Posts tagged ‘Nigeria’
NIGERIA: Vote Count Underway
Votes in the weekend’s presidential election are still being counted in Nigeria, the African nation with the most people, biggest economy and one of the continent’s most violent Islamist insurgencies.
Due to technology glitches, Saturday’s voting had to be extended to a second day, Sunday (March 29), as some millions turned out to vote either for the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan or his opponent, retired Army general and Muhammadou Buhari.
The 72-year-old Buhari had a growing lead — 2.5 million votes — over Jonathan late Monday (March 30) with some 23 million votes counted in 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states, according to Reuters. The announcement of further results will resume Tuesday morning, Nigeria’s Independent National Election Commission (INEC).
While international bodies like the United Nations and the African Union initially said the Nigerian vote was largely free and fair, Britain’s and American’s top diplomats expressed concerns that election results “may be subject to deliberate political interference.”
The statement from Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said there were “disturbing indications” that such interference would mar the bitterly contested election, the Washington Post reported.
Observers’ big concern is that no matter who wins, reports of fraud or intimidation could spark a repeat of the post-election violence in 2011 when 800 people were killed, most of them in the predominantly Muslim north.
Buhari’s supporters in the All Progressives Congress party are already crying foul after Jonathan won a massive 95 percent of the vote in Rivers state, the volatile and hotly contested home of Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry. Some took to the streets in protest. In the oil city of Port Harcourt, police fired tear gas at a crowd of 100 female APC supporters demonstrating outside the regional offices of the INEC election commission.
In addition to problems at the polls, voting was marred by reports of election-related violence in northern Nigeria by
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In Liberia, hardest hit by Ebola, Liberian officials are urging Ebola survivors to refrain from unprotected sex beyond the recommended 90 days, following on the country’s first Ebola death in more than a month.
The female patient who died Friday was married to a man who had the disease but survived. Officials fear she may have gotten sick through sexual transmission. The 44-year-old woman was its first confirmed case in more than a month.
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.
Long War Strategy.
President Barack Obama says the United States is not at war with Islam. Rather, “we are at war with people who have perverted Islam,” he told officials from more than 60 nations at a three-day summit on countering violent extremism that ended Thursday (February 19).
The White House called the Washington gathering — following a wave of recent terrorist attacks in Canada, France, Australia and Denmark — to develop an international coalition to wage an ideological battle against violent extremist organizations such as the so-called Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) in parts of Syria and Iraq, and radical Islamist groups like Boko Haram in West Africa and al Shabaab on the Horn of Africa in the eastern part of the country.
Among the tactics proposed was delivering a strong message to young people to counter the propaganda and recruitment efforts of extremist groups through social media. “We must acknowledge that groups like al Qaeda and ISIL, are deliberately targeting their propaganda to Muslim communities, particularly Muslin youth,” Obama said, adding: Muslim communities, including scholars and clerics therefore have a responsibility to push back, not just on twisted interpretations of Islam, but also on the lie that we are somehow engaged in a clash of civilizations; that America and the West are somehow at war with Islam or seek to suppress Muslims; or that we are the cause of every ill in the Middle East. ”
As a step in that direction, Obama said the United States was joining with the United Arab Emirates (UAE, a Gulf State), to create a new digital communications hub to work with religious and civil society and community leaders to counter terrorist propaganda.
Obama also called on foreign leaders to cut off funding “that fuels hatred and corrupts young minds.” He also called for free elections, religious and ethnic tolerance.”We have to address the political grievances that terrorists exploit.” But a number of the countries represented at the meeting, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Uganda, are far from democratic and tolerant, the New York Times noted.
And conservatives and Republicans criticized Obama’s emphasis on expanding human rights, religious tolerance and peaceful dialogue. “The solution here is not expanded Medicaid. The solution is the full force of U.S. military power to destroy the leaders of ISIS,” Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican and possible presidential candidate told Politico. “They have declared war … jihad on the United States. Jihad is another word the president doesn’t say.”
Critics like Cruz have also complained that Obama doesn’t use terms like “Muslim,” “Islamic” or “jihadist,” when talking about Middle East terrorism. The White House says its part of strategy to avoid giving credence to the IS doctrine that the West is at war with Islam.
Violent Islamist extremists in Libya released a video purporting to show the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Christians Monday (February 15) and the Egyptian government responded swiftly — launching air strikes against the group’s training camps and weapons caches in eastern Libya.
Egypt’s airstrikes “on now threaten to drag it deeper into Libya’s messy internal conflict at a time when Cairo is already straining to revive a battered economy and suppress its own domestic Islamist insurgency — centered in the Sinai Peninsula but now also fighting under the banner of the Islamic State,” the New York Times notes.
Egypt has been intervening in Libya for months, backing one of the two rival coalitions that claim to represent the country’s legitimate government since the fall of strongman Muammar el Qaddafi in 2011. As militants in both Libya and Egypt develop closer ties, Cairo has become increasingly concerned about instability in Libya spilling over to its own Sinai peninsula, says Jane Kinninmont
a Chatham House senior research fellow on the BBC website.
