Posts tagged ‘Somalia’

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.

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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.

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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

AROUND AFRICA Update 2: Al Shabaab Blitz; Ebola Crisis, Niger Drone Base, Rwanda Verdict, Bastille Day

Somalia Islamists Attacked.

Updates with al Shabaab leader’s death confirmed.

Islamist militants in Mogadishu, Somalia.(Photo copyright, Kate Holt, IRIN)

Islamist militants in Mogadishu, Somalia.(Photo copyright, Kate Holt, IRIN)

The U.S. military today (Friday, September 5) that the leader of the African Islamist extremist group, al Shabaab, was killed in the drone missile attack in Somalia earlier this week.

Witnesses said drones fired at least four missiles Monday (September 1) in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia, destroying two al Shabaab vehicles, according to the Voice of America website. On Tuesday (September 2), the Defense Department disclosed that the head of al Shabaab was the target of the attack.

 “We have confirmed that Ahmed Godane, the co-founder of al-Shabaab, has been killed,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby announced today in a press statement that did not detail how Godane’s identity and death was cestablished. “Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss to al-Shabaab. The United States works in coordination with its friends, allies and partners to counter the regional and global threats posed by violent extremist organizations,” the published statement continued.

Previously, Kirby said U.S. special operations forces using manned and unmanned aircraft destroyed an encampment and a vehicle using several Hellfire missiles and laser-guided munitions,” according to a transcript of Tuesday’s Pentagon press briefing.

It was the most aggressive U.S. military operation in nearly a year, coming as the President Barack Obama’s administration grapples with security crises in Iraq, Syria and Ukraine, the Washington Post noted. Al Shabaab, which means “the youth,” in Arabic, is a jihadist movement affiliated with al Qaeda that started in Somalia “a chronically unstable country on the Horn of Africa,” and has grown into a regional terrorist group that has carried out attacks in Uganda and Kenya — including last year’s Nairobi shopping mall attack that left scores of dead and injured. Al Shabaab has also cooperated with another al Qaeda branch in Yemen, the Post added.

Al Jazeera reported that the jihadist group confirmed it had come under attack but would not Godane’s situation. The attack comes just a few days after African Union troops and Somali government forces launched a major offensive aimed at seizing key ports from al Shabaab and cutting off key sources of revenue, said Al Jazeera. The Associated Press reported that the air strikes killed six militants but it was not known at the time if Godane was among the dead.

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Widening Ebola Threat

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)

The head of an international medical aid, group, Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF, Doctors without Borders), says the world is losing the battle to contain the deadly Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa.

Military teams should be sent to the region immediately if there is to be any hope of controlling the epidemic, MSF’s international president Dr. Joanne Liu told the United Nations Tuesday (September 2), painting a stark picture of health workers dying, patients left without care and infectious bodies lying in the streets, The Guardian website reports.

Although alarm bells have been ringing for six months, the response had been too little, too late and no amount of vaccinations and new drugs would be able to prevent the escalating disaster, Liu told U.N. officials, adding: “Six months into the worst Ebola epidemic in history, the world is losing the battle to contain it.”

Ebola has spread to a fifth West African nation. Senegal’s health minister, Awa Marie Coll Seck has confirmed that country’s first Ebola case. On Friday (August 29), she said a young man from Guinea with the deadly disease had crossed into Senegal, where he was promptly put in isolation, according to Al Jazeera. Other countries reporting Ebola cases include: Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.

The current outbreak, which first appeared in Guinea, has killed more the 1,900 people across the region since March, according to the World Health Organization, the BBC reported. At least 3,000 people have been infected with the virus and the World Health Organization has warned the outbreak could grow and infect more than 20,000 people.

Meanwhile, fear and ignorance is blamed for the violent — and unhelpful reaction is some places in the region. In Liberia, one of the three hardest-hit nations, there have been clashes between soldiers and residents of quarantined slum area in the capital, Monrovia. In Nigeria, residents in some areas are protesting against the idea of building isolation units in their neighborhoods. The Voice of America reported  Friday (August 29) that people have taken to the streets in the northern city of Kaduna, protesting plans to convert sections of a local clinic into an Ebola treatment center. In many parts of Nigeria residents say they fear Ebola more than Boko Haram, the militant Islamist group that has killed thousands of people.

