Posts Tagged ‘Mali’

French Far-Left Leader Calls Day of Protest, Says Macron “Intoxicated by his own omnipotence.”

July 5, 2017

PARIS — French far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon called on Wednesday for a nationwide day of protest next week against government plans for spending cuts and pro-business tax and labor reforms.

Melenchon, a failed presidential candidate earlier this year and now a member of parliament, was speaking a day after a parliamentary vote of confidence in the plans of President Emmanuel Macron, whom he said was getting drunk on power and was trying to undo decades of progress on crucial workers’ rights.

“I ask my friends everywhere in the country to organize rallies for July 12,” said Melenchon, the head of the France Unbowed party who gathered one in five votes in the first round of the presidential election in April.

Image result for Emmanuel Macron, versailles, soldiers, photos

President Emmanuel Macron

Speaking on BFM TV, Melenchon was fiercely critical of Macron’s first two months in power. Macron this week called a special meeting of the both houses of parliament at which he told lawmakers he would use a referendum to get parliamentary reforms through if necessary.

“We are going down a road where he is becoming intoxicated by his omnipotence,” said the 65 year-old who is well-known for his use of powerful language.

“He thinks he can fix all the problems by force. He is wrong.”

Melenchon mobilized the militant leftist vote in the presidential contest and has emerged a forceful voice in a fragmented left. His party, though, won only 17 seats in the parliamentary election which gave Macron’s Republic on the Move (LREM) party a large majority in the 577-seat lower house.

In addition, France’s powerful trade unions have so far been muted in their reaction to the program outlined by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Tuesday.

The hardline CGT is the only union to have called a strike to date, and does not plan a major one until September. Other leading unions have sounded a more conciliatory note on talks with the government.

(Reporting by Andrew Callus and Cyril Camu; editing by Richard Lough)

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© POOL/AFP/File | President Emmanuel Macron visited French troops in northern Mali in May as Paris sought to overcome US reservations about backing an anti-jihadist force in the Sahel

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France, African nations launch regional force to fight jihadists

July 3, 2017
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© Christophe Archambault, AFP | From left to right: Roch Marc Christian Kaboré (Burkina Faso), Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (Mauritania), Emmanuel Macron (France), Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (Mali), Idriss Déby (Chad) et Mahamadou Issoufou (Niger).

Text by NEWS WIRES — Reuters and France 24

Latest update : 2017-07-03

Five African countries launched a new multinational military force on Sunday to tackle Islamist militants in the Sahel, which French President Emmanuel Macron said should be fully operational by autumn despite its current financing shortfall.

Some observers see the initiative of the G5 Sahel bloc – MaliMauritaniaBurkina FasoNiger and Chad– as forming the basis of an eventual exit strategy for around 4,000 French troops now deployed to the volatile region. But Macron said Paris had no plans to withdraw them.

Islamist militant groups, some with links to al Qaeda, seized control of Mali’s desert north in 2012.

Though they were driven back a year later by a French-led military intervention, they continue to carry out attacks against U.N. peacekeepers, Malian soldiers and civilian targets in violence that has spilled across Mali’s borders.

“Every day we must combat terrorists, thugs, murderers, whose names and faces we must forget, but whom we must steadfastly and with determination eradicate together,” Macron said at the summit in Mali’s capital Bamako.

During the meeting, leaders of the G5 Sahel countries formally established the new force, which will operate in coordination with French troops and MINUSMA, Mali’s struggling U.N. peacekeeping mission.

The countries of the G5 Sahel bloc began floating the idea of a regional force as early as 2015, but since taking office in May, Macron has thrown Paris’s weight behind the plan, including through a U.N. resolution adopted last week.

“There is urgency because those we’re confronting are not going to wait,” said Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. “It’s also clear that France alone can not continue to bear the burden of this fight against terrorism.”

Underfunded and overstretched

On Sunday, Macron said the force, which is expected to consist of around 5,000 troops, needed to be fully operational by this autumn.

But he played down speculation that he was seeking to reduce the burden on France’s cross-border Barkhane Operation, saying at a meeting with Mali’s French community following the summit that Paris would “remain engaged for as long as it takes”.

French President Emmanuel Macron poses with French troops during his visit to the France’s Barkhane counter-terrorism operation in Africa’s Sahel region in Gao, northern Mali, on May 19, 2017. © Christophe Petit Tesson, Pool/AFP

With its military headquarters in the northern Mali town of Sevare, the G5 Sahel force will focus on border zones – one along the frontier between Niger and Mali, another between Mali and Mauritania, and a third straddling the borders between Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali.

