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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sierra Leon Imports Small Arms

The Sierra Leone government has raised eyebrows around the international community after it imported several million dollars' worth of assault weapons ahead of the country's presidential elections.

Alarmed by the move, the United Nations on Thursday asked the insolvent West African nation to explain the purpose of its latest acquisitions. The international community's concern is based on the fact that presidential elections are due in November.

The UN demanded an explanation because Sierra Leone is still struggling to rebuild from the civil war and political tensions that plagued it from 1991-2002.

  • The arms shipment was made in January but details were recently leaked to the UN Security Council. 
  • A shipping bill indicated that machine guns and grenade launchers were part of the imported arsenal.
  • UN envoy to Sierra Leone, Michael von der Schulenburg, told the Security Council that the arms shipment was "of great concern" because the West African country's Foreign Minister Joseph Dauda did not mention the guns in his latest address to the council.

"Sierra Leone is under no arms embargo," von der Schulenburg told journalists. "However, given Sierra Leone's progress in establishing peace and security throughout the country and its relatively low crime rate, it is not clear why the police would need such weapons."

According to reports, political tensions have been rising in the run up to the November polls with supporters of rival parties clashing in recent months.

"I would urge the government to full clarify these reports and, if true, explain the intended use of these weapons," the envoy said. According to von der Schulenburg, the November 17 poll, in which President Ernest Koroma is seeking a new term, would be a "major challenge for the country's nascent democracy."

Some reports claim that the arms were meant for a recently enlarged police para-military wing, the Operational Services Division.

The Rest @ The Africa Report

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Why Somali's Famine Showed Failures in the World Food Programme

Some of the World Food Program supplies went to the black market, some to feed livestock. One warehouse full of rations was looted in its entirety by a Somali government official. And across the city, feeding sites handed out far less food than records indicate they should have.

The British government estimates between 50,000 and 100,000 people died in Somalia’s famine, and the U.N. has requested $1.5 billion for Somalia this year, partly to prevent a return of famine.

The World Food Program provides much of Somalia’s food aid, and the U.N. says donations of food and cash saved half a million lives in the second half of last year. In the chaos of a civil war, with the aid effort’s own personnel at mortal risk merely for being associated with the West, orderly, corruption-free food distribution could never be guaranteed.

But AP’s three-month investigation into sites providing hot meals to families in government-controlled Mogadishu reveals various shortcomings, some of which WFP says it is already addressing by changing procedures.

A critical problem was keeping track of supplies: WFP knew how much food was being shipped to the capital, but not how much was being cooked or how many people were showing up to eat it. Barey Muse, a mother of three, illustrated the frustrations. “My children are hungry but when I go here for food I must return empty-handed,” she said last month, holding two large bowls outside a feeding site called Hodan
The WFP had to design a flexible program so that families could use the nearest hot-meal center as they moved between neighborhoods to avoid fighting. The price of flexibility was less control over theft, officials acknowledge.

The AP, along with a network of seven Somali observers who for their safety cannot identified, conducted more than 60 visits to 13 of the 21 sites where hot meals are prepared. From those visits, interviews with aid recipients and internal reports, it emerges that:

— Somali aid groups would cook and distribute at least 30 percent more food when expecting visits by journalists or WFP officials.

— Some food was trucked directly from an aid agency warehouse to the market to be sold for profit.

— WFP’s independent monitors repeatedly sounded the alarm, saying relatives of Somali aid workers would receive large handouts while others went without. One of their reports spoke of supplies being fed to livestock.

— A Somali government official stole 74 metric tons of food, according to an internal WFP report obtained by AP.

Stefano Porretti, head of WFP’s Somalia program, said feeding programs in Mogadishu were expanded rapidly in emergency conditions, and from October to January, WFP did not have independent monitoring was suspended.
“Changes to it (WFP procedures) are now being made,” he said. He said AP’s research was done in that time frame, and that after AP’s findings were shown to WFP, the U.N. body’s new third-party monitor watched the sites closely for a week. “The amount of food delivered is what is expected, and it is being cooked,” Porretti said. “There is no diversion at the sites.”

Somalia is perhaps the most dangerous country in the world for aid workers, who face kidnappings, suicide bombings and assassination. The hot meals program amounts to 8 percent of WFP operations in Somalia, and 17 of its staffers and partners, all Somalis, have been killed since 2008. Two were shot dead in December when they stumbled upon a “ghost camp” which was said to have been set up to fool aid agencies into delivering food there.

Islamist insurgents from the group al-Shabab still held part of Mogadishu last July, when the U.N. announced that parts of Somalia were suffering from famine. The hunger crisis was blamed on a combination of drought, warfare and a refusal by the insurgents to grant some aid groups access to areas it controls.

By September, the U.N. said more than 100 children were dying every day. WFP was already working to protect its aid from thieves, partly by delivering hot meals that were difficult to resell. But while WFP knew how much food was being given to the hot meals program, it did not track how many people were receiving it.

  • When foreigners visit a WFP hot-meals site, the pots are always full and the centers teem with people. Once the visitors leave, things change, as the experience at a feeding center called Hodan illustrates.
    • During an official visit, Sorrdo, the local aid group acting for WFP, made 20 large pots of porridge for lunch. But a Somali woman with whom the AP kept in touch said that on ordinary days only nine to 13 pot loads were made. 

