Posts tagged ‘U.N. peacekeepers’

AROUND AFRICA: UN Base in Mali Attacked; Boko Haram Bombing; Pirates Are Back; Covering Africa

Another Mali Attack.

Mali and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Mali and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

Two United Nations peacekeepers and a civilian contractor were killed in a rocket attack Saturday (November 28) on a U.N. base in northern Mali.

The attack on the dessert base near Kidal (see map) killed two soldiers from Guinea. More than 10,000 UN peacekeepers from several countries — mostly nearby West African nations like Guinea — have been patrolling violence-wracked Mali since 2013, according to the BBC.

The UN mission in Mali — criticized at the time of its approval because there is no peace deal to support — has suffered more casualties than any other in recent years, with 56 troops killed, the BBC indicated in a November 20 video report.

Olivier Salgado, spokesman for the UN’s deployment in Mali known as MINUSMA, told Al Jazeera the attack was launched before dawn with five rockets landing inside the UN compound. Salgado said 20 other people were wounded, four seriously.

“In the past we’ve had mortar shells land outside, but this time they made it into the camp,” he said.

The armed group Ansar Dine told the AFP news agency it was responsible for the attack. Hamadou Ag Khallini, one of the group’s senior figures told AFP by phone that the attack was “in response to the violation of our lands by the enemies of Islam.”

French forces intervened in Mali, a former French colony, when a rebellion by heavily-armed Tuareg nomads sparked an Army coup in 2012 because the government’s poor handling of the revolt. The Tuaregs, backed by al Qaeda-linked Islamist extremists, took advantage of the chaos and swept over half the country — threatening Bamako, the capital — before the French intervened with ground troops and aircraft.

But violence has picked up again. Five UN peacekeepers were killed in July, and just over a week ago a militant assault on a luxury hotel in Bamako left more than 20 people dead. On Friday (November 27), Malian forces arrested two men in connection with the hotel attack, the Voice of America website reported..

Other West African governments are also battling insurgents. Boko Haram, the leading armed group in the region, has this year extended its attacks from Nigeria to the neighboring states of Niger, Cameroon and Chad, Al Jazeera noted.

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Boko Haram-Nigeria.

Nigeria (CIA World factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World factbook)

The Islamic State-linked militant group Boko Haram is claiming responsibility for a suicide bombing in northern Nigeria Friday (November 27) that killed at least 22 people marching in a procession of Shi’ite pilgrims.

The blast near the village of Dakozoye, south of Kano, came just days after two female bombers blew themselves up at a local mobile telephone market in Kano, killing at least 14 people and wounding more than 100 others in the city of 2.1 million residents, the Voice of America reported.

A statement posted Saturday (November 28) on Twitter referred to the Friday blast as a “martyrdom-seeking operation.”  It also vowed more violence would come as the extremist group presses its six-year campaign for an independent Islamic state, or caliphate, in northeastern Nigeria and the nearby countries of northern Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

Followers of The Islamic Movement of Nigeria were marching from Kano to Zaria through the village of Dakasoye on Friday when the attackers struck, according to Al Jazeera. The followers were on a “symbolic trek” to Zaria, where the Islamic Movement of Nigeria’s leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky is based, to mark the 40th day of Ashura – the death of the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson, Hussein.

Meanwhile, Boko Haram has been labeled the world’s deadliest terrorist group, according to the New York Times.

The militant group that has tortured Nigeria and its neighbors for years, was responsible for 6,664 deaths last year, more than any other terrorist group in the world, including the Islamic State, which killed 6,073 people in 2014, according to a report released (November 18).

The report, by the Institute of Economics & Peace, said the Islamic State and Boko Haram were responsible for half of all global deaths attributed to terrorism. Last year, the deaths attributed to Boko Haram alone increased by more than 300 percent, the report said. The report also found a drastic increase in terrorist attacks last year, with the majority occurring in three countries: Iraq, Syria and Nigeria, where other militant groups besides Boko Haram operate.

