Source Says Qatar Seeks To Free U.S Hostages In Syria

Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-AttiyahQatar is working to help free four Americans held hostage in Syria by various armed groups, a Gulf source familiar with the matter said on Monday.

This comes a day after the Gulf Arab state’s diplomacy helped free a journalist held since 2012.

The source declined to name the four or provide details, and Reuters could not independently verify the assertion, but his account was broadly supported by other sources.

The reported initiative by Qatar coincides with an effort by the tiny state to rebut accusations by some of its Arab neighbours and Western politicians that it supports the most anti-Western militant armed groups in Iraq and Syria. Those allegations followed months of criticism by human rights groups over its treatment of Asian guest workers and charges – denied by Doha – of corruption in its successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup.

The wealthy country, which does back some rebel factions fighting to oust Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, has mediated the release of foreign and Syrian captives on several occasions in the course of Syria’s three-year-old civil war.

Its latest foray into hostage diplomacy brought Sunday’s release of Peter Theo Curtis, an American held for nearly two years by al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of al Qaeda.

“Four other Americans who have gone missing in Syria have now been located, and Qatar is working to free them,” the Gulf source told Reuters on condition of anonymity. He said the hostages were being held by “various groups” but declined to give details.

Qatar’s foreign ministry declined to comment.

A Doha-based source close to the Qatari Government said without elaborating that Washington was working with Qatar to try to free a number of U.S. hostages in Syria.

A rebel commander in Syria reached by Skype from Beirut told Reuters that Qatar was continuously trying to secure the release of captives of all nationalities.

Under a policy of international self-promotion, Qatar has for years also played peace broker in disputes from Somalia to Lebanon, and has irritated conservative neighbors by supporting Arab Spring revolts and bankrolling Islamist influence.

Qatar this week argued its aims in the region were peaceful and humanitarian, issuing a statement condemning what it called Foley’s “barbaric” murder.

Qatari Foreign Minister, Khaled al-Attiyah, said earlier this year his country’s mediation had secured the release in March of 13 Greek Orthodox nuns after more than three months of being held by Islamist fighters. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights identified the rebels who took the nuns as the Nusra Front.

Before that, Qatar helped win the release of 11 Lebanese Shi’ites in October 2013 after 17 months in captivity in Syria.

NFF President Commends Super Sand Eagles

President of Nigeria Football Federation, Aminu Maigari has commended the coaching crew and players of the Beach Soccer National Team, otherwise known as Super Sand Eagles, following the team’s 3rd straight triumph in the COPA Lagos International Invitational Beach Soccer Tournament.

The high-flying Nigerian squad dismantled African champions Senegal 4-2 in the final match played at the Eko Atlantic City on Sunday, to win the trophy for keeps, and Maigari poured encomiums on the boys while receiving the trophy in his office on Tuesday.

“I truly and sincerely commend the Super Sand Eagles for their consistency in doing Nigeria proud. This is the third time they are winning the trophy and this makes it the 10th trophy that the present NFF administration has won for Nigeria.

“I congratulate the players and their officials, and pledge that the NFF will continue to support all our National Teams, including the Super Sand Eagles, to do Nigeria proud in international championships.”

Sunday’s triumph followed similar spectacular results in previous years, which saw the Super Sand Eagles decimate world power Brazil 9-4 to clinch the inaugural edition in December 2011 and edge a very strong Portuguese team 8-7, after a fascinating final on December 16, 2012.

In 2011, the Nigerian boys, quarter-finalists at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Ravenna, Italy prevailed over South Africa and England before overwhelming Brazil, and last year, were too strong for Lebanon and Argentina before Portugal also chewed sand at the same venue.

This year, Coach Adamu Audu Ejo and his boys blew Germany off the sands 7-1 before edging out Lebanon and prevailing over African champions Senegal.

JTF Discovers More Weapons In Hezbollah Suspect’s Residence In Kano

Joint security forces in Kano state, north-west Nigeria says it has discovered another cooler buried under a wardrobe at the same Lebanese house at No. 3 Gaya Road, where a large quantity of arms and ammunition were recovered last week suspected to be that of Hezbollah Terrorists organization.

