Posts Tagged ‘Mali’

Libya says it will investigate ‘slave auction’ footage

November 19, 2017

AFP

© AFP | A demonstrator, standing through the smoke from tear gas, raises his fist during a march against “slavery in Libya” on the Champs-Elysees avenue face antiriot police in Paris on November 18, 2017

TRIPOLI (AFP) – Libya will investigate alleged slave trading in the country, the internationally recognised government announced Sunday, following the release of video footage appearing to show migrants being auctioned off.Chaos-ridden Libya has long been a major transit hub for migrants trying to reach Europe, and many of them have fallen prey to serious abuse in the North African country at the hands of traffickers and others.

US television network CNN aired the footage last week of an apparent live auction in Libya where black men are presented to North African buyers as potential farmhands and sold off for as little as $400.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Metig said his UN-backed Government of National Accord would investigate the allegations, in a statement posted Sunday on the Facebook page of the GNA’s press office.

Metig said he would instruct the formation of a “commission to investigate these reports in order to apprehend and bring those responsible to justice”, the statement added.

The foreign ministry in a statement added: “If these allegations are confirmed, all implicated persons will be punished.”

The CNN report apparently showing migrants being auctioned off in Libya was shared widely on social media, provoking outrage in Africa, Europe and the rest of the world.

The grainy footage shot on a mobile telephone shows a man CNN said was Nigerian and in his 20s being offered up for sale as part of a group of “big strong boys for farm work”.

In the CNN report, a person identified as an auctioneer can be heard saying “800… 900… 1,000… 1,100…” before two men are sold for 1,200 Libyan dinars ($875).

Around 1,000 people took to the streets of Paris on Saturday to protest against slavery in Libya, according to French police. The gathering led to clashes between demonstrators and security forces.

Guinean President Alpha Conde, who is also chairman of the African Union, on Friday called for an inquiry and prosecutions relating to what he termed a “despicable trade… from another era”.

Senegal’s government expressed “outrage at the sale of Sub-Saharan African migrants on Libyan soil” that constituted a “blight on the conscience of humanity”.

African migrants from nations including Guinea and Senegal but also Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Gambia make the dangerous crossing through the Sahara to Libya with hopes of making it over the Mediterranean Sea to Italy.

But testimony collected by AFP has revealed a litany of rights abuses at the hands of gangsters, human traffickers and the Libyan security forces, while many end up stuck in the unstable North African nation for years.

More than 8,800 stranded migrants have been returned home this year, according to the International Organization for Migration, which is also compiling evidence of slavery.

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African Union calls for ‘slave market’ probe

November 18, 2017

(From L) Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame, Senegal’s president Macky Sall, Mali’s president Ibrahima Boubacar Keita and president of the Commission of African Union (AU) Moussa Faki Mahamat attend the opening of the 4th Summit on Peace and Security on November 13, 2017 in Dakar. (AFP)

DAKAR: The African Union (AU) on Friday called for Libyan authorities to investigate “slave markets” of black Africans operating in the conflict-torn nation, following the release of shocking images showing the sale of young men.

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The demand follows the release of CNN footage of a live auction in Libya where black youths are presented to North African buyers as potential farmhands and sold off for as little as $400.
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Guinean President Alpha Conde, who is also chairman of the AU, demanded an inquiry and prosecutions relating to what he termed a “despicable trade… from another era.”
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Meanwhile, Senegal’s government commenting on Facebook, expressed “outrage at the sale of Sub-Saharan African migrants on Libyan soil,” which constituted a “blight on the conscience of humanity.”
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African migrants from nations including Guinea and Senegal but also Mali, Niger, Nigeria and The Gambia make the dangerous crossing through the Sahara to Libya with hopes of making it over the Mediterranean Sea to Italy.
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But testimony collected by AFP in recent years has revealed a litany of rights abuses at the hands of gangmasters, human traffickers and the Libyan security forces, while many end up stuck in the unstable North African nation for years.
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More than 8,800 stranded migrants have been returned home this year, according to the International Organization for Migration, which is also amassing evidence of slavery.
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Conde further appealed for the Libyan authorities to “reassess migrants’ detention conditions” following revelations over squalid jails and detention centers that await migrants who are caught trying to reach the coast.
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“These modern slavery practices must end and the African Union will use all the tools at its disposal,” Conde added.
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Libya has opened an investigation into the practice, CNN reported Friday, and pledged to return those taken as slaves to their country of origin.
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Five-nation ‘G5 Sahel’ force launches operations in Mali

