Posts tagged ‘French troops in Africa’

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.


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.


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: Ivory Coast Attack Fallout

Beach Bloodshed.

MAP-Ivory Coast BigOfficials in the West African nation of Ivory Coast say the death toll from Sunday’s terror attack at a beach resort has risen to 19. Twenty-four people injured in the attack remain hospitalized.

The victims reportedly came from six different countries. Eleven Ivorians were killed, and four French citizens were among the dead, as well as one German, one Nigerian, one Macedonian and one Lebanese, according to the Voice of America website.

Armed with grenades and assault rifles, the attackers stormed three hotels on Sunday and sprayed the beach with bullets in the resort of Grand Bassam, located 40 kilometers from the commercial capital Abidjan.

Al-Qaeda’s North Africa branch in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), claimed responsibility for the attck, saying it was revenge for a French offensive against fighters in the Sahel region and called for France to withdraw them.

President Alassane Ouattara has pledged that Ivory Coast would not be “intimidated by terrorists,” Al Jazeera reported. In a statement broadcast on radio and television, Ouattara said “Ivory Coast is standing up, standing up to fight the cowards and protect its people.”

French helicopters in Africa

French helicopters in Africa (Ministry of Defense photo)

Meanwhile, France has announced plans to send paramilitary forces to the capital of Burkina Faso to counter the threat posed by Islamist militants in West Africa. A team from the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group (GIGN) will be deployed in Ouagadougou to respond in the event of a “terrorist crisis,” said French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve according to the BBC. The announcement comes 48 hours after the attack that left four French nationals among the dead.

For the first time, Ghana’s government has put the nation on high alert in the wake of Sunday’s deadly terror attack in neighboring Ivory Coast, the VoA website reported.

Since November, al-Qaeda militants have attacked hotels in two other regional capitals, Bamako (Mali) and Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso).

March 17, 2016 at 10:54 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Horn of Africa; Hundreds of Tunisians Kidnapped; Hunger Crisis in Mali; UPDATES with Tunisian Soldiers Killed; Somalia Fisheries Plundered; Liberia Ebola-Free

Geopolitical Powder Keg.

The Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa

According to new research, the Horn of Africa is warming and drying faster now than it has over the past 2,000 years.

That research — into ancient marine sediments — contradicts global climate models, which show the geopolitically unstable region getting wetter as emissions boost temperatures worldwide, the Scientific American reported Tuesday (October 13).

The Jessica Tierney, lead author of the new paper, published in Science Advances last Friday (October 9), says the new findings “changes our view of how greenhouse gases will affect future warming in the Horn.” Tierney, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arizona, said scientists — herself included — believed that rising emissions “would lead to rainier seasons.”

Violent conflicts, droughts and famines have already wracked the area of Eastern Africa roughly encompassing Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Sudan. Climate change could be a “threat multiplier,” Tierney and her colleagues said.

Peter deMenocal, a co-author of the paper and the director of the Center for Climate and Life at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, says the region is a “geographical powder keg” that has been experiencing tremendous food insecurity, water insecurity, geopolitical insecurity and now “we’re adding to that climate insecurity.”

*** *** ***

Mass Kidnapping.

An armed group in western Libya says it has released 30 of the approximately 300 Tunisian workers it kidnapped Tuesday (October 13), the BBC reported. The group says it is holding the rest in the town of Sabratha.

Kidnappings of Libyans or foreigners by any one of the country’s militia groups are routinely staged to extort money, encourage a prisoner exchange, or for political leverage.

Hassan Dabbashi, the head of the armed group that took the Tunisian workers, told the BBC that it wants the Tunisian government to release the Mayor of Sabratha in exchange for their captives.

The Libyan mayor was arrested in Tunis airport at the weekend after attending a workshop on local governance hosted by the United Nations Development Programme.

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

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

Meanwhile, the Tunisian military said Monday (October 12) that Islamist militants killed two Tunisian soldiers near the Algerian border.

The soldiers were searching for a kidnapped shepherd in that western region of the country and four other soldiers were wounded during the search near Mount Sammama.