A press statement by the JTF spokesperson, Captain Ikedichi Iweha, said the cooler contained 80 indicators, 5 PPK pistols, 334 rounds of 7.62mm special, 9 magazines, 4 pistol silencers, hand grenades caps, 4 explosive fuses and 2 explosive device.

Iweha stressed that while the house was under 24 hour JTF surveillance, the military will continue to count on the support and cooperation of the good people of Kano state.

“In the effective discharge of our duty, we want to assure you of our utmost commitment in ensuring that peace and atmosphere suitable for business continue to prevail.”

Meanwhile, all effort to speak with Mr. Taher, the owner of the house and owner of the Taher Guest Palace in Kano was not successful as he told Channels Television that he has been advised on not talk to the press.

For now, Mr. Taher appeared free but probably under surveillance by security operatives.

Former State Security Boss Calls For Support From Nigerians In Fighting Terrorism

A former Director of the Department of State Security (DSS), Mike Ejiofor has called on all Nigerians to co-operate with the security agencies in the country in stamping out terrorism.

Speaking as a guest on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Mr Ejiofor said it was with the information provided by the resident of Kano, Northwest Nigeria, that security operatives were able to uncover an illegal armory with links to Hezbollah terrorist organization.

A combined force of the Nigerian military, the Police and the DSS had on Thursday uncovered an armory suspected to be that of Hezbollah organization in Kano.

The army also arrested four persons suspected to be the occupants of the house.

Mr Ejiofor said one of the problems Nigeria face is its porous borders.

“One of the greatest challenges we have is our porous borders. Our borders are so wide. The Minister of Interior told us sometimes that we have over 1, 497 illegal routes and this is not good for us,” he said.

He advocated that the agencies responsible for controlling the nation’s borders – the Nigerian Customs Services and the Nigerian Immigration Services –should be strengthened and encouraged by making formation available to them.

He said, “There is no way those weapons could have come in without the collaborations of some unscrupulous Nigerians. So we need to be vigilant; we are facing an international war and we must rise up to the challenges.”

Decisive Action

With the uncovering of a Lebanese terror group, Hezbollah in Nigeria, Mr Ejiofor said the Federal Government should rather than taking a hurried action against Lebanon, open a diplomatic channel with the country.

“In International diplomacy, you don’t just rush into issues like that but I was pleasantly surprised by the action taken by the government for security forces to have filled the premises of the terrorist suspects.

“I think a diplomatic channel should be opened between Nigeria and Lebanon alongside with Iran because Iran has been indicted two or three times now on this very terrorist act. I think Nigeria should take decisive action towards Iran,” Mr Ejiofor said.

NFF Puts Soccer Beach League In view

Football Federation Body of Nigeria; the Nigeria Football Federation is looking to start a beach soccer league  from next year to further promote game amongst Nigerian footballers so as to properly development the game and its potential players for future competitions.

This was revealed by the Technical Director of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF); Dr Emmanuel Ikpeme, after Sunday’s successful title defence of the Super sand Eagles as they beat Portugal 8-7 at the Copa Lagos Beach Soccer Worldwide.

Nigeria’s beach soccer players have always been drawn from 11-a-side football and they have featured in FIFA, CAF and invitational tournaments.

Nigeria’s Super sand Eagles have won the CAF Beach Soccer Championship twice in 2007 and 2009, and have reached the last eight of the Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup twice in 2007 and 2011 and these has been achieved with the absence of a beach soccer league.

Ikpeme said that plans are on-going to kick-start the beach soccer league for 2013.

Ikpeme who couldn’t hide his excitement yesterday added that the league will probably kick-off in the third or second quarter of 2013.

“I’m happy with the performance of the team. There are plans by the football federation to start a beach soccer league. It has been in the plan for some time but the logistics are being tied up.

“But I cannot assure you that the league will start early next year, I mean in the first quarter of next year. However, the beach soccer league should commence at the earliest in the second or third quarter of next year,” he concluded.

