Gunmen Kidnap German Aid Worker In Niger

Suspected Pirates Shoot Pregnant Woman In Bayelsa
File photo

 

A German aid worker was kidnapped by armed men in Niger on Wednesday in a region close to the border with Mali prone to jihadist attacks, an official said.

The humanitarian worker employed by the aid group Help was set upon near Ayorou in the Tillaberi region, which has become increasingly unstable due to deadly attacks attributed to militants who regularly target army positions and refugee camps.

“There was a kidnapping of a German national around 30 kilometres (18 miles) from Ayorou as he returned from a visit to the north of the area,” the official, Jando Rhichi Algaher, told AFP by telephone.

The aid worker and his colleagues had informed the official in the morning of their intention to make the trip.

According to the aid worker’s driver, “it was when they were coming back that they were intercepted by armed individuals on four motorbikes,” the official said.

“They beat them, they took the white (aid worker) and they burned the vehicle,” he added.

In October 2017, 12 Niger paramilitary police were killed in Ayorou, 200 kilometres (124 miles) northwest of the capital Niamey.

Also that month, four US and four Niger soldiers were killed in what Niamey called a “terrorist attack” in the same region.

Jihadists, including those of the Islamic State, established a presence in southwestern Niger near the border with Mali — where they have carried out a wave of bloody bombings, shootings and kidnappings.

US aid worker Jeffery Woodke, reportedly in his 50s, was seized at gunpoint from his home in October 2016 in the Tahoua region.

According to local officials, “two armed men in turbans” stormed in and grabbed him, killing his bodyguard and a member of the national guard.

His fate remains unknown and his kidnappers have still not been identified.

Germany has built a military support base for the UN Military Mission (Minusma) which fights jihadists in neighboring Mali and supports Niger in its armed struggle against jihadist groups with military equipment, training and financial aid.

Wednesday’s kidnapping coincides with the start of the annual US-led Flintlock military exercise, with over 1,500 African, American and European personnel deployed at multiple locations in Niger.

The exercises are due to take place in both the Tillaberi and Tahoua regions, as well as Agadez further north in Niger.

The April 9 to 20 operations, which will also take place in parts of Burkina Faso and Senegal, are designed to help nations in North and West Africa counter violent extremism and protect their borders, according to the US Africa Command.

German In Dock For ‘Racist’ Bombing 18 Years On

The defendant accused of a bombing at the Duesseldorf-Wehrhahn station targeting Jewish immigrants in the year 2000 hides his face behind a folder as he arrives for the start of his trial on January 25, 2018 in Duesseldorf, western Germany. Federico Gambarini / dpa / AFP

 

Nearly 18 years after a bombing at a German commuter rail station targeting Jewish immigrants, the alleged neo-Nazi accused of the crime went on trial Thursday.

Ralf Spies, 51, is facing 12 counts of attempted murder and a charge of causing an explosion for the attack in the western city of Duesseldorf on the afternoon of July 27, 2000.

Spies was known to police as a right-wing extremist at the time and ran a military surplus store near the scene of the crime, which shocked Germany and drew international condemnation.

Investigators say the former soldier has a swastika and a well-known Nazi fortress tattooed on his body.

“The accused is believed to have exploited the defencelessness of the victims and acted out of racist motives,” chief prosecutor Ralf Herrenbrueck told reporters outside the courtroom.

Ten eastern European migrants – six of them Jews from the former Soviet Union – were injured in the bombing.

All the victims were on their way back from a German language course when the explosive, hung in a plastic bag on a fence near the Wehrhahn station entrance, went off, sparking panic.

A 26-year-old Ukrainian pregnant woman lost her unborn child and had to undergo emergency surgery after the blast ripped off one of her feet.

Her 28-year-old husband suffered wounds over his entire body from metal fragments unleashed in the explosion and was in a critical condition for several days.

Shameful and Aggravating

As the trial got underway, Spies denied the charges and said he did not know who had carried out the bombing, DPA news agency reported.

He told the court that on the day of the attack he had been at a tattoo studio, on a walk with his dog and then back at home at the time of the blast.

