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Libyan Government, Former Prime Minister, Call for International Assistance in War on Terror

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Speaking at a meeting in London, Libya’s former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan issued an alarming message that Libya could become “the next crucible of global terrorism.” He strongly urged Libya’s allies to assist the country from falling into collapse. Zeidan stated, “Libya could be a base for al-Qaeda for any operation to Italy, to Britain, to France, to Spain, to Morocco, to everywhere. Weapons are everywhere, ammunition is everywhere.” Zeidan urged Britain to increase its support to help to train Libyan security forces and to assist with economic and political reforms.

Libya’s engagement in the Arab Spring of 2011 took the form of a civil war which ultimately saw the death of Dictator Muammar Gadhafi and the end of his regime. However, despite the end of autocratic rule, the nation has remained in turmoil. Weaponry looted from the regime, valued in the millions of dollars, remains prolific on the black market and in the hands of tribal militias and Islamic extremist groups. Factions have seized Libya’s oil assets and land in the eastern part of the nation, threatening to form an autonomous nation. The Libyan government had been reluctant to launch offensives against the militias and extremist groups for fear that those same groups would exploit the added chaos.

Zeidan’s warning is dire: Libya has become ungovernable, and requires a UN peacekeeping force to prevent al-Qaeda or inspired derivatives from gaining a stronghold in the region. The northern part of the nation extends into the Mediterranean Sea, making it a gateway for illegal immigrants or dangerous individuals to access Europe.

The former prime minister added that Libya’s General National Congress is no longer legitimate, and feels that and new elections should be held to bring in a new interim authority. However, he remains sympathetic to the role he left: “Do you think it is a privilege to be prime minister of Libya at this time? It is some kind of suffering. What it has cost me in terms of my nerves and my health over these 15 months, it was unbelievable.

Zeidan served as prime minister for 15 months, during which he was kidnapped and held by a rebel faction. In March, he was ousted from Libya’s parliament in a vote of no confidence following escalating chaos culminating the government’s inability to prevent rebels in the east from attempting to illegally export Libyan oil. Libya has the largest known oil reserves in Africa, approximately 47 billion barrels. Currently, several ports in the east are in the hands of rebel factions.

Zeidan has since fled to Germany, where he had lived previously while in opposition against Gadhafi. However he is preparing to return to Libya in the near future, with intentions to restore stability to his nation.

Simultaneously, the Libyan government has also called for help and declared a “War on Terror”. A statement released on 25 March by the Council of Ministers states, “Libya’s interim government asks the international community and especially the United Nations to provide assistance to uproot terrorism […] the government confirms that it wants this war on terror to start as soon as possible.”

The statement continues, “The nation is now confronting terrorist groups which requires making security and military resources available to fight such epidemic and bring peace and security to our cities […] the interim government asks the world community, especially the United Nations to provide the needed support in order to eradicate terrorism from Libyan cities.

The statement marks the first time in Libyan history that the government has called for outside help to fight terrorists on Libyan soil. The call for help comes after a wave of bombings and assassinations in Benghazi, Derna and Sirte. In Benghazi, killings or injuries through shooting or car bombs, have occurred on a near daily basis. Opposition to the declaration of war on terrorism has already emerged, particularly amongst Islamist supporters in the nation, who feel they will be targeted for their political leanings.

On 28 March, Tarek Mitri, Chief of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) visited Tunisia’s capital, Tunis, to officially request help. Mitri spoke with Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki and Ennahda Party head Rachid Ghannouchi. Reportedly, Mitri asked the Tunisian government, which is on the road to recovery following their 2010 uprising, to share experiences regarding democratic transition and national dialogue.

Echoing the distress, a video has been released of Saddi Gadhafi, son of the former dictator. Saadi, who fled to Niger during the revolution, was extradited to Libya earlier this year. He is accused of trying to suppress the uprising against his father’s rule.

