Posts tagged ‘Niger’

AROUND AFRICA: African Lion 22 Exercise in Ghana, Morocco, Senegal, Tunisia; New AFRICOM Commander Tapped; Troubles in Mali

EXERCISES/TRAINING WITH PARTNERS.

AFRICAN LION 22: Morocco, Ghana, Senegal and Tunisia.

U.S. Africa Command’s premier annual exercise, African Lion 22, ended nearly a month of training operations across four nations in north and west Africa on June 30.

Sergeant Anthony Ruiz, an infantry squad leader assigned to Echo Company, Battalion Landing Team 2/6, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Tunisian troops participate in an integrated training event during African Lion 2022, near Camp Ben Ghilouf, Tunisia on June 21, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sergeant Marcela Diazdeleon)

African Lion 22 is a multinational, combined arms joint exercise focused on increasing training and interoperability between U.S. forces and  partners and allies on the African continent to increase security and stability within the region.

Led by the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force for Africa, the exercise saw operations ranging from maritime training exercises in the Mediterranean waters off Tunisia and Morocco’s Atlantic Coast to field training and combined arms exercises in Ghana and Senegal.

Military units from Brazil, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the African nation of Chad, joined U.S. and host nations’ troops in the exercises. A total of 7,500 troops, nearly 4,000 of them from the United States, participated in African Lion, which began on June 6.

African Lion also included a Special Operations cyber exercise, a medical readiness exercise, a humanitarian civil assistance program,  a joint forcible entry with paratroopers, an air exercise with U.S. heavy heavy lift transport, aerial refueling and bomber aircraft.

Approximately 80 Idaho Army National Guard Soldiers with the 1st Battalion of the 148th Field Artillery Regiment, along other Guard units from from California, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin are training with the Royal Moroccan Army in the northern Sahara Desert as part of African Lion ’22.

(U.S. National Guard photo by Master Sergeant Becky Vanshur)

Historically, African Lion has taken place only in Morocco and Tunisia, but this year Ghana and Senegal were added.  While Ghana has participated in the past as observers, “This is the first time that we’re actually doing the exercise in Ghana,” Major General Andrew M. Rohling, Commander of U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, told a June 28 U.S. State Department digital press briefing with African journalists. Speaking from Morocco, Rohling noted that Ghana “has chosen to partner with its African neighbors and the United States to help provide peace and security across the continent.  Ghana has a growing leadership role in regional security.”

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U.S. Africa Command.

President Biden has nominated Marine Corps Lieutenant General Michael Langley to be the next commander of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the president’s decision June 9. Langley currently heads Marine Forces Command and Marine Forces Northern Command. He is also the commanding general of Fleet Marine Force Atlantic in Norfolk, Virginia.

AFRICOM, based in Stutgart, Germany, oversees U.S. troops dispersed throughout Africa, including conflict zones such as Somalia, where Biden has decided to return up to 500 troops — withdrawn by the Trump administration — to expedite airstrikes for counter terrorism operations, according to Military Times.

If the Senate confirms Langley, he would succeed Army General Stephen Townsend, who has led AFRICOM since July 2019. As head of one of the geographical combatant commands, Langley would also be promoted to the rank of full general, making him the first four-star Marine Corps general.

Langley would be in charge of of all U.S. military operations in Africa. The continent is experiencing a rash of economic and security interests by Russia and China. Russia controls the private military company, Wagner Group, whose mercenaries operate in Libya and the Central African Republic, according to The Hill newspaper site.

Speaking from Morocco to a digital State Department press briefing June 28 about African Lion 22, Major General Andrew M. Rohling, Commander of U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, brought up Wagner Group when asked about the rising number of foreign military operations and bases in Africa. The United States and China each have a base in the East African nation of Djibouti and French and U.S. troops have been assisting several West African nations resist terrorist groups like al Queda and the Islamic State (ISIS).

“I think it’s clear that we’ve seen the impact and the destabilizing effect that Wagner brings to Africa and elsewhere. And I think countries that have experienced Wagner Group deployments within their borders found themselves to be a little bit poorer, a little bit weaker, and a little bit less secure,” Rohling said. “So an exercise such as African Lion aims to build capacity as well as the trusted, long-term relationships to address future challenges.  And I think that’s the difference between United States and others that are operating here on the continent.”

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PEACEKEEPING/CONFLICTS

French Troops Leaving Mali.