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2nd Niger Drone Base UPDATE

Map of Niger (CIA World Factbook)

Map of Niger
(CIA World Factbook)

After months of negotiations, the government of Niger in West Africa has authorized the U.S. military to fly unarmed drones from the mud-walled desert city of Agadez, according to Nigerien and U.S. officials, the Washington Post reports.

The previously undisclosed decision gives the Pentagon another surveillance hub — its second in Niger and third in the region — to track Islamist fighters who have destabilized parts of North and West Africa. It also advances a little-publicized U.S. strategy to tackle counterterrorism threats alongside France, the former colonial power in that part of the continent, the military newspaper said.

The United States started drone surveillance flights out of Niamey, Niger’s capital, in early 2013 to support French forces fighting Islamist militants in northern Mali. Washington always intended to move the operation further north and now the details have been worked out to relocate the flights to a base in Agadez, about 500 miles (800 kilometers) from Niamey, said a U.S. defense official speaking on condition of anonymity, Defense News reported.

The U.S. Air Force also flies unmanned aircraft out of Chad to help locate hundreds of school girls kidnapped by the radical Islamist group, Boko Haram, in Nigeria.

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Rwanda Verdict

A South African court has found four of six suspects charged with trying to assassinate a former Rwandan Army general guilty of attempted murder. Two other men accused in the 2010 attack on Faustin Nyamwasa in Johannesburg, South Africa that left him wounded.

Nyamwasa fled Rwanda in 2010 after a dispute President Paul Kagame, al Jazeera reported. According to the an Al Jazeera reporter, Nyamwasa does not blame the four who were convicted, saying they were “used” by the Rwandan government. According to Al Jazeera’s Tania Page, the trial judge was convinced the murder attempt was politically motivated by people in Rwanda. Kagame denies involvement in the attack.

Police broke up another murder plot against the general in 2011 and early this year armed men attacked his Johannesburg house in a separate incident.

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Africa at Bastille Day UPDATE

African troops march in Bastille Day parade in Paris July 14. (Photo: SCH Sébastien Lelièvre/SIRPA Terre)

African troops march in Bastille Day parade in Paris July 14.
(Photo: SCH Sébastien Lelièvre/SIRPA Terre)

Troops from several African nations that served as peacekeepers during the French intervention in Mali were among the contingents July 14 during the annual Bastille Day parade in Paris. Among the troops in this photo, all wearing the blue United Nations beret are soldiers from Chad, Niger, Senegal and Nigeria.

(Click on the photo to enlarge. To see more photos of the 2014 Bastille Day military parade in Paris, click here.

September 3, 2014 at 11:51 pm 1 comment

AFRICA: Global and Regional Threats Assessed in Somalia, Nigeria, the Sahel

Reason for Concern

Africa may have had some of the fastest growing economies in 2013, but the intelligence organizations that are the eyes and ears of the U.S. government, say several countries of the world’s second-largest, and second-most-populous continent are likely to experience unrest in 2014.

Last week the 17 government departments and agencies that make up the nation’s intelligence community, presented their annual assessment of global and regional threats confronting the United States and its friends and allies. They include terrorism, transnational crime, the proliferation of nuclear arms and other weapons of mass destruction, cyber threats, economic disruptions and potential shortages of natural resources from food and water to energy.

The 31-page unclassified summary of Senate testimony about their threat assessment also includes dangers facing several regions of the world. Here’s a look at the problems facing North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa:

“The continent has become a hothouse for the emergence of extremist and rebel groups, which increasingly launch deadly asymmetric attacks, and which government forces often cannot effectively counter due to a lack of capability and sometimes will,” the report states.

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The Sahel Region (Map courtesy of XXXXX XXXXXX)

The Sahel Region
(Wikipedia)

In the Sahel, the dry-scrub area bordering the Sahara Desert, the governments in Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania are at risk to terrorist retribution for their support of the January 2013 French-led international military intervention in Mali. But the region faces other pressures from a growing youth population and marginalized ethnic groups (like the Tuaregs of Mali) who are frustrated by a lack of government services, unemployment and poor living standards. Compounding the issue: corruption, illicit economies, smuggling and poor living standards.

Somalia in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Somalia in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

In Somalia, which is just starting to climb back up from decades as a failed state, the young government is threatened by persistent political infighting, weak leadership from President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and ill-equipped government institutions. There’s another challenge, the increasingly violent al-Shabaab Islamist group which has been conducting asymmetric attacks against government facilities and Western targets in and around the capital Mogadishu.

