Sudan must pay billions to terrorism victims, Supreme Court rules

A bombing at the United States Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1998, as well as one in Tanzania the same year, killed hundreds and wounded thousands.Credit…Agence France-Presse

The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously reinstated as much as $4.3 billion in punitive damages awarded against Sudan to victims of truck bombs detonated in 1998 outside United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The attacks, conducted by Qaeda operatives, killed hundreds and wounded thousands. Starting in 2001, many of the victims and their family members sued Sudan in federal court, arguing that it had helped Al Qaeda in carrying out the bombings.

After a trial in which Sudan did not participate, Judge John D. Bates of the Federal District Court in Washington found in 2011 that Sudan had provided crucial assistance to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, its leader.

“Sudan harbored and provided sanctuary to terrorists and their operational and logistical supply network,” Judge Bates wrote.“Bin Laden and Al Qaeda received the support and protection of the Sudanese intelligence and military from foreign intelligence services and rival militants. Sudan provided bin Laden and Al Qaeda hundreds of Sudanese passports. The Sudanese intelligence service allowed Al Qaeda to travel over the Sudan-Kenya border without restriction.”

Judge Bates awarded the plaintiffs about $10.2 billion in damages, including roughly $4.3 billion in punitive damages.

Foreign nations are ordinarily immune from suits in American courts. But Congress has made exceptions, including one in 1996 for acts of terrorism conducted by nations designated as state sponsors of terrorism. Under the 1996 law, plaintiffs were allowed to seek compensation for their losses but not punitive damages, which are meant to punish and deter wrongdoing.

After the lawsuit was filed, Congress amended the law in 2008 to allow plaintiffs to seek punitive damages in at least some settings. The basic question for the court was whether that amendment applied retroactively.

Sudan appealed the judgment against it on various grounds, including that the punitive damage award was improper. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit agreed, vacating in 2017 the punitive awards.

Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, writing for the Supreme Court on Monday, said it was true that legislation ordinarily applied only prospectively. “This principle protects vital due process interests,” he wrote, and allows people and groups to “rest assured after they act that their lawful conduct cannot be second-guessed later.”

If a federal law is to apply retroactively, Justice Gorsuch wrote, Congress must say so clearly. Here, he wrote, “Congress was as clear as it could have been when it authorized plaintiffs to seek and win punitive damages for past conduct.”

Sudan argued that the law failed to authorize retroactive punitive damages sufficiently clearly because the law said only that awards “may” include them. That was enough, Justice Gorsuch wrote.

“This language,” he wrote, “simply vests district courts with discretion to determine whether punitive damages are appropriate in view of the facts of a particular case.”

Judge Bates awarded punitive damages to two classes of plaintiffs, and the ruling on Monday applied to one of them, including United States nationals, members of the military and government employees and contractors. Justice Gorsuch said the appeals court should address whether the second class of plaintiffs, foreign-national family members of government employees and contractors, were entitled to punitive awards.

Justice Gorsuch also left open the question of whether the law was constitutional, saying that Sudan had not addressed it.

“It’s true that punitive damages aren’t merely a form a compensation but a form of punishment, and we don’t doubt that applying new punishments to completed conduct can raise serious constitutional questions,” he wrote. “But if Congress clearlyauthorizes retroactive punitive damages in a manner a litigant thinks unconstitutional, the better course is for the litigant to challenge the law’s constitutionality.”

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh recused himself from the case, Opati v. Republic of Sudan, No. 17-1268, presumably because he had considered an aspect of it when he served on the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia Circuit.

A dozen terror suspects die in prison in Burkina Faso

The Sahel region of Africa has seen a rapid increase in Islamist violence over the past few years CREDIT: AFP/ROMARIC HOLLO

Twelve people have died mysteriously in a prison cell in Burkina Faso, hours after they were arrested for terror-related offences. 

A Burkina Faso prosecutor has launched an investigation into the deaths which occurred in Fada N’Gourma, around 140 miles east of the Burkinabe capital Ouagadougou.

The men were reportedly part of a group of 25 people arrested on Monday night for suspected terrorist activities. “Unfortunately 12 of them died during the same night in cells where they were being held,” Judicael Kadeba, the prosecutor, said in a statement. 


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The West African nation of Burkina Faso is at the heart of a grim war spilling out across the Sahel region of Africa. A myriad of armed groups, some allied to Islamic State and Al Qaeda, are wreaking havoc across the region in what experts call the fastest growing jihadist insurgency in the world. 

Close to a million people were forced to flee the violence last year and both northern and eastern Burkina Faso have been rendered almost completely inaccessible to humanitarian organisations. Security forces are struggling to contain the jihadists and hundreds of soldiers have been killed since attacks began four years ago. 

As state forces have retreated from rural areas, the terrorists have strengthened their hold over dozens of gold mining operations and trafficking routes. They use the lucrative profits to buy more arms and keep the fighting going.

The news of the deaths in eastern Burkina Faso comes after a series of allegations of extrajudicial killings by the Burkinabe security forces. Last month, Human Rights Watch, a rights group based in New York, alleged that security forces executed 31 detainees on April 9th in the northern town of Djibo. 

Corinne Dufka, the Sahel director of HRW, said the events in Djibo “may amount to a war crime and could fuel further atrocities”.

Islamist group kills 52 in ‘cruel and diabolical’ Mozambique massacre

By Jason Burke

An Islamist extremist group in northern Mozambique has killed dozens of villagers in its most bloody attack.

More than 50 people were massacred in an attack in Xitaxi in Muidumbe district after locals refused to be recruited to its ranks, according to police cited by local media. Most were either shot dead or beheaded.

“The criminals tried to recruit young people to join their ranks, but there was resistance. This provoked the anger of the criminals, who indiscriminately killed – cruelly and diabolically – 52 young people,” police spokesman Orlando Mudumane told the state-owned broadcasting service.

The attack occurred more than two weeks ago but details have only emerged now.

Militants have stepped up attacks in recent weeks as part of a campaign to establish an Islamist caliphate in the gas-rich region, seizing government buildings, blocking roads and briefly hoisting a black-and-white flag carrying religious symbols over towns and villages across Cabo Delgado province. The flag is also used by Isis and other Islamic extremists.

In March, the insurgents briefly occupied the centre of Mocímboa da Praia, a district headquarters, burning government facilities, including a barracks, and brandishing banners of affiliation to the so-called Islamic State.


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A day later a second town was raided and the district police headquarters badly damaged. Those attackers too carried an Islamic State flag. Twenty to 30 members of Mozambique’s security forces were killed in both attacks, observers said.

Local security forces suffer from poor training, minimal equipment and low morale. Attempts to reinforce with expensive foreign mercenaries do not appear to have been effective.

At least 150 Russians linked to the Wagner Group, a company that has supplied mercenaries to fight in several African countries, were deployed last year but were forced to withdraw after suffering casualties.

The insurgency in the remote north began to grow about two years ago, exploiting widespread anger at the failure of central government to fairly distribute earnings from exploitation of the region’s rich natural resources. Discontent was exacerbated by endemic corruption and a brutal, indiscriminate military response to the violence.

The insurgents have so far mainly targeted isolated villages, killing more than 900 people, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project

The unrest has forced hundreds of thousands of locals to flee and raised concern among big energy firms operating in the region.

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More than 200,000 people have fled the area hit worst by the violence, according to a local Catholic archbishop, Dom Luiz Fernando.

Some have sought refuge among friends and relatives in the port city of Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado.

An organisation calling itself Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP), affiliated with Isis, has claimed some of the attacks in the region since last year.

The insurgents are known locally as al-Shabaab (“the youth”), although they have no known links to the extremist group of that name operating in Somalia.

The massacre happened on the same day, 7 April, that local sources in Muidumbe told AFP that militants went on a rampage, burning bridge construction equipment and ransacking schools, hospitals and a bank. Before the raid, the attackers used loudhailers to warn villagers “not to run away but stay inside the house”, the source said.

In the same district, the militants recorded a video of themselves addressing locals in the region’s local vernacular of Kimwani and Swahili.

Experts say there is “no quick fix” to the problems underlying the insurgency.Advertisementhttps://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

“Most importantly, the Mozambican military and security forces need to be restructured … They now face a complex, multilayered and asymmetrical conflict, mostly drawing upon local and regional grievances and networks but increasingly also attracting some limited encouragement and advice from further afield,” Alex Vines, the director of the Africa programme at Chatham House, wrote last month.

COVER PHOTO: Soldiers from the Mozambican army on patrol amid rising Islamist attacks. Photograph: Adrien Barbier/AFP via Getty Images

Masked men, murder and mass displacement: how terror came to Burkina Faso

By Michael Safi in Kaya and Ouagadougou

The road south towards Kaya is no longer safe, but thousands take it every day. They come on foot, piled on to scooters or next to donkeys straining at their carts. They testify to atrocities by masked men that are never claimed and whose motives remain unexplained. Women and children are everywhere. The men are looking for work, in hiding, or dead.

A landlocked nation of 19 million people in the heart of west Africa, Burkina Faso was celebrated only a few years ago as a stable, vibrant young democracy. Now it is being eaten away at its eastern and northern fringes.

Armed groups, including some aligned with al-Qaida and Islamic State, are waging a campaign of indiscriminate killing that has driven soldiers, teachers, health workers and other symbols of the state from vast swathes of the country’s borders.

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“We are at a point now where the very existence of the country is at stake,” says Zéphirin Diabré, the leader of the opposition party Union for Progress and Reform.

“Officially, there is no location that has fallen to the terrorists,” says Jacob Yarabatioula, a sociologist at the University of Ouagadougou researching the violence. “But in reality, there are places at the extreme borders with Mali where you have no signs of the administration. No police, no gendarmerie, no defence forces, no schools. Those places are in a sense controlled by the terrorists.”

In the past year, attacks on civilians have surged, triggering a tenfold increase in displaced people, whose numbers rival those of Syrians from Idlib and Myanmar’s Rohingya. According to official records, nearly 800,000 Burkinabè people had fled their homes as of 29 February. But not all are being registered, and aid groups say the real number is far greater.

“If you look at the speed of arrivals and the lack of access for aid agencies and authorities to vast areas, there is no way the official figures are consistent,” says Tom Peyre-Costa from the Norwegian Refugee Council. “It’s highly probable that the figures are much, much higher.”

Burkina Faso is experiencing a fast-evolving displacement crisis. Photograph: Norwegian Refugee Council

Kaya, about a two-hour drive from the capital, Ouagadougou, is overwhelmed by the new arrivals. Outside one government office, more than 100 women gather in the red dirt jostling for bags of maize. “My family are sleeping on the ground over there,” says Aissetta Diaten, 56, pointing to a patch beneath a tree.

The deadliest attacks – 35 people killed in a village in December, a church attack in February that left 24 dead, 43 villagers murdered last weekend – are usually publicised. But with more than 100 incidents recorded in February alone, according to one estimate, most of the violence experienced by the women lining up for food has gone unrecorded.

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“They kidnapped my son three months ago,” says one, who asks to be identified as Mamdata. “The men in the village ran before us, and we left later. I don’t even know where my husband is.”

The fog extends to the perpetrators: the gunmen rarely identify themselves or claim their attacks later. Most are thought to be jihadists, including some affiliated with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), who have spilled over or returned from neighbouring Mali, where they have been among the myriad actors involved in an eight-year insurgency.

Several victims of attacks in different areas say the gunmen who arrived in their villages – always masked, sometimes wearing ammunition belts across their bodies – herded people into a local mosque to deliver coarse sermons about veiling women or cuffing pants above the ankle.

“They said they were fighting for Islam and that everyone should follow Islam,” Shamim Suleyman, in his 80s, recalls of the men who arrived in his village near the northern town of Tongomayel. “And we said, ‘Look, we’re here in the mosque. We pray, we’re Muslims’. But if someone is carrying a gun and telling you these things, you can’t argue.”

After gunmen shot Aruna, 27, during an attack on the village of Rofènéga in January, one of them asked if he could recite the shahadah, the Islamic profession of faith. “I could, I did,” he says, unbuttoning his shirt to reveal the scar tissue below his shoulder. “They took my phone and said I could leave.”


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Just how connected these groups are to Isis or al-Qaida’s leadership is unclear. Some might brand themselves as affiliates, receiving bomb-making help or funds, “but on the ground, west African groups do what they want and take advice as it makes sense”, says Judd Devermont, the director of the Africa Program at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

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Both the US military and local analysts have noted that groups aligned to Isis and al-Qaida appear to have launched joint attacks in Burkina Faso and elsewhere in the Sahel – even though the two terrorist organisations are bitter rivals in the Middle East.

What is playing out in Burkina Faso and other pockets of the Sahel is more complex than a jihadist insurgency, analysts in the capital say. “At first it looked like terrorism,” Yarabatioula says. “But when we scratched the surface we noticed there were criminals involved too.”

 Aruna shows the wound he sustained when he was shot by terrorists. Photograph: Michael Safi/The Guardian

As the state presence has diminished, especially in remote areas, local militias, highway robbers and smuggling gangs have proliferated. Some work with the jihadis and others fight them. When attacks occur, it is not always clear if they are motivated by an extremist interpretation of Islam, a local dispute or to win turf.

“This is really a fight for a corridor,” says Yarabatioula. “These groups want to free a corridor to be able to smuggle drugs, cigarettes, and so on, going from Togo to Niger to Mali. And they are trying to create another corridor from western Burkina to the Ivory Coast.”

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“All these different groups are interested in the state going away,” says Mahamadou Sawadogo, a security researcher. “If there is no state, it’s good for all of them. That’s the link between them.”

The success of the armed groups is not just down to an under-resourced Burkinabè army – now being supported by French troops. They are also expertly playing on discontent in rural areas, especially among the ethnic minority Fulani group, who often complain of discrimination and neglect by the central government.

Many remote communities seethe at their lack of access to state resources, or when mines are granted to multinational companies and traditional hunting ranges are sold off as private estates, says Sawadogo.

“The terrorist groups come and say, we will give you all that the state takes from you. They take control of the hunting ranges and tell people: take it, it’s for you. They take control of the local mines and tell them: use it, it’s yours. So why wouldn’t they succeed?”

In contrast, the army’s efforts to beat back the militants have been marred by accusations of widespread human right abuses. “We’ve documented that 60 people were executed without trial last year,” says Aly Sanou, the secretary general of the Burkinabè Movement for Human and People’s Rights, a watchdog group based in Ouagadougou.


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“The population are not collaborating with the security forces, because in order to collaborate you need to trust them. Those from the Fulani ethnic group feel stigmatised, and this has allowed the terrorist groups to widen their recruitment base by recruiting more Fulanis.”

The number of people registered as displaced is expected to exceed 900,000 by next month, with no end in sight. Aid agencies say at least $300m (£244m) in funding will be required to feed and shelter the fleeing population. Reaching those left behind in areas where government control has faltered is currently impossible, says Peyre-Costa. Nobody knows who to ask for safe passage.

“In most humanitarian crises, we can negotiate access to be able to reach everyone in need,” he says. “But in the case of Burkina Faso, we don’t know who’s actually in control.”

Additional reporting by Oumar Zombre

Schools close in north-east Kenya after al-Shabaab targets teachers

Authorities face criticism for withdrawing teaching staff from an already marginalised region where education is badly needed.

Al-Shabaab attacked Kamuthe, Garissa county, in January killing three teachers and destroying a communications mast. Photograph: AP

A series of targeted killings of schoolteachers by a militia group in Kenya has seen an exodus of staff and the closure of hundreds of schools across the north-east of the country.

Thousands of teachers have left their posts in the past two months following several suspected al-Shabaab attacks in the region.

Schools in rural areas near the Somali border have been badly hit. On 13 January, suspected members of the Somalia-based terrorist group al-Shabaab attacked the village of Kamuthe in Garissa county and killed three non-local teachers and destroyed a communication mast.

A few days earlier, a boarding school in another remote village in the Dadaab area of Garissa was targeted by al-Shabaab attackers, according to the Kenyan police. They killed three students and a teacher.

Predominantly inhabited by ethnic Somalis, north-eastern Kenya shares a long, porous border with Somalia and it is one of the country’s most marginalised areas. It is inhabited mostly by nomadic pastoralists whose access to education has been limited.

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The local community had already lost hope, it would be difficult to win them back even if we get new teachersAhmed Abdi Mohamed, headteacher

“When the teachers leave, the students go back to their nomadic lifestyle,” said Ahmed Abdi Mohamed, headteacher of Balambala boarding school, Garissa county, where seven non-local teachers have left in recent weeks.

“I see my students looking after animals every day in the village, it pains me but there is nothing I can do. When I ask the parents they tell me why waste their children’s time in an empty school when they can utilise them to look after their livestock.

“The local community had already lost hope, it would be difficult to win them back even if we get new teachers because of the nomadic lifestyle. Many of them would have gone to far places with their livestock in search of pasture.”


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Local leaders and members of parliament argue the mass transfer of teachers by the government is an indication of the continued marginalisation of the region’s people.

“We have non-locals in various other sectors who are still working in their respective areas, why [are] only public teachers being transferred in one move?” said Abdullahi Hassan Maalim, a Wajir county official, where 100 primary schools are closing. “The Teachers Service Commission (TSC) should have done a thorough consultation with the local authorities to find ways of protecting the teachers instead of acting on their own. This is unacceptable, the rights of a whole generation have been denied.

“The insecurity problem has been going on for many years, but the national government did not take the matter seriously,” he said.

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“The national government forced us to keep the schools open symbolically because shutting them down means al-Shabaab would win,” said Mohamed. “But they are not doing anything practical on the ground to help with the continuity of learning.”

Leaders have criticised the TSC, the national body responsible for teachers’ employment, for creating an “education crisis” in the region by pulling non-local staff out of schools in the area.

The TSC has insisted that teachers will not be posted to the north-eastern region until their safety is assured.

“We appreciate the security challenges we are facing but the decision to transfer all non-local teachers from public schools was reckless,” said Maalim. “This jeopardises the future of children in north-eastern Kenya, who have long struggled to meet the national average standards in exams.”

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Abdinoor Alimahadi, an education technologist who comes from the region, has been campaigning with local governors to adopt available technology to fill the gap.

“The need for technology has never been greater,” he said. “Digital learning can not only resolve the issue of [the] teacher shortage but would also improve the performance of students. I have been presenting affordable e-learning technologies to the local leadership which they all welcomed. It is time we scaled it to the whole region.”

Niger army ‘kill 120 Boko Haram terrorists’ after attacks

More than 100 “terrorists” have been killed in south-west Niger by local forces in a joint operation with French troops, the country’s defence ministry said.

Defence minister hails ‘cooperation’ in fight against militants after Nigerien and French forces’ offensive in restive Tillaberi region

As of Thursday “120 terrorists have been neutralised” in the operation in the vast Tillaberi region near the border with Mali and Burkina Faso, the statement on Friday said, adding there had been no losses among Nigerien or French troops. Vehicles and bomb-making equipment were seized.

Niger’s defence minister, Issoufou Katambe, praised the “cooperation … in the battle against terrorism”, the statement said.

Sudan refugees pushed into Niger desert after camp burned down
Authorities in the restive Tillaberi region have ramped up security restrictions, closing markets and banning motorbike traffic after attacks by jihadist groups over December and January killed 174 Nigerien soldiers.

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A state of emergency has been in place in the region for the past two years.

Since 2015, Niger has struggled against a wave of jihadist attacks near the borders with Mali and Burkina Faso in the west, exacerbating needs in the Tillaberi and Tahoua regions, where nearly 78,000 people have been displaced.

France this year said it would boost its military presence in the troubled west African region by deploying 600 fresh troops to its 4,500-strong operation.

Civilian deaths escalate as violence builds in Sahel

Human Rights Watch report describes mounting violence in the region from armed militias and Islamist extremists.

Senegalese soldiers in Gao, Mali, on a UN mission, patrolling after a suicide bomb attack on a peace-keeping base in July 2019. Photograph: Souleymane Ag Anara/AFP via Getty Images

Armed militias and Islamist extremists in Mali killed at least 500 civilians and wounded many more last year in an intensifying wave of violence that threatens to undermine efforts to stabilise the poor west African state, a new report has found.

The 90-page survey by global campaigners Human Rights Watch describes how a multitude of different armed groups in Mali burned villagers alive, killed others with bombs, and pulled men off buses to execute them by the roadside, in scores of attacks on civilians.

Islamist extremists were responsible for some of the worst attacks, deliberately targeting small children, and killing 17 people at a funeral by hiding a bomb on the remains of a disabled man killed in an earlier attack.

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Human Rights Watch said 2019 was the worst for civilian casualties in Mali since a coalition of Islamists and local separatist tribesmen took control over much of its northern half in 2012, prompting a French military intervention and a $1bn-a-year peace-keeping operation that has so far failed to stabilise the country.

“Armed groups are killing, maiming, and terrorising communities throughout central Mali with no apparent fear of being held to account … The human toll in shattered lives is mounting as the deadly cycles of violence and revenge continue,” said Corinne Dufka, West Africa director at Human Rights Watch and author of the report.

There are widespread fears that the failure to quell the violence in Mali will tip the entire Sahel into violent chaos that will strengthen extremist groups and send more people fleeing to Europe. The number of attacks have increased fivefold in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger since 2016, United Nations figures have revealed.

Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the UN’s envoy for the fragile region on the southern rim of the Sahara, said the Sahel had experienced “a devastating surge in terrorist attacks against civilian and military targets”.

Violence in central Mali has escalated steadily in recent years as armed Islamist groups allied to al-Qaida began moving from the north. Many of the bloodiest attacks last year were attributed to an Isis affiliate, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS).

In November, two attacks by ISGS on military bases in Mali, at Tabankort and Indelimane, claimed the lives of 92 soldiers. In December, the group said it had killed 42 people – 35 of them civilians – in Arbinda in Burkina Faso. More than 170 soldiers have died in two recent ISGS attacks in Niger.

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Both al-Qaida and Isis have sought to exploit ethnic tensions in the Sahel, where competition between communities has been exacerbated by climate change and demographic pressure on scant resources.

Armed Islamists have recruited fighters from pastoralist Fulani communities, leading others to form self-defence groups. Malian authorities have vowed to disarm the militias but have struggled to do so. Weapons are not difficult to obtain in the region, and criminal networks overlap with the armed groups.

Fulani militia in Sevare, Mali, at an informal demobilisation camp intended to reduce jihadism. Photograph: Marco Longari/AFP via Getty Images

Atrocities by armed Islamists include the killing of at least 38 civilians in simultaneous attacks on the villages of Yoro and Gangafani villages in June. A witness told the Human Rights Watch report’s authors that Islamist extremists dragged a four year old from a house during the massacre and shot his father in the head.

Human Rights Watch believes the total number of civilians killed in communal and armed Islamist attacks in 2019 is much higher than those documented. Most attacks go unreported.


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The Malian government promised to bring those responsible for the worst atrocities to justice. In 2019, Malian courts opened several investigations and convicted about 45 people for smaller incidents of communal violence.

However, judicial authorities have yet to pursue the powerful armed group leaders believed responsible for numerous recent attacks. Many villagers said the lack of accountability was emboldening armed groups to commit further abuses.

“The government, with the help of its international partners, needs to do much more to prosecute those responsible for crimes and dismantle abusive armed groups,” said Dufka.

The rise in violence comes amid reports that the US is likely to reduce its military presence in the Sahel, as it refocuses on great power rivals as a more significant threat than terrorism.

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The US currently has thousands of troops in the region and recently opened a major $100m air base in Niger.

The prospect of many of its forces withdrawing from the region has dismayed many actors. A small detachment of British troops is due to deploy later this year to Mali as part of the UN peacekeeping force there.

Handing gun to civilians against militants

The authorities in Burkina Faso, struggling to grapple with a growing wave of Islamist militant attacks that is affecting the region, are planning to give weapons to civilians, as Louise Dewast reports.

The violence in Burkina Faso has forced more than 500,000 people to flee their homes

The Burkinabe government is under pressure to take new measures to try and curtail the militants.

In January alone, at least 60 people were killed in four separate attacks in the north of the country.

Members of parliament recently unanimously voted in favour of arming civilians in a move they said would help combat the armed groups. It is due to be signed into law.

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The attacks by militants linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group have significantly increased in the past year, causing more than half a million people to flee their homes.

Critics have questioned whether the new measure will make people safer, but the government insists that armed volunteers are necessary to stem the spread of violence.

Why get civilians involved?

The law says that the army’s capacity to fight the militants is limited in terms of numbers of soldiers and lack of appropriate training.

“In light of the persistent threat, populations have… expressed their desire to actively engage in the defence of the homeland,” it states.

But this is not proof of the army’s weakness, the government insisted. Speaking to the BBC, Communication Minister Remi Dandjinou likened the future volunteers to members of the French resistance during Germany’s occupation of France in the World War Two.

Remote villages like this one in northern Burkina Faso are under threat from violence

But there is a concern that the new measures could heighten ethnic conflict and fuel tensions between rival hunting and farming communities.

“The Burkinabe security forces are themselves implicated in very serious abuses against suspects,” Corinne Dufka from Human Rights Watch told the BBC. “That is why subcontracting any defence responsibilities to armed civilians is so potentially problematic.”

“It could exacerbate rising communal tensions and lead to more abuses, which would in turn push more people into the hands of the jihadists.”

Burkina Faso’s government has previously denied claims of widespread abuse.

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Who will be armed?

Any national aged 18 and over can be considered for recruitment and there is no maximum age. But recruits cannot be part of any political group or party.

Volunteers must be patriotic and loyal and have a “spirit of sacrifice” which could include making the “ultimate sacrifice”, according to the law that the MPs backed.

But, after it was passed, Defence Minister Cheriff Sy insisted recruits would not be used as “cannon fodder”.

The army in Burkina Faso is backed by a French force which is also operating in other parts of the Sahel

Recruitment will be carried out at a local level at an assembly where village leaders will be supervised by the army.

But the volunteers will not be a route to legitimising self-defence groups, made up of people who are sometimes referred to as vigilantes.

In Burkina Faso, as in Mali and Nigeria, civilians have armed themselves to defend their homes, and in some cases, gone on the offensive.

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These self-defence groups are not officially sanctioned by authorities. They are often composed on ethnic lines and have in many cases targeted rival communities.

One of the concerns raised is that parts of the country – up to one-third according to some estimates – are believed to be under the control of militant groups, making it far too dangerous and impractical to hand out weapons in those areas.

The north and north-eastern border areas with Mali and Niger are the most affected by attacks, but so are increasingly the southern border areas.

What training will volunteers get?

It is unclear when the recruitment will start and whether people are actually keen to sign up.

The law states that at least 10 volunteers should be recruited per village or area of residency.

Once they are recruited, the volunteers will undergo 14 days of training, which will include how to handle weapons, basic combat methods, the rules of discipline and civic and moral education.

It is unclear who will be providing the training and whether it will be followed up.


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After their induction, the recruits will be given weapons, along with communication and observation equipment. But they will not get uniforms.

While volunteers, who are expected to sign up for at least a year, will not be paid, the groups will receive financial support from the state for equipment and other mission-related expenses. They are also allowed to receive donations.

They will get medical bills paid if they are injured and compensation if they are left with permanent injuries. Funerals will be paid for if those who die in action.

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Nationally, the ministry of defence will oversee the work of the civilian force, but locally the village chief will be responsible.

What is their mission?

Volunteers are expected to be available at all times in their village.

They are expected to support the work of the army and police force, to help secure their village or district.

This could involve conducting surveillance and providing intelligence to the army but they are forbidden from conduct policing activities.

The volunteers will be expected to abide by a code of conduct, which for now has not been made public.

245 killed in violent attacks in Nigeria in January

At least 245 persons were killed in violent attacks across Nigeria in January 2020, according to various newspaper reports and available records.

Boko Haram: 10 kidnapped as fighters attack Borno Community
Nigeria Military on watch in one of the Northern states

According to the Expat Insider Survey of 2019 by InterNations, Nigeria is the third most dangerous country in the world due to widespread corruption and insecurity.

While the Presidency disagrees with such reports that criticise President Muhammadu Buhari’s handling of security, members of the National Assembly have lamented the security situation in Nigeria.

Apart from the resurgent Boko Haram attacks in the North-east, there have been increased cases of killings and kidnappings across the country.

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This led to protest by members of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) across the country on Sunday.

Amidst the insecurity, the Presidency has said Nigerians have reasons to be grateful as the security situation is better than it was before Mr Buhari assumed office.

