Posts Tagged ‘food shortages’

As Gaza and Palestinians approaches ‘famine,’ Israel, rather than world, appears most concerned

January 26, 2018

The Times of Israel

January 26, 2018

Following US aid cuts from UNRWA, Palestinian residents hold near-daily protests and coastal enclave appears on brink of economic collapse

A Palestinian man loads a horse-pulled cart with food aid outside the United Nations food distribution center in Gaza City on January 15, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

A Palestinian man loads a horse-pulled cart with food aid outside the United Nations food distribution center in Gaza City on January 15, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

Residents of the Gaza Strip are growing increasingly desperate over food shortages, with some saying it’s only a matter of time before Palestinians march on the Erez crossing that straddles the border with Israel “just out of distress.”

“Gaza is heading towards famine,” a longtime friend of this reporter said. “It is only a question of time, and we will get there.”

He added, “There are already cases of families who simply don’t have anything to eat, and the UNRWA budget cuts will only make things worse” — a reference to recent US cuts to the UN Palestinian aid agency.

Recently, nearly every day has seen semi-spontaneous protests, mostly by civilians, who have no livelihood and are seeking to raise international awareness of their plight.

This week, a news agency broadcast an interview with a Khan Younis resident who was offering to sell his son, held in his arms.

“Every day his mother tells me to get him something to eat,” the man said, “and I have nothing to give him.” Behind him were dozens of residents protesting the economic situation in Gaza.

Monday and Tuesday saw general trade strikes in the Strip, perhaps born of a hope, or fantasy, that such a step would serve as a wake-up call to the world, Israel, Egypt or the Palestinian Authority.

But the world is far from being concerned with Gaza at the moment. The Strip is on the brink of economic collapse, but very few are taking an interest.

Hamas security forces stand guard at the Erez border crossing into Israel, in Beit Hanun, in the northern Gaza Strip on March 26, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Although Gazans tend to blame Israel for their situation, it is actually the Jewish state that seems to be trying to encourage improved economic conditions.

The Palestinian Authority recently decided to renew the electricity supply to Gaza by resuming payments for power generated by Israel (now providing power to homes for six hours, followed by 12 hours of darkness).

But the decision to renew the power supply was not due to a sudden stroke of generosity by the PA. According to sources, it was the result of an ultimatum by Israel: The Jewish state warned the PA that if it didn’t renew payments for the Gaza power bill, the Israeli government would cover the costs with PA tax money it collects. Ramallah understood the message and made a public show of renewing electricity payments.

At any rate, the two additional hours of power will not do much to change the economic situation in the Strip.

It was also Israel that recently went against standard policy by approving the entry of materials into Gaza that are considered dual-purpose — that is, they could be used by Hamas to build tunnels or manufacture weaponry.

Last week, wood supplies — in the past a source of tunnel beams — were allowed in to the Strip. Before that, approval was given to supplies of cement, iron, gas, fuels, and other materials.

The general hardship, however, means these dual-purpose materials are not in very high demand. One Gaza trader said there was only a 20 percent demand for the cement that Israel allowed in.

Perhaps the most pressing problem in Gaza these days is connected to government employees, both those of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian children do their homework by candlelight during a power outage in Gaza City on September 11, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

For more than two months, the 45,000 Hamas officials in Gaza have not received their wages. In Hamas’s view, the PA is supposed to pay, but the PA refuses due to the terror group’s refusal to hand over control of the territory.

On top of this are the thousands of PA officials who were forced out on pension. Possibly joining them now will be the 13,000 UNRWA officials, who can apparently expect to receive only half of their wages in the coming month as a result of US cuts.

And so economic activity in Gaza has been reduced dramatically. Unemployment figures have reached some 46.6%. Over a million people — half the population –need UNRWA food packages to survive the month.

One figure that should ring alarm bells in Israel relates to the demand for goods from the Jewish state. According to Palestinian figures, over a year ago the number of trucks carrying goods into the Gaza Strip every day was around 800-1,000, whereas now that has dropped to an average of just 370. This is not because of Israeli measures, but rather because the Gazans have no money to spend.