Concerns have grown that the exit of 2,400 French troops from Mali – the epicenter of violence in the Sahel region and strongholds of both al Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates – is worsening violence, destabilizing neighbors and spurring migration.

Coups in Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso have weakened France’s alliances in its former colonies, emboldened jihadists who control large swathes of desert and scrub, and opened the door to greater Russian influence.

All the logisticians of France’s Barkhane force are involved in the transfer of military equipment out of Mali after nearly eight years fighting armed terrorist groups in the Sahel and supporting the armed forces of partner countries against the threat. (French Ministry of the Armed Forces photo)

With the withdrawal from Mali expected to be completed by the end of the summer French officials were negotiating in neighboring Niger  to redefine France’s strategy to fight Islamist militants in the Sahel as concerns mount over the growing threat to coastal West African states, Reuters reports.

France’s plan calls for Niger will become the hub for French troops, with some 1,000 soldiers based in the capital Niamey along with fighter jets, drones and helicopters. Some 300-400 French troops would be dispatched for special operations with Nigerien troops in the border regions with Burkina Faso and Mali, French officials told reporters.

West Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Another 700-to-1,000 would be based in Chad with an undisclosed number of special forces operating elsewhere in the region. French troops will no longer carry out missions or pursue militants into Mali once the exit is complete, the officials said.

A key area of concern is how and whether French and European troops will used to support countries in the coastal Gulf of Guinea nations such Benin, Togo and Ivory Coast, where there has been a rise in attacks. Al Qaeda’s regional arm has said it would turn its attention to the region.

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Trouble between Mali and Ivory Coast.

Meanwhile, the military-led government in Mali says it is suspending all new rotations of United Nations peacekeeping troops due to national security reasons, the BBC reports. The action comes days after soldiers from the Ivory Coast were arrested on arrival in Mali on suspicion of being mercenaries.

Officials in Ivory Coast said they were there to support the U.N. mission, known as MINUSMA, under an agreed contract between the two countries. The junta in Mali, which is trying to put down an Islamist insurgency, says its foreign ministry was not informed of the deployment via the official channels.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, said the troops were not officially part of MINUSMA but came as “support of their contingents,” what he described as “a common practice in peacekeeping missions,” the VoA website reported. The Malian government labeled them “mercenaries.” Ivory Coast has called for their release.

Peacekeepers serving with the UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). (Photo: MINUSMA/Harandane Dicko)

The arrests were not mentioned in the statement announcing the peacekeeper suspension.

Since April, the U.N. has been seeking access to the town of Moura, where locals told human rights investigators and journalists that the army and Russian mercenaries carried out a massacre over five days.

The mandate for the mission in Mali was renewed during a Security Council meeting on June 29. During renewal talks, Mali’s U.N. representative said the government would not allow the United Nations to carry out investigations of alleged human rights abuses as part of its mandate.

The U.N. mission in Mali has almost 12,000 troops and 1,700 police officers. It is a visible presence in many of Mali’s northern cities, which were taken over by Islamist militants in 2012 and have seen increasing insecurity in recent months following the French army’s withdrawal from the country, according to VoA.

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Egypt Halts Its Mali Troop Rotation.

Egypt has told the United Nations it will temporarily suspend the activities of its contingent in a Mali peacekeeping mission, citing increased attacks on its peacekeepers who escort convoys supplying U.N. bases, Reuters reported July 15.

The attacks have caused the death of seven Egyptian soldiers since the beginning of the year. Egypt has 1,072 troops and 144 police in the U.N. mission in Mali known as MINUSMA.

July 17, 2022 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: China’s Growing Influence in Africa; Nigeria Wants AFRICOM HQ Relocated from Germany to Africa

China Worries AFRICOM Chief

The top U.S. military officer in Africa says he is concerned about China’s growing commercial and military influence there — including plans to locate a large naval port somewhere on the continent’s Atlantic coast.

West Coast of Africa (CIA World Fact Book)

In an interview with The Associated Press, U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend said Beijing is looking to establish a port capable of hosting submarines or aircraft carriers on Africa’s western coast. Townsend said the Peoples Republic of CFhina (PRC) has contacted countries stretching from Mauritania to Namibia, intent on establishing a naval facility. If realized, that prospect would enable China to base warships in its expanding Navy in the Atlantic as well as Pacific oceans, the AP reported.

