Media Review for January 23, 2013

By Africa Center Media Review
Updated: 01/23/2013

Please note: The following news items are presented here for informational purposes. The views expressed within them are those of the authors and/or individuals quoted, not those of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, the National Defense University, or the Department of Defense.

Today’s News

Some Algeria Attackers Are Placed at Benghazi
Several Egyptian members of the squad of militants that lay bloody siege to an Algerian gas complex last week also took part in the deadly attack on the United States Mission in Libya in September, a senior Algerian official said Tuesday. The Egyptians involved in both attacks were killed by Algerian forces during the four-day ordeal that ended in the deaths of at least 38 hostages and 29 kidnappers, the official said. But three of the militants were captured alive, and one of them described the Egyptians’ role in both assaults under interrogation by the Algerian security services, the official said. The new York Times

Qaeda man behind Algeria’s hostage crisis exposed in an interview
The al-Qaeda mastermind that led the operation to kidnap hostages in the Algerian desert has been exposed when Al Arabiya sources obtained an earlier interview of him. The hostages’ operation architect, Mohammed Lamin Bin Shanab, was announced dead by the Algerian government during the national army’s final attack against the terrorist group. Al Arabiya

Terror in North Africa: are Westerners pulling the strings?
Canada is investigating an allegation by the Algerian Prime Minister that one of its citizens co-ordinated the terror raid at the Saharan gas plant in which dozens of hostages were killed. Westerners, including a man with blond hair and blue eyes, are believed to have been among the Islamist militants who launched last week’s attack on the Tigantourine complex near Algeria’s border with Libya. A French jihadist, previously unknown to authorities, and two Canadians are suspected to have been involved in the hostage-taking, and reports also claim that a man with a Western accent was among the extremists who lured terrified gas workers from their rooms during the hostage crisis. The Independant

Algerian forces scour Sahara for five missing gas workers who are feared dead after escaping into the desert
Algerian forces are scouring the Sahara desert for five foreign gas workers missing since Al-Qaeda-linked militants stormed the vast BP-run complex a week ago and feared lost after escaping into the desert. Two Britons are still unaccounted for and presumed dead following the carnage of the four-day siege but the revelation today by a member of Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal’s office that the government believes five international workers could be in the desert will raise faint hopes of families in the UK their loved ones may miraculously have survived. The Telegraph

The Algeria Powder Keg
The terrorist attack in Algeria last week in which Islamists took dozens of hostages at a remote natural-gas complex is the world’s worst since the attack on Mumbai in 2008, and it puts Algeria in the center of the global jihad. The Algerian regime is an old-fashioned Arab police state with a reputation for fighting jihadists more ruthlessly and efficiently than any other African or Arab regime. It is America’s ally, but a difficult and suspicious partner. The Daily Beast

Algeria’s terrorist attacks owe little to its ‘pathological’ history
Politicians and the media have raised the prospect of a “decades-long” struggle against Islamist extremism in northern Africa. Faced with the information vacuum from Algeria, it’s unsurprising that we’ve heard so much about the supposedly pathological history of a country of which little else is known, and of the threat apparently posed by al-Qaida-linked Islamism, growing in a propitiously violent environment, to the region and to Europe. The Guardian

Hostage crisis shatters Algeria’s image as a safe place to do business
Last week’s hostage-taking has rocked the image of Algeria’s powerful security apparatus, raising questions about how gunmen could have overrun the key Ain Amenas gasfield, with alarming implications for the energy sector. [...] After years of relative quiet, during which the army managed to largely curtail the operations of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the local affiliate of the terror network, Algeria’s vulnerability in a region swept by change has been laid bare. The National

Flyover Country: Why the United States can’t just drone Algeria
During the four-day siege of the In Amenas gas field, which culminated in an opaque takeover by the Algerian military that reportedly killed dozens, several pundits and journalists asked why the U.S. military did not send drones or special operations forces to free the hostages or kill the Islamist militants holding them. One CNN anchor asked Mike Rogers, who chairs the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, “I’m curious as to your perceptions whether the U.S. is taking too much of a back seat.” The following day, another CNN anchor seemed puzzled as to why Algeria would only permit the United States to fly unarmed drones over its territory, to which Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr noted: “The U.S. view is that the Algerians would have to grant permission for U.S. troops, U.S. military force, to go in there.” Foreign Policy

French target Timbuktu, bomb ex-Gaddafi mansion
Mali said Tuesday that French forces closing in on the northern towns of Timbuktu and Gao could reclaim the rebel strongholds within a month as an Islamist-held mansion belonging to former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi came under aerial attack. France 24

UK special forces active in Mali
A small number of UK special forces soldiers are already on the ground in Mali helping to co-ordinate and advise the French military effort against the jihadi groups in the north. They are part of a team of British military and MI6 personnel in the country who are providing support to French commanders. None of the special forces soldiers are being deployed in a combat role, sources insisted. The Guardian

US begins transporting French troops and equipment to Mali
American planes transported French troops and equipment to Mali, a U.S. military spokesman said Tuesday, as Malian and French forces pushed into the Islamist-held north. The town of Douentza had been held by Islamist rebels for four months, located 195 kilometers (120 miles) northeast of Mopti, the previous line-of-control held by the Malian military in Mali’s narrow central belt. The Islamist fighters have controlled the vast desert stretches of northern Mali, with the weak government clinging to the south, since a military coup in the capital in March last year unleashed chaos. The washington Post