The army has been carrying out operations in western Tunisia, where dozens of security forces have died battling Islamic extremists, the VoA reported.

The military did not identify which group of extremists might have carried out Monday’s attack, which occurred just days after Tunisian civil society groups won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Associated Press reported. The Arab Spring reform movement originated in Tunisia in 2010 and 2011 and quickly spread to other nations.

*** *** ***

Insecurity, Violence … Now Hunger.

The United Nations says violence against aid groups and general insecurity have plunged the Timbuktu region of northern Mali into a hunger crisis. Tens of thousands of children are at an increasing risk of dying from malnutrition, the U.N. said, according to the Voice of America website.

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)

About one in six people in the region are suffering from acute malnutrition, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [UNOCHA] said. That includes more than 50,000 children under the age of five who are up to nine times more likely to die, because they are malnourished, the U.N. agency said.

 Conflict in Mali erupted in 2012, when a loose coalition of separatist rebels and al-Qaida-linked militants swept across the north of the country before a French-led military intervention in 2013 drove them from the main towns they had been occupying, according to VoA.

Armed groups drove the Malian army out of many posts in the north last year, and they are now fighting each other for control of land, which has uprooted tens of thousands of people and hindered relief efforts, aid agencies say.

*** *** ***

Somali Fishing Grounds Plundered.

Remember all the problems pirates caused around the Horn of Africa just a few years ago?

Well locals in the coastal trading town of Durduri, Somalia say there are no more fish in the sea. They blame not the pirates who brought the attention of international law enforcement to Somalia’s waters, but the foreign fishing boats that have plundered sea-life stocks, according to the Al Jazeera news site.

And if things don’t change, they say, a return to piracy will be their only way of survival.

Large foreign vessels “come at night and take everything”, one young fisherman told Al Jazeera. “With their modern machinery, there is nothing left,” he added.

His accusations are backed up by two new pieces of research, according to the website. The studies, conducted by separate Somali development agencies, suggest that international fishing vessels – particularly Iranian and Yemeni, but also European ships including Spanish vessels – are illegally exploiting the East African nation’s fish stocks on a massive scale. 

While piracy put a stop to illegal fishing, these findings suggest it was merely a hiatus. Now that international anti-piracy task forces have halted the seagoing hijackers, illegal fishing vessels have returned.

*** *** ***

Ebola-Free Liberia.

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

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

October 13, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: The China Question, Mali Fighting

Xi in Africa

China’s new president, Xi Jinping, is in the middle of a four day tour of Africa – part of his first trip abroad as national leader.

Xi will be attending a two day conference of leaders of the so-called BRICS countries starting today (March 26). The BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – form an economic bloc made up of many of the world’s leading emerging economies. But Xi is also trying to assure Africans that China interest in their continent isn’t just as a market for its manufactured goods and a source of the raw materials needed by its factories.


His first stop in Africa this week (March 24) was Tanzania. China has had a close relationship with the country since it gained its independence from Britain in the 1960s. Thousands of Chinese engineers and laborers built a railroad connecting Tanzania with Zambia in the ’60s and ’70s, according to Xinhua’s website.

At a conference center in Dar es Salaam built with Chinese assistance, Xi assured the audience and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete that China was interested in helping African nations develop their economies, pledging $20 billion in loans to African countries over the next two years. He also said China would train 30,000 African professionals, offer 18,000 scholarships to African students and “increase technology transfer and experience,” Reuters reported.

China’s trade with all African countries reached $198 billion in total value in 2012, an increase of 19.3 percent from 2011, according to Chinese customs statistics, the New York Times reported. Much of that trade consists of oil, minerals and other commodities from Angola, Nigeria and other resource-rich countries, the Times said.

After the two-day BRICS meeting Durban, South Africa, Xi will wind up his first foreign tour with a visit to the Republic of Congo (not be confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo — formerly known as Zaire.)

At a Washington symposium on conservation and national security that your 4GWAR editor attended last week, a former Bush administration diplomat said China had made Africa “strategic.”

