Posts tagged ‘Libya’

Droids, Drones & ‘bots: Lost U.S. Drone; French Drone-Equipped Patrol Boats; Russian Armed Robots

DEFENSE

Did Russians Down U.S. Drone over Libya?

The U.S. military believes that an unarmed American drone that disappeared near Libya’s capital in November was shot down by Russian air defenses and U.S Africa Command (AFRICOM) is demanding the return of the aircraft’s wreckage, according to Reuters.

U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, AFRICOM’s commander, said he believed the operators of the air defenses at the time “didn’t know it was a U.S. remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) when they fired on it.”

Such a shootdown would underscore Moscow’s increasingly muscular role in the energy-rich nation, where Russian mercenaries are reportedly intervening on behalf of east Libya-based commander Khalifa Haftar in Libya’s civil war, Reuters noted on December7. Rival armed groups have been fighting for control of Tripoli for months

When the unarmed aircraft was lost November 21, AFRICOM said drone operations are conducted in Libya to assess the ongoing security situation and monitor violent extremist activity. Those operations were said to be critical to counter terror activity in Libya and are fully coordinated with appropriate government officials.

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France Orders Drone-Equipped Patrol Boats.

France has ordered six 70-meter-long (230-feet-long) offshore patrol vessels –  equipped with drones — to patrol its vast economic exclusive zone, Defense News reported December 6.

The French Armed Forces Ministry said in a statement that the ships has been ordered  “in a context of increasing threats to our fishing resources, biodiversity and international maritime rules.”France has the largest economic exclusive zone (EEZ) in the world, at about 4,514,000 square miles. By comparison, the United States’s EEZ comes in at about 4,383,000 square miles, Defense News said.

Technical specifications, issued by the DGA procurement agency in 2018, called for the ships to be able to deploy a 700-kilogram-class rotor-blade drone, and to be able to keep it under cover.

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Russia Developing Armed Robot Plans.

The Russian military is assembling proposed tactics, techniques and procedures for using robots in urban and coastal combat, the state news agency, RiaNovosti, announced Sunday (November 24).

If you clicked on the link above, you saw that report was in Russian. No we didn’t/couldn’t read it but someone at Defense One did. Here’s what they gleaned:.

The defense ministry has asked various military-industrial enterprises to provide proposals for review by early next year to the military’s Combined Arms Academy. Quoting the Russian agency, Defense One noted the initiative was meant to address “the virtual absence of a unified concept for the use of military robotics by the Russian armed forces.”

According to Defense One, the increased interest in robotic weapons may reflect Russian President Vladimir Putin’s desire for more unmanned systems as well as the military’s experience in Syria, where numerous ground and air vehicles made their first operational appearance.

December 13, 2019 at 12:00 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Niger, Somalia, Burundi-Rwanda

Libya Threat.

MAP-Niger

NIGER: CIA World Factbook

According to Bloomberg, officials in the West African nation of Niger say instability in nearby Libya poses a bigger threat to them and other nations in the Sahel than Boko Haram violent extremist Islamist group.

The government of the landlocked Niger will spend 10 percent of its annual budget on defense through the next five years to protect itself from militants, Interior Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou tells Bloomberg in an interview in Niamey, Niger’s capital.

Niger, the world’s fourth-largest producer of uranium shares borders seven nations including Libya, where the so-called Islamic State has gained a foothold amid a power vacuum caused by a breakdown in central authority.

“As long as Libya isn’t stabilized, it’s obvious that there will be a permanent threat throughout the Sahel,” Massaoudou said.

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Somali Jet Blast.

Somali officials investigating an apparent bomb blast that forced a passenger jet to make an emergency landing in Mogadishu tell the VOA news site that the explosion was likely the work of militant group al-Shabab.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior security official told VOA’s Somali Service that investigators have evidence that al-Shabab was behind the blast and that they will present their conclusions soon.

Somalia’s former national intelligence director, Ahmed Moallim Fiqi, said the nature of the incident and the evidence available so far both indicate it was “a planned bomb attack.”

A passenger on the Djibouti-bound Airbus 321 has been confirmed missing by the airline, the BBC reports. Daallo Airlines had previously said that all the passengers had been accounted for.

