UN Condemns Violence In North Darfur

In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

The joint United Nations and African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) condemned Tuesday “violent incidents” in North Darfur state which left nine dead and 20 wounded.

“UNAMID is deeply concerned about the violent incidents that erupted in Kutum town on 12 July and the attack by unidentified armed men on the Fata Borno IDP (internally displaced people) camp on the morning of 13 July 2020 which left 9 IDPs dead and 20 injured,” the peacekeeping mission said in a statement.

“It is regrettable that these incidents have taken place while the transitional government of Sudan and the armed movements are close to concluding negotiations expected to bring peace and stability… to the Darfur region and the whole of Sudan,” it added.

Darfur has long been plagued by poor security and armed groups.

North Darfur (Shamal Darfur is the largest of the five states that make up Sudan’s Darfur region

 

 

In 2003, a deadly ethnic conflict broke out in Darfur between African minority rebels and forces backed by the government of ex-president Omar al-Bashir, who was ousted in April 2019.

Bashir is wanted by The Hague-based International Criminal Court over charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity in Darfur.

The United Nations says the conflict killed 300,000 people and displaced 2.5 million.

Sudan’s current transitional government, comprised of military and civilian figures led by Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok since last year, has engaged in talks with three key rebel groups to reach a peace deal to end the wars in Darfur, the Blue Nile and South Kordofan.

A signing ceremony with various rebel factions slated for Tuesday was delayed once again.

In the wake of the recent unrest, North Darfur’s governor announced a state of emergency on Monday.

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.

Al-Shabaab Militants Attack Two Somali Military Bases

al shabaab
Al Shabaab soldiers patrol in formation along the streets of Dayniile district in Southern Mogadishu, March 5, 2012. REUTERS/Feisal Omar.

 

Al-Shabaab Islamists on Wednesday carried out attacks on two Somali military bases, using a suicide vehicle bombing and dozens of heavily armed militants, a military official said.

African Union troops stepped in to help repel the second, larger attack after a suicide bomber drove a vehicle packed with explosives onto a bridge leading to the Qoryoley army base some 95 kilometres (59 miles) west of Mogadishu and detonated it.

Earlier they had attacked the Ceel-Salini military base some 30 kilometres away.

“The terrorists carried out an … attack on the military bases at Qoryoley and Ceel-salini but our brave boys repelled them, they (Shabaab) have suffered heavy casualties this morning and the army is in full control in both areas now,” said Mohamed Adan, a Somali military commander in a nearby town.

“They have destroyed part of the bridge across the entrance to Qoryoley where the Somali military base is located using a vehicle loaded with explosives.”

READ ALSO: Suspected Boko Haram Insurgents Attack Chibok Village, Burn Houses

He said the AU peacekeeping force AMISOM had helped fight the Al-Qaeda linked militants.

It was not yet known how many casualties there were.

Witnesses said dozens of heavily armed Shabaab militants entered Qoryoley town and addressed a gathering of residents before retreating.

“The Shabaab fighters entered the town and one of their commanders spoke with a gathering before they made their way out of the town, the situation is quiet now and the Somali forces backed by AMISOM soldiers are patrolling the streets,” Ali Moalim, a resident in Qoryoley said by phone.

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, saying they had “captured a sizeable amount of military supplies”.

The group has fought for over a decade to topple the internationally-backed Somali government, and carries out regular attacks against civilian and government targets, despite losing much of the territory they once controlled.

Twelve More Bodies Found After DR Congo Militia Massacre

 

Another 12 bodies have been discovered in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo region of Beni, two days after a militia attack left eight people dead and around 20 missing, police said on Sunday.

On Friday fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces militia slit the throats of eight people in Mangina commune, prompting hundreds of villagers to flee the area.

The attack was the latest massacre blamed on the ADF which has carried out reprisal attacks on civilians in response to a military crackdown on their fighters since October.

Eastern DR Congo has been wracked by militia violence for years, a legacy of its two Congo wars in the 1990s, but the ADF has been blamed for most of the recent attacks.

