Posts tagged ‘Mali’

AROUND AFRICA: UN Base in Mali Attacked; Boko Haram Bombing; Pirates Are Back; Covering Africa

Another Mali Attack.

Mali and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Mali and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

Two United Nations peacekeepers and a civilian contractor were killed in a rocket attack Saturday (November 28) on a U.N. base in northern Mali.

The attack on the dessert base near Kidal (see map) killed two soldiers from Guinea. More than 10,000 UN peacekeepers from several countries — mostly nearby West African nations like Guinea — have been patrolling violence-wracked Mali since 2013, according to the BBC.

The UN mission in Mali — criticized at the time of its approval because there is no peace deal to support — has suffered more casualties than any other in recent years, with 56 troops killed, the BBC indicated in a November 20 video report.

Olivier Salgado, spokesman for the UN’s deployment in Mali known as MINUSMA, told Al Jazeera the attack was launched before dawn with five rockets landing inside the UN compound. Salgado said 20 other people were wounded, four seriously.

“In the past we’ve had mortar shells land outside, but this time they made it into the camp,” he said.

The armed group Ansar Dine told the AFP news agency it was responsible for the attack. Hamadou Ag Khallini, one of the group’s senior figures told AFP by phone that the attack was “in response to the violation of our lands by the enemies of Islam.”

French forces intervened in Mali, a former French colony, when a rebellion by heavily-armed Tuareg nomads sparked an Army coup in 2012 because the government’s poor handling of the revolt. The Tuaregs, backed by al Qaeda-linked Islamist extremists, took advantage of the chaos and swept over half the country — threatening Bamako, the capital — before the French intervened with ground troops and aircraft.

But violence has picked up again. Five UN peacekeepers were killed in July, and just over a week ago a militant assault on a luxury hotel in Bamako left more than 20 people dead. On Friday (November 27), Malian forces arrested two men in connection with the hotel attack, the Voice of America website reported..

Other West African governments are also battling insurgents. Boko Haram, the leading armed group in the region, has this year extended its attacks from Nigeria to the neighboring states of Niger, Cameroon and Chad, Al Jazeera noted.

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Boko Haram-Nigeria.

Nigeria (CIA World factbook)

(CIA World factbook)

The Islamic State-linked militant group Boko Haram is claiming responsibility for a suicide bombing in northern Nigeria Friday (November 27) that killed at least 22 people marching in a procession of Shi’ite pilgrims.

The blast near the village of Dakozoye, south of Kano, came just days after two female bombers blew themselves up at a local mobile telephone market in Kano, killing at least 14 people and wounding more than 100 others in the city of 2.1 million residents, the Voice of America reported.

A statement posted Saturday (November 28) on Twitter referred to the Friday blast as a “martyrdom-seeking operation.”  It also vowed more violence would come as the extremist group presses its six-year campaign for an independent Islamic state, or caliphate, in northeastern Nigeria and the nearby countries of northern Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Followers of The Islamic Movement of Nigeria were marching from Kano to Zaria through the village of Dakasoye on Friday when the attackers struck, according to Al Jazeera. The followers were on a “symbolic trek” to Zaria, where the Islamic Movement of Nigeria’s leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky is based, to mark the 40th day of Ashura – the death of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Hussein.

Meanwhile, Boko Haram has been labeled the world’s deadliest terrorist group, according to the New York Times.

The militant group that has tortured Nigeria and its neighbors for years, was responsible for 6,664 deaths last year, more than any other terrorist group in the world, including the Islamic State, which killed 6,073 people in 2014, according to a report released (November 18).

The report, by the Institute of Economics & Peace, said the Islamic State and Boko Haram were responsible for half of all global deaths attributed to terrorism. Last year, the deaths attributed to Boko Haram alone increased by more than 300 percent, the report said. The report also found a drastic increase in terrorist attacks last year, with the majority occurring in three countries: Iraq, Syria and Nigeria, where other militant groups besides Boko Haram operate.

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Pirates Redux.

Five Polish sailors have been abducted from a cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria, according to the BBC and other news outlets.

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said the men– including a captain and other three officers — were kidnapped Thursday night (November 26) from the cargo ship Szafir.

Pirates boarded the vessel as it traveled from Belgium to Nigeria, according to Polish media reports. Eleven other sailors evaded capture, apparently by locking themselves in the engine room.

