The Polisario Front has declared the 1991 Western Sahara ceasefire defunct after Morocco launched a military operation within the UN-patrolled buffer strip through the disputed territory. At issue is a road linking the territory to Mauritania, which passes through the buffer zone just before the border. Polisario considers the road illegal, claiming it was built in violation of the 1991 truce. What are variously called protesters or Polisario-linked militia have been blocking the road at Guerguera, within the buffer zone. Morocco’s Royal Armed Forces say they are seeking to secure the flow of goods and people along the road; Polisario contends the road is being used to smuggle drugs and contraband. Polisario’s armed wing, the Sahrawi People’s Liberation Army, claims to have launched attacks on Moroccan forces. It is unclear if the renewed conflict has yet claimed any lives. (Photo: MINURSO via Yabiladi)
At a meeting with leaders of five West African nations, French President Emmanuel Macron pledged to send 220 more troops to fight growing militancy in the Sahel. The increase is unlikely to be welcomed by aid groups, which have called for civilians to be prioritized in responses, and criticized the region’s growing militarization. Meeting in the southern French city of Pau, the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger agreed to step up military cooperation, combining their respective forces under a single command structure, to be called the Coalition for the Sahel. (Photo: Wikipedia)
At least 25 Malian soldiers are dead and more than 60 others missing after two assaults on bases in central Mali, near the border with Burkina Faso. Jihadist forces simultaneously targeted a Malian army base and a G5 Sahel force camp. The G5 Sahel group includes Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Chad and Mauritania, and receives logistical support from the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Malian officials say the insurgents used “heavy weapons” in the assaults, and that at least 15 militants were killed. Local reports indicate the militants were able to briefly hold the bases and capture large amounts of weapons and equipment. Mali has now launched a joint operation with Burkina Faso and French forces in the region to hunt down the militants. (Photo: UN News)
In an egregious and all too revealing faux pas, Amy Goodman appears to have put a mouthpiece of the German far right on Democracy Now as a "former UN expert" to discuss Venezuela. This is one Alfred de Zayas, who is given Goodman's typical sycophantic treatment—all softballs, no adversarial questions. We are treated to the accurate enough if not at all surprising line about how the US is attempting a coup with the complicity of the corporate media. Far more interesting than what he says is de Zayas himself. Not noted by Goodman is that he is on the board of the Desiderius-Erasmus-Stiftung, a Berlin-based foundation established last year as the intellectual and policy arm of Alternative für Deutschland, the far-right party that has tapped anti-immigrant sentiment to win an alarming 94 seats in Germany's Bundestag. He has won a neo-Nazi following with his unseemly theories of Aliied "genocide" against Germans in World War II. (Image via Democracy Now)
Authorities in Mauritania ordered the country's five privately owned news stations off the air. The move is the latest sign of a crackdown on the independent press following a controversial referendum called by President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz in August. The opposition-boycotted vote abolished Mauritania's Senate after it blocked an expansion of presidential powers.
Lawyers for 13 activists with the Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement on trial in Mauritania said they have been tortured in detention.
The last remaining British inmate at Guantánamo Bay, Shaker Aamer, was released to the UK, bringing the number detainees at the facility to 112.
UN rights experts pressed Mauritania to fully implement its new, toughened anti-slavery law—passed just as a court upheld a two-year prison term for an anti-slavery activist.
Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and related networks are said to control Saharan smuggling routes for Moroccan hashish to fund their regional operations.
Amnesty International called for the release of three anti-slavery activists imprisoned in Mauritania, including UN Human Rights Prize recipient Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid.
Blogger Cheikh Ould Mohamed of Mauritania was sentenced to death for apostasy after a court convicted him of "speaking lightly of the Prophet Mohammed" on websites.
Mauritania's opposition parties will boycott upcoming elections, seen as legitimizing a dictatorship, while a "Global Slavery Index" names the country as the world's worst offender.