Posts Tagged ‘Mali’

Migrant Boat’s Captain Hit Rescue Ship — Charged with multiple homicide

April 21, 2015


Migrants who survived a boat sinking over the weekend arrived at the Sicilian port city of Catania early on Tuesday. Credit Alessandro Di Meo/European Pressphoto Agency

BBC News

The Tunisian captain of a boat that capsized off Libya on Sunday, killing hundreds of migrants, has been charged with reckless multiple homicide, Italian officials say.

He has also been charged along with a Syrian member of the crew with favouring illegal immigration.

The two were among 27 survivors who arrived in Sicily late on Monday.

The authorities say the disaster was caused by mistakes made by the captain and the ship being overcrowded.

Prosecutors in the Sicilian port of Catania said the boat had collided with a Portuguese container ship just before it capsized, but absolved the merchant vessel’s crew of any responsibility.

They said the boat had keeled over after the collision which had been caused by steering mistakes by the captain and the panicked movements of the migrants on the 20-metre (66ft) former fishing trawler.

Carlotta Sami of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Italy was in Catania to meet the survivors. Some 800 people are thought to have died in the disaster, she said.

There were nationals of Syria, Eritrea, Somalia, Mali, Sierra Leone and Senegal on board, kept in three different layers in the boat.

“They left on Saturday morning around eight o’clock in the morning from Tripoli, and they started to have problems, and they were approached by merchant vessels during the night around 10 o’clock.

At some point, “the little boat lost its balance, and people started to move around. Those that were down wanted to come up and vice-versa, and many people fell into the water, and then the boat capsized,” she said.

Italian coast guard ship docks in Catania. 20 April 2015

The two men were arrested while still on board the Italian coastguard ship, officials said

The two men charged in connection with the disaster have been named as ship commander Mohammed Ali Malek, 27, a Tunisian, and crew member Mahmud Bikhit, 25, a Syrian.

The charges come after the EU set out a package of measures to try to ease the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.

Search-and-rescue operations will be stepped up, and there will be a campaign to destroy traffickers’ boats.

A homicide investigation has been opened into the disaster.

Separately, two of those rescued from a vessel carrying dozens of migrants that ran aground off the Greek island of Rhodes on Monday will be taken to the prosecutor’s office, the BBC has learnt.

It is thought the two men, both Syrians, were in charge of the boat; they will face charges linked to illegally transporting 90 people to Greece, and responsibility for the deaths of three passengers.

Map showing the most deadly Mediterranean migrant routes

More on the Mediterranean’s deadly migrant routes

At the scene: James Reynolds, Rome correspondent

The survivors stood still on the rescue boat. They looked exhausted. One shook hands with the mayor of Catania and put his hand to his chest in a gesture of thanks.

Francesco Rocca runs the Italian Red Cross: “They are under shock, completely shocked. They repeat their phrases about the fact that they are the only survivors on the tragedy.

“Some of them want to speak, some of them want to stay silent. You can imagine they are under a lot of pressure. It’s the first time I see such a high level of shock. It’s clear from their eyes.”

Two survivors told rescue workers that they had managed to stay afloat by clinging to the bodies of their fellow passengers. Others said that the children on board drowned because they were trapped on the boat’s lower two levels.

‘Sense of solidarity’

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the 10-point package set out at talks in Luxembourg was a “strong reaction from the EU to the tragedies” and “shows a new sense of urgency and political will”.

“We are developing a truly European sense of solidarity in fighting human trafficking – finally so.”

The measures include an increase in the financial resources of Frontex, which runs the EU’s Mediterranean rescue service Triton, and an extension of Triton’s operational area.

The EU had been criticised over the scope of Triton, which replaced the larger Italian operation Mare Nostrum at the end of last year.


Italian Red Cross chief Francesco Rocca told the BBC he hoped the international community would be able to find concrete solutions in the countries where migrants flee from.

“Most of them don’t want to escape, they are forced to escape, they are escaping war, they are escaping [intense] hunger, so this is something that we cannot avoid.

“If we block one route, they will find another route, so this is something we have to face… not with only words or actions that don’t match the concrete needs of the people.”

Media caption Damian Grammaticas reports from Rhodes on efforts to rescue migrants whose boat capsized near the Greek island

Italian coastguard update on search-and-rescue operations

  • Six hundred and thirty eight migrants brought to safety on Monday in six different search-and-rescue operations co-ordinated by the Italian coastguard
  • Six different dinghies full of migrants all in Libyan waters
  • Ninety-three of them, including 12 women and two children, were brought to Lampedusa by a customs ship
  • At dawn on Tuesday, there was a distress call from a fishing boat full of migrants 80 miles (130km) south-east of the Calabrian coast on the Italian mainland. Two merchant ships provided assistance until two coastguard ships arrived. The coastguard gave the migrants life jackets and “calmed them”, and they are being brought aboard an Italian navy ship

Includes videos:


Migrant Boat’s Captain Hit Rescue Ship, Prosecutors Say

LONDON — The captain of the boat that capsized off the coast of Libya over the weekend had slammed the vessel into a Portuguese merchant ship that had come to its rescue, prosecutors in Sicily said on Tuesday, leading to what a United Nations relief agency said was the deadliest episode ever recorded in the Mediterranean.

Prosecutors in the Sicilian port city of Catania said in a statement that the captain’s actions were exacerbated when the migrants on the crowded vessel shifted to one side of the boat after the collision, causing it to capsize.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in a statement on Tuesday that the ship was carrying 850 people, and that only 28 were known to have survived.

Read the rest:


Jihadists kill Red Cross worker in northern Mali

March 31, 2015



An International Red Cross worker was killed and a local colleague wounded when the aid truck they were driving was attacked by gunmen in northern Mali on Monday, in an attack claimed by the MUJAO jihadist group.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was “profoundly dismayed by the death of one of its staff in Mali” after his aid truck was attacked near the northern city of Gao on Monday morning. The nationality of the victim was not immediately released.