“The twelve bodies found today were victims of Friday’s ADF attack,” local Mangina police chief Major Losendjola Morisho told AFP.

He said the army were currently chasing militia fighters om Makiki village, two kilometres (1.2 miles) east of Mangina.

The Beni region is the epicentre of the ADF campaign where activists say more than 300 people have been killed since October when the army began its offensive.

On January 28, 36 civilians were killed in an attack in Oicha, also in Beni, part of the ADF’s revenge attacks on civilians.

The ADF, blamed for the deaths of more than 1,000 civilians in Beni since October 2014, began as an Islamist-rooted rebel group in Uganda that opposed President Yoweri Museveni.

It fell back into eastern DRC in 1995 during the Congo Wars and appears to have halted raids inside Uganda. Its recruits today are people of various nationalities.

14 Injured In Possible Jerusalem Car Attack

 

Fourteen people were injured in central Jerusalem on Thursday, including one critically, in a possible car-ramming at a popular nightspot, emergency responders and the military said.

Israel’s Magen David emergency medical service said it had “treated and evacuated” 14 people to hospitals following the incident at Jerusalem’s First Station, an area that includes several bars and restaurants.

A military spokesperson told AFP that the army was aware of a possible attack perpetrated by someone driving a vehicle in the area and would have more information later on Thursday.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper quoted police as saying that a manhunt was underway for the suspected attacker.

The United Hatzalah medical emergency volunteers said their team had treated “people for injuries at the First Station in Jerusalem.

“Due to the nature of the incident, United Hatzalah’s Psychotrauma and Crisis Response Unit were dispatched to the scene and treated eight people who were suffering from emotional or psychological shock,” it said in a statement.

There was no immediate indication as to the motivation of the possible attack, but it comes amid heightened tension between Israel and the Palestinians following the release of US President Donald Trump’s controversial Middle East Plan.

Palestinians have angrily rejected the plan, which they describe as blatantly pro-Israeli, and launched protests against Trump’s proposal in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

36 Killed As Suspected Militia Attack Villages In DR Congo

 

Thirty-six people have been killed in a suspected militia attack in the eastern DR Congo region of Beni, where hundreds have died in violence since November, a local official said Wednesday.

Congolese troops have been carrying out a military operation on an armed group in the east of the country — long plagued by various militias — and militiamen have responded with a series of massacres against civilians.

“They were all hacked to death. This brings (the toll) to 36 bodies,” local Beni governor Donat Kibwana told AFP, updating casualties from Tuesday’s attack.

Officials had earlier reported 15 fatalities.

Two people with skull fractures caused by machetes have been admitted to the hospital in Oicha for surgery, an AFP reporter there said.

The main attack took place late Tuesday in Manzingi, a village 20 kilometres (12 miles) northwest from Oicha, while a pastor was also killed in nearby Eringeti.

According to a toll compiled by a civil society organisation, the Kivu Security Tracker (KST), 265 people have now been killed in the Beni region since the army began its crackdown on the armed group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), on October 30.

The massacres seem to be a tactic by the ADF to frighten the population into silence, local commentators say.

The group has also disrupted operations to curb an outbreak of Ebola in North Kivu province.

Tuesday’s massacre occurred to the west of the ADF’s usual area of operations, which is closer to the Ugandan border.

The army offensive, unfolding in thick forest and jungle, has led to what the military say is the capture of the group’s headquarters and the killing of five of its six leaders.

Brutal militia

The ADF, blamed for the deaths of more than a thousand civilians in Beni since October 2014, began as an Islamist-rooted rebel group in Uganda that opposed Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

It fell back into the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in 1995 during the Congo Wars and appears to have halted raids inside Uganda. Its recruits today are people of various nationalities.

UN experts estimated the ADF in 2018 to number around 450 fighters.

A report to the UN Security Council last week said the ADF seemed to follow an extreme Islamist ideology, but there is no information on whether the group had links with international jihadist groups.

The spate of massacres has become a major challenge for President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office a year ago last Friday.

In November, angry protests erupted in the city of Beni, the region’s administrative hub, as citizens accused the UN peacekeeping force in DR Congo of failing to protect them.

