India Vows ‘Heavy Price’ After Kashmir Attack Kills Dozens

Indian soldiers take positions outside the Sunjuwan Military Station in Jammu on February 10, 2018, following an attack by militants. Two people were injured after a group of Kashmiri militants attacked the Indian army station early February 10, Indian media reported, with operations underway to clear the base. PHOTO: Rakesh BAKSHI / AFPKashmir

 

India and Pakistan’s troubled ties risked taking a dangerous new turn on Friday as New Delhi accused Islamabad of harbouring militants behind one of the deadliest attacks in three decades of bloodshed in Indian-administered Kashmir.

At least 41 paramilitary troops were killed on Thursday as explosives packed in a van ripped through a convoy bringing 2,500 troopers back from leave not far from the main city Srinagar, police said.

Local media reported that the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed Islamist group claimed responsibility, with the vehicles driven by a known local militant, Aadil Ahmad alias Waqas Commando.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947 with both nuclear-armed countries, which have fought three wars, claiming it as their own.

Jaish-e-Mohammed is largely considered to be one of the most active Pakistan-backed insurgent groups fighting in Kashmir, and was the first militant group to introduce suicide bombers into the conflict.

India’s foreign ministry said that Jaish-e-Mohammed head Masood Azhar “has been given full freedom by… Pakistan to operate and expand his terror infrastructure in territories under the control of Pakistan and to carry out attacks in India and elsewhere with impunity”.

“I want to tell the terrorist groups and their masters that they have committed a big mistake. They have to pay a heavy price,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Friday after an emergency cabinet meeting.

“If our neighbouring country thinks that it will succeed in creating instability through such acts and conspiracies in our country, they should stop dreaming,” Modi said, adding that the “blood of the people is boiling”.

Arun Jaitley, finance minister, promised all steps to “ensure the complete isolation from the international community of Pakistan of which incontrovertible evidence is available of having a direct hand in this gruesome attack”.

Islamabad, however, hit back at the suggestion.

“We strongly reject any insinuation by elements in the Indian media and government that seek to link the attack to Pakistan without investigations,” the Pakistan foreign ministry said.

Body Parts 

The United States condemned the attack in “the strongest terms”, and called on “all countries…to deny safe haven and support for terrorists”.

Two buses of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the 78-vehicle convoy on the Srinagar-Jammu highway bore the brunt of the blast, heard miles away.

“No one from the first bus survived,” a senior police official told AFP on condition of anonymity, predicting the death toll could rise higher still.

Blackened, mangled remains of at least one vehicle littered the highway. Reports said bodies and body parts were strewn around, making victims’ identification difficult.

Afterwards, hundreds of government forces cordoned off around 15 villages in the district the bomber came from and conducted house-to-house searches, a police officer and witnesses said.

A team of elite anti-terror agency investigators were flying to Srinagar on Friday and India’s interior minister Rajnath Singh was also scheduled to visit.

The attack surpasses one in 2016 that was the biggest in 14 years, claiming the lives of 19 soldiers in a brazen pre-dawn raid by militants on the Uri army camp.

India responded to that with the now-famous “surgical strikes” — there is a Bollywood movie — across the heavily-militarised Line of Control, the de-facto border, several miles into Pakistan-administered Pakistan.

Hawks

“The current situation has all the making of an India-Pakistan crisis,” said Moeed Yusuf from the US Institute of Peace. “The next 24-48 hours are crucial. This could get bad.”

“The hope was that India and Pakistan will get back to talking after the Indian elections later this year. I think the hawks on both sides are going to make it very difficult for that to happen now.”

On Friday India announced it was withdrawing its Most Favoured Nation Status — covering trade links – on Pakistan.

But beyond this, Modi has “no easy options”, Manoj Joshi from the New Delhi based Observer Research Foundation think-tank told AFP.

Military action could “escalate into something big”, he said.

“Diplomatic action against Pakistan is another option. But the United States is cosying up with Islamabad to seek an exit from Afghanistan. China has also deep interests in Pakistan.”

Kashmir, where an armed conflict erupted in 1989, has seen increased violence in recent years. Last year was the deadliest in a decade, with rights monitors saying almost 600 people died — mostly civilians.

Boko Haram Fighters Surrender In Northern Cameroon

Nearly 60 men who said they were captured by the Boko Haram Islamist group and forced to fight have surrendered to authorities in northern Cameroon.