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Pirates Redux.

Five Polish sailors have been abducted from a cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria, according to the BBC and other news outlets.

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said the men– including a captain and other three officers — were kidnapped Thursday night (November 26) from the cargo ship Szafir.

Pirates boarded the vessel as it traveled from Belgium to Nigeria, according to Polish media reports. Eleven other sailors evaded capture, apparently by locking themselves in the engine room.

Security experts classify the waters off Nigeria as some of the deadliest on earth, with pirates based in the country often targeting oil tankers, as well as hostages to ransom, Al Jazeera reported.

But the region has seen no documented attacks since February, when a crude carrier was boarded with the ship’s Greek deputy captain killed and three crew members taken hostage.

November 28, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Elections in Tanzania, Zanzibar, Ivory Coast;

Tanzania Vote Disputed.

Tanzania (CIA World Factbook)

Tanzania
(CIA World Factbook)

Voters went to the polls in Tanzania Sunday (October 25) to pick a president and members of Parliament for the east African nation.

But the main opposition candidate, Edward Lowassa, has rejected the election results — citing alleged fraud, according to the Voice of America website.

For the first time since the country’s independence in 1961, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) — the longest serving political party in Africa — faced a formidable threat from a coalition of four main opposition parties dubbed Ukawa (Umoja wa Katiba ya Wananchi, which means Coalition for the People’s Constitution).

Lowassa told reporters Wednesday (October 28) in the capital, Dar es Salaam, that results from the opposition coalition’s tallying unit showed the opposition was leading the vote count before police raided the unit Monday (October 26), the VoA reported.

The opposition Chadema party, part of the coalition, said police detained 40 of its volunteers who were tallying results. The police commissioner said the arrests were based on “violations of electoral procedures.”

Ethnic tensions over elections are virtually unheard of in the country of more than 100 ethnic groups, according to the BBC.

The incumbent, Jakaya Kikwete, has served the maximum two terms and is not seeking re-election. Over the past decade, a series of high-level corruption scandals have tainted the government and seen a reduction in financial assistance to the country, one of Africa’s largest aid recipients, the BBC said.

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Zanzibar Vote Voided.

Meanwhile, officials in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago have annulled the vote, sparking tension on the islands and raising questions about the national presidential result, according to Al Jazeera.

Zanzibar’s electoral commission said Wednesday (October 28) that elections on the Indian Ocean islands – where the 500,000 registered electorate had also voted on Sunday for Tanzania’s national president – must be carried out again, citing “violations of electoral law”.

“The process was not fair and had breaches of the law … I declare all the results to be null and void,” Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairman Jecha Salim Jecha said, reporting alleged violations including double-voting and cheating.

The annulment is likely to delay the announcement of full national results. Counting continued for a third day on Wednesday (October 28), with the ruling party presidential candidate in the lead.

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Ivory Coast Landslide.

Ivory Coast map. CIA World Factbook

Ivory Coast map.
CIA World Factbook

And in west Africa, the president of Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire), Alassane Ouattara has won a second term in office. He received 83 percent of votes Sunday (October 28),according to official results announced overnight.

Ouattara won a landslide victory. Second place candidate,  ex-Prime Minister Pascal Affi N’Guessan, got just 9 percent of the vote, according to VoA.

More than 3,000 people were killed in post-election violence in 2010 and 2011 when incumbent president Laurent Gbagbo refused to accept defeat.
Internationally accepted results showed Ouattara had won the November 2010 election.

Gbagbo was removed from office after French troops and United Nations peacekeepers intervened in the crisis. He is now awaiting trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity. Ivory Coast is a former French colony and still has French troops stationed there.

October 28, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Army Rescue in Nigeria; Nigerien Army Drives Terrorists from Island; Mali Rebels Attack UN Peacekeepers

Army Rescues 293 from Boko Haram.

Nigeria (CIA World factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World factbook)

The Nigerian Army says it has rescued nearly 300 female captives from the radical Islamist terror group, Boko Haram.

