39 Killed As Govt Forces, Jihadists Clash In Syria

 

 

 

A Syrian walks on the rubble of a building following a regime air strike on Ariha town in Syria’s last major opposition bastion of Idlib on January 15, 2020. Regime air strikes on Syria’s last major opposition bastion killed at least nine civilians Wednesday, striking bustling areas of Idlib city despite a fresh Russian-sponsored truce, a war monitor said.
Omar HAJ KADOUR / AFP

 

Intense fighting between pro-government forces and jihadist-led fighters in Syria’s Idlib province killed at least 39 fighters overnight, a war monitor said Thursday.

The violence, which saw air strikes, shelling and ground combat, further buried a ceasefire announced by Russia on Sunday in Idlib, the last major opposition bastion in the country.

Government and allied forces took two villages in their advance towards the key town of Maaret al-Numan, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

According to the Britain-based war monitor, the fighting flared late on Wednesday in areas south of Maaret al-Numan, the key target of the Syrian government’s latest military offensive.

At least 22 anti-government fighters were killed, most of them members of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, a group that includes fighters from the former Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

Seventeen government troops and allied militia were also killed in the fighting, said Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Observatory.

He added that government forces were now just seven kilometres (less than five miles) from Maaret al-Numan, a town that was one of the bastions of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

Nearly nine years into the conflict protests against the government are still held in some of the province’s towns.

In the city of Idlib itself, 18 civilians were killed in air strikes on Wednesday, shattering the truce brokered by Moscow and rebel backer Ankara.

The fighting has prompted hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes in recent weeks, exposing them to a harsh winter.

AFP

Somali Jihadists Kill Three Americans In Attack On Kenyan Military Base

 

Attackers breached heavy security at Camp Simba at dawn but were pushed back and four jihadists killed, said army spokesman Colonel Paul Njuguna.

The American military, however, said three US citizens died in the attack including a service member and two civilian defence contractors.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of our teammates who lost their lives today,” General Stephen Townsend, the head of US Africa Command (Africom), said in a statement.

Two other US Department of Defence personnel were wounded, the statement added, without giving further details.

Al-Shabaab has launched regular cross-border raids since Kenya sent troops into Somalia in 2011 as part of an African Union force protecting the internationally-backed government – which the jihadists have been trying to overthrow for more than a decade.

The Lamu region, which includes popular tourist beach destination Lamu Island, lies close to the Somali frontier and has suffered frequent attacks, often carried out with roadside bombs.

Njuguna said “an attempt was made to breach security at Manda Air Strip” at 5:30 am but it was repulsed.

“Four terrorists’ bodies have so far been found. The airstrip is safe,” he said, adding that a fire had broken out but had since been dealt with.

Kenya’s Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai said officers were “on high alert” after the attack.

Al-Shabaab ‘Lying’

An internal police report seen by AFP said two Cessna aircraft, two American helicopters and “multiple American vehicles” were destroyed at the airstrip.

Local government official Irungu Macharia said five people had been arrested near the camp and were being interrogated.

Shabaab claimed to have killed 17 Americans and nine Kenyan soldiers after the attack.

The nearby civilian airport at Manda Bay, which brings tourists visiting Lamu Island — a UNESCO World Heritage Site — was closed for several hours after the incident, according to the civil aviation authority.

Al-Shabaab said in a statement it had “successfully stormed the heavily fortified military base and have now taken effective control of part of the base”.

AFRICOM accused Al-Shabaab of lying in order to create false headlines.

Shabaab countered with a second statement, saying it had been a 10-hour firefight and mocking the US “inability to fend off an attack by just a handful of steadfast Muslim men”.

The group referred to an uptick in US military airstrikes under President Donald Trump, accusing the US of “strafing villages from above and indiscriminately bombarding innocent women and children.”

AFRICOM said in April it had killed more than 800 people in 110 strikes in Somalia since April 2017.

US Military Network

The Somali jihadists have staged several large-scale attacks inside Kenya in retaliation for Nairobi sending troops into Somalia as well as to target foreign interests.

The group has been fighting to overthrow an internationally-backed government in Mogadishu since 2006, staging regular attacks on government buildings, hotels, security checkpoints and military bases in the country

Despite years of costly efforts to fight Al-Shabaab, the group on December 28 managed to detonate a vehicle packed with explosives in Mogadishu, killing 81 people.

The spate of attacks highlights the group’s resilience and capacity to inflict mass casualties at home and in the region, despite losing control of major urban areas in Somalia.

In a November report, a UN panel of experts on Somalia noted an “unprecedented number” of homemade bombs and other attacks across the Kenya-Somalia border in June and July last year.

On Thursday, at least three people were killed when suspected Al-Shabaab gunmen ambushed a bus travelling in the area.

According to the Institute for Security Studies, the United States has 34 known military bases in Africa, from where it conducts “drone operations, training, military exercises, direct action and humanitarian activities”.

Jihadists Execute Four Hostages In Nigeria – NGO

 

French aid group, Action Against Hunger says Jihadists have executed four Nigerian hostages who had been held since July.

According to the group, the four were among six hostages held by the jihadists. It added that one of its staff and two drivers were among those killed.

“The armed group responsible for the kidnapping of humanitarian workers on July 18, have murdered four hostages,” Action Against Hunger said in a statement that did not identify the victims.

Another of the hostages was killed in September.

The French aid group said it is “extremely concerned and calls for the immediate release of its staff member, Grace, who remains in captivity.”

The six, an Action Against Hunger employee, two drivers and three health ministry personnel were kidnapped while delivering humanitarian aid to vulnerable people in Borno State.

Their driver was killed in the kidnap ambush carried out by militants believed to be members of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) group.

Jihadists aligned with the Islamic State group then released a video purporting to show the one female aid worker and five male colleagues who had been kidnapped in an attack in northeast Nigeria.

ISWAP is a splinter group of Boko Haram that swore allegiance in 2016 to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

It has repeatedly attacked military bases and previously targeted aid workers in northeast Nigeria.

“Action Against Hunger condemns these latest killings in the strongest terms and deeply regrets that its calls for the release of the hostages have not been acted upon,” the group said in its statement.

On Thursday ISWAP fighters militants killed 14 anti-jihadist militia and a police officer in northeast Nigeria, militia leaders told AFP Friday.

The militia was comprised of local hunters across the northeast along with the state-funded Civilian Joint Task Force, an armed vigilante group.

The decade-long Islamist insurgency has killed 35,000 people and displaced around two million from their homes in northeast Nigeria.

The violence has now spread to neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military coalition to fight the insurgents.

Action Against Hunger said it is currently providing food assistance every month to approximately 300,000 people in northeast Nigeria, as well helping thousands more with life-saving health and nutrition services.

Five Killed In Jihadist Attack On Somalia Army Base

Somali government soldiers on a Military vehicle are seen outside the SYL hotel in Mogadishu on December 11, 2019. An attack by members of the radical Islamic group Al Shabab against a hotel in downtown Mogadishu killed five people on December 10, 2019, including three civilians and two members of the security forces. PHOTO: Abdirazak Hussein FARAH / AFP

 

Four civilians and a soldier were killed when heavily-armed Somali jihadists attacked an army base north of the capital, military sources and witnesses said Thursday.

Witnesses said dozens of al-Shabaab members, arriving aboard four pickup trucks, took part in the attack late Wednesday on Hilweyne base 25 kilometres (15 miles) north of Mogadishu, while a soldier said there had been hundreds of assailants.

The jihadists, whose organisation is affiliated to Al-Qaeda, took over the camp for a while before pulling out.

“After (a) tactical retreat by the armed forces, the military is back to the camp now and the situation is under control,” said Mohamed Salad, a Somali military commander in the nearby town of Balcad.

“We have lost one soldier in the fighting, but the terrorists also killed four other civilians including two women who were running small businesses near the camp.”

Hussein Luqman, a witness, said: “There was heavy exchange of gunfire which continued for more than 30 minutes.

“The Shabab fighters… stormed the base after attacking from several directions using technicals,” Luqman said, referring to pickup trucks.