“They’re looking for a place where they can rearm and repair warships. That becomes militarily useful in conflict,” said Townsend, who heads U.S. Africa Command. The People’s Liberation Army Navy opened a base on Africa’s East Coast in Djibouti in 2017. “Now they’re casting their gaze to the Atlantic coast and wanting to get such a base there,” the AFRICOM commander said.

The U.S. base in Djibouti – Camp Lemmonier, a former French Foreign Legion post – is America’s only permanent base on the African continent (See story below). The U.S. and PRC bases are only 12 kilometers (just under 7.5 miles) apart, near the strategic Horn of Africa that overlooks waterways (Red Sea, Gulf of Aden) that link Europe via the Suez Canal with the Indian Ocean and South Asia.

In written testimony submitted to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee April 20, Townsend noted the PRC has been investing heavily in Africa, pledging $60 billion in infrastructure and development — and increasing arms sales to African countries.

“Beijing’s activities in Africa are outpacing those of the United States and our allies as they seek resources and markets to feed economic growth in China and leverage economic tools to increase their global reach and influence. The People’s Republic of China has 52 embassies in Africa, three more than the U.S., and they continue to expand their base in Djibouti into a platform to project power across the continent and its waters—completing a large naval pier this year,” Townsend told the congressional panel.

U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, head of U.S. Africa Command, testifies before Congress in April 2021. (U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs photo)

“Beijing seeks to open additional bases, tying their commercial seaport investments in East, West and Southern Africa closely with involvement by Chinese military forces in order to further their geo-strategic interests,” he added.

Other U.S. commanders have raised similar alarms about PRC expansionist activities. Your 4GWAR editor has reported about China’s actions in the Western Hemisphere (U.S. Southern and Northern Commands) and the Indo-Pacific region, for the SEAPOWER website.

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Nigeria Wants AFRICOM HQ in Africa

Nigeria’s embattled president wants U.S. Africa Command to move its headquarters from Germany to the African continent, as armed violence and terrorist attacks continue in West Africa’s Sahel region.

From left to right: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Mary Beth Leonard, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, and Nigerian Geoffrey Onyeama meet virtually April 27, 2021. (U.S. State Dept. screen capture)

In a virtual meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on April 27, Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari said the United States should consider moving its military headquarters for Africa, to help battle a series of recent clashes with armed rebels, as well as continued efforts to push back on militant Islamist groups like Boko Haram, The Hill website reported.

“Considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider re-locating AFRICOM headquarters… near the theatre of operation,” said Buhari, according a statement issued by the presidency, Reuters reported.

Nigerian security forces face multiple security challenges including school kidnappings by armed gangs in its northwest and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea as well as the decade-long insurgency by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, which also carries out attacks in neighboring Niger, Cameroon and Chad, the news agency noted. (See story below).

In the latest incident, at least seven police officers were killed in Nigeria’s oil-rich Rivers State on May 7. Gunmen opened fire on a checkpoint in the southern state, then drove to two police stations, killing officers and burning patrol cars, the BBC reported. Police killed two of the attackers but are searching for those who escaped. It was not clear who was behind the killings, but the region has seen a surge in separatist attacks on police, BBC noted.

Dissatisfaction with Buhari’s handling of the security threats has grown in recent weeks among civil society, political and religious groups. A former army general, Buhari was elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2019 on promises to subdue jihadist extremists, who have killed over 36,000 and displaced more than two million. But six years later, things are getting worse. Boko Haram is expanding its enclaves in Nigeria’s northwest, while banditry, kidnappings and communal violence is on the rise, the VoA site noted. Nigeria’s military said it will uphold the country’s democracy and warned against plots to overthrow Buhari.

West Africa’s Sahel region is in the grip of a security crisis as groups with ties to al Qaeda and Islamic State attack military forces and civilians, despite help from French and United Nations forces.

In Niger, unidentified gunmen killed 16 soldiers and wounded six others in an ambush in the country’s southwest, security sources told Reuters on May 2.  The attack on an army patrol occurred the day before in the Tahoua region of the West African country, near where raids killed 137 civilians in March. It is unclear who carried out the attack.

In Cameroon, Anglophone separatists entered a French-speaking village in the West region and killed four government soldiers. The military says the separatists took weapons and freed suspects from prison before returning to their hideouts in the English-speaking North-West region. Cameroon’s separatists have been fighting since 2017 to create an independent English-speaking state in the majority French-speaking country’s western regions, VoA reported.