On Tuesday (April 28), the military said it freed 200 girls and 93 women from an area where Boko Haram is active. However, the Army said the girls abducted from a school in Chibok in April 2014 were not among the captives released, according to the BBC.

The military said the girls and women were freed during major operations ending in the seizure of four Boko Haram camps in the Sambisa Forest that borders Cameroon.

Whomever they are, many of the women and girls may not be able to go home because Boko Haram has destroyed their houses, families or businesses, or continues to threaten their towns, a Nigerian psychologist and counterterrorism adviser to the government tells Voice of America.

Earlier this month, the human rights group Amnesty International published a report saying that Boko Haram, which is fighting to create an Islamic state in largely Muslim Northeast Nigeria,  has abducted at least 2,000 women and girls since the start of 2014, Al Jazeera reported.  In addition to forcing them into sexual slavery, Boko Haram has used girls and women as suicide bombers, sending them into crowded market places and elsewhere.

Boko Haram has been responsible for killing thousands of people mostly in the north but also in bombing attacks in large cities, including Abjua, the capital. About 300 teenaged girls were kidnapped from a school compound during a Boko Haram attack last April, sparking international outrage and widespread dissatisfaction with President Goodluck Jonathan, who failed to win re-election last month. Dozens of the girls managed to escape their captors as they were driven away from the school but 219 are still missing.

Newly elected President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army general who once took over the country in a coup 30 years ago, has pledged to crush Boko Haram. Buhari takes office on May 29. In an op-ed piece in the New York Times, the new leader said he could not promise that Nigerian authorities will be able to find and rescue the missing schoolgirls, but: “I say to every parent, family member and friend of the children that my government will do everything in its power to bring them home.”

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Nigerien Army vs. Boko Haram

Government officials say Niger’s military has regained total control of the island of Karamga in Lake Chad after an attack by Boko Haram.

Nigerien paratroopers train with U.S. advisers during Exercise Flintlock 2007. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Larson)

Nigerien paratroopers train with U.S. Army advisers during Exercise Flintlock 2007.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Michael Larson)

In a statement, Niger’s government said Monday (April 27) that its security and defense forces have cleared the enemies from the island, the Associated Press reported. (via FOX News)The government said 46 Nigerien soldiers and 28 civilians were killed in the attack, according to AFP (via News 24 South Africa). Government officials said 126 terrorists were also killed in the attack on the island’s army base.

The island was seized by hundreds of Boko Haram militants aboard motorized canoes at dawn on Saturday (April 25, their second attempt to capture it since February, army and government sources told Reuters.

Lake Chad’s islands, which lie in dense swampland, are an ideal base for mounting surprise attacks on the countries bordering the lake: Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria. Niger suffered a wave of attacks and suicide bombs in its southern border region of Diffa in February and March, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency there.

Niger joined a regional offensive in January that has been credited with retaking large swaths of territory from the Nigeria-based militant group Boko Haram, whose fighters had months of gains in Nigeria and pushed across borders. A February attack on Karamga killed seven Nigeran soldiers, and Niger towns bordering Nigeria have also been targeted.

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Mali Again

Mali and its neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Mali and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

Swedish peacekeepers in Mali say they have repelled a rebel attack on Timbuktu twice in two days. Heavily armed rebels in trucks fitted with machine guns retreated north of the city on Wednesday (April 29), a Swedish commander told the BBC.

Fighting has also intensified in other parts of the northwest Africa country in recent days. A pro-government militia said it had recaptured the eastern town of Menaka, while a coalition of Tuareg rebels claimed to have taken the town of Lere, the BBC said.

Timbuktu and the north of Mali were taken over by Tuareg rebels allied with jihadist groups in 2012. France intervened in January 2013 and the UN began deploying 10,000 peacekeepers in July of that year.

Peace negotiations have been complicated by the number of rebel groups with widely differing agendas.

They include secessionist Tuaregs, religious extremists and armed militias vying for control of lucrative trafficking routes.