A member of the national Mali Red Cross was wounded in the attack and is in a stable condition, the ICRC said.

“The ICRC strongly condemns the attack and calls on all parties to the conflict to respect and protect humanitarian workers,” the organisation said in a statement.

A spokesman for the MUJAO group (the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa) said the attack had killed “a driver who worked for the enemy”.

“We have achieved what we wanted with this attack,” Abou Walid Sahraoui told AFP by phone.

‘Carefully planned’

The ICRC staff member, named only as Hamadoun, was driving a truck from Gao to Niamey in neighbouring Niger “to collect much-needed medical equipment for Gao hospital”, said Yasmine Praz Dessimoz, head of ICRC’s operations for North and West Africa.

ICRC said the exact circumstances of the incident that killed the married father of four remained unclear, but stressed that the truck had been clearly marked with the Red Cross emblem.

An African military source with the United Nations’ MINUSMA mission in Mali said the attack happened between Gao and the town of Ansongo and had been “carefully planned”.

“It was carried out by at least six terrorists. Shots were fired,” the source said.

Mali’s unstable north

Divided into rival armed factions, plagued by drug trafficking and infiltrated by jihadist groups, Mali’s desert north has struggled for stability since the West African nation gained independence in 1960.

The ICRC’s Praz Dessimoz said the humanitarian situation in northern Mali was “worrying”.

“The ICRC is concerned about the rise in violence against humanitarian workers, which is preventing them from coming to the aid of individuals and communities in dire need,” she said in the statement.

The MUJAO was one of a number of Islamist militia groups that controlled northern Mali for nearly a year before they were routed and pushed north into the deserts of the Sahara by a French-led offensive in 2013.

Extremist fighters have however continued to stage sporadic attacks in Mali’s north.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)


From the BBC


A Red Cross employee has been killed and another injured in a gun attack by suspected Islamist militants in Mali, the aid organisation says.

Armed men opened fired on an aid vehicle as it travelled from Gao to Niamey in neighbouring Niger to pick up medical supplies.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement that it was “profoundly dismayed” by the killing.

Islamist militant group Mujao told AFP that it had carried out the attack.

The nationality of the ICRC worker who was killed has not yet been released.

“He was driving to collect much-needed medical equipment for a Gao hospital,” said Yasmine Praz Dessimoz, head of operations for North and West Africa.

“His death is not only a tragedy for his family and for the ICRC, it will affect the life and well-being of tens of thousands of people,” she added.

The injured worker was a member of the national Mali Red Cross and is in a stable condition in hospital.

The vehicle the pair were travelling in was clearly marked with the Red Cross emblem and was later burned.

“The ICRC is concerned about the rise in violence against humanitarian workers, which is preventing them from coming to the aid of individuals and communities in dire need,” Ms Praz Dessimoz said.

A spokesman for Mujao, Abou Walid Sahraoui, was quoted by AFP as saying: “We have achieved what we wanted with this attack.”

Mujao, which stands for Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, was formed in 2011 to spread jihad across West Africa and it believed to be a well-disciplined group.

Mali’s desert north suffers frequent militant attacks despite a French-led operation to drive out Islamist fighters in 2013.

Earlier this month, a rocket attack on a UN base in Kidal killed a Chadian peacekeeper and two children.

Tunisia: 17 tourists killed in museum rampage

March 18, 2015


Jane Onyanga-Omara and John Bacon, USA TODAY

TODAY 11:41 a.m. EDT March 18, 2015

Tunisian security forces stormed a museum rich with antiquities and killed two gunmen after a terror attack left 18 people dead, Tunisian authorities said.

Prime Minister Habib Essid said a manhunt was underway for two or three more gunmen, the Associated Press reported. Essid said 17 of those killed were tourists. A cleaning woman also died in the attack.

Government spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroul said at least two gunmen armed with automatic weapons shot their way into the building, killing tourists and taking hostages. Two gunmen and one security officer died in the operation to retake the building, Ali Aroul said.

Security officials were sweeping the area in an effort to ensure the surrounding area, which includes the nation’s parliament building, was secure.

“A terrorist attack (targeted) the Bardo Museum,” Aroui said, according to Al Aribiya and other news outlets. Aroui said “two or more terrorists armed with Kalashnikovs” were involved, and that most tourists were quickly evacuated.

At least six people were wounded, the Associated Press reported. Poland’s foreign ministry said three Polish nationals were among them, the Guardian reported,

British, Italian, French and Spanish nationals were among those taken hostage, the BBC reported, citing local radio reports.

The Bardo Museum is adjacent to the country’s parliament in the capital Tunis. Initial reports had stated that exchanges of gunfire were heard at the parliament building, which was evacuated.

Anti-terrorism legislation was being discussed in parliament when the attack took place, the BBC reported. Tunisia has struggled with violence by Islamic extremists since mass protests ousted President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.Tunisia adopted a constitution in 2014 that guaranteed rights for women and mandated that the president’s religion be Islam.

The Bardo museum chronicles Tunisia’s history and includes one of the world’s largest collections of Roman mosaics.



Up to 17 tourists killed in Tunisia as hostages freed by counter-terror forces

March 18, 2015


Two Britons feared to be among those killed, as officials says remaining hostages freed and two gunmen killed in attack on museum next to Tunisia’s parliament

By , and agencies
The Telegraph

• Up to 17 foreign tourists killed in Tunisia museum attack: PM
• Two Britons believed to be among those dead: reports
• All remaining hostages have now been freed
• MPs evacuated from adjacent parliament building in Tunis
Carnage comes to the one nation that had successful ‘Arab Spring’
How Tunisia became a breeding ground for jihadists


15.45 A prominent Isil supporter has claimed on Twitter that today’s attack is the start of a wave of terrorism in Tunisia.

It is not yet clear whether Islamic State jihadists were involved in the attack.

15.30 Although two gunmen have been killed, security forces are still hunting for two or three individuals believed to have been involved in the attack, said Habib Essid, Tunisia’s prime minister.

