Tag Archives: Europe

Suspected Ringleader of Paris Attacks Killed in Raid

Posted on in France title_rule

French prosecutors disclosed on Thursday that the suspected ringleader behind last week’s deadly attacks in Paris, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, was amongst those killed in a French police raid that occurred in the early morning hours on Wednesday.

Early on Thursday, the Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed that Abaaoud was amongst those killed when anti-terror police raided a flat in the Paris suburb of Saint Denis. The prosecutor’s office has disclosed that his body was found riddled with bullets and shrapnel in a shattered apartment in the northern suburb. Officials however have noted that it still remains unclear whether Abaaoud had blown himself up or not. Abaaoud (28), a Belgian national, was identified from his fingerprints.

On Wednesday, eight people were arrested and at least two killed in the raid, which targeted the property in the Saint Denis district, near the Stade de France stadium. Sources have disclosed that heavily armed police stormed the building after they received a tip-off that Abaaoud was in Paris. A woman at the flat died during the raid after activating a suicide vest. French media have since reported that the woman, named Hasna Aitboulahcen (26), was Abaaoud’s cousin. Aitboulahcen is believed to be the first female suicide bomber in Western Europe. According to reports, the French-Moroccan citizen was born and grew up in Paris. She is understood to have worked at a construction company in the French capital until 2012. According to a witness to the raid, a woman with long, blonde hair, thought to be Aitboulahcen, was seen approaching the window in the apartment about an hour into the siege.  French authorises have indicated that the raid on the flat foiled another attack, which was reportedly planned for the La Defense business quarter of western Paris. The EU’s law enforcement agency, Europol, has warned that further attacks by IS are likely elsewhere in Europe.        

Hours later, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve disclosed that he had received intelligence that Abaaoud had passed through Greece. He further confirmed that the so-called Islamic State (IS) militant had left for Syria last year, adding that no European Union (EU) states signalled his return. He disclosed that a non-EU state had alerted French officials on Monday that Abaaoud was in Greece. The French minister also implicated Abaaoud in four out of six attacks foiled in France since this spring. The identification of Abaaoud raises serious questions for security services not only in France, but across Europe. Abaaoud was high on both French and Belgian wanted lists and yet he managed to travel from Syria to the heart of Paris without ever leaving a trace.

Investigators are still looking for another suspect, Salah Abdeslam, who is believed to have travelled to Belgium after Friday’s attacks. Earlier on Thursday, Belgian police raided properties linked to Abdeslam and fellow suspected attacker Bilal Hadfi, who was killed on Friday outside the Stade de France stadium. According to Belgian prosecutors, several raids took place in and around Brussels, with Belgian prosecutors reporting that one person has been detained.

On the ground sources have reported that most of the raids in the Belgian capital on Thursday targeted properties in Jette and Molenbeek connected to Bilal Hadfi, a Frenchman who was living in Paris and who was one of the seven attackers killed Friday night. Sources have also reported that a further raid, which targeted an address in the Brussels district of Laeken, was linked to Salah Abdeslam. Speaking to Belgian media, the prosecutor’s office indicated that the raids had been planned for some time and that they are not part of the manhunt. Sources have indicated that Belgian authorities were already investigating Hadfi as he was through to have travelled to Syria.

Meanwhile French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has called for Europe to adopt measures on sharing information about airline passengers as a way of protecting collective security. The call came as France’s lower house of parliament on Thursday voted on a bill to extend the state of emergency, which was declared by President Francois Hollande on Friday for 12 days. The French senate is due to vote on the bill on Friday. The bill includes extending the state of emergency for three months; placing under house arrest anyone deemed to be a public threat; barring suspects from communicating with each other; allowing police to carry out searches at any time, without the prior approval of a judge, if the public is believed to be in danger. Furthermore, under a police directive that was issued to coincide with the state of emergency, French police officers will be allowed to carry their weapons while off duty as long as they wear an armband to identify them. Paris police have extended their ban on gatherings and demonstrations until midnight on Sunday, however they will be allowed at the various sites that were attacked last Friday.