It is thought that the man fell out of the hole, which appeared shortly after take-off from Mogadishu on Tuesday (February 2).

*** *** ***

Rwanda Accused.

MAP-Burundi

BURUNDI: CIA World Fact Book

A confidential United Nations report has repeated previous allegations that Rwanda has been recruiting and training Burundian rebels on its territory with the goal of ousting Burundi’s president, Pierre Nkurunziza.

A group of experts monitoring U.N. sanctions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) said it had interviewed 18 Burundian fighters in DRC’s South Kivu Province, according to the VOA website.

They all told the experts that “they had been recruited in the Mahama Refugee Camp in eastern Rwanda in May and June 2015,” and were given two months of military training by instructors who “included Rwandan military personnel,” according to the U.N. experts. Their findings were first reported by Reuters.

Rwanda has dismissed the allegations in the leaked U.N. report, according to the BBC. Similar allegations have been made by Burundi’s government.

A political crisis in the country, sparked by President Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term last April, has led thousands to flee.

 

February 4, 2016 at 11:04 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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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: Africa Command Tackling Violent Extremists and Other Challenges

Making Progress, but …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on this hearing later this weekend.

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

AROUND AFRICA: Boko Haram; Nigeria Election; Libyan Turmoil;

Boko Haram Captives.

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook)

The Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram has released about 190 captives, who returned to their homes in the northeast state of Yobe between Friday and Saturday (January 23-24), while other people were still being held, according to Reuters.

Abdullahi Bego, spokesman for the state governor, said the militants released young men, women and children who were kidnapped on Jan 6. At least 20 other people were still being held.

Boko Haram has been waging a five-year insurgency to establish an Islamic state in the northeast of the country. Borno state is the worst hit followed by Adamawa and Yobe, Reuters reported.

The group frequently raids towns and kidnaps young men, women and children as well as some foreign workers. A German national was freed in Cameroon last week after being abducted in Nigeria’s Adamawa state in July.

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Nigeria Election Next Month

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook map)

Public dissatisaction with Army and government ineffectiveness in dealing with the Boko Haram insurgency has become a driving force in next month’s presidential election in Nigeria, according to the New York Times.

The bloody insurgency that has killed thousands and driven thousands more from their homes in the country’s north is propelling a retired general, 72-year-old Muhammadu Buhari , to the forefront.

“The state is collapsing and everybody is frightened,” says Jobrin Ibrahim, a poliical scientist with the Center for Democracy and Development in Abuja, the Nigerian capital. “A lot of people are frightened that these people can take over the whole country. So a lot of people are saying ‘Give Buhari a chance,'” he told the Times.

Buhari was slated to speak Monday (January 26) to the Center for Strategic and International Studies but canceled “because of a last minute change in [his] schedule,” the Washington think tank announced Friday (January 23).

Plunging oil prices have hurt Nigeria’s economy — the biggest in Africa — and the continuing Boko Haram rampages — including the kidnapping of hundreds of high school girls in April — have undercut incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.

But Jonathan’s national security adviser tells the BBC that Nigeria does not need help from United Nations or African Union troops to take on Boko Haram. Sambo Dasuki told the British broadcaster that Nigeria, and its neighbors are in “good shape” to take on the insurgents – although he acknowledged the violent group is a “real security threat.”

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Libyan Terror Leader Dead

The Libyan Islamic militant group Ansar al-Shariah says its leader, Mohammed al-Zahawi, has been killed.

A statement, posted on the group’s official Twitter account Saturday (January 24), gave no details about how or when al-Zahawi was killed. Unconfirmed reports that he was injured or killed in an attack late last year circulated on jihadist websites, according to The Associated Press (Via Air Force Times).

The group has been blamed for the September 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

The United States designated Ansar al-Shariah a terrorist organization in January 2014. According to the State Department, the group has been involved in “terrorist attacks against civilian targets, frequent assassinations and attempted assassinations” of security officials and politicians in eastern Libya.

The United Nations also named the group a terrorist organization in November 2014 for running training camps for foreign fighters traveling to Syria, Iraq and Mali.

 

January 25, 2015 at 12:28 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Violence in Libya, Boko Haram attacks in Cameroon, Ebola Spread, Desert Air Crash

Libyan Chaos.