Paris considers the Sahel a breeding ground for militants and traffickers who pose a threat to Europe.

Late on Saturday, JNIM, an al Qaeda-linked group, released a video showing six Western hostages abducted in the region in recent years.

Among them was French citizen Sophie Pétronin, whose kidnappers Macron said France would “put all our energy towards eradicating”.

French President Emmanuel Macron (2nd R) and Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (R) review troops during a visit to the troops of France’s Barkhane counter-terrorism operation in Africa’s Sahel region in Gao, northern Mali, on May 19, 2017. © CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON / POOL / AFP

While Sunday’s summit marked a step forward in the plan to set up the new force, it still faces a number of obstacles.

The European Union has pledged around 50 million euros ($57 million), and Macron said France would contribute around 8 million euros in equipment by the end of the year.

Each of the G5 Sahel members will contribute 10 million euros for the force. But President Keita on Sunday said the G5 leaders had agreed on a total budget of 423 million euros.

AURORE DUPUIS REPORTS FROM BAMAKO

The G5 Sahel nations – among the world’s poorest – are already overstretched.

Chad, Burkina Faso and Niger have deployed around 4,100 soldiers within MINUSMA. Niger and Chad also contribute troops to a similar regional force fighting Nigeria’s Boko Haram militants.

President Idriss Deby of Chad, which possesses the region’s most capable military, has voiced reluctance to further commit his forces unless they receive more international support.

(REUTERS)

Macron in Mali for diplomatic push on Sahel anti-jihad force

July 2, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP / by Laurence BENHAMOU | French President Emmanuel Macron (L) talks to Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita as he arrives in Mali to consolidate Western backing for a regional anti-jihadist force

BAMAKO (AFP) – French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Mali on Sunday to consolidate Western backing for a regional anti-jihadist force, with France urging greater support for the Sahel region amid mounting insecurity.

The so-called “G5 Sahel” countries just south of the Sahara — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — have pledged to fight jihadists on their own soil with instability and Islamist attacks on the rise.

Macron is joining the heads of state of these nations in Bamako for a special summit where France’s full support for the force will be announced, with a focus expected on providing equipment.

Sahel region

 Image result for Sahel, Africa, map

 

With its base in Sevare, central Mali, the 5,000-strong G5 Sahel force aims to bolster the 12,000 UN peacekeepers and France’s own 4,000-strong military operation known as Barkhane operating in the region.

He is also expected to make the case for extra backing from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the United States — which already has a drone base in Niger — beyond a pledge of 50 million euros ($57.2 million) by the European Union.

© POOL/AFP/File | President Emmanuel Macron visited French troops in northern Mali in May as Paris sought to overcome US reservations about backing an anti-jihadist force in the Sahel

Serge Michailof, a researcher at the Paris-based IRIS institute, described the EU contribution as “a joke” in the context of the EU’s “very deep pockets”.

“This force is going to cost $300-400 million at the very least,” he told AFP, and would be especially difficult for certain nations involved which are already “choking” on military spending.

The question of funding is sensitive as Chad’s leader Idriss Deby has said that for budgetary reasons his troops cannot serve simultaneously at such high numbers in the UN peacekeeping mission and also in the new force.

Deby and Macron are due to meet on the margins of the Bamako summit to discuss the issue, according the French presidency, as Chad’s military is widely viewed as the strongest of the five Sahel nations.

– Phased rollout –

Macron visited Gao in northern Mali in May, his first foreign visit as president outside Europe, and said French troops would remain “until the day there is no more Islamic terrorism in the region”.

France launched an intervention to chase out jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda who had overtaken key northern cities in Mali in 2013.

That mission evolved into the current Barkhane deployment launched in 2014 with an expanded mandate for counter-terror operations across the Sahel.

The new Sahel force will support national armies trying to catch jihadists across porous frontiers, and will work closely with Barkhane.

Operations across Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali, all hit with frequent jihadist attacks, will be co-ordinated with French troops, a source in the French presidency told AFP earlier this week, while help would be given to set up command centres.

Macron’s visit came as Al-Qaeda’s Mali branch released a proof-of-life video of six foreign hostages, including Frenchwoman Sophie Petronin who was abducted in late 2016 in the northern Malian town of Gao.