“There were over 100,000 police clarifications because of checks that bounced,” my friend said. “Every day workers are fired in the biggest trade companies, or they close.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas speaks prior to attend a EU foreign affairs council at the European Council in Brussels, January 22, 2018. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP)

Is there a light at the end of the tunnel? At the moment, it appears not. A reconciliation between bitter rivals Fatah and Hamas has faded (again). Hamas and the Fatah-dominated PA are still at loggerheads, separate and hostile.

Egyptian Intelligence Minister Khaled Fawzy, considered the godfather of the reconciliation process, was fired last week. The man chosen to replace him is Abbas Kamil, one of the great enemies of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Or, in other words, not exactly the kind of person who sees Hamas as a strategic partner.

The heir to Mahmoud Abbas

The recent crisis between the PA and the US, between US President Donald Trump and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, again highlights the question of what will be “the day after” the Palestinian leader departs the political stage.

There are more than a few sources in the Palestinian territories who claim “the day after” is already here. Senior figures in Fatah and the PLO have already opened campaigns for the succession, even though Abbas is still ruling. Meanwhile, two of the names that have been raised in recent years seem a little less relevant due to deteriorating health.

One is the secretary-general of the PLO executive committee, Saeb Erekat, who recently underwent a lung transplant in the US.

The other is the head of the Palestinian general intelligence service, Majed Faraj. According to Ramallah sources, Faraj has not been in the best of health and has needed intensive treatment. It is not clear if it was for those reasons or others that Faraj did not travel with Abbas to Brussels to meet with representatives of the European Union this week. He also skipped a summit in Cairo.  He was at the opening of a recent PLO central committee conference in Ramallah but didn’t attend the second day of meetings.

Mahmoud al-Aloul, member of the Central Committee of Fatah. January 6, 2010. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

So who then is in the running? Deputy Chairman of Fatah Mahmoud al-Aloul has ostensibly emerged as one of the dominant forces. (The Fatah leadership is the body that will apparently decide the heir.) He is responsible for Fatah’s Tanzim militias, appears often at Fatah events, and has cast himself as more extreme than Abbas — perhaps boosting his support among party members in the process.

He is located in Nablus and there are those who claim al-Aloul is preparing his followers for a possible physical battle over the succession.

And then there is Jibril Rajoub, who continues to intensively deal with Palestinian sport and soccer, and Tawfik Tirawi who is still depicted as the “bad boy” of the Fatah leadership.

Not to be forgotten is the man in an Israeli prison, Marwan Barghouti, convicted for his part in the murder of five Israelis in terror attacks. He was and remains the most popular figure in the territories. These days, however, Barghouti doesn’t have a real grip on the Fatah leadership, since those closest to him are being kept at a distance.


Suspected cholera cases reach one million in Yemen

December 21, 2017


© AFP/File | A Yemeni child suspected of being infected with cholera cries at a hospital in the coastal city of Hodeida on November 5, 2017

SANAA (AFP) – The number of suspected cholera cases in war-torn Yemen has reached one million, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday.”Yemen suspected cholera cases has reached the threshold of one million, amplifying the suffering of the country caught up in a brutal war,” the ICRC said on its Yemen Twitter account.

The WHO warned last month that some 2,200 people have already died from the waterborne disease, which has propagated rapidly due to deteriorating hygiene and sanitation conditions.

Yemen is in the midst of a bloody war between pro-government forces and Huthi rebels who control the capital.

Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies intervened in the conflict on the side of the government in 2015 with air strikes and a far-reaching blockade on its neighbour’s air and sea ports.

In early November, the coalition tightened that blockade in response to a missile fired by the Shiite Huthis that was intercepted near Riyadh airport.

At the time, the UN aid chief warned the move would exacerbate an already dire humanitarian situation.

The blockade was partially lifted three weeks later under massive international pressure, namely over the closure of Hodeida port — key to humanitarian and commercial deliveries.