    • WFP said the Hodan site was feeding 7,000 people a day. But when the AP made an unannounced visit last month, a flustered supervisor said only 3,000 were being fed.
    • Another Somali woman, Halimo Mukhtar, said she sometimes saw supervisors at Hodan selling cart loads of supplies to traders to feed to livestock.

“Why do they say they give us food every day?” asked the mother of six, whose youngest child was strapped to her back. She had received nothing, she said, and her children would be hungry that night unless she went begging.

“The food we share between six people is not even enough for two,” she said. “They sell our food to people to feed animals.”

    • Another site, Wadajir, sits less than 200 yards (meters) from the airport base where WFP’s international staff stay, and bustles with hundreds of people during official WFP visits. 
    • But when the AP visited the site run by Jumbo Peace and Development Organization last month, it was nearly deserted. Somali aid workers there appeared caught off guard. Two workers contradicted each other about how many people were being fed there, claimed a metal pot that could only hold about one bag of food held three bags, and that people usually came at 5 p.m. to be fed.The site had closed at 1:30 p.m. on the previous day.

An AP translator overheard a worker named Sharif on a frantic phone call to his superior.
“Have they taken pictures?” the manager asked.“No, no, we stopped them,” said the worker, glancing over nervously as a journalist snapped photos of the almost empty site.

Keep the journalists outside and stop them from taking photos, the manager yelled; he was coming right over.
At another site an observer who tried to take pictures for the AP was immediately ejected, and staff insisted he delete the images. At some sites, an observer reported, cooked food was sold to livestock traders, sometimes directly by staff, and other times by recipients.
Many of the AP witness observations are corroborated in reports by Pbi2, the company that previously carried out independent monitoring for WFP.
A July report obtained by the AP said that at several sites run by Saacid, a Somali aid agency, “you will see good-looking beneficiaries … who give the food to their animals and they are the ones who get served first and they are relatives of management.”
“They load donkey carts of cooked food each day because they receive extra ratios and even sometimes they come back several times while they know that others don’t get their ratio,” the report said.
Tony Burns, Saacid director of operations, said it was “impossible” for cart loads of food to be carried off, though he acknowledged a small amount may have been used as animal feed. He said that once food was given away no one could control what became of it and that the problem has “never risen to serious levels.”
Saacid is the biggest Somali aid agency in the capital. Until this month, it ran 16 out of 21 of WFP’s hot meal centers for families in partnership with the Danish Refugee Council. Saacid says it left the program because it was “inefficient.”
One Pbi2 report alleges that Saacid brought extra people from another center to bump up the numbers when a WFP delegation visited the Howl-Wadaag center in July. Burns denied such an event ever happened. In Bondere, also run by Saacid, some people got 10 times their ration and others got nothing, the report said. Burns said some favoritism takes place in the lines and the group cannot curb it.
Saacid says that due to complex clan politics, visitors cannot visit sites unannounced. The AP, each time it tried a surprise visit, was quickly told to leave, and staff declined to give any information.
Pbi2′s contract was not renewed in early October for reasons that neither it nor WFP would disclose. The company declined an interview.
Following an August AP report about aid theft, when a journalist photographed convoys of trucks unloading food aid at the market, WFP assigned two investigators to look at the issue of food diversion. They have not yet issued a report.
The Somali government fired and jailed two district commissioners, one of whom was accused of looting the 74 tons of food from the warehouse. Both were later pardoned and freed.
Some critics of the overall aid effort go so far as to claim that it does more harm than good, because the influx of food and the associated looting feed Somalia’s black-market war economy. The powerful in Somali society have little incentive to stop the suffering that brings in the aid — or to stop the violence that prevents it being monitored, said Linda Polman, author of “War Games,” one of a growing number of books critical of aid dispensation in combat zones.
“The solutions are not easy,” said Polman. “Aid organizations have a problem. It is difficult for them to be honest (about theft) because they will be punished. Donations will go down and donor governments will be angry. So it stays a well-kept secret,” she said. “To change this you would have to change the whole aid system.”
Poretti said that WFP did its best to keep donors updated about the risks of working in Somalia.
“Donor governments are updated regularly on the challenges we face working in complex and insecure places like Somalia,” he said “They are aware that WFP has to weigh these risks carefully against the danger that lives may be lost if we stop providing life-saving food assistance to vulnerable women and children in places like Mogadishu.”

The Rest @ AP

Monday, March 19, 2012

Hammi Feels Threatened by al Shabaab

An American who quickly rose through the ranks in Shabaab, al Qaeda's affiliate in Somalia, now says he fears the terror group may kill him. Omar Hammami, who is also known as Abu Mansour al Amriki ("the American"), released a short, 1:09-minute-long video in which he said he fears Shabaab may kill him due to differences with strategy and the implementation of Islamic law.

Hammani's statement was posted by a jihadist known as "somalimuhajirwarrior," or "foreign Somali warrior," on a YouTube website earlier today, the SITE Intelligence Group reported.