This MV-22B Osprey with the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response provided security for the evacuation of U.S. embassy personnel from Libya.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Maida Kalic)

This MV-22B Osprey with the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response provided security for the evacuation of U.S. embassy personnel from Libya.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Maida Kalic)

Libya appears to be sliding into anarchy as a raging fire, touched off by a missile strike, has closed the main airport and 61 people have been reported killed in just the last 24 hours, according to the Voice of America. VoA noted the death toll stands at 150  in two weeks of clashes across the North African country.

Two rival brigades of former rebels fighting for control of Tripoli International Airport have been pounding each other’s positions with  rockets, artillery fire and cannons for two week — turning the south side of Libya’s capital into a battlefield, Reuters reported. On Sunday (July 27) a rocket struck and ignited a huge jet  fuel storage tank — forcing closure of the airport as several foreign embassies have been evacuating their diplomatic personnel and hundreds of foreign nationals are trying to flee the country on Africa’s Mediterranean coast. The airport fire raged out of control Monday (July 28) and Libya’s interim government sought international assistance.

The violence, which has been escalating and spreading since Libyan strongman Muammar Qadaffi was deposed and killed three years ago, has prompted the U.S. Embassy to move the diplomatic staff out of Tripoli to Tunisia. The United Nations and Turkey have moved their diplomats out as well. According to the Pentagon, all embassy personnel were relocated, including the Marine security guards, by ground vehicle on Saturday (July 26) without incident. During the exodus F-16 fighter jets and MV-22 Osprey tilt rotor aircraft (carrying an Airborne Response Force) and unspecified intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets provided security.

Nearly 100 people have been killed by ongoing clashes at the airport since early July and scores more have been killed recently in Benghazi — where government forces clashed with Islamic militants — and in Tripoli, where rival militias are fighting.

At least eight foreign governments (Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Spain, Turkey and the United States) are urging their citizens to leave Libya immediately. Libya’s neighbors and Western security analysts worry that the chaos will spread beyond Libya’s borders — and create a a safe haven for terrorists close to Europe. Already, many of the heavy weapons — like man-portable rocket launchers and truck mounted machine guns — have disappeared from Qadaffi’s armories and spread across North Africa.

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Boko Haram-Cameroon

Cameroon (CIA World Factbook)

Cameroon
(CIA World Factbook)

Military officials in Cameroon say the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram has abducted the wife of one of Cameroon’s  top officials, Reuters reports from Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé.

The wife of Deputy Prime Minister Amadou Ali was abducted in the northern Cameroonian town of Kolofata. A local religious leader, who was the town’s mayor, was also abducted in a separate attack. At least three people were killed in the raids.

Boko Haram has been increasing cross-border incursions into Cameroon in recent weeks and the West African country has deployed troops to the region bordering Nigeria. Officials said the attack on the vice prime minister’s house was the third in Cameroon since Friday (July 25). At least four soldiers were killed in previous attacks. About 22 suspected Boko Haram militants, in custody since March, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 10-to-20 years in Maroua, Cameroon on Friday (July 25). It’s not known if the attacks are related to that. Militants have kidnapped foreign nationals in northern Cameroon before, including a French family and Chinese workers.

Meanwhile, at least five people were killed by a bomb in northern Nigeria and locals suspect Boko Haram is responsible. Nigerian police say the five victims were killed when a bomb was thrown at worshippers as they were leaving a church in Nigeria’s main northern city of Kano on Sunday (July 27, the BBC reported. A young female suicide bomber also wounded five police officers as she rushed towards them and blew herself up in a separate incident, they added

Boko Haram has been waging a five year terror war against the Nigerian government, Western influence and Christians in largely Muslim northeast Nigeria. The group’s name, in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria, has been translated to mean either “Western education is forbidden” or “Western education is false or fraudulent.”  The concept stems from British attempts during the colonial era to force a unified education curriculum for Nigerian children that by-passed traditional Muslim schools in the rural north. Boko Haram wants to carve out an Islamic state in northern Nigeria under strict sharia law.

Last week, Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and Niger agreed to form a 2,800-strong regional force to tackle Boko Haram. Efforts to step up regional co-operation gathered momentum after Boko Haram abducted more than 200 girls from a boarding school in north-eastern Nigeria. The Nigeria government of President Goodluck Jonathan — who faces re-election this year — of doing too little, too late to find and rescue the girls.

