42 Mali Soldiers Killed In Suspected Jihadist Attacks

Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa and the eighth-largest country in Africa
Mali, officially the Republic of Mali, is a landlocked country in West Africa and the eighth-largest country in Africa

 

Forty-two Malian soldiers died in a sophisticated weekend attack by suspected jihadists using drones and artillery, authorities said Wednesday, the latest violent incident to rock the troubled Sahel country.

The toll is one of the bloodiest in Mali’s decade-long insurgency, which has spread from the north of the country to the centre and south and into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

A document naming the dead was authenticated to AFP by several senior military officials, while the government later confirmed the toll in a statement that said 22 soldiers were injured and 37 “terrorists” were neutralised.

The attack occurred on Sunday in the town of Tessit, in the troubled “three-border” region where the frontiers of the three nations converge.

On Monday, the army had said 17 soldiers and four civilians had died. Relatives of the victims, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that some of the civilians had been elected officials.

Monday’s statement pointed the finger of blame at the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), saying its members had deployed “drone and artillery support and (used) explosives and an explosives-laden vehicle”.

The last time Mali’s armed forces sustained such losses was in a string of attacks in the same region in late 2019 and early 2020.

Hundreds of soldiers were killed in assaults on nearly a dozen bases, typically carried out by highly mobile fighters on motorbikes.

The raids prompted the Malian, Nigerien and Burkinabe forces to fall back from forwarding bases and hunker down in better-defended locations.

In January 2020, France and its Sahel allies agreed on a push against the ISGS at a summit in Pau, southwestern France.

Several of its leaders were targeted and killed, including its founder, Abu Walid Al-Sahraoui, but local people say the group has continued to recruit and carry out its operations.

– Hotspot –

Tessit is one of the hotspots in the three-border area.

The ISGS is fighting for control of the strategic, gold-rich area against an Al-Qaeda-linked alliance, the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM).

In March 2021, 33 soldiers were killed in an ISGS-claimed ambush as units were being rotated, and in February this year, around 40 civilians — suspected by the ISGS of being in league with Al-Qaeda — were massacred.

Mobile phone connections to the area have been frequently cut over the last few years and physical access is hard, especially during the mid-year rainy season.

Thousands have fled Tessit to the nearest large town, Gao, which is located some 150 kilometres (90 miles) to the north.

Across the Sahel, the jihadist campaign has claimed thousands of lives and forced more than two million to flee their homes.

Sporadic cross-border attacks have also occurred in Ivory Coast, Togo and Benin to the south, amplifying fears of a jihadist push towards the Gulf of Guinea.

-AFP

Suspected Jihadists Kill 30 In Central Mali – Officials

The flag of Mali.

 

Suspected jihadists killed at least 30 civilians in an attack on a passenger vehicle in central Mali’s volatile Mopti, local officials said Saturday.

“The passengers were sprayed with bullets and the vehicle was torched,” during an attack by “terrorists” near the town of Bandiagara on Friday, the officials told AFP.

“The state has sent security forces to the scene,” they said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

An elected official in Bandiagara confirmed the death toll, saying the victims included women and children.

The attack has not been claimed by any of the numerous armed groups active in the West African country.

Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that first erupted in the north in 2012 and has since claimed thousands of military and civilian lives.

Despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops, the conflict has engulfed central Mali and spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Central Mali has become one of the most violent hotspots of the Sahel-wide conflict, where ethnic killings and attacks on government forces are frequent.

A military coup last year brought about after mass protest against the ongoing violence, has failed to stem the bloodshed.

Five Dead In Fresh DR Congo Attack By Presumed Jihadists

The flag of DR Congo

 

Suspected jihadists in eastern DR Congo killed at least five people and kidnapped a Red Cross volunteer in attacks on a village and an army camp, a priest and officials said Friday.

The attacks on Thursday evening were blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a group linked to the so-called Islamic State.

They took place near Komanda, 75 kilometres (45 miles) south of Bunia, the capital of volatile Ituri province.

Vaden Ngarayi, an Adventist preacher in Komanda, said three civilians had died and 11 houses were burnt down.

David Beiza, head of the Red Cross in Irumu territory where Komanda is located, confirmed those deaths and said two other bodies were later discovered in the bush.

He said several dozen people had disappeared, presumed kidnapped by the rebels.

But “10 children and eight elderly women were released,” he added.

He said a Red Cross volunteer, Berogan Udaga, was abducted.