Tshisekedi, in his first state-of-the-nation address to Congress, last month said he had changed the army command in Beni and sent 22,000 troops to the region.

At Least 10 Dead In Pakistan Mosque Bombing, Says Police

 

 

 

At least 10 people were killed and 16 others wounded in a bomb blast during evening prayers at a mosque in southwestern Pakistan on Friday, police and a doctor said.

Police chief of Balochistan province Mohsin Hassan Butt told AFP the blast took place in a satellite town of Quetta, the province’s main city.

A police officer was among those killed, Butt said, adding that the death toll may rise as some of the wounded are in a critical condition.

Mohammad Waseem, a doctor at Quetta’s Sandeman hospital, confirmed that 10 dead bodies and 16 injured people had arrived there.

Butt said bomb disposal officers were investigating the nature of the bomb as well as whether it was detonated remotely or if a suicide bomber was involved.

Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Balochistan is Pakistan’s largest and poorest province, bordering Afghanistan and Iran.

It is rife with Islamist, separatist and sectarian insurgencies and attacks are frequent, even as the number of violent incidents has significantly dropped elsewhere in Pakistan.

US House Votes To Limit Trump War Powers Against Iran

 

 

In a rebuke to President Donald Trump, the US House voted Thursday to restrict his future military action against Iran, as lawmakers sought to claw back congressional war powers from the White House.

The non-binding resolution was introduced by Democrats after Trump’s order to kill an Iranian commander and retaliatory missile strikes by the Islamic republic dramatically escalated tensions and raised fears of a war between the two foes.

The vote, 224 to 194, was largely along party lines, although three members of Trump’s Republican Party joined Democrats in approving the measure that demands the president not engage in military action against Iran unless authorized by Congress.

Trump Pulls Back From War With Iran

 

 

President Donald Trump pulled back from the brink of war with Iran on Wednesday, saying that Tehran appeared to be “standing down” after firing missiles — without causing casualties — at US troops based in Iraq.

In a televised address to the nation from the White House, Trump emphasized there were “no Americans harmed” in the ballistic missile salvo aimed at two bases.

While he promised to immediately impose “punishing” new economic sanctions on Tehran, Trump welcomed signs the Islamic republic “appears to be standing down” in the tit-for-tat confrontation.

The comments cooled what threatened to become an uncontrolled boiling over of tensions after Trump ordered the killing last Friday of a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani.

In New York, the Nasdaq stock market index surged to a record high of 9,129.24.

However, the US president, facing both an impeachment trial in Congress and tough reelection in November, defended his targeting of a man seen by many as Iran’s second most influential official.

Soleimani, a national hero at home, was “the world’s top terrorist” and “should have been terminated long ago,” Trump said.

And although Trump ended his remarks with a call for peace, he opened by stating that he would never allow Iran to procure a nuclear weapon.

It was Trump’s 2018 withdrawal from a multinational agreement aimed at curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and the reimposition of crippling economic sanctions against Tehran, which began an intensification of tensions between the two countries.

Missiles blast bases

Iran’s missiles targeted the sprawling Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq and a base in Arbil, both housing American and other foreign troops from a US-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islamic State jihadist group.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who earlier promised “revenge” for Soleimani, called the missiles a “slap in the face” against the United States.

He indicated there was more to come.

“The question of revenge is another issue,” Khamenei said in a televised speech.

Iraq’s military said it also sustained no casualties. But the strike highlighted the difficult position of Iraq, caught in an ever-deepening conflict between Trump and Iran.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, dismissed suggestions that Iran did not mean to kill Americans with the missile barrage.

“I believe, based on what I saw and what I know, is that they were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft and to kill personnel. That’s my own personal assessment,” Milley told reporters.

Iraqi President Barham Saleh rejected Iraq being a “battlefield for warring sides.”

At the United Nations, Iran’s ambassador said in a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that despite the missile firing, Iran respects Iraq’s territorial integrity.

Iran has powerful militia allies in Iraq and they said they intended to take revenge for Friday’s US drone attack, in which top Iraqi paramilitary commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis died alongside Soleimani.