 "To whomever it may reach from the Muslims, from Abu Mansour al-Amriki, I record this message today because I feel that my life may be endangered by Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahideen due to some differences that occurred between us regarding matters of the Shariah [Islamic law] and matters of the strategy,"
according to a transcript of the statement that has been provided by the SITE Intelligence Group.

Hammami does not explain the reason for the dispute. Rumors have persisted of divisions in Shabaab over the influence of foreign fighters in the terror group.

  •  Shabaab officially merged with al Qaeda in early February after years of operating closely together. Hammami may have been estranged from Shabaab for several months. 
  • SITE notes that Hammami's "last release, an English-language audio lecture titled, 'Lessons Learned,' released in October 2011, was not issued by the Shabaab's media arm, al-Kata'ib, nor did it appear on Shabaab-affiliated websites, but was instead posted by a member of the Ansar al-Mujahideen English Forum (AMEF)." 
  •  Hammami has served as a military commander, propagandist, "recruitment strategist, and financial manager" for Shabaab, and is closely linked to al Qaeda, according to the US government. Hammami is on the US's list of specially designated global terrorists. 
The Rest @ The Longwar Journal

The following are the comments posted beneath the video, kept here is as an archive - (sometimes comments disappear from you tube)

SM is surprised by the video of Abu Mansoor #AlAmriki that surfaced on the internet recently claiming that his life is ‘endangered by HSM.
A formal investigation is just underway and HSM is still attempting to verify the authenticity as well as the motivations behind the video.
We assure our Muslim brothers that #AlAmriki is not endangered by the Mujahideen &our brother still enjoys all the privileges of brotherhood.
HSM Press Office.
Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen.

Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh, Fitna is everywhere, also on the Ard ul Izzah, my brother I dont think Mujahideen would kill their own brother only because of differences in opinion or understanding, have sabr and keep trust in Allah. And if they execute you because they have a reason according to Shariah (for example like the execution of Ebuzer in Khurasan) then may Allah accept you from among the Shuhada. "Verily, with hardship there is relief" (Qur'an 94:6)

 @caqiidah أخي هناك مقاطع لجورج بوش مركبة هنا على اليوتيوب يقولونه فيها ما لم يقل بصورة فكاهية جدا ,ومن خلال تركيب المقاطع بشكل لا يدعك تشك في أنه هو من قالها , فلن يعجز هؤلاء عن الإتيان بتركيب كلمات الأخ بهذه الصورة مع الحرص على قصرمدة المادة لتقليل احتماليات انكشاف الملعوب. هذا والله أعلم. ALSHAMAQMAQ 1 day ago

And would a true mujahid make a video like this? seems like he doesnt care much for his brothers in somalia who have taken care of him for so long and who have more than enough problems to deal with (kenya, ethiopia, amnisom, the tfg, not to mention their ultimate enemy the US) This video makes it really simple: either the entirety of shabab is with the kuffar or it is just Abu Mansour. i think the latter makes much more sense joerendo3 1 day ago @AbulHarith

14 come on look what happens to everyone he's been around - Saleh Nabhan, Harun Fazul, Bilal Berjawi, many of the mujahiroun from the US... they have all met untimely and very suspicious deaths. how do you think the kuffar finds these people? the kuffar dont have magic, but they do have money for spies. joerendo3 1 day ago

 a Akhi, By this video you have singlehandedly managed to tarnish the image of Islam by alleging (without a shred of evidence) that the Mujahideen - the very people who aim to establish the Caiphate - are killers of innocent Muslims simply because you disagree with them on strategy. Wallahi you have bought nothing but sadness to the Muslims with this video while you have made the kuffar greatly rejoice...... May Allah forgive you my Brother! xasan1985 1 day ago

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Istanbul Visit

Interesting visit:

Someone in Istanbul searched the SL Blog for information about  GURHAN INSAAT VE TIC.NAK.ITH.IHR.LTD.STI. Burhan  and  Djibouti. Burhan is or was a US Gvt contractor.

IP Address, Teknotel-tdsl-static-ip 12th March 2012 09:31:33 GMT

Browser: IE 9.0
Operating System: Win7
Resolution: 1280x1024

Search String

Monday, March 12, 2012

Sahel Rescue Attempt Fails

Last May, two Europeans were kidnapped in Kebbi State in Northwestern Nigeria. News of the victims after their disappearance was always scanty – a video and other rumors purported to link the kidnapping to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and/or another Al Qaeda group, but the evidence of Al Qaeda’s involvement never seemed conclusive to me. Then, yesterday, tragic news broke that the two men had died during a failed rescue attempt in Sokoto (Sokoto State borders Kebbi State). That attempt was apparently led by British special forces.

When the news broke, speculation began immediately that the rebel sect Boko Haram was behind the kidnappings. Many also see the kidnapping as evidence of a tie between Boko Haram and AQIM. This would mark the first kidnapping in Nigeria where Boko Haram’s involvement was proven. Kidnapping Westerners is a frequent tactic of AQIM.

British officials have stated their belief that Boko Haram was indeed responsible for the kidnapping, and one official has suggested that AQIM was also part of the operation:

Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed two men were held by terrorists associated with Boko Haram, and

  • a senior British government official said the kidnappers appeared to be from an al-Qaida-linked cell within Boko Haram, but not within the group’s main faction.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has also stated that Boko Haram was behind the kidnapping. Arrests of alleged Boko Haram members followed the gun battle during which the hostages died.