Kenya in Africa. Map from CIA World Factbook

Kenya in Africa. Map from CIA World Factbook

East African governments have beefed up their security and policing partnerships since the deadly al-Shabaab inspired attack last September on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. But the IC folks think those governments will have difficulty protecting a wide range of potential targets. They told Congress that al-Shabaab-associated networks might be planning additional attacks in Kenya and throughout the region including Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Uganda to punish those troops that deployed troops to Somalia in support of its government.

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook)

In Nigeria, rising political tensions and violent internal conflicts are likely in the lead-up to Nigeria’s 2015 election, according to the U.S. Intelligence community. Nigeria faces critical terrorism threats from the violent Islamist group Boko Haram and persistent extremism in the predominantly Muslim north where “economic stagnation and endemic poverty prevail amid insecurity and neglect.” In the oil-rich south, the economy centered on Lagos, is one of the fastest growing in the world. These disparities and domestic challenges could mean the waning of leadership from Africa’s most populous country (174.5 million) and possibly hurt its ability to deploy peacekeepers around the continent.

February 3, 2014 at 11:55 pm 1 comment

COUNTER TERRORISM: U.S. Facing Continued Terrorist, Overseas Stability Threats

Security Challenges

Official seals of members of the U.S. Intelligence Community (ODNI photo via Wikipedia)

Official seals of members of the U.S. Intelligence Community
(ODNI photo via Wikipedia)

The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, and other leaders of the U.S. Intelligence community, known in Washington as the IC, were up on Capitol Hill this week to present their assessment of the global and regional threats facing the country.

But Clapper’s less-than-honest testimony before Congress last year about cell phone data collection seemed to gather most – but not all – of the news media attention – along with his continuing concerns about the disclosures of rogue National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

So 4GWAR would like to focus on the range of threats the IC – which includes the Office of National Intelligence, the NSA, CIA, FBI, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Counterterrorism Center – believes are facing the United States as of January 15, 2014 (when their assessment report was completed).

Global threats listed by the 31-page public report include cyber attacks by hostile nations like Iran and North Korea, terrorist organizations and criminals; homegrown and international terrorist plots by groups like al-Qaeda branches like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; transnational organized criminal groups like the Mexican drug cartels that are expanding their influence across the Atlantic Ocean to West and North Africa.

“Competition for and secure access to natural resources (like food, water and energy) are growing security threats,” the report states. Risks to freshwater supplies are a growing threat to economic development in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia and that could have a destabilizing effect not only on local economies but on governments and political institutions in many places where democracy is fragile or non-existent.

As polar ice recedes in the Arctic, “economic and security concerns will increase competition over access to sea routes and natural resources,” according to the report. Vast deposits of oil and natural gas – as much as 15 percent of the world’s undiscovered petroleum and 30 percent of its natural gas may lie beneath Arctic waters where the ice is receding more and more each year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The report predicts Sub-Saharan Africa will “almost certainly see political and related security turmoil in 2014.” The continent has become “a hothouse for the emergence of extremist and rebel groups,” threatening governments in Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania.

National Operations Center (Dept. of Homeland Security photo)

National Operations Center
(Dept. of Homeland Security photo)

The report also notes the attacks in Somalia and East Africa by the extremist Islamic al-Shabaab movement as well as sharp ethnic/religious/economic divides that are causing death, destruction, starvation and and mass migration in Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

4GWAR will have more on this report this weekend.

January 31, 2014 at 2:07 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: African Union, Somalia, South Sudan

AFRICAN UNION

Ethiopia in Africa (Map from CIA World Factbook)

Ethiopia in Africa
(Map from CIA World Factbook)

With violence spinning out of control in several African countries, heads of state and government will meet in Ethiopia Thursday (January 30) for a summit organized by the African Union (AU).

The leaders will be discussing a development agenda, called Agenda 2063, at the meeting in Addis Ababa, the Ehiopian capital, but peace and security will also be high on the list of topics, the AU’s deputy chairman told Voice of America.

Somalia, South Sudan and Central African Republic are all dealing with insurgencies, near civil war or religious and ethnic strife. Founded in 1999, the AU is an international economic and development body seeking to integrate the continent into the world economy.

Erastus Mwencha noted the cooperation between the AU and its international partners, like France and the United States, but “at the end of the day peace cannot be brought from any external resources. It must be internally generated, the AU deputy chair said. He noted that the 28-member AU is moving forward on creating a standby force that could quickly engage in conflict resolution.