“We know what the situation was as at 2015 and we know what it is today. Despite the reversals in security, it is still not as bad as it used to be in this country,” Femi Adesina, President Buhari’s spokesperson, said recently. Mr Adesina has been widely criticised for his comments.

Here are the recorded killings in January:

January 2 – Eight Boko Haram terrorists were killed by Nigerian soldiers when the insurgents tried to attack Michika in Adamawa State.

January 4 – Suspected gunmen killed 23 people at Tawari community in Kogi Local Government Area, LGA, of Kogi State.

January 6 – In Gamboru, Borno State, no fewer than 30 persons were killed after an improvised device exploded on a bridge.

On the same day, four Nigerian Navy officers were killed by suspected pirates while another three foreign sailors were kidnapped in an attack on a dredging ship in the waterways of the Niger Delta.

In Niger State, an army officer and three soldiers were killed by bandits in the Gwarm village, Munya Local Government Area of Niger State during routine patrol.

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January 7 – A police officer attached to one of the new generation banks in Ekeki suburbs of Yenagoa, in Bayelsa killed a driver, NYSC member, one other.

On same day, two middle-aged men were set ablaze by a mob for robbing a barber’s shop in Calabar while bandits killed one Yasir Usman in an attack in Katsina and other seven kidnapped.

January 9 – The Plateau State Police Command confirmed the death of 12 persons killed by suspected herdsmen who also injured one at Kulben village of Kombun District of Mangu Local Government Area of Plateau State.

January 11 – Four Air force officers were shot dead by bandits in Kaduna.The suspects laid an ambush for the security operatives at Unguwan Yako, close, along Kaduna- Birnin Gwari road.

January 14 – The clash between farmers and herdsmen killed two in Sobe, Owan Local Government Area of Edo State while four naval ratings were killed in Gbagira Village, Ilaje LGA of Ondo State. The naval officers were trying to rescue three foreigners from pirates.

January 16 – Bandits stormed a village in Gummi LGA, Zamfara State, shot sporadically and killed at least 29 people. Also unknown gunmen attacked the convoy of Alhaji Umaru Bubaram Emir of Postikum, killing six people.

Emir of Potiskum addressing his subject after return from attack. PHOTO JOE HEMBA

January 18 – One soldier and four Boko Haram militants were killed during an attack on an aid facility in Ngala, Borno and at least 20 internally displaced persons waiting for assistance at the facility were killed. In the same state, Boko Haram killed four soldiers in Bama.

On the same day, a sectarian violence led to the death of four people in Igalamela-Odolu, Kogi State.

January 19 – Vandals busted a fuel pipeline in Lagos and the action led to explosion that killed five in Alimosho.

Also on January 19, a video of a boy executing a man identified as a Christian hostage by suspected Boko Haram surfaced online.

January 20 – at least 17 soldiers killed while many others were abducted in two confrontations between the military and Boko Haram insurgents on Bama-Gwoza highway.

January 21 – At least, eight soldiers were killed during a battle with Boko Haram insurgents in Kaga, Borno. The insurgents camouflaged in a police vehicle and approached a military base then opened fire on unsuspecting soldiers near their trench.

Also, unidentified gunmen killed four in Keana, Nassarawa. In addition, Boko Haram insurgents killed the Chairman, CAN, in Michika Local Government Area of Adamawa State, Lawal Andimi, after reportedly refusing a ransom offered for his release. Gunmen also killed one and kidnapped fourteen in Batsari, Katsina.


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January 23 – Boko Haram killed 10 loggers in Dikwa, Borno. The incident occurred in the remote village of Lura near Dikwa town, headquarters of Dikwa LGA.

January 24 – Mob killed two suspected POS robbers at the Biogbolo suburb of Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

January 25 – suspected Boko Haram suicide bombers attacked a mosque in Gwoza, Borno State. The explosion killed three people and many people were injured.

Boko Haram used to illustrate the story.

Also, gunmen killed 13 people at Kwatas village in Bokkos Local Government Area of Plateau State while bandits killed 11 people in Niger communities.

January 27 – A man stabbed his girlfriend to death “for receiving a phone call from a male friend in Bauchi State.”

January 29 – A man, Kalu Ilum shot his wife at Etitiama Nkporo community in Ohafia council area of Abia State. In retaliation, he was set ablaze for the act by a mob.

Also, suspected herdsmen killed two Owan community in Ovia North East LGA of Edo State.

January 30 – Armed robbers killed Adebayo Mukaila, a serving member of National Youth Service Corps in Osun State.

Dozens dead after attack by militants in Burkina Faso

Officials say that between 10 and 30 people were killed in the northern Soum province.

Dozens of people are feared dead following an attack by Islamic militants on a village in Burkina Faso, the latest bloody incident in an unprecedented surge of violence across the restive Sahel region.

Details of the attack, which occurred on Saturday and targeted the village of Silgadji in the northern Soum province, were still unclear on Tuesday but a security official said casualties in the assault totalled between “10 and 30 dead”.

In many such instances, initial death tolls are revised upwards when investigators reach the often remote areas where the raids take place.

Islamic extremists were still in the vicinity of the village on Monday, a resident in nearby Bourzanga town said, citing accounts from those who had fled.

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“The terrorists surrounded the people at the village market, before separating them into two groups. The men were executed and the women were ordered to leave the village,” the source said. “Security teams are trying to get to the site but access to the village has probably been booby-trapped with homemade mines, and they are having to proceed carefully.”

Though once considered resistant to the phenomenon of Islamic extremism, Burkina Faso has suffered a rapid rise in Islamist extremism in recent years, a spillover of violence in neighbouring Mali.

The number of deaths from Islamist-linked attacks in Burkina Faso rose from about 80 in 2016 to more than 1,800 in 2019.

There were more than 4,000 deaths across the Sahel reported last year, according to the UN.

Saturday’s attack follows a massacre of 36 people at two villages in the northern Sanmatenga province earlier this month.

Displaced men who fled from attacks in the town of Roffenega install a tent in Pissila, Burkina Faso. Photograph: Anne Mimault/Reuters

Extremist violence in the Sahel intensified after a coalition of Islamists and local separatist tribesmen took control over much of northern Mali in 2012.

A seven-year campaign led by French troops, the deployment of hundreds of US special forces, massive aid for local militaries and a billion dollar-a-year United Nations peacekeeping operation have been unable to decisively weaken the multiple overlapping insurgencies in the region and security has continued to deteriorate.

European officials are worried the Sahel is close to a tipping point that could see an irreversible slide into violent chaos that will strengthen extremist groups and send a new wave of migrants to Europe.

There are also concerns that the US will withdraw a significant proportion of its troops deployed in Africa, possibly undermining French military efforts in the region.

On Monday French officials said they hoped “good sense” would prevail and the United States would not cut crucial intelligence and logistics support for the French force of 4,500 troops based in Mali.

The Pentagon has announced plans to withdraw hundreds of military personnel from Africa as it redirects resources to address challenges from China and Russia after two decades focused on counter-terrorism operations. Those cuts could deepen following an ongoing global troop review.

France believes it is time to increase, not ease, pressure on militants to prevent “Islamic State from rebuilding in the Sahel”, a senior French defence ministry official said.

French president Emmanuel Macron poses with G5 African heads of state after a Sahel summit in Pau earlier this month. Photograph: Álvaro Barrientos/AP

The US currently has 6,000 military personnel in Africa, though only several hundred are deployed against militants in the Sahel.

Although some experts say a repositioning of forces is overdue, many US officials share French concerns about relieving pressure on militants in Africa.

“Any withdrawal or reduction would likely result in a surge in violent extremist attacks on the continent and beyond,” Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democrat Chris Coons wrote earlier this month.

Gen François Lecointre, chief of staff of the French armed forces, said the loss of US intelligence from intercepted communications would be the “biggest setback”.

“I’m doing my utmost to prevent this from happening,” he said, adding that French drone-based spying systems would not be operational until year-end.

France said this month it would deploy 220 additional troops to the region, despite rising anti-French sentiment in some countries and criticism at home that its forces are bogged down.

Some French analysts have dismissed the decision as a political gesture and called for greater emphasis on a strategy that addresses the failings of local states in the Sahel and broader economic issues.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, talks to children in a camp for internally displaced people in Barsalogho in northern Burkina Faso. Photograph: Olympia de Maismont/AFP via Getty Images

Burkina Faso, one of the most impoverished countries in the world, saw a tenfold rise in those displaced by the violence over 2019, with more than 560,000 forced out of their homes by December, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council. The figure is predicted to rise to 900,000 people by April

“Burkina Faso needs more than bullets and bombs. Military engagement alone is failing to protect vulnerable communities. Donors … have not yet responded to the enormous humanitarian needs with equal emphasis,” warned NRC’s secretary general Jan Egeland, on a visit to the country this week.

Hunger is also a threat, with one in ten people in Burkina Faso likely to need food assistance by June.

Attacks on children in the Sahel have also risen dramatically over the past year. Mali recorded 571 grave violations against children during the first three quarters of 2019, compared to 544 in 2018 and 386 in 2017, according to Unicef.

Since the start of 2019, more than 670,000 children across the region have been forced to flee their homes because of armed conflict and insecurity.

Burkina Faso’s army is ill-equipped and poorly trained to deal with assaults that usually involve hundreds of highly mobile, lightly-armed militants travelling on motorbikes or in pick up trucks.

West Africa is under serious threat by terrorists

France’s president and his counterparts from the Sahel region are due to meet to discuss military operations against Islamist militants in West Africa. We look at the figures behind the conflict, which is slipping out of control.

France summit: Sahel crisis in danger of slipping out of control

Attacks on army positions and civilians across the region are occurring with increasing regularity, despite the presence of thousands of troops from both the countries affected and France. Last year saw the highest annual death toll due to armed conflict in the region since 2012.

Last week, 89 soldiers from Niger were killed in the latest attack to see dozens of deaths among regional armed forces. France has also suffered significant casualties, losing 13 soldiers in a helicopter crash in Mali in November.

The Sahel region, a semi-arid stretch of land just south of the Sahara Desert, has been a frontline in the war against Islamist militancy for almost a decade.

However, it is increasingly clear that the problem facing Chad, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania (known as the G5 Sahel) is not just the presence of armed groups, and that more than military action is urgently needed to address a worsening humanitarian crisis, climate change and development challenges.

The overarching worry is that the crisis could spread further across West Africa.

1. A fast deteriorating crisis

The security crisis in the region started in 2012 when an alliance of separatist and Islamist militants took over northern Mali, triggering a French military intervention to oust them as they advanced towards the capital, Bamako.

A peace deal was signed in 2015 but was never completely implemented and new armed groups have since emerged and expanded to central Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

Casualties from attacks in those countries are believed to have increased fivefold since 2016, with over 4,000 deaths reported last year alone.

2. The most deadly places

A stretch of land covering the border areas of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger is at the centre of the insurgency and counter-terrorism operations.

Armed groups, including some linked to al-Qaeda and others the Islamic State group, have expanding their presence and capabilities.

The reasons behind their expansion are multiple:

  • Porous borders and little state presence in some areas
  • They have set up lucrative money-raising activities, such as imposing taxes, and trafficking drugs, weapons and people, which help fund their activities
  • Soldiers fighting the militants appear to be under-trained and poorly equipped, despite the regional and international support they receive

In addition to the joint G5 Sahel countries, which have an estimated 5,000-strong force battling the militants, the French have had 4,500 soldiers deployed in the Sahel since 2013.

The UN also has over 12,000 peacekeepers in Mali, while the US has two drone bases in Niger, providing intelligence and training support throughout the region.

Amid the rising insecurity, so-called self-defence groups have been formed. In Mali and Burkina Faso, these militias are believed to be behind a number of massacres.

3. Not just jihadists behind the violence

Most attacks on civilians remain unclaimed but the main armed Islamist militant groups in the Sahel are:

  • Al-Qaeda affiliated Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin – JNIM
  • Islamic State Group in the Greater Sahara – ISGS
  • Ansarul Islam
  • Katiba Macina
  • Other armed groups with ethnic or political affiliations have also emerged

Ethnic tensions and economic rivalries have become mixed up with the Islamist insurgency, with accusations that members of the mainly Muslim Fulani ethnic group are linked to Islamists, which their representatives deny.

In addition, expanding deserts and climate change have magnified long-standing conflicts between mainly Fulani herders and pastoralists.

All this has led to the creation of ethnic militias on both sides, which have also been responsible for a horrific cycle of tit-for-tat mass killings.

Some security forces have been accused by human rights groups of unlawful killings during counter-terrorism operations.

Last week, a coalition of NGOs said that the “military response in the Sahel is part of the problem”.

Action Against Hunger, the Norwegian Refugee Council and Oxfam estimated that the army operation in Mali had forced more than 80,000 people to flee their homes – about 40% of all those displaced in the country.

4. Humanitarian crisis

As the population in the region is set to double over the next 20 years, the violence is exacerbating development challenges.

Growing enough food for everyone will become increasingly difficult and this is not being helped by the numbers of people who have been forced to flee their homes.

In Burkina Faso, the number of people internally displaced has risen from 40,000 at the end of 2018 to more than 500,000 at the end of 2019 – that is more that 2% of the population. In Mali, the number has practically doubled.

The violence is also storing up problems for future generations as some of the Islamist groups deliberately target schools and teachers, leaving hundreds of thousands of children without access to education.

They then become even more vulnerable to sexual exploitation, forced labour or recruitment into armed groups.


This story was first published by BBC, and much of the data in this article was sourced from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)

France threatens to pull out troops from Africa

Facing hostility in five former colonies over a stalled fight against extremists, President Emmanuel Macron has taken a harsh public stance. Few expect him to follow through.

French soldiers setting up a temporary base in northern Burkina Faso in November.Credit…Michele Cattani/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

France has called five African presidents to a meeting on Monday to disavow rising anti-French hostility in their countries, work out how to stop the rapid advance of armed Islamist extremists in their region and determine whether France will remain deeply engaged in that fight.

France could withdraw its 4,500 soldiers, President Emmanuel Macron has said, if the leaders of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania do not answer questions to his satisfaction. That warning came as the United States also considers pulling troopsfrom the region.

Many analysts say the French and Americans are making empty threats when they talk about leaving the Sahel, a semiarid area stretching more than 2,000 miles across West and Central Africa that is plagued by violent groups loosely affiliated with the Islamic State and Al Qaeda. But their warnings illustrate the allied nations’ frustration with extremist gains, and with one another.