“I think that strategic engagement is going to translate into political influence and geo-strategic influence,” said Jendayi Frazer, the first woman appointed U.S. Ambassador to South Africa and a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs. “I think it will show up in things like the United Nations Security Council and how votes start to go in the U.N. General Assembly and other such venues,” she added.

But, “African citizens are becoming increasingly impatient with the flood of Chinese laborers” into their labor markets “and particularly, cheap goods and the supply chain” supporting Chinese traders in the African marketplace. “It’s a big problem,” she told the gathering, co-sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and Conservation International.

Frazer, now a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, noted however, that China’s “model of supporting business and their strategic outlook in Africa, is something we in the West should emulate. We should do a better job of helping our private sector” in Africa and other regions.

[You can see a video of Frazer and some of the other speakers at this symposium by clicking here. Your 4GWAR editor’s question about AFRICOM is at 57 minutes and 55 seconds on the tape. Frazer’s comments on China in Africa are at 1 hour, 3 minutes into the tape, followed by her comments on AFRICOM.]

Mali Update

Mali [click on image to enlarge]CIA World Factbook

Mali [click on image to enlarge]
CIA World Factbook

Six people – including one civilian – have been killed in fighting between Islamist rebels and French and Malian forces in the northern city of Gao (see map), according to Voice of America.

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate has named a replacement for a key commander killed by Chadian soldiers in Mali’s northern mountains last month, according to an Algerian broadcaster, VOA reported. The new guy, Djamel Okacha – also known as Yahia Abu El Hamam – is slated to replace Abdelhamid Abou Zeid as a leader of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, commonly known as AQIM, according to Algeria’s Ennahar TV.

March 26, 2013 at 1:15 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Mali Terror Group Sanctioned, AFRICOM, More Mali

U.S. VS. Ansar-al-Dine

Mali [click on image to enlarge]CIA World Factbook

Mali [click on image to enlarge]
CIA World Factbook

 One of the violent radical Islamist groups at the center of the insurgency in northern Mali has been designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

In a statement released today (March 21) the State Department said Ansar-al-Dine was deemed a Foreign Terrorist Organization under federal law and also a Global Terrorist entity under an executive order that targets terrorists and those providing them support.

Ansar-al-Dine was one of the Islamic extremist groups that hijacked a largely secular rebellion by nomadic Tuareg tribesmen in Mali’s desert north last year. The rebellion, the latest in a series of revolts since the 1960s by Tuaregs seeking autonomy from Mali’s government in Bamako, the capital, mushroomed after Malian army officers staged a coup on March 22. Ironically, the military coup arose from Army frustration with Mali’s democratically-elected government was mishandling the Tuareg revolt.

Taking advantage of the political chaos, the Tuaregs swept over nearly half the country, between January and April 2012, seizing control of an area the size of France, including the legendary city of Timbuktu. But hardline groups like Ansar-al-Dine, pushed the Tuareg leadership aside and imposed strict Islamic law in the captured region. Punishments included floggings, amputation of limbs and executions. Most music was forbidden and several historic tombs were destroyed.

Ansar-al-Dine cooperates closely with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, another designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, the State Department said. During Ansar-al-Dine’s March 2012 attack on the town of Aguelhok, the group executed 82 Malian soldiers and kidnapped 30 more.

The request of Mali’s new government France, the country’s former colonial ruler, sent troops and aircraft to halt an insurgent threat to Bamako in January. French troops aided by soldiers from Chad and other African nations have driven the insurgents back almost to the Algerian border.

AFRICOM VS. al Shebaab

Speaking of extremists, the head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) says another violent Islamist group, al-Shabaab in East Africa has been “significantly weakened from a year ago.” Army Gen. Carter Ham told the House Armed Services Committee last week (March 15) that AFRICOM was assisting partner nations battle three other violent groups: al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, active in northern and western Africa; Boko Haram in Nigeria; and al-Shabaab in Somalia.

Ham noted that while there’s been good progress against al-Shabaab by the operations of the African Union Mission in Somalia as well as Ethiopian and Somali forces, the group is still dangerous and capable of unconventional attacks to disrupt AMISOM operations as well as the new Somali government.