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SOMALIA

Map courtesy of University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center

Map courtesy of University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center

Sources in Somalia say a U.S. drone strike Sunday (January 26) nearly hit the leader of al Shbaab, the Voice of America reported.

A militant sopurce and sources close to the African Union mission in Somalia told VOA’s Somali service that Abdi Godane, head of the militant Islamist group, was in the vicinity of the drone strike — north of Barawe, in the Lower Shabelle region.

Meanwhile, a senior aide to Godane was killed by a missile on Sunday (January 27). Ahmed Abdulkadir Abdullahi, known as “Iskudhuuq,” was killed when a car he was riding in was struck by a missile in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, the VOA reported.

Rebel sources told VOA’s Somali service that the Abdullahi was a senior aide to Godane and was recently appointed the head of the group’s health unit.

A Somali intelligence official confirmed the attack, describing the dead man as a “dangerous” member of the group, the Associated Press reported. His driver was also killed in the attack, the official said on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to reveal the information. On Monday (January 27) a Pentagon spokesman confirmed the drone attack but gave few details.

The U.S. military launched several drone strikes targeting the al Qaeda-linked group’s leaders in Somalia. In October a missile strike killed al Shabaab’s top explosives expert.

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SOUTH SUDAN

U.S. Marines and sailors help U.S. citizens into a Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules airplane in Juba, South Sudan, during an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy, Jan. 3.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III)

U.S. Marines and sailors help U.S. citizens into a Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules airplane in Juba, South Sudan, during an evacuation of personnel from the U.S. Embassy, Jan. 3.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Robert L. Fisher III)

South Sudan, the world’s newest country, is facing a humanitarian crisis with more than 825,000 people displaced by violence.

United Nations Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos said Wednesday (January 21) that more than 702,000 people are internal refugees and another 123,000 have fled to other countries, the VOA reported.

Aid workers have been unable to reach more than 300,000 displaced people because of security threats. Doctors Without Borders suspended activities in Malakal last week after its compound was looted by armed men and its staff threatened.

Just last week, after five weeks of fighting that left as many as 10,000 dead, South Sudan’s government and rebels signed a ceasefire agreement after talks in Ethiopia. Under the deal, signed in Addis Ababa, the fighting is due to come to an end within 24 hours, the BBC reported.

Neighboring countries and global powers, including the United States and China, pressured the two sides to reach an agreement because of fears the fighting could escalate into a protracted civil war or an even wider conflict, the New York Times reported. Ugandan troops have been fighting alongside government forces, helping to push back the rebels.

The ceasefire is merely a first step. The Associated Press reported that additional talks are scheduled to resume in early February. The government is concerned the rebel leaders will not be able to control disparate groups of fighters. The head of South Sudan’s negotiating team, was worried that since many on the rebel side are civilians who took up arms, and may not follow the cease-fire agreement.

The rebels are demanding that 11 former government leaders imprisoned by President Salva Kir must be released. Kir has said the 11 must first be subjected to South Sudan’s judicial process.

Seven of the 11 were released Wednesday (January 29) and turned over to officials in Kenya, according to Al Jazeera.

January 29, 2014 at 11:57 pm 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA: Hostages Released, Somali Drone Strike; Kenya Mall Attack Arrests, Another Pirate Attack

(Click on images to enlarge)

Hostages in Niger Freed

Map of Niger (CIA World Factbook)

Map of Niger
(CIA World Factbook)

French hostages abducted from a uranium mine in Niger in 2010 have been released, French President Francois Hollande announced today (October 29). He said France’s foreign and defence ministers have left for Niger’s capital, Niamey, and the hostages would return home as soon as possible, according to the BBC.

The four men were seized in September 2010 in raids targeting two French firms operating a uranium mine near Arlit, northern Niger. The al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) group said it was responsible for the kidnappings.

Drone Targets al Shabab?

A U.S. missile strike destroyed a car in Somalia Monday (October 28) believed to be carrying a top leader of the al Shabab Islamist militant group, the Associated Press and other news outlets reported.

The attack was believed to be launched from an unmanned aircraft, or drone, but that has not been officialy confirmed. If a drone strike in southern Somalia is confirmed, it will further illustrate the increasing importance placed by estern powers on counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa, the AP noted. Among the dead in the attack was al Shabab’s top bombmaker, Ibrahim Ali, one of the group’s members told the AP.