“Two women who used to sell food and other items to the soldiers in the camp were among the dead.”

Several other witnesses told AFP that they saw fire at the base after the attackers set some of the soldiers’ belongings and two trucks ablaze.

The Shabaab claimed the attack, saying they had killed four soldiers before overrunning the base.

The group was driven out of Mogadishu by government forces backed by 20,000 African Union peacekeepers in 2011.

But they still control large areas of the countryside, using it as a springboard for carrying attacks on government and civilian targets.

On December 10, three civilians and two members of the security forces were killed in a Shabaab attack on a Mogadishu hotel. All five assailants died, according to the police.

AFP

Ten Killed In Mozambique Jihadist Attack – Witnesses

 

Ten people were killed in an ambush attributed to jihadists in Mozambique’s far north, witnesses said Friday, the latest attack in a region where suspected Islamist extremists have waged a campaign of terror for two years.

Gunmen ambushed a truck near the village of Mbau in the northernmost Cabo Delgado province on Thursday, a witness told AFP.

“The vehicle was bogged down in a sandy road and suddenly unidentified people started shooting at us,” said a young businessman on condition of anonymity.

He said that 10 people had been killed, a death toll confirmed by a villager.

“The situation is deteriorating. People are leaving their villages” for the port city of Mocimboa, the villager told AFP.

He said the attacks had increased since the West African country’s contentious general election on October 15.

After torching the truck, the attackers looted nearby homes and stole food, according to both sources.

Since 2017 Cabo Delgado has suffered a wave of deadly attacks that has killed 300 civilians and forced tens of thousands to flee their homes.

The violence has been blamed on a shadowy jihadist organisation apparently intent on imposing Islamic Sharia law.

Little is known about the attackers, who are usually referred to Al-Shabaab, despite having no known link to the Somali jihadist group of the same name.

The government has deployed significant reinforcements to the province after the attacks delayed development of vast gas reserves discovered in 2010.

25 Soldiers Killed, 60 Missing In Mali Jihadist Attacks

 

Malian troops backed by foreign allies on Wednesday launched a hunt for scores of comrades listed as missing after one of the deadliest attacks in a seven-year-old jihadist insurgency.

At least 25 troops were killed after militants aboard heavily-armed vehicles raided two military camps at Boulkessy and Mondoro near the border with Burkina Faso, according to a provisional toll.

Fifteen jihadists, according to government figures, were killed in the raids, which began early Monday and were quelled more than a day later.

But around 60 soldiers are listed as missing — 78, according to a security source — with no details as to whether they have been killed or captured.

“Operations to secure the area are under way with Mali’s partners,” a Malian military source said.

“Our objective is to consolidate our presence in Boulkessy and to focus on soldiers of whom we are currently without news.”

Hundreds of angry youths and wives of soldiers demonstrated outside a military camp in the capital Bamako late Wednesday.

Some demonstrators burned tyres to block off the avenue.

“We came here because the government is not telling the truth about the number of dead,” a woman demonstrator told AFP.

“It’s our husbands, the red berets, who are at Boulkessy.”

“My father is a soldier, he’s at Boulkessy, and I haven’t any news of him,” said 15-year-old Ali Oumar Diakite. “They’re lying to us. The army is under-equipped.”

Blow

The losses are a crushing blow to Mali’s armed forces, which are flailing in the face of a jihadist revolt that has spread from the arid north to its centre, an ethnically mixed and volatile region.

The operation is also a humiliation for the so-called G5 Sahel force — a much-trumpeted initiative under which five countries decided to create a joint 5,000-man anti-terror force — and for France, which is committed to shoring up the fragile region.

The losses symbolise “the escalating activities of violent extremist groups (in the Sahel) with more and more ambitious targets,” said Baba Dakono of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), a think tank based in Senegal.

Only 13 soldiers emerged unscathed from the attacks, which were eventually subdued with the help of Malian special forces and foreign allies, including French warplanes.

The jihadists also made off with a large quantity of arms, ammunition and equipment — local media say about 20 vehicles were captured, including some mounted with machine-guns.