The Iran-backed Huthis on Tuesday conducted another failed missile strike against Riyadh to mark the 1,000th day since the Saudi-led intervention.

The coalition said in a statement Wednesday that it would not resort to closing Hodeida in the wake of the attack.

More than 8,750 people have been killed since Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government’s fight against the rebels, triggering what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

U.S. Urges World to Cut Ties With North Korea

November 30, 2017

Trump administration seeks to isolate Kim regime following a new missile test by Pyongyang that experts say can reach Washington D.C.

United States ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Nikki Haley speaks on the sidelines of the Security Council on November 29, 2017

United Nations—The U.S. called Wednesday on all countries to suspend diplomatic ties with North Korea and asked that China stop crude oil trade with Pyongyang as diplomats met at an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting.

The council convened for the 13th time this year to debate how the international community should confront North Korea’s rapidly accelerating ballistic missile capability.

Pyongyang on Wednesday fired an intercontinental ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan, displaying range that experts said could reach Washington, D.C., placing the entire continental U.S. under potential military and nuclear threat.

The test marked North Korea’s third ICBM and 20th ballistic missile launch in 2017, U.N. officials said.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said the regime’s action “brings the world closer to war, not further from it.” She said that Washington didn’t seek war, but added: “If war comes, make no mistake, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed.”

Diplomats debated for close to two hours over tools for exerting further political and economic pressure against the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Ms. Haley said the council had options: to revoke North Korea’s U.N. privileges and voting rights; call on all member states to suspend diplomatic, scholarly and trade relations; demand countries expel North Korean workers and sanction the country’s crude oil imports.

Twenty countries have already cut diplomatic ties with North Korea, Ms. Haley said. But many others, including some U.S. allies like the U.K., still have embassies and diplomats in the country.

No action was taken Wednesday, but Washington’s list of demands could be a hard sell to the council and many member states.

China and Russia are opposed to measures such as blocking oil trade because of the potential impact on North Korea’s economy and consumers, particularly in winter months.

On Wednesday, China and Russia both called for restraint in rhetoric and condemned Pyongyang’s missile launch. Both ambassadors said the only solution to the conflict was political but also expressed concern that hopes for a diplomatic solution were diminishing.

“Prospects for normalizing the situation on Korean Peninsula continue to be very distant,” said Russia’s Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia.

Some diplomats, including U.N. Undersecretary for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, told the council that civilians were suffering from food insecurity and that sanctions had impeded the ability of aid agencies to conduct humanitarian relief work in North Korea.

Some diplomats, including several Security Council members, have said their capitals still see value in maintaining diplomatic relations and having a presence on the ground in Pyongyang. They said they believe a total diplomatic blackout would diminish the prospects for a resolution to the crisis.

Expelling North Korea from the U.N. or revoking its privileges also wouldn’t be an easy feat. Membership to the U.N. is decided by a vote in the General Assembly at the recommendation of the Security Council. An expulsion of a country also would need a majority vote of the 193-member assembly, and has no precedent.

Diplomats said discussions would continue on the council’s next steps and actions and it remained unclear whether or not a new sanctions resolution would materialize.

Italy’s Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, the rotating president of the council this month and the chair of the North Korea sanctions committee, briefed the council on status of implementation of current sanctions. Mr.Cardi said that more member states reported implementing the latest resolution than previous times.

Write to Farnaz Fassihi at

Venezuelan business group urges government to abort congress vote

July 25, 2017

July 25, 2017

Image result for Nicolas Maduro, photos

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s main business guild Fedecamaras demanded on Tuesday that President Nicolas Maduro’s government abort a controversial vote scheduled for Sunday to create a special congress capable of rewriting the country’s constitution.

Critics have called it a dictatorial move and U.S. President Donald Trump threatened last week to impose economic sanctions on Venezuela if it went ahead.

Fedecamaras said the Constituent Assembly was “unconstitutional and unnecessary” and not the way out of Venezuela’s crisis.

“We demand the executive branch abandon its intention to impose a new constitution,” the group said in a statement.

Maduro has vowed the vote will go ahead on Sunday and slammed critics, who he says do not have the country’s interests at heart.

