Posts Tagged ‘Mali’

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

June 18, 2017


© 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

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“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.


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


© 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


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.

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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.



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.


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.



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

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.–20170118-0031.html

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

January 18, 2017


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.

Frenchwoman Abducted in Mali — Sophie Petronin was abducted while running an aid froup that helps children suffering from malnutrition

December 25, 2016


© AFP/File | Soldiers of the Barhkane operation stand next to debris following a suicide car bomb attack at the airport of Gao on November 30, 2016

PARIS (AFP) – A Frenchwoman who runs an aid group has been kidnapped in Mali’s restive north, the French foreign ministry confirmed on Sunday.

Sophie Petronin was abducted in the city of Gao on Saturday, the ministry said, adding that French and Malian authorities were working together “to find and free our compatriot as quickly as possible”.

Petronin was the director of a non-governmental organisation that helps children suffering from malnutrition, the ministry said, adding that officials were in contact with her family.

No automatic alt text available.

Malian officials had on Saturday reported the kidnapping of a woman with French and Swiss nationality in Gao, but there was as yet no confirmation that Petronin held dual citizenship.

“We immediately launched a search,” a Malian security source said Saturday on condition of anonymity, without revealing the victim’s identity or how she was abducted.

Northern Mali fell to jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda from March 2012. These forces were driven out of key towns by a French-led military intervention the following year.

Barely a week goes by without attacks on security forces despite a peace pact signed last year following lengthy negotiations between the government, groups backing it and ethnic Tuareg rebels. Kidnappings, however, are rare.

‘Wake Up, America, the War Is Here’ — “We haven’t yet seen an Episcopalian suicide bomber” — Pros and Cons of Fighting The Ideology — “This is a war on our culture”

June 13, 2016


Dr. Sebastian Gorka. Screengrab

As the connection between the Orlando nightclub mass shooting and radical Islam becomes clearer, Dr. Sebastian Gorka says it’s time for all Americans – particularly President Obama – to recognize the threat posed by jihadists.

“In the past 15 years, we haven’t seen an Episcopalian suicide bomber. We haven’t seen Zoroastrian mass murderers. We’ve seen Muslim extremists,” Gorka said. “If you deny that, you are in a fantasy land, and you’re endangering American citizens.”

“It’s time to wake up, America. The war is here.”

Dr. Gorka says we must name the ideology and face it fully.

Includes video:

Dr. Gorka called President Obama’s Sunday, June 12, 2016 remarks on the Orlando shooting “pablum.”



What ISIS Really Wants

The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.

The Atlantic
March 2015

What is the Islamic state?

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.


Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. The lack of objective reporting from its territory makes the true extent of the slaughter unknowable, but social-media posts from the region suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks. Muslim “apostates” are the most common victims. Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government. Baghdadi permits them to live, as long as they pay a special tax, known as the jizya, and acknowledge their subjugation. The Koranic authority for this practice is not in dispute.


Centuries have passed since the wars of religion ceased in Europe, and since men stopped dying in large numbers because of arcane theological disputes. Hence, perhaps, the incredulity and denial with which Westerners have greeted news of the theology and practices of the Islamic State. Many refuse to believe that this group is as devout as it claims to be, or as backward-looking or apocalyptic as its actions and statements suggest.

Their skepticism is comprehensible. In the past, Westerners who accused Muslims of blindly following ancient scriptures came to deserved grief from academics—notably the late Edward Said—who pointed out that calling Muslims “ancient” was usually just another way to denigrate them. Look instead, these scholars urged, to the conditions in which these ideologies arose—the bad governance, the shifting social mores, the humiliation of living in lands valued only for their oil.

Without acknowledgment of these factors, no explanation of the rise of the Islamic State could be complete. But focusing on them to the exclusion of ideology reflects another kind of Western bias: that if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington or Berlin, surely it must be equally irrelevant in Raqqa or Mosul. When a masked executioner says Allahu akbar while beheading an apostate, sometimes he’s doing so for religious reasons.


“Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”

(Bernard Haykel is a Princeton scholar and the leading expert on the Islamic State’s theology.)

“People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.”

“What’s striking about them is not just the literalism, but also the seriousness with which they read these texts,” Haykel said. “There is an assiduous, obsessive seriousness that Muslims don’t normally have.”


the caliphate has continued to embrace slavery and crucifixion without apology. “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,” Adnani, the spokesman, promised in one of his periodic valentines to the West. “If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”

In October, Dabiq, the magazine of the Islamic State, published “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour,” an article that took up the question of whether Yazidis (the members of an ancient Kurdish sect that borrows elements of Islam, and had come under attack from Islamic State forces in northern Iraq) are lapsed Muslims, and therefore marked for death, or merely pagans and therefore fair game for enslavement. A study group of Islamic State scholars had convened, on government orders, to resolve this issue. If they are pagans, the article’s anonymous author wrote,

Yazidi women and children [are to be] divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations [in northern Iraq] … Enslaving the families of the kuffar[infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Koran and the narrations of the Prophet … and thereby apostatizing from Islam.

