CHANNELS BOOK CLUB Reviews Max Siollun’s ‘Soldiers Of Fortune’

On this week’s episode of The Channels Book Club, two professionals: Uzoma Akuchie and Yomi Fawehinmi join Max Siollun in a Google Hangout chat to review his phenomenal book, ‘Soldiers of Fortune’.

Tribute To Kofi Awoonor

Also, celebrated poet, Efe Paul Azoni honours the late Ghanian poet and author, Professor Koffi Awoonor who was killed in the Westgate terrorist attack in Nairobi, Kenya.

Briton Arrested In Nairobi After Mall Siege

A British national has been arrested in Nairobi following the mall siege that killed at least 67 people, the Foreign Office in London said on Wednesday.

According to the Daily Mail newspaper, a 35-year-old Briton of Somali origin was arrested at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta airport as he attempted to leave Kenya on a Turkish Airlines flight.

A Foreign Office spokesman declined to comment on the report, saying only that the British authorities were aware of the arrest of a Briton in the Kenyan capital and stood ready to provide consular assistance.

A Kenyan anti-terrorism police unit source also told Reuters that a British citizen of Somali origin was detained after he missed his flight at the Nairobi airport, and was now being questioned. He gave no more details.

The Daily Mail said the man had attracted attention at the airport because he had bruising to his face, was wearing dark glasses and was behaving suspiciously.

The newspaper quoted Kenyan officials as saying the man’s British passport appeared to be genuine and it contained a Kenyan visa, although there was no stamp indicating when and how he had entered the country.

The newspaper also said the man said under questioning that his facial injuries happened during a recent visit to Somalia.

Kenya was beginning three days of national mourning on Wednesday for the victims of the siege at the Westgate mall.

Kenya Begins 3 Day National Mourning After 4 Day Terrorist Siege

Kenya has begun a three-day national mourning period following the end of the four-day siege by Islamist militant group, al –Shabaab, on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping centre.

The siege began on Saturday when members of the terrorist group stormed the shopping mall, throwing grenades and shooting at shoppers, including children.

The siege however came to an end after security forces took control of the mall on Tuesday.

In a televised address, President Uhuru Kenyatta said six members of the security forces were among 67 people who had died.

Declaring the siege over, he said five militants had been killed and 11 other suspects arrested.

In his address, Kenyatta praised the response of ordinary Kenyans which he described as “exemplary and overwhelming”.

“We have ashamed and defeated our attackers,” he said. “Kenya has stared down evil and triumphed.”

Although, he did not confirm earlier reports that several of the attackers were American and British, he said that “intelligence reports had suggested that a British woman and two or three American citizens may have been involved in the attack”.

“We cannot confirm the details at present. Forensic experts are working to ascertain the nationalities of the terrorists.”

He promised that justice will be served. “These cowards will meet justice, as will their accomplices and patrons, wherever they are.”

As the clearing of the mall continues, the number of dead is expected to rise.

Several bodies, including those of some attackers, are thought to be trapped under rubble after three floors of the building collapsed following a blaze.

Kenya’s Standard newspaper reported that several bodies were recovered from the building on Tuesday evening.

Kenya Foreign Minister Says Americans, Briton Among Mall Attackers

Kenya’s foreign minister, Amina Mohammed, on Monday said that two or three Americans and one Briton were among those who attacked a Nairobi shopping mall.

A report by Associated Press (AP) records that during an interview with PBS’ “NewsHour” program, Mohammed disclosed that the Americans were 18 to 19 years old, of Somali or Arab origin and lived “in Minnesota and one other place” in the U.S. The attacker from Britain was a woman who has “done this many times before.”

More than 60 people have been killed in the assault on the upscale mall, which lasted for three days.

The foreign minister said Authorities in Kenya were trying to wrap up their bloody standoff with al-Shabab, a group allied with al-Qaida.

However, U.S. officials said they were looking into whether any Americans were involved. State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki on Monday said the department had “no definitive evidence of the nationalities or the identities” of the attackers.

While White House spokesman, Ben Rhodes said U.S. officials have seen “reports coming out of al-Shabab that indicate information along those lines,” referring to possible involvement of Americans in the attack.

“But we have to run those to ground, of course,” he said. “We do monitor very carefully and have for some time been concerned about efforts by al-Shabab to recruit Americans or U.S. persons to come to Somalia.

“This is an issue that has been tracked very closely by the U.S. government, and it’s one that we’ll be looking into in the days ahead.”

Furthermore, Mohamed said Kenya needs to work with other governments to fight the increasing terrorist threat and “much more with the U.S and the U.K., because both the victims and the perpetrators came from Kenya, the United Kingdom and the United States. From the information we have, two or three Americans and so far I’ve heard of one Brit.”

She added: “That just goes to underline the global nature of this war that we are fighting.”

Six Attackers Killed

Kenya’s Citizen TV reported on Tuesday that troops had killed “six of the remaining attackers” but did not give further details and the report was unsourced.

“Security forces killed six of the remaining attackers,” the channel said in a brief headline. Officials earlier said three of the 10 to 15 people who stormed the building on Saturday had been killed.

The government said it was in control of the mall, although there was another burst of gunfire at 9.30 a.m. (0530 GMT) and two security personnel at the scene said security forces were still searching the mall.

 

Jonathan Condemns Kenyan Mall Attack

President Goodluck Jonathan has condemned the attack on a shopping centre in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, which he described as “dastardly act of terror on humanity”.

“Let me use this unique opportunity to express my personal condolences and that of my country to my brother the President of Kenya, President Kenyatta, for the incident that is taking place in Kenya,” he said.

Also, the death of renowned poet, Kofi Awoonor, author of ‘Songs of Sorrow’ which he had read in secondary school made him “sad for the whole world”.

Awoonor was confirmed as one of those who died during the attack.

The President said these during an interview with BBC’s Laura Trevelyan at the start of his visit to the United States, where he is attending the United Nations General Assembly, in New York.

He is also expected to also meet with President Barack Obama of the United States of America.

President Jonathan, who talked about the insurgency in Nigeria, went further to offer his support to the people of Kenya, saying “a terror attack anywhere in the world is a terror attack on all of us”.

“The whole world must collectively fight this issue of terror”.

He disclosed that he would be asking President Obama for help in fighting the militant group in Nigeria and called on the rest of the world to help Nigeria and other countries like Kenya, battling with terrorists.

Speaking on the economy of the nation, the President said “Nigeria’s economy is doing well” inspite of the challenges faced.

“We have a big economy there that is attracting interest”, he said, adding that Nigeria and South Africa are “the major economies in Africa”.

 


 

Gunfire At Besieged Kenyan Mall, Islamists Threaten Hostages

Gunfire and explosions sounded on Monday from the Nairobi mall where militants from Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group threatened to kill hostages on the third day of a raid in which at least 68 have already died.

Reuters journalists near the upmarket Westgate complex heard sporadic shots and also heavy bursts of rifle fire and muffled blasts on at least two occasions after daybreak. Kenyan troops moved around outside the building. A Kenyan Red Cross official, Abbas Guled, said there had been clashes inside the building.

But there was no indication of the fate of people whom the authorities had said on Sunday were being held by 10 to 15 gunmen – and possibly women – inside a large supermarket.

An al Shabaab spokesman warned that the Islamists would kill hostages if Kenyan security forces, who are being assisted by Western and Israeli experts, tried to storm their position:

“Israelis and Kenyan forces have tried to enter Westgate by force but they could not,” Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage said in an audio statement posted online. “The mujahideen will kill the hostages if the enemies use force.

Security forces had secured most of the complex by Sunday, freeing many people who had hidden in terror. Though they hoped for a quick solution, rescuing those held will be difficult.

Survivors’ tales of Saturday’s military-style, lunchtime assault by squads of attackers hurling grenades and spraying automatic fire, has left little doubt the hostage-takers are willing to kill. Previous such raids around the world suggest they may also be ready to die with their captives.

In Somalia, Kenya’s northern neighbour devastated by two decades of civil war, al Shabaab have demanded President Uhuru Kenyatta pull out Kenyan troops, who have pushed the militants on to the defensive over the past two years as part of an African Union-backed peacekeeping mission. Kenyatta refused.

It was unclear how many may be held hostage. Colonel Cyrus Oguna, a Kenyan military spokesman, told Reuters that most of those freed in a search and rescue operation on Sunday had not been held by the gunmen but had found places of refuge. He said “a very small number” were still captive, but gave no detail.

“We will not negotiate with terrorists,” he added.

Asked at a news conference on Sunday about whether captives had been wired with explosives, Kenyatta declined comment.

The president, who lost a nephew in Saturday’s killing, vowed to hold firm in the “war on terror” in Somalia and said, cautiously, that Kenyan forces could end the siege.

“I assure Kenyans that we have as good a chance to successfully neutralise the terrorists as we can hope for,” he said. “We will punish the masterminds swiftly and painfully.”

A military spokesman for al Shabaab told Reuters his group had nothing to fear. “Where will Uhuru Kenyatta get the power with which he threatened us?” said Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab.