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Turmoil in the Mediterranean
While Egypt mounts bombing raids against a Libyan Islamist group affiliated with the so-called Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL), Libya is asking the United Nations Security Council to lift an arms embargo so that it can deal with the IS group and other militants.
Two rival militia coalitions are battling for control over Libya and its vast resources, including nearly $100 billion in financial reserves, untapped oil deposits, and a long Mediterranean coast facing Europe. The worsening security situation has increased fears that the country’s warring militias may side with IS militants.
Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Dairi of the Libyan group recognized by most nations as the legitimate government of the strife-torn country, said that it would help the government build its army and deal with “rampant terrorism,” the BBC reports. Egypt said it supported Libya’s request at an emergency session of the UN council on Wednesday (February 18). Egyptian officials have also suggested that a US-led bombing campaign against IS in Syria and Iraq could be extended to Libya.
The growing chaos in Libya has alarmed countries in Southern Europe, which have been dealing with an influx of migrants fleeing violence in North Africa and the Levant.
Italy issued its strongest warning yet about the danger of the Islamic State establishing a stronghold in Libya that would threaten Europe’s security and the stability of neighboring states, according to AFP (via Al Arabiaya).
Addressing parliament on Wednesday (February 18), Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said there was an “evident risk” of IS fighters in Libya forging an alliance with local militias or criminal gangs currently engaged in a multi-sided battle for control of the country.
A British anti-extremist group says Islamic State militants are planning to take over Libya as a “gateway” to wage war across the whole of southern Europe, The Telegraph reported.
Letters written by IS supporters have revealed that jihadists hope to flood the north African state with militiamen from Syria and Iraq. They will then sail across the Mediterranean posing as migrants on people trafficking vessels, according to plans seen by Quilliam, the British counter-extremist think tank.
And in neighboring Tunisia, government officials are vowing a “strong and violent response” after suspected militants linked to al-Qaeda killed four Tunisian police officers near the Algerian border, according to the Voice of America website.
About 20 rebels attacked security forces at a checkpoint in the country’s mountainous Kasserine region overnight. A Tunisian official attributed Wednesday’s shootings to the Okba Ibn Nafaa Brigade, which was implicated in the killings of at least 14 Tunisian soldiers last year in the same area.
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West Africa’s violent extremist group, Boko Haram, is threatening to disrupt Nigeria’s elections — now scheduled for March 28, Aljazera reports.
AbuBakr Shekau, leader of the Islamist terrorist group, has said in a new video purportedly released by Boko Haram, that voting in Africa’s most populous country will not be peaceful next month. Shekau issued his warning to incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan’s government in an anti-democracy video, released on social media Tuesday (February 17) and obtained by U.S. based SITE intelligence group.
“Allah will not leave you to proceed with these elections even after us, because you are saying that authority is from people to people, which means that people should rule each other, but Allah says that the authority is only to him, only his rule is the one which applies on this land,” Shekau said, adding: “…we say that these elections that you are planning to do, will not happen in peace, even if that costs us our lives.
Officials delayed the February 14 election for six weeks — ostensibly to allow more time for multi-national forces to secure areas battered by the five-year Boko Haram insurgency.
The delay has generated criticism from the opponents of the ruling party who are trying to unseat 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. (To read more, click here.)
At least 40 people have been killed in mutiple attacks in northern and southern Nigeria, Al Jazeera reported.
The majority of the victims died when explosions ripped through a joint civilian and military checkpoint in Biu, in Borno State, Tuesday (February 17). Elsewhere, an attack on an opposition rally in Okrika, in Rivers State, left one policeman dead and several others wounded, while a reporter covering the event was stabbed.
In Potiskum, in the northeastern state of Yobe, three people were killed on Tuesday in a suicide blast. A bomber blew himself up inside a restaurant, killing the manager and a steward, officials told the AFP news agency. Thirteen staff and customers were seriously injured.
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.
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Uniting Against Boko Haram
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.
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.
Boko Haram Captives.
The Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram has released about 190 captives, who returned to their homes in the northeast state of Yobe between Friday and Saturday (January 23-24), while other people were still being held, according to Reuters.
Abdullahi Bego, spokesman for the state governor, said the militants released young men, women and children who were kidnapped on Jan 6. At least 20 other people were still being held.
Boko Haram has been waging a five-year insurgency to establish an Islamic state in the northeast of the country. Borno state is the worst hit followed by Adamawa and Yobe, Reuters reported.
The group frequently raids towns and kidnaps young men, women and children as well as some foreign workers. A German national was freed in Cameroon last week after being abducted in Nigeria’s Adamawa state in July.
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Nigeria Election Next Month
Public dissatisaction with Army and government ineffectiveness in dealing with the Boko Haram insurgency has become a driving force in next month’s presidential election in Nigeria, according to the New York Times.
