On Tuesday, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls sought to ease fears across the country after a recent spate of attacks. The French government has urged the public to remain vigilant as authorities carry out investigations. President Francois Hollande has called an emergency cabinet meeting for Tuesday and has urged the public not to panic. While it appears that French authorities are playing down the idea that there is a pattern behind these three incidents, many are asking whether there is a copycat element to them.
It began on Saturday, when a man in the central town of Joue-les-Tours stabbed three police officers before being shot dead. Bertrand Nzohabonayo was shot dead after he entered the police station armed with a knife and seriously wounded three officers. Mr Nzohabonayo had previously committed petty offences however he was not on a domestic intelligence watch list. According to a source, his brother is known for his radical views and once pondered travelling to Syria. French anti-terrorism investigators have opened an inquiry into the attack.
Two other incidents followed Saturday’s attack. On Sunday, a driver shouting “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great) ploughed his vehicle into pedestrians, injuring thirteen people in the city of Dijon. The prosecutor has since indicated that the attacker had a long history of mental illness and that the incident is not linked to terrorism. The latest attack occurred Monday, when ten people were injured after a van drove into a Christmas market in the western city of Nantes. The attack occurred around 19:00 local time (1800 GMT), with witnesses reporting that the van drove into a stall that was selling mulled wine. After the vehicle came to a halt, the driver stabbed himself in the chest several times, causing himself serious injuries. French interior minister spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet has indicated that the motive behind the attack is currently unclear.
While concerns that these attacks may be copycat incidents have spread across France, Prime Minister Valls indicated Tuesday that there was “no link” between these three incidents, adding that security forces are dealing with individuals who were acting alone. According to Mr Valls, “we do not minimise these acts,” adding that the government wants to “reassure” the public and understand what had happened.
On Monday, Burundi authorities disclosed that they have arrested the brother of the man who was fatally shot in Joue-les-Tours. Burundi’s National Intelligence Services confirmed that Brice Nzohabonayo was detained in the capital Bujumbura shortly after his brother Bertrand attacked a police station. Burundi’s intelligence service is currently working with its French counterpart, with sources reporting that investigators are now seeking to establish if any attacks are being planned in Burundi as the country is a contributor to the African Union (AU) force that is currently battling al-Shabaab in Somalia. Paris prosecutor Francois Molins also announced Monday that the suspect’s sister had been taken into custody on Saturday, adding that she would soon be released as there are no elements suggesting her complicity.
The three incidents in France come as governments around the world brace for so-called “lone wolf” attacks, which are carried out by individuals who are returning from waging jihad abroad, or who are simply following calls for violence made by Islamic State (IS).
Armed rebels have taken control of a number of towns throughout the northern and central regions of the Central African Republic (CAR). As such, due to the instability that has developed in the CAR over the past several weeks, MS RISK advises against all travel to the provinces that have directly been affected by the conflict.
The security situation in the CAR has drastically deteriorated during December 2012 and the current situation in the country is continuing to rapidly change and evolve. Armed groups have been active in the west, east and north of the country and many areas outside of the capital city are lawless. Foreigners, including aid workers, have been killed and many have been the target of kidnappings and violent crimes on a number of occasions. The security situation is particularly dangerous in the orders areas and in the north-western and eastern regions of the country. The United Nations peacekeeping mission (MINURCAT), which was previously deployed in the north-easter region of the CAR, has withdrawn its military component.
MS RISK also advises against all travel to the capital city of Bangui due to the tense and unstable security situations. Fighting between government forces and armed opposition groups have previously occurred in the capital. The security situation in Bangui remains to be unpredictable and it may rapidly deteriorate. Armed rebels who have captured 2towns in other parts of the country may in the near future seek to advance on Bangui. Reports have indicated that the rebels have taken the town of Sibut, and that they may now be just 75km north of Bangui. The CAR military has set up several checkpoints throughout the capital city and a curfew is currently in place between 19:00 and 05:00.
MS RISK also advises against all travel to the following provinces: Kemo, Ombella-M’Poko, Vakaga, Bamingui- Bangoran, Ouham, Ouaka, Ouham Péndé, Nana-Gribizi, Haute-Kotto, Mbomou and Haut Mbomou. We also adivse all but essential travel to Basse-Kotto, Lobaye, Mambéré-Kadéï, Nana-Mambéré, and Sangha-Mbaéré provinces due to continuing instability and reports of banditry.
The Central African Republic (CAR) has suffered decades of political upheaval and military crises that have had serious consequences on all of the sectors within the country. The most recent rebel offensive to hit the country began in December 2012 and has continued into the new year, with no end in sight. The crisis began when the Séléka coalition of rebel fighters accused the President of reneging on a peace deal and demanded that he step down. This resulted in the rebels launching an offensive in the northern strategic city of Ndele which caused many residents to flee. Since then, the rebels have seized a number of towns, regional capitals and mining areas in the northern region of the country and have threatened to march towards the capital.
Although the rebels had halted their advance and agreed to take part in talks, which lead to fresh hopes of a peace agreement being reached, the political and security situations remained to be unclear. In turn, the fate of President Francois Bozizé continues to hang in the balance as the rebels have indicated that they may continue to insist that he be removed from power. Although the president has pledged that he will not run for a third time in the next presidential elections, which are scheduled to take place in 2016, there are increasing signs that rebel demands for him to step down may affect negotiations.
The United Nations Security Council has raised its concerns at the advance made by rebels in the Central African Republic, which as of this past week, has brought them extremely close to the nation’s capital city of Bangui. The UN Security Council has also renewed its call for a negotiated solution to the crisis. International diplomats are set to been in Gabon to participate in talks at are aimed at resolving the current crisis in the CAR. The discussions in the Gabonese capital of Libreville come one day after the United Nations called on the CAR government and rebels to end the violence and to instead return to a more peaceful dialogue.
Instability is nothing new in the CAR, which has faced political unrest since it gained independence from France in 1960. The country has witnessed a number of attempted coups and it has suffered scores of civilian casualties as a result of internal and international rebel incursions. Insurgencies in Chad, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as the Congo have all affected the country.