Duesseldorf police launched a sweeping investigation, following up on hundreds of clues, more than 900 tips from the public and testimony from over 1,000 people without producing a major lead.

They had even questioned Spies for several hours and placed him under surveillance soon after the bombing before determining they did not have enough evidence to arrest him.

Spies told the court that immediately after the attack, a police officer had told him, “There are a lot of people calling and saying you’re behind it”.

The leader of Duesseldorf’s Jewish community, Michael Szentei-Heise, said Thursday he was “greatly relieved” that the case was finally being tried.

“Of course the failures of the investigation are shameful and aggravating – the fact it took so long until the alleged perpetrator was finally captured. But we don’t accuse anyone of intentionally standing in the way of the probe,” he told news website RP Online.

The investigation, long dormant, was only revived in 2011, after a series of 10 murders by a band of neo-Nazis.

Known as NSU, short for National Socialist Underground, the cell consisted of a trio of far-right militants who shot dead eight men with Turkish roots, a Greek migrant and a German policewoman between 2000 and 2007.

While no link was established between the NSU’s killings and the Duesseldorf bombing, they spurred investigators to take the extremist threat more seriously.

Bragged’ In Prison

A breakthrough only came in June 2014 when a prison inmate told police that Spies – who was briefly in jail over an unrelated offence – had “bragged” about masterminding the attack, using an anti-immigrant racial slur.

His defence attorney, Olaf Heuvens, has sought to raise doubts about the damning testimony against Spies.

“Why should my client tell an inmate he barely knew something like that?” Heuvens told DPA.

However, an ex-girlfriend of the defendant has told investigators that she saw in his kitchen the homemade pipe bomb, constructed using the explosives from up to six military-issue hand grenades.

Prosecutors say he set it off using a remote-controlled detonator.

Police resumed the investigation once again and last February, after Spies’s release from prison, swooped on his home in a Duesseldorf suburb and took him into custody. He was charged in December.

Spies faces life imprisonment, although convicts in Germany are usually released after 15 years.

The trial is expected to last until at least July.

German Police Arrest 15-Year-Old For Killing Classmate

A pupil of the Kaethe-Kollwitz school is comforted by a woman on January 23, 2018, in Luenen, western Germany, after the police arrested a 15-year-old teen who allegedly killed a 14-year-old schoolmate, with the motive still unclear. Prosecutors said preliminary investigations suggest that the teenager was not planning a rampage at the school in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.             Marcel Kusch / dpa / AFP

German police arrested a 15-year-old who on Tuesday allegedly killed a schoolmate, with the motive still unclear.

Media reports said the teenager did not resist when police tracked him down through a helicopter search and arrested him.

Prosecutors said preliminary investigations suggest that the boy was not planning a rampage at the school in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Police added that they were unable to give details of the wounds that caused the 14-year-old victim’s death.

“The investigation is ongoing,” added police of the killing at the Kaethe Kollwitz high school with 1,000 students.

German media said both boys were German citizens, with the suspect also holding Kazakh nationality.

According to Bild daily, the suspect stabbed the victim in the neck with a knife in front of his mother.

A minute’s silence will be held Wednesday at midday in the school and at the city hall of Luenen.

AFP

German Far-Right Meets To Pick New Leaders Amid Pro-Refugee Protests

A protester is evacuated by riot policemen during a demonstration against the Alternative for Germany (AfD) far-right party during the party’s congress on December 2, 2017 near the congress center in Hanover, northern Germany. Peter Steffen / DPA / AFP

The far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) gathered Saturday to vote in new leadership after its triumphant turnout in September’s general election, as hundreds staged street protests against the anti-migrant, anti-Islam party.

The AfD captured nearly 13 percent of the vote and almost 100 seats in parliament — a watershed moment in post-war German politics that left Chancellor Angela Merkel as the winner but still searching for a ruling coalition.

However a festering row between radical nationalists and more moderate forces has roiled the AfD’s top brass, with co-leader Frauke Petry abruptly quitting just days after the election to form her own breakaway party.

Some 600 delegates at the two-day congress in the northern city of Hanover will vote on a replacement for her as well as a new board, determining the ideological direction of the party.

“The AfD is unable to settle down, it is wrestling with the course it wants to take and power within the party,” news website Spiegel Online said.