However, state TV reported that the incident is over.

15.21 Polish, Italian, German and Spanish tourists are among those dead in the attack, said Habib Essid, Tunisia’s prime minister.

He did not confirm or deny earlier local reports that two Britons were among the dead.

15.08 The tourists were killed when gunmen opened fire on them as they disembarked from buses outside Tunisia’s national museum, witnesses and officials have said.

The gunmen then took others hostage inside the building.

Members of the Tunisian police force take up a position near the country’s parliament after gunmen reportedly took hostages (EPA)

15.05 The death toll from the terror attack has gone up, although the precise number of fatalities remains unclear.

Nineteen people, including 17 foreign tourists, have been killed in the attack, according to Tunisia’s prime minister.

However, the country’s interior minister has said 15 tourists were killed.

In addition, “a policeman and two terrorists were killed,” Wataniya 1 television reported.

A police source confirmed the death of the policeman to AFP.

15.00 According to Le Point, this is the first time that civilians have been directly targeted by an armed group in Tunisia. Until now, terrorists have targeted security forces or politicians.

Since 2011, 57 members of the Tunisian security forces have been killed in clashes with armed groups, and 171 wounded.

Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, said: “We are by the Tunisian government’s side. He added: “This terrorist attack…cruelly illustrates the threats confronting us in Europe, in the Mediterranean and in the world.”

Tunisian security forces secure the area after gunmen attacked Tunis’ Bardo Museum (AFP/GETTY)

14.54 According to Tunisian state TV, some 150 Tunisian police took part in the operation to kill two assailants and free the hostages, reports Henry Samuel.

In a brief telephone conversation with his Tunisian counterpart, Béji Caïd Essebsi, François Hollande, the French president, expressed “France’s solidarity with him and the Tunisian people at this very grave time.”


14.51 Henry Samuel brings up this from French media. Géraldine, a French tourist holed up at the museum, told iTele: “We are at the Bardo museum and on a guided tour and heard shots outside, several volleys. We thought it was a party, but in fact it wasn’t – there were men on the floor. Then there was a movement of panic as there are lots of people in the building. There are around 40 of us holed up in a room. We are rather panic-stricken, there was lots of noise.

“Then there were no gunshots outside, then we heard of things outside. We were all inside sitting on the floor in the room. We could hear Allahu Akbar and lots of firing. There are around 40 French tourists with Costa Cruises. People are shooting outside. Earlier there were shots in the museum, now it’s outside.

“We can’t see outside. There is a group of attackers. There have been lots of volleys of gunire. I would say there are a lot of them or else I am mistaken because I don’t know about this kind of thing.”


14.33 Two gunmen who attacked a museum in the Tunisian capital have been killed as well as a policeman, state television said, without specifying if the incident was over.

“A policeman and two terrorists were killed,” Wataniya 1 television reported. A police source confirmed the death of the policeman to AFP.

14.27 AFP say two gunmen and a policeman have been killed, according to reports

14.15 Reports are now emerging that the hostage seige is over, and that the gunmen have been killed.


Two Italian hostages are believed to be among those killed in the attack:


14.05 The fact that there are still tourists to attack in Tunisia tells its own story, writes Colin Freeman – who asks whether today’s attacks will force the government to change its relatively passive stance on homegrown extremism:

Ever since it became the birth place of the Arab Spring in 2011, the tiny north African nation has been the only country in the region to enjoy anything approaching stability after the overthrow of its resident dictator.

However, the process of rebuilding the country after years of iron rule under Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has not been the straightforward process that it once looked like being.

Significantly, the nation of 11 million has also contributed more jihadist fighters per capita to the conflict in Syria than anywhere else.

Some have interpreted that as a sign that Tunisia has chosen to turn a blind eye against its extremists, as long as they only cause trouble abroad.

Today’s carnage on the streets of Tunis may change that.

14.00 Manuel Valls, the French prime minister, confirmed that tourists have been killed and hostages taken in a “terrorist” attack on the museum in Tunis. He said:

Quote I condemn this terrorist attack in the strongest terms. There has been a hostage-taking, without doubt tourists have been affected

13.56 Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi is due to make a public statement to the nation shortly, spokesman Moez Sinaoui told AFP.

13.53 Video has been published on social media of tourists fleeing the scene:


13.50 Today’s terror attack follows a string of attempted strikes Tunisian authorities claim to have foiled.

The government said on Monday that it had arrested four terror cells.

And just last month, it said it had arrested 32 militant Islamists planning ‘spectacular’ attacks.

Bardo Museum, where the hostage situation is ongoing (REX)

13.40 The motivation behind the attack is not yet known, but Tunisia has become a breeding ground for jihadists – it is now the largest source of foreign fighters joining Isil and other extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. Louisa Loveluck reports:

Quote Nestled in Africa’s northern crest, Tunisia is often hailed as a lone Arab Spring success story. As much of the region was wracked by fighting, a week ago Tunisians went to the polls for the second free parliamentary vote since the fall of dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in 2011.

But the country also stands out for another reason – it is now the largest source of foreign fighters joining the Islamic State (Isil) and other extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. By some estimates, the number could be as high as 3,000. US officials say the total number of foreign fighters is around 16,000.

In March 2014, an fighter from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant named as Abu Anas al Tunisi – Abu Anas the Tunisian – carried out a suicide attack on an Iraqi government complex, disguised in military uniform. Photos on Isil-linked social media accounts show groups of hoodie-clad Tunisians, smiling and clutching their guns.

Radicalised Tunisians have also been found with jihadist groups in Algeria, Iraq, Libya and Mali.

Read in full: How Tunisia became a breeding ground for jihadists

Includes videos:

Yemen Rebels Seize Military Base Once Used By U.S. Troops

January 29, 2015
A Houthi fighter with a military vehicle seized from the army, outside  the presidential palace in San’a on Thursday.   