France, the five countries’ former colonial ruler, initially intervened in 2013 to oust rebels and Islamist militants who had taken control of northern Mali in the wake of Libya’s descent into chaos. The militants regrouped, and now extremist-related violence is rising fast, doubling every year since 2015.

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Mali suffers attack after attack. This month children were killed in Burkina Faso when their school bus ran over a roadside bomb, the latest in a long list of recent deadly episodes in that country. Seventy-one soldiers died last month in Niger’s deadliest ever attack on a military camp.

“The militants have got the upper hand,” said Héni Nsaibia, a researcher at the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a nonprofit organization.

The bodies of 71 military personnel killed in an attack last month on Niger’s forces by an Islamic State affiliate.Credit…Boureima Hama/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

On the other side, the national armies fighting these militants — trained and funded by France, the United States and the European Union — have themselves committed grave atrocities. Ethnic militias, some with government support, carry out massacres, which have pushed more people into the militants’ arms.

However, many people in these countries increasingly blame the French.

Urban Malians are demanding the departure of Operation Barkhane, the French counterterrorism force, while protesters in the capital, Bamako, chant slogans against France and have burned the French flag.

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Demonstrations have also taken place in neighboring Niger, where France and the United States have military bases, and in Burkina Faso, where their footprint is much lighter, but where violent attacks on civilians and soldiers have prompted France to intervene in the past year.

At the summit meeting on Monday in Pau, a town in southern France, Mr. Macron has said he will be asking the African nations, known as the G5 Sahel countries, to clarify their governments’ stances on both the French presence and those who oppose it.

“I can’t have French troops on the ground in the Sahel when there is ambiguity toward anti-French movements and sometimes comments made by politicians and ministers,” he said on a trip to Britain in early December, adding that whether France stayed would depend on the presidents’ responses to his concerns.

Protesters with signs reading “France get out” in Bamako, Mali, on Friday.Credit…Annie Risemberg/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Most analysts think Mr. Macron is unlikely to make good on his threat to leave, and French officials say privately that they expect to be in the region indefinitely. Mr. Macron’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, is seen as being firmly invested in the French intervention, which he first drove as defense minister under the previous president, François Hollande.

French troops have been killed in Operation Barkhane, including 13 in a helicopter crash in November, and two who died in May while rescuing hostages held by militants. But the overall toll has not risen enough to spur demands from the French public that the soldiers be brought home.

If it happened, a French withdrawal would have a far greater impact than an American one, as France has a far greater presence in these nations.

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Without Barkhane, countries would collapse in on themselves, causing uncontrolled terrorism and hugely increased migration to Europe, Gen. François Lecointre, head of France’s armed forces, told CNEWS, a television channel, in July.

But some experts say that these threats are much exaggerated, and that pulling out could force the region’s elite to find political and social solutions to a crisis entangled in disputes over access to land and resources.

“It’s they who have the solutions, not the French,” said Marc-Antoine Pérouse de Montclos, a French political scientist specializing in Africa.

How contrite the African leaders are willing to be with Mr. Macron is not just a matter of pride and posturing, but of retaining power. They will be carefully calibrating what they say publicly, and what they say to the French in private.

In effect, critics say France is helping shore up governments that lack confidence in their own armies, either doubting their ability to fight extremists or worrying about the possibility of military coups. Yet the presidents also have to satisfy voters unhappy with the presence of the former colonial power.

The president of Burkina Faso, Roch Marc Kaboré, hit back at Mr. Macron’s “summons” to Pau, where the official agenda includes seeking more international support for Sahel countries and reassessing France’s role there. Calling for mutual respect, Mr. Kaboré, who plans to run for re-election in November, said in a televised address last month that the “tone and the terms” used posed problems.

President Emmanuel Macron with President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger in Niamey last month.Credit…Ludovic Marin/Agence France-Presse, via Pool/Afp Via Getty Images

When France sent troops to Mali seven years ago, officials argued that if they did not intervene, Mali would become another Afghanistan. French ministers still present their fight in the region as a crucial piece of the global war against terrorism.

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But none of the militant groups in the Sahel have ever carried out attacks outside the region and, with weak links to the international terrorist groups they pledge allegiance to, they seem more focused on local disputes.

Mr. Pérouse de Montclos, the French author of “Une Guerre Perdue: France Au Sahel” (“A Lost War: France in the Sahel”) said France would be better off getting out.

“The official narrative is that we are fighting terrorist groups, but actually we are protecting corrupt regimes, and some of them are quite authoritarian,” he said. “This foreign military presence is also used as a kind of a life insurance for these regimes.”

Mr. Macron should use the opportunity to announce the end of a mission that was never meant to last this long, Mr. Pérouse de Montclos said, forcing the Sahel leaders to handle the situation.

At the moment, however, these leaders have other priorities. Burkinabe politicians are “all focused on the election” rather than protecting citizens from further suffering, said Mahamoudou Savadogo, a researcher working on violent extremism in the Sahel.

The human cost of failing to resolve the crisis is heavy. In Burkina Faso, more than half a million people have fled their homes because of the violence.

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A report released last week by Human Rights Watch documented Islamist groups’ killing of more than 250 civilians in nine months there, including several dozen in a camp in Arbinda, where one witness survived by hiding behind a clay stove while 22 of her neighbors were killed.

“Two terrorists opened my door but didn’t see me. Then they entered my neighbor’s hut, killing her,” the report quoted her as saying. “They argued about whether to kill her baby … but eventually shot him.”

Adam Nossiter contributed reporting from Paris.

The Consequences of Sudan on US terrorism blacklist

If Washington wants to be on the right side of history, it must open the way for Sudan to receive economic support.

A child looks on as the Sudanese prime minister Abdalla Hamdok visits a camp for displaced people in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state. Photograph: Ashraf Shazly/AFP via Getty Images

Over the past year, the Sudanese people have staged a near miraculous revolution, overthrowing the 30-year dictatorship of President Omar al-Bashir.

Following mediation led by the African Union and Ethiopia, a transitional government consisting of civilians and military generals is headed by Abdalla Hamdok, a veteran economist untainted by the decades of corruption and misrule. It is the best compromise: the army, and especially the paramilitary Rapid Support Force, are simply too powerful to be removed from politics in one fell swoop.

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At the UN general assembly in September, and last week in Washington DC, Hamdok made a series of good-faith policy pledges to return Sudan to the club of respectable nations.

Hamdok is charged with the gargantuan task of steering Sudan out of crisis and into a period of economic stability and growth. But what brought the first demonstrators on to the streets a year ago was rampant inflation and the collapse of the wage-earning economy: ordinary people simply couldn’t afford to buy bread or fuel. That hasn’t changed. The economy remains on the slide towards hyperinflation and the people towards possible famine.

Wealthy Gulf states – Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – bailed out Sudan with $3.5bn (£2.65bn) worth of cash and commodities earlier this year. That was never enough, given the magnitude of the crisis, and it is running out.

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What Sudan needs is for its debt to be rescheduled and sanctions against it lifted. That will require action by the US to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism (SST). Among other restrictions, inclusion on the list prohibits economic assistance, including loans from the World Bank and other international financial institutions.

International sanctions on Sudan began shortly after the last democratic revolution in 1985, when the International Monetary Fund suspended the country for non-payment of arrears on its debts. Intended to compel fiscal responsibility, that economic shackle condemned the democratic government to failure. So began a catalogue of foreign sanctions, mostly a story of mishap and failure.


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In 1993, the US designated Sudan as an SST. Four years later, it imposed comprehensive economic, trade, and financial sanctions. In 2007, in response to the Darfur atrocities, Washington imposed further measures including individually targeted asset freezes. The measures hurt the regime, but also the people.

The economic and trade sanctions were eased in 2017-18, in a rare example of policy continuity between the Obama and Trump administrations. But the biggest measure remains in place: the SST listing. That basically prohibits anyone from doing business with Sudan without a special licence from the US Treasury; the alternative is prosecution.

And while legitimate business stays shackled, illicit business continues to thrive. Sudanese people call it the “deep state” – at best crony capitalists profiteering from oil and gold sales, and from the security agencies’ lockdown of the financial and telecom sectors, and at worst mafia cartels. Along with their soldiers on the streets, this financial muscle is the power base of the generals.Advertisement

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The military oligarchs’ power will start eroding when exposed to the fair winds of free competition – when sanctions are lifted.

The state department candidly admits that all its main objectives have been met: Sudan isn’t a state sponsor of terror and, indeed, has been cooperating with the US for years; it let South Sudan secede peacefully, and has been assisting in trying to resolve its neighbour’s civil war; and it is committed to democratic reform, and peace with the remaining provincial rebels in Darfur and Southern Kordofan.

But the US has not yet properly recognised the once-in-a-generation achievement of the Sudanese people. Last week, Washington made the symbolic gesture of sending an ambassador to Khartoum and followed up with promises of incremental progress towards normalising relations. But removing the SST listing has been made dependent on Hamdok enacting a series of reforms, which is like sending a boxer into the ring with one hand tied behind his back, telling him: “If you can knock out the other guy, then we will untie your hand.”

If Sudan’s economy slides into complete meltdown and the civilian administration fails, the rug pulled from under Hamdok’s feet will have “Made in the US” written all over it.

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If the US administration – and Congress, which must approve the lifting of sanctions – wants to be on the right side of history in Sudan, it must respond expeditiously to the Sudanese people’s plea.


• El-Ghassim Wane is a former African Union and UN official with responsibilities for peace and security. Abdul Mohammed is chief of staff of the African Union high-level implementation panel for Sudan and South Sudan, speaking in a personal capacity; Alex de Waal is executive director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University

Port Harcourt Mall Explosion: A terror attack? Here is everything we know

There was an explosion at the newly built Port Harcourt Mall Wednesday, leaving at least 1 person dead and six others injured.

An eye witness told The Bloomgist that the incident happened around 4:00 p.m. forcing an early closure of the mall.

There was an explosion at the newly built Port Harcourt Mall Wednesday, leaving at least 1 person dead and six others injured.

An eye witness told The Bloomgist that the incident happened around 4:00 p.m. forcing an early closure of the mall.

The eye witness said the fire started at the continental cuisines’ kitchen, a section within the mall which cooks and serves Chinese and other continental dishes.

Five workers at the kitchen, who were badly burnt were rushed to the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital where they are currently receiving treatment.

“The fire burnt about five of the workers badly. In fact, one of the victims’ skin was peeling off like burnt clothes as he cried, I couldn’t watch, to be honest.”

A gas explosion or a terror attack?

Analysists have been looking into the explosion which they say is @strange” and looking into a posibility of the explosion being a terror attack.

An anonymous contributor told Bloomgist that the explosion is strange and suspecious, having come amidst fear of terror attack plan rumours in the city.

Police and other security operatives have started investigation to know the actual course of the explosion which has left the residents terrified.

There was a recent post by a Port Harcourt base blogger on how to plant a bomb in the mall seem to be the most popular and most visited in the region.

The post was published on June 7th, five days before the explosion at the mall. Photo: The Bloomgist

The blog with the name ‘Nazcardgard’ shared how to get a bomb into the mall and the processes required to make the ‘mission’ a success, tar getting over 50 casualties which is mostly going to be made up of more ‘rich men’ than normal ‘window shoppers’ at the mall.

The publisher who, according to the post seem to be gunning for fame chose June 12th to accomplish this, and that is the exact day the explosion went off at the mall.

Screenshots of the original post which has been deleted by the publisher. Photo: The Bloomgist

The post which has been deleted after the explosion at the mall was published on June 7th 2019, five days before the explosion.

More details soon.

Nairobi attack: gunmen in armed standoff with police

Anti-terrorist forces trying to regain control of complex seized amid explosions.

Police and anti-terrorist forces were battling to regain control of a Nairobi hotel and office complex as night fell, hours after it was attacked by Islamist extremist gunmen.

People flee the scene of the explosions. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

The assault on the dusitD2 compound in the Kenyan capital, which includes a luxury hotel, restaurants, a spa and several office buildings housing international companies, was the most spectacular by terrorists in the country for many years.

Sustained automatic gunfire and grenade explosions were heard as the gunmen rushed in and scores of people fled the scene.

There were reports that at least seven people had been killed and one suspect detained. At least 10 more were wounded, with local hospitals asking for blood donations. The death toll was expected to rise.

 

The attack was claimed by al-Shabaab, the militant Islamist organisation based in neighbouring Somalia, on its in-house radio network and online. Al-Shabaab was responsible for an attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall in 2013 that left at least 67 people dead.

People run for cover after being rescued from the Dusit Hotel on Jan. 15,

The alarm was raised at about 3pm on Tuesday when gunfire and explosions were heard at the hotel, in the upscale Westlands neighbourhood of the city. Dozens of ambulances, police vehicles and fire engines arrived at the scene as fleeing office workers filled the surrounding streets.

Witnesses said two cars had been driven at speed towards the hotel complex at about 3pm. One appeared to have been used to blast open its gates. Security personnel came under fire before gunmen entered the complex, initially targeting a bank and diners at a Thai restaurant.

As gunfire continued to be heard from the complex in the early evening, police officials said that special forces had cleared six of the hotel’s seven floors.

“We have made considerable progress in containing the situation. Various premises have been [secured] that had been taken over by armed criminals,” Kenya’s inspector general of police, Joseph Boinnet, told reporters.

Tuesday’s attack came exactly three years after a deadly al-Shabaab attack on a Kenyan military base in El-Adde in Somalia, where about 140 Kenyasoldiers were killed.

“Al-Shabaab mujahideen snipers are in operation in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. Our reports confirm that mujahideen fighters stormed the target building,” the al-Shabaab statement said.

Witnesses reported that the attackers were wearing military fatigues and wrapped in ammunition when they ran into the hotel.

People are evacuated from the compound in Nairobi. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

In the hours after the attack, the gunmen and security forces were engaged in a fierce firefight. Plumes of smoke rose into the air from several burning cars. “There was a bomb, there is a lot of gunfire,” said one man working at the complex, asking not to be named.

Others described office workers in the complex hiding under the desks or sheltering behind makeshift barricades. Hundreds were evacuated from nearby buildings.

Rashid Abdi, an expert in Islamic militancy in east Africa with the International Crisis Group in Nairobi, said al-Shabab was a versatile and patient organisation.