November 4, 2017

AFP

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Video by Anthony FOUCHARD Katerina VITTOZZI

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2017-11-04

A multinational military force in Mali dubbed the G5 Sahel kicked off its first regional operation this week near the border with Niger and Burkina Faso. FRANCE 24’s Anthony Fouchard and Katerina Vittozzi are following the mission with Malian troops.

Five west African nations are taking part in the operation to flush out militants known to hide in the area.

The poorly equipped Malian army has little air capability so it relies heavily on the hundreds of French forces still stationed in the region as part of Operation Barkhane, which provides logistical and aerial support.

http://www.france24.com/en/20171104-exclusive-five-nation-g5-sahel-force-launches-operations-mali

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© Pascal Guyot, AFP | Malian soldiers patrol with French soldiers involved in the regional anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane in March 2016 in Timbamogoye.

Image result for Niger , Mali, Burkina Faso map

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United Nations “Peacekeepers” — 31 sexual abuse cases against personnel filed in 3 months

November 4, 2017

Above, peacekeeping forces in Mali. Nearly half of the cases involve the UN’s refugee agency, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. (Reuters)

UNITED NATIONS: Thirty-one new cases alleging sexual abuse or exploitation by UN personnel, nearly half of which involve the UN refugee agency, were filed between July and September for events stretching back at least three years, the UN said on Friday.

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Not all of the allegations have been verified and some are in preliminary assessment phase, said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric in a press briefing. During the three-month period, 14 investigations have been launched and one case has been proven, he said.
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Of the 31 cases, 12 involve military personnel from peacekeeping operations including those in the Central African Republic and Mali.
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The majority of the civilian staff cases, 15, involve the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
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Three cases involve the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and one the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
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UNHCR and UNICEF did not immediately respond to requests for comment outside office hours. IOM was not immediately available outside office hours.
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For decades, media and UN reports have exposed sexual exploitation and abuse by civilian and military UN personnel in places from Haiti to Darfur, with operations in the Central African Republic most recently in the headlines.
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The new type of data collection that began in January, Dujarric said, is part of a UN initiative to increase transparency with regards to allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse.
“We’re seeing allegations that date back a few years,” he said, because “people feel freer and safer to come forward.”
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The UN has deployed victims rights advocates in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti.
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A dozen of the reported alleged cases happened in 2017, two last year and six more in 2015 or prior. Eleven have no known date, Dujarric said.
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Ten of the cases involved sexual abuse and 19 sexual exploitation, with the remaining two unknown.

US pledges $60 million to Sahel counter-terrorism force

October 30, 2017

AFP

© Jim Watson, AFP | This file photo taken on October 4, 2017, shows US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson making a statement to the press at the State Department in Washington, DC.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-10-30

The United States will pledge $60 million to support the new G5 Sahel regional counter-terrorism force, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday, ahead of UN talks on the operation.

“This is a fight we must win, and these funds will play a key role in achieving that mission,” he said, describing G5 members Burkina FasoChadMaliMauritania and Niger as “regional partners.”

Washington has previously expressed support for the force, and has troops and drone operators in the region supporting operations against Islamist militants, but opposes United Nations involvement.

The UN Security Council was due to meet later Monday to look at ways of shoring up the G5 force, with France seeking a multilateral platform to provide assistance to its former colonies.

But US officials have been clear that, while they are ready to support the G5 members directly, they do not want the United Nations to authorize the force or take charge of its funding and logistics.

Tillerson’s statement does not appear to change that position, and he confirmed he would not be heading up to New York to join French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian at the UN meeting.