Venezuela is undergoing a major political and economic crisis, with millions suffering food shortages and months of anti-government unrest in which more than 100 people have been killed.

Reporting by Girish Gupta; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Paul Simao

Venezuela grocery store shelvesPeople line up to buy food and other staple goods inside a supermarket in Caracas, Venezuela. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

16 killed in double suicide attack in NE Nigeria

June 19, 2017


© AFP | A white sheet covers the bodies of some of the victims of the double suicide bombing in Dalori Kofa village in northeast Nigeria

MAIDUGURI (NIGERIA) (AFP) – At least 16 people died in a double suicide bombing near a large camp for people made homeless by years of Boko Haram violence, Nigeria’s emergency services and locals said Monday.It was the biggest in a series of weekend attacks.

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) said the attack took place at about 8:45 pm (1945 GMT) on Sunday close to the Dalori camp in Kofa village, near the Borno state capital Maiduguri.

Regional NEMA spokesman Abdulkadir Ibrahim said a first attack by two female suicide bombers had been thwarted by security personnel who stopped them getting into the camp.

“Two other female suicide bombers also detonated their explosives at the adjoining Dalori Kofa village, where they killed 16 people,” he said in a statement.

Earlier tolls given by local people said at least 12 or 13 people had been killed but Abdulkadir said three of the injured had since died of their wounds.

“The 16 does not include the bombers,” he told AFP.

Dalori is about 10 kilometres (six miles) southeast of Maiduguri and is one of the largest camps for internally displaced people (IDP) in the remote region.

There are nearly 50,000 people in the two Dalori camps, with Dalori 1 housing some 35,000 and Dalori 2, which was targeted in the bombings, sheltering around 10,000.

Boko Haram has previously tried to target the camp: at least 85 people were killed in January last year when insurgents rampaged through communities near Dalori.

– A bloody weekend –

The latest attack is the most deadly in Nigeria since June 8, when 11 people were killed in a rare combined gun and suicide attack in the Jiddari Polo area of Maiduguri.

Also at the weekend, Boko Haram attacked Gumsuri village, 20 kilometres from Chibok, killing five people late on Saturday, locals said.

But they were fought off by local vigilantes who engaged them in a gunbattle.

“The vigilantes got the upper hand. They killed 12 attackers and apprehended six others,” said Bitrus Haruna, a vigilante from Chibok, whose account was corroborated by a community leader from the town.

“The Boko Haram gunmen were not lucky. They were confronted by the gallant vigilantes who killed 12 of the attackers and arrested six of them.”

Then on Sunday, Boko Haram jihadists killed three soldiers in an ambush near Wajirko village, 150 kilometres (90 miles) from Maiduguri, a local vigilante said.

Last weekend, gunmen killed eight members of a civilian militia force assisting the military in the Konduga area not far from the Dalori camp.

The spate of bombings underlines the threat still posed by the jihadists, despite official claims they are a spent force.

Since the start of Boko Harm’s uprising in 2009, at least 20,000 people have been killed since and more than 2.6 million made homeless, many of whom are facing severe food shortages or starvation.


As Gulf Crisis Bites, Qatari Food Factories Seek to Fill Gap

June 11, 2017

DOHA — At a meat processing plant in Doha’s sprawling industrial zone, masked workers toil through the night heaving boxes of raw chicken across a pristine factory floor.

They have been working extra shifts since Monday when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and other nations cut ties and severed all transport links with Qatar, prompting fears of food shortages in the import-dependent country.

The Saudi-led push to isolate Qatar by cutting diplomatic and trade ties over its alleged support for terrorism has choked food imports from key transit points in Saudi and the UAE and caused panic buying at shops early in the week.

The spat has forced the tiny, gas-rich state to turn to other foreign exporters including Turkey and Iran but also to its own local food companies to keep supermarket shelves stacked.