SIEGE

It was unclear who the assailants were. Al Shabaab – the name means “The Lads” in Arabic – has thousands of Somali fighters but has also attracted foreigners to fight Western and African Union efforts to establish a stable government.

A London man, Jermaine Grant, faces trial in Kenya for possession of explosives. Police suspect an al Shabaab plot to attack restaurants and hotels used by Westerners and have been hunting for another Briton, Samantha Lewthwaite, the widow of a suicide bomber who took part in the London 7/7 attacks of 2005.

Some British newspapers speculated on the role the “White Widow” might have played at Westgate. The term “black widow” has been used by Chechen militants in Russia for women taking part in bombings and assaults after the deaths of their husbands.

With the stocks of a major supermarket at their disposal – the Nakumatt store is part of one of Kenya’s biggest chains – the gunmen could be in a position to hold on for a long time.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, confirming that at least three Britons were already among the dead, said: “We should prepare ourselves for further bad news.”

U.S. President Barack Obama called Kenyatta to offer condolences and support. Israel, whose citizens own stores in the Israeli-built mall and have been targeted by Islamists in Kenya before, said Israeli experts were also helping.

Foreigners, including a French mother and daughter, and two diplomats, from Canada and Ghana, were killed. Ghanaian Kofi Awoonor was a renowned poet. Other victims came from China and the Netherlands. Five Americans were wounded.

Kenya’s president, son of post-colonial leader Jomo Kenyatta, is facing his first major security challenge since being elected in March.

The assault was the biggest single attack in Kenya since al Qaeda’s East Africa cell bombed the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in 1998, killing more than 200 people.

Judges at the International Criminal Court adjourned the trial of Kenyan Vice President William Ruto for a week, granting his request to return home to help deal with the crisis.

He and Kenyatta face charges of crimes against humanity for their alleged role in coordinating deadly violence after the contested 2007 elections, when they ran in rival camps. Both deny the charges. They won a vote on the same ticket in March.

WARFARE

Al Shabaab’s siege underlined its ability to cause major disruptions with relatively limited resources, even after Kenyan and other African troops drove it from Somali cities.

“While the group has grown considerably weaker in terms of being able to wage a conventional war, it is now ever more capable of carrying out asymmetric warfare,” said Abdi Aynte, director of Mogadishu’s Heritage Institute of Policy Studies.

After emerging on Sunday morning from a hiding place under a vehicle in the basement car park, a woman, giving her name as Cecilia, told Reuters she had seen three of the attackers.

“They were shooting from the exit ramp, shooting everywhere,” she said. “I saw people being shot all around me, some with blood pouring from bad wounds. I was just praying, praying ‘God, keep me alive’ and that my day hadn’t come.”

Witnesses said the attackers had AK-47 rifles and wore ammunition belts. One militant was shot and arrested early on in the siege, but died shortly afterwards.

For hours after the attack, the dead were strewn around tables of unfinished meals. At one burger restaurant, a man and woman lay in a final embrace, until their bodies were removed.

Kenya sent troops into Somalia in October 2011 to pursue militants whom it accused of kidnapping tourists and attacking its security forces.

Al Shabaab’s last big attack outside Somalia was a double bombing in Uganda, targeting people watching the World Cup final on television in Kampala in 2010, killing 77 people.

Fire Closes Kenya’s International Airport In Nairobi

A fire engulfed Kenya’s main airport on Wednesday, choking a vital travel and trade gateway to east Africa, witnesses and officials said.

Firefighters struggled to contain the blaze at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, the region’s busiest, that started early in the morning in the immigration section of the departure lounge and spread to the international arrivals area, officials said.

Huge plumes of black smoke billowed from the airport buildings, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

The cause of the fire was not yet known.

“We are still fighting to contain the fire. Investigations will start immediately after,” Michael Kamau, cabinet secretary for transport, told reporters at the airport.

“The fire started at a very central part of the airport and this made access difficult. But we have closed the airport indefinitely as we try to contain the fire.”

Hundreds of passengers were stranded outside the airport, which was cordoned off to keep the public out.

“People should not come to the airport while this work is ongoing. No casualties have been reported and the fire fighters are doing a good job. Safety is paramount,” Cabinet Secretary for the Interior Joseph ole Lenku said, adding that security had been heightened at the airport after the fire started.

The fire comes less than 48 hours after a fuel jet pump failure caused huge delays at the airport.

Kenya Airways’, one of the leading airlines in the region which uses the airport as its main hub, said on its Twitter feed that it was diverting flights to Kenya’s port city of Mombasa and that transit passengers were being taken to hotels.