“I thank Foreign Minister Le Drian for his invitation, and commend France and all our other partners’ eagerness to win this fight,” he said.

Tillerson said he had asked the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, “to represent the United States and our full commitment to security in the Sahel region in my place.”

The vast Sahel region has turned into a hotbed of lawlessness since chaos engulfed Libya in 2011, the Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.

Earlier this month, militants with suspected links to the Islamic State group ambushed and killed four US soldiers on a reconnaissance patrol with Nigerien soldiers near the Niger-Mali border.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali has lost 17 peacekeepers in attacks this year, one of the highest tolls from current peace operations.

France Seeks Funding at UN Monday For African Sahel Anti-Terror Military Force

October 30, 2017

AFP

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© Pascal Guyot, AFP | Malian soldiers patrol with French soldiers involved in the regional anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane in March 2016 in Timbamogoye.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-10-30

France is facing a tough diplomatic battle to convince the United States to lend UN support to a counter-terrorism force for Africa’s Sahel region, where insurgents have killed UN peacekeepers and US soldiers.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will lead a UN Security Council meeting on Monday that will look at ways of shoring up the G5 Sahel force set up by Burkina FasoChadMaliMauritania and Niger.

France wants donors to step up, but is also looking to the United Nations to offer logistic and financial support to the joint force — which is set to begin operations in the coming days.

The United States however is adamant that while it is ready to provide bilateral funding, there should be no UN support for the force.

“The US is committed to supporting the African-led and owned G5 Joint Force through bilateral security assistance, but we do not support UN funding, logistics, or authorization for the force,” said a spokesperson for the US mission.

“Our position on further UN involvement with respect to the G5 Sahel joint force is unchanged.”

The vast Sahel region has turned into a hotbed of violent extremism and lawlessness since chaos engulfed Libya in 2011, the Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.

>> Video: Meet the French troops hunting jihadists in Sahel

Earlier this month, militants linked to the Islamic State ambushed and killed four US soldiers on a reconnaissance patrol with Nigerien soldiers near the Niger-Mali border.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali has lost 17 peacekeepers in attacks this year, one of the highest tolls from current peace operations.

Four options

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has come out in favor of multilateral backing, writing in a recent report that the establishment of the G5 force “represents an opportunity that cannot be missed.”

Guterres has laid out four options for UN support, from setting up a UN office for the Sahel to sharing resources from the large UN mission in Mali.

In response, US Ambassador Nikki Haley wrote to Guterres this month to reaffirm the US “no” to UN involvement, officials said. The United States is the UN’s biggest financial contributor.

ANALYSIS: FRANCE’S MACRON IN MALI TO BOOST REGIONAL ANTI-TERRORISM FORCE

The battle over UN backing for the Sahel force is shaping up as Haley is pushing for cost-saving measures after successfully negotiating a $600-million cut to the peacekeeping budget this year.

After leading a Security Council visit to the Sahel last week, French Ambassador Francois Delattre said most countries on the council want the United Nations to help.

“The key question now is not about the relevance of the G5 Sahel force, nor the need to support it, but it is about the best way to convey this support,” said Delattre.

A “mix of both multilateral and bilateral support” is needed, he said.

A long list of gaps

The price tag for the G5 force’s first year of operations is estimated at 423 million euros ($491 million), even though French officials say the budget can be brought down closer to 250 million euros.

So far, only 108 million euros have been raised, including 50 million euros from the five countries themselves. A donor conference will be held in Brussels on December 16.

“UN logistical support could make a big difference,” said Paul Williams, an expert on peacekeeping at George Washington University.

“To become fully operational, the force needs to fill a long list of logistical and equipment gaps,” he said — from funding for its headquarters to intelligence-sharing and medical evacuation capacities.

Williams said US reservations were not just about cost, but also about the mission’s operations, which Washington sees as ill-defined.

The G5 is “a relatively blunt military instrument for tackling the security challenges in this region, which stem from a combination of bad governance, underdevelopment and environmental change,” he explained.

“At best it might limit the damage done by some of the criminal networks and insurgents, but even then, its gains will not be sustainable without adequate funding.”

(AFP)

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France, U.N. Want Sahel Army To Fight Terrorism But U.S. Not Eager To Pay

October 30, 2017

Plan for 5-nation force in the Sahel strongly backed by France and Italy but funding resisted by Trump administration

Malian and French soldiers patrol during anti-insurgent operations in Tin Hama, Mali, 19 October.
 Malian and French soldiers patrol during anti-insurgent operations in Tin Hama, Mali, 19 October. Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Unprecedented plans to combat human trafficking and terrorism across the Sahel and into Libya will face a major credibility test on Monday when the UN decides whether to back a new proposed five-nation joint security force across the region.

The 5,000-strong army costing $400m in the first year is designed to end growing insecurity, a driving force of migration, and combat endemic people-smuggling that has since 2014 seen 30,000 killed in the Sahara and an estimated 10,000 drowned in the central Mediterranean.

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The joint G5 force, due to be fully operational next spring and working across five Sahel states, has the strong backing of France and Italy, but is suffering a massive shortfall in funds, doubts about its mandate and claims that the Sahel region needs better coordinated development aid, and fewer security responses, to combat migration.

The Trump administration, opposed to multilateral initiatives, has so far refused to let the UN back the G5 Sahel force with cash. The force commanders claim they need €423m in its first year, but so far only €108m has been raised, almost half from the EU. The British say they support the force in principle, but have offered no funds as yet.

Western diplomats hope the US will provide substantial bilateral funding for the operation, even if they refuse to channel their contribution multilaterally through the UN.

France, with the support of the UN secretary general, António Guterres, and regional African leaders, has been pouring diplomatic resources into persuading a sceptical Trump administration that the UN should financially back the force.

In an attempt to persuade the Americans, Guterres warned in a report to the security council this month that the “region is now trapped in a vicious cycle in which poor political and security governance, combined with chronic poverty and the effects of climate change, has contributed to the spread of insecurity”.

Read the rest:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/30/new-400m-army-to-fight-human-traffickers-and-terrorists-faces-un-moment-of-truth

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Terror War: Battle in the African Sahel Comes Out of The Shadows

October 30, 2017
BY SETH J. FRANTZMAN
 OCTOBER 30, 2017 00:16

 

US soldiers fight alongside French forces and locals in Niger

A US special forces soldier demonstrates how to detain a suspect in Diffa, Niger.

A US special forces soldier demonstrates how to detain a suspect in Diffa, Niger.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

On October 4, four United States servicemen and five soldiers from Niger were killed in a battle with an estimated 50 members of an ISIS affiliate.

The US casualties are raising eyebrows in Washington, with senators reportedly “shocked” and “stunned” to find that the US has more than 1,000 personnel in Niger and neighboring countries.

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As controversies swirl, the US is being called upon to support UN backing for more counter- terrorism operations led by France in the Sahel, the area between the Sahara Desert to the north and the savannas region to the south.

According to a March document from the US Government Accountability Office, the US has greatly expanded its security presence abroad, especially in Africa, since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“The US government has engaged in numerous efforts to build the capacity of foreign partners to address security-related threats,” the Government Accountability Office said, claiming it “identified 194 Department of Defense security cooperation and state security assistance efforts” that address security-related threats. A number of these programs are tailored specifically to confront the growing threat of terrorism in countries that border the Sahel. These include countries such as Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Ethiopia, which borders Somalia.

Between 1997 and 2012, the US provided training to 215,000 personnel from states in Africa. Since the establishment of an Africa Command in 2007, the focus has increasingly shifted to fighting terrorism alongside peacekeeping. The long list of US-supported programs include the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund, the US Army’s African Land Forces Engagement Summit, a specific program for Support for Counterterrorism Operations in Africa, Peace Keeping Operations Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance, a “rapid response partnership” and a series of regional counterterrorism partnerships.

In the Sahara, the US “assists partners in West and North Africa to increase their immediate and long-term capabilities to address terrorist threats and prevent the spread of violent extremism,” according to the State Department. This includes efforts to “contain and marginalize” terrorist groups as well as “disrupt efforts to recruit, train and provision terrorists and extremists” and counterterrorist groups that seek to establish “safe havens.”