 

April 29, 2015 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

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.

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Mali Peace Talks.

Meanwhile, Mali’s government  said this week that it won’t participate in further talks with rebels seeking autonomy for northern Mali.

The collapse in peace talks could leave the north’s political status open indefinitely, a situation that Islamist militants active in the region could exploit, Reuters reports.

Mediators have been working for months to get talks going between a group of Tuareg-led rebels from the north and the government in Bamako the capital in the southern part of the vast northwest African country.

Bamako signed a preliminary proposal earlier this month but the rebels erected it, saying it did not grant their region, called Azawad, enough autonomy. Those rebels took  advantage of a 2012 military coup in the capital to sweep down from the north seizing territory and cities like Timbuktu. But their rebellion was hijacked by radical Islamist groups, some tied to Al Qaeda branches. They imposed harsh fundamentalist Muslim law and destroyed several holy sites revered by Muslims they consider heretics.

The rebels were threatening to capture Bamako in early 2013 when France intervened, sending troops, armored vehicles and aircraft to drive the rebels back. Eventually, a U.N. peace mission was created.

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Al Shabab Blamed.

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.

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Al Shabab Official Killed.

And last week, a U.S. drone missile strike killed a top official in al Shabab’s security service, the Amniyat, according to the Voice of America website.

The March 12 airstrike hit a car carrying Adan Garaar — described by the Pentagon as  working for al Shabab’s intelligence wing and also connected to the 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya that killed more than 60 people.

Last month al Shabab released a video that called for attacks on Western shopping malls. The Mall of America, one of the largest in the United States, is in Minnesota, which has a large Somali immigrant population.

Prosecutors say dozens of people from Minnesota, many of them Somali-Americans, have traveled or attempted to travel overseas to support groups such as the Islamic State or al Shabab since 2007.

U.S. law enforcement officials are concerned about the potential for radicalization among embers of immigrants communities.

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

AROUND AFRICA: Ebola Update, C.A.R. Stalemate

Ebola Death Toll.

Health workers treating Ebola patient require extensive personal protective equipment. (World Health Organization photo by Christine Banluta)

Protective gear for health workers treating Ebola patients in West Africa. (World Health nization photo by Christine Banluta)

The death toll from the Ebola virus outbreak in four west African countries has topped 1,000, according to the World Health Organization. In an update report Tuesday (August 11), the WHO said there have been 1,848 confirmed and suspected cases reported in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria resulting in 1,013 deaths.

Between Aug. 7 and Aug. 9, 69 new cases of Ebola virus disease (confirmed-probable-suspected) as well as 52 deaths were reported in those four countries.

A WHO panel of experts has determined that it is ethical to administer experimental drugs that have not been tested on humans but may counter the effects of Ebola to people suffering from the almost always fatal disease – which has no known cure or preventative vaccine. But the panel’s conclusion does not address who should receive the treatment, which is in limited supply, the Washington Post reported.

Marie-Paule Kieny, assistant WHO director general, said she hopes that efforts to produce more of an Ebola treatment developed by a small San Diego biopharmaceutical company, as well as other drugs under development, could result in wider availability late this year or early in 2015, according to the Post.

Two American medical missionaries, sickened by Ebola in Liberia, have been given the drug – ZMapp – and appear to be improving. But the untested drug’s manufacturer, Mapp Pharmaceutical of San Diego, California, said the remaining supply of ZMapp was exhausted after it sent several doses to Liberia. The Liberian government said it would administer the drug to two doctors felled by the disease while tretaing patients, the Post reported.

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What is Ebola?

According o the WHO, Ebola virus disease (formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever) is a severe, — often fatal illness — with a fatality rate of up to 90 percent. “It is one of the world’s most virulent diseases,” the WHO website states. The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. During an outbreak, The risk of infection is higher among health workers, family members and others in close contact with sick people and deceased patients.

Here is a link to a WHO Ebola factsheet.