After spending two years with Boko Haram, the men decided to flee with their families and hand themselves in, according to several men who had surrendered and spoke to journalists at a ceremony in the town of Mozogo on Friday.

A total of nearly 400 people originally from Cameroon — 58 men, 86 women and 244 children — said they had been taken hostage by Boko Haram fighters during attacks on their villages and taken to Nigeria, where they were forced to join the jihadist group.

The men told reporters they had fought for Boko Haram and were laying down their arms of their own will.

They surrendered at the border with Nigeria to a village vigilante group formed to combat the jihadists. The vigilantes then handed them over to the authorities.

Ousmane Kouila, head of the group, said they had been out on patrol in the border area when they met the fleeing Boko Haram fighters. “They said they were returning, and that they were surrendering,” he said.

The local governor went to meet them and ordered them to be moved away from the border to avoid any reprisals by Boko Haram.

“We are counting on them to also convince others who are hesitating (to surrender) and there are a lot of them they tell us,” said Midjiyawa Bakari, governor of the Far North region.

Authorities would provide the escapees with psychological help, he said.

“They have been through brainwashing, perhaps also having taken an oath on the Koran or made a blood pact,” the governor said, adding they needed help with “all they must have endured” in the hands of Boko Haram.

 

AFP

Gov. Gaidam Welcomes New Army Commander To Yobe

ArmyThe Governor of Yobe State has tasked the new Commander of the 27 Task Force Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Damaturu on exemplary record of committed fight against the Boko Haram sect.

Governor Ibrahim Gaidam gave the charge on Monday while receiving the new Army Commander, Brigadier General C.A. Apere, at the Government House in Damaturu, the Yobe State capital, northeast Nigeria.

He asked the Army boss to build on the record that his predecessor, Colonel Dahiru Bako, had built while serving as the Army Commander in the state.

The Governor described Colonel Bako as a professional and committed officer who worked assiduously fighting insurgents in Yobe State and the northeast in general.

Observing that the Islamist group was on the path of defeat, he attributed the successes recorded so far to the hard work of officers and men of the Nigerian Army deployed to the state.

“Across Yobe State, people are very excited with the work that Colonel Bako has done. Many people here associate the successes recorded against Boko Haram to the hard work of Colonel Bako and other army commanders.

“I am confident you will build and expand on this excellent record that Colonel Bako has achieved so that together, we will bring the Boko Haram insurgency to an end,” Governor Gaidam said.

He assured the new Commander of his determination to continue to support the military and other security agencies to ensure the complete restoration of peace and security in the state.

In his response, Brigadier General Apere expressed appreciation for the warm reception he received since he reported in Yobe State.

He assured the Governor that under his command, the 27 Task Force Brigade would consolidate on the successes recorded by his predecessor.

The Commander said that Yobe was second home to him because he began his military career in the state at Nguru back in 1991.

He expressed gratitude to the Yobe State Government for the frequent support often given to the Army and expressed optimism that the spirit of support and partnership would continue.

Somalia: Militants Attack AU Military Base, Kill Many

somaliaNot less than 30 people have been killed after gunmen attacked an African Union (AU) military base in southern Somalia.

A suicide car bomber drove into the main gates of the base in Leego, along the main road connecting the capital, Mogadishu.

Although still unconfirmed, the militant Islamist Group, Al-Shabaab said its fighters have taken control of the base.

Al-Shabaab is battling Somalia’s government for control of the country.

The base is manned by Burundian soldiers from the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), which has more than 20,000 troops in the country.

Reuters is quoting a Somali Major, Nur Olow, as saying: ”A car bomb rammed into the AU base, AU forces opened fire at the speeding car bomb (but) the car forced its way in.”

The African Union Mission in Somalia peacekeeping force (AMISOM) was also quoted on Twitter saying, ”AMISOM confirms there is an ongoing attack at their Leego Somalia base that started this morning”.

Boko Haram Remote-Control Bomb Kills Two Niger Soldiers

boko-haram-leaderA bomb planted and remotely detonated by Boko Haram militants near the southeastern Niger town of Diffa killed two soldiers and wounded a third on Wednesday, military sources said.

It was the first time Niger’s army has reported being attacked with such a device since it launched a campaign with Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria this year against the Islamist group.