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European Migration Crisis

Posted on in European Union title_rule

Since the beginning of the year, Europe stood witness to ever-augmenting migratory flows. These immigrants seek to reach Europe in an effort to get away from the war and instability that plagues their home-countries. The attempts to reach the European borders were underlined by ever-increasing fatalities of immigrants drowned in the Mediterranean and the Aegean. In the beginning of the year, these flows mainly used Libya to gain access to Italy through the Mediterranean, however, during the second quarter of 2015 the flows shifted their focus towards Greece since the passage to Europe through Turkey and Greece was deemed safer. Europe’s response to this crisis was slow and, in most cases, inadequate. The first attempt for the implementation of a quotas plan that would distribute the immigrants to the European countries was met with strong opposition from many European countries that deemed the plan as unfair. In the past months the only plan that found the European states in agreement was the provision of financial aid to the countries that carry the main burden of the problem to help handle the flows. While Europe stood frozen and unable to agree on the proper way to handle the crisis, the immigrants continued entering EU through Greece and Italy, and from there traveling central and north European countries.

Many countries chose to handle the problem individually, and in a mostly unsuccessful way. Greece and Italy, already burdened with the responsibility to save thousands of immigrants daily from half-sank dinghies at their sea borders, had to create, in a limited timeframe, the necessary infrastructure to identify these individuals, and divide them between refugees that have a legitimate claim to asylum and to economic immigrants that need to be returned to their home-countries. That proved to be challenging both for Greece and Italy, with the first facing at the same time an economic and political crisis that did not allow for an effective implementation of policies that would help alleviate the crisis. Hungary chose to handle the crisis in an unsuccessful, and for many unethical, way by building in a matter of weeks a fence along its Balkan frontiers and using the army to ensure that no one will pass this fence. This measure was deemed unethical since it violates the EU’s fundamental principles that oblige the member-states to provide asylum to anyone that has legitimate reasons to flee his home country because his life is in danger. The Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban achieved gaining the public’s support of his strategy through a series of campaigns, amplified by friendly media, that projected the immigrants as an imminent threat for the Hungarians. After the fence went up, and plans for its extension were announced, riot police used gas and water cannon on stone-throwing immigrants. At the same time, it was an unsuccessful measure since it has been proven in the past that fences do not stop these flows, they simply redirect them to seek other routes. That resulted in the shift of the migratory flows towards Croatia in an to attempt reach their destination countries. Under the burden, Croatia reacted in a similar, rather instinctive, way by closing seven of its eight road border crossings with Serbia following the ever-increasing influx of immigrants that redirected their routes after Hungary fenced off its borders and closed its borders with Serbia. Additionally, Czech Republic was severely criticised after it used the police to remove the immigrants from the trains headed to Germany, and started detaining and numbering immigrants using permanent markers to write registration numbers on the wrists and arms of immigrants. Even Germany, that announced during the last week of August the temporary suspension of the Dublin Agreements stating that it would accept all Syrian asylum-seekers, decided, barely eight days later, to close its borders with Austria leaving thousands of immigrants stranded in Austria’s train stations. The continuation of these practises will not solve the problem, contrary, they will only succeed in trapping these immigrants to Greece, creating a situation which could take unthinkable dimensions.

With a plethora of similar measures being implemented across Europe many started discussing the suspension of Schengen Agreement, one of the pillars upon which European Union is based on and promotes the freedom of movement between the member states. This is not the first time the Schengen Agreement seems to be under threat. In 2011, fearing an influx of North African refugees, Italy and France pushed for a review of the agreement. Earlier this year the Dutch Prime Minister threatened Greece with expulsion if it allowed immigrants free passage to the rest of Europe. Neither eventuality came to pass. What Germany did by temporarily closing its borders with Austria is not a direct violation of the agreement, since Schengen allows countries to briefly reinstate border controls for reasons of national security. However, if these controls become a way to handle the influx of immigrants then they risk reversing decades of European integration.

On September 22 and 23, Europe made another attempt to handle the immigration crisis, since as the time passes and the problem persists, it seems that the European leaders realise that it is a situation that has to be faced collectively. Not only within the borders of the EU, but also by collaborating with other countries that are affected by this problem such as Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. The European states agreed by a strong majority on a mandatory plan to relocate 120,000 asylum seekers across the continent over the next to years. Four governments – Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania- opposed the proposal, and Finland abstained. This plan, however, shares the burden of only a fraction of the total number of asylum seekers who have come to Europe during this year, a total that already surpasses 500,000. Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico announced that his government will not honour the ministerial decision even of it risks a lawsuit by the European Commission. Additionally, the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said after the vote that this plan will encourage more immigration and that Europe’s culture will be irrevocably diluted by allowing more Muslims to settle.