Muhandis was the deputy head of Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi, a military network incorporated into the Iraqi state whose factions are backed by Tehran.

Late Wednesday two rockets, fired by unidentified forces, landed in the supposedly high-security Green Zone, where US and other embassies are located, security sources said.

AFP correspondents heard two loud detonations.

Unusual brazenness

The brazenness of Iran’s ballistic missile strike was unusual.

But as the dust settled, it appeared that Iran’s attack — coming soon after the burial of Soleimani at a funeral in front of vast crowds — might have been more symbolic than anything.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif indicated Iran was satisfied for now.

“Iran took and concluded proportionate measures in self-defense,” Zarif said on Twitter.

Reflecting deep concerns among Trump’s domestic opponents, the Democratic-led US House of Representatives scheduled a vote for Thursday on limiting the Republican president’s ability to wage war against Iran without congressional approval.

“The president has made clear that he does not have a coherent strategy to keep the American people safe, achieve de-escalation with Iran and ensure stability in the region,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

But US Defense Secretary Mark Esper insisted the United States has restored some deterrence against Iran in the wake of the Soleimani killing.

“But we will see. Time will tell,” Esper said.

US headaches in Iraq

The apparent de-escalation in Iran did not remove pressure from approximately 5,200 US troops stationed across Iraq, where they face pro-Iranian Shiite militias and political opposition.

Paramilitary chief Qais al-Khazali — blacklisted as a “terrorist” by the US — said his side’s response to the United States “will be no less than the size of the Iranian response.”

But US Vice President Mike Pence told the CBS Evening News that “we’re receiving some encouraging intelligence that Iran is sending messages to those very same militias not to move against American targets or civilians.”

Angered at the US drone strike, the Iraqi parliament has called for the expulsion of American troops, sparking embarrassing confusion at the Pentagon over how to respond.

– Airliner crash kills 176 –
Separately, a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 crashed just outside Tehran after taking off bound for Kiev, killing all 176 people on board shortly after Iran launched its missiles towards Iraq.

There was no immediate suggestion of any link with the strikes but carriers including Air France, Royal Dutch Airlines and Lufthansa announced they were suspending flying through Iranian and Iraqi airspace as a precaution.

The US aviation regulator banned civil flights over Iraq, Iran, and the Gulf, citing the potential for “misidentification” of aircraft.

Iraq President ‘Denounces’ Iran Missile Strikes

President Buhari To Swear In Ministers August 21

 

 

Iraq’s President Barham Saleh on Wednesday condemned Iran’s missile strikes on Iraqi bases where the US and other foreign troops are based, saying he feared “dangerous developments” in the region.

“We denounce the Iranian missile bombing that hit military installations on Iraqi territory and renew our rejection of the repeated violation of state sovereignty and the transformation of Iraq into a battlefield for warring sides,” his office said in a statement.

Iran launched the missiles early Wednesday in response to the killing of senior Revolution Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Iraq last week.

Western Powers Condemn Iran Attack On US Bases

 

 

Western powers on Wednesday condemned Iran’s missile attack on Iraqi bases housing the US and other foreign troops, urging an end to the escalating crisis.

Iran fired more than a dozen ballistic missiles overnight Tuesday-Wednesday, officials in Washington and Tehran said.

Iran said it was in response to the US killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani last week, warning it would hit back even harder if Washington responded.

 Trump: ‘All is well’

“All is well!” US President Donald Trump’s tweeted. “Assessment of casualties & damages taking place now. So far, so good!”

He would be making a statement Wednesday morning, he added.

– ‘Resounding blow’ –
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has described Soleimani as Iran’s “terrorist-in-chief”, made it clear Israel would strike back if attacked.

“Anyone who attacks us will receive a resounding blow,” he warned.

‘Urgent de-escalation’

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called on Iran to end its attacks.

“We condemn this attack on Iraqi military bases hosting Coalition — including British — forces,” he said, urging Iran not to repeat them but instead to “pursue urgent de-escalation.

