An Indonesian court sentenced an Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militant to 15 years in prison on Wednesday for his role in the 2002 bombings that killed more than 200 people on the resort island of Bali.
The blasts, which came just over a year after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, ripped through two bars packed with foreign tourists, and remain the deadliest militant assault in Indonesia’s history.
Zulkarnaen, a high-ranking member of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) militant group, was arrested in December 2020 after spending nearly 18 years at large. He was on trial for the Bali bombings, as well as several other attacks carried out by the special unit under his command.
He “is guilty of committing terrorism and is sentenced to 15 years behind bars”, said the presiding judge at East Jakarta District Court.
Indonesian prosecutors had said Zulkarnaen set up the special JI cell and described him as a “key asset” for the group because of his experience as a trainer at militant camps in Afghanistan and the Philippines.
During the trial, Zulkarnaen denied involvement in the Bali bombings but admitted that they were carried out by his team.
He told the court that JI operatives did not tell him about the attack in advance and that he was not involved in specific planning.
But the judges were not convinced.
“The fact that he was the head of the team and agreed on a plan in Bali… it could be considered agreeing to the plan,” the presiding judge said.
Egypt has for years been fighting a bitter insurgency in North Sinai that escalated after the army’s 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.
In February 2018, the army and police launched a nationwide operation against militants focused on North Sinai.
Around 1,073 suspected militants and dozens of security personnel have been killed since the start of operations, according to official figures.
Earlier this month, Egypt agreed with Israel to boost its troop numbers around the border town of Rafah in order to quell IS militants.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis fighters in Sinai were led by Hisham al-Ashmawy, an ex-special forces officer.
Ashmawy –- once dubbed Egypt’s “most wanted man” — split from the militants after they switched allegiance from Al-Qaeda to the Islamic State group.
In 2018, Ashmawy was captured in the eastern Libya city of Derna, and extradited to Cairo. He had been on trial with the 22 men sentenced on Thursday, but had already been found guilty, and was executed in March 2020.
Egypt, the most populous Arab country, recorded the third most executions in the world — behind China and Iran according to Amnesty International. In 2020, Egyptian authorities executed at least 107 people, Amnesty said.
Suspected militant leader Oyawerikumor Peregbabofa, also known as Karowei, who was declared wanted and accused of killing British Missionary Ian Squire, has surrendered himself to the Joint Task Force Operation Delta Safe.
JTF Commander Rear Admiral Suleiman Apochi told Channels Television that the suspect surrendered under a superior firepower during a JTF operation.
Though the commander did not give details of where the suspect was apprehended, he disclosed that the operation is still ongoing to ensure that all perpetrators are brought to book.
Peregbabofa and others allegedly abducted four British missionaries – David and Shirley Donovan, Ian Squire, and Alanna Carson, on October 13, 2017, at Enekorogha community in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State.
Three of those abducted regained their freedom afterwards, but Squire lost his life in the kidnappers’ den.
In the aftermath, Karo-Owei Pere Gbakumor, an indigene of Enekorogha community, was declared wanted and a bounty of N2million was announced for information leading to his arrest.
Islamic State ISIS militants claimed on Friday that a US female hostage, Kayla Muller, has been killed in a Jordan air strike in Syria.
Report says that the woman died during air strikes on Raqqa. Ms Mueller was working with Syrian refugees when she was kidnapped in 2013.
Jordan said it carried out aerial bombardments on ISIS targets in Syria on Thursday. The strikes were carried out in response to the killing of a Jordanian fighter pilot by ISIS militants.
The US state department said it could not confirm the reports, but “people are looking into them”.
A video of Moaz al-Kasasbeh being burned alive in a cage was posted online by ISIS earlier this week. He was captured by militants in December after his F-16 fighter jet crashed in Syria. The video is believed to have been filmed on 3 January.
Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said Thursday’s strikes were “the beginning of our retaliation” against ISIS. He also said, “We’re upping the ante. We’re going after them wherever they are, with everything that we have,” he said.
Thousands rallied in Jordan’s capital, Amman, on Friday morning in support of their government’s military response.
ISIS reported on Twitter that, “The criminal Crusader coalition aircraft bombarded a site outside the city of Ar-Raqqah today at noon while the people were performing the Friday prayer.
The report remains unconfirmed and a person close to the case, who has spoken to the hostage’s family, said her parents had not been notified by the White House or other official sources.
According to the ISIS site, a group that monitors online jihadi messages, the Islamic State reported on Twitter that Mueller, of Prescott, Ariz., “was killed when she was buried beneath the rubble of the building”.
Fierce fighting is on going between the Nigerian military, the Allied Forces and Boko Haram terrorists in the Mungulo Baga Area of Borno State, north east Nigeria.
Reports say that the militants relaunched attack in Dikwa, Baga and Mungulo in the early hours of Wednesday.
Eyewitness reports says the Allied Forces are repelling the militants, who have suffered very high casualty.
In the last few weeks, the terrorist made efforts to take over the 6th Battalion in the Nigerian Army in Maiduguri twice, but the military repelled both attacks.