In the video, he says, “I apologise to the Libyan people, and I apologise to the dear brothers in the Libyan government for all the harm I’ve caused and for disturbing the security and stability of Libya. I admit that these things were wrong, and we should not have perpetrated these acts.” He also called on “those who carry weapons to hand over their weapons”. Saadi’s brother, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, remains in the hands of rebels in Zintan, where he was captured in November 2011.

There is no official word yet from the UK or the UN regarding support for action in Libya.

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Egypt’s Sisi to Run for Office

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Egypt’s Minister of Defence Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has told Egyptian state media that that he cannot “ignore the demands of the majority” for him to run as a candidate in the upcoming presidential election. The statement is not an official declaration; however it is the clearest indication made by Sisi, who has consciously avoided answering questions regarding his intention to run for president.

Last week, speculation on Sisi’s decision wavered following his decision to remain in the Egyptian Cabinet after the Prime Minister and other cabinet members unexpectedly resigned from office. His decision to remain as Defence Minister suggested that he would not run for office, despite gaining blessings from the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) in January. However, Sisi told the media that “official procedures” for his candidacy could be expected in the coming days. Sources close to Sisi have said that he will step down from his dual roles as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and Defence Minister before his official announcement. The new laws regulating the presidential election are to be approved by Interim President Adly Mansour within the next two weeks

Within Egypt, Sisi’s popularity has sky-rocketed since he famously removed former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi’s from office. In Cairo and across Egypt, posters of the Commander-in-Chief are prominent and growing. Several members of media, politicians, and businessmen have their support for Sisi’s candidacy, believing him to be able to restore the nation’s security and revive the economy. However, members of the Muslim Brotherhood, who remain loyal to former president Morsi, oppose the candidacy. Similarly, a portion of the Egyptian population feels strongly that the military is too heavily involved in politics, and putting Sisi into office will negate the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Mubarak was the third in a succession of dictators hailing from a military background.

Internationally, Sisi has been equally divisive. His popularity has gained momentum among some governments, but is met with caution by others. Since the removal of Morsi, Egypt has appeared to distance itself from its once close relationship with the United States, and has moved back toward the relationship it had with Russia prior to 1979. In February, Sisi visited Moscow to sign a new cooperation and arms deal with the Kremlin. During the two-day session, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly told Sisi, “I know that you have taken the decision to run for President. It’s a very responsible decision. I wish you luck, both from myself personally and from the Russian people.” This statement was met with unease in Washington. Marie Harf, spokeswoman for the US State Department, said, “Of course we don’t endorse a candidate and don’t think it’s, quite frankly, up to the United States or to Mr Putin to decide who should govern Egypt. It’s up to the Egyptian people to decide.” Once again, Egypt finds itself in a position between two major nations, a critical situation in awakening of the previously dormant Cold War.

When Sisi makes his announcement, he will be the third to announce his candidacy. Hamdeen Sabbahi, the founder of the Popular Current Party, threw his hat into the ring in February, claiming to run in order to “protect the revolution.” His decision caused a split amongst the Tamarod movement, which was the group that organised the mass protests resulting in Morsi’s departure. Membership has been divided between those supporting Sisi, and those supporting Sabbahi, who came in third during the 2012 elections.

In October 2013, Lieutenant General Sami Anan declared his intentions to run for office. In the Mubarak era, Anan was the Deputy Chairman of SCAF, and the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces. Until his announcement, he had remained out of the public spotlight. The move baffled Egyptians, including members of the Egyptian military. Some military analysts believe that Anan’s announcement served to test Egyptians’ reaction to the possibility of a military figure as president. Others believe Anan is expressing his own desires. Many political and military figures have reacted negatively to Anan’s intentions. The Egyptian armed forces went as far as to issue a statement warning Egyptians to not be confused by Anan’s efforts. The military spokesman urged the media not to publish Anan’s statements.

Sisi therefore faces two comparatively weaker opponents, and emerges as a tide of support swells around his candidacy. It is expected that the elections, which are expected before the end of Aprile, will see Sisi win by a large margin.