The conflict has cost more than 3,000 lives and forced 550,000 people to flee to French-speaking regions of Cameroon or into neighboring Nigeria, according to the United Nations.

Buhari’s request Blinken was a reversal of previous President Umaru Yar’Adua’s opposition to AFRICOM command establishing a presence on African soil. In fact, when then-President George W. Bush created the U.S. military’s sixth geographic combatant command there was a pretty large outcry in Africa that this was just another imperialistic move by a Western power. Only one country – Liberia – offered to host AFRICOM’s headquarters, but U.S. officials decided to keep the headquarters in Stuttgart Germany.

The April 27 U.S.-Nigerian meeting came a week after one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders, Idriss Déby, the president of Chad, died in clashes with rebel groups.

Deby had been with troops battling rebel groups based across the northern border in Libya at the time of his death, though the exact cause was not immediately clear, the New York Times reported.

The late Chadian president had long been considered an ally of the U.S. and France in the fight against Islamist extremists in the region, though rebel groups had repeatedly attempted to overthrow the government over his management of Chad’s oil wealth and crackdowns on political opponents.

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Unrest in Chad after President’s Death.

In the immediate aftermath of the death of Chad’s president, Idriss Déby, a transitional council of military officers named Déby’s son, Mahamat Kaka, interim president, Reuters reported. The council also announced that an election for the next president will be held in 18 months. Until then, the government and National Assembly have been dissolved, and the country is under a nationwide curfew, according to the New York Times.

However, opposition to the undemocratic power shift is growing. The African Union has called for an end to military rule in Chad. The African Union’s Peace and Security Council voiced “grave concern” about the military takeover which put 37-year-old General Mahamat Déby Itno in charge and saw parliament dissolved, the BBC reported.

Opposition parties have also condemned what they called a “dynastic coup”.

Meanwhile, Chad’s ruling military council are seeking support from its central African neighbors in fighting rebels who they say endanger a smooth return to civilian rule.A delegation sent to Cameroon told the neighboring state’s president that without peace, a transition to civilian rule will be impossible. Chad’s opposition says the military rulers should immediately step down if they genuinely want peace to be restored.

Abdelkerim Idriss Deby, deputy director of cabinet Abdelkerim, said Chad has been witnessing a series of protests and deadly rebel attacks that are threatening its unity since Deby died, according to VoA, He said Chad’s military council has sent him to all member states of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community to explain plans the military leaders have for a smooth transition to civilian rule. He said Chad needs the assistance of its neighbors for peace to return.

May 8, 2021 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

SPECIAL OPS: Medal of Honor for Green Beret; Niger Ambush Heroes Recognized

Medal of Honor.

Hall of Heroes Induction Ceremony

Medal of Honor recipient Army Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams is inducted into the Hall of Heroes by Defense Secetary Mark T. Esper at the Pentagon on October. 31, 2019. (Defense Department photo by Marine Corps Corporal Marcos A. Alvarado)

Army Special Forces Master Sergeant Matthew O. Williams has been awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award of valor, for his combat actions in the Shok Valley of Afghanistan in  2008.

At the time of the battle, Williams — then a sergeant — was a a weapons sergeant with Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) 3336, of Special Operations Task Force 11. On April 6, 2008, the ODA was on a mission to capture or kill high-value targets of the Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin in Shok Valley, Nuristan Province.

Williams was part of an assault element — several American soldiers and a larger Afghan commando force — inserted by helicopter. As they were moving up a mountain toward their objective, they were engaged by intense enemy machine guns, snipers and rocket-propelled grenades.

Williams heard that the lead element had sustained several casualties and was in danger of being overrun. He immediately gathered the commandos around him while braving intense enemy fire and led a counterattack across a 100-meter long valley of ice-covered boulders and a fast-moving, ice-cold, waist-deep river.

During the course of a six-hour battle, Williams rescued other members of the assault element and evacuated numerous casualties while continuously exposing himself to insurgent fire.

Williams is the second Medal of Honor recipient from this engagement. He joins former Staff Sergeant Ron Shurer II,  a medical sergeant with ODA 3336, who received the top valor award on October 1, 2018.

Like Williams, Shurer, battled his way across icy terrain under heavy enemy fire to reach the pinned down lead element.  For the next five and a half hours, Shurer helped keep the large insurgent force at bay while simultaneously providing care to his wounded teammates. Overall, Shurer’s actions helped save the lives of all wounded casualties under his care.