It was during one of these types of missions in October that something went awry. The 12 US soldiers were supposed to be part of an advise-and-assist mission with 30 soldiers from Niger.

Just before a raid targeting a terrorist commander, the target crossed into Mali and the joint US-Niger team, instead, went to search his abandoned camp. According to an October 23 US Defense Department press conference by Gen. Joseph Dunford, the soldiers drove 85 km. north from the capital of Niamey to the village of Tongo Tongo. The village is just across the border from the Reserve Partielle de Faune D’Ansongo-Menake in Mali and the Sahel reserve in Burkina Faso.

The US-Niger forces were ambushed after meeting with locals at a village. The enemy was well prepared with heavy machine guns, RPGs and driving on “technicals,” or trucks with machine guns mounted on the back.

The Americans radioed for assistance and an unarmed drone arrived overhead. Two hours after the battle began, French Mirage jets also came to assist. Eventually, the survivors were evacuated by the French military.

Despite efforts to downplay the incident, the picture that is painted is of a large shadow war on terrorism in Africa that goes relatively unreported in Western media. The ambush conjures up images of the battle of Black Hawk Down in 1993 in Somalia and the 2012 Benghazi attack in Libya, which led to the death of 19 and four Americans, respectively. Both attacks also led to political discussions and policy changes in Libya and Somalia, both of which are still plagued by terrorism. In mid-October, more than 300 people were killed in an attack in Mogadishu. Another 23 were murdered in an attack on October 28.

Niger is an example of a wider problem affecting the region. According to the US State Department, there are numerous terrorist groups in Niger, including Boko Haram, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and ISIS. “Niger’s long borders and areas of harsh terrain made effective border security a challenge, specifically in the north, along the border with Algeria, Libya, and Mali.”

These ungoverned spaces allow AQIM and other groups to transit throughout the Sahel and Sahara. Considering how ISIS exploited the breakdown in Syria and Iraqi states to spread quickly in 2014, the role of ISIS among these other groups’ points to a worrisome phenomenon.

The danger of these groups sometimes goes unrecognized until it is too late. In 2012, Jean Herskovits, a professor of history at the State University of New York, wrote in The New York Times, “There is no proof that a well-organized, ideologically coherent terrorist group called Boko Haram even exists today.”

She urged against the US being drawn into a Nigerian war on terror because “placing Boko Haram on the foreign terrorist list would… make more Nigerians fear and distrust America.” Five years later, Boko Haram is still making headlines with its massacres, including recent reports on how it straps suicide bombs to girls.

Now the US is debating a French-drafted UN Security Council resolution that would give backing to a multinational force to fight terrorism. This is called the G5 Sahel force, which has existed since 2014 and consists of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger. Already there are 4,000 French soldiers in and around Niger fighting terrorism alongside 35,000 African partner troops, according to Dunford.

The G5 force builds upon the work of the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership which was created in 2005 with 11 countries in the same region, with a broader membership that included Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, and Cameroon.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly has encouraged the US to support the G5 force. These forces are underfinanced.

According to Reuters, the $490 million budget is only 25% funded.

As ISIS is defeated in Syria and Iraq, it is not clear if Africa will emerge as a growing base of fighters. However, the northern part of the continent is fertile ground for similar groups. It is a vast area that unites various terrorist groups from different backgrounds.

Although not directly linked to the Sahel, recent flare-ups in fighting in the Sinai and battles between Egyptian police and extremists in Egypt’s Western Desert are connected to this global battle. It’s a message that what happens in Niger affects Jerusalem as much as it does Paris and other states in between.