A Houthi fighter with a military vehicle seized from the army, outside the presidential palace in San’a on Thursday. Photo: Reuters
SANAA, Yemen — Jan 29, 2015, 11:19 AM ET

The Spreading Menace of Boko Haram

January 27, 2015


A screen grab made Tuesday from a video shows Abubakar Shekau, the leader of the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, delivering a message.  

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

The jihadist group in Nigeria killed 11,245 people last year. Now their rampage seems ready to escalate in 2015.

By Emad Mostaque
The Wall Street Journal

The new year began with terror attacks in Paris inspired or orchestrated by al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula and ISIS and then reports of up to 2,000 residents killed by Boko Haram in a days-long massacre in Baga, Nigeria. While Paris has grabbed the majority of media attention, the events in Baga may prove to be the most significant as Boko Haram expands in northeastern Nigeria. This weekend the group captured the town of Monguno and its military barracks while simultaneously attacking the state capital, Maiduguri.

A key goal of all terrorists is to provoke outsize reactions by committing heinous deeds. This is particularly true of jihadists, whose main feature is the takfir they impose on the majority of other Muslims—declaring them not to be “true” believers and thus outside of their group and liable for death. High-profile attacks aim to polarize societies and create animus against mainstream Muslims, creating more potential recruits for the radical Islamists.

ISIS has intensified its bloodletting over the last year, using social media to amplify its mass beheadings and other fearsome deeds—and thus the group’s power and threat—in line with the recommendations outlined in jihad theoretician Abu Bakr Naji ’s 2006 text “The Management of Savagery.” However, ISIS has reached the limits of unopposed and easy expansion in Iraq as it now faces well-armed forces in non-Sunni areas, bolstered by coalition airstrikes. ISIS gains in Syria continue, but the group appears more contained, having failed to take Kobani from its Kurdish defenders.

In contrast, the Nigeria-based terror group Boko Haram seems bent on escalating the scale and terror of its violence in 2015—after killing an estimated 11,245 people last year, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. It also appears to be on the edge of a significant expansion into neighboring states.

Boko Haram’s initial strategy was to try to undermine and gain control of the Kanuri ethnic regions of northeast Nigeria while looking to polarize society by attacking states along the Christian-Muslim divide known as the Middle Belt region. The Nigerian government response to this push has been slow, with only 25,000 poorly equipped troops deployed against Boko Haram in the country’s northeast. Nigeria’s whole defense budget for 2014 was only a third of the $5.8 billion security budget, small for a country with a GDP of more than $500 billion and facing an insurgency.

Following the tactics of ISIS, with whom Boko Haram appears to have advisory links at the least, the next stage is governance of the areas they have ravaged, along the classical warlord model. This will give a pool of potential conscripts to use as first-wave cannon fodder, allowing them to rapidly create tens of thousands of utterly disposable “recruits.” This has already included forcing a girl of about 10 years old to carry a bomb strapped to her into a market in Nigeria’s Borno state on Jan. 10, killing at least 16 people and highlighting how nobody is safe.

Boko Haram’s strategic shift from insurgency to governance is a main reason that it was particularly ruthless in its massacres in Baga this month. The city is close to the borders of three other Muslim-majority countries—Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Ominously, Baga was overwhelmed and decimated by Boko Haram even though the village housed both a significant Nigerian Civilian Joint Task Force militia and a multinational task force from neighboring states.

Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has stated his intention to expand the fight into these states, where—with the exception of Chad, which hosts the French Operation Barkhane task force—armies are generally weak and underequipped. Air support across the region is minimal and the terrain is less conducive to airstrikes than it has been in campaigns against ISIS in Syria or jihadists led by Iyad ag Ghali in Mali. Nigeria probably has only nine functional combat bombers. Without air power, forces like Boko Haram’s will be very difficult to dislodge once entrenched.

Regional populations remain extremely poor and inequality is pronounced. These conditions have fed increasing sectarian unrest, such as Niger protesters burning down 45 churches after protests against Charlie Hebdo following the Jan. 7 terrorist attack at the magazine in Paris. Boko Haram can exploit such unrest to spread and recruit, possibly linking up with other jihadist groups in the Sahel region.

We are also approaching a critical juncture within Nigeria as it holds elections on Feb. 14. A tight race may be decided in effect by the millions of northern voters Boko Haram keeps from the polls—which would aid Nigeria’s incumbent and largely southern-based People’s Democratic Party and lead to violence if the result is not accepted by the opposition northern All Progressives Congress. Meanwhile, the sharp drop in oil receipts is reducing the government’s ability to pay off southern Christian militias such as MEND, with whom a cease fire expires this year. Further devaluation of Nigeria’s currency, the naira, is likely as the central bank runs out of options, stoking more inflation and misery.

If Boko Haram is to be stopped from entrenching itself across the Sahel, Nigerian security forces and the existing French counterterror operations in the region urgently need significant multinational support—while preserving the rule of law. Nigeria must also admit to the scale of the problem and agree to accept more external aid. Unless greater attention is paid in the region to the jihadist cancer that feeds on violence, corruption and poverty, it may become inoperable.

Mr. Mostaque is a London-based strategist specializing in the Middle East and Africa at Ecstrat, an emerging-markets consultancy.






Protesters rampage, burn churches in second day of Anti-Charlie Hebdo riots from Niger to Pakistan

January 17, 2015

(Reuters) – Stone-throwing demonstrators set fire to two churches in Niger’s capital Niamey on Saturday, in the latest protest in France’s former African colonies at French newspaper Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

A day after five people were killed in Niger in protests over the cartoons, protesters in Niamey attacked a police station and burned at least two police cars near the main mosque after authorities banned a meeting called by local Muslim leaders. Police responded with teargas.

File Photo: A car burns at the scene of a bomb explosion at St. Theresa Catholic Church at Madalla, Suleja, on December 25, 2011

“They offended our Prophet Mohammed. That’s what we didn’t like,” said Amadou Abdoul Ouahab, who took part in the demonstration. “This is the reason why we have asked Muslims to come, so that we can explain this to them, but the state refused. That’s why we’re angry today.”