The bloody insurgency that has killed thousands and driven thousands more from their homes in the country’s north is propelling a retired general, 72-year-old Muhammadu Buhari , to the forefront.
“The state is collapsing and everybody is frightened,” says Jobrin Ibrahim, a poliical scientist with the Center for Democracy and Development in Abuja, the Nigerian capital. “A lot of people are frightened that these people can take over the whole country. So a lot of people are saying ‘Give Buhari a chance,'” he told the Times.
Buhari was slated to speak Monday (January 26) to the Center for Strategic and International Studies but canceled “because of a last minute change in [his] schedule,” the Washington think tank announced Friday (January 23).
Plunging oil prices have hurt Nigeria’s economy — the biggest in Africa — and the continuing Boko Haram rampages — including the kidnapping of hundreds of high school girls in April — have undercut incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.
But Jonathan’s national security adviser tells the BBC that Nigeria does not need help from United Nations or African Union troops to take on Boko Haram. Sambo Dasuki told the British broadcaster that Nigeria, and its neighbors are in “good shape” to take on the insurgents – although he acknowledged the violent group is a “real security threat.”
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Libyan Terror Leader Dead
The Libyan Islamic militant group Ansar al-Shariah says its leader, Mohammed al-Zahawi, has been killed.
A statement, posted on the group’s official Twitter account Saturday (January 24), gave no details about how or when al-Zahawi was killed. Unconfirmed reports that he was injured or killed in an attack late last year circulated on jihadist websites, according to The Associated Press (Via Air Force Times).
The group has been blamed for the September 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
The United States designated Ansar al-Shariah a terrorist organization in January 2014. According to the State Department, the group has been involved in “terrorist attacks against civilian targets, frequent assassinations and attempted assassinations” of security officials and politicians in eastern Libya.
The United Nations also named the group a terrorist organization in November 2014 for running training camps for foreign fighters traveling to Syria, Iraq and Mali.
More than 10,000 troops are guarding “sensitive sites” around France including synagogues, railway stations, airports and tourist attractions in the wake of last week’s terrorism incidents in Paris that left 17 people dead — including three alleged attackers.
Nearly half the soldiers – about 4,700 – will be assigned to protect France’s 717 Jewish schools, the Washington Post reported January 12.
“I’m glad the soldiers are here. But the fact they’re here means something is very wrong,” said the director of on Jewish school in Paris. “It shouldn’t be this way,” the school official told the Post. Some mosques will also receive government protection, following more than a dozen attacks on Islamic buildings since January 7.
That’s when masked gunmen stormed a satirical weekly magazine killing 12 people including a Muslim French police officer. The alleged gunmen, two bohers, originally from Algeria, were killed by police January 9 during a hostage rescue raid outside Paris. Five cartoonists and three other staffers were killed at the weekly, Charlie Hebdo, which has outraged Muslims in the past with cartoons and satirical copy about the Prophet Muhammad. Charlie Hebdo plans to print 3 million copies, rather than the usual 600,00 of its next issue, which will a drawing of Muhammad on the front page.
Four more people, and a female police officer were killed by another radicalized Muslim man who took hostages at a kosher market in Paris before he, too, was shot by police January 9.
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In response to the Paris attacks, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to increase random screenings of passengers at airports as well as ordering the Transportation Security Administration to conduct a short-term review of whether more security measures are needed.
“We have no specific, credible intelligence of an attack of the kind in Paris last week being planned by terrorist organizations in this country,” DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a statement, the POLITICO website reported.
DHS said the latest security measures are being taken as part of “precautionary” steps following the attacks in Paris, just as they were following recent incidents in Sydney and Ottawa. Johnson also urged Congress not to pass a funding bill for DHS with any restrictions on spending. House Republicans have said they plan to restrict U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a DHS unit, from implementing President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
The Paris attack seems to have had some affect on Republicans’ strategy, however. While Republicans will still try to block Obama from implementing his immigration overhaul — they won’t risk funding for the Department of Homeland Security to do it, says Texas Republican senator John Cornyn, according to CNN.
Cornyn said January 11 on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that Republicans will try to “address and defund” what he called an “unconstitutional” executive action to limit deportations for the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens. “But we’re not going to take any chances with the homeland,” Cornyn said.
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Nigeria says 150 people lost their lives in an assault by Boko Haram militants on the town of Baga last week.
The Nigerian defense ministry says this figure includes “many of the terrorists” who had attacked the town in Borno state and faced resistance by troops. Local officials earlier estimated the number of deaths at as many as 2,000, the BBC reported. Nigeria has often been accused of underestimating casualty figures to downplay the threat of Boko Haram.
Earlier, the Catholic Archbishop of Jos, in central Nigeria, accused the West of ignoring the threat posed by Boko Haram. Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama said the world had to show more determination to halt the group’s advance in Nigeria. The archbishop told the BBC that the slaughter in Baga had shown that the Nigerian military was unable to tackle Boko Haram.
Meanwhile, at least 23 people were killed at the weekend by three female suicide bombers, one reported to be 10 years old.