Africa
Dirkou

US steps up drone ops as Sahel violence flares

In the latest outbreak of fast-escalating violence across Africa’s Sahel, gunmen in Niger killed at least 58 people when they intercepted a convoy of four commercial transport vehicles carrying local civilians from a weekly market, and attacked nearby villages. The passengers were summarily executed, and homes and granaries put to the torch in the villages. The attacks took place in the TillabĂ©ri region, near the flashpoint “tri-border area” where Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso come together. Militant groups linked to ISIS and al-Qaeda cross between all three countries. The CIA is stepping up drone surveillance flights from a base it has established at Dirkou, in Niger’s Agadez region. MQ-9 Reapers are stationed at the base, and armed strikes on militant targets are said to be under consideration pending a review by the Biden administration. (Photo: Airman Michelle Ulber via Israel Defense)

Afghanistan
afghan army

Afghanistan: US withdrawal on hold?

With a May 1 deadline for withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan approaching but a final peace deal stalled, the White House is said to be considering an extension beyond this date for removal of its 2,500 troops remaining in the country. “Intra-Afghan” negotiations between the Taliban and Kabul opened in Doha in September, but remain deadlocked over fundamentals of the power-sharing deal—with the Taliban rejecting President Ashraf Ghani’s insistence on remaining in office for the remainder his five-year-term. Predictably, they haven’t even got around to discussing protection of minority and women’s rights, or the role of sharia law in the new order. Meanwhile, civilian casualties are mounting, and the Taliban has just launched a spring offensive. (Photo: Khaama Press)

Greater Middle East
yemen

Biden pledges end to US support for Yemen war —almost

President Joe Biden announced the United States will end support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen that has deepened suffering in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country. “This war has to end,” Biden told diplomats in his first visit to the State Department as president, saying the conflict has created a “humanitarian and strategic catastrophe.” Biden pledged an end to “relevant” US arms sales, while giving no immediate details on what that would mean. However, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan was quick to add that an end to US support for the Saudi war against the Houthi rebels will not affect US operations against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). (Photo: OCHA)

Greater Middle East
Cumhuriyet

Turkey convicts newspaper editor on ‘terrorism’ charges

Can DĂŒndar, the former editor-in-chief of Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, was convicted on charges of terrorism in Turkey and sentenced in absentia. The Istanbul court found DĂŒndar guilty of aiding a terrorist organization and espionage, sentencing him to 27 years and six months in prison. DĂŒndar was first sentenced to five years in 2016 on espionage charges and attempting to overthrow the government for publishing footage that allegedly showed Turkey’s state intelligence agency transporting weapons to Syrian rebels in 2014. DĂŒndar was later released when the matter went to appeal. Upon his release, DĂŒndar fled the country while Turkish authorities ordered the seizure of his property and froze his bank accounts. He is now living in exile in Germany. (Photo: WikiMedia via Jurist)

Africa
Mali

UN to investigate ‘crimes against humanity’ in Mali

UN investigators into political violence in Mali reported to the Security Council that they found evidence that government forces have committed “war crimes,” while jihadists and other armed groups perpetrated “crimes against humanity.” The allegations are made in a 338-page report compiled by the International Commission of Inquiry, a panel examining events in Mali over the six years after it spiralled into conflict in 2012. The report, which has not yet been made public, recommends establishing a special court to try accused perpetrators. But the recommendations are being met with some wariness in Mali. The opposition Rally of Patriotic Forces demands that foreign militaries operating in the country be covered in the scope of the investigation—including France. (Photo via Andy Morgan Writes)

North Africa
JNIM

Mali: now a three-way war —or four?

Jihadist militants continue to wage a low-level insurgency in Mali, targetting government troops and their French allies. Last week, the Group for Support of Islam & Muslims (JNIM) claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on French forces. But internecine fighting between jihadist factions also takes an increasing toll. Since an apparent truce broke down this year, there have been repeated clashes between JINM, an al-Qaeda affiliate, and the self-declared Islamic State in the Greater Sahara. Amid all this, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), seeking self-rule for the Tuareg people in the desert north, maintains a precarious independence from both the jihadist and government forces. In a statement, the MNLA accused the government of fomenting conflict in the region as a strategy to avoid ceding autonomy to the Tuaregs, as mandated by a 2015 peace accord. The statement warned that the MNLA will not surrender its arms until terms of the accord are instated. (Photo of JNIM militants via Long War Journal)