“It was always a matter of when not if. There has been some successes against al-Shabab in northern Kenya but if we have learned anything it is that al-Shabaab lulls security services into complacency. Months and years can go between attacks and then they strike.”

Though the Kenyan deployment in Somalia is one motive for al-Shabab’s attacks in Nairobi and elsewhere, the organisation is also committed to the broader causes of global jihadi ideology and sees the Kenyan capital as a key target.

Medics removed four bodies from buildings near the hotel , witnesses said. A medic said two more body bags were removed from another location nearby. One person died earlier at a hospital.

Kenya faced a spate of attacks after it sent its army into Somalia in October 2011 to fight al-Shabaab, which is affiliated to al-Qaida.

On 2 April 2015, al-Shabaab killed 148 people at a university in Garissa, eastern Kenya. Islamic State has a small presence in the Horn of Africa.

Nairobi is the economic hub of the east Africa region with a big presence of western companies, diplomats and tourists. Kenya has long been a significant security partner of the US and other western countries.

Authorities said they had been vigilant over the Christmas and New Year holiday season.

“Hotels and other public buildings remain under close watch. Reports from throughout the country indicate that everything remains calm and normal,” Boinnet told reporters.

Gunmen demand N70m for the release of abducted Ondo perm sec.

Gunmen kill 21 in Plateau state

Gunmen have shot dead at least 21 people in two attacks in central Nigeria’s Plateau state, officials have told me.

Gunmen demand N70m for the release of abducted Ondo perm sec.

Seven of the fatalities occurred when gunmen on foot opened fire indiscriminately on a small crowd of people near a bar and other shops in the town of Barkin Ladi on Wednesday night, local government chairman Barkin Ladi Dickson Chollom said.

Several other people were wounded.

The area has a history of ethnic and religious conflict but witnesses and the local authorities say both Christians and Muslims were among victims of the latest attack.

On Tuesday night, 14 people, including a policeman, were killed in Riyom area when suspected cattle herders attacked the village of Jol, local government chairman Emmanuel Danboyi Jugul told me.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the state in the past three months in a new wave of violence.

The state government believes the resurgence of the killings is politically motivated ahead of Nigeria’s general elections scheduled for February next year.

Somali villagers out to face al-Shabab in deadly clashes

Five people are known to have died in Somalia as villagers have fought back against al-Shabab’s demands for payments and new recruits.

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Local vigilantes are trying to evict al-Shabab militants from their village in the Adan Yabal district of the Middle Shabelle region, and claim to have killed at least four of their fighters. The militia commander was also killed.

They had requested military and logistics support from the Somali government but decided to take matters into their own hands.

Fighting between clan militias and the Islamists began over the weekend after al-Shabab ordered locals to make an annual payment known as Zakat, and to hand over their children as recruits.

Al-Shabab controls some parts of south and central Somalia where the government has not been able to penetrate.

This is thought to be one of the first examples of locals in the areas that al-Shabab controls fighting back in spite of the fear of reprisals.


Cover photo: Smoke drifted from burning vehicles following a suicide car bombing close to the presidential palace and a second blast near the security building. Photo: Times of Oman

Nigerian Military denies reports of deadly Islamist attack on army base

Conflicting accounts emerged on Monday of an attack by Islamists on the Nigerian military last week, with security sources saying as many as 48 soldiers had been killed but state media quoting an official army spokesman as saying such reports were wrong.

Nigerian Army says no Boko Haram Attack in Pulka
Nigerian Army


Thursday’s attack by suspected members of Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), on a base in Zari village in the north of Borno State, is the latest blow to Nigeria’s efforts to defeat Islamist insurgencies.

In 2016 ISWA split from Boko Haram, the jihadist group which has killed more than 30,000 people in the region since 2009, when it launched an insurgency to create an Islamic caliphate.

Military and security personnel who did not want to be named told Reuters on Saturday up to 30 soldiers had been killed in the Zari attack. Three such sources said late on Sunday and on Monday the known death toll of Nigerian troops had risen to 48.

Military spokesmen did not respond to phone calls and text messages from Reuters on Monday requesting comment.

Army spokesman Texas Chukwu told the state-run News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday there had been a firefight between troops and insurgents. But he called the reports of killings of soldiers a “figment of the imagination of the news agency”, without saying which news agency he meant.

Reports of killings of troops have been published by foreign news organisations including Reuters and by some Nigerian media.

“During the firefight, the overwhelming volume of fire was unleashed on the insurgents from both the air and ground troops, neutralising several of them and their weapons,” Chukwu told NAN. He did not specifically say that no government troops had been killed.

President Muhammadu Buhari, a former general, won the 2015 election after vowing to crush Islamist militants. He plans to seek a second term in February.

Buhari said on Sunday Boko Haram were no longer in Borno state and did not control any territory, according to a presidency statement.


SOURCE: This story was first published on New York Times, with additional reporting by Ahmed Kingimi in Maiduguri and Paul Carsten in Abuja; writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; editing by Andrew Roche.

Deadly blast in Burkina Faso, at least seven killed

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At least seven members of the security forces in Burkina Faso have been killed after their vehicle came under attack and then struck a roadside bomb in the east of the country.

The police officers and soldiers had been sent to reinforce the town of Pama after a police station there was recently attacked.

The vehicle was hit about 30km (18 miles) from the town of Fada N’Gourma.

It is not known who carried out this latest attack.

There have been several incidents in Burkina Faso in recent months which have been blamed on Islamist militants.


Cover photo: a view outside a scene of a recent bomb blast in Burina Faso. Photo: Bangkok Post

Top jihadist leader ‘killed in Mali’

A top jihadist leader from the Islamic State group’s West Africa affiliate has been killed in an airstrike in Mali, France’s military has said.

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Commandos deployed to the ground after the airstrike confirmed the death of Mohamed Ag Almouner and one of his bodyguards, the army statement said.

It regretted that a woman and a teenager had also been killed in the strike that took place overnight on Sunday into Monday, it said.

Almouner belonged to the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) group, the army said.

Military spokesman Col Patrik Steiger told the AFP news agency that Almouner had been “a lieutenant to the ISGS chief”.

According to AFP, ISGS is based on Mali’s border with Burkina Faso and is also active in Niger.

It is led by Adnan Abu Walid Sahrawi, who was formerly a member of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and also co-led Mujao, a Malian Islamist group, AFP said.

French troops are currently in Mali leading counter-terrorism operations.

France has encouraged five regional countries to contribute troops to the 5,000-strong G5 Sahel Joint Force to take on terror groups, drug smuggling and human trafficking across the Sahara.


Cover photo: The French army said their operation involved two Mirage 2000 aircraft. Photo: AFP

Deadly Jihadists are overrunning Nigeria troops, again

The news agency AFP stands by its report that a second jihadist attack on Nigerian troops in as many days was even more deadly and included an army base being overrun.

It adds that hundreds of troops are unaccounted for after the attack.

The Nigerian military’s dismissive response to this report is typical of its default stance of downplaying or denying losses.

It wants to be the sole source of news from the front line, and pits the media as purveyors of unfounded and unverified claims.

There have been genuine, laudable military successes in this campaign – but the force has also hurt its own credibility with some inaccurate or even untrue accounts.

It claims that residents of north-east Nigeria have nothing to fear, yet it restricts media access to certain parts of the region.

It wants journalists to trumpet its gains against what it considers a rag-tag militia – but also go silent on the continuing attacks on civilians and soldiers.

The Nigeria military describes its “gallant” troops as being in high spirits, yet for years we have had multiple accounts from those on the frontline complaining of being ill-equipped and even poorly fed.

Despite the much-repeated assertion of having defeated Islamist militant group Boko Haram, the insurgency is into its ninth year.

President Kabore urges public to cooperate with military after attacks

Burkina Faso President Roch Kabore urged the public Saturday to cooperate more closely with the country’s military, after an armed group carried out coordinated attacks on France’s embassy and cultural center and on the West African country’s military headquarters in the capital of Ouagadougou.

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Terrorist attack in Ouagadougou. Photo: L’Observateur Paalga


“I would like to encourage the population to reinforce collaboration with our defense and security forces in our common fight against terrorism,” he said in a speech on national television.

The Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) — also known as Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa’al- Muslimin (JNIM) in Arabic — on Saturday claimed responsibility for the attacks in a message cited by Mauritania’s Al-Akhbar news agency.

The group, a fusion of three Malian jihadist groups with previous al-Qaida links, have been behind several high-profile attacks against civilian and military forces since forming last year.

The government said eight soldiers were killed, as well as eight assailants — four at the embassy and four at military headquarters. Eighty others were wounded.

At the start of the Friday attacks, witnesses said, armed men got out of a car and opened fire on passers-by before heading to the embassy. An explosion occurred at about the same time near the military headquarters and the French cultural center about a kilometer from the embassy attack, witnesses said.

Aristide Voundi, a milkman who was near the army headquarters when the attack occurred, told VOA, “I heard a loud noise in that area, and I saw black smoke. My ears were buzzing. I got scared. I took off, and I saw people running. It was panic in the city.”

Homemaker Sanou Safiatou said she was in the city when she heard an explosion, which triggered a scramble for shelter. “We were really afraid,” and “the traffic was dense,” she said. “It was chaos.”

A prosecutor in Paris said an investigation had been launched into “attempted murder in relation to a terrorist enterprise.”

The city has been attacked at least twice in the past few years by Islamic extremists targeting foreigners.

Burkina Faso is among a number of vulnerable countries in the southern Sahara region that are fighting jihadist groups.


SOURCE: Voice of America

Terrorists attacked French embassy, killing 30: Here is how it happened

About 30 people were killed and 85 wounded in terrorist attacks on the French embassy and cultural centre in Burkina Faso and the west African country’s army headquarters on Friday.


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Black smoke rises as the capital of Burkina Faso came under multiple attacks. Photo: AHMED OUOBA/AFP

Most of the dead were Burkina Faso soldiers, killed as they defended the targets in the capital, Ouagadougou, supported by French forces. There were no French casualties, security sources in Paris said.

It was not immediately clear how many gunmen took part in what are believed to have been coordinated strikes described by Edouard Philippe, the French prime minister, as “a terrorist attack”. At least six assailants are known to have been killed.

The bloodshed began when five of the gunmen jumped out of a pickup truck in the city centre, shouted “Allahu Akhbar” (‘God is greatest’ in Arabic), set fire to the truck and opened fire on passers-by. They then ran towards the French embassy, according to witnesses who saw the attack from the state television offices facing the embassy.

Around the same time, at least one explosion occurred near the army headquarters and the French cultural centre, located about half a mile from the embassy.

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Witnesses said five armed men got out of a car and opened fire on passersby before heading towards the embassy. Photo: AHMED OUOBA/AFP

Moussa Korbeogo, a market trader, told the AP news agency that gunmen also arrived there in a pickup and started shooting at soldiers. “Some of the soldiers ran into a nearby bank to seek shelter. Several were killed outside and inside the premises,” he said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. A 2016 attack in the city was claimed by al-Qaeda which said it was a reprisal for Burkina Faso’s participation in a regional military campaign against Islamists. Thirty people including six Canadians and five Europeans were killed in a subsequent attack on a Ouagadougou restaurant last year.

France, the former colonial power, has deployed 4,000 troops to fight jihadists in the impoverished Sahel region on the southern rim of the Sahara alongside soldiers from Burkina Faso and four other west African countries. The UN also has a 12,000-strong peacekeeping force based in neighbouring Mali.

The Islamist insurgency has claimed thousands of lives and forced tens of thousands of people to flee from their homes.

Burkina Faso is notoriously unstable and its long-serving president was ousted in an uprising in 2014.

A video was released on Friday of a 75-year-old French woman abducted in Mali in 2016 and believed to be held by an al-Qaeda affiliate. Sophie Pétronin, an aid worker, appeared to be in poor health.

Speaking in Nice, Edouard Philippe, the French prime minister, said: “This was a terrorist attack and the French embassy was among the targets.”


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/Telegraph/and Agencies

How South Sudan Elites use country’s oil money to empower militia groups

South Sudan’s elite is using the country’s oil wealth to get rich and terrorize civilians, according to documents reviewed in an ongoing investigation by The Sentry, an investigative initiative co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast.

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Children look on questioningly as their colleague cries. The children are part of the many refugees at the Pagirinya Refugee settlement in Adjumani, near Uganda’s border with South Sudan. Photo: Edgar R Batte/Daily Monitor


Little has been known about the financial machinery that makes South Sudan’s continuing war possible, but documents obtained by The Sentry appear to shed new light on how the country’s main revenue source–oil–is used to fuel militias and ongoing atrocities, and how a small clique continues to get richer while the majority of South Sudanese suffer or flee their homeland because of the ongoing, devastating conflict.

The war in South Sudan, which has featured the use of child soldiers, rape as a weapon of war, and mass atrocities, has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and has left more than 4 million people displaced.

J.R. Mailey, Special Investigations Director at The Sentry, said: “South Sudan’s leaders should be using South Sudan’s natural resources to benefit the population–but the documents we have obtained indicate that they have used the country’s oil to buy weapons, fund deadly militias, and hire companies owned by political insiders to support military operations that have resulted in horrific atrocities and war crimes.”

John Prendergast, Co-founder of The Sentry and Founding Director of the Enough Project, said: “Our investigation indicates that members of South Sudan’s ruling clique appear to be profiting from the war itself. In order to build the leverage needed for peace, the international community should target the assets of those responsible for continued violence and deny them from accessing the international banking system.

The long-term, ongoing investigation by The Sentry will continue to reveal and detail further findings in coming months.

The documents reviewed by The Sentry purport to describe how funds from South Sudan’s state oil company, Nile Petroleum Corporation (Nilepet), helped fund militias responsible for horrific acts of violence.

One key document, part of a collection of material provided to The Sentry by an anonymous source, appears to be an internal log kept by South Sudan’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mining detailing security-related payments made by Nilepet. The document titled, “Security Expenses Summary from Nilepet as from March 2014 to Date” (“the Summary”) lists a total of 84 transactions spanning a 15-month period beginning in March 2014 and ending in June 2015.

Key Information Contained in the Documents:

More than $80 million was recorded as paid to South Sudanese politicians, military officials, government agencies, and companies owned by politicians and members of their families who were, according to the Summary, paid for services such as military transport and logistics to forces implicated in atrocities.