Security experts classify the waters off Nigeria as some of the deadliest on earth, with pirates based in the country often targeting oil tankers, as well as hostages to ransom, Al Jazeera reported.

But the region has seen no documented attacks since February, when a crude carrier was boarded with the ship’s Greek deputy captain killed and three crew members taken hostage.

November 28, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: Mali Hotel Attacked

Gunmen Seize Hotel.

Mali and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Mali and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

A hotel in the northwest African nation of Mali is under siege today after gunmen stormed the building in Mali’s capital city, killing at least three people and taking more than 100 hostages.

While many hotel guests and workers have been evacuated from the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, Mali’s capital, 138 guests and hotel staff are believed trapped inside, according to the BBC.

The hotel has been surrounded by Malian and French troops. A U.S. defense official in Washington said about 25 U.S. military personnel were in Bamako at the time of the incident, and were helping to move civilians to safety, Reuters reported.

France said it was dispatching 50 elite counter-terrorism officers to Bamako immediately. Paris has troops in Mali helping to fight Islamists, but they are based in the desert city of Gao, 950 kilometers away, according to Reuters.

According to news reports, the gunmen arrived at the hotel in a truck bearing diplomatic license plates and started shooting when a guard tried to check their identification.

Mali’s president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was attending a regional conference in neighboring Chad and has cut short his trip and is reported heading back to his country.

The gunmen’s motivation and affiliation is unknown although some people who escaped the hotel said some of the gunmen shouted “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great.”

Mali, a former French colony, has ben wracked by a military coup and an uprising by separatist Tuareg tribesmen since 2012. The coup was sparked by young officers’ frustration with the government’s inept handling of the Tuareg rebellion in the country’s northern deserts. The ensuing chaos prompted the Tuaregs to sweep over more than half the country, including the ancient city of Timbuktu. Radical Islamists linked to al Qaeda hijacked the rebellion, turning it into a Muslim extremist campaign that imposed harsh sharia law and destroyed shrines and tombs deemed idolatrous.

The French intervention in the Malian crisis began in January. (Copyright: French Defense Ministry)

The French intervention in the Malian crisis began in January 2013.
(Copyright: French Defense Ministry)

France launched a military intervention in early 2013 at the request of the Bamako government. Together with troops from neighboring African nations, they rolled the rebels back and have been providing security — along with U.N. peacekeepers, now numbering 12,000, ever since.

French, Turkish, Chinese and Indian nationals were among the guests at the hotel, which is popular with United Nations personnel, businessmen and airline flight crews.

Northern Mali remains insecure and militant attacks have extended farther south this year, including the capital. In March masked gunmen shot up a restaurant in Bamako that is popular with foreigners, killing five people, according to the Associated Press.

About 1,000 French troops remain in the country. The Netherlands also has troops working with the UN mission in Mali. According to the Dutch defense ministry, some 450 Dutch military personnel are taking part in the mission along with four Apache and three Chinook helicopters. Most of the Dutch force is based in Gao, but there are a few officers at the U.N. mission headquarters in Bamako, AP reported.

November 20, 2015 at 10:10 am 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

AROUND AFRICA: Attacks in Nigeria, Mali and Tunisia

Suspected Boko Haram Attack.

Nigeria in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Nigeria in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

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

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

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

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

(CIA World Factbook map)

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

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U.N. Peacekeepers Killed.

Mali (CIA World Factbook)

(CIA World Factbook)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ivory Coast  (CIA World Factbook)

Ivory Coast
(CIA World Factbook)

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

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

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Tunisia Beach Attack.

Tunisia in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

the Tunisia in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

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

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

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

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

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

AROUND AFRICA: Nigerian Army; Boko Haram Update;

Army Purge Planned.

Nigerian troops as part of international peacekeeping mission in Mali 2013. (French Ministry of Defense photo)

Nigerian troops as part of international peacekeeping mission in Mali 2013.
(French Ministry of Defense photo)

Nigeria’s army, long criticized for being ineffectual against the Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram, while killing far too many civilians, is set to scrutinize itself and purge ineffectual or cowardly soldiers, several new organizations report.

