While looking at security-related incidents, one cannot avoid noticing the increasing rate of human trafficking in Asia. Human trafficking is the third largest organized crime after drugs and the arms trade worldwide. About 80% of it is done for sexual exploitation, the rest is for ransom, forced labour, organ trade, forced marriage, medical trials, illegal adoption etc., and India is considered to be the main centre of this crime in Asia.
According to official Indian statistics, 88,008 cases of kidnapping and abduction were reported in India during 2016 showing an increase of 6.0% over 2015. Out of these 88,008, only 69,599 persons were recovered meaning that 18,409 of them disappeared. But that is not all, because 549,008 adults were also reported missing and 319,627 of them went untraced. Moreover, 111,569 children were also reported missing and 55,625 of them disappeared without any trace. In addition, it seems that India’s official statistics heavily underestimate the scale of the problem, because a US State Department report from 2013 estimated that up to 65 million people were trafficked into forced labour in India.
The reasons given for this troubling trend are as varied as India itself. Social inequality, regional gender preference and corruption are all regarded as leading causes of human trafficking. Even the theory of demand and supply can be cited here referring to the migration of men to major hubs creating a demand for sex resulting in young girls and women being abducted to be used as prostitutes. However, these “young girls and women are not only used for prostitution but also bought and sold like commodity” [to force them into marriages] in many regions […] where female ratio is less than [desirable] due to female infanticide.” Poverty also plays a significant role meaning that being born to a poor family brings with it a higher risk of being sold for money to ensure the survival of the rest of the family.
In conclusion, while the Government of India has undertaken a number of legal measures to fight human trafficking its current jumble of laws dealing with it has done little to crush this thriving businessA new approach of giving greater voice to victims and vulnerable populations in crafting policies that affect their lives, and holds governments more accountable when their rights are violated might be a more viable option.
One of Mali’s top jihadist leaders has been killed in a raid carried out in a joint operation by French and Malian forces against a base, located in the forest of Wagadou in the centre of the country, that sheltered the command of Ansar Dine of Macina. On Saturday 24 November, French and Malian authorities both confirmed the death of Amadou Koufa, real name Amadou Diallo, one of the most prominent jihadist leaders in the country who was killed in the raid on the night of 22 November. According to General Abdoulaye Cissé, “after the military operation the terrorist Koufa was seriously injured and taken away by his supporters before he died.” The confirmation of his death comes after France suggested on Friday 23 November that Koufa may have been killed in the operation in the central region of Mopti that “put out of actin” about thirty Islamist militants. The French army also disclosed at the time that the operation targeted a base controlled by Koufa, which was later confirmed by Malian authorities.
Detailing the preparation of the operation, General Cissé disclosed that “for months, the military intelligence services of Mali have collected a mass of accurate information that they shared with partners, including France.” On Thursday night, French forces deployed a number of air assets, including Mirage 2000 aircraft, a number of helicopters, supported by Reaper drones, and a C135 tanker. General Francois Lecointre, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, has emphasized that “the careful preparation and perfect coordination of all the French forces deployed in the Sahel have made this operation a success…”.
This operation represents a major setback for jihadists operating in the region. Sources have indicated that Koufa was a major link between the central and northern regions of Mali and it will likely be difficult to find a natural successor. He was also seen as the spokesperson for JNIM in central Mali. His death though is unlikely to stop any attacks, and may in fact lead to further incidents, with Malian and French forces specifically being targeted. French interests in the region may also be targeted as a result of this operation.
Koufa, a radical preacher, was one of the top deputies to Iyad Ag Ghali, the leader of Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM), which has repeatedly attacked soldiers and civilians in Mali and in the northern region of neighbouring Burkina Faso. These attacks have effectively shifted Mali’s six-year-old Islamist insurgency from the remote desert north closer to the populous southern region of the country, prompting France to deploy thousands of troops across West Africa’s Sahel region. JNIM was created from a merger of local groups in March 2017. The group was later endorsed by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). In September 2018, the United States Department of State designated JNIM as a “foreign terrorist organization.”