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Security At Sochi

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With the 2014 Olympic Games set to open in Sochi, Russia in two days, questions relating to security, and Russia’s ability to thwart further terrorist attacks, continue to be the main focus as thousands of spectators, media officials and sportsmen begin to descend on the Black Sea region.  Dubbed “Putin’s Games,” anticipation surrounding the upcoming Games has shared headline’s with issues of security and the region’s recent history of unrest and the potential of violence targeting spectators and athletes.

A week before the official opening of the Games, United States government officials issued a warning that more terrorist attacks in Russia were “very likely to occur” in the run-up to, or during, the Winter Olympics in Sochi, where eight-eight countries will be competing.  An official assessment of the threat has indicated that a Caucasus group, Imarat Kavakaz (IK), poses the main danger to the Games, which will occur on Russia’s Black Sea coast.  According to the threat assessment, this Caucasus group has repeatedly expressed a desire to target the Sochi Games.  On one such occurrence in July 2013, the group’s fugitive leader, Emir Doku Umarove, called on his followers to do what they could in order to disrupt the games.  Islamist militants from Dagestan, and nearby republics of Ingushetia and Chechnya, are also considered by officials in Moscow to be a major threat to the Games.

Recent Terrorist Attacks

Over the past few months, anticipation for the opening of the Games has been overshadowed by continuing questions relating to the safety and security of athletes and spectators in the wake of a number of suicide bombings and attacks.

In December 2013, thirty-four people were killed in two separate explosions that were carried out by suicide bombers in the southern Russian city of Volgograd.  The two bombings occurred just months after another suicide bombing targeted a bus in the city and just two days after a car bomb killed three people in the southern city of Pyatigorsk on 27 December.  Pyatigorsk lies 270 km (170 miles) east of Sochi.

On 29 December, a suicide bombing took place at the Volgorad-1 station in the city of Volograd, which is situated in the Volograd Oblast of Southern Russia.  The blast killed eighteen people and injured forty-four.  The attack, which occurred around 12:45 PM Moscow Time, was carried out near the metal detectors by the entrance of the station.  A day later, on the morning of 30 December at about 8:30 AM Moscow Time in the Dzerzhinsky district in Volograd, a bombing targeted the No. 1233 trolleybus of route 15A, which connects a suburb to Volograd’s downtown area.  The explosion occurred as the trolleybus passed one of the city’s main markets.  The attack killed sixteen people and injured forty-one.   The two bombings occurred just two months after a suicide bomber set off explosives on a bus.  The attack, which occurred in October, killed six people and injured another thirty.  It was also the first incident to occur outside the North Caucasus region after Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov called for a resumption of attacks on civilians, and urged militants to target the Sochi Games.

 

In January 2014, Russian investigators announced that they believed the perpetrators of the two Volograd bombings in late December were two men who arrived in the city from the North Caucasus region.  A video posted on 19 January, by a group calling itself Vilayat Dagestan, depicted what appeared to be the bombers donning explosive belts and brandishing weapons.  During the video, the two men warned President Vladimir Putin to expect a “present” at the Olympics.

At the end of January 2014, Russia’s National Anti-Terrorist Committee (NAK) announced the identities of two suicide bombers responsible for killing two people in the Volograd.  According to the NAK, Asker Samedov and Suleyman Magomedov were members of a group based in the town of Buynaksk, officials further noted that two men suspected of helping the terrorists were arrested in Dagestan.

Despite the arrests, threats of further attacks have continued and Russian police announced in late January that they were hunting for other suspects, including a woman whom they fear may be planning to carry out a suicide bomb attack during the Games.  Police officials in Sochi put up wanted posters in hostels around the town.  The woman, 23-year-old Ruzana Ibragimova, from Dagestan in the North Caucasus region, is believed to be the widow of an Islamist militant.  Officials in Russia believe that despite tight security, she entered Sochi earlier this month.  Other police posters have indicated that at least two other potential female suicide bombers are also at large.

