Posts tagged ‘Somalia’

AROUND AFRICA: Ethiopia-Tigray Conflict; Into Somalia; Savage Attack in DRC

EAST AFRICA

Ethiopia-Tigray War

A convoy of food and other supplies arrived safely in the capital of Ethiopia’s war-torn region of Tigray on Friday (April 1). It was the first aid to arrive in Mekelle since December, the United Nations said.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said that more trucks and fuel would follow on Saturday morning (April 2) – a week after a humanitarian truce was agreed between the government and Tigrayan forces.

War broke out in the Tigray region in November 2020, pitting Ethiopia’s government and its allies against rebellious Tigrayan forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The TPLF is the political party that controls the Tigray region.

Last week, the federal government declared an immediate, unilateral truce to allow aid into Tigray. Tigrayan forces said they would respect the ceasefire as long as sufficient aid was delivered “within reasonable time”, Reuters reported.

It is unclear how much more aid might follow or how quickly. More than 90% of the 5.5 million people in the northern province of Tigray need food aid, according to the United Nations.

Around 100 trucks of aid per day need to enter to meet the population’s needs. No trucks have been able to enter since Dec. 15, due to a combination of bureaucratic problems and fighting.

WFP Ethiopia said another convoy with more than a thousand metric tons of food would be soon sent to the neighboring region of northern Afar “to communities in dire need”.

This week roads to Tigray from the Afar region had remained closed despite the ceasefire – with the warring parties trading accusations over who was to blame, according to the BBC.

Earlier a senior official of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front welcomed the truce as “a step in the right direction” but said there should be “a system in place to ensure unfettered humanitarian access for the needy.” The government has said it is committed to helping the safe passage of aid.

Malnutrition and food insecurity are rampant in northern Ethiopia, where an estimated 9 million people across the Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions need critical food assistance due to conflict, WFP says.

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Fighting al Shabab from Afar.

More than 13 months after President Donald Trump decided to pull U.S. troops out of Somalia, the head of U.S. Africa Command says the strategy is not working.

Previously, about 700 U.S. troops rotated in and out of Somalia, to train the east African nation’s and help with their operations against al-Shabab, the largest and most well-funded wing of al Qaeda. But now, says Army General Stephen Townsend, AFRICOM troops based in Kenya and Djibouti are only making visits to Somalia, Military Times reported.

Townsend said he believes periodic engagement, “commuting to work,” as some have called it, has caused new challenges and risks for the troops. The AFRICOM chief told a March 15 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that by his assessment the change “is not effective, it’s not efficient, and it puts our troops at greater risk.”

The issue is that though the Trump administration pulled troops out of the country, there was no change to the mission in Somalia, where the U.S. supports that government’s efforts to fight al-Shabab. Though U.S.-led strikes have continued, it’s a harder mission to do when it’s mostly remote, according to Military Times.

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WEST AFRICA

Bloody Attack in Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Fourteen people, including seven children, were killed with machetes in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the Red Cross, Al Jazeera reports.

The attack took place in a displaced people’s camp in the country’s northwestern Ituri province on March 19, the humanitarian aid group reported.

Jean D’Zba Banju, a community leader in Ituri’s Djugu area, said the attacks belonged to the CODECO armed group, which has been blamed for a string of ethnic massacres in the area.

“CODECO militiamen entered Drakpa and started to cut people with machetes. They did not fire shots in order to operate calmly,” Banju told the news agency AFP March 20. “The victims are displaced people who had fled Ngotshi village to set up in Drakpa,” he said, adding that five others were wounded.

Gold-rich Ituri province has been plunged into a cycle of violence since late 2017 with the rise of CODECO, which has since split into rival factions. The group is a political-religious sect that claims to represent the interests of the Lendu ethnic group.

Ituri and neighboring North Kivu have been under a state of siege since May 6, in an effort to combat armed groups including CODECO and the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). The ISIL (ISIS) armed group describes the ADF as its local affiliate.

