Category Archives: Africa

MUJAO Kidnap Victim Believed Dead in Mali

Posted on in Africa, Mali title_rule

23 April, 2014: The Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) has announced that a French hostage, Gilberto Leal Rodrigues, has died. In November 2012, Leal Rodrigues was kidnapped by armed men near the western town of Kayes in Mali, as he was driving a camper van from Mauritania.

In a brief telephone interview, a spokesman for MUJAO, Yoro Abdoul Salam, gave no details surrounding the date or circumstances of Gilberto Leal Rodrigues’ death, only saying, he “is dead because France is our enemy”. Sources say that when Salam was pressed for evidence, such as pictures or video footage of the body, he said, “in the name of Allah, he is dead”, before hanging up.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had vocalised concern for the 62-year old victim only days earlier. “We haven’t had any news for a long time. We are in contact with the family but we are extremely worried,” he said.

MUJAO, a Mali-based offshoot of al Qaeda, is one of several hard-line Islamist groups that occupied the vast desert north of Mali along with Taureg separatist rebels in 2012, following a military coup. The Islamists then overtook the Taureg fight and began to advance toward Bamako, instigating a French-led intervention which pushed the militants out of the region. France and other nations have continued anti-insurgency operations. Last week, French forces successfully freed five Malian aid workers who were taken hostage in a February kidnapping claimed by MUJAO, and in the past month French soldiers have killed about 40 Islamist fighters, including some senior commanders in Mali.

France is beginning to wind down the presence of soldiers to approximately 1000 troops; however sources suspect that MUJAO and other militias are regrouping. President François Hollande has that Rodrigues Leal’s death will “not go unpunished”. In a statement, Hollande said, “France will do everything to know the truth about what happened to Gilberto Leal Rodrigues and she will not let it pass unpunished […] There is every reason to believe that our fellow died several weeks [ago] because of the conditions of his detention.”

Spokesman of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Romain Nadal said in a statement, “We condemn in the strongest possible action of this terrorist group way.”

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Mokhtar Belmokhtar Alive in Libya

Posted on in Africa, Libya, Mali, Niger title_rule

New information has revealed that Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the militant leader responsible for the bloody siege on Algeria’s In Amenas gas plant in January 2013, is alive and plotting new attacks from Libya. The report contradicts earlier intelligence suggesting Belmokhtar had been killed in fighting in Mali.

Belmokhtar, a native Algerian, was a key member of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) until political infighting lead to a fallout with Abou Zeid. Belmokhtar split from the group and formed Khaled Abu al-Abbas Brigade (aka: Masked Brigade, aka: Signatories in Blood). Over the past year Belmokhtar was known to be working with Islamist group MUJAO to drive the Taureg separatist group, MNLA, out of Gao in Mali. His aim was to expand his land base and increase the numbers in his brigade. However a French-led intervention in Mali successfully put down the rebellion, and Chadian troops claimed to have killed both Belmokhtar and Abou Zeid in March of last year. The US however, still offered a five million dollar reward for information leading to his detention.

A security source in Niger and another close to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA) have confirmed that Belmokhtar has left Mali and taken refuge among armed militias in Libya. Belmokhtar is has evaded detection in Mali where French troops and US drones were searching for him. One source has stated, “From the Libyan territory, he intends to control the entire Sahel,” and many sources beleive that Belmokhtar is planning attacks on Westerners and their interests. Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita believes that if Belmokhtar is in Libya, he posts an “obvious threat” to the entire region.

Malian Analyst El Hadj Konate warns, “Even if he has retreated to Libya, he is still masterminding deadly operations in northern Mali […] he has all the time he needs to regroup his forces because [Libya] is a lawless area.”
Officials in Niger are particularly concerned. On 23 May, 2013, a double attack was carried out on a military base and a French-operated uranium mine in northern Niger, killing several dozen people. Niger shares a long border with the relatively lawless Libya. Southern Libya, according to Niger’s interior minister, “has become an incubator for terrorist groups.”

The Nigerian government is increasing security and development in the north of the country, and focusing on issues including the addressing marginalisation of Tauregs in the area. However, officials fear that the youth of the nation could be influenced by terrorist recruiters.

Niger’s interior minister recently called on France and the United States to help “eradicate the terrorist threat” in Libya. However, the Chief of Staff for the French military has suggested that an international operation in the region could avert the creation “of a new centre of gravity of terrorism”.

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Al Qaeda, AQAP, al-Shabaab, and Anjad Misr release videos

Posted on in Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Terrorism, Yemen title_rule

Four videos and one audio link related to al Qaeda have emerged. An audio release was published on 18 April on the radical Islamist site, Hanein, containing an hour-long question and answer interview AQ’s media group, al-Sahab, and reportedly including al Qaeda’s global leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. In the discussion, Zawahiri states that al Qaeda is “holding strong” despite the ongoing war on terror that began nearly 13 years ago, even adding that US President Obama is aware that AQ is growing. Al Zawahiri states, “The upper hand is for the one who does not withdraw from his land. Who has withdrawn from Iraq, and who has not? Who has withdrawn from Afghanistan and who has not?”

In Egypt, a the militant group Anjad Misr (Soldiers of Egypt) claimed responsibility for attacks in Cairo on April 10, 15, and 18 on their Facebook and Twitter pages. The group also released video of eight previous attacks. Their stated goal is to target members of the current regime, which they consider “criminal” since the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood-backed president Mohamed Morsi. The group’s statement asserts that Anjad Misr does not intend to harm civilians, and has aborted or altered some operations out of concern for civilians in the area. However, the statement said that the group is prepared to receive “information about the movements of the officers and personnel of the criminal services, and their addresses.”