Originally, Williams was awarded the Silver Star medal, the third-highest decoration for valor in combat. The Army reviewed and upgraded the award to the Medal of Honor for gallantry and heroism above and beyond the call of duty.

Medal Of Honor Ceremony

Williams was joined by Ronald J. Shurer II after Williams’ Medal of Honor Ceremony at the White House on October 30, 2019. (Defense Department photo)

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Nigerien Heroes.

The head of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) awarded six medals to Nigerien soldiers who fought alongside Army Special Forces in a 2017 ambush near the village of Tongo Tongo that claimed the lives of four Green Berets and four Nigerien soldiers.

Army General Richard Clarke, the SOCOM commander, presented the awards in Niamey, Niger’s capital, along with the U.S. Ambassador Eric Whitaker, to four surviving soldiers, and family members of two others who were killed, Army Times reported.

MAP-Niger

(Map of Niger: CIA World Fact Book)

The honors included two Bronze Star medals, one Army Commendation Medal and three Army Achievement medals. The four surviving Nigeriens who received awards were Corporal Moustapha Kakalé, Soldier 2nd Class Ibrahim Assoumane, Soldier 2nd Class Abdou Kane and Soldier 2nd Class Kamel Issoufou Oumar.

Family members representing Adjutant Chief Soumana Bagué and Soldier 2nd Class Abdoul Rachid Yarima received posthumous awards and condolences from Clarke and Whitaker, according to embassy officials.

The four Americans killed in the attack were: Sergeant First Class Jeremiah Johnson, Staff Sergeant Bryan Black, Staff Sergeant Dustin Wright and Sergeant LaDavid Johnson.

Sergeant LaDavid Johnson and Staff Sergeant Wright were awarded the Silver Star Medal posthumously for bravery. Johnson and Black received the Bronze Star Medal with Valor posthumously. Other members of the 11-man Special Operations team also received commendations.

However, Army Times noted, the mission and the Defense Department report on the fatal ambush remain controversial.  A lack of air support or persistent overhead surveillance aircraft worsened the disaster near the Niger-Mali border when the U.S. troops and their Nigerien partners were ambushed by an Islamic-State aligned force three times their size.

EII-bajXkAY_3TH

U.S. Army General Richard Clarke, head of Special Operations Command, pins a medal on one of six Nigerien soldiers decorated for bravery in a 2017 terrorist ambush that left four of their comrades and four U.S. Green Berets dead. (Photo: U.S. Embassy Niamey via Twitter) 

The investigation, conducted by U.S. Africa Command, identified “individual, organizational, and institutional failures and deficiencies that contributed to the tragic events of 4 October 2017,” but it concluded “no single failure or deficiency was the sole reason for the events” on that day.

 

 

November 8, 2019 at 12:24 am Leave a comment

AFRICA/SPECIAL OPS: Seven Countries Host Special Operations Exercise

Flintlock 2017.

A U.S.-led multinational military exercise — Flintlock 2017 — is underway in seven northern and western African countries. Flintlock is an annual training exercise for Special Operations Forces (SOF) designed to reinforce cooperation and the capabilities of participating nations.

flintlock-2017-niger-troops

Nigerien armed forces participate in the opening ceremonies of Flintlock 2017 in Diffa, Niger, February 27, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Specialist Zayid Ballesteros)

Last year, Exercise Flintlock 2016 was hosted by Senegal and Mauritania. This year, seven countries are hosting Flintlock 2017: Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia.

In addition to U.S. Green Berets from the 3rd Army Special Forces Group, which is regionally aligned to North and West Africa, SOF units from Australia, Belgium and Canada will be participating in the three-week exercise. The 20 personnel from Canada will include staff from the Canadian Special Operations Regiment and medical specialists from Canadian Forces health services group, according to the Ottawa Citizen

Other countries sending troops, 20 in all,  include:  Algeria, Cape Verde, Nigeria, Senegal,  Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom.

west-africa-map

The region where Flintlock is taking place is threatened by violent radical groups like Boko Haram and al Qaeda. Brigadier General Donald Bolduc, head of Special Operations Command Africa, said the training is focused on helping partners coordinate a regional response to extremist threats from al Qaeda-aligned groups and the Islamic State (ISIS), according to Stars and Stripes.