Excellent coverage of news surrounding the kidnapping has been provided by the BBC and by former BBC correspondent Andrew Walker at his blog.

I have only three thoughts to offer on this event.

  • The first is that any doubts about whether it really was Boko Haram that kidnapped the Europeans – doubts that stem from the facts that Kebbi is far outside Boko Haram’s normal zone of operations, that Boko Haram never seems to have kidnapped a Westerner before, or that communications from the kidnappers never seemed to fit with the style of either Boko Haram or AQIM – may be swept aside as the narrative takes hold that this kidnapping was a Boko Haram operation, full stop. 
There are, indeed, many possible explanations that deserve consideration, ranging from the possibility that the kidnappers were opportunistic criminals to the possibility that they were copycats to the possibility that it was Boko Haram itself, or a splinter group. Those complexities, uncertainties, and nuances may now be ignored. Perhaps more importantly, the idea – or the reality (because I really don’t know) – that Boko Haram is kidnapping Westerners will play into larger narratives about what kind of threat the group poses to Nigeria and to the West. See one example here. If those narratives are built on shaky assumptions, they will skew outside understandings of the situation in Nigeria.

  • My second thought is more of a question: Are armed rescue attempts worth it? Armed rescues have succeeded elsewhere, but their recent record in the Sahel is one of tragedy. In that vein, this article from the BBC, “Italian anger at UK over rescue bid,” is worth reading.

  • And my final thought is that the deaths of these Europeans bode ill for the German engineer kidnapped in Kano in January. He was kidnapped the day that I left that city, and he has been in my thoughts. I hope that he is alright, and that he will be free soon. But yesterday’s events cast a shadow over his captivity.

by Alex Thurston

The Rest @ Al Wasat

Al Shabaab Taxes Drug Trafficking, now that Khat is an International Market

nalysts believe that this benign-looking plant popular in the Middle East may be funding the Al Shabaab terrorist organization in southern Somalia.

A very popular narcotic in the Middle East, khat maybe be funding the terrorist organization Al Shabaab in Somalia, CNN reports. Chewing the red stems of Catha edulis produces mild euphoria and an alertness akin to that produced by caffeine, and it is openly and widely use in the Horn of Africa. In Yemen, growing Khat uses more water than the country can afford and takes priority over more sustaining crops. Now Dutch officials are banning khat in the Netherlands, where a large Somali community imports large quantities of the plant from farmers in Meru County, Kenya. Government spokespeople insist that this decision was taken to protect against grave economic, health, and social concerns, but analysts believe that funds generated by the trade are funneled to Al Shabaab and that the Dutch aim to curtail that.

Crippled Kenyan farmers

CNN reports that the pending ban will have a devastating impact on Kenyan farmers. “If the ban is accepted or if it is enforced, the whole Meru county, the economy of the Meru county will be crippled,” Kenyan farmer Edward Mutuura told CNN.

He exports most of his crops to the Nertherlands and worries that the entire population of Meru county will be “totally crippled” if the ban goes through. Emmanuel Kisiangani of the Institute of Security Studies explained to CNN that legitimate business owners export their crops, but people sympathetic to Al Shabaab’s cause send money to them.

Meanwhile, a UN report details how the violent group receives funds by taxing khat that is exported to Somalia. Dutch officials deny any security motivations behind their decision to ban khat, which is illegal in the rest of Europe and the United States. It is still legal in the United Kingdom.

Enabling terror

People who abuse the narcotic are reported to become violent, suicidal, and may even experience manic episodes and hallucinations, and constant users tend to abandon their daily responsibilities, which leads to economic troubles in the home.

Jessica Lincoln and Frans Barnard told CNN that although intelligence agencies suspect links between the international trade of khat and terrorist organizations linked to Al Qaeda, it has proved very difficult to prove since it is hard to trace the money.

But an anti-khat activist based in the UK, Abukar Awale told the paper that Al Shabaab recruits young British addicts to facilitate parts of the multimillion trade and claims that if Britain does not ban imports and sales, they are effectively enabling terror in Somalia.
Tafline Laylin writes for GreenProphet, from where this article is adapted.

The Rest @ Cutting Edge News

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Boko Haram Hits Jos, NIgeria Catholic Church wWth 4 Suicide Bombers

Any jihadist attack on a church puts contrasting ideals of martyrdom on display. More on this story. "11 dead after suicide attack on Nigerian church," from Agence France-Presse, March 11:

A suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Catholic church in central Nigeria on Sunday, killing seven people and sparking panic in which security forces shot three others dead.
It was the second suicide attack on a church in the flashpoint central city of Jos in two weeks, after a February 26 attack claimed by Islamist sect Boko Haram killed three people and injured dozens.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan condemned Sunday's bombing and reaffirmed his government's determination "to end the spate of mindless attacks and killings".

Jos, a faultline in Nigeria's Muslim-Christian divide between north and south, was tense in the aftermath of the bombing amid fears of a reprise of deadly riots which followed last month's attack.