While some Nigeria Army officers are being tried by a military court martial for allegedly fleeing while fighting the terrorists in Baga, some have been withdrawn to allow new faces fight the terrorists.
A Political Expert and Development Scientist, Tunji Ariyomi, has reiterated that insurgency in Nigeria is not primarily about religion but chiefly about power and politics.
Mr Ariyomi, who was a guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Wednesday, was also of the opinion that the abduction of the Chibok girls, as heinous as the crime is, is just a tiny bit of the huge tragedy that has befallen the nation as over 20,000 have, reportedly, died as at May 2014 as a result of insurgency.
“The Security situation is quite unfortunate but I have noticed a trend that we are looking at these issues as if they are isolated”, Ariyomi said.
“When Chibok happened people went haywire with the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaign but then Chibok is just a revelation in the events that have become more or less what we could call cumulative of tragedy over time.”
Looking at the issues holistically, Mr. Ariyomi said that if Nigeria must address the problem of insurgency, it would need to review its past efforts.
“I seriously believe there are quite a number of things that we have been doing that seem not to take into consideration the characteristics of the terror we are confronting before us and ahead of us.”
He explained that there was a huge difference between insurgency, especially when it is terror driven and agitations by aggrieved individuals who might resort into violence as witnessed in the country before now.
He gave examples of the Nigeria civil war and the militancy in the Niger Delta which were grievance driven and could lead to people being brought to the table to talk about their differences with a view of solving issues with common sense.
However, insurgency, he said, is a different ball game from that. “This is different and chiefly about terror where the first thing that gets out of the window is reason and the fact that it is not motivated by any equal opportunity.”
He stated further that a solution like the amnesty given to the Niger Delta militants would not work in the issue of insurgency as it is more driven by a different set of rule. Dialogue, according to Ariyomi, would not work as well as the insurgents are more or less faceless. Therefore if the issue would be addressed, consideration must be taken on the special characteristics that make the distinction of what he described as “Cumulative terror”.
The special characteristics that make insurgency distinct, according Mr. Ariyomi, is that it is ideology driven, he said that this was the insurgents’ potent weapon and it is not principally and chiefly religious even if it uses religion as a vehicle.
“It is primarily about power”, Mr Ariyomi declared, adding that the act of insurgency in Nigeria was to make President Jonathan look as if he had lost control of the nation. “I align myself with those who believe Jonathan is the primary target and one of the reasons is to make him look incompetent and make him look out of control. That is why poor people are targeted just to show that the country is ungovernable.”
He also expressed the opinion that Nigeria would be able to address the issues if the aforementioned characteristics could be understood as other countries that have confronted insurgency of the same magnitude before. “That is why every strategy must be holistic, very comprehensive and must have different components ranging from political component, technology component, economic component (and) even subtle propaganda.”
He insisted that the insurgency in the country had been enhanced by the colour of the Nigerian system as there was division in the land, stating categorically, “We are deluding ourselves that we are one; we are not one. We are not a united people”. He added that the traits and sentiments of disunity have also crept in into the military as some of them have been compromised such that people who ought be part of the military leak critical information to insurgents which gives them an edge over the military.
On the way forward, Ariyomi maintained his earlier stance that the fight against terror cannot just be all about the military, different components must be introduced as Nigeria needs a political strategy and propaganda strategy that would address issues and negative narratives relating to insurgency.
Pirates attacked a ship being used by an oil servicing company in waters off the Niger Delta Region on Saturday, killing two Nigerian Naval guards and kidnapping four foreigners, the Navy said. “The incident was somewhere around the Niger Delta, where an oil servicing company was attacked by gunmen. We lost two of our men and four expatriates were abducted, one Malaysian, one Iranian,” Navy spokesman Commodore Kabir Aliyu said.
He said a Thai and an Indonesian were also taken, but had no immediate further details.
Security in the Niger Delta region has improved since militant activity shut down nearly half of the country’s oil output around the middle of the last decade, thanks to an amnesty between various militant factions and the government.
But the situation remains volatile and inflamed by organised crime and local political rivalries.
Pirates in the Niger Delta usually release kidnapped crew members after their cargo has been looted, rather than held for ransom.
At least 100 of Boko Haram guerrillas on Monday seized control of the town of Gao in Northern Mali, news agencies reportedly quoted Abu Sidibe, a Local Deputy Governor in the country to have said.
“There are a good 100 Boko Haram fighters in Gao. They are Nigerians and from Niger,” Mr Sidibe was quoted to have said.
“They’re not hiding. Some are even able to speak in the local tongue, explaining that they are Boko Haram,” he added.
The news was confirmed also by the Bamako security forces.
Militants from Boko Haram “were in a majority among those who attacked the Algerian consulate” in Gao on Thursday, a Malian security official said, adding that “they had black skin”. Seven Algerian diplomats, including the consul, were taken hostage at the time.
Mali has been grappling with a separatist uprising in the north. It intensified after the coup by army officers on 22 March.