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Qatar — worker works in a meat processing plant in Doha, Qatar, June 10, 2017. REUTERS – Naseem Zeitoon

In the meat plant on Saturday, workers hurried about feeding frozen chicken breasts imported from Brazil through shiny metal grinders and pushing them in trolleys into an adjacent room to be packaged.

“We’ve put two shifts instead of one and stopped exporting to concentrate production for the local market … There are plans to treble production,” said Ahmed al-Khalaf, chairman of International Projects Development Co., the parent company of Qatar Meat, in his office adjoining the plant.

Qatar Meat has been working to double its output of chicken, beef and lamb to 40 tonnes per day.

Khalaf says this is proof Qatar can survive without having to rely on neighbors who have shunned it.


Khalaf’s food businesses, which include the meat plant run by one of his sons and a farm that grows root vegetables, both felt the pinch when the UAE and Saudi shut their borders.

Up to 30 shipping containers of Khalaf’s remain stranded at the Jebel Ali port in Dubai, a major business and transit hub for the region.

But by flying in goods directly from countries such as Turkey and using other ports in the Gulf including Salalah in Oman, the factory can cover its demand for raw material.

“Some equipment is coming by aeroplane from abroad to double the capacity of the production line,” Khalaf said.

Qatar, a small desert country, relies heavily on imports to feed its 2.7 million mostly foreign population and nearly half of Qatar’s food comes across the border from Saudi Arabia.

Like many local businesses, Qatar Meat imports all the meat that it processes and packages.

“The raw material – we bring it from outside,” Khalaf said.


Other Qatari companies are also sensing opportunity.

In his dairy factory, Mohammed al-Kuwari, 30, is working weekends during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to oversee production.

    “The situation is great! As you can see, there’s lots of production and we have a big share in the market,” he said as employees packaged yoghurts with the Rawa brand of his Gulf Food Production company.

The factory is producing 20,000 liters of dairy products per day, up from 15,000 liters, he said.

Gulf Food Production also relies heavily on import, including milk from France.

“It normally comes in by ship but soon maybe it will all come in by air for the same price,” thanks to government support, he said.

As for relations with Gulf neighbors, Khalaf says he is already looking elsewhere.

“I’m leaving next week to make some other arrangements to bring from other countries” including Turkey, Azerbaijan and Ukraine, he said.

(Editing by Keith Weir)

WFP shocked by ‘destruction’ in northeast Nigeria — Food aid needed for 3 million people

March 4, 2017

WFP’s Chief Economist Arif Husain tells DW the humanitarian situation in Nigeria is far worse than anything he’s seen. At a donor conference in Oslo, the UN had appealed for food aid for nearly three million people.

Image may contain: 1 person, food

At a donor’s meeting in Oslo, the United Nations said nearly three million people should be given food assistance to avert a famine in the Lake Chad region by July. The causes of the crisis are drought, chronic poverty and the Boko Haram Islamist insurgency. Arif Hussain, the chief economist at the World Food Program (WFP), tells DW that the situation in northeastern Nigeria is one of the five worse things he has seen in his 15 year-career.

DW: You have recently returned from a tour of Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, what did you discover particularly in those three sub-Saharan African countries currently facing food shortages?

The situation on the ground in these four countries; northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, is very bad. The main reason in three of those cases is conflict. Prolonged conflicts. In the third or fourth case, which is Somalia, it is a combination of bad weather as well as conflict.

The people we are dealing with are extremely poor. Most of these communities rely on agriculture. When there is conflict that means they cannot go and plough their fields, for example; they cannot produce their own crops. That also means they cannot go and herd their livestock, which are income sources for them.

On the other side, due to these conflicts, the costs of bringing things into the country go up. That means the prices for basic commodities also go up. So on one side, they don’t have the money to buy and they are not producing for themselves. On the other side, prices have gone up and these are happening over a long period of time. This is the situation in northeast Nigeria, this is the situation in South Sudan. And in Yemen, it is not only the rural population, but the urban population is also affected.

