North Africa Theater

Libya tilts to hardliners, threatens Italy

The conventional wisdom is that Libya's Mommar Qadaffi is defanged and domesticated. Recent events, however, indicate a strategic tilt back towards the bellicose on the part of the savvy despot. A cabinet shake-up favoring the hardliners comes on the heels of barely-veiled threats of terror attacks against Italy. From Reuters, March 5:

Arab journalists arrested in cartoon controversy

This is practically Orwellian. Is the Algerian regime using the printing of the anti-Islam cartoons—blurred and denounced—as an excuse to crack down on pro-Islamist newspapers? From Al-Jazeera, Feb. 13:

Algeria and Yemen have arrested journalists working for newspapers that have reprinted cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that led to protests around the world.

Tuaregs do Vatican

The Pope greeted a group of Tuareg desert nomads in St Peter's Basilica Nov. 13, using the occassion to invoke the "universal brotherhood" of all the world's peoples. The ten Tuareg visitors, dressed in blue and white robes and turbans, were in the Vatican to pay tribute to Charles de Foucauld, a French Catholic missionary who lived among their people in the early years of the 20th century.

Algerians jailed for eating lunch

"The speed with which Algeria has gone from symbol of revolutionary socialism to Islamic battleground has confounded most observers," states the blurb for The Call From Algeria: Third Worldism, Revolution, and the Turn to Islam by Robert Malley (UC, 1996). Remember when Black Panthers like Eldridge Cleaver fled there, and the Algerian revolution's theorist and chronicler Frantz Fanon—who rejected religion as the opiate of the oppressed—was a global icon of anti-colonial struggle? A generation later, the country has embraced a degree of mandatory piety that would make Jerry Falwell blush—largely in response to the jihadi threat. From BBC, Nov. 1:

Long-delayed peace deal for Niger's restive Tuaregs

Ten years after Niger's government and insurgents signed an accord to end the Tuareg rebellion, authorities have launched an economic assistance program for more than 3,000 ex-combatants in the country's north—the final phase as laid out in the peace pact. Under the project, 3,160 former combatants will be granted around US $300 each in the form of micro-loans for projects in animal husbandry, local crafts and vegetable gardening, said Michele Falavigna, Niger representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

Moroccan security forces kill African migrants; crisis grows over Spanish enclaves

Moroccan troops killed six undocumented African migrants attempting to reach the Spanish-controlled enclave of Melilla on the Mediterranean coast Oct. 6. Citing Abdellah Bendhiba, the governor of Nador province, news accounts said the Africans were killed in a "violent" assault by 400 migrants on guard posts outside the enclave. Security forces responded in self-defense, the report said. 290 were reported arrested, and Spain pledged to deport another 70 migrants from Mali who had reached the enclave "illegally." (EiTB24, Spain, Oct. 6)

Western Sahara prisoners on hunger strike

Morocco's leading independent human rights group called on the government Aug. 29 to start talks to try to end a hunger strike by prisoners from Morocco-occupied Western Sahara who are demanding better conditions. The Moroccan Human Rights Association (AMDH) said 29 prisoners in three prisons—one in the disputed territory and two in northern Moroccan cities—had refused to eat for three weeks. "The strike has started to seriously take its toll on their health," said MDH spokesman Abdelilah Benabdeslam. "Their lives are at risk now."

Last Moroccan POWs freed by Western Sahara guerillas

After more than 20 years in captivity, 404 prisoners of war have returned home to Morocco, the last of more than 2,400 freed by Western Sahara's Polisario Front independence movement. Two privately chartered planes carrying the prisoners, some of them more than 60 years old, landed in the southern city of Agadir. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the prisoners' release in Tindouf, southwest Algeria, followed US mediation. They were captured by the Polisario in the guerrilla war sparked by Rabat's 1975 annexation of the desert territory. The soldiers' return home could ease tension between Morocco and the Polisario's main backer Algeria, major players in a region where the West seeks stability and cooperation against Islamic militants.

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