According to an army report seen by AFP, two army helicopters and about a dozen vehicles were burned in the attack on Boulkessy.

The camp there — which housed a Malian battalion that was part of the G5 Sahel — was destroyed.

The G5 Sahel secretariat said the assailants were members of Ansarul Islam, a jihadist group accused of multiple attacks in northern Burkina Faso.

Other sources were unable to confirm this.

Fragile Centre

Jihadists lost control of northern Mali after French military intervention, but regrouped to carry out hit-and-run raids and roadmine attacks — classic tactics by a mobile guerrilla force.

They have also moved on to the country’s central region, where they have inflamed long-standing resentments between ethnic groups, analysts say.

On March 17, the Malian army lost nearly 30 men in an attack on a camp in Dioura, also in the troubled central region.

That assault came on the heels of a massacre of 160 Fulani (also called Peul) villagers — a bloodbath that led to a military reshuffle and the government’s resignation.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has been pounding the drum for help for Sahel states, among the poorest in the world, in their struggle against the mobile, well-armed and ruthless jihadists.

On September 14, the West African regional group ECOWAS announced a billion-dollar plan to help fund the military operations of the nations involved. Full details will be presented at a summit in December.

Twin Attacks Kill At Least 20 Police Officers In Yemen

Yemeni security forces gather at the scene of a missile attack on a military camp west of Yemen’s government-held second city Aden, on August 1, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

 

Two separate attacks killed at least 20 police officers in Yemen’s government-held second city Aden Thursday, one by Shiite rebels and the other by jihadists, security and medical sources said.

Civilians were among scores of people wounded in the two attacks which targeted the United Arab Emirates-backed police and shattered a year of relative calm in the southern port city.

The first attack was a suicide car bombing carried out by jihadists on a police station, which killed three officers and wounded at least 20 others, including civilians, a security source said.

The second attack was carried out by the Huthi rebels, who used a drone and a ballistic missile to target a parade in a police camp west of Aden and killed 17 officers and wounded scores more, medical sources and the rebels said.

The suicide bombing targeted policemen who were gathering early in the morning at the entrance of a police station in Aden’s Sheikh Othman area.

“Tens of wounded were hospitalised at Aden surgical hospital after an explosion in the surrounding area,” Doctors Without Borders said on Twitter.

The Huthi rebels said the attack on Al-Jala Camp, about 20 kilometres (13 miles) west of Aden, was carried out with a drone and a ballistic missile.

Aden is controlled by the Yemeni government and its supporters in a Saudi-led coalition, who have been fighting the Huthi rebels since 2015.

But it also hosts Sunni extremists of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group, who have claimed a number of attacks in the city in recent years.

In February last year, twin suicide bombings claimed by IS hit a base of an Aden counter-terrorism unit, killing five people, including a child.

Five months later, two people were killed when an attacker blew himself in the city.

The government established its headquarters in Aden after the rebels forced it out of the capital Sanaa in 2015.

In January last year, the city was rocked by deadly clashes that saw southern separatists seize much of it from other pro-government forces.

A former British colony and protectorate, South Yemen was an independent country until it merged with the north in 1990.

The two sides fought a devastating civil war four years later that culminated in northern forces occupying the south. sowing grievances that persist to this day.

The UAE is a key partner in the Saudi-led coalition which has enforced an air and sea blockade on rebel-held areas and carried out a controversial bombing campaign that has exacted a heavy civilian death toll.

In recent months, the rebels have hit back with missile and drone attacks targeting neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Several rounds of UN-brokered talks, including an accord reached in Stockholm in December, have failed to end the fighting.

The conflict has killed or wounded tens of thousands of people and resulted in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.

An estimated 24 million Yemenis — more than 80 percent of the population — depend on some form of humanitarian assistance for survival, UN agencies say.

AFP

Armed Men Kill 14 In Burkina Faso Village Raid

Burkina Faso on the map.

 

Armed men described as jihadists raided a village in Burkina Faso’s restive north, killing 14 people, plundering and burning shops and motorbikes, local and security sources said Saturday.