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France wants more U.S. support for UN counter-terrorism force for Africa’s Sahel

October 28, 2017

AFP

© AFP / by Carole LANDRY | UN Security Council ambassadors, pictured here meeting with Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kabore, visited the Sahel region with a view to launching the anti-Jihadist G5 Sahel force

UNITED NATIONS (UNITED STATES) (AFP) – France is facing a tough diplomatic battle to convince the United States to lend UN support to a counter-terrorism force for Africa’s Sahel region, where insurgents have killed UN peacekeepers and US soldiers.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian will lead a UN Security Council meeting on Monday that will look at ways of shoring up the G5 Sahel force set up by Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

France wants donors to step up, but is also looking to the United Nations to offer logistic and financial support to the joint force — which is set to begin operations in the coming days.

The United States however is adamant that while it is ready to provide bilateral funding, there should be no UN support for the force.

“The US is committed to supporting the African-led and owned G5 Joint Force through bilateral security assistance, but we do not support UN funding, logistics, or authorization for the force,” said a spokesperson for the US mission.

“Our position on further UN involvement with respect to the G5 Sahel joint force is unchanged.”

The vast Sahel region has turned into a hotbed of violent extremism and lawlessness since chaos engulfed Libya in 2011, the Islamist takeover of northern Mali in 2012 and the rise of Boko Haram in northern Nigeria.

Earlier this month, militants linked to the Islamic State ambushed and killed four US soldiers on a reconnaissance patrol with Nigerien soldiers near the Niger-Mali border.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali has lost 17 peacekeepers in attacks this year, one of the highest tolls from current peace operations.

– Four options –

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has come out in favor of multilateral backing, writing in a recent report that the establishment of the G5 force “represents an opportunity that cannot be missed.”

Guterres has laid out four options for UN support, from setting up a UN office for the Sahel to sharing resources from the large UN mission in Mali.

In response, US Ambassador Nikki Haley wrote to Guterres this month to reaffirm the US “no” to UN involvement, officials said. The United States is the UN’s biggest financial contributor.

The battle over UN backing for the Sahel force is shaping up as Haley is pushing for cost-saving measures after successfully negotiating a $600-million cut to the peacekeeping budget this year.

After leading a Security Council visit to the Sahel last week, French Ambassador Francois Delattre said most countries on the council want the United Nations to help.

“The key question now is not about the relevance of the G5 Sahel force, nor the need to support it, but it is about the best way to convey this support,” said Delattre.

A “mix of both multilateral and bilateral support” is needed, he said.

– A long list of gaps –

The price tag for the G5 force’s first year of operations is estimated at 423 million euros ($491 million), even though French officials say the budget can be brought down closer to 250 million euros.

So far, only 108 million euros have been raised, including $50 million from the five countries themselves. A donor conference will be held in Brussels on December 16.

“UN logistical support could make a big difference,” said Paul Williams, an expert on peacekeeping at George Washington University.

“To become fully operational, the force needs to fill a long list of logistical and equipment gaps,” he said — from funding for its headquarters to intelligence-sharing and medical evacuation capacities.

Williams said US reservations were not just about cost, but also about the mission’s operations, which Washington sees as ill-defined.

The G5 is “a relatively blunt military instrument for tackling the security challenges in this region, which stem from a combination of bad governance, underdevelopment and environmental change,” he explained.

“At best it might limit the damage done by some of the criminal networks and insurgents, but even then, its gains will not be sustainable without adequate funding.”

by Carole LANDRY
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Second Niger team was out to kill or capture Islamic State leader

October 28, 2017
U.S. intelligence officials told UPI they believe that Abu Walid al Sahrawi, also known as Adnan al-Sahrawi, was behind the Oct. 4 attack.

By James LaPorta  |  Oct. 27, 2017 at 12:52 PM

UPI
U.S. soldiers with the 3rd Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, N.C., and the 5th Squadron, 1st Calvary Regiment out of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, participate in a pilot recovery exercise Aug. 4, 201. Photo by Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson/U.S. Air Force

Oct. 27 (UPI) — A second special operations team was on a mission to kill or capture an Islamic State leader before the Oct. 4 attack on a Green Beret unit in Niger, U.S. intelligence officials told UPI.

The ambush, in which four Americans and five Nigerian soldiers were killed, may have been orchestrated by the leader of IS in the Greater Sahara, Abu Walid al-Sahrawi.