"There are rumours of reprisals from Christian youths, but we hope the security agents are on top of the situation as they have cordoned off the area," said Alhassan Danjuma Aliyu of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

Worshippers were filing out from Sunday mass in St. Finbar's Catholic church when the suicide bomber crashed his bomb-laden car into the gate, killing seven people and leaving a dozen others dazed and injured on the ground, Plateau State government spokesman Pam Ayuba said.

Three men were then shot as security forces fired on a crowd of onlookers who gathered after the blast.

"There were 10 dead -- seven parishioners and three that were shot dead by soldiers," in a bid to disperse the crowd, Ayuba told AFP.

The bomber was also killed, "mutilated beyond recognition".

Boy scouts tried to stop the car, he said.

"The security guards, who were mainly members of the Boys Brigade, tried to prevent the car from entering the compound and in the process the car exploded."

Three people died at the scene, emergency agency spokesman Yushau Shuaib said. Several others were reported to be in a critical condition.

Emergency workers said the death toll could have been higher had the bomber managed to get the vehicle closer to his target. "The bomb exploded before he could get to the church," said Shuaib.
Peter Umoren, the parish priest at the church, told AFP seven of his parishioners were killed while 12 others were injured in the blast.
"We lost seven church members while 12 were injured and have been taken to the Plateau state specialist hospital and the airforce military hospital for treatment," he said.

He said there were a total of four suicide bombers, two in the car and two on a motorcycle escorting it, all of whom were killed. There was no immediate confirmation of his claim.

The blast blew out church windows and cracked the wall, an AFP reporter at the scene said, adding that the engine of the car was detached from its shattered body and flung into the church compound...

The Rest @ Jihad Watch

500,000 Sudanese Christians Being Evicted to the South

Sudanese Christians who have barely a month to leave the north or risk being treated as foreigners are starting
to move, but Christian leaders are concerned that the 8 April deadline set by Islamic-majority Sudan is unrealistic.

“We are very concerned. Moving is not easy … people have children in school. They have homes … It is almost impossible,” Roman Catholic Bishop Daniel Adwok, the Khartoum archdiocese auxiliary told ENInews in a telephone interview on 7 March.

Sudan in February announced the deadline for the former citizens it had stripped of nationality after South
Sudan’s January 2011 vote to secede. The ultimatum will affect an estimated 500,000-700,000 people, who are mainly Christians of southern origin that still live in the north.

Many of them fled north during the long civil war fought between the Government of Sudan and the former
rebels, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. They have lived there for decades together with children who were born there. Few have ties with South Sudan.

The people are desperate to move, according to reports, following the deadline and increasing tensions between the two nations over oil wealth. The tensions started escalating in January after the north allegedly started taking crude oil from the landlocked south, which it was exporting through a pipeline to Port Sudan on the Red Sea.

“We want the rights of these people addressed by the two parliaments. Everyone has a right to choose where
they want to live. It is a human right,” said Adwok.

Sudan amended its laws after the south’s independence to say that Sudanese people automatically lose
citizenship when they acquire by right or by other means the citizenship of South Sudan. Sudanese people in the north with any parents, grandparents or great grandparents born in the South Sudan or belong to any southern ethnic group are considered that country’s nationals.

That’s the official deadline, but we don’t know how the Khartoum regime will react,” said John Ashworth, an

advisor of the Sudan Ecumenical Forum.

Some church leaders fear increased persecution of Christians in the north or even forced repatriation for those
who may want to stay. “The fears have been there from the beginning. There could be some form of harassment, and that could intensify after that date, but for forceful removal, it is hard to ascertain,” said the Rev. Don Bosco Ochieng, a Roman Catholic priest in the Rumbek diocese.

Aid agencies are calling for the extension of the deadline, warning that it will create a logistical and humanitarian catastrophe.

The Rest @ Venienco

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Boko Haram kills and Christians and Muslim Alike

The following article came about six weeks ago, but it provides more details about the originis of Boko Haram, and separates it from other Muslim Groups in NOrthern Nigeria..

- Shsimron Issachar

The religious sect, Boko Haram, appears to have laid a siege to the Northern part of Nigeria, especially the North East geo-political zone of the region. Aside mindless killings of innocent Nigerians, the sect’s members also carry out wanton destruction of property in a bid to make people in the zone embrace their views on Islamic religious code and western education. JAMES BWALA, in this report, examines the sect vis-a-vis its activities, members and sponsors.

THE fear of Boko Haram is, to state the fact, the beginning of wisdom in some states of the Northern part of Nigeria. The group, which parades religious extremists pushing for the enthronement of Sharia and abadonment of western education in the region, has always sent jitters down the spines of old and young in the North Eastern states of Borno, Bauchi, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe and Taraba. Wherever the group operates, it often leaves behind sad stories and scary scenes of destruction, maiming and death.

In Borno, the stronghold of the group, many lives and property have been lost to guerrila-like attacks unleashed on the residents of the ancient town of Maiduguri by the sect since it began its operations a few years ago.

About 48 hours ago, the governorship candidate on the platform of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Engineer Modu Fannami Gubio and six other persons, including the brother of the Borno State governor, Alhaji Goni Modu Sheriff, were killed by people suspected to be Boko Haram members. The deceased had just finished performing their Friday Juma’at prayer when the killers struck, thus throwing residents of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, into confusion.

