Kenya will use “deadly force” against suspected Islamist militants, President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Monday as he campaigned for re-election in Lamu, one of the regions that have borne the brunt of militant violence.
In the latest attack, suspected members of Somalia’s al Shabaab took a senior government official and five other people hostage in Lamu last Thursday. Two people died in a rescue operation by Kenyan forces.
“If someone has volunteered to come and destroy the lives of others, beheading them, killing our security officers, why would I beg him, we shall kill them as well. I have no apologies to make, none whatsoever,” Kenyatta said.
“No one has a right to kill others. No one should be worshipped pretending to be God, if you come to us that way, and we shall as well do the same. We are requesting the residents of this area to help us. If you have any information, please let us know.”
Last week, the Kenya military said it had conducted air strikes on Lamu’s Boni forest after the string of attacks blamed on the militants in the area.
Al Shabaab is fighting to topple Somalia’s Western-backed government and establish its own rule, based on the group’s strict interpretation of sharia law. Its members frequently launch attacks in Kenya, which they say are intended to force the country to withdraw its troops from Somalia.
Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has fired Defence Minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly after suspected Islamist militants briefly seized the village of Boni in the center of the country on Friday, state television said late on Saturday.
Coulibaly is being replaced by Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga, a former minister for territorial administration, who was also the president’s campaign director at the 2013 election.
The attackers, who are suspected of belonging to the Ansar Dine group, burned public buildings and took an elected local official hostage before withdrawing after a few hours. No one was killed and the army is back in control, witnesses said.
The raid was the latest in a series this year in Mali, reflecting a rise in the power of Islamist groups that have spread a campaign of violence from the north to the center of the country only a few hundreds miles from the capital Bamako.
Armed groups have proliferated since Islamists took advantage of an ethnic Tuareg uprising in 2012 to seize the north of the desert country.
A French-led intervention drove Islamists back in 2013 but instability has continued and undermines a fragile U.N.-backed peace process.
Islamist militants killed 17 Malian soldiers and wounded 35 when they attacked an army base in the central Malian town of Nampala in July. Ansar Dine and a Peul ethnic militia both claimed responsibility for that attack.
At least seven civilians have been killed and eight wounded by shelling in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.
A hospital official told Reuters news agency on Saturday that the shelling had taken place on Thursday and Friday in residential areas close the frontlines in Benghazi, which has seen heavy fighting in some neighbourhoods over the past two years.
Forces loyal to military commander Khalifa Haftar launched a campaign against Islamists and other opponents in Benghazi in 2014.
Haftar’s forces made substantial gains earlier this year, but fighting on the edges of the city has continued.
A special forces’ spokesman, Fadel al-Hassi, said shelling over the past two days had come from the Sabri and Souq al-Hut districts in northern Benghazi, where Haftar’s opponents have been holding out. The claim could not immediately be verified.
Earlier this week jets pounded Sabri and Souq al-Hut and at least six men from Haftar’s forces were killed in fighting on the ground.
Libya has been in turmoil since veteran ruler Muammar Gaddafi was forced from power in an uprising five years ago.
United Nations-backed unity government is designed to replace two rival governments that have competed for power from Tripoli and from the east since 2014, backed by complex alliances of armed groups.
The United States has accused Uganda of persistently violating the rights of its citizens and media in the aftermath of February’s presidential election.
The allegation of rights violations are the latest signs of worsening relations between western powers and Uganda, an ally in the fight against Islamists in the region.
U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby, said in a statement that Uganda’s repeated detention of opposition figures and harassment of their supporters, and the government’s interference in a challenge of the poll results are “unacceptable activities in a free and democratic society”.
“The United States and Uganda have a long standing and strong partnership that has contributed to the stability and prosperity of the region.
“We are concerned that the Ugandan government’s recent actions could endanger the economic and political progress that has enabled our relationship to grow,” the statement said.
Uganda’s electoral commission declared 71-year-old incumbent president, Yoweri Museveni, the winner of the Feb. 18 election with 60% of the vote.
Kizza Besigye, who came in second with 35% and who is currently under house arrest, has rejected the results.
Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, has appointed the former Chief of Defence Staff, LT General Martin Luther Agwai, as Chairman of a security committee set up by the state government to recommend ways to stamp out attacks on communities in the southern part of the state.
According to a statement issued on Saturday by the Governor’s Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Samuel Aruwan, the committee is part of the government’s multidimensional approach in finding lasting solutions to the killings in the area, which have continued since the post-election violence of 2011.
The committee’s terms of reference are to identify the socio-political and economic factors that promote existing conflicts in Southern Kaduna and advise on measures to be taken by the government to address them,
The committee will also explore ways of finding mutual solutions that engender reconciliation between communities in Southern Kaduna and also advise the government on how the villages and communities of Southern Kaduna would be free from attacks bedevilling it.