Despite the crackdown, and support from the Ugandan military since late November, attacks have continued and more than 1,000 civilians have been killed from May 2021 to January this year, figures according to the Danish Refugee Council.

April 1, 2022 at 11:55 pm Leave a comment

SHAKO: New Medal of Honor Museum; Movies About MoH Heroes; Medal of Honor Quiz

Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.

Friday, March 25, was National Medal of Honor Day, established by Congress to “foster public appreciation and recognition of Medal of Honor recipients.”

Since the medal was created in 1861, 3,511 members of the U.S. military have received the Medal. Some of the names are quite famous like movie star and World War II legend Audie Murphy, frontier scout and showman Buffalo Bill Cody, and William “Wild Bill” Donovan, commander of the fabled Fighting 69th New York regiment in World War One and head of the CIA’s predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in World War II.

But most are names that are famous briefly when they receive the Medal, like Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone, cited for his heroism on Guadalcanal in 1942, but largely forgotten until the HBO Series The Pacific, rediscovered Basilone’s story.

Standards to award the Medal of Honor have evolved over time, but the Medal has always stood for actions that go above and beyond. The current criteria were established in 1963 during the Vietnam War, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor website.

The Medal is authorized for any military service member who “distinguishes himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty

The Defense Department announced on March 25 that ground had been broken for a Medal of Honor museum in Texas.

Medal of Honor recipients are honored at the National Medal of Honor Museum’s groundbreaking ceremony in Arlington, Texas, March 25, 2022.

At the museum’s groundbreaking ceremony in Arlington, Texas, Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the stories of selfless service deserve a permanent home. Their stories of heroism, service and valor must be shared, he added. And that’s exactly what the museum will do.

Milley told stories of some of the 15 Medal of Honor recipients who attended the groundbreaking, as well as others not present.

“It’s those stories that will document our country’s bravery, that gives purpose to our entire military. It’s their heroism,” he said.

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Movies About MoH Heroism

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a moving picture is worth tens of thousands.

Here’s a short list of seven Hollywood movies over the years that told the stories of Medal of Honor awardees from the Civil War, the First and Second World Wars, Vietnam, Somalia and Afghanistan.

 

1. Hacksaw Ridge (World War II, 1945)

This 2016 film recounts the selfless bravery of Army Medic Desmond T. Doss, during the Battle of Okinawa. A pacifist who refused to kill or even carry a weapon in combat, Doss became the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot.

 

2. Sergeant York (World War 1, 1918)

Tennessee farmer and marksman Alvin York was another pacifist who didn’t even want to serve in the Army when he was drafted in 1917, according to this 1942 film. However, his nearly single-handed assault on German machine guns resulting in more than a dozen Germans killed and 132 captured earned him the nickname “One Man Army,” as well as the Medal of Honor. Gary Cooper won an Oscar for his portrayal of York.

 

3. Black Hawk Down (Somalia, 1993)

This 2001 film recounts the story of 160 U.S. Army Rangers and Delta Force operators who dropped into Mogadishu in October 1993 to capture two top lieutenants of a renegade warlord, but found themselves in a desperate battle with a large force of heavily-armed Somalis. Posthumous MoH recipients Master Sergeant Gary Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart were played in the film by Johnny Strong and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

 

4. Lone Survivor (Afghanistan, 2005)

This 2013 film is about Marcus Luttrell, the only member of his SEAL team to survive a vicious running gun battle with Afghan insurgents during a mission to capture or kill notorious Taliban leader Ahmad Shah. The team commander, Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, portrayed by Taylor Kitsch, was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.

 

5. We Were Soldiers (Vietnam, 1965)

The story of the battle of Ia Drang Valley, the first major battle of the American phase of the Vietnam War, pitting U.S. Air Cavalry troopers against North Vietnam Army regulars. The movie also shows the stress on soldiers’ families back home waiting for news of their loved ones. Helicopter pilot Major Bruce ‘Snake’ Crandall, the Medal of Honor for his heroism ferrying supplies and troops into and wounded soldiers out of a “Hot LZ,” a landing zone under heavy fire, was played by Greg Kinnear.