Under the plan agreed by the EU’s Foreign Ministers, some 66,000 asylum seekers will be relocated from Italy and Greece to other EU member states in coming months (15,600 from Italy and 50,400 from Greece). That leaves around 54,000 people who could be relocated from other countries if they experience a sudden influx of migrants and appeal for help. After one year, Italy and Greece will be reallocated the remainder of this reserve, meaning that they will be able to send additional number of asylum seekers elsewhere in the EU. From the plan are excluded only the three countries who have a partial opt-out from EU immigration rules, the UK, Ireland and Denmark. Despite UK being officially excluded by the quotas system, it has been repeatedly under pressure, mainly from France and Germany, to share the burden and accept immigrants. The British Prime Minister David Cameron announced that UK will commit another 100 million pounds to supporting refugees camps bordering Syria and has agreed to accept 20,000 refugees from these camps over the next five years. Ireland stated that it will participate in the quotas plan despite its opt-out. Switzerland, Norway and Iceland, which are not in the EU are also taking part. To assuage concerns from some Central and Eastern European member states, EU governments may seek a one-year delay for accepting up to 30 percent of the asylum seekers they are allocated. That could be further extended by a second year if other member states and the European Commission agree.

The quotas were determined largely by the size of each country’s population and its GDP. Also taken into account was the country’s unemployment rate and its number of spontaneous asylum applications and resettled refugees per one million inhabitants in the last five years. That has as a result that 60 percent of asylum-seekers be moved to just three countries, Germany, France and Spain. However, the plan does not account for the migrants who will continue to flood into Europe this fall. At the same time, there is a provision for the creation of ‘hotspots’ in Greece and Italy by the end of November where EU experts can quickly register and identify people for refugee protections. The quotas plan will be paired by a simultaneous effort to provide more help to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and other countries in the region in the hopes of at least dissuading some people who are fleeing conflicts and poverty to stay in the Middle East. EU will allocate one billion euros to the region in cooperation with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the World Food Program. At the same time, the European leaders agreed during their meeting on September 23 to strengthen the management and the control of EU’s external borders, since it would be unfair to expect that Greece and Italy to handle on their own this huge influx of immigrants.

However, this agreement is nothing more than a temporary solution to the problem. To begin with, the decision to override the dissenter countries means the EU will be sending thousands of people to nations that do not wants them, raising questions about both the future of the 28-national bloc and the well-being of the asylum-seekers consigned to this countries. The acceptance and integration of the immigrants into the local communities is further disturbed when countries, such as Germany through its Chief of Intelligence Hans-Georg Maassen, circulate the view that the refugees could be recruited by radical Islamists already in the country to organise terrorist attacks. It is apparent that this kind of rhetoric does not facilitate their integration and acceptance to the local communities. Additionally, EU has not announced according to which criteria the refugees will be chosen to be allocated to each country, creating rumours that countries such as Germany that are in need of specialised workforce will accept mainly the refugees with high qualifications and distribute the ones with a limited educational and professional background to the other countries. Finally, while the majority of the European leaders seem to be satisfied with the agreement reached, they did not highlight that this plan deals with only a portion of the 500,000 immigrants currently in Europe and they did not acknowledge the fact that the biggest migratory flow has not as of yet commenced. Turkey currently hosts 2,5 million refugees, Lebanon around 1,5 million and Jordan some 700,000 refugees. It seems apparent that the allocation of one billion euros is a temporary solution and will not dissuade them from attempting to seek a better future in Europe. Nevertheless, the value of the agreement reached should not be undermined. It is the first organised and cohesive reaction of a Europe that proved during this crisis that its crisis management reflexes are extremely slow. However, it should not be considered as a viable solution to a problem that its route causes have not yet been addressed.

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Migration Crisis

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

The volatile situation in Middle East and in North Africa, along with the economic recession that plagues many states, have resulted in increased migratory flows found in overcrowded boats heading towards Europe. Data collected from the EU border agency Frontex in the first two quarters of 2015 present a worrisome situation since the percentage of irregular migrants attempting to cross to Europe is much higher than in the same period last year. Italy and Greece are on the frontline due to their geographical position and their proximity to areas such as Libya where the conflict and the lack of political control has created a fertile ground for the smugglers. Italy and Greece have been unable to shoulder alone the heavy load of irregular migration and they have urged their EU partners to do more to help.

The number of migrants reaching Greece by sea has soared to 63,000 this year, surpassing the 62,000 who arrived in Italy by sea. This increase of the migratory flows towards Greece can be explained by the fact that the voyage from Libya to Italy is longer and more hazardous. Migrant deaths at sea this year reached 1,865 by June 10, and of those, 1,816 died trying to reach Italy. A shipwreck off Italy’s Lampedusa island on 19 April took some 800 lives. So, more migrants, especially Syrians, choosing Greece as their destination instead of attempting to follow the Libya route. To the present, according to Frontex, some 153,000 irregular migrants have been detected at Europe’s external borders. That is a 149 percent increase compared with the same period in 2014 when the total was 61,500. One of the biggest operations that tested Italy’s and other states’ rescue teams’ abilities and underlined the need for an immediate solution took place on 6-7 June. During these two days nearly 6,000 people were rescued from the sea and taken to southern Italy. A surge has also been detected towards the Greek island of Lesvos where daily the authorities have to rescue migrants packed on flimsy rubber dinghies or small wooden boats, putting a huge strain on local resources. The mainland borders of Greece are not to be ignored since they remain a major transit point using Turkey or nearby Balkan countries hoping to reach one of the countries in northern Europe. Additionally, Hungary has emerged as another major pressure point. From January to the end of May 50,000 irregular migrants attempted to cross the borders from Serbia into Hungary, an 880 percent increase compared with the same period last year. Due to these increased numbers, Hungary’s authorities have urged EU not to send back migrants that their entry point was Hungary. At the same time, the government announced its plan to erect a fence across its border with Serbia to discourage future migrants from choosing Hungary as their entry point into Europe.The civil war in Syria has triggered a huge flow of migrants towards Europe declaring Syrians as the largest migrant group by nationality with more than 8,000 people. Then come migrants from Eritrea with more than 3,000 and Somalia with more than 2,900.

In November 2014 Italy ended its search and rescue mission called Mare Nostrum. It was replaced by a cheaper and more limited EU operation called Triton, focused on patrolling within 30 nautical miles of the Italian coast. However, under the increased migratory flows Triton proved to be inadequate. After argument due to the strain under which the coastal guards were in, the EU leaders decided to triple funding for operation Triton reaching the spending levels of Italy’s Mare Nostrum. At the same time, many European leaders committed to send naval assets to the Mediterranean in an attempt to shoulder some of the burden the European countries of the south face.

At an emergency summit on 23 April, EU leaders agreed to strengthen maritime patrols in the Mediterranean aiming at disrupting people trafficking networks and capture and destroy boats before migrants board them. However, any military action will have to conform with international law. EU’s new plans focused on eliminating the smugglers and handling the condition that facilitated their existence, focusing on the Libyan crisis. The EU was seeking a UN mandate that would allow military action to destroy or halt smugglers’ boats in Libyan waters. According to EU these operations fall under chapter seven of the UN charter that authorises the use of force to maintain international peace. However Libya criticised EU proposals stating that EU’s intentions were unclear and ‘’very worrying’’. At the same time, military action could leave migrants trapped in Libya in desperate conditions. According to rights group Amnesty International many migrants reported that they were driven to make the journey across the Mediterranean in a haste under the threat of ‘’horrific abuse’’, including abduction, torture and rape in Libya.

Recently, EU’s efforts to tackle the migration problem have focused on the introduction of new measures that impose migrant quotas on the 28 countries of the union under a distribution ‘’key’’ system. The states will be required to accept asylum seekers in proportions to the size of their economy, unemployment rate and population. The commission’s proposals would start modestly, calling for the distribution across the EU of 60,000 Syrian and Eritrean asylum-seekers, 40,000 already in Italy and Greece and 20,000 still to make the Mediterranean crossing. The plan was greeted with mixed reactions. UK, Denmark and Ireland were given the option not to participate in the quota system due to special opt-outs with the EU on asylum policy. Germany accepted the plan but demanded some corrections been made. Italy, Austria and Sweden has also supported the plan. However, many countries have strongly opposed to the plan, such as France, Poland, Spain, Estonia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Baltic states deeming it unfair and against their national interests. At the same time, the countries that oppose the plan pointed that the redistribution of asylum seekers may contravene the UN convention to refugees, which enshrines the right of people to file for refugee status in the country of arrival. For the implementation of the plan France’s and Spain’s support, along with Germany’s, is necessary. Some other measures considered by EU are:

  • Additional funding for operations by Frontex;
  • An extra 50 million euros ($56 million) for an EU-wide resettlement scheme, to offer 20,000 places across member states to displaced people in clear need of international protection in Europe;
  • The possibility of organising a joint security operation in the Mediterranean to dismantle smugglers’ networks by capturing and destroying their boats;
  • The collaboration with migrants’ countries of origin and nations that are major transit points to try to stem the flow of migrants before they are put on boats, including by helping them to strengthen their borders;
  • The introduction of a new policy on legal migration to reduce the incentive for people to seek to enter illegally and making sure all EU states share a common policy on asylum process.