– Multiple fronts –

While weighing up the challenges of the G5 Sahel operation, analysts frequently compare it with the Multinational Joint Task Force battling Nigerian jihadist group Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region, composed of troops from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria.

Despite heavy initial criticism that force “has succeeded in a part of its mission, which is to reduce the territory controlled by Boko Haram and limit its actions,” said Rinaldo Depagne from the International Crisis Group, a non-governmental organisation that works to prevent and to resolve conflicts.

However, the G5 Sahel force has supplementary challenges in the weak armed forces of Burkina Faso and Mali, while Chad and Niger are already engaged on multiple fronts, he added.

The three-nation border of Liptako-Gourma will become a “laboratory” for Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger where French forces will aim to work in tandem with these nations, before bringing Chad and Mauritania into the mix, Depagne predicted.

The G5 Sahel force’s top commander, Malian general Didier Dacko, has said that at first each country’s contingent would operate on its own soil, gradually becoming more focused on their mutual borders.

There would be “close collaboration with Barkhane forces and the UN mission,” Dacko told AFP.

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by Laurence BENHAMOU
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France’s Macron Wants a New West African Military Force — Military operations may divert money away from local governance — Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Mauritania at risk

June 30, 2017

Mali is hosting a heads of state summit with Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania – known as the G5 Sahel – who could ultimately deploy thousands of troops into the vast, arid Sahel region that remains a breeding ground for militants and traffickers that Paris considers a threat to Europe.

Four years after intervening in its former colony to ward off a jihadist offensive, there is no sign of France withdrawing its 4,000-strong regional Barkhane contingent as they, alongside 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers, struggle to stabilize Mali and implement peace accords.

“It’s not wrong to say that it’s part of an exit plan because the Barkhane mission is not intended to be there for ever, but it’s hard to see how we could draw down soon,” said a senior French diplomat.

“We need a long-term multilateral strategy so that we’re less exposed. The time of doing everything alone in West Africa is over.”

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Emmanuel Macron and Ibrahim Boubacar Keita visit soldiers on Operation Barkhane (AP)

The force endorsed by the U.N. aims to initially establish specially-trained units by the end of the year, which would work with French forces where jihadist groups are known to operate .

But it faces headwinds before it even becomes operational, with questions over financing, manpower and equipment.

“France had an exit strategy in mind when it spearheaded the new force and wanted as much multilateral funding as possible,” said Vincent Rouget, West Africa analyst at Control Risks.

“They don’t have the option that they had in CAR (Central African Republic) to just leave. The fact that Macron is in Bamako twice in a month really shows he is pushing his whole weight behind it.”

Experts and officials question the merits of a mission that could muddy the picture in an area where there are already a plethora of military operations and there is a risk of diverting money away from local governance.

“By putting the emphasis on setting up a new autonomous force with ​mostly ​external financing the risk is ​that it might distract from the absolute necessity of consolidating the states in all their dimensions,” said Yabi Gilles, founder of WATHI, a citizen think tank of West Africa.

French officials insist that their efforts will not just focus on security aspects. Macron pledged in May to ensure unfulfilled development promises from Paris and the wider international community would materialize.

.French soldiers of the anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane sit on a vehicle in Gao, Mali

French troops fighting Islamist militancy in Africa. GETTY IMAGES

But the real concern is that there will not be enough appetite to finance another regional military operation and that it could be hampered because interests and objectives are not aligned.

The neighboring multi-national joint task force (MNJTF) to fight Boko Haram, for example, has been complicated by divisions and a lack of cooperation. With the world’s wealthy nations focused on the fight against Islamist militants in the Middle East, financial support for the MNJTF, has fallen short.

“Chad and Niger are already members of the MNJTF so a solid foundation has been laid; let us build on it instead of creating another layer and going begging for resources from the same donors,” said an African security source.

“The G5 Sahel gives them (France) leverage over the heads of states who virtually depend on it for their security.”

Those concerns were echoed by the United States when it watered down the French-backed Security Council resolution fearing that U.N. funding – as much as $800 million could be required – would be wasted and that bilateral financing would be more fruitful.

In response, France is lobbying for more European involvement beyond an initial 50 million euros and at some point might push for a donor conference. It will also have to dig into its own pocket despite its own budget constraints.