 

 

6. Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (World War II, 1942)

Spencer Tracy plays then-Army Air Force Colonel James “Jimmy” Doolittle, the commander of the first air attack on Tokyo less than six months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Doolittle, who planned the mission, trained the crews of B-25 land-based bombers to take off from an aircraft carrier, and then flew the lead bomber in the risky all-volunteer mission, was awarded the Medal of Honor.

 

7. The Great Locomotive Chase (Civil War, 1862)

During the Civil War a Union spy and volunteer soldiers, who risked hanging as spies if captured, plotted to steal a Confederate train and drive it to Union territory while destroying the Confederate railway system along the way. The survivors of this daring raid were the first U.S. troops to receive the new Medal of Honor. The raid failed in its main objective and all the raiders were captured. Eight were hanged. Eight others escaped and the rest were traded in a prisoner exchange. In all, 19 were awarded the first Medals of Honor, including Private Jacob Parrott of the 33rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, who is considered the first soldier awarded the MoH. Claude Jarman Jr., played Parrott in the 1956 Disney live action film about the raid.

The Mitchell Raiders receive the first Medals of Honor in The Great Locomotive Chase. (Disney via Military.com)

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Last, but not Least — a Quiz.

The Pentagon web site asks how much do you know about the the nation’s highest medal for valor in combat?

Click here, to take the quiz.

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SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress, or parade, uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York in the photo.

West Point cadets in dress parade uniform. (U.S. Military Academy)

March 28, 2022 at 2:05 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (June 26, 2020)

The Stars of Africa.

75th EAS resupplies U.S. forces in Somalia

( U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Shawn White)

Even in a strife-riven place like the Horn of Africa, the stars at night are beautiful, humbling.

This photo of a soldier providing security for an Air Force C-130J Super Hercules in Somalia, was taken June 10, 2020.

June 26, 2020 at 5:41 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Egypt, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan, Ghana

NORTH AFRICA. Egypt Attack. Ten soldiers were killed or wounded in a bomb attack on an Egyptian army vehicle in the Northern Sinai region on April 30, according to Reuters. A bomb exploded in an armored vehicle south of Bir al-Abd city in the Northern Sinai region, a military spokesman said in a statement. No […]

Continue Reading May 1, 2020 at 12:00 am

AROUND AFRICA: Al Shabab Raid on US Base

Al Shabab Raid Fallout.

Earlier this month m embers of the al Shabab terrorist group attack a Kenyan military base near the Somalia border. Three Americans were killed and numerous U.S. aircraft and vehicles were damaged or destroyed. The fallout from this surprise — and costly — raid is still developing.

HornofAfrica-Somalia_19881

The Horn of Africa

Here is some of what U.S. Africa Command, which oversees U.S. military activities across the continent (except for Egypt), had to say about it today (Thursday, January 23).

“U.S. Africa Command continues to investigate the January 5 attack on the Kenyan Defense Force Military Base in Manda Bay, Kenya, that killed U.S. Army Specialist Henry J. Mayfield, Jr., and two U.S. contractors, Bruce Triplett and Dustin Harrison.

“In the early morning hours of Jan. 5, al-Shabaab initiated mortar fire on the Kenyan Defense Force installation and Camp Simba, while simultaneously assaulting the airfield. U.S. forces are primarily located at Camp Simba, about one mile from the airfield. Shortly after the attack began, U.S. forces at Camp Simba quickly responded and actively counterattacked the enemy at the airfield.”

U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, Africa Command’s chief said “The attack at Manda Bay demonstrates that al-Shabaab remains a dangerous and capable enemy.” The general called Shabab “a menace to the people of East Africa and U.S. national interests there.” Townsend maintained Shabab’s goal is “eventually attacking the U.S. homeland.”