 Demonstrations were also reported in regional towns, including Maradi, 600 km (375 miles) east of Niamey, where two churches were burned. Another church and a residence of the foreign minister were burned in the eastern town of Goure.

Four Muslim preachers who had convened the meeting in Niamey were arrested, police sources said. Protesters burned the French flag and set up roadblocks on streets in the town center but no casualties were reported on Saturday.

The French embassy in Niamey warned its citizens not to go out on the streets.

The death toll from Friday’s clashes in Niger’s second largest city of Zinder, rose to five after emergency services discovered a burned body inside a Catholic Church.

On Friday, churches were burned, Christian homes looted and the French cultural center attacked during the violence in Zinder, residents said.

A police officer and three civilians had already been confirmed killed in the demonstrations against the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, police sources said.

Peaceful marches took place after Friday prayers in the capital cities of other West African countries – Mali, Senegal and Mauritania – and Algeria in North Africa, all former French colonies.

In Algiers, several police were injured in clashes with protesters angered by the cartoons.

(Reporting by Abdoulaye Massalaki; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Rosalind Russell)


Muslim world reacts angrily to Charlie Hebdo’s ‘survivor’ edition

  • Photographer is Adif Hasan now recovering after being shot in the chest
  • Around 200 protesters believed to have been involved in Kuratchi rallies 
  • Four die in Niger, 45 wounded, as angry protesters burn down churches
  • Violent clashes in Jordan after King and Queen attend ‘solidarity march’

By Steve Hopkins and Jay Akbar For Mailonline

Violent and bloody protests have erupted around the world as furious Muslims react to Charlie Hebdo’s ‘survivor’ edition – again featuring the holy Prophet Muhammad on its front cover.

As pictures emerged of a photographer shot in the chest during riots in Pakistan – so did the news of churches being burned down in Niger, and equally violent clashes in Jordan.

A bullet reportedly struck Adif Hasan’s lung and passed through his chest, as 200 protesters took to the streets outside the French consulate in Kuratchi.

It’s believed he was shot by demonstrators, and although his condition was at first thought to be serious, he was now said to be recovering.


Photographer Adif Hasan clasps his chest as bloods spills from the bullet wound, after he was shot as Charlie Hebdo protesters clashed with police in Pakistan outside the French consulate

Photographer Adif Hasan clasps his chest as bloods spills from the bullet wound, after he was shot as Charlie Hebdo protesters clashed with police in Pakistan outside the French consulate

Hasan rests in a vehicle, out of harms way; the bullet was said to have struck his lung and passed through his chest; the photographer is now said to be recovering 

Hasan rests in a vehicle, out of harms way; the bullet was said to have struck his lung and passed through his chest; the photographer is now said to be recovering

Pakistan police clash with Charlie Hebdo protesters

Protesters burned represenations of French flags as Pakisatani officials tried to get them under control using tear gas, batons and water cannons

Protesters burned represenations of French flags as Pakisatani officials tried to get them under control using tear gas, batons and water cannons

Pakistani police throw cannisters of tear gas at protesters who rallied outside the French consulate

Pakistani police throw cannisters of tear gas at protesters who rallied outside the French consulate

Al-Qaeda in Yemen admits responsibility for Charlie Hebdo attacks and warns West of more ‘tragedies and terror’

January 14, 2015


“It is France that has shared all of America’s crimes.”

Nasr al-Ansi, a top commander of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
By Heather Saul

A top al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) leader has released a video claiming responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack and warning the West of more “tragedies and terror”.

Nasr al-Ansi, a top commander of AQAP as the branch is known, appeared in an 11-minute video posted Wednesday, saying that the massacre at Charlie Hebdo was in “vengeance for the Prophet.”

Twelve people were killed when brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi launched their assault during an editorial meeting in the magazine’s offices.

The paper had in the past published cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed and today released the first edition since the massacre of its offices which also depicted Mohamed.

The video, entitled “A message regarding the Blessed Battle of Paris’, was released via the Al-Malahem Media arm of the group.

In it, Al-Ansi said France belongs to the “party of Satan” and warned of more “tragedies and terror.” He claimed the al-Qaeda branch “chose the target, laid out the plan and financed the operation”.

He highlights “crimes” committed in Central Africa, saying: “Look at it. It is France that has shared all of America’s crimes. It is France that has committed crimes in Mali and the Islamic Maghreb. It is France that supports the annihilation of Muslims in Central Africa in the name of race cleansing.”

Read more: New video emerges showing Kouachi brothers escaping

Al-Ansi also called for Muslim youth to “rise up” and described the Paris shooting as ” a new turning point in the history of confrontation”.

The video used footage of the 9/11 attacks, the Paris shooting, images of the attackers and quoted threats from deceased leader Osama bin Laden.

In a translation of the video under the heading ‘our message to the Western nation’, it added: “We have warned you before about the consequences of these deeds that your governments collude with under the pretext of ‘freedom of press’ or ‘freedom of ideas’.

“The freedom that is always tamed except when spreading vile and waging war on Allah and His Messengers and defaming the religion.

“We tell you once again: Stop your insults on our Prophet and sanctities. Stop spilling our blood. Leave our lands. Quit plundering our resources. Otherwise, by Allah, do not expect of us except tragedies and terror. You will look for peace and stability but you will not find it.”

Al-Ansi also praised the separate attack on a Jewish supermarket by Amedy Coulibaly.


Qaeda Group in Yemen Claims Responsibility for Charlie Hebdo Attack

The New York Times

PARIS — The militant group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, based in Yemen, took responsibility on Wednesday for the bloody attack one week ago on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in which 12 people, including cartoonists and police officers, were killed.

The group accompanied its claim with an image of the Eiffel Tower dissolving.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo signaled the start of three days of bloodshed in which five more people died, four them customers at a kosher supermarket.

The group said in a statement on the Internet that it claimed responsibility “for this operation as a vengeance for the messenger of Allah” — an apparent reference to Charlie Hebdo’s frequent lampooning of the Prophet Muhammad with depictions that many Muslims consider sacrilegious.

