Africa Media Review for October 23, 2017

At Least 54 Police Killed during Raid near Cairo, According to Officials
At least 54 police, including 20 officers and 34 conscripts, were killed when a raid on a militant hideout south-west of Cairo was ambushed, according to officials. The ensuing firefight was one of the deadliest for Egyptian security forces in recent years. Two police officials told the Associated Press on Saturday that the exchange of fire began late Friday in the al-Wahat al-Bahriya area in Giza province, about 135km (84 miles) south-west of Cairo. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to brief media. The firefight began when security forces acting on intelligence moved against a militants’ hideout in the area. Backed by armored personnel carriers and led by senior counter-terrorism officers, the police contingent drew fire and rocket-propelled grenades, according to the officials. The officials said what happened next is not clear, but added that the force likely ran out of ammunition and that the militants captured several police and later killed them. The Guardian

Egypt’s Sisi Vows to Quash Terrorism after Police Ambush
In his first remarks after a deadly attack on the country’s police force, Egypt’s president vowed Sunday to press ahead with the country’s war against terrorism, secure its borders and hunt down militants. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi’s remarks came nearly 48 hours after authorities officially announced that at least 16 policemen were killed in a brazen ambush by militants southwest of Cairo. Security officials told The Associated Press and other media outlets that the death toll reached 54, making it one of the worst attacks against Egypt’s police in years. However, it wasn’t immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting reports. Chairing a meeting attended by the country’s top security officials, including defense and interior ministry representatives, Sisi said: “Egypt will continue its confrontation against terrorism and those financing and standing behind it, with strength, decisiveness and efficiency, until it’s curbed.” AP

Gunmen Kill 13 Niger Police in Attack near Mali Border
Gunmen on pick-up trucks and motorcycles coming from Mali killed 13 gendarmes and wounded five more in an attack on their base in western Niger, security sources said on Saturday. The village is a few dozen kilometres from where militants killed four US soldiers in an ambush on 4 October that has thrown a spotlight on a US counter-terrorism mission in Niger, a country that straddles an expanse of the Sahara. Niger’s military officials confirmed the attack. The assailants crossed over the border from Mali and drove up to the village of Ayorou, about 40km (25 miles) inside, before springing their attack, the security sources said. “They were heavily armed. They had rocket launchers and machine guns. They came in four vehicles each with about seven fighters,” said a security source on the scene. The Guardian

After Niger Attack, a Look at Clandestine Jihadis Posing a Growing Danger to U.S. Forces in Africa
As America increases its military footprint in some of Africa’s most dangerous trouble spots, confronting extremist affiliates of Al Qaeda and Islamic State, the risk of intelligence failures and more combat deaths is mounting. U.S. special forces who accompanied Niger’s military at a meeting of village leaders in Tongo Tongo on Oct. 4 were working in the country’s treacherous western borderlands, a region of shifting tribal allegiances, opaque motives and ethnic grudges going back decades, all feeding into a growing jihadi problem. Four Americans and five Nigerien troops died after leaving Tongo Tongo and being ambushed and heavily outgunned by fighters armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades. The militants are believed to be from a Malian-led militia, Islamic State in the Greater Sahel, which declared allegiance to the overall militant organization in 2015. Los Angeles Times

Conflicting Accounts in Niger Ambush Are Subject of Pentagon Investigation
The Pentagon is trying to determine whether American forces involved in a deadly ambush in Niger this month diverted from their routine patrol to embark on an unapproved mission, military officials said on Friday. The questions have come up because the American and Nigerien soldiers on the patrol have given conflicting accounts about whether they were simply ambushed or were attacked after trying to chase Islamic insurgents, according to military officials from both countries. The episode has engulfed the White House in crisis and prompted demands from members of Congress for answers about what the soldiers were doing before the attack on Oct. 4. In interviews with both the Defense Department and The New York Times, Nigerien military officials said that a lightly armed convoy of about 50 Nigerien and American soldiers gave chase to Islamic insurgents on motorcycles until the men crossed the border into Mali, then returned later to ambush the troops. The New York Times