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Country-by-Country

Guinea and it's neighbors (CIA World Factbook)

Guinea and its neighbors
(CIA World Factbook)

Guinea

Researchers suspect the Ebola outbreak started in Guinea late last year and the first victim — or Patient Zero — was a two-year-old boy who died December 6, just a few days after falling ill in southeastern Guinea, which borders Liberia and Sierra Leone, the New York Times reports. Within a week Ebola also killed the boy’s mother, his three-year-old sister and his grandmother.  Within weeks it had spread to other relatives, funeral mourners and health workers who carried it across Guinea and elsewhere.

Liberia

The first European infected by Ebola, Spanish priest Miguel Pajares, died in a Madrid hospital, Spanish health authorities announced Tuesday (August 12). The 75-year-old missionary, who contracted the deadly disease in Liberia, had been treated with the experimental anti-Ebola drug ZMapp, according to Reuters.

Nigeria

Since a Liberian-American businessman into Lagos from Liberia about three weeks ago, the number of new Ebola cases in Nigeria has slowly grown and the number of people who may have been exposed is growing. Officials are now monitoring 177 people for symptoms of the disease, according to the Voice of America website. The businessman and one of the nurses who treated him have died.

Ivory Coast

The West African nation of Ivory Coast (Cote D’Ivoire) has banned all passenger flights from the three countries hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak. Ivory Coast is the only country, after Saudi Arabia, to impose such a ban, according to the BBC. The air travel ban covers Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone where hundreds of people have died. It excludes Nigeria, where a tenth Ebola case has been confirmed and two people have died.

Uganda

Uganda, which has a history of containing Ebola outbreaks, has sent 20 of its experts to Sierra Leone and Liberia to help curb the spread of the disease, VoA reports. Uganda has experience fighting Ebola with four major outbreaks in the past 10 years, all of which were contained.

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C.A.R.’s Muslim Prime Minister

French and African peacekeepers in C.A.R.

French and African peacekeepers in C.A.R.

The Central African Republic (C.A.R.) named its first Muslim prime minister on Sunday (August 10) to create a more inclusive government and end more than a year of sectarian violence, AFP reported.

Mahamat Kamoun, a former special advisor to interim president Catherine Samba-Panza, will lead a transitional government trying to implement a shaky ceasefire signed late last month. He is the first Muslim to serve as prime minister in the Central African Republic since the majority Christian nation gained independence from France in 1960.

But Kamoun’s appointment has been rejected by the mainly Muslim rebel group Seleka, the BBC reported. An estimated 20 percent of the C.A.R.’s inhabitants have fled their homes in the conflict which began as Seleka rebels seized power in March 2013. Seleka excesses led to the creation of largely Christian anti-Balaka militias and the situation descended into ethno-religious violence.

The rebels accuse interim President Catherine Samba-Panza of not consulting with them before choosing Kamoun. Thousands of peacekeepers from France and several African nations have been trying to keep the rival factions from even more violence.

August 12, 2014 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

STABILITY OPERATIONS: Attacks on Afghan Aid Workers, UN Drones in Congo

Threat Rises in Afghanistan

Institute for the Study of War map

Institute for the Study of War map

A United Nations official says aid workers in Afghanistan are under an increasing threat in the war wracked country as most U.S. troops are preparing to leave by the end of next year.

Nine Afghan aid workers were killed in separate attacks on two days last month. Suspected Taliban gunmen killed six aid workers in northern Faryab province (see map) November 27. An explosive device killed three other aid workers in southern Uruzgan province the previous day, the Voice of America website reported.

An October report from the Aid Workers Security Database identified Afghanistan as the most dangerous country for aid workers, VoA added.

Mark Bowden, the U.N.’s Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan, said in a statement Saturday (November 30) that he’s “extremely concerned” about the rise in attacks on civilian aid workers during a time of transition when Afghanistan soldiers and police will be taking over security responsibilities from U.S. and NATO coalition forces.

“These tragic incidents illustrate the growing risks surrounding the delivery of aid and the increasing disrespect for humanitarian personnel in Afghanistan,” Bowen said.