“A war in the Middle East would only benefit Daesh and other terrorist groups,” he added, referring to the Islamic State group. Britain’s defence ministry said there had been no British casualties.

‘No-one’s interest’

The European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said the attack was yet another example of “escalation and increased confrontation”.

“It is in no-one’s interest to turn up the spiral of violence even further,” he added. He too warned that the crisis was hampering the fight against Islamic State.

EU foreign ministers will hold emergency talks on the Iran crisis Friday to discuss what the bloc can do to reduce tensions.

‘Violation of… sovereignty’

Iraq’s prime minister’s office said it had received an official message from Iran warning it of the missile attack just before it happened.

Iran had told premier Adel Abdel Mahdi that “the strike would be limited to where the US military was located in Iraq without specifying the locations”, said the statement from his office.

“Iraq rejects any violation of its sovereignty and attacks on its territory,” the premier’s office added.

Civilian flights rerouting

In the wake of the Iranian attack, a number of airlines said they were avoiding Iranian and Iraqi airspace.

The US Federal Aviation Administration said it was banning US-registered carriers from flying over Iraq, Iran and the Gulf.

Its Russian counterpart, the Federal Air Transport Agency, recommended airlines avoid the air space over Iran, Iraq and the Persian and Oman Gulfs.

Iran, Iraq and US: Timeline Since Soleimani Killing

 

 

Here is a recap of events since the killing of top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad by the US on January 3, which escalated tensions between Tehran and Washington:

US assassinates Soleimani

On January 3 a US drone strike on Baghdad’s international airport kills Soleimani, head of the Revolutionary Guard Corps’ foreign operations arm, the Quds Force.

Also among the dead is Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of the Tehran-backed Iraqi paramilitary network Hashed al-Shaabi.

The Pentagon confirms Trump ordered Soleimani’s assassination while the US embassy in Baghdad urges all Americans to leave Iraq “immediately”.

The killing comes days after thousands of pro-Iranian supporters stormed the US embassy in Baghdad, chanting “Death to America!”, angered by US strikes against Hashed bases in Iraq.

Those US strikes, on December 29, had been in retaliation for rocket attacks against US interests in Iraq in which a US civilian contractor was killed.

Iran calls for revenge

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei promises “severe revenge” for Soleimani’s death.

In Iraq caretaker prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi warns the US strike will “spark a devastating war in Iraq”, while President Barham Saleh pleads for “voices of reason” to prevail.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tells CNN Soleimani had been planning imminent action “that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk”.

A Pentagon official says the US is deploying up to 3,500 more troops to the Middle East.

Trump threatens 52 Iran sites

On January 4 Trump warns the US is targeting 52 sites in Iran and will hit them “very fast and very hard” if the Islamic republic attacks American personnel or assets.

He says sites “important to… Iranian culture” are on the list.

The next day Pompeo insists any US military action against Iran will conform to international law after Trump is accused of threatening a war crime by declaring cultural sites as potential targets.

Nuclear deal unravels further

On January 5, Iran announces its fifth step back from the nuclear deal with world powers agreed in 2015, saying it will forgo a “limit on the number of centrifuges”.

Since May 2019 Iran has gradually freed itself from commitments to which it had subscribed, in response to the unilateral withdrawal a year earlier of the US which reinstated economic sanctions against Tehran.

Funeral turns deadly

After days of mourning for Soleimani in Iraq and Iran, a stampede during a massive funeral procession in Iran kills more than 50 people.

In Baghdad, Mahdi confirms he has received what the US called a draft letter describing steps its military would take to “move out” of Iraq.

In Washington, US officials scramble to deny the idea, calling the letter a mistakenly released draft.

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper says the Pentagon’s “policy has not changed. We are not leaving Iraq”.

Iran strikes back

Iran launches a volley of missiles early Wednesday at Iraqi bases housing US and other coalition troops.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says the strikes are a “slap in the face” for the United States and revenge for Soleimani’s death is yet to come.

Iraq’s military said it sustained no casualties, and US President Donald Trump said initial casualty assessments indicated “all is well”.