“We called him, his phone rang and it was a rebel who answered and said: ‘your agent is with us and he will not be released because he will help us to treat our wounded’.

“Then they cut off the phone and it doesn’t work anymore.”

Ituri’s military governor, Johnny Luboya Nkashama, also told AFP five civilians had been killed.

The ADF, which the United States has deemed a terrorist group, is considered the deadliest of scores of armed militias that roam the mineral-rich eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

It first emerged as a rebel movement in neighbouring Uganda in 1996 but is today presented as the Islamic State’s Central Africa Province.

It has been accused of killing thousands of civilians since 2013.

An Oil Rich African Nation: Key Facts About Chad

Voters queue waiting for president Idriss Deby Itno to vote outside a polling station in N’djamena on April 11, 2021.  PHOTO: MARCO LONGARI / AFP

 

Chad is an oil-rich African nation that has become a key regional ally of the West in the fight against jihadists.

Veteran President Idriss Deby died from battle wounds sustained in the fight against rebels in the country’s north, the army said Tuesday, only a day after he was declared the winner of an April 11 election.

 

Here are key facts about the country:

 

– Landlocked –

Stretching from the Sahara desert of the inhospitable mountainous north bordering Libya to the fertile lowlands in the south, landlocked Chad is three times bigger than California in the United States.

Home to around 15 million people and scores of ethnic groups, just over half its population are Muslim with 35 per cent Christian and the rest animist.

 

– Multiple frontlines –

Chad faces military challenges on all of its borders.

In the west, in the region of Lake Chad, the army has been fighting the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram — which is allied to the Islamic State — since 2015.

Former colonial power France keeps troops in Chad and heads a multinational force based in N’Djamena since 2014 to combat Islamists across the Sahel region.

Chad is also a member of five-country regional military force battling jihadists that also includes Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria.

Eastern Chad, on the border with Sudan, has seen conflicts between different ethnic groups.

Northern Chad is also unstable, little populated and difficult to control. Several Chadian rebel groups have set up their base in neighbouring southern Libya.

Fresh fighting erupted in the region after elections this month, drawing in Deby who died from injuries sustained fighting rebels.

The army said it had killed more than 300 rebels and captured 150 more in eight days of fighting this month.

 

– War history –

Chad has seen a succession of coups and rebellions since independence in 1960. It was wracked by civil war for three decades and has been invaded several time by Libya.

Idriss Deby Itno took power in December 1990 after ousting Hissene Habre, whom he had served as army chief.

Habre, dubbed “Africa’s Pinochet”, was sentenced by a special African court to life in jail in 2017 for crimes against humanity. More than 40,000 people are thought to have been murdered during his rule.

 

– Oil-rich and poor –

In 2003 Chad began to export oil to an Atlantic terminal through a pipeline built across neighbouring Cameroon.

It suffered badly from the plunge in the price of crude in 2014.

It is ranked as one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world, with nearly two fifths of the population living below the internationally recognised poverty line.

AFP

Sophie Petronin: Son Hopeful Of Mother’s Release From Jihadist Captivity

Sebastien Chadaud
Sebastien Chadaud Petronin, the son of French hostage Sophie Petronin arrives in Bamako after reports of her imminent release, alongside a veteran Malian politician, on October 6, 2020 in Mali. (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

 

The son of a French aid worker taken hostage in Mali said on Wednesday he was still awaiting news about his mother after speculation intensified following the release of detained jihadists.

Hopes that 75-year-old Sophie Petronin and abducted Malian opposition leader Soumaila Cisse may soon be released surged at the weekend when security sources said Mali’s new government had freed scores of jihadists.

But Petronin’s son, Sebastien Chadaud, who flew to the Malian capital Bamako on Tuesday, said he had no information about this mother.

“Nothing yet,” he said in a brief message to AFP, adding that he did not know whether any release was underway or not.

Petronin was abducted by gunmen on December 24, 2016, in the northern city of Gao, where she worked for a children’s charity. She is the last French national held hostage in the world.

Cisse, a 70-year-old former opposition leader and three-time presidential candidate, was kidnapped on March 25 while campaigning in his home region of Niafounke ahead of legislative elections.

Anger at his abduction was a factor in a groundswell of protests against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was finally toppled by young army officers on August 18.

The junta has installed an interim president, Bah Ndaw, but made concessions to Mali’s neighbours demanding safeguards for a return to civilian rule.

Ndaw’s government is led by a civilian, with military men in key ministerial positions. Under a “charter” endorsed by the junta, the transition period will last for a maximum of 18 months.