“These tragic incidents illustrate the growing risks surrounding the delivery of aid and the increasing disrespect for humanitarian personnel in Afghanistan,” Bowen said.

According to Bowen, there were 237 attacks on Afghanistan’s aid workers through November – with 36 people killed, 46 wounded and 96 detained or abducted. Last year, there were 175 attacks, with 11 people killed, 26 wounded and 44 detained or abducted, the New York Times reported.

UN Drones Patrol Congo Skies

U.N. peacekeepers have deployed two Falco Selex ES2 drones in the Democratic Republic of Congo  (Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

U.N. peacekeepers have deployed two Falco Selex ES2 drones along the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo
(Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

U.N. Peacekeepers have deployed two unarmed, unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) in the Democratic Republic of Congo to monitor rebel activity near the borders with Rwanda and Uganda, the BBC reports.

It is the first time U.N. peacekeepers have deployed a drone bought and paid for by the United Nations – rather than bringing them from their home countries, which Belgian and Irish troops have done in previous African peacekeeping missions.

The drones, two Falcos manufactured by Selex ES, a unit of Italian aerospace contractor Finmeccanica, were launched in the skies over Goma, a citry in the eastern DRC briefly occupied byM23 rebels. The rebels are mostly ethnic Tutsi fighters who were integrated in the DRC Army in 2009, but mutinied in 2012 over their alleged mistreatment by the DRC Army.

More than 800,000 people fled their homes due to the violent revolt, which M23 leaders ended last month after U.N. Peacekeepers took the gloves off and pursued an offensive against the rebel group.

The drones will be used to see if any neighboring countries are supplying the rebel militia. Both Rwanda and Uganda have denied aiding the M23 rebels. UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the BBC that if successful in the DRC, the Falco UAVs could be used in other U.N. Peacekeeping missions.

December 3, 2013 at 11:59 pm 1 comment

AROUND AFRICA: UPDATE — U.N. Drone Deployment Delayed; C.A.R. Militia Disbanded; China’s African Media Buys; Cassava Crop Threatened

U.N. Delays Congo Drone Deployment

U.N. peacekeepers’ plans to deploy an unarmed surveillance drone in the skies over the Democratic Republic of Congo have been delayed until December, Reuters reports.

A Selex ES Falco at Paris air show. (Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

A Selex ES Falco at Paris air show. (Photo courtesy of Selex ES)

The United Nations planned to deploy a Falco unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) made by Italian defense electronics firm Selex ES (a unit of Finmeccanica) last month in eastern Congo, but unanticipated procurement procedures have caused a delay “until the first days of December,” U.N. Peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told a news conference Thursday (Sept. 12).

Congo troops and U.N. peacekeepers have been battling an insurgency by a rebel group known as M23, in the rugged eastern part of the country for more than a year. The rebels defected from the DRC Army in 2012 over alleged mistreatment. Thick forests and few roads have made ground patrolling difficult in the area, which borders Uganda and Rwanda.

The Falco is a medium altitude, medium endurance surveillance platform capable of carrying a range of payloads including several types of high resolution sensors. It will be the first time the U.N. has used a drone for aerial surveillance. If successful, officials and diplomats hope UAVs could be used in peackeeping missions in Ivory Coast and South Sudan. The United States is mounting unarmed drone surveillance of Mali and other strife-torn areas of the Sahel from a base in Niger.

Central African Republic

Central African Republic (CIA World Factbook map)

Central African Republic
(CIA World Factbook map)

The president of the Central African Republic says he is disbanding the Seleka rebel group that helped to bring him to power earlier this year, according to the Voice of America. President Michel Djotodia made the announcement Friday (Sept. 13) in the C.A.R. capital, Bangui, saying the rebel coalition “no longer exists.” But he provided no details about steps he would take to dissolve the group.

Recently, fighters from the rebel movement have been blamed for clashes with rival militias as well as a surge in robberies, auto thefts, rapes and murders. The violence has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.