“We have always said that the security of the region should be done by Africans themselves,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Le Monde newspaper on June 29. “Barkhane will accompany them for as long as it takes… until the situation is pacified.”

Image result for Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, photos

Jean-Yves Le Drian

But where those thousands of efficient troops to replace Barkhane will come from is a mystery.

The G5 Sahel nations are already heavily committed, leading to speculation that Chad, Burkina Faso and Niger may simply re-hat some or all of their 4,100 soldiers now serving in the U.N. MINUSMA force in Mali, potentially undermining a mission that is already struggling.

“We have reached our limit. We can’t continue to be everywhere,” Chadian President Idriss Deby, whose troops are considered the most battle-hardened in the region, said in an interview to French media on Sunday.

“Even if we had financing, Chad would be either in the G5 or Minusma. Choices will have to be made.”

(Additional reporting by Marine Pennetier in Paris; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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France, US agree UN draft on anti-jihadist Sahel force

June 20, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP/File | President Emmanuel Macron visited French troops in northern Mali in May as Paris sought to overcome US reservations about backing an anti-jihadist force in the Sahel

UNITED NATIONS (UNITED STATES) (AFP) – France and the United States have reached agreement on a draft UN resolution that would pave the way for the deployment of a five-nation African military force to fight jihadists in the Sahel region, diplomats said Tuesday.

A vote at the UN Security Council could take place as early as Wednesday on the draft resolution that welcomes the deployment but does not give it full UN authorization, according to the agreed text seen by AFP.

Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger — which make up the G5 — agreed in March to set up a special counter-terrorism operation of 5,000 troops for the Sahel region.

 Image result for Sahel, Africa, map

France had requested that the Security Council authorize the force in a first draft text circulated two weeks ago that would have given the G5 troops a UN mandate to “use all necessary means” to combat terrorism, drug trafficking and people smuggling.

The United States however had opposed UN authorization for the force, arguing that it was not legally necessary and that the mandate was too broad and lacking in precision.

The new draft resolution “welcomes the deployment” of the G5 force “with a view to restoring peace and security in the Sahel region” and drops a provision that invoked chapter 7 of the UN charter, which authorizes the use of force.

The United States had argued that a simple statement welcoming the regional force would have been sufficient, but France insisted that a full resolution was needed in line with a request from the African Union.

France carried out a military intervention in Mali in 2013 to drive out jihadist groups, some of which were linked to Al-Qaeda, which had seized key cities in the country’s north.

Although the Islamists have been largely ousted from the north, jihadist groups continue to mount attacks on civilians and UN forces in violence that has engulfed parts of central Mali.

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UN Security Council: France seeks support for African anti-terror force despite US veto threat

June 18, 2017

AFP

© Pascal Guyot, AFP | French soldiers from Operation Barkhane, near Timbuktu, Nigeria on March 9, 2013.

Text by Alexander HURST , Françoise MARMOUYET

Latest update : 2017-06-18

Will the UN Security Council succeed in passing a resolution to create a joint counter-terrorism force by five countries in Africa’s Sahel region? The project, in large part conceived and supported by France, faces steep resistance from Washington.

Mali’s foreign minister, Abdoulaye Diop, urged the Security Council on Friday to adopt a French-backed resolution to create an anti-terrorism force composed of 5,000 soldiers from five countries (Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger, and Mali, known collectively as the G5 Sahel) located in the swath of dry plain that lies south of the Sahara desert.

The region has been home to two intervention forces, France’s “Operation Barkhane” and the UN MINUSMA mission, since 2013, when France intervened to dislodge jihadist groups from Mali after their advance threatened to reach the nation’s capital, Bamako. However, groups linked to al Qaeda and Boko Haram remain active in the geographically expansive area.

While saying that Mali had made progress towards peace and stability, Diop criticised MINUSMA for a “defensive posture which has given freedom of movement to terrorist and extremist groups”.

Indeed, whole sections of the Sahel remain outside the control of French, Malian and MINUSMA forces, all of which are regular targets of sometimes deadly attacks. Nearly half a decade into its emergency intervention in the region, France is seeking to shift more responsibility for fighting terror groups to African militaries.

“We think that we should call on (the G5 states) in this mission, because security for Africans will ultimately only come from Africans themselves,” underlined the French Foreign Affairs Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, on Thursday while in Nouakchott, in Mauritania.