Read it all:


By Michael Danti

Daesh’s rapidly expanding footprint occasioned the antithesis of cultural property protection—an overt and systematic campaign of cultural cleansing targeting both the past and present over vast swathes of the Middle East. While all of the conflict’s major belligerents have been complicit in, or have committed cultural property crimes, none approach the barbarity of Daesh, and most autochthonous forces also engage in, or facilitate cultural property protection. Surveying the devastation wrought across large parts of the Middle East and North Africa over the last five years, it is no exaggeration to rank the current crisis as the greatest cultural heritage challenge since World War II.


Daesh social media, internet and print propaganda instill in its audiences reassurances that the organization has adapted to address past violent jihadist failures, particularly the supposed impurities inherent in secularism. Daesh alleges to comprehend the root causes of purported stasis, inequities and discord affecting global Islam and proffers prescriptive measures. The core message evokes a shared notion of a modern, cohesive community engendered by an idealized seventh century past. Strict adherence to this doctrine through systematic cultural cleansing will open the gates to earthly and heavenly paradise. Daesh’s essentialist epistemology runs as follows: we are the true believers and heirs of the Prophet through emulation, founders of a legitimate caliphate, justified in our actions—submit or perish.


Cultural heritage experts have been sounding the alarm regarding recent developments with good reason. A destructive dialectic prevails in which cultural diversity and heritage are increasingly perceived as optimal targets for expressions of widespread rage and frustration. It behooves us to reappraise our often-outmoded approaches to cultural property protection and international heritage management, particularly the unpredictable outcomes of heritagization. Daesh will be defeated, but the organization’s radical ideology will likely endure and metathesize. We can and must expect the continued deliberate targeting of cultural assets and diversity based on the lessons of Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Mali, Libya and other conflict zones. The prevalence of radical non-state actors requires new nimble, coordinated and proactive responses. I firmly believe anthropologists are ideally suited to meeting the wide-ranging exigencies of such crises and countering the deleterious effects of these escalating wars on culture.


Amid Europe’s migration crisis, EU Announces Plan to Increase limits for legal immigration — More than 10,000 people have died crossing the Mediterranean to Europe

June 8, 2016

PUBLISHED: 13:56 EST, 7 June 2016 | UPDATED: 18:05 EST, 7 June 2016

Europe’s plans to deal with the migration crisis include increasing the limits for legal immigration from Africa with easier visa access for certain countries.

Five African states – Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Niger and Ethiopia – will be targeted to curtail migration and incentives may also include preferential trade terms.

The European Commission today proposed a revamp of its Blue Card work permit scheme to expand legal immigration options for skilled workers and support for EU governments to give migrants training and other help to integrate in Europe.

Europe's plans to deal with the migration crisis include increasing the limits for legal immigration from Africa with easier visa access for certain countries. Pictured: African migrants on a boat

Europe’s plans to deal with the migration crisis include increasing the limits for legal immigration from Africa with easier visa access for certain countries. Pictured: African migrants on a boat


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The aim is to reduce the incentive for people to try to smuggle themselves into the continent illegally on flimsy boats and put their lives at risk.

‘If we ever want to compete with the US Green Card, we need an EU Blue Card that deserves the same merit,’ Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said.

The proposals will require detailed discussion and approval by EU governments and the parliament.

Speaking in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Manfred Weber, conservative leader of the biggest party in the EU legislature, welcomed a move to ‘speak clearly’ to Africa and warned of ‘trade consequences’ for states that do not cooperate.

But he cautioned on expanding the Blue Card scheme, saying the priority must be jobs for Europeans before immigrants.

The Commission said some eight billion euros was on offer over five years for aid targeted at giving Africans more incentive to stay at home, though much of that must come from EU states and much is money already promised.

‘We propose to use a mix of positive and negative incentives to reward those third countries willing to cooperate effectively with us and to ensure that there are consequences for those who do not,’ Frans Timmermans, the deputy head of the European Commission, told the chamber.

Timmermans noted the deal he has negotiated with Turkey to staunch flows of Syrian refugees and other migrants to Greek islands – a deal achieved by offering Ankara financial and diplomatic concessions and criticised by human rights groups – and said there was a need to curb renewed crossings from North Africa to Italy, which have claimed nearly 3,000 lives.

Five African states - Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Niger and Ethiopia - will be targeted to curtail migration and incentives may include preferential trade terms and easier visa access to the EU. Pictured: A sinking migrants' boat near Libya

Five African states – Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Niger and Ethiopia – will be targeted to curtail migration and incentives may include preferential trade terms and easier visa access to the EU. Pictured: A sinking migrants’ boat near Libya


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‘We must do the same that we have done on the route through the Aegean also in the southern Mediterranean to find solutions, sustainable solutions,’ the former Dutch foreign minister said.