Thirty percent of the population in Yemen lives in urban areas, where they depend on salaries and they haven’t been paid their salaries. If you haven’t been paid your salary, and the country imports more than 90 percent of their food and other essentials from outside, if the currency is depreciating and the ports are not working, you have a situation where one group of people do not have the purchasing power. But it also means that commodities may not be coming [into the country]. In Yemen we are talking of seven million people who are in situation of extreme food insecurity. So for many people in northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, their only hope is humanitarian assistance.

The Islamist group Boko Haram is still active in northeastern Nigeria. To what extent do they contribute to the food insecurity in that region?

It’s no secret, it’s huge. Because of the insurgency, people are not able to go out. People are not able to cultivate their fields. The commercial traffic is not moving because of the conflict. That means the private sector is ineffective. Most of the roads are laden with IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devises).


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The UN says nearly three million people in the Lake Chad region are in dire need of food assistance

There is total destruction in many parts [of northeastern Nigeria]. Maybe 20 kilometers (12 miles) outside of Maiduguri, which is the capital of Borno State, there is complete destruction there.

The first time I went there was in summer, I went to one of the camps there. It was a camp for 50,000 people. They had one water point; the rooftop of their hut, the Tuchul, was a metal sheet. There was one communal kitchen preparing one meal for the 50,000 people.

This is probably one of the five worst things I have ever seen in my 15 year-career at the World Food Program. I have seen Darfur, I have seen South Sudan, I have seen Somalia, but this one was shocking.

Put it in another way, would the drought or just poverty in this region have caused destruction on a similar scale or is it just Boko Haram that plays a bigger role?

Most of the people in this part of the world, northeastern Nigeria, Lake Chad area, are poor people; there is no doubt about that. But before this insurgency, they had a life. Traffic was moving, people could move. Trade was happening. Maybe they are not producing that much, but they were producing for themselves.

We didn’t have an operation in Nigeria. We established our operation last year. In December of 2016, we provided assistance for over one million people. By the end of March, we plan to assist at least two million people. There is a reason why we came in and that reason is because commercial traffic isn’t moving, that means you cannot get out either. That means markets are not working because nothing is coming in. In that type of situation, it feels almost like a jail.

Imagine hundreds of thousands of people cannot be reached because of the insurgency. This is why full open humanitarian access, meaning not only our abilities as individuals to go in but also to be able to bring in stuff, to bring in what they need, those essential commodities, is so important. And it cannot be for one day. We need full humanitarian access.

Do you have that access to all the places where people are in dire need of food aid?

For some places, yes, but for some others, no! For me, the main thing is, number one; everything should be done to stop the conflict because until the conflict is stopped, this will continue.

While people are working to stop these conflicts, we must reach out to the women, we must reach out to the children, we must reach out to the youths not only to sustain them for today, but to make sure that there is tomorrow and that there is hope for tomorrow and they know that people out there care.

Arif Husain is a chief economist and head of the Food Security Analysis service at the World Food Program.

Interview: Chrispin Mwakideu


Nigeria: Military jet mistakenly bombs camp for displaced people

January 18, 2017

BBC News

Injured people in the camp in Rann, Nigeria, 17 January

More than 100 people are said to have been injured. AFP PHOTO/DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS (MSF)

A Nigerian military jet has mistakenly bombed a camp for displaced people in the north-east, killing at least 52 people and injuring many more.

Aid workers are among the dead in Rann, with the Red Cross saying six of its employees were killed.

The MSF aid agency said that over 200 people had been injured and appealed for help with medical evacuations.

President Muhammadu Buhari, whose army is fighting Boko Haram militants, expressed dismay and urged calm.

The attack took place near the border with Cameroon, where the military is engaged in what it calls its final push against Boko Haram.

It is thought to be the first time Nigeria’s military has admitted to making such a mistake.

Red Cross spokeswoman Aleksandra Matijevic said that along with the staff killed, more than a dozen of the group’s volunteers, who arrived on Tuesday to deliver food to the thousands displaced people, were wounded.

“Our thoughts are now with the families of our colleagues who have lost their loved ones,” Ms Matijevic said, adding that the Red Cross would continue bringing humanitarian aid to those affected by the conflict.