Miffed by the incessant killings masterminded by the sect, Sunday Tribune went to Maiduguri and other towns in Borno State and engaged residents of the towns on the supposed identity, origin and grievances of a group that has largely been linked with Al Qaeda.

“Boko Haram is purely a terrorist group,” claimed Habeeb Mosa, a pharmacist living in GRA, Maiduguri. He narrated to Sunday Tribune how the group attacked a police post in the town and killed all the five police officers on duty. They said they were not interested in western education and would want everybody to embrace Sharia. I’m not against Sharia because I’m a Muslim, but why must they force people to embrace their view,” he questioned.

According to the Borno State Police Commissioner, Mohammed Jinjiri Abubakar, “they are a group of miscreants using Islam as a cover-up and have succeeded in instilling fear in the minds of the people of the state to the extent that 90 per cent of Maiduguri residents are hesitant and fearful to provide information to the police on the hideouts and activities of the Boko Haram sect members.” The Commissioner maintained that the group had succeeded in cowing residents of the town, noting that the residents needed to come out of their shell and resist the sect, since its members resided in their midst.“We don’t have any magic wand to fight the armed sect members, as long as the residents are not willing to provide information on the sect members’ activities to our men and officers.”

The President General of the Igbo Welfare Association in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, Elder Nneka Okereke, said the sect members were some Muslims youths and hoodlums assembled by some religious fanatics to kill Igbos and destroy their businesses. He said “killings in recent weeks have taken a frightening dimension, in that armed gangs are selectively robbing and killing Igbos. Armed robberies and killings in the past three weeks have been selectively directed at Igbos and Igbo businesses. It is on record that from 28th of December, 2010 to 17th January, 2011, no fewer than five innocent Igbos have been killed in cold blood, while several others were shot and are still lying critically in the hospitals.”

Okereke further stated that within the same period, about 12 business premises owned by Igbos were selectively robbed at gun point. While some non Igbos met there were asked to leave before the harassment, robberies and killings were carried out.

For the Christian community, Boko Haram is a group of unidentified persons believed to have been brainwashed to annihilate Christians and non-Muslims to the extent that any Muslim who stands on their way is also destroyed because they believe they are fighting the cause of Allah.

While addresing newsmen at the CAN secretariat in Maiduguri recently, the CAN Chairman in the state, Rev. Yuguda Z. Mdurvwa, said the atrocities perpetrated by some groups of persons “who have taken upon themselves the responsibility of annihilating Christians in the state can no longer be condoned as enough is enough.”

He said while they had visited mayhem on Christians in Borno State, destroying churches and killing Christians, without any provocation whatsoever, Christians, though peaceful people, who believed in living peacefully with their neighbours as taught by the Holy Bible, failed to understand the failure of the security agencies in ensuring that lives and property were protected, and therefore, were no more prepared to look on while Christians would killed silently and churches destroyed.

Sunday Tribune also spoke with a cross section of people in Maiduguri on the activities of the group.

  •  Some of them said Boko Haram was a name given to the “Yusufiya Sect.” The sect, according to them, is now terrorizing the people of the state and is believed to be sponsored by highly placed politicians in the country, judging by their modus oparandi, which gives no doubt that politicians are using that name for cover to perpetrate evil in the state. 
  • According to them, with the rate at which they are now operating, people of Borno State prefer a state of emergency because the state government under Ali Sheriff has failed to provide adequate protection for them and the police have also failed in their duty to protect lives and property.

Sunday Tribune also recalled that Governor Sheriff, while shifting blame on the security operatives, described them as a bunch of criminals. He told newsmen that he heard of the plan to attack all the churches in Maiduguri on the eve of Christmas and as Chief Security Officer of the state, he informed all the chief security agents to station their men to protect lives and property, but unfortunately, they could not come in time to save the situation. Of course, the situation of things in Maiduguri is frightening, as the atmosphere in the town is very tense because of the many rumours making the round about Boko Haram.

When Sunday Tribune spoke with Mallam Tanko Karami, he said that

  • Boko Haram or “Yusufiya Sect,” started as a movement in 2000. 
  • According to him, since inception, their goals and idealogy were made very clear to the people of the state. They hate any knowledge outside the teachings of the Holy Book. 
  • Their teachings are against the beliefs of other Muslims, especially the idea of acquiring western education and perhaps, some practices in governance.
  • No one can tell of their sources of income but they are believed to be sponsored by some highly placed individuals in the society and organizations, “which are also responsible for the increase in its members.
  • They do not appreciate the positions of other Muslims and Christians who believe in western education,” he said.

“Some people see this group as a combination of drug addicts, vagabonds and intellectuals who want to seize power from politicians to install Islamic law,” said Aminat Sufiyat. Others said these people had made their intentions known several times that a time is coming that they would have to make a change in the country of how things were being run by government, and when the Borno State government introduced the motor vehicle law sometimes in 2009, they defied the law and several times had to clash with the authorities, and because they were left untouched, many joined the movement later,” he explained.