In February, the leaders of the G5 Sahel announced the creation of a combined force—under a French draft resolution, it would target drug dealers and human traffickers who finance terror groups, as well as jihadist organisations.

“This joint force is an indispensable initiative, it’s a very effective way to operate. Without it, I don’t see how France can draw down Operation Barkhane. It’s important that African forces take greater responsibility, because Mali’s forces are very capable,” Serge Michailof, a Sahel specialist and author of “Africanistan” told FRANCE 24.

Resistance from the US

The European Union has committed 50 million euros to fund the initiative, which comes with an estimated price tag of 400 million euros. Financing the multinational force has become one of the sticking points between Paris and Washington, which has provided logistical and intelligence support for French and African anti-terrorist action in the region.

“Barkhane was only supposed to last for a few months, and now it’s been ongoing for five years,” noted André Bourgeot, director of the CNRS, a French public thinktank and research institute. “Regional instability and terrorism are international problems and it’s understandable that France would want to share some of the costs,” he added.

However, the proposal to fund the multinational force through the UN comes at the same time as the US is seeking to cut $1 billion from its contribution to the UN peacekeeping budget. Diplomats say the Trump administration, which has urged its NATO allies to increase military spending and do more to combat terrorism, doesn’t want to add a new mission that would increase costs.

“There is strong resistance from the US because they are afraid of the future budget implications if the resolution is adopted. The American portion of the UN’s peacekeeping budget is already more than 28%, they don’t have any desire to dig into their wallets,” a UN diplomat said on condition of anonymity when contacted by FRANCE 24.

American officials say their concerns are about more than just costs, and that they have doubts about the ability of African forces to be an effective bulwark against terror groups. Some have disputed the necessity of UN authorisation, because the force already has the approval of the countries in whose territory it would operate.

Washington’s threat to veto the resolution comes in a context of increasingly isolationist positions and pullback from global initiatives by the Trump Administration—in particular its decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord on climate change.

Nevertheless, France is betting that ultimately the US won’t veto a counter-terrorism proposal when it comes to a vote. Bourgeot pointed to the relative isolation of the United States on the resolution, which “is supported by the European Union, the African Union, and even the Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres himself”.

‘Defeat ISIS and go home’: Trump rejects US role in Libya nation-building — While Mediterranean is awash with refugees

April 21, 2017

Russia Today (RT)

'Defeat ISIS and go home': Trump rejects US role in Libya nation-building
President Donald Trump does not see a US role in helping its European allies build a government in Libya. Instead, he told reporters, he wants to defeat Islamic State, after which the US can focus on domestic issues.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, DC on Thursday, following a meeting with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Trump contradicted his guest’s assessment that the US role in stabilizing Libya would be critical, arguing the US has “enough roles… everywhere.”

“I do not see a role in Libya,” Trump said. “I do see a role in getting rid of ISIS. We’re being very effective in that regard.”

‘US has enough roles’: not interested in nation-building

Read more: https://on.rt.com/89ft 

“We are effectively ridding the world of ISIS. I see that as the primary role, and that’s what we’re going to do – whether it’s in Iraq, or in Libya, or anywhere else.  And that role will come to an end at a certain point, and we’ll be able to go back home and rebuild our country, which is what I want to do,” Trump concluded.

Gentiloni had just finished making a case for US involvement in stabilizing Libya by helping the internationally recognized government in Tripoli establish control over the country’s entire territory.

READ MORE: Chaos unrelenting: 6 years since Arab Spring started, no democracy in sight for Libya

“We need a stable and unified Libya,” the Italian PM said, noting that US Special Forces had taken part in defeating Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in the port city of Sirte, but that solving the problem of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to Italy and beyond would require nation-building. “The US role in this is critical.”

Read more

© Reuters

Trump’s rejection of that role is at odds with his recent actions – launching a missile strike in Syria, escalating tensions with North Korea, and authorizing a review of the nuclear deal with Iran – but in line with his promise during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“We’re getting out of the nation-building business,” Trump announced on April 27 of last year, describing his foreign policy as “America first.”

Libya collapsed into chaos and anarchy in 2011, after the Obama administration backed a rebellion in Benghazi against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the country’s leader since 1969. Using UN Security Council resolution 1973, authorizing a no-fly zone in the north of the country, NATO began air strikes in support of the rebels. In October 2011, one such strike hit a convoy carrying Gaddafi, who was then captured and killed by the rebels.