“The fight over posts and the platform shows that the party is still divided on how sharply rightward it wants to go.”

Hundreds of demonstrators staged sit-ins to block roadways to the venue in the city centre, delaying the start of the congress by about 50 minutes.

After reporting minor scuffles with protesters, police deployed water cannon to remove some of the blockades.

– Merkel’s woes –

A large pro-refugee march was planned later Saturday supporting Merkel’s liberal border policy, which allowed in more than one million asylum seekers since 2015.

The GdP police union called for calm, following clashes with demonstrators in the western city of Cologne during the last AfD congress in April that left several officers injured.

“We expect all participants in the rallies to exercise their right of assembly peacefully,” union leader Dietmar Schilff said. “Any violence will lead to the forfeiture of that right.”

Launched as a populist anti-euro party in 2013, the AfD has veered sharply to the right since and campaigned for the September election with slogans such as “Bikinis Not Burqas”, “Stop Islamisation” and the ubiquitous “Merkel must go”.

It is now represented in 14 of Germany’s 16 state parliaments but has been shunned as a potential partner at the national level by the mainstream parties.

However the fractured political landscape has made it more difficult than ever for Merkel, in power for 12 years, to cobble together a ruling majority.

Talks to form a coalition spanning the political spectrum for her fourth and probably last term broke down in acrimony last month.

She is now trying to woo the centre-left Social Democrats back into a right-left “grand coalition” government.

If she is successful and averts a snap election, the AfD would become Germany’s largest opposition power, strongly boosting its profile.

– Syria safe for refugees? –

The AfD had two leaders until now, Petry and Joerg Meuthen, who has allied himself with the party’s radical nativist wing.

Delegates will debate a motion to have Meuthen as the AfD’s sole president.

Meanwhile more centrist forces in the party are backing the party’s Berlin chief, Georg Pazderski, a former army colonel, as co-leader.

However speculation was rife that the party’s powerful parliamentary group chief, Alexander Gauland, could mount a leadership challenge.

Gauland told AFP last week that the party was ready to capitalise on Merkel’s new weakness.

“It’s all downhill for Merkel now and that is partly our achievement,” Gauland said.

“Her time is up — we want her to leave the political stage.”

The list of motions to be debated in Hanover offered insights into the party’s priorities.

They include a call for Germany to ban circumcision of male babies targeting a common practice among Muslim and Jewish families, and a condemnation of a new definition of anti-Semitism adopted by parliament criticised as a “curb on free speech”.

The party recently sparked outrage by calling for the immediate return of tens of thousands of Syrian refugees in Germany, claiming that “large parts” of the war-ravaged country were now safe.

AFP

Liverpool Manager, Klopp Hospitalised

FILE PHOTO: Liverpool’s German manager Jurgen Klopp gestures on the touchline during the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool at Wembley Stadium. Ian KINGTON / IKIMAGES / AFP

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was admitted to hospital on Wednesday following a health scare.

Media reports said Klopp had told Liverpool’s medical staff that he was feeling ill, and the 50-year-old German was urged to go to a hospital for further tests.

“He is being assessed by doctors and will be absent from training on Wednesday as a result,” the club said in a statement.

“There are currently no plans for Jurgen to remain in the hospital beyond his appointment and he will, therefore, return home this evening; however, he may require further check-ups in the coming days.”

Klopp’s full squad returned to Liverpool’s Melwood training ground from international duty on Wednesday ahead of Saturday’s home clash with Southampton but the players arrived with Klopp nowhere to be seen, as their coach had already been taken to the hospital.

Liverpool did not say whether the former Borussia Dortmund coach, who is scheduled to take part in a pre-match press conference on Friday, will return to training or if he will be on the Anfield bench on Saturday.

Should Klopp be absent this weekend it will be the second game he has missed for Liverpool due to ill health. He was hospitalised with appendicitis ahead of the Reds’ 2-2 home draw with Sunderland in February 2016.

AFP

Pirates Kidnap Captain, Crew Of German Ship In Port Harcourt

Pirates Kidnap Captain, Crew Of German Ship In Port Harcourt

Six crew members from a German-owned container ship, including the captain, have been kidnapped off the coast of southern Nigeria, maritime security analysts said.