It has 30 days to complete its assignment and submit its report.
The chairman of the committee, Mr Agwai, is presently serving as a United Nations envoy in Sudan.
Heavily armed Australian police stormed a Sydney cafe on Tuesday and freed a number of hostages being held there at gunpoint, in a dramatic end to a 16-hour siege in which three people were killed and four wounded.
New South Wales police said two men, aged 34 and 50, and a 38-year-old woman died. The attacker was among the fatalities.
Heavy gunfire and blasts from stun grenades filled the air shortly after 2 a.m. local time (1500 GMT on Monday).
Moments earlier at least six people believed to have been held captive managed to flee after gunshots were heard coming from the cafe, and police later confirmed that they made their move in response.
So far 17 hostages have been accounted for.
Medics tried to resuscitate at least one person after the raid and took away several wounded people on stretchers, said a Reuters witness at the scene in downtown Sydney. Bomb squad members moved in to search for explosives, but none were found.
The operation began shortly after a police source named the gunman as Man Haron Monis, an Iranian refugee and self-styled sheikh facing multiple charges of sexual assault as well as being an accessory to murder.
He was also found guilty in 2012 of sending offensive and threatening letters to families of eight Australian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, as a protest against Australia’s involvement in the conflict, according to local media reports.
A U.S. security official said the U.S. government was being advised by Australia that there was no sign at this stage that the gunman was connected to known terrorist organisations.
Although the hostage taker was known to the authorities, security experts said preventing attacks by people acting alone could be difficult.
”Today’s crisis throws into sharp relief the dangers of lone wolf terrorism,” said Cornell University law professor Jens David Ohlin, speaking in New York.
“There are two areas of concern. The first is ISIS (Islamic State) fighters with foreign passports who return to their home countries to commit acts of terrorism.
“The second is ISIS sympathizers radicalised on the internet who take it upon themselves to commit terrorist attacks to fulfil their radical ideology.
“We are entering a new phase of terrorism that is far more dangerous, and more difficult to defeat, than al Qaeda ever was.”
During the siege, hostages had been forced to display an Islamic flag, igniting fears of a jihadist attack.
Australia, a staunch ally of the United States and its escalating action against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, has been on high alert for attacks by home-grown militants returning from fighting in the Middle East.
News footage showed hostages holding up a black and white flag displaying the Shahada, a testament to the faith of Muslims. The flag has been popular among Sunni Islamist militant groups such as Islamic State and al Qaeda.
At least five hostages were released or escaped on Monday, with terrified cafe workers and customers running into the arms of paramilitary police.
The incident forced the evacuation of nearby buildings and sent shockwaves around a country where many people were turning their attention to the Christmas holiday following earlier security scares.
In September, anti-terrorism police said they had thwarted an imminent threat to behead a random member of the public and days later, a teenager in the city of Melbourne was shot dead after attacking two anti-terrorism officers with a knife.
The siege cafe is in Martin Place, a pedestrian strip popular with workers on a lunch break, which was revealed as a potential location for the thwarted beheading.
In the biggest security operation in Sydney since a bombing at the Hilton Hotel killed two people in 1978, major banks closed their offices in the central business district and people were told to avoid the area.
Muslim leaders urged calm. The Australian National Imams Council condemned “this criminal act unequivocally” in a joint statement with the Grand Mufti of Australia.
Concerns about an attack in Australia by Islamists have been growing for more than a year, with the security agency raising its national terrorism public alert to “high” in September.
The Adamawa State Government has said that it cannot confirm the reported abduction of about 60 women in Mangoro and Garta villages, in Madagali Local Government, by members of the Boko Haram terrorist group.
The Director of Press and Public Affairs to the Adamawa State Governor, Phineas Elisha, told Channels Television via the telephone that the government cannot presently access the area.
Hundreds of Boko Haram members were said to have overrun the town on motorcycles and vans in a rampage on Saturday.
Forty of the women were said to have been abducted in Waga, Mangoro and the other 20 were taken from Grata.
Also, residents said that the insurgents burnt houses and abducted many young women, forcing them to flee the area.
The U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, says that despite help on the ground from Britain, France and Israel, the United States is alone in helping Nigeria locate more than 200 school girls kidnapped by the Boko Haram Islamists.
Mr. Kerry was speaking during a dinner at the State Department on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the US Diplomats Corps.
With 80 military personnel sent to neighboring Chad for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions, the United States is the biggest foreign participant in the effort against the militant group, Boko Haram.