The raid took place on the night of Thursday to Friday with “around 20 individuals attacking the village of Diblou and killing 14 people,” a security source said.

“The terrorists burnt shops and motorcycles. Almost the entire market was looted,” a local resident said.

“Almost all the inhabitants fled to neighbouring areas.”

READ ALSO: Tunisia Mourns, Advances Polls After Death Of President

The poor Sahel state has been battling a rising wave of jihadist attacks over the last four years which began in the north but have since spread to the east, near the border with Togo and Benin.

Most attacks in the former French colony are attributed to the jihadist group Ansarul Islam, which emerged near the Mali border in December 2016, and to the JNIM (Group to Support Islam and Muslims), which has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Those groups are believed to be responsible for around 500 deaths since 2015. The capital of Ouagadougou has been attacked three times.

AFP

Six Killed As Jihadists Attack Burkina Faso School

 

Armed jihadists attacked a village school in eastern Burkina Faso, killing five teachers and a municipal worker, officials said Saturday. 

Burkina Faso, a former French colony, has seen a surge in attacks blamed on radical Islamist groups — mainly the Ansarul Islam group and the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) — in the last four years.

The latest attack happened on Friday evening at Maitaougou village in the Koulpelogo province, which has been targeted by extremists.

“Jihadists led an incursion into Maitaougou village… and killed five teachers,” a security source said.

“Four teachers died instantly in the attack, which took place at around 5:00 pm in the heart of the school, while a fifth succumbed to his injuries a few hours later.”

READ ALSO: Six Children, Nine Others Killed In Sri Lanka Raid – Police

A municipal worker was also killed in the same area, several sources said.

Burkinabe President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said he firmly condemned “this cowardly and ignoble killing” and vowed to track down the perpetrators.

The attacks were initially concentrated in the north of the country, but then the capital Ouagadougou and other regions were targeted. Since 2015, about 350 people have died in the violence, according to an AFP count.

AFP

30 Jihadists ‘Killed Or Captured’ In Raids Near Burkina Faso – French Military

Burkina Faso on the map.

 

French and Malian troops killed or captured more than 30 extremists and dismantled a jihadist training camp during a major counter-terrorism operation near Mali’s border with Burkina Faso, the French military told AFP on Friday.

“Over 30 members of armed terrorist groups were neutralised,” the military said, a term meaning that they were killed or captured.

A French military doctor was also killed during the operation, the military previously reported.

The operation was launched in late March in Gourma, a crossroads region in Mali’s central belt that flanks the border with Burkina Faso.

The doctor was killed when his vehicle hit a mine, bringing to 24 the number of French defence force members killed in counter-terrorism operations in the region since 2013.

Some 4,500 French troops are deployed in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad to help local forces try to flush out jihadist groups, six years after France helped chase al-Qaeda fundamentalists out of northern Mali.

The Gourma area is a haven for armed groups who hide in the forests along the border with Burkina Faso to the south, including a group suspected of carrying out several cross-border attacks.

Around 700 French troops and 150 Malian troops were deployed in the air and ground operation to try to destroy their bases.

On the other side of the border Burkina Faso had deployed troops “to prevent any attempt by the enemy to escape towards the south of the zone,” French military spokesman Patrik Steiger said.

The operation first targeted the Foulsare forest in the southwest of Gao province, where the troops found “a logistical base” containing rocket launchers and other weaponry, the military said.

No jihadists were killed in that offensive, the defence forces said.

The second phase of the operation, which caused the losses on the jihadists’ side, targeted several sites including a training camp in the Serma forest.

A pick-up truck, a dozen motorbikes and arms and ammunition, including large amounts of material used to make roadside bombs were seized, the military said.

AFP

Europeans Reject Trump’s Call To Repatriate Syria Jihadists

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting to “discuss fighting human trafficking on the southern border”/ Reuters

 

European officials on Monday gave a cold shoulder to a call by US President Donald Trump to take back citizens captured in the fight against Islamic State jihadists in Syria for prosecution back home.

Concerns rose about the fate of European nationals now being held by Kurdish forces after Trump shocked his coalition allies in December by announcing the withdrawal of American troops from Syria.

