Africa
Fulani

Podcast: West Africa’s forgotten wars

In Episode 161 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg provides an overview of the under-reported conflicts in West Africa, where government forces and allied paramilitary groups battle multiple jihadist insurgencies affiliated either with ISIS or al-Qaeda on a franchise model. Horrific massacres have been committed by both sides, but the Western media have only recently started to take note because of the geopolitical angle that has emerged: both Mali and Burkina Faso have cut long-standing security ties with France, the former colonial power, and brought in mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group. In both countries, the pastoralist Fulani people have been stigmatized as “terrorists” and targeted for extra-judicial execution and even massacre—a potentially pre-genocidal situation. But government air-strikes on Fulani communities in Nigeria have received no coverage in the Western media, because of the lack of any geopolitical rivalry there; Nigeria remains firmly in the Anglo-American camp. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Sahara Reporters)

Africa
Somalia

Somalia: US raids on ISIS stronghold

A US special forces raid in Somalia ordered by President Joe Biden killed a key regional ISIS leader, Bilal al-Sudani, the Pentagon said in a statement. Sudani apparently died in a gun-battle after US troops descended on a cave complex in a mountainous area of northern Somalia. The statement did not specify the location of the raid, but the announcement followed reports in Somali media describing a US drone strike on a stronghold of the self-declared Islamic State-Somalia in the Cal Miskaad mountains of the autonomous northern region of Puntland. The raid came as the US military has been stepping up attacks on the Qaeda-aligned Shabaab rebels in central Somalia, in conjunction with Somali government and African Union forces. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
VDP

Ethnically targeted killings in Burkina Faso: report

A human rights group in Burkina Faso reported that 28 people were found shot dead in the town of Nouna, in apparently ethnically targeted killings at the hands of a volunteer militia group. The Collective Against Impunity & Stigmatization of Communities (CISC) said the killings were perpetrated by members of the Volunteers for the Defense of the Homeland (VDP). The VDP allegedly killed 21, including children, in a year-end attack in a part of Nouna inhabited by the minority Fula community. The report stated that the VDP appears to have targeted “resourceful” or “influential” people in the community. The report further found that similar extrajudicial executions were carried out by the VDP in the same community earlier in December. The VDP is a citizen militia formed to help the Burkina Faso military fight jihadist rebels. (Photo of VDP fighters: Henry Wilkins/VOA via Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
Togo

Qaeda franchise claims deadly assault in Togo

The Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (JNIM by its Arabic rendering), al-Qaeda’s West African franchise, claimed credit for an assault on Togolese forces that left at least 17 soldiers dead near the border with Burkina Faso. Togolese media reported that fighters in large columns of vehicles mounted with heavy machine-guns raided a military outpost at Tiwoli village, in northern Savanes region. This is the second such claim of responsibility for an attack within Togo by JNIM in the last two weeks, and the third this year. The attacks are raising fears of insurgency spreading from conflict-torn Burkina Faso into West Africa’s littoral states. (Map: Togo Department of Health)

Africa
Burkina Faso

‘War footing,’ paramilitary drive in Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso’s new military government said that the country is on a “war footing,” and launched a drive to recruit 50,000 civilian defense volunteers to help the overstretched army fight jihadist insurgents. The recruits receive two weeks of basic training and then join the Volunteers for the Defense of the Fatherland (VDP), a village-based militia network.  But the VDP has been accused of targeting the pastoralist Fulani people in extra-judicial killings. A campaign of hate speech on social media has described all Fulani as “terrorists”—even though they are also often the victims of jihadist attacks. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library)

Africa
Somalia

Somalia: clan militia takes on al-Shabab

The jihadist group al-Shabab is facing a local clan-based rebellion in central Somalia—one the embattled Mogadishu government hopes might spread throughout its zones of control. As resistance to the insurgent group has grown, lawmakers and clan elders have been backing the self-organized militia in pitched battles against al-Shabab. The militia—known as Ma’awisley, a reference to the traditional sarong worn in Somalia’s rural areas—is strongest in Middle Shabelle, Hiran and Galmudug regions of Hirshabelle and Central states. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
Burkinabé