Since 2010, al-Shabab has killed hundreds of innocent people outside the borders of Somalia.

Marine Raiders.

The attack caught American and Kenyan forces by surprise, but Marine Raiders — the Special Operations unit of the Marine Corps — were in a base about a mile away and led the counter attack, according to Marine Corps Times.

Multiple sources within the Marine Raider community told Marine Corps Times that about a dozen Marines from 3rd Marine Raider Battalion, based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, led Kenyan commandos against the Islamic militants. The Marines engaged in an intense firefight with the al-Shabab militants, the sources said, ultimately pushing the Islamic fighters out of the military base.

“While numbers are still being verified, it is estimated that several dozen al-Shabaab fighters were repelled,” U.S. Africa Command said in a Thursday press release. “Because of the size of the Kenyan base, clearance and security operations continued for several more hours to ensure the entire base was secure.”

Chaos at First.

The New York Times first reported Wednesday (January 22) that Marine Raiders participated in the counterattack.

The Marines were located at Camp Simba, the Times reported ― roughly a mile from the airfield at Manda Bay where the attack took place. The Times initially reported that the Marines’ response was delayed due to their distance from the base, but on Thursday U.S. Africa Command said that the Marines’ response was “timely.”

The brazen assault at Manda Bay, a sleepy seaside base near the Somali border, was largely overshadowed by the crisis with Iran after the killing of that country’s most important general two days earlier, and is only now drawing closer scrutiny from Congress and Pentagon officials, the Times noted.

The storming of an airfield used by the American military so alarmed the Pentagon that it immediately sent about 100 troops from the 101st Airborne Division to establish security at the base. Army Green Berets from Germany also were shuttled to Djibouti, the Pentagon’s major hub in Africa, in case the entire base was in danger of being taken by al Shabab, an East African terrorist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, according to the Times.

January 23, 2020 at 11:43 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

AROUND AFRICA: Horn of Africa; Hundreds of Tunisians Kidnapped; Hunger Crisis in Mali; UPDATES with Tunisian Soldiers Killed; Somalia Fisheries Plundered; Liberia Ebola-Free

Geopolitical Powder Keg.

The Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa

According to new research, the Horn of Africa is warming and drying faster now than it has over the past 2,000 years.

That research — into ancient marine sediments — contradicts global climate models, which show the geopolitically unstable region getting wetter as emissions boost temperatures worldwide, the Scientific American reported Tuesday (October 13).

The Jessica Tierney, lead author of the new paper, published in Science Advances last Friday (October 9), says the new findings “changes our view of how greenhouse gases will affect future warming in the Horn.” Tierney, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arizona, said scientists — herself included — believed that rising emissions “would lead to rainier seasons.”

Violent conflicts, droughts and famines have already wracked the area of Eastern Africa roughly encompassing Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti and Sudan. Climate change could be a “threat multiplier,” Tierney and her colleagues said.

Peter deMenocal, a co-author of the paper and the director of the Center for Climate and Life at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, says the region is a “geographical powder keg” that has been experiencing tremendous food insecurity, water insecurity, geopolitical insecurity and now “we’re adding to that climate insecurity.”

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Mass Kidnapping.

An armed group in western Libya says it has released 30 of the approximately 300 Tunisian workers it kidnapped Tuesday (October 13), the BBC reported. The group says it is holding the rest in the town of Sabratha.

Kidnappings of Libyans or foreigners by any one of the country’s militia groups are routinely staged to extort money, encourage a prisoner exchange, or for political leverage.

Hassan Dabbashi, the head of the armed group that took the Tunisian workers, told the BBC that it wants the Tunisian government to release the Mayor of Sabratha in exchange for their captives.

The Libyan mayor was arrested in Tunis airport at the weekend after attending a workshop on local governance hosted by the United Nations Development Programme.

Tunisia and its neighbors. (Map from CIA World Factbook)

Tunisia and its neighbors.
(Map from CIA World Factbook)

Meanwhile, the Tunisian military said Monday (October 12) that Islamist militants killed two Tunisian soldiers near the Algerian border.