Other airlines are expected to divert flights to Mombasa and to neighboring countries including in Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

ICC-Charged Kenyatta Expected To Join Somalia Meeting In London

Kenya’s newly elected President Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces international charges of crimes against humanity, is expected to attend a Somalia conference next week in London at the invitation of the British government, sources said on Friday.

Britain’s high commissioner (ambassador) to Kenya, Christian Turner, extended the invitation to Kenyatta, who is due to stand trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, during a meeting with the new president this week.

A source with knowledge of the president’s affairs told Reuters that Kenyatta was planning to travel for Tuesday’s conference that aims to build support for Somalia. A diplomat also said: “The expectation is that he will go.”

Nigeria is now home – Prezzo

He has been seen at a number of social events in Lagos with Nigeria’s Pop Princess Goldie Harvey, but Kenyan rapper and second runner-up at the last Big Brother Africa Star Game, Prezzo has revealed plans to settle in Nigeria and build a career in the nation’s fledgling entertainment industry.

The Kenya trained and certified pilot turned rapper stated on Channels TV Sunrise that “my purpose of visiting Nigeria is to broaden my musical career and work with a couple of producers here.”

“Nigeria will be my second home from now on and I don’t want to feel like a tourist when I come to Nigeria, so Nigeria will be home” he stated, adding that “fufu and Eba makes one live longer and stronger” as he showed his reverence for Nigerian local meals.

On which city in Nigeria he will be settling, the Kenyan artiste who also sings in Swahili said “most definitely in Lagos. I think Lagos is a beautiful place.”

“I just love the aggression of the people out there. I love the hustle” he stated about the daily struggle of residents in Nigeria’s most populous city.

According to him “Nigeria is the leader of Africa’s music industry and for me to achieve my goal, I have to JFK” he said, defining JFK as – “Joining Forces with the Kings”.

“So I have come to join forces with my Nigerian brothers and sisters” he added.

“I love the positive energy in Nigeria and I feel it is the kind of positive energy I want to be part of.”

When asked who his choice producers in Nigeria are, Prezzo replied “I am very inspired by the Nigerian music industry as a whole. It is a big industry and I am willing to work with anybody. I don’t need to use anybody as a stepping stone.”

The musician also revealed plans to make a foray into Nollywood.

Prezzo is expected to drop a single, on Monday ahead of his forthcoming album.

When questioned on his famous relationship with Goldie, with whom he has being seen at various events in Nigeria and abroad in recent weeks, Prezzo cheerfully grinned saying “Goldie is busy. I have seen her just once since my arrival. ”

“She’s been very busy” he stated, adding that “Goldie is a beautifully person, both inside and outside.”

Prezzo had a stormy relationship with the Nigerian participant in the Big Brother Africa House and that they have both evolved to be great friends since the reality show ended.

PART 2

Kenyan police arrest two Iranians over explosives

Kenyan police said on Friday they had arrested two Iranians after they seized chemicals they suspected were going to be used to make explosives in Mombasa, which has been hit by a series of attacks.

The port city, the capital Nairobi and other parts of Kenya have suffered a series of grenade attacks since Kenya sent troops into Somalia last year to try to crush al Shabaab insurgents it blames for a surge in violence and kidnappings threatening tourism in east Africa’s biggest economy.

Police arrested the Iranians on Wednesday in Nairobi. On the same day, police impounded a container in Mombasa originating from Iraq and suspected to be carrying explosives.

On Thursday, police flew one of the suspects to Mombasa, where he led police to recover 15 kg of powder, which security experts took to their laboratory for testing.

“They are cooperating well. They are giving us key information that might help us reduce terrorist attacks in the country,” Ambrose Munyasia, a senior police officer at the Coast region told Reuters.

“We want to find out whether these substances are linked to any terror groups, including al Shabaab, al Qaeda and any other group,” Aggrey Adoli, Coast provincial police officer, added.

Francis Kimemia, Kenya’s acting head of civil service who was in Mombasa, said the government had sought the help of international agencies such the FBI and Interpol in helping deal with security threats.

“We have been working with them in terms of identifying criminals. We cannot fight terrorism alone. You have to work with other partners and other state organs,” he said.

In the most recent attack, a bomb exploded in a trading center in the heart of Nairobi in late May, wounding more than 30 people. One person later died from their injuries.

Gunmen also detonated grenades outside a nightclub in Mombasa in May, killing one person and wounding several others.

Al Shabaab seeks to impose a strict version of sharia, Islamic law. The group emerged as a force in 2006 as part of a movement that pushed U.S.-backed warlords out of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

At present it also has hundreds of foreign fighters in its ranks.