Several national Olympic associations have also reported receiving emails threatening athletes with attacks.  A statement by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) indicated that the email appeared to be “a random message from a member of the public,” adding that it posed no threat.  Officials at the British Olympic Association indicated that they “receive correspondence of every type and it is not uncommon to come across something like this that lacks credibility.  While the IOC and national bodies, have widely dismissed such emails, deeming them as not credible, the threat of an attack during the Games remains real.

Security

Since the December bombings, officials in Russia launched a massive security operation to provide security for the Winter Olympic Games.  Despite growing international concerns and scrutiny of Russia’s ability to thwart such attacks, officials in Russia have ensured those travelling to Sochi, that security is their upmost priority, as the country will host the largest event since the fall of the Soviet Union.

After the deadly suicide bombings in Volograd, Russia launched one of the largest security operations in Olympic history.  More than 30,000 police and interior ministry troops have been deployed, while access to Sochi and the Olympic area has been limited.  According to Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov, “starting 7 January, all divisions responsible for ensuring the guests’ security at the Games are being put on combat alert,” adding that “every facility will be put under protection and a space-based monitoring system will be launched.”

Russian officials have established two security zones to protect the Games.  A “controlled zone,” located near the Olympic venues, will limit access to people with tickets and proof of identity, while another “forbidden zone” will be in place in large areas around Sochi.  Vehicles not registered locally, and which do not have special accreditation, will be banned from the city.  The sale of firearms, explosives and ammunition will also be prohibited.  Airport-style security is in force for commuters using local trains.  Hundreds of volunteers will also body-search all passengers at each station.  Two US warships will be on standby in the Black Sea when the Games begin on 7 February.  Washington has also offered to supply Russia with hi-tech equipment in order to help detect improvised explosives.

Despite this, security concerns remains.  On Wednesday, Australian Olympic team chef de mission Ian Chesterman announced that team members were banned from travelling into Sochi city as a security precaution.  A statement issued by Australian Olympic team officials indicated that athletes will be limited to locations within the security perimeters of the Olympic Park and sporting complexes within the mountain zone.  In response, IOC spokesman Mark Adams stated that while the recommendation to avoid Sochi city had not come from the IOC, “we believe that security is being handled very well.”

With the Winter Olympics now being a prime target for terror attacks, Moscow has had no choice but to ensure the maximum possible security in Sochi.  However the suicide bombings in Volograd have demonstrated that Russia’s security problem extends beyond the Black Sea region, and will likely continue after the conclusion of the Games on 23 February.  The recent terror attacks have demonstrated that terror groups can strike anywhere.  However while it is difficult to secure an Olympic city, it is almost impossible to secure the whole country.  And while the eyes of the world will focus on Sochi for the next few weeks, and will likely scrutinize what are set to be the most expensive Olympic Games, once the Olympic flame is extinguished, officials and authorities in Russia will have to turn their focus onto the North Caucasus region and the area’s history of instability.

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Mali Review

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Malian Fugitive Recaptured

A Malian fugitive, known as “Cheibani” has been recaptured by French forces following his escape from a Niger prison in June of this year.  The fugitive, Alhassane Ould Mohammed, who escaped from a prison in Niger where he was serving a sentence for the killing of four Saudi tourists along with his alleged participation in the assassination of a US diplomat, was arrested by French soldiers in northern Mali on Tuesday.  Mali’s Chief Prosecutor Daniel Tessogue confirmed the arrest, adding that Cheibani had been arrested along with three other people.  According to Niger’s Justice Minister Marou Mohamed, Cheibani was captured after a tip-off from Niger security officials.  He was found in a hideout situated between the towns of Gao and Kidal.

Cheibani was amongst twenty-two prisoners who escaped from the jail in June after an attack on the prison was launched by suspected Islamist militants.  Following the mass breakout, officials in the United States unsealed an indictment for his arrest.  The indictment specified that Cheibani was wanted for the murder of US diplomat William Bultemeir, who was shot in December 2000 in Niger’s capital city as he was leaving a restaurant with his colleagues.