“These threats are a shared challenge we can only meet together,” Bolduc said during the Flintlock opening ceremony in Chad,” according to U.S. Africa Command. The exercise will pay special attention to protecting borders and guarding against cross-border attacks. Boko Haram, the Nigerian-based terrorist group, has launched attacks on neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

flintlock-2017-green-berets-saluting

Colonel Major TN Pale, Burkina Faso’s Army Chief of Staff, salutes U.S. Army Green Berets during the opening ceremony of Flintlock 2017 at Camp Zagre, Burkina Faso on February 27, 2017.  (U.S. Army photo by Sergeant Benjamin Northcutt)

March 2, 2017 at 11:59 pm 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).

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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

AFRICA/COUNTER TERRORISM: U.S. Troops Helping African Forces in Fight with Boko Haram

New Drone base.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Headline rewritten to clarify U.S. forces not engaged in combat, just aiding ISR effort.

Cameroon (CIA World Factbook)

Cameroon
(CIA World Factbook)

The United States has quietly sent hundreds of troops to West Africa, to help Cameroon’s army hunt the terrorists along the Nigerian border, according to a CBS News report Wednesday (December 16).

They’re searching for Boko Haram, the extremist group that has aligned itself with the so-called Islamic State (also known as ISIS, ISIl and Daesh). Boko Harma has killed more than 20,000 people in the region, mostly in Nigeria, over the past six years.

Cameroon is getting help from the U.S. military, which is setting up another drone base in Africa. Cameroon soldiers are learning how to use their own unarmed drones for surveillance. The U.S. base won’t be fully operational until next month, CBS says.

“The U.S. is providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to the Cameroonian forces,” Army Captain Victor Guzman told CBS News. He said the plan is for the Cameroonian troops to take the lead and fight the local threat.

The United States started unarmed drone surveillance flights out of Niger, to the north of Cameroon, in early 2013 to support French forces fighting Islamist militants in northern Mali.

December 17, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: U.N. Seeks $2 Billion to Head Off Desert Migration Crisis

Sahel Imperiled.

The Sahel Region. (Wikipedia)

The Sahel Region. (Wikipedia)

The United Nations is seeking a record $2 billion in aid for North Africa’s Sahel region to counter poverty, insecurity and climate change that could tip the area over, generating a new wave of mass migration, Reuters reported Wednesday (December 9).

The U.N. has increased its appeal for the nine countries of the semiarid band stretching from Senegal on the Atlantic to Eritrea on the Red Sea more than tenfold over the last 10 years, but funding has fallen short each year.

Attacks by militants from the radical Islamist group Boko Haram in the Lake Chad basin, as well as efforts by regional armies to counter them, have already forced 2.5 million people to flee their homes — a figure that has tripled in 12 months, according to Reuters.

Toby Lanzer, a U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator, noted the thousands of refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East flooding into Europe. “Eventually, you are going to have thousands or tens of thousands of people [from the Sahel] who will seek opportunities elsewhere or, if worse comes to the worst, be forced to flee,” he told Reuters.

A portion of the 2016 funding, part of a $20.1 billion record U.N. humanitarian appeal, will also go toward education, which Lanzer hopes will encourage young girls to finish schooling and cap population growth in a region ill-equipped to cope with a forecast sixfold increase in population by 2100.

The biggest recipient in 2016 will be Chad with $567 million, which has suffered a series of Boko Haram suicide bombings in recent months, followed by Mali with $354 million and Niger with $316 million. Other countries in the Sahel include Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Sudan

The refugee appeal comes just a day after U.N. Security Council appealed for greater international security cooperation and more humanitarian aid to bring stability to sub-Saharan Africa.

Concern about terrorist safe havens in Libya and the humanitarian crisis caused by Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria, are at the heart of the Security Council’s warning.

In a presidential statement issued two weeks after the top U.N. regional official warned that the sub-Saharan Sahel region will become fertile ground for recruiting terrorists among its tens of millions of disadvantaged people, the 15-member Council called for a dual policy of combatting terrorism and its havens while eliminating its root causes through aid and development.

December 9, 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.

*** *** ***

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)

Nigeria
(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.

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ***

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)

Nigeria
(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.”

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ***

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

AFRICA: Nigerian Election Delayed; Boko Haram Making More Enemies

Election Postponed.

Nigerian flag (CIA World Factbook)

Nigerian flag
(CIA World Factbook)

Nigerians were supposed to go to the polls Saturday (February 14) to elect a president but officials have delayed the election for six weeks — ostensibly to allow more time for multi-national forces can secure areas battered by the Boko Haram insurgency.