The Boko Haram terrorist group has killed thousands it its bid to set up an Islamist state in its heartland of northeast Nigeria. It has also launched a series of cross-border incursions in recent months into Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

“We had two soldiers killed on Wednesday in a remote-controlled explosion. We took up the chase and killed the two militants responsible for the attack” near a bridge over the Kamadougou river, a officer from Niger said.

In a separate attack, armed men on a motorbike killed at least two people in Kerawa, in the Far North region of Cameroon, on Tuesday around 2 p.m. (1300 GMT), according to a Cameroon army officer who declined to be identified.

“We think it was a revenge killing. We suspect that a deal went wrong between the two people who were killed and Boko Haram. That’s the only way to explain their presence in that frontier zone,” the officer said.

Chad’s army, considered one of the best in the region and backed by a strong air force, first deployed to help Cameroon fend off Boko Haram and is now pressing southwest into Nigerian territory after re-capturing the border town of Gambaru last month.

2 Killed In Belgium Anti-terror Raid

150115135242-01-belgium-operation---restricted-exlarge-169Belgian police killed two men who opened fire on them during one of about a dozen raids on Thursday against an Islamist group that federal prosecutors said was about to launch “terrorist attacks on a grand scale”.

The suspects were shot dead in the eastern town of Verviers after they opened fire on police with automatic weapons on Thursday evening.

Officials say they had returned from Syria and planned imminent attacks on police targets. Another suspect was wounded before being arrested.

All three were citizens of Belgium, which has one of the biggest concentrations of European Islamists fighting in Syria.

Speaking after Thursday’s raid in Verviers, near the German border, Prosecutor Eric Van Der Sypt said the terror threat level had been raised to three – the second highest.

Referring to the raid itself, he said: “The suspects immediately and for several minutes opened fire with military weaponry and handguns on the special units of the federal police before they were neutralised.”

After the operation, four Kalashnikovs, bomb-making equipment and police clothing were found, according to local media. Security forces remain in the Verviers area.

Police are expected to provide more details at a briefing on Friday.

“Operations on the ground are now over. We are now exploiting the information [from the overnight anti-terror operations],” Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told French TV station iTele.

Some Jewish schools in Antwerp and Brussels were closed on Friday, after they were informed that they could be potential targets, Belgian newspaper Joods Actueel reported.

Anti-terror raids also took place late on Thursday in the capital Brussels and surrounding towns, including Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, Anderlecht and Schaerbeek.

Earlier that day, two suspected Islamists were arrested in the Brussels suburb of Zaventem, Belgian media reported.

Belgian officials say more than 300 people have left Belgium to fight with Islamic militant groups in Syria and Iraq.

The country is thought to have the highest number of foreign fighters per capita in Europe who have taken part in fighting in Syria.

Coming a week after Islamist gunmen killed 17 people in Paris, the incident fueled fears across Europe of young Muslims returning radicalised from Syria. But the Belgian probe had been under way before the Jan. 7 attack on French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and officials saw no obvious link between the two.

In recent weeks, European security services received indications of an ominous possibility: that ISIS may have started directing European extremists in Syria and Iraq to launch terrorist attacks back in their home countries, the Belgian counterterrorism official said.

With half a million Muslims, mostly of French-speaking North African descent, among its 11 million people, Belgium has seen similar discontent to that in France among young, unemployed children of immigrants in blighted, post-industrial towns like Verviers, once a major center for wool and other textile mills.

Network Africa: Soyinka On Nigerian Unity, Latest On Pistorius, Ebola Virus

Network Africa MAPNigeria’s Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, believes Nigeria is suffering greater carnage at the hands of Islamist group, Boko Haram, than it did during the civil war, yet this does not mean the country’s break up is imminent.

It’s been agreed, that Oscar Pistorius was very much in his right mind, when he shot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Health ministers from 11 African countries are in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, seeking practical ways to curb the spread of the Ebola virus.

We bring you our conversation with Dr. Femi Akodu, on Nigeria’s response to preventing the virus.

 

Network Africa: Quest For Justice In Sudan, Egypt, Explosions In Nigeria

Network AfricaThe Sudanese woman sentenced to death for apostasy, who enjoyed barely a day of freedom, has been recaptured for a totally different crime.

Then, Egypt deals a shocking blow to freedom of speech, jails 3 international journalists to the minimum of 7 years, turning the deaf ear to all international outcry.