His Commission colleague, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, dismissed a suggestion from Libya’s fragile, U.N.-backed government that Brussels might pressure Libyans to take back migrants who set sail from its coast, as Turkey now does.

Europe’s plan was to get irregular migrants from Africa who do not qualify for asylum back to their home countries, she said, noting that few Libyans themselves make the crossing.

Jordan and Lebanon in the Middle East, the main hosts along with Turkey of Syrian refugees, would be priority recipients of help under the EU’s new migration ‘compacts’, which the Commission said aimed to leverage EU funding with private investments that could reach tens of billions of euros.


More than 10,000 people have died crossing the Mediterranean to Europe since 2014, the UN said Tuesday, as the EU unveiled fresh plans to stem the migrant flow from Africa.

Following a rash of deadly shipwrecks in recent weeks which claimed the lives of hundreds of people, the UN refugee agency said the number of deaths at sea had risen sharply this year, with a record 2,814 people drowning since January.

And over the past few days, the overall number who have died since the start of 2014 has reached 10,085, the UNHCR said on Tuesday.

With Europe in the grip of its worst migrant crisis since World War II, the rising death toll has prompted urgent efforts to tackle the problem, with Brussels seeking ways to clamp down on the Africa route from after a deal with Ankara in March slashed numbers trying to cross from Turkey.

‘We cannot tolerate the loss of life on this scale, we need to do everything to stop it,’ European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans said.

Breaking down the figures, the UN said a total of 3,771 had died at sea in 2015 and 3,500 the year earlier, plus this year’s deaths.

‘You’ve now had since the start of 2014 – when this phenomenon of rising numbers across the Mediterranean happened – 10,000 deaths,’ UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said.

‘This is clearly an appalling number of deaths that have occurred in the Mediterranean, just on Europe’s borders just in the past couple of years,’ he added.

More than one million migrants and refugees made the journey to Europe in 2015, the majority fleeing war in Syria and the Middle East, and a further 204,000 have come since January, the UNHCR says.

The vast majority have died on crossings between Libya and Italy, as a controversial March deal between the EU and Turkey designed to halt the flow of largely Syrian migrants using the popular Aegean route has led to a sharp drop in arrivals.

The EU’s top court meanwhile ruled that countries cannot imprison illegal migrants just for crossing borders in the Schengen passport-free area, in a new blow to efforts to crack down on the crisis.

The ruling came in the case of a Ghanaian woman, Selina Affum, who was jailed by French police at the Channel Tunnel while on a bus from Belgium to Britain using someone else’s passport.

The Schengen passport-free area of 26 European countries has come under severe pressure from the migration crisis, with many countries bringing back border controls that were dismantled a decade ago.

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French President Hollande: Boko Haram Still a Dangerous Threat Despite Gains

May 14, 2016


© Pool/AFP | French President Francois Hollande and Central African Republic President Faustin Touadera visit the KM5 area of the CAR capital Bangui on May 13, 2016

ABUJA (AFP) – Boko Haram remain a threat despite “impressive” military gains against it, French President Francois Hollande said on Saturday, as regional and Western leaders gathered for talks on the Islamist threat.

“The results (of the counter-insurgency) are impressive” and the rebels had been “diminished and forced to retreat”, he told a news conference in Abuja but added: “This terrorist group nevertheless remains a threat.”

© AFP/File | A Malian police officer stands guard as workers clean up ouside the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako on November 22, 2015, two days after a deadly attack


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

Germany to increase troops for first time since Cold War ended

May 10, 2016


© AFP/File | The Bundeswehr is expected to increase in the next seven years by 14,300 soldiers

BERLIN (AFP) – Germany is raising the number of its troops for the first time since 1990, ending a quarter of a century of successive cuts in the army since the end of the Cold War.The Bundeswehr is expected to increase in the next seven years by 14,300 soldiers, while 4,400 civilian officers will also be added to the service, Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said.

This boost in troop strength is “necessary given the current situation” of increasing tensions with Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, as well as several foreign missions undertaken by the army, she said.

Germany is preparing to join efforts to bolster NATO’s presence on its eastern flank bordering Russia, in a bid to reassure east European alliance members rattled by Moscow’s annexation of Crimea.

The Bundeswehr has also deployed troops to Mali as part of a UN mission to monitor a peace deal between the government and northern rebels in the west African country.

It has also joined an international coalition battling IS jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

German soldiers totalled 178,000 last December, hovering close to the cap of 185,000 imposed since 2011.

The army has seen a significant reduction in troop numbers since Germany’s reunification and after the Cold War.

In 1990, the number of soldiers reached 585,000.

Berlin’s latest announcement also appeared to be an answer to a repeated call by the United States for NATO members to stump up more in defence spending.

US President Barack Obama made the plea in April during his visit to Germany, where he also berated Europe for having “sometimes been complacent about its own defence”.