Sand Eagles Retain Copa Lagos Title

Nigeria’s Super Sand Eagles yesterday retained the Copa Lagos Beach Soccer Championship title as they maintained a 100 per cent unbeaten run.

Portugal was the Eagles final opponent of this year’s edition of the championship which was held at the beach stadium of the Eko hotel as the Seleccao das Quinas were beaten 8-7 after playing a fulltime of three periods at 7-7, and a clinical finish was achieved by the Eagles to emerge winners once again.

The Super sand eagles also recorded a sweet than ever journey to the finals of the championship as they cruised all the way there with unbeaten record as they won all three of their games at the four-team invitational tournament in Lagos, beating Lebanon 7-6 and Argentina 5-0 on Friday and Saturday respectively.

Yesterday final started on a least expected mode for Portugal was hit b a quick move from the Sand Eagles which Bartholomew Ibenegbu happened to be the finisher but was unfortunate because the referee blew for an infringement, even though his effort found the back of Portugal’s net.

But two minutes to the end of the first period, Ogbonnaya Okemmiri caught Portugal goalkeeper, Paulo Graca out of position to give Nigeria a 1-0 lead from a defensive challenge.

In retaliation to the Eagles goal Jose Maria scored twice via two overhead kicks to hand Portugal a 2-1 lead in the space of two minutes, but thanks Kwara United striker, Abu Azeez who did all to make the score even as that only lasted a while because Bruno Torres’ low free kick from almost the halfway put Portugal ahead of the Sand Eagles again to be 3-2.

A minute to end the first period, Portugal showed they were on fire as  a Rui Coimbra move dazzled the Eagles and  slipped the ball into a corner as Eagles goalkeeper watched the ball helplessly going into the net to make it  a 4-2 lead for Portugal.

With so much firepower taken into second period, Portugal were full of brace as Marinho Dante, Jordan and Bruno Novo pounded the Eagles to put the scores at 7-3 to nudge Portugal ahead with three goals

Three minutes to end the second period, Ibenegbu picked out Olawale on the left and he expertly side-stepped the ball past Carlos to cut down Portugal’s lead to three.

In the space of ten seconds, Nigeria closed the gap to two goals as Tale scored with over a minute left in the period off a corner kick to put the score at 5-7.

And the third period began on breakneck speed with Azeez netting his fifth goal of Copa Lagos to become the leading scorer.

Four minutes to the final period, Coimbra’s short pass led to Graca upending Badmus Babatunde, who calmly converted the resultant spot kick to put the game at 7-7 to send the game into extra time and in extra time, Ibenegbu put the icing on the cake as Nigeria went 8-7 up.

Copa Lagos: Supersand Eagles On A Jolly Ride

Nigeria’s representative in the Copa Lagos presently going on; the Supersand Eagles are sure on a jolly ride towards the lifting of the Copa title as pounced on Argentina slashing the South America country on sand 5-0 at the Copa Beach Soccer Worldwide at the Eko Atlantic Beach Soccer Stadium today.

Four seconds into the game, Victor Tale opened scoring for the Eagles thanks to a deflection and Nigeria was 1 ahead and it should not come as a surprise that Tale’s goal so far has been recorded as the fastest goal of the four-team tournament  and he will be hoping no goal comes faster than his.

On the whole, the game between the Supersand eagles and Argentina was a one-way game Tale became a thorn in the flesh of Hector Petrasso’s team as they couldn’t keep the striker at bay.

Tale continued his damaging moves including an overhead kick from close range as he was just too much for the South American to hold down with several scoring occasions.

Kwara United new boy Abu Azeez braced to second tale’s effort to put Nigeria 2-0 with an astonishing side-foot past Argentina goalkeeper, Cesar Mendoza, thanks to a solo effort of space creation.

Nigeria proved stronger of the two teams in the second period in spite of Christian Cuevas’ spirited attempts to help the South Americans back in the game.

Supersand Eagles’ captain, Isiaka Olawale made it 3-0 for the Supersand Eagles after the combination of the Hilaire brothers, Santiago and Ezequiel failed to produce a goal at the other end seconds earlier.