In September, months after his escape, a US $20,000 (£12,235) reward was announced for information that would lead to his recapture.  At the time of his escape, Cheibani was serving a twenty-year prison sentence in Niger for the murder of four Saudi citizens who were travelling with a Saudi prince on a hunting trip in 2009.

 

Demonstrators Halt Prime Minister’s Visit

Meanwhile on Thursday, Tuareg demonstrators in the northeastern town of Kidal occupied an airport runway in order to prevent Mali’s Prime Minister Oumar Tatam Ly from visiting the rebel-controlled town.

Shortly after the protests ended, demonstrators indicated that Malian soldiers had shot and wounded three demonstrators, however officials from the Malian army have denied these allegations.  An African military source has indicated that although troops from the UN military supporting mission in Mali, MINUSMA, attempted to stop the demonstrators from occupying and blocking the runway, they failed to remove the protesters.

Isamel Toure, an official in the regional governor’s office confirmed these reports, stating that as the airport was preparing to receive the prime minister’s plane, “several hundred youths and women backed by the MNLA went to Kidal aerodrome, determined to stop the planed from landing.”  Aides of the Prime Minister confirmed the incident, stating that “for the moment,” the prime minister had cancelled his trop.  According to his aides, prior to arriving in Kidal, the prime minister had been visiting Gao, which is located 300 kilometers (185 miles) south of Kidal.

Despite a signed ceasefire between the Malian government and Tuareg rebels, which was reached in June of this year, tensions between the two groups continue to be an issue and a threat to Mali’s stabilization process and lasting peace.

 

Mali’s Elections Off to Second Round

Officials on Wednesday announced that Mali’s parliamentary elections will enter a second round of voting on December 15, after no party secured an absolute majority in the first round of voting that took place on November 24.

While some 6.5 million Malians were eligible to vote for a new national assembly, with more than 1,000 candidates running for the 147 seats, turnout reached only 38.4 percent.  According to Moussa Sinko Coulibaly, the Minister of Territorial Administration, the turnout was “far short of our expectations.”

The goal of Mali’s new president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, is to give his RPM party, and its allies, a comfortable majority in the new assembly.

The November 24 polls mark Mali’s second major step towards recovery after the country plunged into chaos in the wake of last year’s military coup.  They also mark a finalization of Mali’s transition to democracy after the process was started with the August presidential elections.  The latest elections in Mali have been viewed as generally being peaceful by foreign and national monitors however observers nonetheless regretted the low turnout.

 

Coup Leader Charged With Murder

Amadou Sanogo, the leader of the 2012 coup which effectively plunged Mali into months of chaos, was on Wednesday charged with murder and complicity to murder.  According to a judicial source, he has been placed in detention pending further investigations.  A source close to the case has indicated that Sanogo has also been charged with kidnapping, with the source noting that “other people” close to the coup leader will be questioned.

His arrest was ordered by investigating judge Yaya Karembe, who at a hearing in Bamako, charged the lieutenant-general with murder.  The hearing in the capital city came just hours after several dozen Malian soldiers forcibly entered Sanogo’s residence, which is located in the city centre, in order to arrest him.

Although Sanogo had been ordered in October to appear in front of a panel to answer questions pertaining to a number of deaths that occurred during a mutiny against him at his former headquarters in the central town of Kati, which is located near Bamako, the summons had been ignored by Sanogo, which sparked indignation amongst Malian politicians and activists.

Despite launching a coup in March of last year, in May 2012, Sanogo, along with his former junta, were granted a general amnesty, with Sanogo receiving the status of former head of state, which included all the accompanying benefits.  Although that status was later withdrawn, Mr. Sanogo was controversially promoted from captain to lieutenant-general in August of his year, a promotion that prompted a number of fellow ex-junta members, who were also seeking promotions, to mutiny at his Kati barracks.  This forced the Malian army to intervene in order to prevent another coup, and further destabilization of security, from occurring.  Shortly after the Malian military intervened, the bodies of three missing soldiers were discovered in and around the barracks.  Around twenty officers, including Sanogo’s former deputy, were subsequently arrested.  Human Rights Watch (HRW), along with other politicians and activists, have called his promotion a “shameful act,” and have argued that the former captain should have been investigated for his alleged involvement in torture.