  • Sunday Tribune gathered that though members of the sect have Islamic background, they are preferably referred to as hoodlums.
  •  However, many Islamic clerics in Borno State have tried to educate followers of Islam on the teachings of the Boko Haram sect by critically looking at the teachings of Islam with regards to understanding the Holy Book and what Isalm said about western education. 
  • One of those, who took time to admonish Muslims in one of his lectures on the state-owned radio and television, Sheikh Saleh, who also emphasised the need for youths, especially students of tertiary institutions to embrace knowledge of Islam, noting that the religion has root in modern sciences, while acquisition of knowledge in those fields is incumbent and lawful for all practicing Muslims.

According to him;

  • “knowledge in Islam is divided into two and all are incumbent upon every Muslim to acquire. We have what is called Fardul Aiyn (general knowledge of individual on Islam) and fardul Kifaya (general knowledge about things in our environment). 
  • While the first teaches you what you should know about your religion, the other teaches Muslims to acquire knowledge in the field of Astronomy, Biology, Physics, Mathematics, Geology and so on”
  • Against the teaching of the outlawed Boko Haram sect, Sheik Saleh noted that there was no knowledge that is beneficial to mankind that is forbidden for Muslims.

Sharing the view of the National Chairman of Fatawa Committee, another renowned Islamic scholar, Sheik Modu Mustapha, urged Muslims to imbibe the attitude of seeking knowledge both western and Islamic, emphasising that no knowledge would be beneficial without discipline and respect for constituted authorities.

According to him, Muslims must continue to work in unity and cohesion and avoid any act that could bring about division in the religion, even as he described Boko Haram as an example of lack of adequate knowledge of Islam. He also called on lecturers in universities and other institutions of higher learning to adopt some of the Islamic knowledge in the formulation of their curriculum.

The Rest @ Sunday Tribune (Nigeria)

Al Shabaab Counter Attacks in Kenya

A series of explosions at a bus station in the Kenyan capital Nairobi has killed at least three people and wounded 40 others, the Kenyan Red Cross has said.

The Red Cross reported on its official twitter account that eight out of the 40 injured admitted to hospital on Saturday, are in a critical condition.

Witnesses reported that people in a moving car hurled three grenades at the terminal in Nairobi, Charles Owinom the police spokesman, said. Witnesses told the Reuters news agency they believed there had been up to four blasts, but there was no official confirmation of multiple explosions.

Kenyan police immediately blamed the Somali group al-Shabab for the attacks.

"This is a cowardly act by al-Shabab elements," Charles Owino, police spokesman told reporters at the bus station.

"But we will not relent in the war. We will get them and we will continue with the war."

Kenyan troops are currently fighting the Shebab in neighbouring Somalia. "We can confirm that indeed three people have been killed, 21 injured," he added.

The blasts are the latest in a string of small arms, bomb and grenade attacks that have killed scores of people since Kenya sent troops across the border into neighboring Somalia in October.

During those attacks, grenades were thrown into a bar and another bus station, both not far from the scene of Saturday's attack, killing one person and wounding more than 20.

The Rest @ al Jazera

UN Firearms Protocol (UNFP) Creates Tighter Restrictions on European Arms Exports

The new EU legislation adopted by the Council is aimed at effectively fighting illegal arms trafficking through stronger rules for exports and imports of firearms and improving traceability. In particular, the Regulation sets up simplified procedures for temporary export, import and transit of small numbers of firearms for ‘verifiable lawful purposes’, such as recreational, repair or exhibition, in order to avoid unnecessary administrative burdens.

Furthermore, the tracing and control of imports and exports of civilian firearms from and to the EU territory (firearms intended for military purposes are governed by other rules) is improved thanks to the new regulation. Exports of firearms will be subject to export authorisations, containing the necessary information to trace them, including the country of origin, the country of export, the final recipient and a description of the quantity of the firearms and related items. The European Parliament already asked for more transparency on exports of arms in April 2011.

The Regulation adopted addresses trade and transfers with countries outside the EU, thereby transposing the provisions of Article 10 of the UN Firearms Protocol (UNFP) on ‘General requirements for export, import and transit licensing or authorization systems’. It applies to firearms, their parts and essential components and ammunition for civilian use.

The Rest @ Euroalert

Monday, March 05, 2012

Boko Haram Reveals Plan to to Expel All Christians from Northern NIgeria

Boko Haram plans 'to eradicate Christians' from areas in Nigeria

Boko Haram, the radical Islamist terror group that has been linked to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb as well as Shabaab, al Qaeda's affiliate in East Africa, is intent on turning its insurgency in the north of Nigeria into a full-fledged war between Christans and Muslims.

  • The terror group has bombed numerous churches in the country in the past two years, including a suicide attack at a church in Jos at the end of February. 
  • Leadership, a Nigerian news outlet, interviewed a Boko Haram spokesman who said that the group will "eradicate Christians from certain parts of the country" while fighting to establish "a proper Islamic state."
  • A Nigerian spokesman for the Islamic militant group Boko Haram told on Sunday that they are planning a "war" on Christians in the next few weeks. According to the spokesman, speaking via telephone from northern Nigeria, the group "will launch a number of attacks, coordinated and part of the plan to eradicate Christians from certain parts of the country."

Boko Haram have taken responsibility for a number of bomb attacks on Christian churches across the country since a Christmas Day bombing left dozens of people killed.