Video Image of Amadou Koufa
Since Koufa’s appearance in JNIM, intercommunal violence has significantly increased in the central region of the country, affecting the Fulani, who are traditional breeders, against the Bambara and the Dogon ethnic groups, which are mainly engaged in agriculture. The United Nations has indicated that the violence has killed more than 500 civilians since the beginning of the year. Koufa last appeared along with two other influential jihadist leaders from northern and central Mali in a video that was posted on 8 November, in which they called for “continued jihad.” The three included Iyad Ag Ghaly and Algerian Jamel Okacha, commonly known as Abu Al-Hammam. In the video, Koufa addressed Muslims of the world, and more particularly the Fulani communities of the West African countries of Mali, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon and called on all of them to join the “jihad.”
Armed men killed at least seven people Thursday 22 November in an attack that targeted French drilling company Foraco’s water well site in southeastern Niger.
According to officials, during the early morning hours of Thursday 22 November at least seven people were killed in Toumour, southeastern Niger. Sources have reported that an undisclosed number of militants arrived on horseback and attacked the group in the enclosure of the town hall of Toumour, where they were installed. Amongst the victims are six company employees, believed to be Nigeriens, and one civil servant. An official has reported that “the controller, a civil servant agent, was kidnapped before having his throat slit not far from the site.” A company source is reporting that the company had an escort of about fifteen guards but they were absent at the time of the attack, though this has not been confirmed. Security sources have indicating that they believe Nigerian-based terror group Boko Haram is behind the attack, though this has also not been confirmed. So far the terror group has not commented or made any claims pertaining to the attack, though Boko Haram is active in the Diffa region near the border with Nigeria and has in the past targeted foreigners and NGO’s operating in this area.
Since 2009, Boko Haram has been trying to establish an Islamic state in northeastern Nigeria, and in recent years, it has launched repeated attacks into neighboring Niger, Chad, and Cameroon. Thousands of civilians have died in the violence in both Nigeria and in the affected neighboring states. The village of Toumour has hosted several hundred Nigerian refugees who have fled the ongoing fighting in northeastern Nigeria and in the past, Boko Haram has targeted displaced persons camps. The French company was apparently working in this area to increase water capacities in the region. This attack may have also specifically targeted a French company because of France’s ongoing intervention in Mali.
MS Risk continues to advise against all travel to the following regions of Niger:
- All areas of the country north of the city of Abalak, including the Aïr Massif region;
- The province of Agadez, including the road linking Assamakato Agadez and the city of Agadez;
- Areas of Tahoua province north of the city of Tahoua, including the city itself;
- The area of Tillabéri province north of Niamey, including the road from Niamey to Gao and the road from Niamey to Menaka;
- Areas within 40 km of the border with Nigeria in the provinces of Diffa, Zinder and Maradi;
- The Parc du W, plus the contiguous Dosso and Tamou hunting zones.
MS Risk advises against all but essential travel to the rest of the country, including the capital city Niamey.
A state of emergency is currently in place for the Diffa region, as well as in seven departments of the Tillabéri and Tahoua regions bordering Mali. As a result of safety and security concerns, many organizations, including foreign companies, NGOs and private aid organizations have suspended operations in Niger or withdrawn family members and/or staff members.
Terrorists are very likely to carry out attacks in Niger, including kidnappings. There is a threat of retaliatory attacks in Niger due to the country’s participation in the French-led intervention in Mali and due to Niger’s involvement in the regional fight to counter Boko Haram.
On Monday evening 12 November, a car-bomb explosion in northern Mali killed three civilians, with a terrorist group claiming that Canadian soldiers and other foreign forces operating in the area were targeted.
The Canadian Armed Forces have confirmed the attack, which occurred in the city of Gao, adding that all Canadian personnel were safe. The Ministry of Security and Civil Protection of Mali has disclosed that around 19:15 GMT, a 4×4 vehicle burst into flames in a courtyard in 8thdistrict the city. At least three Malians were killed, and four foreigners (two Cambodians, a South African and a Zimbabwean) working for a subcontracting company of the UNMAS (the UN Mine clearance service) were injured, adding that neighboring homes were damaged in the attack.