Sahrawi, code-named “Naylor Road,” was the target of a second clandestine operation, launched the evening of Oct. 3 by a force made up of American, French and Nigerian soldiers headed to the rural southwest region of Niger.

Image result for Abu Walid al Sahrawi, photos

Sahrawi, a pseudonym that means, “Adnan of the Desert,” is a jihadist and a former senior spokesman and self-proclaimed emir for al-Mourabitoun, an al-Qaeda linked terrorist organization that operates out of West Africa. Sahrawi took an oath of allegiance to the Islamic State in May 2015, according to the Counter Extremism Project, a not-for-profit, non-partisan, international policy organization that combats the growing threat from extremist ideologies.

Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. confirmed to reporters at a briefing Thursday that a second team was in the area when the attack occurred on a 12-man team of U.S. Army Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha members and support soldiers — what is known as a Green Beret ODA — and their Nigerian Army counterparts, who were on a separate reconnaissance patrol.

The mission to kill or capture Sahrawi was scrubbed as bad weather emerged and he crossed the border into Mali, officials told UPI. The Green Beret ODA remained in the region after being directed by commanders to gather intelligence on Sahrawi.

U.S. intelligence officials told UPI they believe Sahrawi, also known as Adnan al-Sahrawi, was behind the unit’s ambush.

Sahrawi, a pseudonym that means, “Adnan of the Desert,” is a jihadist and a former senior spokesman and self-proclaimed emir for al-Mourabitoun, an al-Qaida-linked terrorist organization that operates out of West Africa. Sahrawi took an oath of allegiance to the Islamic State in May 2015, according to the Counter Extremism Project, a not-for-profit, non-partisan, international policy organization that combats the growing threat from extremist ideologies.

The Islamic State in the Greater Sahara formed after Sahrawi split from al-Mourabitoun. The group is believed to operate near Mali, according to a October 2016 post in Arabic on the encrypted app service, Telegram. The post was distributed by IS’s Amaq news agency.

At some point on the morning of Oct. 4, the Special Forces team from 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group from Fort Bragg, N.C., was attacked while returning to their forward operating base, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford told reporters Monday.

The complex attack, near a village in Tongo Tongo, in the southwestern region of Niger near the Mali border, involved an array of small arms weapons and rocket-propelled grenades and a force of about 50 militants.

Army officials told UPI that the special forces team was delayed as they left a meeting with local leaders, which may have been part of the plan to attack them.

Officials suspect that some people in the Oct. 4 Tongo Tongo meeting may have been working with the Islamic State. Some of the residents from the village have reportedly have been arrested.

McKenzie told reporters Thursday that contact with the enemy was unlikely before the attack, and that it is unknown if that assessment changed at some point during the operation. Before the attack, 26 previous operations had been completed during the previous six to seven months, he said.

Once the firefight started, an overhead drone provided real-time full motion video images of the attack, Dunford said.

Staff Sgts. Dustin M. Wright and Bryan C. Black were killed in the ambush, along with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson. Sgt. La David Johnson‘s body was recovered 48 hours later by Nigerien forces in a remote, northwestern region of Niger. Green Berets Michael Perezoni and Brent Bartels were wounded in the ambush and were medically evacuated to Landstuhl Regional U.S. Army Medical Center in Germany.

French Mirage jets arrived on the scene about one hour later in a “show of force” in an attempt to drive out the militants. By the time French air support arrived, troops had been in contact with enemy forces for two hours.

It remains unclear when Johnson was separated from the other members of his unit, but a search was mounted after a DUSTWUN was declared, a military abbreviation for duty status, whereabouts unknown. McKenzie said a joint effort made up of U.S., French and Nigerien forces were involved in trying to recover Johnson.

A team of investigators led by a one-star general has been sent to West Africa on a fact-finding mission, with congressional committees launching their own inquiries into the circumstances of the attack.

 https://www.upi.com/Defense-News/2017/10/27/Second-Niger-team-was-out-to-kill-or-capture-Islamic-State-leader/5501509116097/?utm_source=fp&utm_campaign=ls&utm_medium=3
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