As Libya collapsed, neighboring countries of Tunisia, Egypt and Mali had to deal with a surge in terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, human traffickers exploited tens of thousands of African migrants, who try to reach Italian shores in rickety boats. In a recent report, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) spoke of slave markets in the south of Libya, where Africans are traded for as little as $200.

https://www.rt.com/usa/385481-trump-rejects-nation-building-libya/

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More than 8,000 migrants rescued in Mediterranean and brought to Italy over Easter long weekend

Migrants try to stay afloat after falling off their rubber dinghy during a rescue operation by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) ship in the central Mediterranean 

Migrants try to stay afloat after falling off their rubber dinghy during a rescue operation by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) ship in the central Mediterranean  CREDIT: DARRIN ZAMMIT LUPI/REUTERS

More than 8,000 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean and brought to Italy in the space of just three days over Easter, as Italian politicians denounced the exodus as a racket that should be stopped as quickly as possible.

Nearly 8,500 asylum seekers were saved from dinghies and ex-fishing boats by the Italian coast guard, Frontex, the EU’s border patrol agency, and humanitarian NGOs operating rescue vessels.

It was a huge number, even by the standards of the relentless flow of migrants and refugees who regularly depart from the coast of Libyawith the hope of reaching Europe.

The bodies of 13 migrants were recovered, including that of an eight-year-old boy who drowned. The spate of operations boosted the total number of rescues in the central Mediterranean so far this year to nearly 36,000.

Migrants on a wooden boat are rescued by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) in the central Mediterranean
Migrants on a wooden boat are rescued by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) in the central Mediterranean CREDIT: DARRIN ZAMMIT LUPI/REUTERS

The departure of so many boats was prompted in part by calm weather conditions, but also by concern among smugglers that EU efforts to beef up the Libyan coast guard may soon make it harder for them to operate.

“When 8,500 illegal immigrants arrive in three days, it’s clear that it is all organised,” said Matteo Salvini, the leader of the Right-wing Northern League political party.

Mr Salvini said he intended to sue the Italian government, as well as NGOs which rescue migrants at sea, for “favouring clandestine immigration”.  The Northern League leader said: “It is quite clear that clandestine immigration is being organised. So we’ve decided to sue the government and the commanders of the navy and coast guard”.

If arrivals continue at this pace, 2017 could be a record year for migrants reaching Italy, outstripping even last year, when 181,000 were rescued and brought to Italian shores. Rescuing, processing and accommodating the asylum seekers is likely to cost the government 4.6 billion euros – a billion euros more than in 2016.

Migrants in a rubber dinghy hang on to ropes beneath the bow of the Panama-registered ship Tuna 1, after some migrants on another rubber dinghy drowned in the central Mediterranean in international waters off the coast of Libya
Migrants in a rubber dinghy hang on to ropes beneath the bow of the Panama-registered ship Tuna 1, after some migrants on another rubber dinghy drowned in the central Mediterranean in international waters off the coast of Libya CREDIT: DARREN ZAMMIT LUPI/REUTERS

The government says it has little choice but to rescue the migrants, but critics say that trafficking gangs in Libya have come to depend on Italian, EU and NGO vessels deployed in the Mediterranean as a free taxi service.

Smugglers launch boats packed with migrants from Libyan beaches with little fuel and cheap outboard engines, knowing full well that they are likely to be rescued once they reach international waters.

“Thousands more people who don’t have the right to come to Italy, reaching our shores,” said Maurizio Gasparri, an MP from Silvio Berlusconi’s centre-Right Forza Italia party. “A catastrophe, the fault of the (governing) Democratic Party.”

Paolo Romani, another MP from Forza Italia, accused the Italian, British, French and German NGOs operating in the Mediterranean of “incentivising human trafficking” – a charge that organisations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres strongly deny, arguing that migrants will try to reach Italy regardless.

The majority come from West African countries such as Mali, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Guinea, as well as from other countries such as Bangladesh. They are classed as economic migrants, rather than refugees fleeing conflict.

At least 900 migrants have died while trying to reach Europe by sea so far this year. The International Organisation of Migration reported earlier this month that growing numbers of African migrants passing through Libya are traded in what they call “slave markets” before being held for ransom, forced labour or sexual exploitation.