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Transparency International Issues Corruption Perceptions Index — Bad News For China On Free Speech, Accountable Government and Independent Judiciary

December 3, 2014

Transparency International

Corruption is a problem for all economies, requiring leading financial centres in the EU and US to act together with fast-growing economies to stop the corrupt from getting away with it, anti-corruption group Transparency International said today.

In the 20th edition of the Corruption Perceptions Index, scores for China (with a score of 36 out of 100), Turkey (45) and Angola (19) were among the biggest fallers with a drop of 4 or 5 points, despite average economic growth of more than 4 per cent over the last four years. Click here for the full index.

“The 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index shows that economic growth is undermined and efforts to stop corruption fade when leaders and high level officials abuse power to appropriate public funds for personal gain,” said José Ugaz, the chair of Transparency International.

“Corrupt officials smuggle ill-gotten assets into safe havens through offshore companies with absolute impunity,” Ugaz added. “Countries at the bottom need to adopt radical anti-corruption measures in favour of their people. Countries at the top of the index should make sure they don’t export corrupt practices to underdeveloped countries.”

More than two thirds of the 175 countries in the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index score below 50, on a scale from 0 (perceived to be highly corrupt) to 100 (perceived to be very clean). Denmark comes out on top in 2014 with a score of 92 while North Korea and Somalia share last place, scoring just eight.

The scores of several countries rose or fell by four points or more. The biggest falls were in Turkey (-5), Angola, China, Malawi and Rwanda (all -4). The biggest improvers were Côte d´Ivoire, Egypt, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (+5), Afghanistan, Jordan, Mali and Swaziland (+4).

The Corruption Perceptions Index is based on expert opinions of public sector corruption. Countries’ scores can be helped by open government where the public can hold leaders to account, while a poor score is a sign of prevalent bribery, lack of punishment for corruption and public institutions that don’t respond to citizens’ needs.

Corruption in emerging economies

China’s score fell to 36 in 2014 from 40 in 2013, despite the fact the Chinese government launched an anti-corruption campaign targeting corrupt public officials. The government has recognized the need to follow officials who hide ill-gotten gains overseas. This January, leaked documents revealed 22,000 offshore clients from China and Hong Kong, including many of the country’s leaders.

The score matches a poor performance by Chinese companies in Transparency International’s recent report on corporate disclosure practices where all eight Chinese companies scored less than three out of ten.

Corruption and money laundering are also problems for the other BRIC countries. This year has seen questions raised related to a major oil company using secret companies to bribe politicians in Brazil (which scores 43), questions about Indians (38) using bank accounts in Mauritius (54) and Russians (27) doing the same in Cyprus (63).

“Grand corruption in big economies not only blocks basic human rights for the poorest but also creates governance problems and instability. Fast-growing economies whose governments refuse to be transparent and tolerate corruption, create a culture of impunity in which corruption thrives,” said Ugaz.

Countries on top must fight global corruption

Transparency International called on countries at the top of the index where public sector corruption is limited to stop encouraging it elsewhere by doing more to prevent money laundering and to stop secret companies from masking corruption.

While top performer Denmark has strong rule of law, support for civil society and clear rules governing the behaviour of those in public positions, it also set an example this November, announcing plans to create a public register including beneficial ownership information for all companies incorporated in Denmark. This measure, similar to those announced by Ukraine and the UK, will make it harder for the corrupt to hide behind companies registered in another person’s name.

The anti-corruption group is currently running a campaign to Unmask the Corrupt, urging European Union, United States and G20 countries to follow Denmark’s lead and create public registers that would make clear who really controls, or is the beneficial owner, of every company.

“None of us would fly on planes that do not register passengers, yet we allow secret companies to conceal illegal activity. Public registers that show who really owns a company would make it harder for the corrupt to take off with the spoils of their abuse of power,” said Transparency International Managing Director Cobus de Swardt.


From New York Times Blog

China’s very public campaign against graft has netted thousands of officials both big and small — “tigers” and “flies,” in Communist Party parlance — but the perception of China as a deeply corrupt country is only rising, according to a leading watchdog group.

In fact, global awareness of the scale of corruption in China is up sharply, according to the 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index, published on Wednesday by Transparency International, a nonprofit organization based in Berlin.

A spokesman for Transparency International, Thomas Coombes, said that China’s standing was damaged by the perception among some experts and businesspeople that its anticorruption campaign was partial, opaque and politically motivated, casting doubt on its efficacy.

“The campaign is just the tip of the iceberg, and is not even being done in a transparent manner,” Mr. Coombes said.

The index ranked China 104th among 175 countries, a drop of 20 places from last year, and the single largest drop in terms of ranking.

The worsening of perceptions of corruption in China may also be because the campaign, ordered by President Xi Jinping nearly two years ago, has exposed major structural problems in how corruption is being fought, Mr. Coombes said.

What Transparency International looks for as a sign of genuine improvement in the fight against corruption is “permanent and structural change,” he said.

“I think the problem is what China is not doing: transparency and accountability of public officials,” Mr. Coombes said.

What is missing are “stronger laws on bribery, access to information, whistleblower protection, more open budgets and asset declarations,” he said in an email.

Once again, Nordic countries topped the index, which grades countries on a scale of zero to 100, with a higher number indicating lower corruption. Denmark received the highest score at 92. China scored 36, a four-point drop from the previous year. Turkey fell by five points, the single biggest points drop.

New Zealand came second at 91, followed by Finland, Sweden and Norway.

“The fact that the Nordic countries are consistently on top shows how important free speech, accountable government and independent judiciary are to fighting corruption. These are all missing in China,” Mr. Coombes said.

Hong Kong

A police officer uses a baton on a pro-democracy protesters near the office of the Chief Executive in Hong Kong December 1, 2014. Tyrone Siu/REUTERS

China’s ranking put it just below Algeria and above Suriname. Three African countries — Angola, Malawi and Rwanda — also recorded four-point drops, the report said.