Officials worry the Kurds will no longer be able to ensure the captives’ detention, especially if their longtime foe Turkey mounted an assault on Kurdish fighters to keep them from establishing control in Syrian cities.

Trump tweeted on Sunday that Washington was “asking Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial”.

But EU nations say any captured fighters and their family members should be prosecuted for alleged crimes where they occurred.

That would mean in Syria or Iraq, now that coalition forces are wresting the last pockets of Syrian territory from IS control.

In London, Prime Minister Theresa May’s spokesman said the IS foreign fighters should be tried where they are captured.

“Foreign fighters should be brought to justice in accordance with due legal process in the most appropriate jurisdiction,” the spokesman said.

“Where possible, this should be in the region where the crimes had been committed,” he added.

In Berlin, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told ARD television it would be “extremely difficult” to organise the fighters’ repatriation and eventual prosecution.

A return could be possible only if “we can guarantee that these people can be immediately sent here to appear in court and that they will be detained,” he said.

– ‘Not changing our policy’ –
In France, which accounts for the largest number of European jihadists in Syria, Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet said the government would stick to its current policy of dealing with fighters on a case-by-case basis.

Speaking on France 2 television, she acknowledged that the withdrawal of US troops from Syria would bring about a “new geopolitical situation… but at this stage we’re not changing our policy”.

France has long refused to take back fighters and their wives, of whom 150 are thought to be in Syria, with Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian referring to them as “enemies” of the nation.

But the US allies have been grappling for weeks with what to do with foreign fighters detained in the war-ravaged country by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which have led the battle on the ground against the jihadists.

The Kurds have warned the West that they lack the resources to ensure the foreign jihadists in their jails don’t escape, and have urged their home countries to take them back.

The issue has gained new urgency with the Islamic State’s former “caliphate” now almost completely destroyed.

Last week Shamima Begum, a London school girl who joined IS in 2015, resurfaced in a Syrian refugee camp, saying she wanted to return to raise a baby she gave birth to while abroad.

UK security officials said they could not block Begum’s return since she had never been convicted of any crimes, but they did not rule out prosecuting her upon her arrival.

In Belgium, a judge on Wednesday ordered officials to organise the return of six Belgian children and their mothers from a Syrian refugee camp overseen by Kurdish forces.

The children, aged six or under, were born to suspected jihadist fighters and Brussels had resisted calls for their repatriation.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told reporters his government had always intended to bring back children under 10 whenever possible, while others would be dealt with on a “case by case” basis.

European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini ruled out any EU involvement in the disputes, saying they are a matter for national governments.

Belgian, German, and British officials also called for further international concertation on the issue.

Seven Jihadists Killed, Others Injured In Egyptian Attack

 

Egypt’s army said Saturday seven suspected jihadists were “eliminated” and 15 soldiers killed or wounded in an attack in the Sinai Peninsula, where the military is fighting the Islamic State group.

Security forces responded to the attack on a checkpoint in restive North Sinai with an “exchange of fire”, army spokesman Tamer el-Refai said in a statement.

“An officer and 14 non-commissioned soldiers were killed or wounded,” he added, without giving a precise number for the dead.

Medical sources in North Sinai told AFP that 11 soldiers were killed in the attack.

Security forces would continue to pursue “the terrorist elements to eliminate them”, El-Refai added.

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Egypt often announces that jihadists have been killed in military operations, but statements that security forces have suffered significant losses are very rare.

Since the army’s overthrow of elected Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013, hundreds of soldiers and police have been killed in attacks by extremist groups.

Civilians have also been targeted in jihadist attacks, particularly members of Egypt’s minority Coptic Christian community.

Egypt’s army launched an offensive a year ago dubbed “Sinai 2018” on the orders of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, after a jihadist attack in North Sinai killed more than 300 people at a mosque.

The army says that more than 550 suspected jihadists have been killed in the offensive — which has also targeted militants elsewhere in Egypt — at the cost of more than 30 soldiers.

But no independent statistics are available and the North Sinai is largely cut off to media and foreigners.

AFP