U.S. Air Force photo via Wikipedia

U.S. Air Force photo via Wikipedia

Three weeks ago, U.S. Navy SEALS launched an unsuccessful raid at Baraawe on the Somali coast that targeted a Kenyan of Somali origin, known as Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, who went by the name “Ikrimah.” He was identified as the main planner of al-Shabab attack on Kenya’s parliament building and the United Nations’

The New York Times noted that the Obama administration has been reluctant to launch drone strikes in Somalia with the regularity it has in Pakistan and Yemen. The Times said that may be in part over whether the U.S. could legally target al Shabaab, which has not tried to attack on American soil. There are also concerns that drone strikes might only incite al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab, transforming the group from a regional organization aimed at driving Kenyan, Ethiopian and African Union troops out of Somalia into one with an agenda as violent and international as Al Qaeda’s.

Arrests in Nairobi Mall Looting

Two Kenyan soldiers have been fired – and arrested – for stealing cell phones and other items during last month’s deadly siege at an upscale mall in Nairobi, the Voice of America reported today (Oct. 29).

Nairobi Westgate Mall before the attack.  (Photo via wikpedia)

Nairobi Westgate Mall before the attack.
(Photo via wikpedia)

More than 60 people were killed during the four-day siege at the Westgate shopping center.

Security camera footage showed several soldiers taking things from various shop counters and walking away from stores carrying plastic bags during four-day ordeal.

At first the Kenyan military said soldiers only took water from the mall’s shops while battling Islamist militants. But after the carnage was over, shopkeepers claimed stores had been looted, including break-ins at automatic teller machines and banks themselves in the mall. Earlier, the Kenyan military said soldiers only took water from the Westgate shopping center as they battled Islamist militants.

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the raid, saying it was retaliation for Kenya’s military intervention into Somalia two years ago. Kenya sent troops to Somalia to help battle al-Shabab, which has been fighting to turn Somalia into a strict Islamist state.

West African Pirates

The new Tom Hanks film, “Captain Phillips” illustrates how dangerous the waters off the coast of East Africa were just a few years ago.

But now the seafarers’ danger zone is on the other side of the continent, in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea, the Christian Science Monitor relates.

Gulf of Guinea via Wikipedia

Gulf of Guinea via Wikipedia

While Somalia’s pirates tend to engage in protracted hostage-takings that could stretch for months or even years, pirates in the Gulf of Guinea prefer smash-and-grab operations to steal cargo, according to the Monitor, adding “They especially favor refined oil products like gasoline and diesel that can be sold elsewhere.”

In the latest incident, two American merchant seamen – the captain and chief engineer of the C-Retriever – a 222-foot oil platform supply vessel, were seized by pirates in the waters off Nigeria, where pirate incidents have boomed lately.

The merchant sailors’ whereabouts are currently unknown.

The C-Retriever is owned by the company Edison Chouest Offshore in Louisiana. The ship and 11 other members of the crew were released, the Associated Press reported.

October 29, 2013 at 11:54 pm 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA: Nairobi Attack Probe, Africa’s Burgeoning Birthrate

After the Attack

Kenya (CIA World Factbook)

Kenya
(CIA World Factbook)

 

Bodies are still being found in the wreckage of an upscale Nairobi shopping mall a week after it was attacked and scores of people killed by terrorists from neighboring Somalia. As in other terrorist attacks, questions are being raised about how such a thing could happen, why was the response of security forces slow and was there any intelligence that wasn’t acted upon?

But questions are also being asked about why it took four days to root out a small number of attackers and — perhaps more troubling — did Kenyan soldiers stop to loot some of the mall shops during and immediately after the fighting, according to NPR.

“We wish to affirm that government takes very seriously these allegations of looting,” Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said at a Nairobi press conference NPR reported. The public radio network also noted an intelligence report leaked to Kenyan newspapers indicates that security chiefs and government officials were warned that the Westgate Mall was a target of the Islamic militant group, al Shabaab — which has claimed responsibility for the attack. The violent group, which is affiliated with al Qaeda, said the attack was a reprisal for Kenyan’s incursion into Somalia in 2011 to stamp out the group which has launched several attacks in Kenya.

The attackers sprayed shoppers and store workers with automatic weapons fire and threw hand grenades. Fires broke out in the four story mall and part of the building collapsed, burying several bodies, which have to be identified.