The soldiers were searching for a kidnapped shepherd in that western region of the country and four other soldiers were wounded during the search near Mount Sammama.

The army has been carrying out operations in western Tunisia, where dozens of security forces have died battling Islamic extremists, the VoA reported.

The military did not identify which group of extremists might have carried out Monday’s attack, which occurred just days after Tunisian civil society groups won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Associated Press reported. The Arab Spring reform movement originated in Tunisia in 2010 and 2011 and quickly spread to other nations.

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Insecurity, Violence … Now Hunger.

The United Nations says violence against aid groups and general insecurity have plunged the Timbuktu region of northern Mali into a hunger crisis. Tens of thousands of children are at an increasing risk of dying from malnutrition, the U.N. said, according to the Voice of America website.

A French AMX-10RCR armored reconnaissance vehicle in convoy near Gao, Mali in the drive against Islamist fighters in 2013. (Copyright French Ministry of Defense)

A French AMX-10RCR armored reconnaissance vehicle in convoy near Gao, Mali in the drive against Islamist fighters in 2013.
(Copyright French Ministry of Defense)

About one in six people in the region are suffering from acute malnutrition, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [UNOCHA] said. That includes more than 50,000 children under the age of five who are up to nine times more likely to die, because they are malnourished, the U.N. agency said.

 Conflict in Mali erupted in 2012, when a loose coalition of separatist rebels and al-Qaida-linked militants swept across the north of the country before a French-led military intervention in 2013 drove them from the main towns they had been occupying, according to VoA.

Armed groups drove the Malian army out of many posts in the north last year, and they are now fighting each other for control of land, which has uprooted tens of thousands of people and hindered relief efforts, aid agencies say.

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Somali Fishing Grounds Plundered.

Remember all the problems pirates caused around the Horn of Africa just a few years ago?

Well locals in the coastal trading town of Durduri, Somalia say there are no more fish in the sea. They blame not the pirates who brought the attention of international law enforcement to Somalia’s waters, but the foreign fishing boats that have plundered sea-life stocks, according to the Al Jazeera news site.

And if things don’t change, they say, a return to piracy will be their only way of survival.

Large foreign vessels “come at night and take everything”, one young fisherman told Al Jazeera. “With their modern machinery, there is nothing left,” he added.

His accusations are backed up by two new pieces of research, according to the website. The studies, conducted by separate Somali development agencies, suggest that international fishing vessels – particularly Iranian and Yemeni, but also European ships including Spanish vessels – are illegally exploiting the East African nation’s fish stocks on a massive scale. 

While piracy put a stop to illegal fishing, these findings suggest it was merely a hiatus. Now that international anti-piracy task forces have halted the seagoing hijackers, illegal fishing vessels have returned.

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Ebola-Free Liberia.

Health workers treating Ebola patients in Africa. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

Health workers treating Ebola patients in Africa. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

October 13, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

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

French Commando Rescue.

Mali (CIA World Factbook) Click on image to enlarge

Mali
(CIA World Factbook)
Click on image to enlarge

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

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

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

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

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Kenya’s Response.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refugee Crisis Expected.

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

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

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

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

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C.A.R. “Ceasefire”.

Central African Republic (Map from CIA orld Factbook)

Central African Republic
(Map from CIA World Factbook)

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

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

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

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

AROUND AFRICA: Tunis Update; Attacks on and by Al Shabaab; Mali-UN Chopper Crash; Mali-Rebel Talks

Tunis Attack.

Tunisia in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Tunisia in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

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.

The Bardo National Museum in Tunis, where more than 20 people were killed in a terrorist attack, is famous for its Greek, Roman and Carthaginian artifacts. (Photo by Alexandre Moreau via wikipedia)

The Bardo National Museum in Tunis, where more than 20 people were killed in a terrorist attack, is famous for its Greek, Roman and Carthaginian artifacts.
(Photo by Alexandre Moreau via wikipedia)

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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Apache Down.