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Ebola Threat Spreads

As the death toll from the Ebola epidemic continues to rise, the New York Times reports that panicked villagers in Guinea are blocking and even attacking international  aid workers, fearing that it is the doctors who spread the deadly virus.

Health workers treating Ebola patient require extensive personal protective equipment. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

Health workers treating Ebola patient require extensive personal protective equipment. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

 Workers and officials, blamed by panicked populations for spreading the virus, have been threatened with knives, stones and machetes, their vehicles sometimes surrounded by hostile mobs. Log barriers across narrow dirt roads block medical teams from reaching villages where the virus is suspected. Sick and dead villagers, cut off from help, are infecting others, according to a piece written by the Times’ Adam Nossiter.

The deadly virus, for which there is no known cure or vaccine, has killed 660 people in West Africa since February. The outbreak began in southern Guinea and spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone

Liberia, one of the affected countries, has closed most of its border crossings and communities hit by the epidemic face quarantine in an effort to halt the outbreak, deemed the deadliest by the United Nations. Screening centers are also being set up at the few major entry points that will remain open, such as the main airport, according to the BBC.

Meanwhile, Nigeria largest’s airline, Arik Air, has suspended all flights to Liberia and Sierra Leone after a man with Ebola flew to Nigeria last week and later died.

Two US aid workers are also being treated for Ebola in Liberia, including Dr Kent Brantly, who was the medical director at one of the country’s two treatment centres run by the group, Samaritan’s Purse. The other American, Nancy Writebol, works for the Serving in Mission (SIM) as part of the same team, BBC said.

On Saturday (July 26), one of Liberia’s most prominent health officials treating Ebola patients at the country’s largest hospital, Dr. Samuel Brisbane, died after contracting the disease, according to The Independent. A Ugandan doctor working in Liberia also died earlier this month, while last week the virus infected Sheikh Umar Khan, Sierra Leone’s chief Ebola doctor

*** *** ***

Air Algerie Crash

French officials are citing poor weather as the most likely cause of the crash of an Air Algerie flight over Mali in northwest Africa with 118 people on board.

Investigators at the scene of the crash in northern Mali concluded the airliner broke apart when it hit the ground, officials said, suggesting it was unlikely to have been the victim of an attack. But French authorities are not ruling out other causes, including terrorism, without a full investigation, the Associated Press reported.

The MD-83 twin engine jet liner — bound for Algiers, Algeria — disappeared less than an hour after takeoff from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. Following on the heels of the shootdown of a Malaysian Airlines jet over Ukraine and the mysterious disappearance of another Malaysian jet bound for Beijing earlier this year the Algerian plane’s disappearance sparked concerns about a hijacking or a surface-to-air missile attack.  Yhe area where the plane crashed was a conflict zone a year ago when nomadic Touregs and Islamic extremists launched a rebellion against Mali’s government and seizied half the country. French, Malina and Dutch troops from the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali secured the crash site. The plane’s black boxes have been recovered and will be studied for clues to what caused the plane to crash.

 

July 28, 2014 at 4:36 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Benghazi Attack Suspect, Nigeria Violence

Nabbed.

Libya (CIA World Factbook)

Libya
(CIA World Factbook)

U.S. Special Operations Forces and the FBI have captured one of the suspected leaders of the 2012 fatal attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya. U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack.

According to the Washington Post, the joint special operations and FBI Mission had been planned for months and was approved by President Barack Obama on Friday (June 13). The suspect was identified by the Pentagon as Ahmed Abu Khatallah. Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said Khatallah is in U.S. custody in a secure location outside of Libya. There were no civilian casualties related to the operation, and all U.S. personnel involved in the operation have safely left Libya, Kirby said.

Officials said he would be brought to the United States in the coming days to face charges in a civilian court, the New York Times reported, adding that  a sealed indictment sworn out secretly last July and made public on Tuesday (June 17) outlined three counts against him in connection with the deaths of Mr. Stevens, State Department official Glen Doherty and two CIA contractors – Sean Smith and Tyrone Woods.

*** *** ***

Nigeria Bombing

A suicide bomber has killed several people watching a televised World Cup soccer match in northern Nigeria’s Yobe state.