Corruption in most countries was a serious problem, the index found. More than two-thirds of countries scored below 50, the halfway mark to a corruption-free society.

The index is calculated from 12 independent sources, including surveys conducted by different groups of businesspeople and other experts. Among them is the Executive Opinion Survey by the World Economic Forum and the Rule of Law Index by the World Justice Project, which looks at the legal environment around corruption issues.

The world has misread the Middle East nightmare and our war without borders

October 11, 2014

Sydney Morning Herald

He expected it. But when the call came mid-morning on Thursday, Nizam Mougherit froze – the caller was threatening to behead Ibrahim, the 35-year-old’s younger brother who serves in the Lebanese Army.

Since early August, the so-called Islamic State and the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front, two of the strongest forces in the civil and sectarian war tearing Syria and Iraq apart, have been taunting the families of 37 cops and soldiers who were captured as the Islamists overran Arsal – a small town high in the wild mountain country that serves as Lebanon’s border with Syria, and a little more than 120 kilometres north-east of the capital.

“I felt like I was having a nervous breakdown,” Nizam told me of a chilling exchange with a male who identified himself as an IS operative and who then proceeded to lecture Nizam on the need for the families to put more effort into daily protests, at which they’ve been pushing for the Beirut government to comply with the jihadis’ demands for a prisoner swap – freedom for Ibrahim and his military and police colleagues, in return for the release of as many as 100 Islamist militiamen locked down in Lebanon’s notorious Roumieh Prison.

The families of captured Lebanese men, Darin Abu Kalfoni (left) holding a photo of her brother Nahi Abu Kalfoni, a soldier, and Hayfa Jaber holding a photo of her husband Maymoun Jaber.The families of captured Lebanese men, Darin Abu Kalfoni (left) holding a photo of her brother Nahi Abu Kalfoni, a soldier, and Hayfa Jaber holding a photo of her husband Maymoun Jaber. Photo: Kate Geraghty

“We need to do a deal fast,” the man from IS told him. “You have 48 hours – or the remaining prisoners will be executed by beheading.” There’s a Potemkin village feel to the tents erected on the pavement of Beirut’s Riad al-Solh Square, named for the country’s first post-independence prime minister – he was assassinated in 1952. But the families come out to protest because they were effectively ordered to do so by their kin’s captors – so there’s just a few slabs of bottled water and none of the musty, dug-in permanence that characterised the encampments of the global Occupy movement or of Ukraine’s Maidan protests.


All involved here are Lebanese, not Western, which might explain why the plight of the dozens of prisoners and their families has failed to punch through as an international news story. But the threat is real – two of the hostages already have been beheaded and a third was gunned down, according to Islamic State’s social media postings.

A Qatari government official is mediating between the Beirut government and the Sunni fighters who have retreated into the mountains behind Arsal – but so far, no deal. And a few hours before Nizam Mougherit’s phone exchange on the urgency of beheadings, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon weighed in, expressing “grave concern” over what appears to be the Syria-based fundamentalist militias’ probing the defences in Lebanon’s border region, which are controlled by the Lebanese Shiite militia and political party, Hezbollah.

Conflict spreads: Lebanese police guard the area surrounding the Parliament in Beirut.Conflict spreads: Lebanese police guard the area surrounding the Parliament in Beirut. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Sit in the square with the families – sisters and wives, cousins and uncles milling with framed or banner-sized portraits of the captives – and it seems that the crisis roiling the Middle East is being miscast. As governments around the world opt in or out of the reluctant warrior Obama’s coalition, the focus stays narrowly on the fighting in Syria and Iraq and keeping both countries as the post-Ottoman Western constructs that they are.

It all seems to miss the point that this already is a regional, if not global conflict, in which the stakes are much higher than who turns on and off the lights in Damascus and Baghdad.

This is not just about skirmishing spilling over borders into Turkey and Lebanon, but about the direct involvement of forces and funders, policymakers and provocateurs from right across the region, seeking to direct the course of the violence to pursue outcomes in Syria and Iraq, but also in pursuit of bigger but tangential regional agendas.

Kidnappings continue: Families of missing Lebanese who were kidnapped by Islamic State militants and the Al-Nusra Front protest for their release in Beirut, Lebanon. Kidnappings continue: Families of missing Lebanese who were kidnapped by Islamic State militants and the Al-Nusra Front protest for their release in Beirut, Lebanon. Photo: AP

Beyond Lebanon, it has gone virtually unnoticed that two beheadings have been carried out and many more are threatened; and that a diplomat from Qatar is attempting to defuse a situation that gives Ban Ki-moon sleepless nights. The Saudis, who are Sunnis, are pumping $US1 billion ($1.1 billion) worth of French-supplied weapons into Lebanon; and right behind them are the Shiite Iranians, promising their own, separate weapons consignment for Beirut – value not disclosed.

Yet these little bits are parts of a dreadful whole, the complexities and dangers of which seem not to have been grasped around the world. The gifts of weapons from Riyadh and Tehran are just part of a slew of current arms deals in the region, estimated to be worth more than $US50 billion. And while all those weapons, no doubt, will help grow an already huge refugee crisis in the region, a UN appeal for $US1.7 billion to help the refugees, has received pledges for just 36 per cent of that target since it was launched late last year.

It’s all done with such naiveté and Boys’ Own enthusiasm, that you wonder if our leaders obsess about military options alone, because to kick butt is easier than all the other stuff that could be done.

Closing in: Islamic State militants stand next to an IS flag above Kobane.Closing in: Islamic State militants stand next to an IS flag above Kobane. Photo: AFP

More than a decade after the 9/11 attacks and an al-Qaeda-induced realisation that US intelligence services had nodded off on the Middle East, Nathan Brown of the Carnegie Endowment credits the Obama administration with rightly sensing that apart from the military, there are ideological and religious dimensions to this conflict.