The government has promised to crackdown on the group and has deployed military units across the country in an attempt to curtail the Islamic group's activities, arresting and killing a number of members in recent weeks.

But the spokesman said the government "cannot be prepared for what is to come."

He said, without giving specific details, "we will create so much effort to end the Christian presence in our push to have a proper Islamic state that the Christians won't be able to stay."

On Friday, the group reportedly killed three of its own members late on Friday in the northeastern state of Maiduguri, police and military sources confirmed.

"This was part of our planning and it is unfortunate," said the spokesman.

The Rest @ The Longwar Journal

Saturday, March 03, 2012

KAS Engineering and Peter Mirchev, VIctor Bout's Bulgarian Arms Supplier

Last week, during the last of four interviews I conducted with Viktor Bout, an arms trafficker, for my story in this week’s New Yorker, Bout became somewhat annoyed.

 My reporting drew on a variety of sources—surveillance tapes and transcripts, testimony at trial, D.E.A. case files, data recovered from Bout’s computer, and many interviews—but some of the more illustrative descriptions of Bout’s career came from his own longtime friend and business associate, a Bulgarian arms broker named Peter Mirchev. Finally, Bout said, “Why don’t you just write an article about Peter Mirchev?”

It’s a fair question.

  • After all, Mirchev is the one to whom Bout turned when men posing as members of the FARC expressed their interest in purchasing Iglas, a type of surface-to-air missile. 
  • Bout was primarily a logistics and transport man. Mirchev was the weapons guy. 
  • Since the early nineteen-nineties, Mirchev has run an arms-export company called KAS Engineering. Initially registered in Bulgaria, now licensed from the offshore haven of Gibraltar
  • KAS Engineering brokers weapons deals for clients around the world by tapping into Mirchev’s contacts with manufacturers in Bulgaria and Ukraine. 
  • Mirchev insists that he plays by the rules and doesn’t fulfill contracts for embargoed countries, though he subtly leaves open the possibility that weapons could be diverted: “My obligation is to put stuff inside the plane. From there, I don’t give a shit where the plane will go.” 
  • He has a LinkedIn account and encourages contact from those desiring “new ventures,” “expertise requests,” and “getting back in touch,” among others. An American official I met overseas dubbed Mirchev a “real player.”

Bout went on trial in lower Manhattan this fall, on charges related to the FARC deal. Throughout, Mirchev struck me as the one person who could offer some genuine, unvarnished sense of what had occurred—and whether Bout had intended to go through with the sale. In pre-trial hearings, Bout’s lawyer, Albert Dayan, had left open the possibility that he would call Mirchev to testify. Dayan, however, didn’t bring any witnesses. The prosecutors were left pointing to a single phone conversation between Bout and Mirchev and a few references to Mirchev that Bout made in Thailand in order to make their case.

Then, on one of the last days of the trial, they projected a screenshot from Bout’s computer, showing a Microsoft Outlook entry for Mirchev that included an e-mail and cell-phone number. I called the number a few days later. Mirchev answered. He said that he never spoke to journalists, and was about to hang up when I told him where I’d gotten his number, how his name had already been dragged through the dirt in an American courtroom, and that I wanted to hear his side of things—in person. I said I could be in Sofia within a week or two. He finally agreed.

Mirchev offered to meet me at my hotel. A small, shifty man with boxy cheeks but an otherwise forgettable face, he entered the hotel lobby, shook my hand with a nervous twitch, and suggested we go somewhere else. We ended up two blocks away, at a café called Cookies. We ordered coffee, and, later, a couple of Johnnie Walker Blacks. It was early afternoon. Mirchev spent the rest of the day telling me how he met Bout, how they became good friends, how their families vacationed together, and how he supplied weapons to the young Russian.

So why was Mirchev not targeted, too? That’s a question only the D.E.A. could answer and, for this piece, I wasn’t granted any access to serving D.E.A. agents. But it is apparent that the sting, named Operation Relentless, set its sights solely on Bout.

Anyone else swept up in the raid—apart from Andrew Smulian, who witnessed the evolution of the case and who seemed most ripe for “flipping” and testifying against Bout— was quickly discarded. For instance, the D.E.A. and the Royal Thai Police arrested Bout’s bodyguard Mikhail Belezorosky in Thailand. They briefly questioned him. “First, he said he didn’t speak English. Then he said he was a taxi-driver. Then he said he was on vacation. Then he said he was a taxi-driver on vacation. He was very, very confused,” said Tom Pasquerello, the D.E.A.’s regional director in Bangkok. Another agent gave Belezorosky twenty dollars' worth of Thai baht and told him to leave Bangkok immediately.

Mirchev is nonetheless careful about where he travels these days. Last week, he called me to ask about a woman from The New Yorker who had been calling him, speaking flawless Russian. (Mirchev and I have talked a handful of times on the phone since our meeting in Sofia.) He explained that she was a fact-checker and suggested that the three of us could all get dinner and drinks one evening if he ever visited New York. Then he laughed. “I’m not coming to New York anytime,” he said. “Or else I’ll be in the jail cell next to Viktor.”

The Rest by Nicholas Schmidle @  the New Yorker Magazine