A hospital worker told the BBC that truckloads of injured people are being treated in overcrowded wards. “The injured people are so numerous I cannot count them,” the worker said after the blast in Damaturu town, BBC reported.

An emergency has been declared in three states, including Yobe, amid attacks by suspected Boko Haram militants.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian military has arrested more than 400 people traveling in southern Nigeria on suspicion they are members of Boko Haram. The men, and reportedly a few women, were traveling in more than 30 buses when they were stopped by the army Sunday (June 15) and detained at an army barracks in Abia state, according to the Voice of America.

Nigeria map (CIA World factbook)

Nigeria map
(CIA World factbook)

Local officials said they were suspected of being members of Boko Haram, an Islamist insurgent group that has killed thousands of people in the past five years, mostly in the northeast part of the country. But a traditional leader from the north told VoA that the travelers were traders, looking to do business in the south.

Tensions have risen since a church bomb in another southern Nigerian city over the weekend raised fears that Boko Haram is seeking to operate in the southern part of the country. Another attack was reported in the strife-torn north, where more than 20 people killed Sunday (June 15) in the village of Daku. And more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in April remain missing, despite pledges from Nigerian authorities and governments around the world to free them.

June 17, 2014 at 11:50 pm Leave a comment

WASHINGTON: Senator Threatens to Block Obama’s Defense, CIA Picks UPDATE

Gauntlet Down

(Note: Senate Republicans have held up Hagel’s nomination until at least late February. See update below)

Photo: Sen. Graham's website

Photo: Sen. Graham’s website

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) – a longtime member of the Senate Armed Services Committee – is not happy with White House explanations about the attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya last year. Four Americans were killed, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya.

On the Sunday (Feb. 10) television talk show “Face the Nation,” Graham threatened to hold up the nominations of President Obama’s picks to Secretary of Defense and CIA Director until he gets some questions answered.

Graham, along with several other Senate Republicans – including Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire – believe the White House has not been forthcoming on the events surrounding last September’s attack on the U.S. Embassy annex in Benghazi. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in the attack, which the administration said was prompted by Muslim outrage across the Africa, the Middle East and Asia over a viral video that insulted the Prophet Muhammad.

In testimony last week before the Senate Armed Services Committee both Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint Chiefs of Staff, said they soon knew that the attack was a terrorist plot and not a spontaneous demonstration that turned violent.

That has led Graham and others to accuse the administration of withholding information on what he called “a national security failure of massive proportions.”

On the talk show, Graham said he would hold up the nominations of former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel to head the Pentagon and John Brennan to take over the CIA “until we get an accounting.”

Graham said he did not intend to filibuster the nominations.

UPDATE:

After the Senate Armed Services Committee narrowly approved Hagel’s nomination Feb. 12 on a 14-to-11 party line vote (Democrats for, Republicans against) the nomination stalled in the Senate Feb. 14 when it failed to secure the 60 votes needed to halt debate and be brought to the Senate floor for a vote.  No further action is expected before Feb. 25 when the Senate returns from a Washington’s Birthday break. Meanwhile, retiring Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has given his last press conference, been honored for his service and after a teary, applause-filled ceremony, boarded a plane to return home to California. He may have to return –temporarily — but stay tuned.

Senate rules allow a single senator to throw a monkey wrench into the presidential appointee process – at least until pressure is brought to bear on them – or they get their way. Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who was on the same program as Graham, said the Republican was right to probe and seek more answers but that holding up two key national security nominations was “inappropriate” and “unprecedented.”

Current Defense Secretary Panetta wants to retire and go home to California. The longer the Pentagon goes with out a replacement, the harder it will be to shepherd the next defense budget – already weeks late for its scheduled delivery by the administration – through a Congress bent on cutting the deficit.

Stay tuned, it’s going to be a bumpy ride for the next couple of weeks.

CORRECTS PREVIOUS VERSION to show Committee vote was Feb. 12 and vote to end debate was Feb. 14.

February 11, 2013 at 12:58 am Leave a comment

AFRICA: U.S. Ambassador, 3 Other Americans Killed in Libyan Attack [UPDATE]

Mob Storms U.S. Consulate

Updates with suspicions that attack on consulate was pre-planned; questions raised about the identity of controversial film maker; drone surveillance of Libya stepped up; naval ships sent to Libyan waters.