Aerial view of the area surrounding Gao, Northern Mali. (United Nations photo)

Aerial view of the area surrounding Gao, Northern Mali.
(United Nations photo)

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.

Mali (CIA World Factbook) Click on image to enlarge

Mali
(CIA World Factbook)
Click on image to enlarge

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.

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ***

Al Shabab Blamed.

The Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa

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.

*** *** ***

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.

March 19, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

COUNTER TERRORISM: Pakistan Crackdown; Air Strikes on ISIS/ISIL; al Shabab Leader Nabbed [UPDATE]

Islamabad Gets Tough.

Pakistan map via CIA World Factbook

Pakistan map via CIA World Factbook

Ten days after a Taliban attack on an army-run school that left 148 people dead – most of them children – Pakistan’s government is giving the military a blank check for two years to do whatever it takes to finish the country’s protracted battle with Islamic terrorists.

According to a McClatchy Newspapers website, the government response was broadened from the Taliban Movement of Pakistan — which has waged a bloody insurgency since July 2007 — to all jihadist and sectarian militants on Pakistani soil. That decision echoes Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s December 17 vow, not to differentiate between so-called “good and bad Taliban,” McClatchy reported.

The military’s nationwide campaign, launched in June with a massive offensive in Pakistan’s northwest tribal areas, is being closely watched by the United States and other countries to see whether it includes Pakistan-based militant groups that have repeatedly attacked neighboring Afghanistan and India, according to McClatchy.

On December 17 – the day after the Peshawar school massacre – Prime Minister Sharif ordered an end a to six-year moratorium on capital punishment. Pakistan’s interior ministry has approved the execution of 400 people convicted of terrorism offenses prior to 2008. In all, there more than 3,000 convicted terrorists on death row — all of whom are to be hanged. Six people have already been handed, the BBC reported.

An additional 6,000 suspected terrorists and their supporters have been targeted for arrest in the nationwide crackdown and summary trial in military courts.

*** *** ***

Strikes on ISIL/ISIS

Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornets depart after refueling with a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft over Iraq, Oct. 30, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

Royal Canadian Air Force CF-18 Hornets depart after refueling with a KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft over Iraq, Oct. 30, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston)

The U.S. military and its allies carried out 12 airstrikes against ISIL/ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria on December 27, Reuters reported.

Six strikes near the Syrian town of Kobani on the Turkish border destroyed Islamic State buildings, fighting positions and vehicles, according to the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve Public Affairs office.  In Iraq, targets including buildings, vehicles and an Islamic State refinery were hit in six strikes near Al Asad, Mosul, Falluja, Al Qaim and Baiji, it said.

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve — which aims to eliminate the ISIL/ISIS terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community.

Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In Syria, coalition airstrike partners include the United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to the Combined Join Task Force.

*** *** ***

Al Shabab Leader Captured

Authorities in Somalia say they have captured one of the most wanted commanders of the African Islamist terror group, al Shabab.

Zakariye Ismail Hersi was captured in a raid Saturday morning (December 26) in the town of El Wak near the border with Kenya, according to the Voice of America.

General Abbas Ibrahim Gurey, the commander of Somali government troops in the southern Gedo region, told VOA’s Somali service that authorities received a tip from members of the public that al-Shabab suspects were hiding in a house. Gurey said that Hersi was captured with his secretary and without a struggle.

In June 2012, the U.S. put a $3 million reward for the capture of Hersi, describing him as an associate of former al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane. Godane was killed in a U.S. airstrike in September.

Hersi’s capture comes after militants with the group, which is linked to al Qaeda, attacked a large African Union base in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, last week (December 25). Three Ugandan soldiers and a civilian were killed, said CNN. Al-Shabaab has said that attack was revenge for the U.S. airstrike that killed Godane. The State Department had offered a $7 million reward for information on Godane’s location.

December 28, 2014 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

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