Asked if he had enough resoures to battle AQIM, Ham said there were “significant shortfalls” in equipment providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information.

More on Mali

France says about 10 Islamist fighters were killed today (March 21) when French and Malin forces repelled an attack on Timbuktu, the Voice of America reports.

French President Francois Hollande said this week (March 19) that military operations in Mali are in their final phase. But military analysts are worried al-Qaeda-linked militants could return to nothern ali’s cities and towns once the French withdraw their 4,000 troops from the region. Another concern, says VOA, the Malian army is still weak. The attack on Timbuktu comes a day after a suicide car bombing killed a Malian soldier and wounded six other people at Timbuktu’s airport.

It was the first suicide attack in Timbuktu since French and Malian troops drove Islamist militants out of the ancient caravan city two months ago, the Guardian reported.

French, Malian and other African troops conducted search and destoy missions against insurgents in the area around Gao.Photo: French Ministry of Defense

French, Malian and other African troops conducted search and destroy missions against insurgents in the area around Gao.
Photo: French Ministry of Defense

March 21, 2013 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Nigeria, Mali-Chad-Algeria, Rhino Poaching, Guinea-Bissau, Benin

Boko Haram Attack

Nigeria(CIA World Factbook map)

(CIA World Factbook map)

Nigerian security forces say they repelled an attack on a military base by the radical Islamist terror group, Boko Haram, killing 20 militants. An Army spokesman told the Voice of America that the attack occurred today (March 3) in the village of Monguno (also spelled Munguno) about 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Maiduguri (see map) on the country’s northeast.

Nigeria’s Joint Task Force on Operation Restore Order said three four-wheeled drive vehicles and eight motorcycles were used in the attack, according to the Nigeria’s Leadership newspaper group (via the All Africa website). Army spokesman Lt. Col. Sagir Musa was quoted as saying AK-47 assault rifles, rocket propelled grenades and a large quantity of ammunition were recovered from the attackers by government troops.

There was no mention of civilian or military casualties. The Associated Press reported that witnesses said the attack also killed a village leader. It came just two days after the release of a video purportedly made by Boko Haram’s leader, saying the anti-Western group – which wants to impose Islamic law in Nigeria – will not call off its attacks until sharia becomes the law of Nigeria.

Did Chadians Score Again?

Mali [click on image to enlarge]CIA World Factbook

Mali [click on image to enlarge]
CIA World Factbook

Did soldiers from Chad — who are assisting French troops battling radical Islamist insurgents in the mountains of Mali — kill the mastermind of last month’s hostage-taking attack at an Algerian gas plant?

On Saturday, the president of Chad, Idriss Deby, said his troops killed about 40 militants in a stronghold near the Algerian border, Reuters reported. Among the dead, it was claimed, was Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the one-eyed commander of an al Qaeda affiliate who claimed responsibility for the attack on the In Amenas natural gas plant in Algeria. More than 60 people were killed during the hostage siege and final rescue/assault by Algerian troops in January. That al Qaeda attack came just days after the French launched a military intervention in Mali at the government’s request.

If true, the news of Belmokhtar’s it would be “a major blow to al Qaeda in the region and to Islamist rebels forced to flee towns they had seized in northern Mali by an offense by French and African troops,” Reuters said March 2.

But now ther commander of Chad’s troops in Mali says he can’t confirm the terror leader’s death in the assault on the stronghold. “It is certain that some leaders were killed. But I can’t confirm that Mokhtar Belmokhtar was killed, Gen. Oumar Bikomo told the New York Times.

But the general was more certain about the death of another al Qaeda-linked commander, Adelhamid Abou Zeid, which Chad officials reported Friday.

Meanwhile, a third French soldier has been killed in the military intervention in Mali called Operation Serval.

