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Saturday, 17th November 2018
6:56:41pm

West Africa

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A Nigerian judge on Wednesday said she wants a missing pro-Biafra leader back in court after he resurfaced in Israel following a months-long disappearance.

Nnamdi Kanu, the head of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement, is charged with treason after pushing for a separate homeland for the Igbo people of southeast Nigeria.

He was given bail under strict conditions last year but has not appeared in court since.

He was last seen in September 2017 before troops raided his family home in Umuahia, the capital of the southeastern Abia state, during a crackdown on IPOB. 

Last month a video of Kanu appeared on social media showing him praying in Israel, and an interview with him was also broadcast on television, though the Israeli embassy wouldn't confirm if he was in the country.

At the hearing of Kanu's trial in Nigeria's capital Abuja on Wednesday, judge Binta Nyako ordered the three people who stood surety for Kanu to produce him in court or forfeit their bonds.

"I want you to go out to look for Nnamdi Kanu, I gave you a Nnamdi Kanu and you have lost him and I'm not happy with you. I want him back," Nyako said.

Before Kanu's conditional release, the three sureties were made to each deposit 100 million naira ($27 200).

The court said they risk being jailed if they fail to produce Kanu.

The case adjourned to March 28, 2019.

Kanu, who also runs the outlawed pirate radio station Radio Biafra, was first arrested in October 2015, sparking a wave of demonstrations calling for his release across southeast Nigeria.

The former London estate agent maintains the Igbo are a lost tribe of Israel and it is his mission to lead them to the promised land of Biafra.

A previous unilateral declaration of Biafran independence in 1967 sparked a brutal civil war that lasted 30 months and left at least one million dead from starvation and disease.

-AFP

Cameroon's military says it has killed least 30 separatists in the past few days in the country's restive North West region.

Military spokesperson Colonel Didier Badjeck said on Wednesday that figures may increase after intense fighting in the Mayo Binka area.

Badjeck said no soldiers died in the fighting. He said the military freed people held by separatists and more than 100 fleeing the violence have arrived in the capital, Yaounde.

Hundreds have been killed in the past year in fighting between the military and armed separatists in Cameroon's northwestern and southwestern regions. 

The trouble started a year ago when the government clamped down on peaceful demonstrations by English-speaking teachers and lawyers protesting what they said was their marginalisation by Cameroon's French-speaking majority.

Separatists demand an independent state, they call Ambazonia.

-AP

Kidnappers freed scores of school children and a driver in west Cameroon early on Wednesday, but kept hold of a principal and one teacher, officials said.

Armed men who seized the youngsters on Monday in the city of Bamenda - a commercial hub of Cameroon’s restive English-speaking region - released them about 18 km (11 miles) away in the town of Bafut, the army said.

“Praise God 78 children and the driver have been released. The principal and one teacher are still with the kidnappers. Let us keep praying,” said Samuel Fonki, a minister of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, who was involved in negotiations to free them.

He said no ransom was paid, but gave no more details on the circumstances leading up to the release. One other child had escaped earlier, he added.

Fonki earlier said another 11 children were kidnapped by the same armed group on Oct. 31, then released after their school paid a ransom of 2.5 million CFA francs ($4,400).

Army spokesperson Didier Badjeck said the kidnappers released the children after the military found out their location. Two other children were still missing, along with the principal and teacher, he said.

Fonki and the Cameroonian military have accused anglophone separatists of carrying out the kidnappings, but a separatist spokesman denied involvement.

The secessionists have imposed curfews and closed schools as part of their protest against Biya’s French-speaking government and its perceived marginalisation of the English-speaking minority. The government has denied discriminating against them. 

Cameroon’s separatist movement turned violent in 2017 after a government crackdown on initially peaceful demonstrations by English-speakers. The linguistic divide is a legacy of a former German colony in central Africa that was divided between allies France and Britain at the end of World War One.

The attack on children, which recalled the 2014 abduction of more than 200 girls by Islamist Militant group Boko Haram in Chibok in neighbouring Nigeria, was criticised by human rights groups.

-Reuters

Nigeria has named its fifth commander in less than 2 years to lead the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency, the army said on Saturday, a move military sources say was related to continued attacks by Islamists.

The attacks could hurt President Muhammadu Buhari’s chances of re-election in Feb. 2019. He campaigned in 2015 vowing to end the insurgency but the conflict is entering its 10th year with attacks by Boko Haram and a group that splintered from it, the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA).

Major General Abba Dikko, who in July took over command of Operation Lafiya Dole, has been replaced as the head of that operation by Major General Benson Akinroluyo, the army said in an emailed statement that outlined dozens of redeployments.

Dikko has been moved to the Department of Civil Military Affairs to fill the position of chief of civil military affairs.

“The Nigerian Army has redeployed some of its officers from Operation Lafiya Dole, Operation Delta Safe, as well as over stayed officers from the theatre as part of routine posting,” the army said in the statement.

Two military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he was redeployed because of attacks by Islamists since he took over. 

Since July, when Dikko was appointed, dozens of Nigerian troops have been killed in battles with militants and ISWA killed two abducted aid workers.

Soldiers also staged a protest at an airport in September.

An army spokesman did not immediately respond to text messages and phone calls seeking further details on the decision to replace Dikko as the head of the fight against Islamists just months after he took the role.

-Reuters

At least 16 Nigerian soldiers are missing following clashes with Boko Haram jihadists in the Lake Chad area, military and militia sources told AFP on Tuesday.

The Islamic State in West Africa (ISWAP) group, a faction of the Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the attack in which it said 15 soldiers were killed, according to SITE, which tracks the online activities of terrorist organisations.

The incident began when gunmen in several trucks attacked a military base and a local market in the town of Kukawa late on Monday, briefly forcing troops out of the base.

"Our soldiers engaged the terrorists in a fierce battle following the attack," a military officer told AFP from Maiduguri, the regional capital which lies about 180km to the south.

"So far, 16 soldiers are missing but search teams are combing the general area to locate them," said the officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

There were no immediate official reports of casualties on either side but a civilian militia group confirmed that 16 soldiers were missing and also said one civilian had been killed in the crossfire.

The attack came hours after Boko Haram jihadists attacked soldiers in Kumshe village near the border with Cameroon.

Last month two Nigerian soldiers were killed when troops on foot patrol stepped on a mine around Kumshe.

Boko Haram has intensified its attacks on military targets in the northeastern states of Borno and Yobe in recent months.

The nine-year jihadist conflict which has spilt into Niger, Cameroon and Chad, has killed 27,000 people and left some 1.8 million homeless in Nigeria alone.

-Reuters

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