However, in many cases, the adoption and implementation of these measures is obstructed by the internal problems that EU currently faces such as the surge of right-wing parties in many countries, the economic difficulties that many countries face and the high unemployment rates. Even if the EU approves the proposed quotas system its implementation is going to be difficult if one considers the sporadic implementation of the existing asylum system under the Dublin Regulation. According to this regulation, responsibility for examining the claim lies primarily with the member state which played the greatest part in the applicant’s entry or residence in the EU. Often that is the first EU country that the migrant reached, but not always, as in many cases migrants want to be reunited with family members that often resident in other European states. Its full implementation is dubious since many countries, such as Greece, complain they are inundated with applications since their geographical position makes them the more accessible entry points of the migrants. Germany and Finland have already stopped sending the migrants back to Greece despite the regulation being in full effect. Under this conditions more and more states decide to act unilaterally in an effort to protect their national interests. Austria threatened to reimpose controls on its Hungarian border and UK is considering increasing security around the French port of Calais. Hungary announced that it will no longer readmit asylum seekers who had traveled to other EU countries after officially entering the EU’s border-free Schengen area in Hungary. At the same time, the Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, said that if no equitable deal is struck, Italy will start issuing migrants with temporary visas allowing them to travel elsewhere in Europe, stop receiving the hundreds of boats arriving from Libya and refuse docking for foreign ships rescuing those stranded at sea.

Judging by the way the European states responded to the proposed quotas plan, and the unilateral actions that they adopted to secure their nations against the migration problem it seems that the solution of the migration problem will not be achieved anytime soon. The states seem to be reluctant to accept the fact that the migration crisis is a European problem and a common comprehensive approach is needed. An approach that will not only solve the distribution of the migrants but will view it not as the main problem but as a symptom that arises though causes such as the conflicts, instability and poverty that infest many countries at the European neighbourhood.

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Ahead of a Referendum, Ukraine’s Crimea Votes for Full Independence

Posted on in Ukraine title_rule

On Tuesday, Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula voted for full independence from Ukraine ahead of a referendum to join Russia.  Meanwhile, France has threatened sanctions against Moscow, which could be implemented as early as this week.

Yanukovych Remains Defiant 

The latest escalation, in what has developed into Europe’s worst crisis in decades, came moments after ousted pro-Kremlin leader Victor Yanukovych defiantly vowed to return to Kiev from Russia, declaring that he was still the leader of the former Soviet country.  Speaking to reporters in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, Yanukovych, in what is his first public appearance since February 28, stated “I remain not just the sole legitimate president of Ukraine but also commander-in-chief,” adding “as soon as the circumstances allow – and I am sure there is not long to wait – I will without doubt return to Kiev.”

In light of the upcoming referendum, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned that if Moscow failed to respond to Western proposals on the standoff, sanctions against Russia could come as early as this week.  On Tuesday, Western officials are also expected to meet in London in order to finalize a list of Russian officials who may face asset freezes and travel restrictions over their role in endangering the sovereignty of Europe’s largest state.

Independence and Referendum

On Tuesday, Crimea’s parliamentary assembly took another dramatic step by issuing a declaration proclaiming the region’s full independence from Kiev rule.  The body had earlier voted to actually join Russia, with the latest move appearing to be primarily aimed at creating a legal framework for becoming a part of Russia as a sovereign state.

Crimea has been a tinderbox since Russian forces seized control of the Black Sea peninsula, which has been home to its Black Sea Fleet since the 18th century, with help of Kremlin-backed militias days after Yanukovych fled Ukraine last month in response to three months of deadly unrest.  The strategic region’s self-declared rulers are recruiting volunteers to fight Ukrainian soldiers while Russia’s parliament on Tuesday prepared legislation that would simplify the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea after Sunday’s vote.  However the pro-European leaders in Kiev have rejected the referendum and are appealing to Western powers for both diplomatic backing and pressure on Moscow to release its troops stronghold on the rugged peninsula of two million people.

