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Saturday, 25th May 2019
8:49:39am

West Africa

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Islamic State’s West Africa branch claimed responsibility on Wednesday for a raid in Nigeria two days earlier in which it said 20 soldiers had been killed, and released a video purporting to show the execution of nine other Nigerian soldiers.

A security source and a humanitarian worker, both requesting anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to media, said insurgents struck the northeastern town of Gubio in Borno state on Monday evening, in vehicles mounted with heavy machine guns and on motorbikes.

The insurgents and soldiers exchanged fire for more than an hour before the army withdrew, said the humanitarian worker, who counted the corpses of more than 15 soldiers.

A Nigerian military spokesman said he would send a comment on the Islamic State claim, but at the time of writing had not.

Nigeria has said the insurgency, and its rival Boko Haram, are on the back foot, as the sides engage in a battle of propaganda to show who has the upper hand in the decade-long conflict. 

The war has killed more than 30,000 people and displaced millions more.

The Islamic State branch said in its claim of responsibility, translated into English and published by SITE Intelligence, that its fighters had attacked an army barracks and killed 20 soldiers in Gubio on Monday.

In a separate video also released on Wednesday, Islamic State West Africa showed the execution of nine Nigerian soldiers. It was not immediately possible to independently verify the video.

Before their executions, the soldiers identified themselves by their military service numbers, units and names. Some said where and when they had been captured. For others, it was not immediately clear. 

The video also showed Islamic State fighters pledging allegiance to the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, along with artillery, tanks and boats it said it had captured from the military and attacks on Nigerian bases.

Islamic State West Africa have made several claims of responsibility for attacks over the past months, which have often been verified by security sources and other people with knowledge of their attacks.

-Reuters

Concerned about a rise in violence against Christians in Burkina Faso, Pastor Jacques Ouedraogo changed the time of his Sunday service as a precaution. He believes this is what saved his life. 

Later, his church was one of two targeted by gunmen on May 12 in the town of Dablo in a series of deadly attacks on churches and a religious procession in the last two weeks in Burkina’s formerly peaceful Central North region.

“I could have been one of the martyrs who fell on Sunday,” said the priest.

“We’ve told ourselves our turn will come. Today Christians are potential targets. We’re all scared.”

In the wake of Sunday’s bloodshed, he and hundreds of residents fled Dablo. The town had previously served as a safe haven for some of the thousands displaced by violence in the country’s northern Sahel region, which has become a stronghold for militant groups with links to Islamic State and al Qaeda.

Around 90 kilometres south of Dablo, the city of Kaya has become a refuge for those newly displaced, including a farmer, who asked to be identified by the name Te Wende. Along with his his wife, mother, grandmother and two children, he was warned by neighbours to flee.

“When the shooting started, they called us straight away and told us to run far away,” he said. 

“We don’t know where they came from or what they really wanted,” he said.

On Thursday, the United Nations warned that the Central North region had become the new epicentre for attacks.

The recent targeting of churches threatens to upend traditionally peaceful relations between the Muslim majority and Christians, who make up a quarter of Burkinabes.

“I call on Christians not to panic and not to yield to the temptation of vengeance, because that could be blind,” the Bishop of Kaya, Theophile Nare, said at a meeting of bishops in the capital on Friday.

The first church attack occurred in late April, when gunmen killed a Protestant pastor and five congregants. Subsequently, a Catholic priest and five parishioners were killed in the Dablo attack and a further four Catholics died in an attack on Tuesday.

No one has claimed responsibility, but the Burkinabe government has blamed “terrorist groups ... attacking religion with the macabre aim of dividing us.”

Violent attacks linked to the strengthening jihadist insurgency have surged this year in Burkina as well as across the broader Sahel region, an arid expanse of scrubland just south of the Sahara desert.

Militants have also worked to sow ethnic tensions between farming and herding communities in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger in order to boost recruitment among marginalised communities.

On Thursday, Islamic State’s West African branch claimed responsibility for an ambush that killed 28 soldiers this week in Niger, one of the deadliest attacks against the military in Niger’s west in recent years.

-Reuters

Gunmen attacked a Malian army base in a dawn raid on Sunday, killing 11 soldiers and burning the camp in west-central Mali, the army and a local lawmaker said.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Central Mali has in the past few years been overrun by jihadists with links to al Qaeda.

The unidentified armed assailants attacked the base in Guire district at 0500 local time (0500 GMT) after approaching in a convoy of 11 vehicles, local lawmaker Niame Keita said.

“They burnt the camp and took equipment,” he said.

In a statement, the defence ministry confirmed the attack and said 11 soldiers were killed and more were wounded. Keita had earlier said 12 were reported killed. 

In March, an al Qaeda affiliate said it was behind a similar overnight attack on an army base in the central region of Mopti in which 16 soldiers were killed.

Escalating violence led to the resignation last week of the entire Malian government. The authorities have come under fire for failing to beat back militants and disarm militias, after a massacre of 157 villagers by an ethnic vigilante group shocked the nation in March.

Both Mali and neighbouring Burkina Faso have been hit by the spike in hostilities fuelled by Islamist militants seeking to extend their influence over the Sahel, an arid region between Africa’s northern Sahara desert and its southern savannas.

-Reuters

ISIS fighters killed 11 Nigerian soldiers in an attack on the northeastern town of Gajiganna, the group claimed through its news agency AMAQ.

The armed group said on Saturday the attack on the soldiers took place in the town in northeastern Borno state on Friday. It published pictures of burned barracks and dead bodies it claimed belonged to the soldiers.

Three sources, including one hospital source, confirmed the attack to Reuters news agency. The sources said the fighters stormed the town on a motorbike at roughly 18:30 and opened fire on residents and the military in sporadic shootings.

The fighters fled after the military called in air force support and reinforcements from a battalion in a neighbouring town. 

Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), an affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) has carried out a string of attacks in Nigeria in recent months.

The group split in 2016 from Nigeria-based Boko Haram, which has waged a decade-long insurgency in northeast Nigeria that has killed some 30 000 people and displaced a further 2 million.

-Aljazeera

A Nigerian judge issued arrest warrants for two former ministers and an Eni manager over the sale of offshore oilfield OPL 245 by Malabu Oil and Gas in 2011, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said on Twitter on Wednesday.

Dan Etete, former petroleum minister, ex-attorney general Mohammed Adoke and Eni manager Roberto Casula “are to be arrested anywhere they are found”, the EFCC said in a statement. It said it followed a ruling by judge in the capital, Abuja. 

Eni said it was unaware of any arrest warrants. It has denied any wrongdoing in the case. Reuters was not able to immediately reach Etete, Adoke or Casula for comment.

The $1.3 billion deal has spawned legal cases spanning several countries and involving Nigerian government officials and senior Eni and Shell executives. 

Eni and Shell jointly acquired the field from Malabu, which was owned by Etete. An ongoing case in Milan alleges that roughly $1.1 billion of the total was siphoned to agents and middlemen.

The Milan court has already convicted middlemen Emeka Obi, a Nigerian citizen, and Italian Gianluca Di Nardo, of corruption. Shell and Eni have denied all wrongdoing.

In a statement, the EFCC said the defendants had repeatedly failed to appear before the court in Abuja and that the Nigerian police, INTERPOL and any other law enforcement agencies would have the authority to arrest the men.

-Reuters

 

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