South Sudan’s petroleum ministry assisted in the provision of food, fuel, satellite phone airtime and money to a group of militias in Upper Nile state, according to the Summary. The militias are reportedly responsible for destroying villages and attacks against civilians, including a February 2016 attack against civilians at a U.N. site in Malakal that left dozens dead.

Interstate Airways, partially owned by South Sudan First Lady Mary Ayen Mayardit, reportedly received six payments beginning in April 2014 for army logistics and transportation of military hardware.

Nile Basin for Aviation, a little-known airline owned by family members of top military and government officials–including the wife of former military chief of staff Paul Malong and a nephew of then-petroleum minister and current Minister of Finance and Planning Stephen Dhieu Dau–is identified in the Summary as receiving payments from Nilepet in early 2015 for military logistics operations.

According to the Summary, Crown Auto Trade, a Toyota dealership with a majority owner–Obac William Olawo–who is a prominent South Sudanese businessman, received over $8 million in payments from Nilepet in 2014 alone for activities ranging from supplying vehicles to importing armored personnel carriers and transporting tanks and supplies. A report by Control Arms, a research and advocacy group, stated that the type of armored personnel carriers described in the Summary were “observed in different locations within South Sudan between May and December 2014, including in areas of Unity State where the conflict has been intense.” In an interview with The Sentry, Olawo denied that any of his companies have ever been involved in transporting troops, weapons, or equipment for the military. He said that the documents and reports suggesting as much may be confusing his company with “Sierra” an operation connected to Erik Prince, who he said is one of his business partners.

There are indeed two payments recorded in the Summary that mention Prince’s company, Frontier Services Group, in connection with “Project Sierra.” Two $16.4 million payments were recorded as paid in July and October 2014, labeled “Air Logistics & Support Services… (Project Sierra, Frontier Services Group).” Olawo described Sierra as an air cargo operation for the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the National Security Service. In April 2016, The Intercept reported that FSG had attempted to provide attack aircraft to the Government of South Sudan in addition to other defense-related services. Representatives from FSG have previously denied doing business with South Sudan’s military but did not respond to questions about the payments described in the Nilepet security expenses summary.

The Summary also lists Golden Wings Aviation–another company owned by Olawo–alongside several other companies in connection with a $4,250,802 payment dated June 1, 2015, labeled “payment for army logistics operation.” The company is also mentioned by the U.N. Panel of Experts on South Sudan as having transported weapons to Unity state on several occasions during a period of particularly horrific violence in 2014 and 2015.

The Sentry recommends the following steps in order to expand financial pressure to hold companies and individuals to account:

Target the Networks Behind Violence: The United States, European Union, and others in the international community should investigate the top officials who have played a role in military operations that have resulted in atrocities and, where appropriate, impose network-focused sanctions on them, their business associates and facilitators, and the companies they own or control.

Impose Sectoral Sanctions: The use of sanctions related to the oil sector should also expand beyond designations of key officials and their companies. Given the ubiquitous use of the U.S. dollar in the oil sector, such a measure could have a strong impact.

Banks and Financial Regulators Have a Key Role: Banks and financial regulators should step up efforts to halt the flow of illicit funds out of South Sudan. Banks found to be connected to be money laundering may incur heavy penalties and be subject to other law enforcement measures. The Sentry will continue to investigate these issues and raise appropriate findings to relevant authorities.

South Sudan’s Neighbors Must Escalate Financial Pressure, or Risk Damage to Their Own Financial Systems: Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda have been reluctant to enforce and escalate international political and financial pressures. There are numerous opportunities for the international community–including U.S. and European governments and financial institutions–to encourage South Sudan’s neighbors to increase pressure on those responsible for South Sudan’s civil war.

About THE SENTRY

The Sentry is composed of best-in-class financial forensic investigators, policy analysts, and regional experts who follow the dirty money and build investigative cases focusing on the corrupt transnational networks most responsible for Africa’s deadliest conflicts. By creating a significant financial cost to these kleptocrats through network sanctions, anti-money laundering measures, prosecutions, and other tools, The Sentry aims to disrupt the profit incentives for mass atrocities and oppression, and creates new leverage in support of peace efforts and African frontline human rights defenders. The Sentry’s partner, the Enough Project, undertakes high-level advocacy with policy-makers around the world as well as wide-reaching education campaigns by mobilizing students, faith-based groups, celebrities, and others. Co-founded by George Clooney and John Prendergast, The Sentry is an initiative of Not On Our Watch (NOOW) and the Enough Project. The Sentry currently focuses its work in South Sudan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and the Central African Republic.

In less than two years, The Sentry has created hard-hitting reports and converted extensive research into a large volume of dossiers on individuals and entities connected to grand corruption, violence, or serious human rights abuses. The investigative team has turned those dossiers over to government regulatory and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and around the world, as well as to compliance officers at the world’s largest banks.

Boko Haram abducts Nigerian schoolgirls: all we know so far

Dozens of girls abducted from their school by fighters from the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram may still be unaccounted for, in a chilling repetition of the notorious 2014 kidnapping of the Chibok girls.

Heavily armed insurgents attacked the village of Dapchi on Monday evening in camouflaged trucks, according to witnesses, heading directly for the school and shooting as they went, scattering pupils and teachers.

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Boko Haram attacks Dapchi, fear students may have been abducted

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It is unclear whether or not the military subsequently staged a rescue mission, and accounts of the girls’ whereabouts by officials and family members vary wildly.

Many rescued, many not found: Not sure

Several parents and a government official told Reuters on Wednesday that the Nigerian military rescued 76 schoolgirls and recovered the bodies of two that were killed, leaving 13 missing, but around the same time, the local government of Yobe state, where the incident took place, released a statement saying 50 remained unaccounted for.

On Thursday, however, Reuters reported that the governor of Yobe had told residents of Dapchi that no missing girls had been rescued, according to four of those who heard the official speak. Meanwhile a parent from the school told the Associated Press that a list had been compiled of 101 missing children.

“I have directed the military and police to mobilise immediately to ensure that all the missing girls … are found,” Muhammadu Buhari posted on Wednesday night, two days after the attack. “I share the anguish of all the parents and guardians of the girls that remain unaccounted for.”

Nigerian govt not sure of true situation

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, on Thursday said the Nigerian government would need more time to assess the situation around the community where some schoolgirls were reportedly kidnapped in Yobe State on Monday.

“On the issue of the number of missing girls, we cannot give what we are not sure of, until we hear from their parents, we cannot say this is the number,” Mr. Mohammed told reporters shortly after he arrived at Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Thursday afternoon. “Give us a few more time please”.

Mr. Mohammed was amongst the three ministers that President Muhammadu Buhari asked on Wednesday to embark on an immediate fact-finding missionto the state.

Mr. Mohammed’s comments that the Buhari administration cannot immediately give any details about the situation came a day after the state government said some of the kidnapped girls have been rescued and handed over to the Nigerian Army.

But that account now seems to be in dispute, as the Defence Headquarters said the alleged rescue could not be confirmed.

“We cannot confirm” the statement by Yobe State that some of the girls have been rescued, Defence spokesperson, John Agim, told PREMIUM TIMES Thursday morning.

Similarly, a federal lawmaker who represents the community said the report that girls were kidnapped was untrue.

“The military did not rescue any girls yesterday as being reported in the media,” Goni Bukar, the lawmaker representing Bursari/Geidam/Yunusari federal constituency, told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Thursday afternoon.

“I am currently speaking with you from the school and I stand here with the governor and other top military officials, I can tell you that no girls were rescued,” he added. “We have only been able to locate some girls in one or two batches at different places.”

A PREMIUM TIMES reporter arrived in Dapchi, about 100 kilometres from Damaturu, the state capital, Thursday afternoon.

Mr. Mohammed arrived at the community with Khadijat Bukar-Ibrahim, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.

Governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Geidam, was on ground to receive the team. The Theatre Commander, Operations Lafiya Dole, Rogers Nicholas, a major-general, was also on the scene.

The minister and his entourage were briefed by the governor and the General Officer Commanding 3 Division, Damaturu.

Shortly after the briefing, Mr. Mohammed told reporters that he was delegated by the president to visit the attacked community and commiserate with the victims.

He said his delegation which also includes a representative of the minister of defence, was also to find out the true situation about the missing schoolgirls.

On the issue of the missing students, the minister said it is still too early to determine their whereabouts.

“We are still monitoring the situation and what I want people to understand is that since two days ago some of the students who fled to neighbouring towns and communities had returned and more have been returning.

“When we arrived here we have been briefed by the governor and the GOC about the situation of the students. We know there are few students who are yet accounted for, but we don’t want to manufacture stories on this issue. But give us few days, we will be able to tell you exactly the real situation of things.

“But you can see response of the military, the response of the state government is quite commendable. Since four days now we have been following the efforts being made to arrest the situation,” he said.

He lampooned the Boko Haram and said the sect only attacked the school because it is in its dying days and craving media attention.

“But we must understand that these are they dying days of the Boko Haram and what they intend to do is to embarrass the government because they have been degraded, they have been pushed out of Sambisa forest.

“They have been starved out of oxygen and the oxygen they feed on is publicity so that they can grab the world’s attention. But I can assure you that with the determination of our gallant military, the days of Boko Haram are numbered.”


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/The Guardian, UK/Premium Times/Reuters

Al least 35 people killed by ‘armed bandits’ in Nigeria

At least 35 villagers have been killed this week by suspected armed bandits in north-western Nigeria.

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Women mourning after a bandit attack in Zamfara in 2013. Photo


Witnesses say the motorcycle-riding bandits first intercepted a vehicle taking traders to a community market Zamfara State.

They then slit the throat of the driver before opening fire on the vehicle – killing all on board and then set it ablaze.

Next, they targeted the market itself.

The armed bandits then proceeded to the market and started shooting indiscriminately, killing at least one more person.

Police were unable to give exact figures for the dead and injured in the attacks, which is suspected to be the work of cattle thieves.

It would not be the first time the state’s communities have been attacked by alleged cattle thieves.

Last November, at least 24 people were killed and dozens of residential houses torched in attacks on about three communities in another part of the state.

Shabaab insurgents forcing civilians to hand over children

Shabaab insurgents forcing civilians to hand over children

Somalia’s Al-Qaeda linked Shabaab insurgents are increasingly threatening civilians and forcing them to hand over young children for “indoctrination and military training”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Monday.

Shabaab insurgents forcing civilians to hand over children
This file photo taken on October 15, 2017 shows the scene of a Shabaab bomb attack in Mogadishu. HRW says Al-Shabaab is threatening and forcing civilians to hand over children for indoctrination and military training. PHOTO | MOHAMED ABDIWAHAB | AFP

The rights watchdog said an aggressive campaign to recruit children had begun in mid-2017, with the jihadists taking reprisals against communities who refuse to cooperate.

Threats

Hundreds of children have fled their homes to avoid this fate, often alone, it said in a statement.

“Al-Shabaab’s ruthless recruitment campaign is taking rural children from their parents so they can serve this militant armed group,” said Laetitia Bader, senior Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.

The practice was revealed to be taking place in three districts largely under Shabaab control, in the southern Bay region.

According to HRW, Al-Shabaab has opened large Islamic religious schools since 2015 in areas under their control, bringing in younger children and pressuring teachers to teach the Shabaab curriculum in schools and avoid “foreign teachings”.

Indoctrination

Village elders near Baidoa in southwestern Somalia told HRW that in September, Shabaab militants ordered them to hand over dozens of children between the ages of nine and 15.

“They said we needed to support their fight. They spoke to us in a very threatening manner. They also said they wanted the keys to our boreholes. They kept us for three days. We said we needed to consult with our community. They gave us 10 days,” one resident told HRW.

The community refused to hand over the children, and has since received threatening calls including death threats.

That same month residents of Burkhaba District said Shabaab fighters had forcibly taken at least 50 boys and girls from two schools to a village called Bulo Fulay, reported to host a “number of religious schools and a major training facility”.

A large group of Shabaab militants returned two weeks later to another local school and threatened the teacher who refused to hand over the children, said HRW.

“They wanted 25 children ages eight to 15,” the teacher told HRW.

“They didn’t say why, but we know that it’s because they want to indoctrinate them and then recruit them.”

Abductions

In Berdale District — also in the Bay region — Shabaab has abducted elders who refuse to hand over children in at least four villages, said the statement.

According to HRW, hundreds of often unaccompanied children have fled their homes since the recruitment campaign began.

The watchdog said that while the government had taken some steps to protect schools and students, it should work to identify recruitment drives, assist displaced children and ensure children “are not sent into harm’s way.”

The Shabaab has been fighting to overthrow successive internationally backed governments in Mogadishu since 2007 and frequently deploys car and truck bombs against military, government and civilian targets.

The Shabaab lost its foothold in the capital in 2011 but still controls vast rural areas.


SOURCE: Daily Nation, Kenya

Abubakar Shekau

Abubakar Shekau releases new video, mocks Buhari, Jonathan and Buratai

Days after troops in the northeast were given 40 days to get Abubakar Shekau alive, the leader of a faction of the Boko Haram terrorist group has released a video.

Abubakar Shekau
Abubakar Shekau. Photo: The Cable

In the video, Shekau reportedly mocked President Muhammadu Buhari and his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan.

Shekau also mocked the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Tukur Buratai, who issued the order to get Shekau within 40 days.

Shekau, who is currently being searched for by troops, mostly spoke in Arabic language in the video.

Ngerian military has reportedly declared that it has enough evidence that Abu Shekau, the leader of a faction of the Boko Haram terrorist sect, is dead.

The report quoted The New Telegraph as saying that the military headquarters however added that there seems to be many Shekaus in existence.

The report said John Enenche, defence spokesperson, who spoke with Osasu Igbinedion on The Osasu Show, said though Boko Haram has been defeated; there cannot be total peace in the north-east.

DSS uncover Terrorists plans to attack strategic areas ahead of Eid-el-Fitr celebration

The Department of State Services (DSS) said it had exposed a plan by suspected terrorists to stage series of coordinated attacks using explosives in different cities across the country during the Eid-el-Fitr celebration.

Boko Haram 2

According to Punch, the suspected terrorists’ plan was to hit populated places like markets, public parks, public processions, recreation centres, as well worship areas.

The DSS said that the plan by the suspected terrorists was to attack Kano, Sokoto, Kaduna and Maiduguri.