NATO Launches Surveillance

Meanwhile NATO announced Monday that it will deploy AWACS reconnaissance aircraft, which will overfly Poland and Romania, as part of alliance efforts to monitor the crisis in Ukraine.  The Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) will fly missions from their home base in Geilenkirchen, Germany, where seventeen are housed, and from Waddington in Britain.  The AWACS aircraft are one of the most sophisticated command and control vehicles in the NATO armoury, capable of monitoring huge swathes of airspace, with diplomatic sources indicating that the AWACS were routinely deployed and on that count, there was nothing unusual in their use in this case.    However a diplomatic source has indicated that it is unusual that the deployment has been announced publicly.

According to a NATO official, the flights “will enhance the Alliance’s situational awareness,” adding “all AWACS reconnaissance flights will take place solely over Alliance territory.”  The official also noted “this decision is an appropriate and responsible action in line with NATO’s decision to intensify our on-going assessment of the implications of this crisis for Alliance security.”  Flying over Poland and Romania the AWACS planes should be able to see far into Ukraine’s airspace.

As the Ukraine crisis has deepened, with Russian intervention on the Crimean peninsula, former Soviet satellites in Eastern Europe have become increasingly nervous at President Vladimir Putin’s apparent willingness to up the ante.  The situation risks becoming more difficult if Crimea, which is now controlled by pro-Russian leaders, votes in a March 16 referendum to break all links with Kiev and become a part of Russia.  Poland and the Baltic states especially have taken a hard line as events have unfolded and last week, Warsaw called for urgent consultations with its NATO allies on the situation.  In response to Putin’s move into Crimea, which is home to a large Russian-speaking population and the Black Sea fleet, the US is sending a dozen F-16 fighter jets and 300 service personnel to Poland as part of a training exercise.  Last week, Washington also deployed six additional F-15 fighter jets to step up NATO air patrols over the Baltic states.


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Air Strikes in Somalia; Dozens Die in Niger

Posted on in Niger, Somalia title_rule

According to residents, an air strike in southern Somalia has killed two senior al-Shabaab commanders.  Meanwhile in Niger, a number of travellers are feared to have died of thirst while attempting to cross the Sahara on their way to Europe.

According to local residents, an air strike destroyed the vehicle of al-Shabaab militants who were travelling in between the towns of Jilib and Barawe, which is seen as a major base of al-Shabaab.  A Kenyan military source has indicated that their troops raided Jilib however it is unlikely that they carried out the airstrike.  Reports have indicated that the strike was probably a drone attack.  Jilib is located some 120 kilometers (75 miles) north of the port city of Kismayo.  The air strike comes weeks after the US launched a failed raid in Barawe earlier this month.  The US was believed o have sought to capture al-Shabaab commander Abdukadir Mohamed Abdukadir, also known as Ikrima, whoever US commands were forced to retreat after meeting heavy resistance.  Ikrima is an al-Shabaab leader who is responsible for logistics.  According to residents of Barawe, he is known to be usually accompanied by about twenty well-armed guards.

The US has previously carried out a number of air strikes in Somalia.  In 2008, a US strike killed al-Shabaab commander Aden Hashi Ayro.  One year later, another strike killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan.  He was accused of being involved in the 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi along with the 2002 attacks on a hotel and airline in Mombasa.

Meanwhile in Niger, officials have stated that dozens of people traversing the Sahara desert, on their way to Europe, are feared to have died of thirst.  According to the governor of Agadez, five bodies have been found while a further thirty-five are missing after a vehicle carrying the passengers broke down, forcing them to set off in order to seek help.  The bodies found are of two women and three girls aged 9 – 11.  The rest of the travellers consisted of “entire families, including very many children and women.”

Reports have indicated that after one vehicle broke down, passengers went to look for spare parts in order to bring them back for repairs.  It is believed that the migrants broke up into small groups.  Days later, the survivors, who reached Arlit, a town known for its uranium mining, alerted the army however the troops arrived too late at the scene.  The authorities have called off the search for the missing.    According to the mayor of Agadex, Rhissa Feltou, two vehicles had left the town of Arlit, which is located north of Agadez, earlier this month.  They were carrying “at least” sixty migrants.    The city of Agadez lies on one of the main migrant routes from West Africa to Europe.

Over the past month, hundreds of migrants have died after their boats sans as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

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