The New York Times has a shocking series of photos showing just how violent the attack and ensuing siege was. The photos, which can be seen here, show burned out stores with melted bottles and packages, a collapsed parking garage littered with concrete, dust and overturned cars, bullet-riddled shop windows and broken glass everywhere. What the photos don’t show is the human toll: at least 67 civilians and security forces as well as five gunmen.

But 59 people were still listed as missing Wednesday (October 2) by the Kenyan Red Cross. And some law enforcement experts are speculating that the number of attackers may have been smaller than originally believed, according to The Daily Telegraph, a British newspaper, and other news outlets.

Meanwhile, Kenya’s deputy president, William Ruto, is back in the Netherlands where he is facing charges of crimes against humanity for allegedly inciting ethnic violence that left more than 1,000 people dead following Kenya’s disputed 2007 election, according to the Voice of America’s Africa website.

Ruto was allowed to return to Kenya from his trial at International Criminal Court in The Hague to allow him to help Kenya in the wake of the Nairobi mall attack. The ICC refused to extend his leave and he returned to court Wednesday (Oct. 2).

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces similar charges is slated to go on trial in The Hague in November.

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Baby Ka-Boom

A 2010 traffic jam in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, where population is projected to nearly double by 2050. (Photo: Skyscaper City)

A 2010 traffic jam in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, where population is projected to more than double by 2050.
(Photo: Skyscaper City)

Africa’s population is predicted to more than double from 1.2 billion to 2.4 billion people by 2050, according to a new study released Thursday (Oct. 3), the Christian Science Monitor reports.

The 10 countries with the world’s highest fertility rates are all in sub-Saharan Africa — where mothers have an average of 5.2 children — says the report  by the Washington DC-based Population Reference Bureau.

Seven of the 10 countries with the highest fertility rates are also among the bottom 10 on the United Nations’ Human Development Index and that could hamper efforts to limit poverty and its other ills in Africa. But experts point out that seven of the world’s fastest growing economies are also in Africa.

The report predicts that by 2050, many African states are likely have more than doubled their population. Kenya is expected to  rise from 44 million to 97 million people, and Nigeria — Africa’s most populous nation — from 174 million to 440 million. The report finds that some nations will nearly triple their growth. For example, Somalia will have 27 million people in 2050, up from an estimated 10 million today; the Democratic Republic of Congo’s 71 million population is predicted to rise to 182 million.

October 3, 2013 at 12:03 am Leave a comment

AFRICA: Will Pentagon Belt Tightening Squeeze Out AFRICOM?

Considering COCOM Consolidation

AFRICOM's emblem

AFRICOM’s emblem

At the Aspen Security Forum in mid-July, Army Gen. Carter Ham, the recently retired head of U.S. Africa Command said he thought most countries in Africa had a more positive view of the regional command now than when it was created in 2007.

Since then, the military and civilian workers of AFRICOM “have done so much to diminish the fears and anxieties of many African countries,” Ham told your 4GWAR editor during a question & answer session at the four-day conference in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. “We don’t go anywhere without the consent of the host nation government” and the consent of the U.S. ambassador to that nation, he added.

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 seeking to grab all the oil, gold or other natural resources it could. Others saw it as an attempt to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.

As an example of the hostility to the concept of U.S. troops in Africa, only one country – Liberia – offered to host AFRICOM’s headquarters, which still remains in Stuttgart, Germany. Many other African nations opposed having a U.S. military presence anywhere on the continent.

Gen. Carter F. Ham (ret.)  (AFRICOM photo via Wikipedia)

Gen. Carter F. Ham (ret.)
(AFRICOM photo via Wikipedia)

But Ham, who was AFRICOM’s second commander, said “many nations – not all – have found it to be in their best interests to have a military-to-military relationship with the U.S. through Africa Command.”

So we were a little surprised when reports began surfacing that AFRICOM might be folded into European Command or one of the other six regional combatant commands as a money-saving venture driven by the budget constraints of sequestration.

Defense News, a Gannett publication, reported August 12 that the Pentagon was considering “a major overhaul” of the commands that could include “dissolving Africa Command” and splitting its responsibilities between European Command, which is also headquartered in Stuttgart, and Central Command, based at Homestead Air Force Base in Florida. AFRICOM is responsible for U.S. security, humanitarian and diplomatic operations in all of Africa’s 54 countries, except Egypt, which is overseen by Central Command.