A director with the agency, Nnana Nnochiri, who briefed journalists in Abuja on Friday, however, said Nigerians should not worry and go about their activities as usual.

Nnochiri said, “In the past few weeks, this service has uncovered a sinister plot by terrorist elements to stage series of coordinated attacks using explosives on different cities across the country.

“Their aim was to hit on soft targets such as markets, public parks, public processions, recreation centres, as well as worship centres especially the Eid Praying grounds and other densely populated areas during the forthcoming Eid-el-Fitr Sallah celebrations.”

Consequently, Nnochiri said that the service had arrested two suspects in connection with the foiled planned attacks.

More female children will be used as suicide bombers in West Africa in 2017

More female children will be used as suicide bombers in West Africa in 2017

Female suicide bombers, many of them young girls, in West Africa in 2017 has significantly risen compared to 2016 according to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) report

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UNICEF documented 27 young girls used in suicide attacks already in 2017, 30 in 2016, 56 in 2015, and just four in 2014. This largely confirms the trends compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal.

According to Long War Journal data, there were at least 80 female suicide bombers used in 2015. In 2014, there only 15 females, most of which were adult women.

Since June 2014, at least 151 women and girls have been used in subsequent attacks the report says. The overwhelming majority of these assaults have occurred in Nigeria, while at least 14 has occurred in Cameroon, three in Chad, and one in Niger.

This year Boko Haram militants have used at least 27 children to carry out suicide bombing attacks in the first three months in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon, the reports says.

This marks a major increase — 30 children were used in bombings for all of 2016 in those four countries, where Boko Haram is active.

The horrifying pattern is a sign of shifting strategy for Boko Haram, now waging its eighth year of conflict. “The insurgency has changed its tactics over the course of the conflict, from holding towns and territory to a guerrilla-style insurgency that uses hit and run attacks and improvised explosive devices,” UNICEF says.

That shift is clear in the numbers: Four were used in suicide attacks in 2014, 56 in 2015, and 30 in 2016.

It’s enabled by the militants’ systemic kidnapping of thousands of children, most famously the more than 270 schoolgirls taken from the town of Chibok, Nigeria, three years ago. Girls in particular are subjected to forced marriage and repeated rape.

“This is the worst possible use of children in conflict,” UNICEF’s regional director for West and Central Africa, Marie-Pierre Poirier, said in a statement. “These children are victims, not perpetrators, forcing or deceiving them into committing such horrific acts is reprehensible.”

It is not clear that all of the children who have carried out attacks are cognizant of what they were doing, the report states.

There are also major concerns about how the uptick in attacks impacts the way other children who return after being abducted by Boko Haram are viewed by their communities, making reintegration more difficult. “Girls, boys and even infants have been viewed with increasing fear at markets and checkpoints, where they are thought to carry explosives,” UNICEF says.

The organization published testimony from “Amina” from Chad, who was 16 when she got married, only to find out later that her new husband was a Boko Haram militant. Here’s more:

“After being manipulated and drugged, she was forced into an attempted suicide attack. Four people including Amina were on a canoe riding towards a weekly crowded market. The four girls carried bombs that were strapped to their bodies. When a Vigilante Committee spotted them on the canoe, two of them activated their explosive belt. Amina didn’t activate her device but she was injured in the explosion. She lost both her legs.

However Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari vowed in Sambisa Forest during the 2017 Nigerian Army Small Arms Championship (NASAC), that never again will terrorists take over and occupy any part of Nigeria’s territory.

Represented by the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, Buhari noted that his government is resolved to stamp out all activities and operations of the Boko Haram insurgents from Nigeria.

This year alone Al Qaeda’s group has been linked to over 100 attacks in West Africa. Most of the attacks so far  have occurred in Mali, majorly in the northern part of the country.

US drops largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan

US forces drops largest non-nuclear bomb on ISIS in Afghanistan

Reports reaching Bloomgist has it that the US military has dropped an enormous bomb in Afghanistan, according to four US military officials with direct knowledge of the mission.

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They said the target with the MOAB was ISIS tunnels and personnel in the Achin district of the Nangarhar province.

A GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb, nicknamed MOAB, was dropped at 7 p.m. local time Thursday, the sources said.

The MOAB is also known as the “mother of all bombs.” A MOAB is a 21,600-pound, GPS-guided munition that is America’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb.

According to reports. the bomb was dropped by an MC-130 aircraft, operated by Air Force Special Operations Command, according to the military sources.

A Bloomgist Contributor in Alaska, USA. Somto Benedict, who is currently tracking the story, said that the target was ISIS tunnels and personnel in the Achin district of the Nangarhar province.

The military is currently assessing the damage.

Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, signed off on the use of the bomb, according to the sources.

This is the first time a MOAB has been used in the battlefield, according to the US officials. This munition was developed during the Iraq War.


WATCH: Thousands take to the streets as Zuma divides South Africa


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/CNN/The Cable/Richard Cyoung

Egypt: 22 comfirmed dead, dozens injured in explosion inside church

Egypt: 34 comfirmed dead, hundreds injured in explosion inside church

At least 34 were killed and 100 injured in an explosion inside a church in the Egyptian Nile delta city of Tanta on Sunday, Egyptian Health Ministry confirmed.

Egypt: 22 comfirmed dead, dozens injured in explosion inside church


An explosive device believed to have been planted in the church detonated killing worshipers who were marking Palm Sunday, state-run media reported.

The blast occurred hours after a bombing rocked a Coptic church in Tanta in Egypt’s Nile Delta, killing at least 34 people and injuring 100.


Bloomgist Notes:

  • The Interior Ministry says the blast was suicide bombing.
  • Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the bombing.
  • The death toll is expected to rise,

This is the second major attack on a church after the bombing at Cairo’s largest Coptic cathedral killed at least 25 people and wounded 49 in December, many of them women and children, in the deadliest attack on Egypt’s Christian minority in years.

Isis claims responsibility

Isis claimed responsibility for two bomb blasts which struck Coptic churches inEgypt on Sunday, killing at least 47 members of the country’s largest religious minority as they celebrated Palm Sunday.

The bombings were the latest in a series of assaults attacks on Egypt’s Christian minority, who account for about 10% of the population and have been repeatedly targeted by Islamic extremists. The attacks on Palm Sunday worshippers comes weeks before Pope Francis is due to visit Egypt.

Video from the moment the blast struck the Mar Girgis church in Tanta just before 10am on Sunday showed the sounds of a choir gathered to sing hymns celebrating the Christian holy day, rapidly turning to screams of anguish and panic. Egypt’s state television later reported that a bomb planted under one of the pews ripped through the church.

“As I was passing by the Church, I heard a huge blast – I’d never heard a sound like this,” said Salah el Arby, a taxi driver in the town of Tanta. “People began running out of the church – shouting and afraid.”

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2017/04/egypt-bombs/giv-3902X3pNsUbw7tUm/

“I believe this attack was the fault of the security forces,” he continued, citing a bomb previously diffused by police at Mar Girgis church in the town on the 29 March. “The police didn’t protect the church on an important day like today.”

Terrorists involved

A local Isis affiliate group claimed a suicide bombing at a church in Cairo in December that killed around 30 people, mostly women, as well as a string of killings in the restive Sinai Peninsula that caused hundreds of Christians to flee to safer areas of the country.

The Sinai-based Isis affiliate has mainly attacked police and soldiers, but has also claimed bombings that killed civilians, including the downing of a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai in 2015, which killed all 224 people on board and devastated Egypt’s tourism industry.


Additional reporting by agencies / Photo Credit: Adel El-Adawy

SOURCE: The Bloomgist

DSS arrests Boko Haram ‘kingpin’ in Ekiti

A suspected Boko Haram kingpin, Adenoyi Abdulsalam, has been arrested by a joint team of the Department of State Services and the military in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti state.

DSS 4


A statement issued on Wednesday by an operative of the service, Tony Opuiyo, said that an Ak-47 rifle was recovered from the suspect who is presently undergoing investigation.

Opuiyo added that the suspect was in the final stages of kidnapping some high-level targets in Ekiti to raise funds and terrorise communities in the state.

He said that a Boko Haram suspect, Usman Rawa, 29, a.k.a Mr X, was also arrested in Lafia, Nasarawa state capital, on March 17.

Opuiyo said Rawa rented an accommodation in Lafia for one Abdullahi Isa, who was known for his “notorious terrorist” activities.

“His plan is to establish an effective base to conduct terrorism, kidnapping and robbery operations in Abuja, Minna, and other adjoining States,” he said.

He said that the service had also arrested a suspected Boko Haram top commander, Nasiru Sani, a.k.a Osama, in Bauchi on March 15.

The operative said that Sani escaped from Bauchi central prison in October 2010 and hid in Maiduguri, Borno state.

Opuiyo said in continuation of the service crackdown on insurgents, it arrested a suspect, Adamu Jibrin, at Jeka-da-Fari Market in Gombe on March 13.

He said the suspect who operated under the pseudo name of Dantata Sule, served as a middleman for Boko Haram members and their commanders.

He said the suspect had affirmed his membership of the sect.

Opuiyo said in sustaining its operation, the service had arrested a suspected Boko Haram commander and food supplier, Ibrahim Fulata, and three of his associates in Dustsen Tanshi area of Bauchi state on February 28.

He said the suspects were being questioned to establish other possible members of the network.

Opuiyo added that the service had also arrested Boko Haram suspects in Kano, Kogi and Yobe.

He attributed the successes recorded to the cooperation and support of Nigerians who volunteered useful information to the service.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/The Cable

Nigeria Customs intercepts ‘dangerous’ arms hidden in cars imported from the U.S

Customs intercepts arms shipped to Nigeria through a container meant to be offloaded in Tin-can, Lagos Continue reading “Nigeria Customs intercepts ‘dangerous’ arms hidden in cars imported from the U.S”

Russian ambassador to Turkey shot dead in Ankara

  • Gunman was police officer Mevlut Mert Altıntas
  • Attacker shouted ‘Don’t forget Aleppo’ after opening fire on ambassador
  • Putin says ‘provocation’ aimed at sabotaging Russo-Turkish relations

The Russian ambassador to Turkey has been shot dead by a police officer who shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo” as he pulled the trigger.

Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov
The Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov, shot in the art gallery in Ankara. Photo: Business Insider


The chilling attack on Monday evening, which was captured on video, appeared to be a backlash against Russian military involvement in the Syrian civil war.

Andrei Karlov was attacked at the opening of an art exhibition in Ankara by a man believed to be an off-duty Turkish police officer. Karlov was several minutes into a speech when he was shot. Footage of the attack showed a man dressed in a suit and tie standing calmly behind the ambassador. He then pulled out a gun, shouted “Allahu Akbar” and fired at least eight shots.

After firing at the ambassador, the man shouted in Turkish: “Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria. Unless our towns are secure, you won’t enjoy security. Only death can take me from here. Everyone who is involved in this suffering will pay a price.”

The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, called the killing a “provocation” aimed at sabotaging a rapprochement between Moscow and Ankara and attempts to resolve the conflict in Syria.

“The crime that was committed is without doubt a provocation aimed at disrupting the normalisation of Russian-Turkish relations and disrupting the peace process in Syria that is being actively advanced by Russia, Turkey and Iran,” he said in televised comments.

Putin said: “There can be only one answer to this – stepping up the fight against terrorism, and the bandits will feel this.”

Putin said that Russian officials would be dispatched to Ankara to investigate the killing. “We have to know who directed the hand of the killer,” he said.



His comments were echoed by Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov who said, following a phone call with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusgolu, that those behind the shooting “were seeking to derail the process of normalising Russia-Turkey ties primarily with a goal to prevent an efficient fight against terrorism in Syria.”

Lavrov will meet with the foreign ministers of Iran and Turkey later on Tuesday to discuss Syria.

The attacker was killed by Turkish special forces after they surrounded the gallery. Photographs from the aftermath appeared to show him lying dead on the floor. Three other people were wounded.

The gunman gestures after shooting Karlov.
The gunman gestures after shooting Karlov. Photograph: Burhan Ozbilici/AP

Local media outlets said security guards at the scene had told them that the killer showed a police ID to enter the gallery. The Turkish interior ministry named the attacker as Mevlut Mert Altıntas, an officer in Ankara’s riot police squad, who was born in 1994 in Aydin and graduated from Izmir police academy.

The shooter’s family home in the western province of Aydin was later searched and his mother, father and sister were detained, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency. . Altıntas’s house in Ankara was raided and his roommate, also a police officer, was also taken into custody, it said.

“It has saddened us and our people. I offer my condolences to the Russian federation and the Russian people,” Suleyman Soylu, the Turkish interior minster, told reporters.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, called Putin on Monday evening to brief him on the attack.

The Russian president cancelled a planned trip to the theatre on Monday evening and called an urgent meeting with his foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and the heads of the security services.

In a bizarre coincidence, Putin had planned to see the play Woe from Wit, written by the poet and diplomat Alexander Griboyedov, who was murdered by a mob when ambassador to Tehran in 1829.

Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign relations committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said: “A tragedy of this scale has not happened since the time of Griboyedov. There have been attacks on our Russian and Soviet diplomats, but not something this dramatic.”

Kosachev said the repercussions of the killing on Russian-Turkish relations would depend on the details of the incident: “It could have been a planned terrorist attack by extremists or it could be the work of a lone maniac. After we know, we’ll be able to understand how this will affect Russian-Turkish relations.”

Kosachev’s counterpart in the lower house, Alexey Pushkov, said Karlov’s death was “a result of political and media hysteria around Aleppo sown by the enemies of Russia”.

Turkish security officials and Erdoğan supporters have alleged that the gunman was linked to the exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom they accuse of orchestrating a failed coup in July. A spokesman for Gülen described the accusation as “laughable” and told Reuters that it was intended to cover up for lax security.

Later on Monday a gunman had attempted to enter the US embassy in Ankara and fired eight shots into the air. The man was overpowered by security guards and taken into custody by police. No one was hurt in the incident. The embassy said its missions in Ankara, Istanbul and the southern city of Adana would be “closed for normal operations on Tuesday.”

Internationally, the killing of Karlov throws into doubt the ongoing evacuation deal for civilians in besieged east Aleppo, an agreement that was brokered by Turkey and Russia. A source with knowledge of the negotiations said Moscow was the main reason the deal did not fall apart over the weekend, despite the objections of Iranian and jihadi interlocutors.