Mali Advance Shows Paris’s Africa Dilemma
After a decade of trying to reduce its military footprint in Africa, France on Tuesday gained European financial backing for its latest mission in Mali, where 2,000 newly arrived French soldiers this week helped to reverse an advance by al Qaeda-backed militants. The Mali campaign, which comes just weeks after France dispatched soldiers to two other countries, underscores Paris’s Africa dilemma: In spite of its increasingly stated desire to distance itself from the continent’s conflicts, it has continued to step in. The Wall Street Journal

Mali conflict shakes country’s faith in its leaders
Malians say the military’s inability to halt an Islamist advance toward the capital without the aid of France has them wondering what happens when the French leave. LA Times

Is Qatar fuelling the crisis in north Mali?
Oil-rich gulf state Qatar has a vested interest in the outcome of the north Mali crisis, according to various reports that have been picked up by French MPs, amid suspicion that Doha may be siding with the rebels to extend its regional influence. France 24

Nigerian troops in Mali may boost Islamist attacks at home
Nigerian authorities are tightening security in expectation of increased attacks by militants after the country sent troops to help expel Islamists from northern Mali, a Defense Ministry spokesman said Tuesday. The government is investigating links between Islamists in control of almost two-thirds of Mali and the Islamist group Boko Haram in northern Nigeria, Col. Mohammed Yerima, director of information at Nigeria’s Defense Ministry, said in an interview in the capital, Abuja. Stars and Stripes

Mali, DRC and CAR: Some Lessons
The recent events in Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic have produced some interesting lessons that Africa’s leaders, political and military should be studying: The ‘Early Warning System’ either did not provide early warning of impending crisis, or no one paid any attention to it. Not one of those three crises developed suddenly; all were foreseeable, even if timings were not exactly predictable. DefenceWeb

Uganda: Who Pays the Cost when the Aid Stops?
After years of being an aid daring despite widespread corruption, a number of donors recently suspended aid to Uganda following high-level scandals. Think Africa Press

State Dept. on Failure to Implement Sudan–South Sudan Agreements
Implementation of Agreements Long Overdue The United States remains disappointed that the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan have failed to make significant progress to implement the September 27 agreements despite a recommitment to implementation by Presidents Bashir and Kiir of Sudan and South Sudan. State.gov

The Battle for South Kordofan: Will total war in Sudan ever cease?
When Gen. Jagod Mukwar joined the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), soon after it formed, in the mid 1980s, he was a young man, and Sudan’s civil war was already many years older than he was. Factions from the north and south of the country had been fighting since before Sudan won its independence, in 1956. Still, the SPLA’s cause — independence for the south — remained internationally obscure. Sudan had not yet become a pariah state, while a famine in Ethiopia and apartheid in South Africa used up the world’s limited bandwidth for African tragedy. Mukwar’s cause-within-a-cause — the plight of the people of the Nuba Mountains, his home, in Sudan’s South Kordofan province — was unheard of. Foreign Policy

Boko Haram militants suspected of deadly attacks in Nigeria
Suspected Islamists have been blamed for the deaths of at least 23 people in separate attacks in north-eastern Nigeria. Witnesses say gunmen apparently targeted hunters selling bush meat in Damboa on Monday, killing 18 people. Another five people died on Tuesday when a group of men playing draughts was attacked in Kano. BBC

Somalia’s Next Phase Should Include Accountability for War Criminals
Last week, the U.S. government recognized a government of Somalia for the first time since 1991. In his remarks to Secretary of State Clinton, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud spoke of Somalia emerging from a period of chaos to one of peace. This new Somalia, he said, will make a “valuable contribution to the region and the world at large.” If Somalia is to be a shining example, it should start by ending impunity for war criminals and giving victims justice. The Huffington Post

President Banda Outlines Her Vision for Malawi
Malawi President Joyce Banda has outlined her vision for the country, which she said is to improve the lives of Malawians by saving the troubled economy and creating good paying jobs. “My vision is a Malawi where men and women live in peace and in harmony as equals enjoying their human rights. My dream is for Malawi to be poverty free, and I intend to eradicate poverty, through economic growth and wealth creation,” said Mrs. Banda. VOA

Trapped Between Africa and Saudi Arabia
From dusty villages overrun by poverty and violence to modern cities where jobs and hope are scarce, Samuel Aranda has been photographing African migrants who take to the sea, desperate to remake their lives. For nearly 10 years, he has seen how African immigrants have gone from looking for a new start in an unwelcoming Europe to, more recently, Yemen, where their basic needs are met. Granted, it is hardly ideal. Though the government in Yemen – itself facing economic difficulties after political turmoil – has welcomed them, many of the Africans from Somalia and Ethiopia live in a sort of limbo as they wait for smugglers to get them into Saudi Arabia and beyond, where they can find backbreaking – but paying – jobs. Lens – The New York Times

Trouble Brewing: Africa and Alcohol Problems
With over-consumption of alcohol on the rise, governments are struggling to find suitable legislation amidst profit-hungry global corporations and illegally-produced liquor. Think Africa Press

For the Record-President Obama: “We Will Support Democracy”

“We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom,” President Barack Obama said after taking the Oath of Office on the steps of the U.S. Capitol before an estimated crowd of close to 1 million onlookers. “And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice-not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity, human dignity and justice.”

To read President Obama’s inaugural address other U.S. government events, statements, and articles on Africa, please visit For the Record Africa, a weekly compilation by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS).


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