The army intends to purge soldiers it determines to be unfit to carry out their constitutional mandate, a spokesman told Voice of America. Colonel Sani Kukasheka Usman said the army will enforce discipline and professionalism among its ranks as the fight against Boko Haram continues. “Most of them were charged with offenses that border on cowardice, aiding the enemy, as well as desertion in the face of the enemy,” said Usman.

He said the process is detailed and unbiased — not an ethnic nor religious purge — and it will ensure soldiers uphold the agreement they signed before joining the army.

At least 200 soldiers have been dismissed for cowardice and failure to fight against Boko Haram militants, the BBC reported. Several soldiers told the British network that up to 4,500 other rank and file soldiers could be dismissed.

Usman, the army spokesman, told VoA there are three layers of the investigation: a board of inquiry, followed by a military police investigation. Then the directorate of army legal services reviews all the cases and advises what action to take, said Usman — including summary trial.

About 1.5 million people have been displaced and hundreds more abducted since Boko Haram launched its violent uprising in 2009, according to the BBC. More than 15,500 people have been killed in the fighting. Boko Haram is still holding many women, girls and children captives including more than 200 school girls kidnapped from a school in Chibok a year ago.

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Boko Haram Roundup.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera reports that Boko Haram fighters killed at least 37 people and destroyed more than 400 buildings in an assault on the town of Gubio in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno state.

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

(CIA World Factbook map)

The latest attack — which a military source said involved about 50 Boko Haram members storming Gubio — lasted for around five hours on Saturday afternoon (May 23). Reuters news agency reported via Al Jazeera.  Details of such attacks often take a number of days to make their way from affected areas due to poor telecommunications in the remote northeastern region of Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy and most populous nation.

The buildings burned by the fighters included eight mosques, four schools and a local government building.

Boko Haram, which captured large swathes of Northeast Nigeria in the past two years, has been driven out of nearly all the territory it captured by a series of offensives waged by Nigeria’s armed forces backed by troops from the neighboring states of Chad, Niger and Cameroon in the past few months.

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In Niger, authorities have detained and charged 643 people since February for their links to Boko Haram, according to Niger Security Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou.

Niger has deployed 3,000 soldiers to a joint regional force formed with Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria to quash the Boko Haram insurgency, Al Jazeera reports.

Several Boko Haram networks and sleeper cells have been dismantled in Niger’s southern Diffa region, which is on the border with Nigeria, since a state of emergency was declared there in February and troops deployed, Massaoudou told Niger’s parliament.  “If this measure [detaining suspects] had not been taken, we could have had an uprising in the very interior of Diffa,” the minister told parliament Tuesday (May 26).

Those arrested and detained have been charged with acts of terrorism and criminal conspiracy, he said. Diffa came under heavy attack in February when Boko Haram, which wants to establish an emirate in northern Nigeria, carried out attacks in neighboring countries.

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The United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict has condemned Boko Haram for “waging war on women” by repeatedly raping their female captives and treating them as vessels for producing children for fighters.

A group of Nigerian refugees rest in the Cameroon town of Mora after fleeing armed Boko Haram attacks.  (United Nations Photo by Mbaoirem)

A group of Nigerian refugees rest in the Cameroon town of Mora after fleeing armed Boko Haram attacks.
(United Nations Photo by Mbaoirem)

“In this context, sexual violence is not merely incidental, but integral, to their strategy of domination and self-perpetuation,” Zainab Hawa Bangura said in a statement issued Wednesday (May 27).

“In the stories of those recently released from Boko Haram captivity, I hear poignant echoes of the words of the women and girls I met last month in the Middle East, who had been freed from sexual slavery by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant),” she said. “In both cases, they describe being treated as chattels to be ‘owned’ and traded, and as vessels for producing children for fighters.”

Her statement was issued a little over a year after the extremist group Boko Haram abducted 276 teenage girls in Chibok, Borno State, in Nigeria. Many of them remain in captivity, along with hundreds of others who have been abducted both before and since.

Earlier this month, United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon condemned what he called Boko Haram’s “continuing indiscriminate and horrific attacks” against the civilian populations of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, according to the United Nations.

In a statement released May 22, a UN spokesperson said Ban Ki-Moon is appalled by the continued abductions and use of children as so-called “human bombs,” as well as by testimony that many of the girls and women held by Boko Haram are repeatedly raped while in captivity and compelled to marry their captors as part of the group’s ongoing campaign of forced imprisonment and sexual violence.

“The perpetrators of these despicable acts must be brought to justice,” the Secretary-General declared.

May 27, 2015 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Army Rescue in Nigeria; Nigerien Army Drives Terrorists from Island; Mali Rebels Attack UN Peacekeepers

Army Rescues 293 from Boko Haram.

Nigeria (CIA World factbook)

(CIA World factbook)

The Nigerian Army says it has rescued nearly 300 female captives from the radical Islamist terror group, Boko Haram.

On Tuesday (April 28), the military said it freed 200 girls and 93 women from an area where Boko Haram is active. However, the Army said the girls abducted from a school in Chibok in April 2014 were not among the captives released, according to the BBC.

The military said the girls and women were freed during major operations ending in the seizure of four Boko Haram camps in the Sambisa Forest that borders Cameroon.

Whomever they are, many of the women and girls may not be able to go home because Boko Haram has destroyed their houses, families or businesses, or continues to threaten their towns, a Nigerian psychologist and counterterrorism adviser to the government tells Voice of America.

Earlier this month, the human rights group Amnesty International published a report saying that Boko Haram, which is fighting to create an Islamic state in largely Muslim Northeast Nigeria,  has abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since the start of 2014, Al Jazeera reported.  In addition to forcing them into sexual slavery, Boko Haram has used girls and women as suicide bombers, sending them into crowded market places and elsewhere.

Boko Haram has been responsible for killing thousands of people mostly in the north but also in bombing attacks in large cities, including Abjua, the capital. About 300 teenaged girls were kidnapped from a school compound during a Boko Haram attack last April, sparking international outrage and widespread dissatisfaction with President Goodluck Jonathan, who failed to win re-election last month. Dozens of the girls managed to escape their captors as they were driven away from the school but 219 are still missing.

Newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army general who once took over the country in a coup 30 years ago, has pledged to crush Boko Haram. Buhari takes office on May 29. In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, the new leader said he could not promise that Nigerian authorities will be able to find and rescue the missing schoolgirls, but: “I say to every parent, family member and friend of the children that my government will do everything in its power to bring them home.”

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Nigerien Army vs. Boko Haram

Government officials say Niger’s military has regained total control of the island of Karamga in Lake Chad after an attack by Boko Haram.

Nigerien paratroopers train with U.S. advisers during Exercise Flintlock 2007. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Larson)

Nigerien paratroopers train with U.S. Army advisers during Exercise Flintlock 2007.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Larson)

In a statement, Niger’s government said Monday (April 27) that its security and defense forces have cleared the enemies from the island, the Associated Press reported. (via FOX News)The government said 46 Nigerien soldiers and 28 civilians were killed in the attack, according to AFP (via News 24 South Africa). Government officials said 126 terrorists were also killed in the attack on the island’s army base.

The island was seized by hundreds of Boko Haram militants aboard motorized canoes at dawn on Saturday (April 25, their second attempt to capture it since February, army and government sources told Reuters.

Lake Chad’s islands, which lie in dense swampland, are an ideal base for mounting surprise attacks on the countries bordering the lake: Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria. Niger suffered a wave of attacks and suicide bombs in its southern border region of Diffa in February and March, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency there.

Niger joined a regional offensive in January that has been credited with retaking large swaths of territory from the Nigeria-based militant group Boko Haram, whose fighters had months of gains in Nigeria and pushed across borders. A February attack on Karamga killed seven Nigeran soldiers, and Niger towns bordering Nigeria have also been targeted.

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Mali Again

Mali and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Mali and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

Swedish peacekeepers in Mali say they have repelled a rebel attack on Timbuktu twice in two days. Heavily armed rebels in trucks fitted with machine guns retreated north of the city on Wednesday (April 29), a Swedish commander told the BBC.

Fighting has also intensified in other parts of the northwest Africa country in recent days. A pro-government militia said it had recaptured the eastern town of Menaka, while a coalition of Tuareg rebels claimed to have taken the town of Lere, the BBC said.

Timbuktu and the north of Mali were taken over by Tuareg rebels allied with jihadist groups in 2012. France intervened in January 2013 and the UN began deploying 10,000 peacekeepers in July of that year.

Peace negotiations have been complicated by the number of rebel groups with widely differing agendas.

They include secessionist Tuaregs, religious extremists and armed militias vying for control of lucrative trafficking routes.


April 29, 2015 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Hostage Rescue in Mali; Kenya College Attack; Yemini Refugees; C.A.R. “Ceasefiire” [UPDATE2-April 10]

French Commando Rescue.

Mali (CIA World Factbook) Click on image to enlarge

(CIA World Factbook)
Click on image to enlarge

A Dutch national held hostage by Islamist extremists in North Africa for three years has been freed in a daring raid by French commandos.

Sjaak Rijke, abducted while vacationing in Timbuktu in November 2011, was set free in a raid on Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb by French special forces on Monday (April 6), AFP reported.

French President Francois Hollande said a number of suspected jihadists were killed during the rescue. Hollande added that the French soldiers were unaware of the hostage’s location before the raid against the extremists near Tessalit in Mali’s far north, close to the border with Algeria.

Some 3,000 French forces are taking part in the mission to stabilize Mali, which was overrun by al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists until French troops came to the aid of Malian soldiers in January 2013, according to the Associated Press. Rijke was abducted by extremists in November 2011 from a hostel in Timbuktu along with Swede Johan Gustafsson and South African Stephen Malcolm. A German died in the attack. Officials in France and the Netherlands did not say whether there was any news of Gustafsson or Malcolm.

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Kenya’s Response.

Kenyan warplanes bombed militant camps in Somalia, following a vow by President Uhuru Kenyatta to respond “in the fiercest way possible” to a massacre of college students by al-Shabab extremists, the Associated Press reported.

The airstrikes Sunday (April 5) and Monday (April 6) targeted the Gedo region of western Somalia, directly across the border from Kenya, a  Kenyan military official said, adding that al-Shabab camps, which were used to store arms and for logistical support, were destroyed, but it was not possible to determine the number of casualties because of poor visibility.

The Somalia-based militant group claimed responsibility for last week’s attack at Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya in which 148 people were killed — most of them students.

Kenya’s response to the attack has gone beyond military action. Nairobi is ordering the closure of 13 money transfer firms to prevent Islamist extremists from using them to finance attacks, the BBC reported. The bank accounts of 85 individuals and “entities” had also been frozen, according to government officials. Among those targeted: a Somali-linked bus company and hotel.

Nearly 500,000 Somali refugees are in Kenya – many of whom fled decades of conflict and drought in Somalia.

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The Horn of Africa. Map courtesy of University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center

The Horn of Africa.
Map courtesy of University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center

Refugee Crisis Expected.

Violence in the Arabian Peninsula, across the Gulf of Aden from East Africa is expected to drive thousands of refugees to the Horn of Africa, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The UNHCR reported Friday (April 10) that at least 900 people have made the journey by boat in the past 10 days. The report noted the vast majority of he new arrivals were “Somalis but also Yemenis and a small number of Ethiopian and Djiboutian nationals.” All received food and water, and health and medical checks on arrival, the UNHCR said.

The U.N. estimated that clashes between rebels and supporters of the ex-president in Yemen have killed more than 500 people and left 1,700 others wounded in less than two weeks.

And that is expected to drive thousands of refugees to Djibouti and Somalia, putting a huge strain on local resources, according to Newsweek. Djibouti has a population of just 870,000 so a large influx of people would put a huge strain on its resources, said Frederic Van Hamme, an official at the UNHCR’s Djibouti base.

*** *** ***

C.A.R. “Ceasefire”.

Central African Republic (Map from CIA orld Factbook)

Central African Republic
(Map from CIA World Factbook)

Rival Central African Republic (CAR) groups have signed a ceasefire deal in Kenya to provide the strife-torn country with a political solution.

According to al Jazeera, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted the signing of the accord Wednesday (April 8) between Anti-Balaka leader Joachim Kokate and former president and ex-Seleka leader Michel Djotodia. The two factions have been in talks in Kenya since November. Their agreement includes a deal “to stop hostilities” and another to “open a new chapter of political stability in their country” by adhering to the transitional roadmap.

But CAR’s president has said he does not recognize these talks, and they  are not recognized by either the French or the United Nations.”

April 8, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

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