“So there’s a full-on economy of trafficking or trading in migrants who think they are going to a better life in Europe and end up effectively in a gulag of exploitation,” IOM spokesman Leonard Doyle told a briefing in Geneva.

‘Jihadists’ attack police posts in northern Burkina Faso — Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb continues to foster violence

February 28, 2017

AFP

© Issouf Sanogo, AFP | Police officers check cars at the entrance to the Pan-African Film and Television Festival (FESPACO) in Ouagadougou on February 27, 2017

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-02-28

Two police posts in Burkina Faso were attacked by jihadists on Monday night, officials said, just months after 12 soldiers were killed by militants in a raid near the Mali border.

No automatic alt text available.

It was unclear whether there had been any casualties from the latest attack, which took place in Soum province in the country’s north, security minister Simon Compaore told AFP.

Two other security sources told AFP jihadists were behind the attack.

“The attacks took place almost simultaneously,” said Mohamed Dah, Soum police high commissioner. “Gunfire has ceased but the assailants are still at the scene. We’ve dispatched military reinforcements.”

“We’re trying to find out if this is a diversion tactic, used to (get us to) mobilise security forces and then attack more important targets,” he said.

Another security source, who did not wish to be named, said the attack at one post began when “a dozen jihadis arrived on six motorbikes”.

The incident comes with the capital Ouagadougou on high security alert as it hosts the 25th Pan-African Film and Television Festival, with scores of cinephiles and international visitors in town.

Long spared the Islamist violence affecting several nations in the region, notably Mali and Niger, Burkina has been hit by a series of attacks and kidnappings since April 2015.

Most of the raids have occurred near the northern border, but in January 2016, 30 people were killed and 71 wounded in the capital Ouagadougou after gunmen stormed a restaurant and a four-star hotel, taking hostages.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb claimed responsibility for the attacks, which ended after Burkinabe troops and French counterterrorist forces posted in the country staged an offensive.

On December 12, jihadists killed 12 soldiers in an attack against an army squad about 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the Mali frontier.

The raid — the deadliest ever against Burkina Faso’s military — caused a public outcry, with some calling for the sacking of a military leadership accused of failing to match up to the jihadist threat.

(AFP)

AQIM:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Qaeda_in_the_Islamic_Maghreb

Mali: Death Toll After Car Bombing At Military Center Rises to 50 — “Death Toll Could Go Higher”

January 18, 2017

GAO, Mali — A suicide bomber in an explosives-laden vehicle attacked a camp in northern Mali on Wednesday, killing more than 50 people and wounding more than 100 soldiers and former fighters now trying to stabilize the region.

Suspicion quickly fell on the Islamic extremist groups operating in the area which oppose the 2015 peace agreement that brought the parties together. A Mauritanian news agency that frequently receives communications from extremist groups, Alakhbar, said a group linked to al-Qaida’s North Africa branch, al-Mourabitoun, had claimed responsibility.

The attack marks a significant setback for efforts to achieve peace in the long-tumultuous region. The U.N. Security Council was expected to discuss Mali on Wednesday.

The morning blast hit the Joint Operational Mechanism base in the city of Gao, home to Malian soldiers and hundreds of former fighters who had signed the peace agreement with the government.

Dismembered bodies could still be seen two hours after the blast.

Soldiers attending to wounded and casualties in the aftermath of the suicide bomb attack

The attack targeted soldiers and members of rival armed groups who conduct regular patrols in a bid to secure northern Mali. AFP photo

A Malian military official, Col. Mohamed Ould, put the death toll at more than 50, with more than 100 others wounded. A government statement later said 47 had been killed, including five attackers, and called the toll provisional.

Dr. Sadou Maiga at Gao’s hospital told The Associated Press that all other hospital activities have ceased with dozens of wounded victims arriving.

“Some have died from their wounds, and others are in a very grave state,” he said. “At this point, it’s not the toll of dead and injured that interests me, it’s saving who I can.”

Witnesses said the car bearing explosives breached the camp at around 9 a.m., just as hundreds of fighters were gathering for a meeting.

The suicide bomber “succeeded in tricking soldiers’ vigilance” and penetrated the camp, said an army spokesman, Col. Diarran Kone.

Gao in northern Mali was at the cradle of rebel uprisings and a sanctuary for Islamist fighters.

Wednesday’s attack underscores the enormous challenges that remain in northern Mali four years after the French military led an intervention to drive the jihadists from power in the major towns across the north. The peace agreement has proved difficult to implement and unpopular with the forces wreaking havoc in the region.