 

CIA World Factbook map

The U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three other U.S. government workers were killed in an overnight attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

“Make no mistake, justice will be done,” President Barack Obama said in a statement at the White House today (Sept. 12). He did not elaborate on any specific U.S. response, however. Obama was accompanied by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at the Rose Garden appearance. Neither official took questions from reporters.

The attack in Benghazi may have been pre-planned by a terrorist group, government officials said late Wednesday (Sept. 12), Reuters, Bloomberg, CNN  and CBS and  the Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, the FBI has opened an investigation and U.S. Navy warships have into Libyan waters to provide securit. Meanwhile, the FBI has opened an investigation and officials confirmed drone surveillance of Libya has been stepped up.

VIDEO

Earlier in the day, Clinton said: “We condemn in the strongest terms this senseless act of violence.” While the attack may have been prompted by “inflamatory material posted on the internet,” she said “there is no justification for this.”

WHAT IS KNOWN, SO FAR

Mobs, reportedly angered by an amateur anti-Muslim video making the rounds of the Internet, attacked the U.S. consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, killing U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. government employees. Details of how they were killed are still sketchy.

VIDEO

“Make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people,” Obama said at the White House. He noted that Libyan security forces on the scene had battled the mobs and carried the ambassador to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The attack came just hours after large demonstrations outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt Tuesday (Sept. 11). Some of the demonstrators there scaled a wall around the embassy compound, pulled down a U.S. flag and ran up a black flag proclaiming in Arabic the Muslim profession of faith: “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.” No Americans were reported harmed in the Cairo demonstrations.

The U.S. Marine Corps, which is responsible for security at all U.S. embassies, has dispatched an elite anti-terrorism team to Libya.

Libyan officials condemned and apologized for the fatal attack and pledged that the perpetrators will be brought to justice. Libyan leaders are still re-organizing the government after the eight-month revolution and civil war. The fledgling government is also trying to control militias and armed gangs that sprang up during the revolt.

The video in question is reported to mock the Prophet Muhammed, caricatures his likeness – considered blasphemy in Islam – and condemning Islam as a “cancer” that preaches violence. But questions have been raised about the identity of the film’s producer and financial backer.

Aggravating the issue, Terry Jones, a Florida minister who caused an uproar – including deadly riots around the world – when he threatened to burn a Koran in 2010, has promoted the video on-line.

September 12, 2012 at 1:29 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: Libya, China and Oil

China Worried About Investments

With the Libyan uprising against strongman Muammar Qaddafi nearing an apparent end, diplomats are meeting in Turkey to discuss the North African nation’s future.

But some rebels are warning members of the international community – like China – who remained bystanders during the Libyan upheaval that there may be financial consequences.

CIA World Factbook map

An official at the rebel-run Libyan oil company, AGOCO, warned this week that Russian and Chinese firms could lose out on oil contracts because they failed to back the uprising against Qaddafi, according to reports by Reuters, the Voice of America and others.

China’s Ministry of Commerce urged the new Libyan government to protect its investments, noting the oil trade benefited both countries.

Moscow and Beijing – sensitive to outside criticism of Russian and Chinese civil rights abuses and corruption – generally oppose international intervention in the internal affairs of sovreign countries. Neither country voted for a U.N. resolution to use military force to protect Libyan civilians from attack by Qaddafi loyalists. In fact, oil-dependent China condemned NATO airstrikes authorized by the U.N. and called for ceasefire talks between Qaddafi and the rebels.

China is the world’s second largest consumer nation of petroleum (after the United States) and obtained 3 percent of its crude oil imports from Libya before the civil war.

China has yet to recognize the rebels’ Transitional National Council as the legitimate government, but Beijing reached out to the rebels in recent weeks.

CIA World Factbook photo

Diplomats from 30 countries including the U.S., European, Western Arab and African nations are meeting in Istanbul, Turkey to discuss Libya’s future — especially the unfreezing of funds to help pay government salaries and rebuilding infrastructure. Another meeting of the Libyan Contact Group is planned for next week in Paris.

August 25, 2011 at 11:01 pm Leave a comment

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