As it says on its website, AFRICOM has four main roles in Africa: to deter and defeat transnational threats; prevent future conflicts; support humanitarian and disaster relief and protect U.S. security interests. AFRICOM has a very small permanent presence in Africa – a former Foreign Legion base in Djibouti where about 2,000 personnel are based and an airbase in Niger with a little over 100 personnel to support surveillance drones flying over northwest Africa where an affiliate of the al Qaeda terrorist network has been active. The bulk of AFRICOM’s small personnel force remains in Europe.

All of the services conduct training exercises with African militaries like Africa Lion and Flintlock. Other missions offer naval and police training as well as medical clinics, emergency response training and small construction projects.

U.S. and African troops at opening ceremonies for Flintlock 09 exercise in Bamako, Mali in 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Victoria Meyer)

U.S. and African troops at opening ceremonies for Flintlock 09 exercise in Bamako, Mali.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Victoria Meyer)

“We didn’t really see ourselves as a fighting command,” Ham said at the Aspen event … until Libya happened.

AFRICOM found itself leading air and intelligence operations during the early days of the United Nations-sanctioned intervention in Libya’s revolt-turned civil war. AFRICOM also supplied military transport and air refueling assistance to French and African forces intervening earlier this year in the Islamist revolt in Mali. Later, AFRICOM reached an agreement with Niger to base unarmed surveillance drones there. AFRICOM has also played a role in battling pirates off the east and west coasts of Africa. And U.S. special operations forces conducted a hostage rescue mission in Somalia and provided assistance to African militaries hunting for renegade warlord Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army.

That increasingly military role may have undercut AFRICOM’s original, largely non-miltary role in the eyes of some Africans, according to the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes.

But summing in up his answer in Aspen to 4GWAR’s query about whether Africa was now more accepting of AFRICOM, Ham said: “If the United States were to say ‘We’re interested in relocating the headquarters to the African continent. Would you be interested in hosting [it]?’ I think there are a number of nations that would say ‘Yes.’”

AFRICOM civil affairs personnel conduct numerous health clinics with local medicos like this one in Chebelley, Djibouti (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Christopher Ruano)

AFRICOM civil affairs personnel conduct numerous health clinics with local medicos like this one in Chebelley, Djibouti (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Christopher Ruano)

September 5, 2013 at 12:57 pm 3 comments

AROUND AFRICA: Somalia Attack, Elections in Mali, Togo

Turkish facility attacked

Map courtesy of University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center

Map courtesy of University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center

The Islamist militant group, al Shabaab, has claimed responsibility for a bombing at the Turkish Embassy compound in Somalia that killed at least five people including three suicide bombers, the Associated Press reports.

The Saturday (July 27) attack struck a building housing Turkish embassy staff in Mogadishu, the Somali capital. A Turkish security official and a Somali student were killed as well as the three militants, AP said. CNN International reports that a second Turkish security guard was dead.

Al Shabaab, which espouses an ultra strict form of Islam, has been linked to al Qaeda and other attacks in war-ravaged Somalia. Al Shebaab was driven out of Mogadishu two years ago by troops from Somalia and other African countries. But the militants have kept up guerrilla-style attacks and continue to control large rural areas of the East African country, according to Reuters.

Turkey, a NATO ally of the United States, has been playing a big role in Somalia’s reconstruction, including street renovations and building new schools and hospitals, according to the AP and CNN.

AFRICAN ELECTIONS 2013

Togo

Togo in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Togo in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

In the small West African nation of Togo, voters went to the polls Sunday (July 28) to elect their legislature. About 1,200 candidates competed for 91 seats in National Assembly.

The president of Togo’s electoral commission said late Sunday that provisional results show the ruling party increased its share of the legislature in the election — dealing a blow to opposition leaders who had hoped recent signs of discontent would translate into electoral gains, according to the Associated Press.

The electoral commission said the Union for the Republic party won 62 of 91 seats, up from 50 of the legislature’s then-81 seats in 2007.

There have been no elections to the National Assembly in the intervening six years, according to the Christian Science Monitor. And Sunday’s vote was seen as an important next step in the nation’s transition to full democracy.

One family has controlled the government since 1967 when Etienne Gnassingbe Eyadema came to power through a coup and ruled for 38 years until his death in 2005. The military picked his son, Faure Gnassingbe, to rule the country of 7 million.