SITE is reporting that Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) has claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that “a suicide bomb blast on the headquarters of foreign forces, including British, Canadian and Germans, in Gao.” The Canadian peacekeeping contingent took over from Germans and Belgians in Mali in early July, and its main mission is to evacuate wounded peacekeepers by helicopter.
On 7 November 2018, reports emerged that JNIM announced the forthcoming official release of its new video entitled “Go forth whether light or heavy,” featuring the first audiovisual speech as part of JNIM by Katiba Macina founder Amadou Kouffa. The video reportedly calls on the Fulani in West Africa and in Cameroon to wage “jihad.”
This new video demonstrates how terrorist groups operating in the Sahel region have increasingly sought to integrate themselves within the local communities, particularly the Fulani ethnic group, which is one of the largest in West Africa and which is spread across the Sahel region. The Fulani have traditionally been cattle herders and have been engaged in a struggle with farmers across the Sahel region as pasture-land and resources in the region have diminished. They are increasingly being pushed deeper into poverty and feelings of political exclusion may result in a rebellion that could destabilize the West African region. There are growing concerns across the region that jihadist groups like al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and others, such as JNIM, could use ties into the Fulani community in a bid to exploit their anger and expand their areas of operations in the Sahel region. This has been seen in the past, with AQIM tapping into Tuareg networks to advance its objectives in West Africa.
This video also shows how terrorist groups are aware of regional issues, both on the local and national scale, and how they may attempt to exploit these situations in a bid to further push their ideologies and expand their areas of operation. In particular, the mention of Cameroon is of concern. While the African country has been affected by terrorism, particularly in its Far North region, where Nigerian-based terror group Boko Haram has carried out numerous deadly attacks and kidnappings, Cameroon has been spared from the destabilizing situation that is affecting Mali and regional countries, in particular Burkina Faso and Niger. Nationally however Cameroon is in turmoil as separatists in the North West and South West regions, which are the English-speaking areas of Cameroon, have destabilized the region in their bid to create a breakaway republic, which they have named The Federal Republic of Ambazonia. The current crisis affecting these two regions erupted in October 2016 in Bamenda, the capital of the North West region, with a strike by English-speaking lawyers demanding respect of the Common Law and the translation into English of the Code of the Organization for the Harmonization Business Law in Africa and other laws. Weeks later, teachers joined the move as they organized a rally against the lack of English-speaking teachers and the non-respect of the “Anglo-Saxon” education system in the English-speaking regions. Many locals joined the cause, driven by numerous demands ranging from a lack of decentralization of power as well as a lack of investment in infrastructure in the region. The strikes that began in the North West region would later spread into the South West region and police clampdowns have only further fueled tensions. Clashes between the insurgents and security forces have killed scores of people and have displaced tens of thousands more since the conflict intensified late last year. Insurgents have abducted and killed soldiers, policemen and local politicians in hit-and-run guerrilla raids, while Cameroonian forces have been accused of burning down villages and opening fire on fleeing residents, accusations which the army has denied. The conflict gained world-wide attention with the killing of an American missionary in late October and the unrest now threatens the stability of one of Africa’s larger economies. Tensions are likely to remain heightened in the wake of incumbent Paul Biya winning another term in office in the 7 October 2018 presidential election.
JNIM was formed on 2 March 2017, with the merger of three regional jihadist groups: the Saharan branch of AQIM merged with Ansar al-Dine and al-Mourabitoun to form Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam was Muslimeen (JNIM). JNIM’s call for Fulani to wage “jihad” in Cameroon in particular can be seen as an attempt to benefit from the instability in the North West and South West regions. The militant group will likely attempt to infiltrate some of the local populations, further fuel discord between the separatists and the Cameroonian government, and eventually openly call for attacks against the central government in the capital Yaoundé. JNIM and other regional terror groups may also use the situation in this region of Cameroon to recruit new forces while at the same time spreading their influence and areas of operation. Gaining a foothold into Cameroon will likely result in the further destabilization of the Central African region, which is currently affected by a number of conflicts, including ongoing crises in the Central African Republic and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, both of which have forced thousands of people to flee the region. JNIM’s call for “jihad” in the West African region and in Cameroon therefore poses a serious threat not only in West Africa, but to the stability of the greater African continent, especially Central Africa.