French Priest Kidnapped in Northern Cameroon; Another French Hostage Flees His Captors

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On Thursday, the French Foreign Ministry confirmed that a French priest had been kidnapped in northern Cameroon, close to the border with Nigeria, nine months after Nigerian Islamists kidnapped a family in the same border region.  Reports now indicate that Father Georges Vandenbeusch had time to alert the French embassy prior to being kidnapped by militants overnight on Thursday.

Father Georges Vandenbeusch, 42, was seized near Koza, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the border with Nigeria, during the early morning hours on Thursday.  According to Paris-based bishop Monseigneur Gerard Daucourt, who is in charge of the priest, fifteen gunmen burst into the compound in Nguetchewe, where the priest had been working, demanding money.  According to the bishop, Mr. Vandenbeusch had time to alert the French embassy by phone before the gunmen stormed his private room.  His abductors then marched him barefoot across the village before felling on their motorcycles.  Monseigneur Daucourt has also indicated that the priest’s suitcase was found a road that leads into Nigeria with only a checkbook in it.  According to a nun who worked with Mr. Vandenbeusch at the compound, the gunmen were speaking in English and had arrived on foot.

Agustine Fonka Awa, governor of the Far North region, has since travelled to Nguetchewe along with security forces in order to investigate the kidnapping however he has stated that the priest has likely already been taken across the border into Nigeria.  According to officials in Nigeria, the Far North region of Cameroon has been used by Boko Haram militants in order to transport weapons and to hide from the six-month ongoing military offensive against them.  Officials in Aubja last week appealed to Cameroon to tighten security along the border as the porous region has enabled Boko Haram militants to easily launch attacks and to go into hiding.

Mr. Vandenbeusch is likely to have been targeted by militants as he was known to help Nigerians flee attacks carried out by Boko Haram.  An official at the Paris prosecutor’s office has confirmed that an investigation has been opened into the “kidnapping and illegal confinement by a group linked to a terrorist organization.”  France’s Foreign Ministry has also indicated that so far no group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping however it is believed that members of either Boko Haram or Ansaru, militant groups known to operate in the region, are likely behind the abduction.  France’s Foreign Ministry are currently in the process of establishing the identity of the kidnappers.

The kidnapping of the Roman Catholic priest occurred near the area where another French family had been abducted earlier this year.  Seven members, four of them children under the age of twelve, of the Moulin-Fournier family were kidnapped by Islamist militants near Cameroon’s northern Waza National Park, which likes just a few kilometers from the Nigerian border, in February of this year.  They were taken over the border into neighboring Nigeria and held hostage for two months.  Despite officials from France and Cameroon denying that a ransom payment was made, a confidential report from the Nigerian government indicated that Boko Haram, who was responsible for the kidnapping, had received a ransom payment of US $3.15 million (£2 million) before releasing the family.  Similarly last month, the French media reported that a €20 million ransom payment had been paid in order to secure the release of four French hostages who were abducted in Niger in 2010.  This allegation has strongly been denied by the French government.

Mr. Vandenbeusch’s abduction is the latest in a series of attacks on French targets in West Africa ever since the country launched a military intervention in January to remove al-Qaeda-linked militants from the northern region of Mali.  The latest kidnapping of a French national also comes at a time when France has over the pat month both celebrated the release of four hostages and mourned the killing of two journalists.  On 29 October, President Francois Hollande confirmed the release of four French hostages who were kidnapped in Niger in 2010.  The hostages had been held in northern Mali by Islamist militants.  While their return to France was seen as a victory, their release was marred when just days later on 2 November two French journalists working for Radio France Internationale (RFI) were killed in Mali by militants claiming to represent al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).  According to the militants, the killings were in retaliation for France’s ongoing operation in Mali however security experts have since stated that the killings were the result of a failed kidnapping attempt when the militants‘ vehicle broke down, forcing them to kill the hostages amidst fears that they would be tracked down by French forces.  The recent incidents have also sparked an urgent call French President Francois Hollande, asking all French citizens not to put themselves in harm’s way.  While France’s Foreign Ministry had previously categorized the northern region of Cameroon as a high risk for kidnapping, warning any citizens in the area to leave immediately, reports have now indicated that Mr. Vandenbeusch had repeatedly ignored those warnings.  According to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, “he had been told several times that the area is dangerous….We had expressly advised him not to stay on but he though he should remain there.”  Mr. Vandenbeusch arrived in Cameroon in 2011, having previously been a priest in the Paris suburb of Sceaux.