Attacks, displacement in post-coup Burkina Faso

When mutinous soldiers ousted Burkina Faso’s democratically elected president in late January, they vowed to do a better job of securing the Sahelian country from attacks linked to al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State. But violence has only increased over the past months, draining public confidence in the junta, threatening coastal West African states, and worsening a humanitarian crisis that has now displaced almost two million people–around one in 10 BurkinabĂ©. (Photo: Sam Mednick/TNH)

Afghanistan
Taliban

Afghanistan: UN report details Taliban abuses

The United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a report holding the ruling Taliban regime responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, and inhumane punishments in the first 10 months since they seized power. In total, UNAMA found that Taliban forces engaged in 239 extrajudicial killings, 313 arbitrary arrests and detentions, 46 cases of incommunicado detention, and 73 instances of torture. Most of the incidents targeted former soldiers and officials from the previous government, ISIS members, or National Resistance Front fighters. UNAMA also identified an additional 217 instances of degrading punishments and 118 uses of excessive force against civilians. Finally, Taliban forces also engaged in at least 163 rights violations targeting journalists and 64 targeting human rights defenders. (Photo: VOA via Jurist)

Watching the Shadows
Guantanamo

Afghan detainee released from Guantánamo

The US Department of Defense announced the release of Asadullah Haroon Gul, an Afghan national, who had been held for 15 years without charge at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp. Gul was incarcerated at Guantánamo in 2007 on accusations of being a member of al-Qaeda and Hezb-e-Islami (HIA), an insurgent group that fought against the US in Afghanistan. HIA signed a peace agreement with the US-backed Afghan government in 2016. Human rights organization Reprieve subsequently filed a habeas corpus petition demanding Gul’s release. (Photo: Gino Reyes/Wikimedia Commons)

Africa
Mali

Mali massacre: jihadism or ethnic war?

Scores of Malians demonstrated in the town of Bankass, in central Mopti region, to demand state protection after more than 130 civilians were killed by presumed jihadist militants in three villages over the past days. The massacres in the localities are said to have been carried out by the Katiba Macina, a militant group led by Fulani preacher Amadou Kouffa. The gunmen burned huts and stole cattle in addition to killing villagers. The Katiba Macina is apparently an offshoot of the Qaeda-aligned Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (JNIM). However, in Mopti region, traditionally known to the Fulani as Macina, the violence appears to have taken on an ethnic cast. In March 2019, more than 160 Fulani civilians were massacred at the village of Ogossagou. Fulani were also targeted in an April 2022 massacre attributed to Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group. (Map: PCL)Afri

Africa
west africa

West Africa jihadist insurgency reaches Togo

At least eight Togolese soldiers were killed in an assault on a military base in the north of the West African country—marking the first fatal attack in Togo by the jihadist rebel militias waging an insurgency across the wider region. Some 60 gunmen on motorcycles attacked the base at Kpinkankandi, near the border with Burkina Faso. According to locals, the battle over the base raged most of the night before the assailants retreated. No group has claimed responsibility for the raid, but suspicion has fallen on the Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (JNIM), a Qaeda-aligned faction active in Burkina Faso. (Map: World Sites Atlas)

Africa
Somalia

Podcast: Somalia in the Great Game

In Episode 122 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the ongoing conflict in Somalia in light of both climate change and Great Power politics. Despite a pseudo-withdrawal of US forces, the Pentagon continues drone strikes against the Shaabab insurgents—as the Horn of Africa faces it worst drought in a generation, with millions on the brink of extreme hunger and possible starvation. A paradox of the situation is that “government-controlled” Somalia (the southern third of the country) is not controlled by any government, but wracked by insurgency. In contrast, the unrecognized de facto independent state of Somaliland in the north is a bastion of comparative stability and even social progress. Reports of Russian designs on Somaliland as a potential site for a naval base threaten to draw it into the imperial contest for control of the strategic Horn. Progressives in the West can demand international recognition for an independent and non-aligned Somaliland. We can also loan solidarity to the Sufi resistance now fighting both the Shaabab and the “recognized” Mogadishu quasi-government. Most importantly, we can support the secular and pro-democratic voices of civil society that are standing up for human rights and basic freedoms at great risk to themselves, and in spite fo everything. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map via Wikimedia Commons)