Petronin and Cisse are believed to be held by an armed Islamist group linked to Al-Qaeda.

One of the world’s poorest and most unstable countries Mali is in the grip of an eight-year-old jihadist insurgency that began in the north, spread to the ethnically volatile centre and advanced into Burkina Faso and Niger.

Thousands of civilians and soldiers have been killed and hundreds of thousands of people have fled their homes.

The French and Malian governments have refused to comment on any exchange.

-AFP

Mali Frees Over 100 Jailed Jihadists

 

Mali has freed more than 100 suspected or convicted jihadists as part of negotiations for the release of a prominent Malian politician and a kidnapped French charity worker, sources close to the talks said Monday.

“As part of the negotiations to obtain the release of Soumaila Cisse and Sophie Petronin, more than one hundred jihadist prisoners were released this weekend,” one of those in charge of the negotiations, who asked not to be named, told AFP.

An official at the security services confirmed the information.

The prisoners were released in the central region of Niono and in Tessalit in the north after arriving by plane, the official said.

A lawmaker in Tessalit, who also requested anonymity, confirmed to AFP that “large numbers of jihadist prisoners” arrived there on Sunday.

Sophie Petronin, a French charity worker, was abducted by gunmen on December 24, 2016, in the northern city of Gao.

The last video in which she appeared was received in June 2018. She appeared tired and emaciated and appealed to French President Emmanuel Macron. In another video, in November 2018, in which she did not appear, her kidnappers said her health had deteriorated.

Soumaila Cisse is a former opposition leader and three-time presidential candidate. He was seized on March 25 while campaigning in his home region of Niafounke ahead of legislative elections.

Mali, supported by France and UN peacekeepers, is struggling with an eight-year-old Islamist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.

A military junta overthrew president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August, before taking over leadership of the West African nation

-AFP

Cameroon Soldiers Jailed 10 Years For Murder Of Four Civilians

Map of Cameroon

 

Four Cameroonian soldiers were sentenced on Monday to 10 years in prison for the execution-style killings of two women and their children in a region where the army is fighting jihadists.

A fifth soldier received a two-year sentence.

A video was broadcast on social media in July 2018 showing soldiers shooting two kneeling, blindfolded women as well as a baby on one of their backs and a girl.

The government initially denied the army’s involvement, dismissing the video as “fake news”.

But after Amnesty International provided credible evidence, the authorities announced that the seven soldiers seen in the video had been arrested and would be prosecuted.

Two were later acquitted.

The military court in the capital Yaounde handed down the murder verdict and sentences after the trial was adjourned several times.

The seven soldiers had pleaded not guilty nearly a year ago.

The killings took place in Zeleved, in Cameroon’s Far North region where troops have been deployed to fight Boko Haram jihadists carrying out cross-border attacks from Nigeria.

International human rights organisations regularly denounce abuses and crimes committed against civilians by security forces in Cameroon.

Three soldiers were charged with murder in June over a massacre earlier this year in western Cameroon, where security forces are fighting anglophone separatists.

AFP

Aid Group Says Five Nigerian Workers Abducted By ISWAP

 

Five humanitarian workers have been abducted by Islamist insurgents in the restive northeastern region, aid group Action Against Hunger said.

The Paris-based organisation said in a statement Tuesday that one of its employees was among those kidnapped last month.

“Action Against Hunger condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the abduction of our employee, Ishaiku Yakubu, and we urgently call for his release,” it said.

It said Yakubu was abducted in June by a non-state armed group along with four other humanitarian workers from different organisations.

The five, all Nigerians, have appeared in a video that surfaced this week on the Telegram messaging app.

In the footage — apparently shot on June 21 — they said they had been kidnapped by fighters aligned to the Islamic State group at different times last month and appealed to be released.

Aid workers have been repeatedly targeted by jihadists waging a decade-long insurgency in northeastern Nigeria.

Last year fighters from the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) faction abducted a group of six humanitarian workers — including a female ACF employee — in the region.

Five of the hostages were later executed and the ACF worker remains in captivity.

ISWAP splintered from the jihadist group Boko Haram in 2016 and swore allegiance to then IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The 10-year conflict in northeastern Nigeria has killed 36,000 people and displaced about two million from their homes in northeast Nigeria.

Aid groups provide a vital lifeline for some 7.9 million people who the United Nations says are in need of urgent assistance in the region.

