On Friday, Amnesty International reported that new satellite images, video footage and witness accounts show that dozens of people killed by Burundian security forces in December 2015 were later buried in mass graves.
The rights group has reported that there are five possible mass graves in the Buringa area, which is located on the outskirts of the Burundian capital, Bujumbura. A statement released by Amnesty disclosed that “the imagery, dating from late December and early January, shows disturbed earth consistent with witness accounts. Witnesses told Amnesty International that graves were dug on the afternoon of 11 December, in the immediate aftermath of the bloodiest day of Burundi’s escalating crisis.” According to Amnesty, witnesses described how police and local officials scoured Nyakabiga and other neighborhoods in Bujumbura in a bid to retrieve the bodies of those who were killed and took them to undisclosed locations. The latest report on such mass graves comes after UN human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein earlier this month called for an urgent investigation into the alleged existence of mass graves following the violence that erupted in December. At the time, he cited “large-scale human rights violations,” stating that the “increasing number of enforced disappearances, coupled with allegations of secret detention facilities and mass graves is extremely alarming.” The Burundian government however has dismissed these allegations, stating that they are based on false information that was supplied by the regime’s opponents who fled into exile. Government spokesman Philippe Nzobonariba has stated that the US is free to go to Burundi and investigate the allegations, which he said were intended to portray Burundi as being a dangerous country.
On 11 December, in coordinated attacks, gunmen stormed three military installations in Burundi. The following day, 28 people were found shot dead in three neighborhoods in the capital city. An eyewitness reported at the time that some of the dead had their hands tied behind their backs, with another witness blaming government security forces and stating that they went after the victims in door-to-door searches.
President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek re-election last April touched off street protests that led to a failed coup in May and a rebellion which has left the country on the brink of civil war. Opponents and supporters of the president have been targeting each other in gun, rocket and grenade attacks, with the violence spreading beyond the capital city and into the provinces.
In recent months, the number of deadly attacks carried out by Islamic extremists has increased across Africa, which has prompted questions about the resurgence of armed groups that operate in the region.
- 21 January 2016 – Al-Shabaab fighters stormed and took over a beachfront restaurant in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. When the siege was over, more than 20 people had been killed in the attack.
- 15 January 2016 – Gunmen stormed a café popular with foreigners in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou. They fired at people and set the café ablaze and then attacked a nearby hotel. At least thirty people were killed after a more than 12-hour siege. The North African branch of al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), claimed responsibility, stating that fighters from al-Murabitoun, an affiliated terror group, had carried out the assault.
- 15 January 2016 – Al-Shabaab gunmen attacked an African Union (AU) base in Somalia, killing an unknown number of Kenyan peacekeepers. Al-Shabaab has since claimed that it killed about 100 Kenyans, adding that they had also captured several soldiers. Kenyan authorities have not released a death toll. Kenya has provided a major contingent to the AU force that is fighting al-Shabaab and assisting the elected government of Somalia.
- 28 December 2015 – Boko Haram Islamic extremists struck a city and a town in northeastern Nigeria with rocket-propelled grenades and multiple suicide bombers. At least eighty people were killed in Maiduguri, the state capital of Borno.
- 20 November 2015 – Islamic extrmeists seized dozens of hostages at the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali’s capital, Bamako. At least twenty people were killed along with two gunmen during the more than seven-hour siege. AQIM and al-Murabitoun claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that it was their first joint attack.
According to Somali police, late on Thursday, at least twenty people were killed in the Somali capital Mogadishu when five Islamist gunmen set off bombs and stormed a popular beach-front restaurant.
Police officer Osman Nur disclosed Friday that “the operation ended at 3 AM last night and at least 20 civilians were killed.” Somalia’s security minister, Abdirizak Omar Mohamed, reported that four of the gunmen were killed, adding that one was captured alive. Al-Shabaab has since claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that its fighters set off two car bombs at the Beach View Café on Mogadishu’s popular Lido beach, and engaged in a gun battle for hours with government troops trying to flush them out. Police officials have disclosed that al-Shabaab fighters set off the first car bomb at dusk, with witnesses reporting that a huge second blast, which echoed around the city centre, struck about an hour later as government soldiers laid siege to the restaurant. The country’s prime minister urged the public to remain calm and called the attack on a civilian target was a desperate move by a group facing annihilation.
The attack comes a week after al-Shabaab overran an African Union (AU) base near the Kenyan border, saying that they had killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers and captured a number of them. Kenya has not commented on the toll.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that dozens of British troops will be deployed to Somalia in a bid to help the ongoing peacekeeping efforts to counter Islamist militants operating in the Horn of Africa nation.
Sources have disclosed that up to seventy personnel will join the United Nations contingent, which is supporting African Union (AU) troops who are fighting al-Shabaab. British forces deployed to Somalia will provide combat training as well as medical, logistical and engineering support.
Furthermore, up to 300 personnel could also be deployed in South Sudan over time. The role of those being deployed to South Sudan will include combat training as well as engineer work in order to strengthen vital infrastructure.
The PM, who is due to pledge the support at the upcoming UN General Assembly summit, has disclosed that the approach could help curb migrants coming to Europe. According to Mr Cameron, it is important to “step up” existing British contribution,” adding, “obviously we will want to see all the right force protection arrangements in place but we should be playing a part in this.” The British PM further disclosed that “the outcome in Somalia, if it’s a good outcome, that’s good for Britain…It means less terrorism, les migration, less piracy. Ditto in South Sudan: if we can, as peacekeepers, help to maintain order and peace and see stable development in that country then that is going to be, again, less poverty, less migration, less issues that affect us back at home. Mr Cameron however noted that British troop swill not be involved in combat roles, stating, “its not committing troops to conflict, its committing troops to a UN blue-hatted peacekeeping role – as we’ve done many times in the past, as we will do in the future…And one of the reasons we’re doing it is obviously the expertise that British troops have in training, engineering, and mentoring and we’re raising the standard for peacekeeping troops, which has had some issues and problems in the recent past.”
During the upcoming UN General Assembly summit, Prime Minister Cameron will hold face-to-face talks with Somali President Hassan Sheikh Muhamoud, along with several other world leaders.
Al-Shabaab militants have overrun an African Union (AU) military base in southern Somalia, with officials reporting that they inflicted heavy casualties.
According to sources, at least 50 AU soldiers are believed to have been killed and another 50 have been reported missing after al-Shabaab militants overran a military camp in southern Somalia on Tuesday 1 September. A statement issued late Tuesday, more than 12 hours after the assault, indicated “given the complex nature of the attack, AMISOM is currently verifying the number of casualties and the extent of the damage.” The attack, which saw the militants target the camp in Janale, located 80 kilometres (50 miles) southwest of Mogadishu in the Lower Shabelle region and manned by Ugandan troops, now ranks as one of the deadliest yet against AMISOM troops.
Sources have reported that the attack began with the destruction of two bridges, which cut the camp off. A suicide car bomber rammed the base and was followed by an estimated 200 al-Shabaab fighters who overran the camp. AMISOM has indicated that its troops “undertook a tactical withdrawal” as the attack began. A briefing note disclosed that they soldiers did not have any air support as “low cloud and landing restrictions prevented air support by UN contracted support helicopters.” The note further disclosed that Kenyan and Ethiopian jets as well as US drones “were unavailable at the time of the attack” while AMISOM tanks and artillery located in Janale had been redeployed elsewhere.
Al-Shabaab, which has recently lost a string of key bases in the face of an AMISOM offensive, indicated that the attack was revenge for the killing of seven civilians by Ugandan troops at a wedding in the town of Merka in July.