China News in Africa

If there is an “information war” between China and the United States on an African battleground, as former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested at a congressional committee hearing in 2011, it appears that China is beginning to win the war.

That’s the take away from Canada’s Globe and Mail in a story about Chinese media acquisitions in Africa.

“In South Africa, Chinese investors have teamed up with allies of the ruling African National Congress to purchase Independent News and Media, one of the most powerful media groups in the country, which owns daily newspapers in all of the major cities,” the Toronto-based newspaper reports.

China has been making big investments in African media from newspapers and magazines to satellite television and radio stations, and some observers believe that will allow the People’s Republic to promote its own agenda in the press and counter hostile coverage.

According to another South African newspaper, the Mail & Guardian, two Chinese companies — China International Television Corporation and China-Africa Development Fund — have acquired a 20 percent stake in Independent News and Media. The Mail & Guardian previously reported that the South African state-owned Public Investment Corporation (PIC) was buying 25 percent of the company, using Government Employee Pension Fund money.

Cassava Crisis

Children eating fried cassava in Tanzania (Photo by Martin Best, copyright FAO East and Central Africa)

Children eating fried cassava in Tanzania (Photo by Martin Best, copyright FAO East and Central Africa)

Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and especially Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) pose an enormous threat to the food security of 135 million people in Central and East Africa, aAt least half of all plants in Africa are affected by one of these diseases.

Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and especially Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) pose an enormous threat to the food security of 135 million people in Central and East Africa. At least half of all plants in Africa are affected by one of these diseases. – See more at: http://www.fao.org/emergencies/fao-in-action/stories/stories-detail/en/c/195048/#sthash.8Ulth9mO.dpuf
Cassava Mosaic Disease (CMD) and especially Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) pose an enormous threat to the food security of 135 million people in Central and East Africa. At least half of all plants in Africa are affected by one of these diseases. – See more at: http://www.fao.org/emergencies/fao-in-action/stories/stories-detail/en/c/195048/#sthash.8Ulth9mO.dpuf

September 12, 2013 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: U.N. Peacekeepers for Mali, Nigerian Foreign Loan and Violence

Security Council Votes

Mali (CIA World Factbook)

Mali
(CIA World Factbook)

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously today (April 25) to approve a peacekeeping mission to the war-wracked North African nation of Mali.

A force of 11,200 soldiers and 1,440 police officers could be deployed as soon as July, the New York Times reported. About 6,000 troops already deployed by member countries from the Economic Community of West African States — as well as about 1,000 French troops — are expected to form the base of the peacekeeping mission. France intervened in its former African colony in January when militant Islamic extremists and Tuareg separatists threatened Bamako, Mali’s capital.

For nifty interactive timeline by the Times chronicling the 16-month-old crisis in Mali, once one of the few working democracies in West Africa, click here.

Meanwhile, Mali’s interim president has launched the country’s reconciliation commission to deal with security and governance issues in the country’s north. But a Tuareg separatist group, the MNLA, refuses to disarm before beginning negotiations with the Malian government, the Voice of America reports.

Nigeria: Business and Bullets

Nigeria (CIA World Factbook)

Nigeria
(CIA World Factbook)

Nigeria’s National Economic Council has approved a $9 billion foreign loan to fund new infrastructure, invest in agriculture and create jobs, Bloomberg reports. The lenders include the Export-Import Bank of China, rthe Islamic Development Bank and the African Development Bank. Capital interest rates on the loan will be as low as 2 percent and Nigeria will have more than 40 years to repay.

Meanwhile violence has erupted again in the country’s north, according to the Voice of America. Nearly 200 people were killed last weekend in an attack by the militant Islamist group in the fishing town of Baga. But some analysts say many of the slain may actually have been killed by security forces.

In a report that echoes earlier ones by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the U.S. government says indiscriminate killings and detentions by security forces are “a seroious human-rights problem” in Nigeria, VoA reported.

 

April 25, 2013 at 11:25 pm Leave a comment


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