MSF told the BBC that its organisation also had medical teams working in the Rann camp when the bombs struck.

“More than 50 people have been killed,” said Hugues Robert, head of MSF’s emergency response.

“Our team was there and counted the bodies, and more than 200 people have been wounded following these two different blasts from aerial bombardment,” he said.

Damage in the camp in Rann, Nigeria, 17 January

MSF released photos of the aftermath of the air strike. AFP PHOTO/DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS (MSF)


MSF said it had teams in Cameroon and Chad ready to treat wounded patients.

Many of the casualties, it said, were believed to be displaced people who had fled from areas where Boko Haram had carried out attacks.

‘All in pain’

Gen Rabe Abubakar, a spokesman for the Nigerian military, said that some “remnants” of Boko Haram had been detected outside Rann and the military had acted to eliminate them.

After the military realised its mistake, they were “all in pain”, he said.

“However, in a military operation such as this, from time to time these things do occur,” he added.

“Even though it was highly regretful, it was never intended.”

Gen Lucky Irabor, who commands counter-insurgency operations in the north-east, said there would be an investigation.

A spokesman for the Nigerian president said the administration would offer help to the government of Borno state “in attending to this regrettable operational mistake”.

An injured child in the camp in Rann, Nigeria, 17 January

It is the first time an incident of this type has happened in north-east Nigeria. AFP PHOTO/DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS (MSF)

Boko Haram has caused havoc in Africa’s most populous country through a wave of bombings, assassinations and abductions.

It is fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state.

The group has stepped up attacks in the past few weeks as the end of the rainy season enabled its fighters to move more easily in the bush.

Last month, the UN launched a $1bn (£800m) appeal for those facing hunger and starvation in the region.

It said nearly 5.1 million people in three north-eastern states were expected to face serious food shortages as for a third year in a row farmers had been unable to plant, fearing unexploded improvised devices left behind by militants.

Urgent aid was needed for some 100,000 people, mostly children, at risk of dying of starvation.

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A screen grab made from a video shows Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, delivering a message. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Boko Haram at a glance:

Boko Haram video

Boko Haram has sworn allegiance to Islamic State and often displays its trademark black flag
  • Islamist group founded in 2002, initially to resist Western-style education – Boko Haram means “Western education is forbidden” in the Hausa language
  • Began attacks in 2009, mostly in the north-east, leaving thousands dead and hundreds abducted, including at least 200 schoolgirls
  • Joined so-called Islamic State and now calls itself IS’s “West African province”

Torment of a freed Boko Haram ‘bride’

The town that lost its girls


 (Has links to several previous articles)


Nigerian Jet Mistakenly Bombs Refugee Camp, Killing Scores

DAKAR, Senegal — A Nigerian fighter jet searching for Boko Haram members on Tuesday accidentally bombed a camp for displaced people who had fled the militants, killing dozens of camp residents and at least six humanitarian workers, and wounding numerous others.

The bombing struck a government-run camp in Rann, Nigeria, near the Cameroonian and Chadian borders, an area where Boko Haram had recently increased attacks.

Government officials could not provide an exact death toll, saying they were focused on treating the wounded. Doctors Without Borders, the medical charity, said its teams in Rann had counted 52 dead and 200 wounded as they tried to provide first aid and stabilize patients who were awaiting evacuation.


Yemen: Houthi want border truce, amnesty

September 26, 2016

Houthi official in Yemen offers border truce, amnesty

A man inspects the damage in a house after a Saudi-led air strike in old Sanaa city, Yemen, September 24, 2016.REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

A top official in Yemen’s armed Houthi movement on Sunday offered to stop attacks on Saudi Arabia and an amnesty for Yemeni fighters opposing the group if the kingdom stopped air strikes and lifted a near blockade on the country.

The move falls short of demands by Yemen’s government and their backers in Saudi Arabia, but offers rare hope for a pause to 18 months of fighting which has killed at least 10,000 people and pushed impoverished Yemen toward famine.