Fighting in Mali's Ametettai Valley.(Copyright Ministre de la Defense)

Fighting in Mali’s Ametettai Valley.
(Copyright Ministre de la Defense)

Imaginative Rhino Protection

White Rhinos in Namibia (Photo by Ikiwaner via Wikipedia)

White Rhinos in Namibia
(Photo by Ikiwaner via Wikipedia)

Illegal poaching of the wild African rhinoceros for its incredibly valuable horn is pushing the beast toward extinction and that’s pushing environmentalists to come up with some unusual solutions to the problem.

Writing in the journal Science, four leading environmental scientists are suggesting legalizing the rhino horn trade as a way to regulate and control it, Reuters reports. There is an incredible black market for rhino horn, an ingredient in traditional Chinese folk medicine. Prices have climbed from about $4,700 per kilogram ($2,132 per pound) in 1993 to around $65,000 per kilo ($29,485 per pound) today, the scientists said.

There are only 5,00 Black Rhinos and 20,000 White Rhinos left — mostly in South Africa and Namibia — even though a 1977 treaty banned the international trade in rhino horns.

Instead, the scientists say, “the time has come for a highly regulated legal trade in horn.”

Meanwhile, Google and the World Wildlife Fund are teaming up to fly unmanned surveillance aircraft over parts of Africa and Asia to monitor and catch poachers who kill endangered tigers, elephants and yes, rhinos, according to news reports.

The WWF is already flying small hand-launched drones over national parks in Nepal. Now Google is giving the environmental protection group a $5 million grant to expand their use of drones and other high tech devices like wildlife tagging and analytical software.

Countering Coups

Guinea-Bissau(CIA World Factbook)

(CIA World Factbook)

The 15-member West African trading bloc, known as ECOWAS, is giving the interim government in coup-stricken Guinea-Bissau seven more months to prepare for national elections.

The tiny West African nation was wracked by a military coup days before a presidential election last April, prompting international partners like the European Union to freeze aid for the former Portuguese colony. The military gave power back to an ingterim civilian government headed by President Manuel Serifo Nhamadjo last May in a deal brokered by ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States).

Elections were supposed to be held in May 2013 but the heads of state of ECOWAS nations, meeting in Ivory Coast, extended the transitional period in Guinea-Bissau until Dec. 31, Reuters reported, to give Nhamadjo more time to set up the election machinery before the end of the year.

Guinea-Bissau is said to be a major transit hub for South American dug cartels moving narcotics to Europe, Bloomberg reports.

Meanwhile, officials in another small est African nation say they have foiled an attempted coup.

Authorities in Benin said Sunday (March 3) that a plot to oust President Thomas Boni Yayi and install a military regime has been thwarted, according to Nigeria’s The Guardian newspaper.

In a statement read to journalists Sunday, State Prosecutor, Justin Gbenameto, said a Colonel and a businessman were arrested for plotting “to block the Head of State from returning to Cotonou”[Benin’s capital] after his trip [to meet with South American leaders in Equitorial Guinea] “and to institute a military regime,” The Guardian website said.

March 4, 2013 at 12:51 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (March 1, 2013)

Desert Warriors

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

A French AMX-10RCR armored reconnaissance vehicle in Mali.
(Copyright: Ministere de la Defense francais)

A French AMX-10RCR armored reconnaissance vehicle passes a tribal ally — possibly a Tuareg — near Gao on the Niger River in mid-February during the French campaign to assist Mali’s beleaguered army retake the northern half of the country. Unfortunately, the article on the French Ministry of Defense website doesn’t give further details about this scene.

The French launched a military intervention Jan. 11 with attack helicopters, fighter jets and some 4,000 troops to halt a militant Islamic insurgency sweeping across the largely desert country that threatened Bamako, the capital. France, Mali’s former colonial ruler, maintained the rebellion could cause Mali to become a safe haven for terrorist groups and launching platform for attacks on Europe. The radical Islamists, with ties to al Qaeda affiliates in Africa, hijacked a rebellion by autonomy-seeking Tuareg tribesman last year. While the Islamist fighters have been driven from most towns and villages, they continue a stubborn resistance in the mountains of Mali’s north.

March 1, 2013 at 2:42 am Leave a comment


June 2023


%d bloggers like this: