Posts tagged ‘Mali’
AROUND AFRICA: Army Rescue in Nigeria; Nigerien Army Drives Terrorists from Island; Mali Rebels Attack UN Peacekeepers
Army Rescues 293 from Boko Haram.
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.
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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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.
AROUND AFRICA: Hostage Rescue in Mali; Kenya College Attack; Yemini Refugees; C.A.R. “Ceasefiire” [UPDATE2-April 10]
French Commando Rescue.
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.
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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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.
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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.”
Making Progress, but …
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.
The brutal extremist group that calls itself Islamic State is claiming responsibility for the attack Wednesday (March 18) on Tunisia’s popular national museum that left more than 20 people dead — most of them foreign tourists, the BBC reported.
Tunisian officials say two of the attacking gunmen were also killed and as many as three accomplices may have escaped. Officials in Tunis, the North African nation’s capital, say nine people have been detained for questioning in connection with the attack.
Initial reports Wednesday said the gunmen all attacked the National Assembly which is in the same compound as the museum and where lawmakers were debating a counterterrorism bill. here were no casualties at the legislative complex. Officials now say the museum and tourists were the attack’s targets.
The extremist group said the attack was aimed as “citizens of Crusader countries” and added that it was the “first drop of rain,” the Wall Street Journal and other news outlets reported.
Twenty tourists from Britain, Colombia, France, Italy and Japan, came under fire as they disembarked from two tourist buses outside the Bardo National Museum. Others fled into the museum where some were taken hostage and some killed. At least two Tunisians, a female museum custodian and a security force officer, were killed in the attack.
Tunisian officials said troops were guarding key points in major cities throughout the country in the wake of the attack. Some Mediterranean cruise lines have suspended calling at Tunis for the time being, USA Today reported.
Wednesday’s assault was the worst attack involving foreigners in Tunisia since an al Qaeda suicide bombing on a synagogue killed 21 people on the tourist island of Djerba in 2002, according to Reuters.
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Two Dutch United Nations peacekeepers were killed when their Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) Apache attack helicopter crashed in northern Mali, Al Jazeera reports. At a press conference in the Netherlands Tuesday (March 17), the Dutch military confirmed the crash, calling it an accident.
The helicopter was conducting a firing exercise on ground targets over uninhabited terrain with another Dutch Apache when it crashed, the RNLAF said.
The accident occurred 47 kilometres to the north of the Dutch compound. Immediately after the crash, the crash site was secured by a French attack helicopter. Dutch special forces secured and guarded the site on the ground. An investigation into the cause of the accident is being mounted.
The helicopter, from the U.N.’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), crashed about 20 kilometers (xx miles) from Gao in northern Mali. The pilot died on impact and he co-pilot died from his injuries at a French military field hospital at Gao on the River Niger. Both pilots were members of 301 Squadron based in Gilze-Rijen airbase in southern Netherlands.
MINUSMA has some 11,000 personnel on the ground in Mali, about 670 of them are Dutch. More than 40 peacekeepers with MINUSMA have been killed since the mission was created in 2013 to keep the peace between rebelling Tuareg tribesmen in the northern deserts and the government in Bamako to the south. Because of those numbers, according to Al Jazeera, MINUSMA is considered the most dangerous U.N. mission in the world.
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Mali Peace Talks.
Meanwhile, Mali’s government said this week that it won’t participate in further talks with rebels seeking autonomy for northern Mali.
The collapse in peace talks could leave the north’s political status open indefinitely, a situation that Islamist militants active in the region could exploit, Reuters reports.
Mediators have been working for months to get talks going between a group of Tuareg-led rebels from the north and the government in Bamako the capital in the southern part of the vast northwest African country.
Bamako signed a preliminary proposal earlier this month but the rebels erected it, saying it did not grant their region, called Azawad, enough autonomy. Those rebels took advantage of a 2012 military coup in the capital to sweep down from the north seizing territory and cities like Timbuktu. But their rebellion was hijacked by radical Islamist groups, some tied to Al Qaeda branches. They imposed harsh fundamentalist Muslim law and destroyed several holy sites revered by Muslims they consider heretics.
The rebels were threatening to capture Bamako in early 2013 when France intervened, sending troops, armored vehicles and aircraft to drive the rebels back. Eventually, a U.N. peace mission was created.
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Al Shabab Blamed.
Four people have been killed in a terror attack in northeastern Kenya about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the border with Somalia, the BBC reports.
Security forces said hooded men locked people inside a shop, then lobbed a hand grenade in, causing a fire.
Al Qaeda-linked al Shabab militants in Somalia said they carried out the attack — the fourth in five days in the troubled northeast region. Kenya’s northeast region has often been attacked by al Shabab, which has vowed to get revenge on Nairobi for sending troops into Somalia in 2011 to help the United Nations-backed government battle the Islamists terrorists.
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Al Shabab Official Killed.
And last week, a U.S. drone missile strike killed a top official in al Shabab’s security service, the Amniyat, according to the Voice of America website.
The March 12 airstrike hit a car carrying Adan Garaar — described by the Pentagon as working for al Shabab’s intelligence wing and also connected to the 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya that killed more than 60 people.
Last month al Shabab released a video that called for attacks on Western shopping malls. The Mall of America, one of the largest in the United States, is in Minnesota, which has a large Somali immigrant population.
Prosecutors say dozens of people from Minnesota, many of them Somali-Americans, have traveled or attempted to travel overseas to support groups such as the Islamic State or al Shabab since 2007.
U.S. law enforcement officials are concerned about the potential for radicalization among embers of immigrants communities.
French Hostage Released.
A Frenchman kidnapped by Islamist terrorists in North Africa more than three years ago has been freed, the French government announced today (December 9).
Details of the release of Serge Lazarevic were not disclosed but French officials have insisted that no ransom is paid or prisoners released in exchange for any French hostages. At one time 14 French citizens were being held by terrorists in Africa. A Malian security source told AFP that Lazarevic was released at Kidal in northern Mali.
French President Francois Hollande said there are “no more French hostages in any country in the world.” Another, Phillipe Verdon, who was abducted with Lazarevic in 2011 by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, was killed last year in retaliation for France’s military intervention in Mali to halt a revolt by Islamic extremists and nomadic Tuaregs.
While authorities denied or wouldn’t comment on reports that ransom was paid, a retired French anti-terrorism judge, Alain Marsaud, was more frank. He told France’s RTL radio: “There is no reease if there is no payment. Someone paid, if not the government, a business or insurance company.
A Malian newspaper and two sources, requesting anonymity, told Reuters that several Islamist-linked militants held in Mali were freed.
A Dutch tourist, Sjaak Rijke, kidnapped in Timbuktu in November 2011, has not been seen or heard from since he appeared alongside Lazarevic in a November AQIM video, the BBC reported.
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The World Health Organization reports new cases of Ebola are still rising in West Africa, with Sierra Leone overtaking Liberia with the highest number of cases.
Data published Monday (December 8) by the WHO shows Sierra Leone has recorded 7,798 cases of the deadly virus, making it the country with the fastest growing infection rate, according to the Voice of America website. Meanwhile, infection rates are dropping in Liberia, which now has just over 7,700 cases – but Liberia still has more Ebola deaths than any other country: a little more than 3,100.
Overall, Ebola has infected 18,000 people in Africa and killed 6,346. The vast majority of those cases have been in Liberia, Sierra Leone and neighboring Guinea.
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International Court Drops Kenyatta Charges.
The International Criminal Court has dropped its case against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta for alleged crimes against humanity.
The prosecution withdrew the charges Wednesday (December 5) against Kenyatta, citing a lack of evidence. But there were also allegations that because the Kenyan government did not cooperate with the international court’s investigation, the case was unable to proceed, according to the Voice of America website.
The ICC’s lead prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, said there was not enough evidence to prove the charges against Kenyatta beyond a reasonable doubt. Bensouda said Kenya’s government failed to provide key documents to the prosecution, which undermined her investigations and “had a severe, adverse impact” on the case. She also said she reserved the right to file charges again if more evidence becomes available.
Kenyatta was charged for his alleged role — before he was president — in the ethnic violence that followed the 2007 Kenyan elections. More than 1,000 were killed and a half million more were displaced by the violence, which prosecutors claimed Kenyatta and his deputy president, William Ruto, incited.
After the ICC dropped the case, Kenyatta – son of Kenya’s founding father Jomo Kenyatta — called it a “travesty” adding that he felt vindicated, the BBC reported. In the Hague, prosecutors accused the Kenyan government of refusing to hand over evidence vital to the case and said officials in Nairobi had intimidated potential witnesses.
AROUND AFRICA: U.S. Ebola Response, Nigeria College Attacked, U.N. Peacekeepers Killed in Mali UPDATE
UPDATES Ebola Roundup with aid pledge from Canada, Sierra Leone shutting down for three days and report of health workers and journalists found dead in Guinea.
The death toll from the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has gone over 2,600, according to the World Health Organization.
At least 2,630 people have died and at least 5,357 people have been infected, the WHO said Thursday (September 18), according to Reuters.
In an update on the epidemic, which is raging through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia – and has spread to Senegal and Nigeria, the U.N. health agency said there were no signs of the outbreak slowing, said Reuters.
Several Western governments – criticized for not doing enough — have stepped up their assistance in fighting the fast-moving virus, for which there is no known cure.
President Barack Obama says the United States will send 3,000 military personnel to West Africa where they will erect new treatment and isolation facilities, train health care workers and increase communications and transportation support, according to The Associated Press.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the 3,000 troops would not provide direct care to Ebola patients, the AP reported. A substantial number will be stationed at an intermediate base in Senegal, Earnest said, with others at locations in Liberia where they will provide logistical, training, engineering and other support.
Obama said the Ebola outbreak is now an epidemic “of the likes that we have not seen before. It is spiraling out of control … The reality is that this epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better,” Obama said during a visit to the National Centers for Disease Control (CDC) where he consulted with health officials about the U.S. response to Ebola. “Right now, the world has the responsibility to act – to step up, and to do more. The United States of America intends to do more,” Obama added.
France says it will set up a military hospital in West Africa as part of its contribution to the fight against Ebola. President Francois Hollande said Thursday (September 18) that the facility will be set up “in the forests of Guinea, in the heart of the outbreak,” according to Reuters.
Earlier this week, Canada said it will donate $2.5 million worth of the specialized medical gear used to protect health-care workers who are treating Ebola patients, The Canadian Press reported.
In a bid to reduce its Ebola infection rate, Sierra Leone will “close down” the country for three days beginning Friday (September 19), according to information minister Alpha Kanu.
Current figures show there are 1,400 cases of the Ebola disease in Sierra Leone, according to Kanu, the Voice of America reported. Sierra Leone is one of three hard-hit Western African nations being overwhelmed by the rapidly spreading deadly virus.
Meanwhile, the BBC reports officials in Guinea searching for a team of health workers and journalists who went missing while trying to raise awareness of Ebola have found several bodies.
A spokesman for Guinea’s government said the bodies included those of three journalists in the team. The group was reported missing after being attacked Tuesday (September 16) in a village near the southern city of Nzerekore.
On Thursday night, a Guinea government spokesman, Albert Damantang Camara, said eight bodies had been found, including those of three journalists.
He said they had been recovered from the septic tank of a primary school in the village, adding that the victims had been “killed in cold blood by the villagers”.
The reason for the killings is unclear, but correspondents say many people in the region distrust health officials and have refused to co-operate with authorities, fearing that a diagnosis means certain death, the BBC said. Last month, riots erupted on rumors that medics who were disinfecting a market were contaminating people.
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Nigeria College Attack
Gunmen have attacked a teacher training college in the northern Nigerian city of Kano, and officials say at least 15 people have been killed, the BBC reports. Another 34 people were injured in the Wednesday (September 17) attack.
The gunmen exchanged fire with police outside the college before running inside. While it is not clear who was responsible for the attack, the BBC said, suspicion will fall on the militant Islamist group Boko Haram, which has been waging an insurgency in Nigeria since 2009. The group which wants to set up a separate Islamic state in Africa’s most populous country has already killed 2,000 people this year and kidnapped hundreds of high school-age schoolgirls.
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The United Nations mission in Mali says five of its peacekeepers from Chad were killed and another three wounded when their vehicle was hit by an explosive device in the north of the country on Thursday (September 18).
The attack brings the number of U.N. peacekeepers killed in the country this month to 10, according to Reuters. The U.N. mission, known as MINUSMA, said the blast happened between the desert towns of Aguelhok and Tessalit, in the Kidal region of the Wester African nation.
MINUSMA was deployed last year to help stabilize Mali following a three-pronged crisis which began with a Tuareg separatist uprising, followed by a military coup in the southern capital and a nine-month occupation in the north by al Qaeda-linked Islamist militants.
The militants were chased out by a French-led intervention, but pockets of insurgents remain in Mali’s vast desert north from where they have launched attacks on the U.N. peacekeepers.
Before heading home from the U.S.-Africa Business Forum that ended Wednesday (August 6), President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
Keita told an overflow crowd at CSIS Thursday (August 7) that international intervention – especially military logistics — had helped bring his country back from the brink following a 2012 military coup and rebellion in Mali’s northern deserts by nomadic Tuaregs and radical Islamist militants. But the threat to Mali, the region and the world isn’t over, Keita warned. “We’re at a strategic nexus. This is a completely lawless region,” Keita said, according to simultaneous translation of his remarks given in French.
Compounding the problem in the north — an area bigger than Texas — a flow of heavy weapons out of neighboring Libya, and Tuareg mercenaries who know how to use them, after the fall of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
For more on Keita’s talk at CSIS, see an UPDATE to yesterday’s AROUND AFRICA blog posting.