said.

Greece Intercepts 14th Letter Bomb

And in Greece, authorities are dealing with a spate of letter bombs – sent mostly to foreign embassies and governments. The 14th suspect device, sent to French Embassy in Athens, was detonated by police.

Two bombs exploded at the Swiss and Russian embassies earlier, slightly injuring a courier service employee. The devices are small and apparently do not pack enough explosive to seriously hurt anyone, the BBC reported. Authorities believe the bombs are the work of militant Greek leftists and not linked to international terrorism. Two Greek men have been arrested in connection with some of the bombs.

The spate of bombs has prompted Greek officials to halt the delivery of overseas mail.

November 5, 2010 at 12:02 am 2 comments


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