Seven people were killed today, including a girl of seven, in a new wave of attacks launched by the Boko Haram Islamic group.
In Dikwa, Yobe state, the terrorists killed a policeman, a civilian and a local politician during the night, as made known by the Nigerian army.
They attacked a police station, a bank, and a hotel but was forced back by the soldiers, as lieutenant-colonel Sagir Musa, the Joint Task Force of the Borno State spokesperson announced.
Three of the guerillas were killed, the others, though injured, managed to run away.
Here are some facts about Boko Haram
* Boko Haram became active in about 2003 and is concentrated mainly in the northern Nigerian states of Yobe, Kano, Bauchi, Borno and Kaduna.
* Boko Haram, which in the Hausa language of northern Nigeria means “Western education is sinful,” is loosely modelled on the Taliban movement in Afghanistan.
* The group considers all who do not follow its strict ideology as infidels, whether they be Christian or Muslim. It demands the adoption of sharia, or Islamic law, across Nigeria.
* Boko Haram followers have prayed in their own mosques in cities including Maiduguri, Kano and Sokoto, and wear long beards and red or black headscarves.
* The group published an ultimatum in January 2012 giving Christians three days to leave northern Nigeria. Since then, attacks in northeastern Nigeria have killed many and hundreds of Christians have fled to the south. President Goodluck Jonathan declared a state of emergency on Dec. 31 in an effort to contain the violence.
* Human Rights Watch said in January that the sect had killed at least 935 people since 2009.
* Jonathan said the violent sect had supporters within his own government and the insecurity the group had created was worse than during the civil war that broke out in 1967 and killed more than a million people.
* In a recent success, Nigeria arrested the purported spokesman for Boko Haram on Feb. 1, known as Abu Qaqa.
* Abu Qaqa, a shadowy figure and purported spokesman for Boko Haram said on March 20 it had “closed all possible doors of negotiation” with a government of “unbelievers” that it cannot trust, and called on Muslims to join the fight against it.
MAJOR ATTACKS BY BOKO HARAM:
* In its first attack in Jan. 2004, it attacked a town in Yobe State before being forced to withdraw by security forces.
* In July 2009, Boko Haram staged attacks in the northeastern city of Bauchi after the arrest of some of its members, and clashed with police and the army in Maiduguri. About 800 people were killed in five days of fighting in the two cities. Later that month, sect leader Mohammed Yusuf was captured by Nigerian security forces and shot dead in police detention hours later.
* In early July 2010, Abubakar Shekau, a former deputy leader of the sect who was thought to have been killed by police in 2009, appeared in a video and claimed leadership.
* On Aug. 26, 2011 a suicide bomber struck the U.N. building in Abuja. At least 23 people were killed and 76 wounded. Boko Haram claimed responsibility on Aug. 29, demanding the release of prisoners and an end to a security crackdown aimed at preventing more bombings. It was the first known suicide bombing in Nigeria.
* An attack on St. Theresa’s Catholic church in Madalla on Abuja’s outskirts during a packed Christmas mass, was the deadliest of a series of Christmas attacks on Nigerian churches and other targets by the sect. At least 37 people were killed.
* On Jan. 20, 2012 coordinated bomb and gun attacks on security forces in the northern city of Kano killed at least 186 people in the group’s most deadly attack.
* On Feb. 26 a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives into a church in Jos, killing two people. Reprisals soon followed and Christian youths killed at least 10 people in Jos days later.
* On Easter Sunday a bomber tried to drive a car packed with explosives into a church compound in northern Kaduna during an Easter Sunday service. However the car was stopped and the driver turned back. The bomb exploded by a large group of motorbike taxi riders, the police and witnesses said. At least 36 people were killed and 13 critically injured.
Armed Pirates opened fire on a Dutch cargo ship a few miles from Port Harcourt, kidnapping the ship’s master and an engineer and stealing cash, a security source and anti-piracy group AKE said on Wednesday.
An AKE statement said the ship, a “Dutch-owned, Curacao-flagged refrigerated cargo vessel”, was attacked on Tuesday around 4.10 p.m. (1510 GMT), the latest in a string of pirate attacks in the oil-exporting Gulf of Guinea.
“Eight armed men boarded and opened fire towards the bridge, stole cash and crew’s possessions, and kidnapped the master and chief engineer before escaping. A third crew member was left unaccounted for,” it said.
“It is likely the two crew members abducted will be held for ransom onshore.”
Pirates off the coast of Nigeria tend to raid ships for cash and cargo rather than hijacking the crews for ransom like their counterparts off the coast of Somalia, but onshore kidnapping is a major business in Nigeria, especially in oil producing coastal areas like Port Harcourt.
A security source working for an oil company in Port Harcourt gave the same details, adding that there were 14 crew on board. One crew member was injured, he added.
“Vessels in the area are advised to maintain strict watch rotas and exercise vigilance at all times,” AKE said, adding that 13 attacks had been recorded off West Africa in 2012 so far, seven of which occurred off Nigeria.
Pirates shot dead the captain and the chief engineer on a cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria on Feb. 13.