The ambassador had been part of discussions with Turkey that led to an evacuation of east Aleppo getting under way late last week. Russia and Iran engineered the deal allowing civilians and rebel fighters in Aleppo to be evacuated, with Turkey acting as the brokers for the Syrian opposition in the discussion.

The attack comes the day before the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, is due in Moscow for Syria talks with his Russian and Iranian counterparts. In the weeks running up to the fall of east Aleppo, the Russians, Turks and Iranians have increasingly been working together on Syria’s future, to the exclusion of western powers, including the US, as well as the Gulf states, normally the sponsors of the Syrian opposition.

Many Syrian opposition figures fear they will be marginalised by the Putin initiative and his new triumvirate.

In his time as ambassador, Karlov presided over a rocky period in Russo-Turkish relations. When Turkey shot down a Russian fighter plane in November 2015, Moscow responded furiously, with Putin calling it “a stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorists”.

Turkish police secure the area near the art gallery.
Turkish police secure the area near the art gallery. Photograph: Umit Bektas/Reuters

Earlier this year, the pair reconciled, after Erdoğan wrote a letter of apology to Putin. The two leaders met at a summit in August amid a distinct thaw in relations and in what resembles a loose anti-western alliance.

Kosachev, who knew Karlov personally, said: “The Turkish period in his career saw fantastic highs and lows. Everyone was hoping for another high.”

However, Russian actions in Syria have angered many Turks. In recent days, protests in Istanbul against Russian involvement in Syria and Aleppo, including a demonstration in front of the Russian consulate on the city’s famed İstiklal Avenue, have occurred on a regular basis. The protests have often had a significant Islamist contingent.

The assassination of the Russian ambassador, and the security lapse that allowed it to happen, will anger Putin but, in the medium term, it is possible that the two leaders could unite in an anti-terror alliance.

Karlov was a career diplomat who had previously served as ambassador to North Korea. The British ambassador to Turkey, Richard Moore, described him as a “quietly spoken, hospitable professional”.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/The Guardian/Business Insider

Egypt President Sisi names bomber of Cairo Coptic Christian church

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has said a suicide bomber carried out the attack Continue reading “Egypt President Sisi names bomber of Cairo Coptic Christian church”

Two Nigerian ‘young girls’ used as human bombs

Two girls said to be aged seven or eight have been used to bomb a market in north-east Nigeria, killing at least one other person and wounding 18.

scene of Boko Haram bomb Attack in Nigeria
File photo: scene of Boko Haram bomb Attack in Nigeria


Police in the town of Maiduguri, Borno state, say the attack happened when the market was crowded with shoppers.

The girls detonated their explosives minutes apart, witnesses said. Both were killed.

No group has said it was behind the bombings but Boko Haram militants have carried out similar attacks.

In the past few months, the Nigerian army has made gains against the group but it still carries out regular bombings.



 

A member of a militia in Maiduguri, Abdulkarim Jabo, told media the girls were aged about seven or eight and had arrived at the market in a rickshaw.

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“They got out of a rickshaw and walked right in front of me without showing the slightest sign of emotion,” he said.

“I tried to speak with one of them, in Hausa and in English, but [they] didn’t answer. I thought they were looking for their mother.”

He said the first girl had headed towards a market stall and then detonated her belt of explosives.

Militants have carried out a string of deadly attacks in north-east Nigeria in recent weeks.

On Friday, a double suicide attack carried out by female bombers killed at least 45 people and wounded 33 at a marketplace in the town of Madagali.

In October, female suicide bombers also killed 17 people at a camp for displaced people in Maiduguri.


Boko Haram

  • Founded in 2002, initially focused on opposing Western-style education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Launched military operations in 2009
  • Has killed thousands, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, and abducted hundreds, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Joined so-called Islamic State, now calls itself IS’s “West African province”
  • Seized large area in north-east, where it declared caliphate
  • Regional force has retaken most territory since last year

SOURCE: The Bloomgist/BBC/Abuja Today

Regional force clashes with Boko Haram fighters

A regional force fighting against Boko Haram has captured Mallam Fatori town in Nigeria’s north-eastern Borno State, with several of the militant Islamists killed, a Nigerian military statement has said. 

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It added that the militants had retreated and were consolidating their positions near the Niger border. 

The Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) is made up of soldiers from Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin.



For its part, Boko Haram said in a statement posted on social media that it had killed at least 40 soldiers and wounded “tens of others”  in the fighting, AFP news agency quotes the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant acrivity, as saying. 


SOURCE: The Bloomgist

New York police officers guard Herald Square after Saturday night’s explosion in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan

New York/New Jersey explosion: all we know

Breakdown of key events after discovery of five suspicious devices in New Jersey and Saturday night’s explosion in Manhattan

New York police officers guard Herald Square after Saturday night’s explosion in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan
New York police officers guard Herald Square after Saturday night’s explosion in the Chelsea neighbourhood of Manhattan. Photograph: Getty


There have been fast-moving developments after Saturday night’s explosion in Manhattan. Here is a breakdown of the latest key events:

  • Five suspicious devices have been found in a backpack in a bin near Elizabeth station in New Jersey.
  • One exploded as a bomb squad robot tried to disarm it, the local mayor, Christian Bollwage, said, according to Associated Press.
  • The FBI and police were attempting to disarm the other devices, he was reported as saying.
  • Train services on the New Jersey transit system were suspended in both directions from Elizabeth.
  • The explosive device that injured 29 people in West 23rd Street in Manhattanon Saturday and the unexploded device found nearby were made from pressure cookers, a mobile phone and Christmas lights, law enforcement sources told the New York Times.
  • An explosive called Tannerite, which is used in target practice and is readily available in sporting goods stores, was the explosive element used in the West 23rd Street device, federal officials said. It was also suspected to have been used in the unexploded device.
  • Investigators are looking at links between the incidents and the pipe bomb that exploded in New Jersey on Saturday.
  • On Sunday night, FBI agents stopped “a vehicle of interest in the investigation” into the Manhattan explosion, according to an FBI spokeswoman, Kelly Langmesser. A government official and a law enforcement official who were briefed on the investigation told the Associated Press that five people in the car were being questioned at an FBI building in lower Manhattan.

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An NYPD bomb disposal robot handles an unexploded pressure cooker device on West 27th Street. Photograph: Lucien Harriot/Getty Images


  • The Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, told a crowd in Colorado that “a bomb went off” before officials released details. He told the crowd “we’d better get very tough, folks”.
  • Authorities are trying to establish whether there are any links between the devices and a mass stabbing in St Cloud, Minnesota. At least nine people were injured in the Minnesota attack and the suspect was shot dead by an off-duty police officer. None of the injured sustained life-threatening wounds. A statement posted online by the Isis-linked Amaq agency said the perpetrator was a “soldier of the Islamic State”, though the FBI said no link with the group had been found.

Five more suspected devices found in New Jersey

Five suspected explosive devices have been found in a backpack near a train station in New Jersey as the security alert gripping America ratcheted up following the Manhattan bombing.

One of the devices exploded when a bomb squad robot tried to disarm it near Elizabeth train station, the local mayor said.

Christian Bollwage said the device exploded shortly after 12.30am on Monday. The FBI was leading the investigation and working to disarm the other four devices.

Bollwage told CNN: “The robots that were going in to disarm it cut a wire and it exploded. I don’t know the technological aspect of that. I know there are other devices. I don’t know what they are made up of but they are going to have to be removed and all the fragments from the other pieces are going to have to be picked up so the FBI can investigate this fully.”

He told NBC: “Based on the loudness, I think people could have been severely hurt or injured if they had been in the vicinity.”

There were no reports of injuries. Bollwage said to expect more detonations.

He said two men had called police and reported seeing wires and a pipe coming out of a package after finding it at about 8.30pm on Sunday.

New Jersey Transit said services were suspended between Newark Liberty airport and Elizabeth while New Jersey-bound Amtrak trains were being held at New York Penn station.

Mike Whitaker, an FBI spokesman in Newark, said: “We are responding with our local law enforcement partners,” but declined to give further details.

Investigators earlier said the bomb that rocked Chelsea neighbourhood in Manhattan contained residue of an explosive often used for target practice as investigators followed multiple leads into the attack.


Trump and Clinton responses to New York bombing prompt fierce debate

Saturday night’s bombing on 23rd Street in New York brought questions of experience and temperament to the fore in the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, after the Republican seized on the explosion to argue the US is in peril.

At a campaign rally in Colorado on Saturday night, Trump declared the explosion to have been caused by a bomb, hours before police voiced any public conclusions. “Just before I got off the plane, a bomb went off in New York and nobody knows exactly what’s going on,” Trump said.

The Trump campaign has not said whether the businessman received information privately from New York officials or was speculating without evidence. In contrast, Clinton did what most officials do after an uncertain and dangerous incident: urge caution and patience for conclusions from police.

“I think it’s important to know the facts about any incident like this,” she told reporters on her campaign plane. “That’s why it’s critical to support the first responders, the investigators who are looking into it trying to determine what did happen.

“I think it’s also wiser to wait until you have information before making conclusions because we are just in the beginning stages of trying to determine what happened.”

Two hours after Trump’s remarks, New York mayor Bill de Blasio described the bombing, which injured 29 people, as “an intentional act”. But De Blasio, NYPD commissioner James O’Neill and Governor Andrew Cuomo all stressed on Sunday that they have not found evidence so far of any link to international terrorism and are considering any suspect and motive.

On Sunday afternoon, Clinton called the bombing one of three “apparent terrorist attacks” alongside pending investigations into pipe bombs in New Jersey and a mass stabbing in Minnesota. The FBI is investigating the stabbing as a “potential terrorist attack”; police have ascribed no motive or suspect to the pipe bombs, which officials said on Sunday had not been established to be linked to the New York explosion.

“I pray for all of those who were wounded, and for their families,” Clinton said in a statement. “Once again, we saw the bravery of our first responders who run toward danger to help others. Their quick actions saved lives.”

Clinton then reiterated her outline for an anti-terror plan, including an “intelligence surge to help identify and thwart attacks” and “work with Silicon Valley to counter propaganda”. Both Clinton and Trump’s proposals largely mirror the counter-terrorism priorities of Barack Obama, who has waged a bombing campaign abroad and authorized extensive surveillance online.


SOURCE: The Bloomgist/Guardian UK/BBC/CNN

 

 

Al-Shabab gunmen attack beach restaurant in Somalia

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The blasts come after Thailand voted to accept a contentious constitution

Multiple bomb blasts hit Thailand

A number of bomb attacks targeting Thailand’s popular tourism destinations have killed at least three people, with Continue reading “Multiple bomb blasts hit Thailand”

EXPOSED! Boko Haram plans deadly attack on Lagos, Imo, Borno, others

The Nigerian Army has uncovered plans by Boko Haram terrorists to hit locations in Lagos, Kano, Sokoto, Kebbi, Bauchi, Katsina, Imo, Yobe and Borno states as well as the Federal Capital Territory. Continue reading “EXPOSED! Boko Haram plans deadly attack on Lagos, Imo, Borno, others”

German minister to introduce ban on full face veils in wake of attacks

Burqa and niqab to be proscribed as part of plan to boost surveillance, raise police numbers and tighten dual nationality rules Continue reading “German minister to introduce ban on full face veils in wake of attacks”

Ethiopia says ‘foreign enemies’ social media activists behind protests

Ethiopia’s government has accused “foreign enemies”, social media activists and Continue reading “Ethiopia says ‘foreign enemies’ social media activists behind protests”

Abu Musab al-Barnawi - the new Boko Haram leade

Facts: all you need to know about the new Boko Haram leader – Abu Musab al-Barnawi

A newly announced leader of Boko Haram Abu Musab al-Barnawi is rather a mysteroius personality. Continue reading “Facts: all you need to know about the new Boko Haram leader – Abu Musab al-Barnawi”

Herdsmen attacks again, kill 81 people

Pandemonium has rocked Benue state as herdsmen have Continue reading “Herdsmen attacks again, kill 81 people”

Shocking! See how Boko Haram are threating Igbos, Christians in the North

For refusing to convert to Islam, Boko Haram members killed 466 people when they invaded Ashigashiya, Ngoshe and Gava villages around Gwoza local government area of Borno state.

Rescued from Boko Haram, many of them were married off while those who refused to be married were killed.
Rescued from Boko Haram, many of them were married off while those who refused to be married were killed.

They also married to themselves 218 innocent girls and women among the over 1000 people held hostage when they attacked.

According to Daily Post, these were part of the narration of Nuhu Diya, a victim of insurgency in the north-eastern part of Nigeria who related how the villages were raided by the terrorists.

Diya, one of the about 3,000 families that fled when the Nigerian military engaged the insurgents on Tuesday, said in Maiduguri that he and others were held hostage in Bayan Dutse.

Those killed, the report said more than 192 died from hunger while the about 620 who agreed to convert to Islam were allowed to go about and source for their food.

“We went about to look for food unlike others who were trapped in Ashigashiya before the Cameroonian soldiers came to save them.

“We ran to Maiduguri when the militants took over Gwoza and turned it to their national headquarters.

“Six months after the election, government asked us to return home that our areas had been liberated. When we eventually got home about four months ago, we did not know that we were going into trap.

“At first we also thought that the area was truly liberated until one month after our arrival.

“The Boko Haram (members) were all along in the mountains area and one evening they came down and pursued the soldiers and took control.

“They asked Christians to go to one side and Muslims to the other side. They asked us if we wanted to convert and some of us refused.

“We that accepted to convert were asked to join with other Muslims and the rest of them, about 466 when we counted, were shot and killed before our very eyes.

“They also asked our girls who were between 15 and 30 to marry them. Those who refused were killed while those who accepted took husbands from amongst them. Many of our people are still trap in the mountains and there is no food.”

“I was never a Muslim in my heart. I know that I did not get converted out of my own free will. Those that refused to be converted were shot death before our eyes.

“I could have been killed too. Maybe I was given opportunity to repent,” he said adding that he ran to Maiduguri to avoid hunger and being caught in the middle of the battle between the insurgents and the military.

Recently, a team of local vigilante in Damboa in Borno state led by Sarkin Yaki Ali Gwoza intercepted some persons along Njaba road, south of Damboa town while on patrol.

The vigilantes have always supported the military in the fight against insurgnecy.