Fewer eligible voters turn up for Libya’s crucial parliamentary elections. Will the votes be enough to unseat the general national congress? Find out what political analysts are saying

A barrage of bomb explosions in Kano, Mubi, Adamawa State and then Abuja the federal capital of Nigeria, even as security operatives and relative agencies step in to manage the situation

We also bring you the unusual “Finger-full” World Cup predictions from a family with six fingers each, rooting for their country at the World Cup.

Boko Haram: Irish Ambassador Says Cease Fire Condition For Negotiation

The ambassador of Ireland to Nigeria, Patrick Fay has said that there is a need for cease fire between the Boko Haram fundamentalist sect and Nigerian security forces for any meaningful negotiation to commence between the Federal Government and the sect members.

Addressing the national executive members of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) in Kaduna, the Irish envoy noted that the security challenges facing the north is not a religious problem but one that was caused by political differences.

He said that the application of force by the Nigerian government to tackle the situation has not yielded any meaningful result hence dialogue remains the only option to address the problem.

National publicity secretary of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Anthony Sani however told the visiting ambassador that the north is in full support of the proposed amnesty for the Boko Haram sect and urged the federal government to continue with the plan in spite of the rejection of the amnesty offer by a faction of the Islamist group.

Mali Rebels Torch Timbuktu Manuscript Library – Mayor

Islamist fighters fleeing Mali’s ancient Saharan city of Timbuktu as French and Malian troops closed in, set fire to a South African-funded library there containing thousands of priceless manuscripts, the city’s mayor said on Monday.

Mr. Halle Ousmani Sisse said the Islamist rebels, who had occupied the fabled trading town since a Tuareg-led rebellion captured it on April 1, 2012 from government forces, also torched his office and the home of a member of parliament.

The newly-constructed Ahmed Baba Institute, one of several libraries and collections in the city containing fragile ancient documents dating back to the 13th century, built by the South Africans was also torched four days ago.

Ahmed Baba Institute is named after a Timbuktu-born contemporary of William Shakespeare and houses more than 20,000 scholarly manuscripts; some stored in underground vaults.

Fighters from the Islamist alliance in the north of Mali, made up of AQIM, the Malian Islamist group Ansar Dine and AQIM splinter MUJWA, had also destroyed ancient shrines sacred to moderate Sufi Muslims, provoking international outrage.

French and Malian troops were securing the city on Monday.

Jonathan warns of military intervention in Mali if talks with rebels fail

President Goodluck Jonathan has warned that military intervention in northern Mali will be inevitable if talks with Islamist group controlling the region, fails.

President Jonathan made this known during his visit to Senegal. He however stated that a West African force would only be deployed, with the approval of the United Nations.

ECOWAS would send a force to the area if a peace deal is not reached with the Islamist fighters, stated the president, adding that “diplomacy and negotiation is first.”

“ECOWAS will definitely intervene militarily, but … first and foremost we are negotiating,” he said after talks with Senegalese President Mr Macky Sall.

“We must stabilise the government … I believe through negotiation we will be able to resolve the crisis, we don’t necessarily need military intervention … but if that fails we will have no option.”

“Military intervention is extreme and when negotiations fail, at that time you can talk about military intervention” he said.

Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister Djibrille Bas held talks with the militants last month as part of bloc’s diplomatic effort to end the conflict.

ECOWAS, as also asked the UN Security Council to endorse its plan to send 3,000 troops to Mali.

However, it refused, saying it needed more clarity on the West African body’s military objectives and how it intended to achieve them.

Islamist groups and Tuareg rebels took control of large swathes of northern Mali after President Amadou Toumani Toure was overthrown in a coup in March.

But the rebel alliance has since ruptured, with Islamist fighters chasing Tuareg rebels out of several northern towns and imposing Sharia law.

The Islamists have destroyed ancient shrines in the historical city of Timbuktu, claiming they violated Sharia law and promoted idolatry among Muslims.

The UN warned that the destruction of the shrines could amount to war crimes and the International Criminal Court has launched a preliminary inquiry into alleged atrocities.

The Islamists have also stoned to death an unwed couple and amputated the hand of an alleged thief.

Alleged atrocities committed in the rebel-held north are being investigated by international prosecutors.

A new unity government was formed in Mali’s capital, Bamako, at the weekend, promising to spearhead initiatives to end the instability in the north.

Mali has so far rejected a full-scale foreign intervention but said its army, once re-equipped, would need the support of two or three battalions.