Washington has also deployed surveillance drones, spy planes and about 30 civilian and military specialists to support Nigeria’s security forces.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Nigerian President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe has admitted that the growth of terrorism in Nigeria may indeed be connected to the poor socioeconomic conditions in the country.
Dr. Okupe was the guest of Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise, where he was joined by Journalist, Sola Ojewusi, and a Legal Practitioner, John Oloyede to examine ‘What Boko Haram Wants’.
The group – whose official Arabic name translates as “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad” – says it is fighting to overthrow Nigeria’s Government and establish an Islamic state.
Dubbed Boko Haram or “western education is sinful” by locals for its rejection of European values, the sect was founded in the early 2000s by cleric, Mohammed Yusuf, and gained a steady following in the northern city of Maiduguri, preaching against secular values in a nation which is split between large Muslim and Christian populations.
Okupe, tracing the strength of the group back to the founding strategies of its leader, noted that the late cleric gained the loyalty of many youths because he was assisting them to solve issues bordering on their economic challenges, while teaching them his beliefs.
“In his method of recruitment, he stood in the gap, giving social services and helping young people.
“A young man whose parents are not wealthy and has gotten to the age of getting married and he hasn’t got the means to pay dowry and somebody helps him; that man becomes his mentor. So, poor economic conditions may have some measure of role to play in the festering of this phenomenon”, he said.
The provision of economic and social support by Boko Haram – which included providing meals and economic schemes, a youth empowerment programme, support for trading, as well as helping to arrange cheap marriages between sect members – has led some to ascribe the group’s growth to a failure of governance in Nigeria.
Mr. Ojewusi, however, noted that it would be too simplistic to attribute the growth of the sect to bad governance, as the issue of Boko Haram started way before the present administration, and looking at the history of terrorism, it was not new in Nigeria.
“What we are having is an offshoot of what has been from the beginning”, he noted.
While also admitting that Government indeed has a role to play, he explained that examining Boko Haram as an entity should not be done in isolation as it was not peculiar to Nigeria, being an international body. “You have to look at it from countries like Niger, Northern Cameroon, and Chad.
He stated that the escalation of the group in Nigeria showed that there was more than meet the eye and those underlying factors should be what Nigerians need to focus on, if they would find a solution to the menace.
The Legal Practitioner, John Oloyede, admitted generously.
“You cannot tell me that because America has had to contend with terrorism in Iraq is simply because the American Government does not know how to handle terrorism. Even the terrorists took the war to America and they had their way”, he said.
On the view that America differed from Nigeria in the sense that it was not dealing with home-grown terrorists owing to its higher economic standards, Oloyede disagreed, claiming that the situation in Nigeria was also not totally home-grown.
He argued further, “America has gone through the same situation we have now. You can take from history the case of Cuban refugees – those who were sympathetic towards the Cuban cause then. America was on fire, the Cubans were bombing all the places, the Government didn’t know what to do, it took like 10-15 years before they could nip that problem in the bud.”
Referring to an earlier statement by Dr Okupe that poor and unemployed people had become easy prey for the sect’s recruitment strategies, using the maxim “Devil finds work for an idle hand”, Mr Oloyede said: “Poor people cannot afford AK47; they can’t buy these arms and ammunition – anti aircraft guns – that we see, so they are not poor people, we need to clear that from our conscience, because Nigerians we are turning against one another – APC accusing PDP, PDP accusing APC.
“When Al-Qaeda struck America, the American people came together. These elements are using psychology, and we are doing exactly what they want us to do out of fear. We are blaming each other instead of us to see them as a common enemy and face them as such.
“We are blaming our military men that they are not doing the job, they are ill equipped, No. I don’t think President Jonathan or General Buhari is happy with what is happening; they just can’t do anything about it.”
The response and sensitivity of the Federal Government then came to the fore as Dr Okupe defended the President, stating that the case of America’s 9-11 attack should not be compared to Nigeria’s.
“For every attack that becomes visible and devastating, eight or nine have been stopped; but you know when an attack is foiled Government does not come to the air to talk about it.
Okupe, speaking on the demands of the sect, noted that their demands were clear on wanting full implementation of Sharia laws; he added that they also demanded that the Holy Quran becomes the guiding principles of the country amongst other requests which he said could be negotiated if the insurgents were truly representing Islam.
“Today we’ve got infiltration by actual crass criminals who are not really totally Nigerians complicated by political activists who also demand some other things. So it has become an appearance of incongruous gathering of people you cannot easily discern.”
He, however, stated that even as the country is at war with the Boko Haram sect, the Federal Government was working relentlessly to win the war but Nigerians need to understand that the war has been made difficult by the nations peculiar population and topography.