 

French Hostage Escapes After Nearly One Year in Captivity

Meanwhile another French hostage, Francis Collomp, who was held by Islamist militants in northern Nigeria for nearly a year, is free after reportedly escaping during a shoot-out.

Reports have indicated that Mr. Collomp had managed to escape from his cell during an army operation that was carried out against the militants.  A source close to the case has indicated that Mr. Collomp fled after his cell door was left open.  He then hailed a taxi which took him to the police, from where he was brought to Kaduna.  According to Femi Adenaike Adeleye, the police commissioner in the regional capital of Kaduna, Mr. Collomp escaped in the northern city of Zaria on Saturday while his captors were praying,” adding that “he watched his captors’ prayer time.  They always prayed for 15 minutes.  And yesterday they did not lock the door to his cell.”  The commissioner further added that Mr. Collomp had been held in the city of Kano after his abduction and that he had been brought to Zaria about two months ago.

On Sunday, French President Francois Hollande has thanked Nigeria’s authorities for helping secure the release of Francis Collomp, 63, in the northern city of Zaria.  Mr. Collomp left Abuja on a flight to Paris late on Sunday.  He was accompanied by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.  Didier Le Bret, the head of the French foreign ministry’s crisis centre, indicated that Mr. Collomp was “weakened” but in good enough health to travel.”  He is expected to arrive in Paris around 6:00AM (0500 GMT) on Monday, where he will be met by French Prime Minsiter Jean-Marc Ayrault.

Mr. Collomp was kidnapped on 19 December 2012 by about thirty armed men who attacked the residence of his employer, French wind turbine manufacturer Vergnet, in the northern Nigerian state of Katsina. The kidnapping, which left two bodyguards and a bystander dead, was claimed by Ansaru, a militant group linked to Boko Haram.

 

At Least Seven Remain

With the release of Mr. Collomp, and four other French hostages earlier this month, at least seven French hostages are still being held captive abroad.

Mali

  • On 24 November 2011, Frenchmen Serge Lazarevic and Philippe Verdon are kidnapped from their hotel in Hombori, northeastern Mali, while on a business trip.  Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) claimed responsibility on December 9.  Mr. Verdon was killed earlier this year.  His death was confirmed by French officials.
  • On 20 November 2012 – Gilberto Rodriguez Leal, a Portuguese-born French citizen, is abducted by at least six armed men in Diema, western Mali, while travelling by car from Mauritania.  On 22 November, al-Qaeda-linked Islamist rebel group the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) claimed responsibility for the kidnapping.

Cameroon/Nigeria

  • 14 November 2013 Roman Catholic priest Georges Vandenbeusch abducted from his home near the town of Koza in northern Cameroon, about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the border with Nigeria.

Syria

  • 6 June 2013 two French journalists, Didier Francois from Europe 1 Radio and Edouard Elias, an independent photographer working for the same station, are reported missing in Syria.  The office of French President Francois Hollande indicated that the pair were intercepted by unknown kidnappers at a checkpoint while travelling towards Aleppo.
  • 9 October 2013 – The capture of reporter Nicolas Henin and Photographer Pierre Torres is announced by their families and the French Foreign Ministry.  The two men were kidnapped on June 22 while working in the northern city of Raqqa.  None of the armed groups fighting for control of the town have claimed responsibility, nor have any demands been made.
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