The opposition party leader, Gilchrist Olympio, is the son of Togo’s first post-independence president who was gunned down in 1963 by assassins outside the U.S. Embassy in the capital Lome.

* * *

Mali

War-ravaged Mali in West Africa began electing a president Sunday (July 28). According to the Voice of America, there are 27 candidates ranging from several former prime ministers to a geologist with little political experience and a woman from the northern part of the country who stood up to Tuareg rebels and militant Islamists.

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

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

Mali, once one of West Africa’s few successful democracies, plunged into chaos when Tuareg mercenaries – returning from fighting for Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafy – launched the latest in a series of revolts in the country’s desert north. That led to a military coup ousting the democratically-elected president.

The army revolt in Bamako, the nation’s capital emboldened the Tuaregs who swept over the Texas-sized northern half of the country – backed by Islamic extremists from in and out of Mali. At the request of the government in Bamako, French air and ground forces intervened, driving the rebels back into the mountains before they could seize the capital.

France, the former colonial ruler, said the intervention was necessary to keep the country from turning into a safe haven for terrorists to attack targets in Europe.

Mali has nearly 7 million registered voters but voter turnout has never exceeded 40 percent, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

July 29, 2013 at 1:20 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Somali Attacks, Ghana Water Woes, Latest from Mali

Mogadishu Attacked

Map courtesy of University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center

Map courtesy of University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center

A series of suicide and bomb attacks ripped through Somalia’s capital city, Mogadishu, Sunday (April 14) striking a court complex and the outskirts of the city’s international airport. As many as 29 people were killed in at least two separate attacks, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported.

According to the BBC, the Islamist militant group, al-Shabab, said it carried out the attacks.

Al-Shabab, which has links to al-Qaeda, has been blamed for a series of attacks in Mogadishu over the last two years. The group has been pushed out of most of the key towns it controlled in the southern part of the country after a stepped-up offensive by African Union peacekeepers allied with troops for Kenya and Ethiopia.

Quoting Somalia’s interior minister, the Associated Press reports that nine militants attacked Mogadishu’s Supreme Court complex and that all nine have been killed. Abdikarim Hussein Guled said that six of the attackers detonated suicide vests and three others were shot and killed during the assault, the AP added.

A car bomb was detonated later, outside a building housing security forces on the road to the airport. The blast went off near a convoy carrying Turkish aide workers, killing two of them, BBC reported.

Ghana Running Dry

Ghana in Africa (CIA World Fact Book)

Ghana in Africa
(CIA World Fact Book)

Almost 40 percent of Ghana’s population lacks access to tap water, forcing the poor to pay high prices to private suppliers, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reports. The West African nation’s booming economy is also being hurt by water shortages.

According to Bloomberg, water is one of the biggest issues facing Africa’s urban areas, which the United Nations says will see a 66 percent population increase – to 1.2 billion people by 2050.

Mali Roundup

Tuaregs Scout for French

Here’s a switch: Nomadic Tuaregs who stayed loyal to Mali’s government – during last year’s military coup, the Tuareg rebellion that sparked it and the violent Islamist insurgency that followed it – are now scouting for the French military.

They work as scouts for the French-led mission to purge Mali of its al-Qaeda-linked militants and return the country to government control, according to an AFP story in Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper.

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

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

Chad Withdrawing Troops

After helping drive Islamist insurgents from Mali’s northern towns, Chad intends to withdraw its troops from the embattled North African country because it doesn’t want to get bogged down in a guerilla war, according to Chad’s president, Reuters reports.

About 2,000 troops from Chad – like Mali a former French colony in northern Africa – fought alongside French troops in the heaviest fighting to drive the radical Islamists from remote towns as well as the deserts and mountains in Mali’s north.

But President Idriss Deby says “the Chadian army does not have the skills to fight a shadowy guerilla-style war that is taking place in northern Mali. “Our soldiers will return to Chad,” he told French reporters, noting a mechanized battalion has already been withdrawn.

Desert Refugee Crisis

A report by the humanitarian group, Doctors Without Borders, says about 70,000 refugees who fled the violence in Mali are living in “appalling” conditions in a camp in the middle of neighboring Mauritania’s desert.

About 15,000 more refugees have flooded into the camp since the ench intervention in January and now conditions at the camp are so bad that many who were healthy became ill or malnourished after they arrived, CNN reports.

April 15, 2013 at 1:23 am 2 comments

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