U.S. Will Expand Counterterrorism Focus in Africa, Mattis Tells Senators
The military is shifting its counterterrorism strategy to focus more on Africa, put decision-making authority in the hands of commanders in the field, and expand the ability to use lethal force against suspected terrorists, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told two senior members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters that Mattis outlined the new rules of engagement during back-to-back briefings for Graham and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the panel. Graham added that he supported Mattis’s plans, and that the secretary had pledged to work more closely with lawmakers to keep them informed about expanding operations and newly identified threats for Congress to exercise oversight authority. “The war is morphing,” Graham said. “You’re going to see more actions in Africa, not less; you’re going to see more aggression by the United States toward our enemies, not less; you’re going to have decisions being made not in the White House but out in the field.” The Washington Post

US Ambassador Haley to Pay First Visit to Africa
US Ambassador Nikki Haley will be the highest-ranking administration official to visit Africa next week when she travels to South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia. Haley will meet with officials from the African Union in Addis Ababa on Monday before traveling on to Juba and Kinshasa for talks with leaders and to meet with UN peacekeepers, said a US statement. Haley “will witness firsthand the UN operations working to address conflict and devastation in these countries, including visits with UN peacekeeping missions and sites of other UN agencies providing life-saving humanitarian aid,” said the statement on Friday. President Donald Trump announced Haley’s visit to Africa last month during a meeting with African leaders on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York. AFP

Nigeria: 13 Killed in Twin Blasts
Thirteen civilians were killed in twin bomb blasts Sunday night in the northeast Maiduguri city. Police Commissioner, Damian Chukwu confirmed that three suicide bombers suspected to be Boko Haram insurgents detonated IEDs (Improvised explosive devises) at different locations, killing themselves and 13 other locals. The first blast occurred at a bus station, Muna Garage, at about 8:20 pm local time. Two female bombers also blew up themselves at Muna Dalti, a few metres from the scene of the first explosion. In both blasts, 18 people were injured. Anadolu Agency

Roadside Bomb Kills Seven outside Somali Capital Mogadishu
A roadside bomb killed at least seven people on Sunday – mostly women farmers – in an area outside the Somali capital dominated by Islamist insurgents who have defied public protests to end years of violence, residents and the army said. A truck bombing in Mogadishu last weekend killed at least 358 people, with 56 people still missing. Almost all of the dead were civilians and the attack triggered angry demonstrations in the capital. Sunday’s bombing hit a minibus in Daniga village about 40 km (25 miles) to the northwest of Mogadishu. “We heard a huge crash today and we went to the scene, we saw a ruined minibus and at least seven dead bodies, mostly women. We could not identify some people, they were just pieces of human flesh,” farmer Nur Abdullahi told Reuters by phone. Reuters

Mogadishu Truck Bombing Death Toll Jumps to 358
The death toll from last Saturday’s huge truck bombing in the Somali capital Mogadishu has risen to 358, the information minister says. Some 56 people are also still missing, Abdirahman Osman says. Officials have blamed the Islamist al-Shabab group, allied to al-Qaeda. But the group has not said it was behind the attack. The truck exploded at a busy junction, destroying hotels, government offices and restaurants. BBC

Ethiopia: 11 Killed in Continued Violence in Restive Region
Eleven people have been killed in clashes in Ethiopia’s restive Oromia region as the country continues to experience anti-government protests that at times lead to ethnic violence, said regional officials said Sunday. The Oromia and Amhara regional states spokesmen issued statements after a week of unrest in Oromia that reportedly caused major business disruptions and the burning of several vehicles and properties in various locations. “Eight ethnic Oromos and three Amharas were killed in the Buno Bedele zone of the Oromia region in violence perpetrated by bodies that are trying to sabotage the peace building process that we are embarking on,” Addis Arega, spokesman of the Oromia region, said in a Facebook post. “The situation is now under control and those suspected of orchestrating the violence are arrested.” AP