Over 30 Killed In Eastern Burkina Faso Attack

PHOTO USED TO DEPICT THE STORY File photo of soldiers from the French Army holds detectors while searching for the presence of IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) during the Burkhane Operation in northern Burkina Faso. PHOTO: MICHELE CATTANI / AFP

 

Gunmen killed around 30 people at a livestock market in the eastern Burkina Faso town of Kompienbiga, local residents said Sunday, in an attack blamed by a security source on jihadists.

The assailants “burst into the market riding motorbikes and started shooting, especially at people who were trying to flee”, one resident said, estimating the death toll at around 30 from the attack on Saturday.

A second resident said: “It’s hard to say how many people were killed. There were bodies in the market, and others in the bush.”

But he added: “More than 30 bodies were collected” after the attack. He said his brother was at the market at the time and he had had “no news” from him since.

A local official put the death toll at “several dozen” including vendors and residents,  while a security source said “armed terrorists” carried out the attack, while declining to estimate how many were killed.

The attack came a day after a convoy of mainly shopkeepers escorted by a local self-defence unit came under fire in the north of the West African country, leaving 15 dead.

The bloodshed in Loroum province was also blamed on jihadists.

The east and north of the former French colony are the hardest hit by attacks by jihadists, who have killed more than 900 people and caused some 860,000 people to flee their homes in the past five years.

Burkina Faso’s armed forces are leading counter-terror operations with increasing frequency.

The impoverished Sahel country is part of a regional effort to battle an Islamist insurgency along with Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad.

Their militaries, under-equipped and poorly trained, are struggling despite help from France, which has 5,000 troops in the region.

Unrest in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger killed around 4,000 people last year, according to UN figures.

AFP

Burkina Faso Rocked By New Jihadist Massacre

A girl stands next to tents in a camp for internally displaced people in Barsalogho, on January 27, 2020. Barsalogho is a small town in northern Burkina Faso that hosts 10,000 displaced persons and refugees fleeing the resulting jihadist and inter-community violence.
Burkina Faso, which borders Mali and Niger, is facing jihadist attacks, which have killed more than 750 people since 2015. Under-equipped and poorly trained law enforcement agencies in Burkina Faso are unable to stop the spiral of violence. According to the United Nations, jihadist attacks in Mali, Niger, and Burkina have resulted in 4,000 deaths in 2019.
OLYMPIA DE MAISMONT / AFP

 

At least 10 men have been killed in a jihadist massacre at a village in Burkina Faso, which is in the grip of a years-long Islamist insurgency, security and local sources told AFP on Tuesday.

“We are talking of between 10 and 30 dead” in the assault, which targeted the village of Silgadji in northern Soum province, said a security official.

The attack was launched on Saturday and jihadists were still in the area on Monday, a resident in nearby Bourzanga town told AFP by phone, citing accounts from those who had fled.

“The terrorists surrounded the people at the village market, before separating them into two groups. The men were executed and the women were ordered to leave the village,” the source said.

The security source said: “Security teams are trying to get to the site but access to the village has probably been booby-trapped with homemade mines, and they are having to proceed carefully.”

 

– Hundreds killed –

Jihadist groups have killed almost 800 people in Burkina Faso and displaced 600,000 more since the start of 2015 when extremist violence began to spread from neighbouring Mali.

The attack comes on the heels of a massacre of 36 people at two villages in northern Sanmatenga province on January 20, prompting President Roch Marc Christian Kabore to declare two days of national mourning.

Located in the heart of the vast Sahel region on the southern fringe of the Sahara, Burkina Faso is one of the most impoverished countries in the world.

Its army is ill-equipped and poorly trained to deal with the threat although in recent months commanders claim to have killed roughly 100 jihadists.

The assaults typically entail fast-moving jihadists who arrive on motorbikes, attacking the market place.

There are 4,500 French troops deployed in the region, which are now backed by armed drones, as well as a 13,000-strong UN peacekeeping force in Mali.

They support the forces of the “G5 Sahel” anti-terror group — Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger.

The day after the attacks in Sanmatenga, the Burkina parliament adopted unanimously a law allowing for the recruitment of local volunteers in the fight against jihadists.

Volunteers aged over 18 will be given 14 days of military training, after which they will be given small arms and other communication equipment.

The recruits would be expected to conduct surveillance and provide information and protection for their communities in the event of an attack while waiting for security forces to deploy, according to Defence Minister Cheriff Sy.

According to UN figures, jihadist attacks in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger last year claimed around 4,000 lives.

Hundreds of thousands have fled their homes, sparking a humanitarian crisis.

AFP

 

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”.