The Sea Guardian consultancy said the Demeter “was attacked by pirates” at about 7:00 am on Saturday in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.

“Pirates boarded the ship, kidnapped six crew, including (the) master, chief officer, second officer, second engineer, bosun, and cook,” it said on its website www.sguardian.com Monday.

Reports suggested the attack was carried out by eight pirates in a black speedboat, it added.

The Demeter had been travelling from the capital of Equatorial Guinea, Malabo, to the Liberian capital Monrovia at the time.

The Liberia-flagged vessel is owned by German shipping firm the Peter Doehle Group.

The MTI Network, a crisis communications firm that deals with incidents in the shipping industry said the attack happened as the ship entered the port of Onne.

“All of the 12 remaining seafarers of the Demeter are safe and unhurt and the vessel has proceeded to safe waters,” it said in a statement.

The Peter Doehle group said it would not disclose the nationalities of the crew members taken “for security reasons”.

The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has recorded 121 piracy incidents in international waters this year, including shootings, attempted kidnappings and hijackings of ships.

It described in a report published last week that the Gulf of Guinea remained a “hot spot for attacks”, despite a fall in the number of incidents elsewhere in the world.

“The waters off Nigeria remain particularly risky,” said the head of the IMB Pottengal Mukundan, pointing to the waters off the state of Bayelsa, Bonny Island, and Port Harcourt.

Mukundan said there had been an increase in reported hijackings and kidnappings, although much more had not been reported.

The IMB said, “39 of the 49 crewmembers kidnapped globally occurred off Nigerian waters in seven separate incidents”.

“Other crew kidnappings in 2017 have been reported 60 nautical miles (69 miles, 111 kilometres) off the coast of Nigeria,” it added.

AFP

German Police Rule Out Terrorism In Konstanz Nightclub Shooting

An Iraqi gunman died in a shootout with German police early on Sunday after killing one person in a nightclub in the southern city of Konstanz, police said, ruling out terrorism as a motive.

The 34-year-old man opened fire in the club in the early hours of Sunday, killing one person and injuring three others.

Read Also: German Nightclub Shooting: Two Dead In Constance

He died in hospital of injuries suffered in a gunfight with police outside the venue. One policeman was also injured.

Police said the gunman had lived in Germany for a number of years and was not an asylum seeker.

They added that a dispute among criminals may have led to the shooting in an industrial area of the city.

Police investigators at entrance to nightclub
police officer talking to cyclist in the street

Dalung Says VOA Interview Was Edited Out of Context

solomon-dalungNigeria’s Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, has cleared the air on his interview with the Voice of America, Hausa Service where he was reported to have said the Super Eagles do not need to attend the 2018 World Cup since they can’t win the trophy.

Mr Dalung said that the interview which he granted four months ago was misinterpreted, insisting  he has total confidence in the team to pick the sole tick in their group for Russia 2018.

He said that the interview was edited midway into a more comprehensive conversation and the act has sent a misconception about his commitment to the ongoing World Cup campaign.

“The statement was taken out of context. It was part of a comprehensive interview I granted four months ago when I was reacting to the status of African nations in global competitions and also football administration globally. Where do we stand?

“The question also was that whether Nigeria or any African country is likely going to host the World Cup. My reaction was what was captured.

“Unfortunately, the interview did not avail those who listened the complete narrative so that they can benefit from the background with which the response was taken,” he explained.

He maintained that the Nigerian government and the Ministry of Sport remain committed to ensuring that Nigeria re-positions itself as a global player in football and lead other African countries to the top of the game.

He urged Nigerians to support the Super Eagles to ensure that they do not lose the momentum that is in their favour in the 2018 World Cup qualifying series.

He added that his selfless contributions so far in Super Eagles’s quest for qualification, particularly ahead of the away win in Zambia, contradicts the impression that he was not in support of the team.

Dalung Says Siasia Has Not Resigned, Gernot Rohr’s Appointment Unofficial

Solomon Dalung, Samson Siasia, Gernot RohrThe Minister of Sports, Mr Solomon Dalung, says he has not been officially informed of the appointment of a new foreign coach for the Super Eagles by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF).