‘They Started to Burn Our Houses’: Ethnic Strife in Ethiopia Threatens a Key U.S. Ally
A largely hidden war in remote areas of Ethiopia has killed hundreds of people, displaced more than 100,000 others and raised the specter of ethnic cleansing, potentially destabilizing an important U.S. partner in the fight against terrorism. With the strongest army in the Horn of Africa and second-largest population on the continent, Ethiopia has been a major ally in battling regional terrorist groups such as al-Shabab and a pillar of stability between two disintegrating states, South Sudan and Somalia. But that hard-earned reputation has been thrown in doubt by weeks of fighting between rival ethnic groups in Ethiopia’s neighboring Oromia and Somali regions and by accompanying reports of massacres and expulsions. The Washington Post

WHO Reverses Appointment of Mugabe as Goodwill Ambassador after Global Outcry
The head of the World Health Organization on Sunday reversed his decision to name Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe as a goodwill ambassador, following widespread uproar. “Over the last few days, I have reflected on my appointment of H.E. President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for (Non-communicable diseases) in Africa. As a result I have decided to rescind the appointment” the head of the UN agency, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said in a statement. Tedros, who took charge of WHO in July, said he had “listened carefully” to those who condemned the decision and spoken to the Harare government. “We have concluded that this decision is in the best interests of the World Health Organization.”  France 24

Machar’s Spokesman Dies Suddenly in Khartoum
Lam Kuei Lam, the official spokesman for South Sudan’s rebel leader Riek Machar who was also a brilliant young journalist, has died suddenly in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. Mr Kuei was pronounced dead on Saturday evening by members of the opposition faction allied to former Vice-President Riek Machar, but the cause of his death remains unclear. He hailed from Akobo County. “It is a shock to us all,” said Pouk Both Baluang, the SPLM-IO’s director for information and public relations in a statement released to the public. “It is a sudden and great loss to members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement-In Opposition (SPLM-IO/SPLA-IO),” he added. Radio Tamazuj

Raila Odinga Says He Will Not Recognise Kenyatta Win
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga says he will not recognise a win by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday’s scheduled election rerun, as a political crisis gripping the East African country shows no sign of ending. Odinga pulled out of the race earlier this month after claiming opposition demands to overhaul the country’s election body had not been met. “As far as we are concerned, this is not an election,” Odinga told the Nation newspaper on Sunday. He also ruled out contesting the outcome of the vote in court, in line with his party’s position that the upcoming vote will not be credible. “It is not a legal matter, but a political one which must be dealt with as such,” said Odinga, calling the prospect of challenging the result “a waste of time”. Al Jazeera

Where Is Tom Thabane? Rumours of Ill Health Plague Lesotho’s PM
One day after Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa went to Lesotho to attend a post-elections national dialogue in that country, rumours have emerged that the 78-year-old Prime Minister Tom Thabane has been taken ill with a heart problem and is being treated in hospital in South Africa. 3 Four independent sources have confirmed that Thabane was taken ill, with some saying this happened on the way back from a visit to Dubai. His spokesperson, Thabo Thakalekoala, however, rubbished these claims, saying Thabane had been in Dubai for the past few days at the invitation of the government of the United Arab Emirates to attend Expo 2020 events there. He did, however, confirm that Thabane had been in Johannesburg last Friday for his regular monthly medical check-up at Netcare Milpark Hospital. Daily Maverick

New Witness Strains Rwanda-France Ties over Genocide
The emergence of a “new witness” in France in the shooting of the plane carrying former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994, has angered Rwanda and is likely to worsen the deteriorating diplomatic ties between Kigali and Paris. Rwanda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo said the government is “running out of patience” with France due to the back and forth on a file by French judges, accusing senior members of the Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army (RPF/A) of shooting down the aeroplane – an act which is believed to have sparked off the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi. Ms Mushikiwabo said the advent of the new witness is a sign France is determined to cover up its role in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. “Some elements in France have a lot to hide. New witnesses will keep popping up out of nowhere, as this case is meant to cover up for their role in the genocide,” Ms Mushikiwabo said. The East African



Photo: Adam Jones