The closely contested election will now be held March 28, the election agency told a news conference in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, last Saturday night (February 7).

The delay has generated criticism from the opponents of the ruling party  who are trying to unseat President Goodluck Jonathan. It has also generated speculation around the world about the real reason for the delay. Jonathan, a Chrisitian from southern Nigeria, who has been plagued by the Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands and abducted hundreds of schoolgirls, is running against former general Muhammadu Buhari, who ruled the country as a military dictator in the early 1980s. Buhari, a Muslim from the north, has promised to crush Boko Haram and end corruption.

According to the New York Times, the delay was ordered after weeks of pressure to postpone it from the ruling party, which analysts say was facing potential defeat for the first time in more than 15 years. The country’s northeastern region has been in the grip of an Islamist insurgency waged by the extremist group, Boko Haram, for more than five years. Nigeria’s military has been unable to contain the violence but it was not immediately clear how the situation might change in the coming six weeks.

Darren Kew, a Nigeria expert at the University of Massachusetts Boston, told the Times: “This is a sign of panic on the part of supporters of the president and the ruling party. The real reason behind it is the opposition is surging right now.”

Washington said it was “deeply disappointed” by the decision to postpone the election. “Political interference with the Independent National Electoral Commission is unacceptable,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement  (February 7), adding that “it is critical that the government not use security concerns as a pretext for impeding the democratic process. The international community will be watching closely as the Nigerian government prepares for elections on the newly scheduled dates. The United States underscores the importance of ensuring that there are no further delays.”

Buhari called for calm in the country and cautioned against any violence following the election postponement, which he said was engineered by the ruling People’s Democratic Party.  Foreign powers are closely following events in Africa’s biggest economy and have voiced concerns there could be a repetition of violence that followed 2011 elections when 800 people died and that a delay would stoke unrest in opposition strongholds, Reuters reported.

Jonathan denied he was consulted over the postponement of Saturday’s presidential and parliamentary elections. He said election officials took the decision on the advice of security officers concerned about the Islamist-led insurgency in the north-east, BBC reported. The six-week delay was not a “big deal, Jonathan said on national television.

*** *** ***

Uniting Against Boko Haram

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook map)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook map)

While it struggles politically as well as militarily against Boko Haram, Nigeria’s neighbors are uniting to counter the radical Islamist group, after it has launched cross border attacks into Cameroon and Niger.

Niger, the latest Nigerian neighbor to come under attack, has joined Cameroon, Chad and Benin to form a multi-national force to suppress Boko Haram.  Those countries agreed with Nigeria last weekend to send a joint force of 8,700 troops to fight the violent extremist group, which has killed thousands of people and kidnapped hundreds more in its bid to carve out an Islamic state in the region. Niger’s parliament voted unanimously to deploy trrops in northern Nigeria.

On Monday (February 9), Boko Haram bombed the southeaster Nigerien town of Diffa, killing five people – its third attack there in four days, according to The Guardian. Boko Haram also carried out raids in neighboring Cameroon, kidnapping a bus full of passengers.

Northern Cameroon, where Boko Haram operates. (Wikipedia)

Northern Cameroon, where Boko Haram operates.
(Wikipedia)

Thousands of civilians fled their homes in Diffa this week, officials said Thursday (February 12), following waves of cross-border raids and suicide bombings by Boko Haram. Attacks in Niger are deepening a humanitarian crisis in the remote border zone, according to the Voice of America. The area, struggling to feed 150,000 people who have fled from violence in northern Nigeria, has seen about 7,000 arrive this week in Zinder, Niger’s second-biggest town, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) west of Diffa.

Meanwhile, Niger’s military said its forces had killed 260 Boko Haram militants and had arrested others in fighting since February 6. A suspected local leader of the group was arrested, and rocket launchers and other weapons were seized at his home.

At least seven people have been killed by a female suicide bomber who blew herself up at a crowded market in northeast Nigeria, according to witnesses and officials, Al Jazeera reported. The mid-afternoon attack Thursday (February 12) in Biu, 180 kilometers (111 miles) south of the Borno state capital Maiduguri, is the latest in a spate of similar attacks in the region. Boko Haram was suspected in the attack.

The group as been blamed for using women and young girls as human bombs as part of its deadly campaign to create an Islamic state in the country’s far northeast.

February 13, 2015 at 2:19 am Leave a comment

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