The NFF had in early August, appointed a German, Gernot Rohr, to manage the Eagles, despite Mr Dalung’s preference for a local coach.

He claimed that Coach Samson Siasia, who led the Nigeria’s U-23 football team to win a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics, had not resigned, contrary to media reports, although his contract with the NFF had lapsed.

Siasia had told reporters that he had on August 27 resigned as the coach of Nigeria’s U-23 football team because of what he describes as “a disrespectful system”.

Mr Dalung’s frowned at the treatment meted to Siasia by the NFF, alleging that they withdrew his official car in Abuja while he was battling to secure a medal for Nigeria in Rio.

While hinting that he had met with Siasia on Monday, he said Nigeria needed him ‎in football development.

Samson Siasia
Coach Samson Siasia

The Sports Minister further pointed out that even if the NFF would not re-engage him, the Federation should at least, give him some peace of mind to enable him make his contributions in a personal capacity.

He noted that it would be sad to have such coach leave Nigeria for another country out of frustration, just like many athletes did as witnessed during the Rio Olympics.

Abysmal Outing Of Team Nigeria

Dalung also cleared the air on the $390,000 donation to Siasia and his team by a Japanese surgeon, saying that after he met the donor in Rio, he was convinced there were no strings like match-fixing attached to the donation.

He attributed the abysmal outing of the Nigerian Olympic contingent to late release of funds and inability to develop home-grown talents.

The Minister emphasised the need for the National Sports Commission which he said was unfortunately scrapped by a government committee that recommended merger of ministries.‎

He was at the State House on Tuesday in Abuja to brief President Muhammadu Buhari on Nigeria’s outing at the ‎just concluded Olympics in Rio, Brazil.

Since Team Nigeria were able to win bronze medal in football, Mr Dalung urged the President to host the team.

Aruna Quadri To End 2015 As World Number 50

quadriNigeria’s Aruna Quadri will end 2015 as the world number 50 tennis player.

This is according to the latest ranking released by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).

In 2015, Quadri featured in more than five ITTF World Circuits, with his best being the Lagos Open, where he played in the final against Assar.

In Europe, he took part in the German, Spanish, Polish, Croatian and Swedish Opens.

Quadri was also in the Kuwait and Qatar Opens where he managed to make it to the last 32 in some of the tournaments.

His best outing in Europe was at the Croatian Open where he made it to the last 16.

EU Plans To Accept 160,000 Migrants

migrantsEuropean countries have announced plans to accommodate as many as 160,000 migrants seeking asylum.

That plan of action has however been criticised by Germany, who claimed they can do more.

Germany’s Vice-Chancellor, Sigmar Gabriel, said thousands are estimated to arrive in Europe this year and when put together, the number of people expected in 2015, and 2016, will reach as high as 900,000.

On Wednesday, the European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, announced plans to distribute 120,000 refugees from Greece, Italy and Hungary among member states, via binding quotas.

He described the plan as ‘a first step, if one wants to be polite.’

Thousands of migrants have been pouring in mainly from Syria, where a civil war has been ongoing for almost four years. And from Libya, which has been political unstable, since the death of Muammar Gaddafi, in 2011.

Earlier today, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, visited a home for refugees in Berlin.

Later, she said she hoped newcomers would integrate with the help of their children learning German in school.

Austria To End Migrant Emergency Measures

austriaAustria is planning to phase out special measures that have allowed thousands to travel into their country.

The Austrian Chancellor, Werner Faymann, said that they were making a step by step arrangement to remove the emergency measures for asylum seekers.

“We have always said this is an emergency situation in which we must act quickly and humanely,” the Austrian chancellor said.

“We have helped more than 12,000 people in an acute situation. Now we have to move step-by-step away from emergency measures towards normality,” he added.

According to Faymann, the easing of rules had allowed for thousands to move into Austria and Germany from Hungary over the weekend.

Germany is also said to be warning that its willingness to accommodate migrants should not be overstretched.

On Sunday, a group of cars driven by German and Austrian activists travelled to the Hungarian border to pick up migrants and distribute food.