To make 4-0 for the Supersand Eagles, a thumping free kick from Emmanuel Ewhoferia’s shot caught goalkeeper Mendoza napping.

And towards the end of the second half of the game, the combination of In the Mendoza and Ezequiel couldn’t stop the fifth goal as they attempted to stop Ikechukwu Ibenegbu’s effort, though Ogbonnaya Okemmiri’s screamer carried the day for the Supersand Eagles as the shot hugged the top corner of goalkeeper Mendoza’s goalpost as he watched the ball go in helplessly.

With this result, the Supersand Eagles are sure ahead of Lebanon and Portugal with three points, as they are on top of the Copa Lagos with six points.

At least 50 Nigerians evacuated from Syria- Ashiru

About 50 Nigerian s have been evacuated from Syria following the ongoing crises in the country, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Olugbega Ashiru said on Monday.

Mr Ashiru said that the evacuees complied with government’s directive to leave Syria and he advised others to vacate the Middle East nation.

“We have evacuated quite a lot of Nigerians from Syria. It was not an airlift exercise like we did in the case of Libya because they are very few.

“From the report I got, those moved so far are less than 50, long before the situation deteriorated we advised them to move.

“Some have decided to stay behind but it is their choice,” he said.

The minister also said that the families of the Charge d’Affairs and officials at the embassy had been relocated to the neighbouring nation of Lebanon “and they are very safe there.”

March 15, 2011 marked the beginning of the crisis in the troubled Middle Eastern nation, with public demonstrations as part of the wider Arab spring and developed into a nationwide uprising.

Pope appoints Nigerian archbishop into vatican position

Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Lebanese and Nigerian clergymen to a Vatican department aimed at countering growing secularisation in a sign of attention to two problematic regions for the Catholic Church.

The Vatican said the Archbishop of Beirut of the Maronites, Paul Youssef Matar, and the Archbishop of Jos, Ignatius Ayau Kaigama, would be joining the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.

Despite the raging conflict in Syria, which has also raised tensions within Lebanon, the pope is expected to visit Beirut on September 14-16 with a message calling for peaceful coexistence between religions in the region.

Thousands of people have been killed in Jos in recent years in clashes between the Christian and Muslim communities including a suicide attack on a Catholic church in March in which a dozen people were killed.

Benedict created the pontifical council for new evangelisation in 2010.


Gunmen kidnap Lebanese business man in Edo State

Police officials on Thursday confirmed that gunmen have kidnapped a Lebanese businessman in Edo state, the second abduction in one week.

State police spokesman Etim Bassey confirmed that the kidnapping had taken place “on March 20 in Auchi by some unidentified gunmen who scaled the fences of his house and took him away”.

The spokesman said the culprits were yet to make any demands, adding that the man in question was a private business owner.

His kidnapping is one of a rash of recent abductions that have spread through Nigeria’s oil-producing regions in recent months.

Recently, Al Qaeda’s north Africa branch said it was holding another German engineer who had been kidnapped in Nigeria two months ago.

According to a Mauritania news agency, Al Qaeda in Maghreb (AQIM) said it was willing to negotiate the release of the captive with that of a jailed Muslim woman.

“We inform you that your compatriot Edgar Fritz Raupach is a prisoner of fighters from AQIM,” the group said in a statement published by the ANI agency.

The group demanded in the statement that the woman, Felis Lowitz, a recent Islam convert who now goes by the name Um Seiv Al-Islam Al-Ansariya, be released from her detention in Germany where they claim she is being tortured.

According to AFP reports, a video obtained by the ANI news agency showed Raupach, surrounded by masked gunmen with his hands tied behind his back.

In the video, Raupach, an engineer, called on his “parents, friends and German public opinion” to convince Berlin to “bring an end to the torture of our Muslim sister”, adding that his life depended on her freedom.

AQIM warned against any heroic rescue efforts, adding that his fate would be the same as that of Italian engineer Franco Lamolinara and British colleague Chris McManus, who were killed earlier this month during a failed rescue bid by British and Nigerian forces.

Germany confirmed Raupach, who was kidnapped on 25 January, is a citizen and construction company Bilfinger Berger has said he is one of their employees.