But then Professor Brown writes: “They are, however, particularly ill-equipped to understand, much less participate in, the non-military aspects of the struggle. And the consequences may not only be misunderstanding it, but more troubling, a return to the pattern of opportunistic alignments with autocrats that served US policy well in the short term, [but] at tremendous long-term cost.”

While all effort now goes into military attempts to solve a conflict for which all, from Obama down, admit that there is no military solution, a grim warning was issued in July by the UN negotiator who spent two years in search of a political solution to the crisis triggered in Syria by the last of the Arab Spring uprisings in the region.

“There is a serious risk that the entire region will blow up,” Lakhdar Brahimi warned in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine, in which he predicted dire consequences for Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. “The conflict is not going to stay inside Syria. It will spill over into the region. It’s already destabilising Lebanon [where there are] 1.5 million refugees – that represents one-third of the population – if it were Germany, it would be the equivalent of 20 million people.”

Analysing the global misreading of how events might unfold in Syria, Brahimi harped back to an earlier assignment in his career: “It reminds me a lot of 1999 – then, I resigned from my first assignment as a UN special envoy to Afghanistan, because the UN Security Council had no interest in Afghanistan, a small country, poor, far away. I said one day it’s going to blow up in your faces – it did [and] Syria is much worse.”

And as for the notion implicit in the rhetoric of Obama and his coalition cheerleaders, that Syria somehow is to be rescued by and into the civilised world, Brahimi thinks otherwise – “It will become another Somalia. It will not be divided, as many have predicted. It’s going to be a failed state, with warlords all over the place.” And to the extent that there is a military solution – Washington and Canberra and the rest say that they will retrain the Iraqi military, on which the US already has spent hundreds of billions and lost thousands of its own troops in the process; and set up shoestring budget camps in Saudi Arabia to train ‘vetted moderate’ Syrian rebels to fight IS and the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

All of which prompted a gem of self-contradiction this week by Obama spokesman Josh Earnest: “Our strategy [in Syria] is reliant on something that is not yet in place…” But with intelligence agencies warning that as many as 6000 volunteers have flocked to IS training camps since the start of the US-led bombing in Iraq in August, other experts predict that if they continue to bomb the forces and facilities of the Nusra Front, which is al-Qaeda affiliated but opposed to IS, it would drive many Syrian Sunnis, and probably Iraqis too, to fight against the US and its allies.

Despite the coalition hype, it will be years before the Iraqi military or the Syrian rebels become effective fighting forces, and if past conflicts are a guide, only months will have passed before we are hearing complaints that there are no targets for air strikes. So who’ll provide boots on the ground if there’s to be any hope of capitalising on air strikes over Syria and Iraq in the short-term and holding territory in the medium-term?

As it is, a good few of Obama’s Western allies are refusing to do air strikes in Syria and all are refusing to send troops to Syria. At the same time, news reports suggest that the US is doing the lion’s share of the current air strikes – despite several of the Gulf monarchs sending some of their air fleets.

But what about the Arab armies – why have they not been dispatched?

Those of us who were in the combined coalition columns as the first President Bush’s coalition forces rolled across the desert to liberate Kuwait in 1991, still chortle at the Saudi officer class, a good number of whom drove their own luxury SUVs to war, because they would not deign to ride in military machines.

With so much at stake in the region, perhaps one of the more disturbing aspects of the conflict as it shapes up, is the likelihood that the coalition will hew to the agenda of one of the myriad parties involved, at the expense of coalition unity and cohesion. Another is the inevitability that crisis momentum demands mission creep; or worse, that human error or mischief making could knock the whole venture off its axis.

What might be this crisis’ Franz Ferdinand moment? Recall that the archduke’s assassination in Sarajevo in 1914 precipitated World War I, the aftermath of which was so ruinous for the Middle East.

When I posed this question to the Beirut-based analyst Toufik Shouman, he responded: “We’re practically in a World War III moment now, but it’s controlled geographically and militarily…and what prevents the world from being dragged into a major global conflict is the [agenda differences] in the coalition that prevent agreement on the way forward, but you can’t rule out the Franz Ferdinand moment.”

Shouman ticked off the likely targets, if IS was to opt to take the fight beyond Syria and Iraq – the list of embassies, consulates and businesses representing the coalition countries would be long. He concluded: “… and IS claims that it is ready to attack targets in the US itself.”

Dr Anthony Cordesman, of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, rebukes the US in a paper he published on Thursday. On the great difficulty of implementing coalition-based strategy, he writes: “This is particularly true when the US fails to honestly address its own problems and mistakes, minimises the costs and risks involved, and exaggerates criticism of its allies.”

Acknowledging the risk of mission creep, he said in a phone interview: “But you have to understand that there will be immense pushback against any effort to escalate – the US and its allies will try to control the mission to do what was originally described.”

But ask him about that Franz Ferdinand moment and suggestions pour out of him. Syria could shoot down a Turkish aircraft; the humanitarian dimension could be messed up; human displacement – “you can surely count on people to not understand that intervening to deal with a few thousand people can displace hundreds of thousands”; if IS advanced to a position from which it “threatened all of Iraq”; Iraq’s Sunnis could refuse to co-operate with the new Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad; if violence broke out between Turkey and its Kurdish minority and Iraq’s Kurds attempted to join in; if the Assad government in Syria was to step up its bombing of rebel forces “it could become a political problem too big to ignore”; and lastly, if IS was to lash out with a campaign of terrorist attacks that would provoke demands to escalate the coalition campaign.

“Fully agreeing” with the idea that the conflict has been miscast as war in two countries, rather than as a regional or even bigger conflict, veteran White House adviser and CIA analyst Bruce Riedel’s response to questions was a dire email in which he posits the current crisis in a seriously global framework.

“Al Qaedaism, the ideology, is stronger today than ever, thanks to the failure of the Arab spring and the battlefield has expanded from Mali to Pakistan and beyond to Australia and Europe,” he writes.

“The worst nightmare for me is a terror attack that provokes Indo-Pakistan war; second, is a Mumbai-like attack in a Western city.”

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