This statement coincides with al Zawahiri’s audio message: he calls the Egyptian army “Americanized” and said they should be fought: “We bless every jihadi operation against the Zionists and the Americanized army that protects their borders and the criminal of the Interior, and fights the American interests that assault the Muslims.”

In Somalia, a video from al-Shabaab, the Somali-based al Qaeda affiliate, has also emerged. In the video, members of the militant group reflect on the siege of Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. The attack resulted in 67 deaths and is one of the bloodiest events associated with the group. However, in the video, the group states that more is likely to come: “It’s not that Westgate was enough. There are still hundreds of men who are wishing for such an operation.”

A final video shows what may be the largest al Qaeda gathering in years. Nasir al-Wuhayshi, the head of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Number Two for global al Qaeda operations, appears in Yemen, greeting his followers. The video shows al-Wuhayshi delivering a speech containing specific threats to the United States: “We must eliminate the cross. … The bearer of the cross is America!”

Analysts believe the video is authentic, and because some faces were blurred out, it may suggest that those individuals may be involved in upcoming plots.

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Ebola Outbreak in West Africa Passes 100 Mark

Posted on in Africa, Guinea, Liberia title_rule

As Ebola deaths in Guinea pass the 100 mark, World Health Organization (WHO) officials have indicated that the latest outbreak of the deadly virus is the “most challenging.”

On Tuesday, the United Nations World Health Organization stated that the number of people believed to have been killed by the Ebola virus in Guinea has passed 100, adding that it was “one of the most challenging Ebola outbreaks we have ever dealt with,” and noting that it could take another four months to contain the deadly virus.

Officials at the WHO have stated that there are currently 157 cases in Guinea, where 101 people have died. Twenty cases have been reported in Guinea’s capital city, Conakry. Sixty-seven of these cases have been confirmed as Ebola. Liberia has also recorded 21 cases and 10 deaths.

While southern Guinea is the epicentre of the outbreak, with the first case reported last month, porous borders amongst many West African states coupled with people frequently travelling between countries, have led to the virus spreading to Liberia. Officials however did receive some good news earlier this week when tests showed that suspected cases in Ghana and Sierra Leone were not Ebola. Two of nine suspected cases in Mali were also cleared. However Dr Keiji Fukuda of the WHO has warned that it is still too early to say whether the rate of transmission is slowing but that the outbreak is far from over. The geographical spread of the outbreak is continuing to make it particularly challenging to contain as past outbreaks involved much smaller areas.

Meanwhile on Saturday, officials in Guinea appealed for calm in the Ebola-hit southern region of the country after a group of international aid workers battling to contain an outbreak of the deadly virus were attacked by a mob. Sources have indicated that Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was forced to suspend its operations in Macenta, in south-eastern Guinea, on Friday after crowds attacked one of its centres. Officials in Conakry later indicated that the crowd had gathered as rumours circulated in the town that the virus was “imported into Guinea or that Ebola fever does not exist in our country.”

A statement issued by Guinea’s government on Saturday vowed that lawbreakers would be brought to justice and said it was “calling for calm and serenity to enable our partners to support us to eradicate this epidemic.” The statement further noted that “the government has protests against such information and reiterates that only the recognition of the existence of the disease will help fight against it.” In regards to the MSF’s work in Guinea, the statement indicated that “the contribution of MSF and all international organisations that are supporting Guinea in the fight against the pandemic is invaluable and has helped so far to contain the disease,” adding that “without these partners, the disease would not be under control today.” MSF has 52 international experts who are working alongside Guinean staff in Conakry and the provincial towns of Gueckedou and Macenta, which are located in the southern epicentre of the outbreak. The MSF’s spokesman Sam Taylor stated Saturday “”MSF’s head of mission is in Gueckedou to meet with the regional governor, senior health officials and local community leaders. We hope to restart our work as soon as possible.” Sources have indicated that MSF is planning to restart its Macenta operation as soon as possible. Treatment is continuing in Gueckedou, another town that has been badly hit by the outbreak.

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Peacekeepers Regain Control of Strategic Town in CAR

Posted on in Africa, Central Africa Republic title_rule

Over the past weekend, peacekeepers stationed in the Central African Republic recaptured control of the key town of Sibut after rebel fighters had taken control of the northern town late last week.

The commander of the African Union force confirmed that his troops had taken control of the town from former members of the mainly Muslim Seleka rebellion.  General Tumenta Chomud further noted that “a Gabonese contingent from MISCA is in place in the town.  It is clear that the Seleka fighters can be contained and they will be disarmed.”  The announcement came just days after Seleka fighters captured the town of Sibut, which links the capital Bangui with the north of the country.  The take forced hundreds of terrified residents to flee into the bush.

On Friday, French troops converged on the rebel-held town in the northern region of the country.  French military aircraft hovered over Sibut, which is located 180 kilometres (110 miles) north of the capital Bangui.  The town was seized by ex-Seleka rebels on Thursday, prompting African troops, and hundreds of frightened residents, to flee.  A French communication officer indicated on that “a military operation is happening in Sibut,” while the presence of the aircraft was been confirmed by defence officials in Paris.

The capture of the northern town is just the latest challenge faced by peacekeepers struggling to maintain order in the CAR.  Newly installed interim president, Catherine Samba Panza has criticized the rebel efforts, stating that they were aiming to “destabilize her mandate,” adding that “at the time when the government is calling for togetherness, tolerance and national reconciliation, some of our countrymen are taking upon themselves the heavy responsibility of dividing the country.”

The latest increase of violence, coupled with the taking over of Sibut, has indicated that the installation of a new government has so far failed to stem inter-religious violence between the mostly Muslim Seleka and Christian militia groups.


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