“If the security situation continues to deteriorate, then soon there won’t be any peace to keep in Mali,” U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous told the U.N. Security Council. He said attacks are becoming more sophisticated, and he reminded the council that it has the power to impose “targeted measures” against those who violate the cease-fire. He said rivalry among armed groups continues to slow implementation of the peace deal.

The former fighters who signed the 2015 peace deal include ethnic Tuareg secular rebels who once fought the Malian military. Now they are supposed to be forming joint patrols in the area, though the program has yet to begin.

Mali has become the world’s deadliest U.N. peacekeeping mission. Some 29 U.N. peacekeepers were killed last year in attacks blamed on jihadist armed groups, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Wednesday.

The report details how extremists are extending their reach further into central Mali, trying to implement their strict interpretation of Shariah law and pressuring families to give up their children as soldiers for the cause.

The report also denounces rising levels of banditry, a phenomenon victims say is fueled by the slow implementation of the 2015 peace accord.

Malian Security Minister Salif Traore declined to respond to the report’s specifics but said he is well aware of security challenges throughout the region.

At the United Nations, Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said the “criminal, cowardly, barbaric attack” will not deter the government from moving forward to promote peace.

French President Francois Hollande, who visited a French military base in Gao just a few days ago, condemned the attack “in the strongest terms” and reiterated France’s support for Mali’s peace process.

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Associated Press writers Baba Ahmed in Port-Gentil, Gabon, Krista Larson in Dakar, Senegal, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations, Sylvie Corbet in Paris and Robbie Corey-Boulet in Abidjan, Ivory Coast contributed to this report.

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At Least 67 Killed in Car Bomb Attack in Mali

 Mali soldiers patrol northern Mali.
 Mali soldiers patrol northern Mali. | Photo: AFP
Published 18 January 2017
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Witnesses said the powerful blast covered the city of Goa in a dust cloud, forcing evacuations.

At least 67 people were killed in a suicide car bomb attack on a military barracks in the north of Mali on Wednesday, medical sources told EFE.

The source said the death toll was subject to change as there were many people injured in the attack.

According to preliminary information, the assailant detonated a car bomb in the northern city of Gao while entering barracks where hundreds of Malian soldiers and affiliated fighters had gathered.

A military force in Gao contacted by EFE said military sources did not rule out the possibility of subsequent attacks as the assailants took advantage of the pandemonium.

No group has yet claimed the attack, which was one of the most bloody registered in an unstable country where violence is constant.

The United Nations Security Council is to analyze a report on Wednesday on the current situation in the country which highly concerns the international community.

Gao, one of the most insecure areas in the country, is not under central government control, allowing several Islamist militant groups to operate and commit frequent attacks against Army and United Nations forces.

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/At-Least-67-Killed-in-Car-Bomb-Attack-in-Mali–20170118-0031.html

Mali: Car Bomb Explosion Kills 25 People — Many wounded at military facility in Gao

January 18, 2017

Reuters

Twenty-five people were killed and others were injured when a vehicle packed with explosives detonated on Wednesday at a military camp in Mali’s northern city of Gao, according to a provisional death toll announced by the army.

The camp was housing government soldiers as well as members of various rival armed groups, who together conduct mixed patrols in line with a U.N.-brokered peace accord aimed at quelling violence in Mali’s restive desert north.

(Reporting by Adama Diarra; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Catherine Evans)

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African leaders vow to end conflict across Africa

2017-01-16 17:00

Bamako – African leaders at the just ended 27th edition of the France-Africa summit in Mali have reportedly vowed to end conflicts across the continent.

The two-day summit, themed “Partnership, Peace and Emergence”, was held last week and was aimed at strengthening ties between France and African countries.

At least 30 countries attended.

According to Lusaka Times, the African leaders noted that conflicts continued to cause under-development across Africa, adding that the conflicts had taken up huge resources which could be channelled to other key economic development.

Zambia’s minister of foreign affairs Harry Kalaba said that Africa needed to address issues causing conflicts and instability in order to “realise its dream of becoming a peaceful and prosperous continent by 2063”.

The summit also called for collective action against trafficking of human beings, migrants and drugs in order to dry up illicit financing of terrorism.

 http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/african-leaders-vow-to-end-conflict-20170116