Tag Archives: Africa

African Union endorses plan for anti Boko Haram force

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Chadian troops previously stationed by the Sudanese border make a stop on their way to lake Chad near Baga Sola Friday March 6, 2015 (Photo: AP)
AFP  The African Union has endorsed the creation of a regional force of up to 10,000 men to join the fight against the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram, diplomats said Friday.The force, the idea for which was adopted at an AU summit in January, will be based in Chad’s capital N’Djamena, the pan-African bloc’s Peace and Security Council said.

It will be mandated “to prevent the spread of Boko Haram activities and other terrorist groups” and “eradicate their presence,” the body agreed in a meeting this week.

Diplomats said Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Benin have committed to providing troops, who would “operate freely” in a still-undefined region.

According to an AU diplomat, who asked not to be named, the troops will operate around the Lake Chad Basin but not on Nigerian soil — explaining that Nigeria “has a problem with agreeing to having foreign troops on its soil.”

Without the ability to intervene in Nigeria, the force would only be able to counter cross-border attacks by the militants. The diplomat, however, said close coordination with Nigerian troops could see Boko Haram fighters effectively sandwiched.

At least 13,000 people have been killed and more than a million forced from their homes since Boko Haram launched an insurgency in 2009. The group also carried out the mass abduction of 276 girls from the town of Chibok in April last year.

The AU has said it will seek UN Security Council approval in the form of a Chapter 7 resolution authorising the use of force, plus a UN “Trust Fund” to pay for it.

Diplomats said that while “logistical support” would be forthcoming, financing remained the key obstacle to collective action.

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US imposes sanctions on Africa based Hezbollah members

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BEIRUT: The U.S. Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on an alleged Africa-based Hezbollah support network, a statement released Thursday said.

It said the Treasury targeted Mustapha Fawaz, Fouzi Fawaz and Abdallah Tahini, all of whom are Lebanese-born men based in Nigeria, with sanctions designations.

The Treasury also placed sanctions on a holding company, a supermarket and an amusement park in Nigeria controlled by the Fawaz brothers.

In the a statement released Thursday, Adam Szubin, acting undersecretary of Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the U.S. “will track Hezbollah’s illicit activities to all corners of the Earth.”

“Wherever this terrorist group may seek to raise funds, we will target and expose its activity,” added the statement.

The United States considers Hezbollah a terrorist organization.

The statement alleged that Mustapha Fawaz has been “a significant donor” to Hezbollah, and that he had solicited donations in Abuja, Nigeria, helping transfer them to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Mustapha was detained in mid-May 2013 by Nigerian authorities, where he reportedly confessed the details of his activities and named other Nigeria-based members of the Hezbollah-affiliated Islamic Jihad Organization, Treasury said.

The Treasury also alleged that Mustapha’s brother Fouzi is a member of a Hezbollah cell in Nigeria. He was also an official with Hezbollah’s foreign relations department, the primary goal of which, according to Treasury, is to scout recruits and to support the group’s infrastructure for its operational units. In 2013, Nigerian authorities issued an arrest warrant for him, Treasury said.

Tahini was targeted with sanctions after being arrested in May 2013 for being a member of a Hezbollah cell in Nigeria, the statement said. Mustapha Fawaz and Tahini were both released from custody in late-November 2013 after being cleared of terrorism charges.

They both have denied allegations against them.

Separately Thursday, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control lifted sanctions on Youssef Nada, and six companies formerly affiliated with him. Nada, who was placed under terrorism sanctions in November 2001, submitted a delisting petition to OFAC in July 2012, a Treasury spokeswoman said.

– See more at: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Lebanon-News/2015/Feb-27/288970-us-targets-africa-based-hezbollah-network.ashx#sthash.Pme5sLep.dpuf

ISIS spreading to North Africa

Nearly two months after President Obama first vowed to eradicate ISIS, this cancer is spreading in North Africa — within striking distance of Europe’s soft underbelly.

  •  On Sept. 15, a group of Algerian jihadists broke away from the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb network to pledge allegiance to ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The self-proclaimed “Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria” proved their worth days later, ambushing a group of French tourists in a popular Algerian national park, kidnapping and beheading one of them.
  •  On Sept. 23, the new group Soldiers of the Caliphate in Egypt popped up, threatening attacks against the country’s anti-Islamist government and US interests. In Egypt’s Sinai, the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis network, the instigator of a costly 18-month insurgency, has increasingly adopted ISIS tactics to intimidate the local population. ABM has taken to publicized beheadings and flash parades-of-force in local villages, while several of its members have admitted to receiving tutelage and funding from ISIS.
  •  In Tunisia, once-struggling guerrillas on the mountainous frontier with Algeria received a boost from jihadists returning from Syria, even as messages of support for ISIS increase from groups fighting in the area.

Ironically, most of North Africa’s jihadist groups declined to associate themselves with ISIS until the United States commenced its intervention in Iraq and Syria.

Terrorist heavyweights such as Abdel Malek Droukdel of AQIM, Mohammed Zahawi of Ansar al-Sharia in Libya and Mokhtar Belmokhtar of al-Mourabitoun — men who’d fought alongside Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri — refused to pledge allegiance to ISIS even after it captured vast territory in Iraq in June and declared a caliphate.

Yet now North Africa’s younger jihadist generation is breaking away from al Qaeda’s flailing old guard, seeking instead to get on the ISIS bandwagon to suckle the benefits from its seemingly unstoppable success — primarily its wealth.

And the sporadic US airstrikes in Iraq and Syria seem to have boosted ISIS’ legitimacy in the eyes of North Africa’s jihadists, as shown by a disturbing rise in public pledges of support and allegiance.

The only thing more worrying than the spike in grassroots support for ISIS in North Africa is the readiness of the international community to repeat the mistakes of Iraq and Syria.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Libya — a country primed to allow jihadists of the most dangerous breed to form a terror state mere miles from Italy.

As they did in Syria, Qatar and Turkey have been backing an array of Islamist militias in Libya, many of which work openly with jihadist groups.

In August, these militias took control of the capital Tripoli, forcing the Western-recognized parliament to the secularist haven of Tobruk near the Egyptian border.

A loose coalition of tribes and anti-Islamist revolutionaries led by former Gen. Khalifa Hifter has been on the defensive nationwide. In August, Ansar al-Sharia pushed Hifter’s forces out of their bases in Benghazi, and soon declared the area an Islamic Emirate.

Libya provided a training ground and rallying point for North African fighters heading into Syria. When those fighters return, it will similarly serve as a base of operations against US allies Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt.

The al-Battar Brigade, a Libyan militia in Syria allied with ISIS, has already returned and established itself in Benghazi, while local groups such as Majlis Shura Shabaab al-Islam in the city of Derna continue to pledge allegiance to ISIS.

Yet when the UAE and Egypt attacked targets in Tripoli in September to help anti-Islamist militias, the US reaction was condemnation.

There are no perfect options, but the West has no choice but to take sides in North Africa’s jihadist fight, lest it face another terrorist behemoth fueled by ultra-fine Libyan crude and armed with hundreds of shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles.

This effort must begin with a determined effort to ensure that anti-Islamist militias have everything they need to outgun their Islamist opponents, and to bolster the abilities of Egypt and Algeria to protect their borders.

And the West must finally bring an end to Qatar’s support for extremist groups region-wide.

As the world comes to terms with the horrific consequences of inaction in Syria and Iraq, those who oppose extremism have no excuse for standing on the sidelines as Libya descends into even greater chaos — threatening to drag the entire region down with it.

Daniel Nisman is president of the Levantine Group, a Middle East-based geopolitical risk and research consultancy.