“(In exchange for) stopping the aggression against our country by land, sea and air, stopping the air strikes and lifting the siege imposed on our country, in return (we will)stop combat operations on the border,” Saleh al-Samad, the chief of a Houthi-backed political council, said in a speech.

Hailing from Yemen’s Zaydi Shi’ite sect, the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa and pushed the government out of its last stronghold in Aden in March 2015.

The advances by the Iran-allied group prompted an intervention by a Saudi-led coalition that has launched thousands of air strikes on the Houthis and their allies in Yemen’s army but has failed to push them out of the capital.

A near-blockade on Yemen’s ports, which the coalition says is aimed at arms bound to the Houthis, has also hobbled Yemen’s already struggling economy and created a humanitarian crisis.

For months, the Houthis have retaliated with attacks on Saudi Arabia from its mountainous strongholds in northern Yemen and has launched around a dozen ballistic missiles at the kingdom, all of which were intercepted.

Fighting has also raged within the country between pro-Houthi and pro-government militiamen, soldiers and tribal gunmen – a tangle of armed groups so complex that any peace initiative would struggle to contain them.

Samad said the group was prepared to pardon its foes.

“(We call) all fighters on the side of the aggression on the various fronts to respond to a general amnesty and come back into the national fold,” he said.

Two shaky truces accompanied previous efforts mediated by the United Nations to end the conflict, and the leader of the Houthi group warned last week that the conflict would last “God knows how long”.

Yemen’s internationally recognized government say that any move toward peace can begin only when the Houthis heed a 2015 U.N. Security Council Resolution mandating that they quit Yemen’s main cities.

Saudi Arabia has said the conflict is an internal Yemeni matter and that it will not negotiate with the Houthis.

(Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Alison Williams)


Venezuelan security forces push back protesters — Government says no recall this year

June 8, 2016

Venezuelan security forces have held back hundreds of protesters in Caracas as they tried to reach the country’s electoral body. Officials are a step closer to accepting a recall vote against President Nicolas Maduro.

Amid angry shouts of “Traitors!” and “You’re hungry too!” on Tuesday, some 1,000 protestors were held back with tear gas, as police prevented them from reaching the National Electorate Board (CNE) in the Venezuelan capital.

Tuesday’s protest marked at least the fourth such demonstration in as many weeks. Every time, however, security forces have blocked demonstrators from reaching downtown Caracas.

The opposition to President Nicolas Maduro claims that the CNE is stalling the recall process – to remove him from office – in a bid to protect Maduro, whom they accuse of driving Venezuela to the brink of collapse.

In a new development, the president’s opponents said Tuesday that election officials had accepted a 1.3 million signature recall petition as valid. The round-robin is part of the process needed to force a referendum to remove the president from office.

Economic downturn

The South American nation has suffered an economic implosion since Socialist Maduro took office in 2013, which has resulted in severe shortages of food, electricity, medicine and other basic products. Despite having the world’s largest crude oil reserves, Venezuela has also been hit hard by falling global prices.

Nicolas Maduro

Demonstrators are calling for a referendum against President Nicolas Maduro before January 10, 2017

Maduro recently announced a few measures aimed at alleviating the hardship faced by many. Among the measures were a shorter working week for shops and government offices, as well as calls for people to stop using electric hair dryers and ironing their clothes.

‘No referendum this year’

The opposition is now racing to call the referendum before January 10, which will mark four years into Maduro’s six-year term. If successful, the recall vote would trigger new elections rather than transfer power to the vice president.

Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz said bluntly on Monday, however, that there “won’t be a referendum this year.”

Efforts to bring both sides to the table

International mediators, led by Spain’s former prime minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, are trying to bring the government and opposition together for talks, but both sides have so far shown reluctance.

Protest leader Henrique Capriles, who narrowly lost the 2013 presidential race to Maduro, however, said that the opposition would not meet with mediators until electoral authorities set a date to validate the initial referendum petition.

“We’re not going to sign up for hypocritical negotiations. If people don’t believe in Maduro, they’re not going to believe in talks,” Capriles said.

ksb/mm/kms (AFP, AP, dpa)