Watching the Shadows
neo-Nazis

State Department sees global ‘white supremacist’ threat

The US State Department’s newly released “Country Reports on Terrorism 2019” makes special note for the first time of an international white supremacist threat. The report states that the Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau “increased its efforts to combat racially or ethnically motivated terrorism (REMT). REMT, in particular white supremacist terrorism, continues to be a threat to the global community, with violence both on the rise and spreading geographically.” Given that this report is released just as Trump is becoming more blatant than ever in his own espousal of white supremacy, we must ask if this is not another example of the “Deep State” (read: those elements of the bureaucracy not completely co-opted by his dictatorial agenda) acting independently of the White House—or even, as the deplorables love to fear, actually seeking to subvert it. (Photo via Germ)

Syria
Atmeh

Syria: protests against ex-Nusra rule in Idlib

Protesters gathered in the town of Atmeh in Syria’s opposition-held Idlib province to demand the release of a locally based British aid worker arrested by Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Islamist militia formerly known as the Nusra Front that now controls much of the province. Tauqir Sharif, a British Muslim, was working with a grassroots aid and media group called Live Updates from Syria. He was detained by HTS in a raid on his home. Footage of the protest showed many women and children among dozens chanting and holding banners calling for Sharif to be freed. The crowd finally gathered outside the closed gates of a compound guarded by masked militiamen. Demonstrators also protested the closure of education and social services by HTS, chanting “We want schools to open.” (Photo via Middle East Eye)

Africa
Mali troops

Sahel security forces accused of war crimes

Soldiers rampaging through villages in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso have unlawfully killed or forcibly disappeared at least 199 people between February and April 2020, Amnesty International said in a new briefing. Some of the killings amount to extrajudicial executions and among the victims are internally displaced persons. The deliberate killings of unarmed civilians by security forces could meet the qualification of war crimes. (Photo: Magharebia via Wikimedia Commons)

North Africa
Intikane

Deadly attack on Niger refugee camp

More than a thousand people are on the run following a brutal attack on a camp for refugees and displaced persons in western Niger. Three were killed and several others wounded as over 50 gunmen on motorbikes swarmed into the camp at Intikane village, near the Malian border. The camp housed some 20,000 refugees from Mali and an additional 15,000 internally displaced persons from within Niger, including many ethnic Tuaregs, who have fled fighting in their own communities. In addition to killing three, the assailants torched food supplies and other aid. They also destroyed mobile phone towers and the main water pumping station and pipes. Although no group has been named in the attack, numerous armed factions with links to either al-Qaeda or ISIS have been mounting an insurgency across the Sahel over the past years, despite the presence of thousands of regional and foreign troops in a multinational military campaign to suppress them. (Photo: UNHCR via Flickr)

Africa
ivorian troops

Sahel insurgency reaches Ivory Coast borderlands

In another sign of the Islamist insurgency in the Sahel reaching West Africa’s littoral states, the armed forces of Ivory Coast announced the completion of a joint operation with the military of neighboring inland Burkina Faso, to clear out a Qaedist camp that had been established on the border between the two countries. Some 1,000 Ivorian soldiers took part in the operation, in which eight militants were reported killed and 38 others detained—24 in Burkina Faso and 14 in Ivory Coast. More are thought to have escaped on motorbikes through the bush. The militants are said to be followers of the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), al-Qaeda’s West African franchise. (Photo: Ecofin Agency)

Africa
Sudan

SCOTUS: Sudan liable for terrorism damages

The US Supreme Court ruled in Opati v. Republic of Sudan that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act permits a punitive damages award against Sudan for the role it played in the 1998 bombings at the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Plaintiffs in the case argued that Sudan had harbored al-Qaeda leaders who plotted the attacks, including Osama bin Laden. Officials in Khartoum have been seeking a settlement with the victims outside the court. Sudan is in a precarious economic situation following the ouster of long-ruling strongman Omer Hassan al-Bashir, now exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Trump administration made it clear that Sudan must settle all terrorism-related claims to get off the US list of “state sponsors of terrorism”—a precondition for Washington’s support for debt relief for the African country. (Map: Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection)