Media Review for November 17, 2015

Islamic State Tightens Grip in Central Libya with Executions: U.N.
Islamic State militants have consolidated control over central Libya, carrying out summary executions, beheadings and amputations, the United Nations said on Monday in a further illustration of the North African state’s descent into anarchy. All sides in Libya’s multiple armed conflicts are committing breaches of international law that may amount to war crimes, including abductions, torture and the killing of civilians, according to a U.N. report. Islamic State (IS) has gained control over swathes of territory, “committing gross abuses including public summary executions of individuals based on their religion or political allegiance”, the joint report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the U.N. Support Mission in Libya said. The U.N. had documented IS executions in their stronghold city of Sirte, in central Libya along the Mediterranean coast, and in Derna to the east, from which they were later ousted by local militias. Victims included Egyptian Copts, Ethiopians, Eritreans and a South Sudanese, the report said. Reuters

After Paris ISIS Attacks, Morocco Terrorism Under Scrutiny: Islamic State is North African Country’s Latest Terror Threat
After the alleged mastermind behind Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris was identified as being of Moroccan descent, police in the North African nation on Monday arrested four alleged members of the so-called Islamic State militant group, also known as ISIS, Reuters reported. French authorities named Abdelhamid Abaaoud as a primary suspect in the attacks that left more than 125 dead and at least 350 people injured, including nearly 100 critically. Abaaoud is a Belgian national, but his Moroccan heritage could become an aspect of interest to investigators, who launched a series of overnight and early morning raids in Belgium Monday. Officials last week foiled a terrorism plot by a Moroccan that targeted a church in Europe, though it was immediately unclear which region of Europe was targeted. As a result, Morocco was placed on a higher-than-normal alert following this weekend’s attack, raising its terror threat level to a “3,” which is average, the same as the U.S., reported Morocco World News. International Business Times

France’s Unresolved Algerian War Sheds Light on the Paris Attack
It wasn’t just one of the attackers who vanished after the Paris massacre. Three nations whose history, action – and inaction – help to explain the slaughter by Isis have largely escaped attention in the near-hysterical response to the crimes against humanity in Paris: Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Syria. The French-Algerian identity of one of the attackers demonstrates how France’s savage 1956-62 war in Algeria continues to infect today’s atrocities. The absolute refusal to contemplate Saudi Arabia’s role as a purveyor of the most extreme Wahabi-Sunni form of Islam, in which Isis believes, shows how our leaders still decline to recognise the links between the kingdom and the organisation which struck Paris. And our total unwillingness to accept that the only regular military force in constant combat with Isis is the Syrian army – which fights for the regime that France also wants to destroy – means we cannot liaise with the ruthless soldiers who are in action against Isis even more ferociously than the Kurds.  The Independent

After Paris Attacks, African Migrants and Refugees to Face Greater Scrutiny in Europe
Thousands of African migrants and refugees fleeing war, repression and poverty have long struggled to enter European borders, enduring dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean Sea without any guarantee of being accepted upon reaching Europe’s shores. Now, in the wake of deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, Africans coming to Europe could face even greater scrutiny as security overtakes compassion and lawmakers call for tighter border controls. Africans already grapple with tougher immigration policies compared with other refugees and migrants in Europe, particularly Syrians. After the attacks in France last week, some lamented that the global show of support for Paris was the latest sign that conflict in Africa has largely been ignored and will continue to be marginalized. “With the Paris attacks, Europe will start seeing what it can do to secure its countries and automatically we see how compassion and sympathy is decreasing,” said Haddy Sarr, a doctoral candidate who researches African migration at University of Basel in Switzerland. “It will make it very difficult for African migrants not only to enter the countries themselves, but we’re talking about integration and assimilation into society, as well.” International Business Times

Mali Jihadist Leader Denounces Peace Deal, Wants Fight against France
A jihadist leader in restive Mali has denounced a peace deal signed this year and called for further attacks against France, which helps national forces fight extremists, according to a recording authenticated Monday. In the recording released in October, before Friday’s string of deadly attacks in Paris, Ansar Dine leader Iyad Ag Ghaly endorsed the attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in the French capital last January. The satirical weekly “got what it deserved”, he said. “We authenticate the cassette. It is Iyad Ag Ghaly who is speaking. As you see in the file, we cannot see his face, but it is his voice,” a Malian security source told AFP. Iyad Ag Ghaly, who previously led a Tuareg rebellion in the Sahara and is linked to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), criticises rebel groups who in June signed a peace agreement in Algiers with pro-government forces, calling them “secular”.  AFP on Yahoo News

Al-Shabaab’s Loyalty Split Between Al-Qaeda and ISIS
Somalia’s Al-Shabaab jihadists could be split over who to pledge allegiance to: Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Reports from Middle Juba region in Southern Somalia indicate that an intensive battle raged on Wednesday between the opposing factions within Al-Shabaab. The fight took place at a place called Gambare, near Sakow town, about 480 km south of Mogadishu. Area residents say the pro-Al Qaeda group attacked fellow militants sympathetic to ISIS. The fighting was said to have beeen so intense that the combatants did not even answer the call for prayers by a mosque’s muezzin. At least 9 militants are believed to have died while 8 others sustained wounds. Sources indicate that the dead included prominent militia leader named Sheikh Bashir, a veteran Islamist leader who was once a member of Al-Ittihad al-Islami, which struggled for the formation of Islamic rule in Somalia in the 1990s. Africa Review

Shootings in Burundi Capital kill 4, Mayor Says Survives Gun Attack
At least four people died in shootings and explosions in various neighbourhoods in Burundi’s capital on Sunday, while the government-supporting mayor’s house was attacked during a night of violence, witnesses and local administration said. Burundi has been shaken by months of violence, sparked when President Pierre Nkurunziza decided in April to run for a third term. He won a disputed election in July. Last week, the United Nations Security Council asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report within 15 days on options for boosting the U.N. presence in Burundi amid growing concern that the violence could spiral into an ethnic conflict. Memories are still raw in the region of the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda. Attackers targeted a police post in the south of the capital, killing one police officer and injuring another, said a police officer who witnessed the incident and did not wish to be named. Shootings started at around 9.00 p.m. local time in areas like Mutakura, where three people were wounded. The gunfire intensified at midnight and was heard across Bujumbura for several hours, another police officer who did not wish to be named said. The East African

Burundi: Will Action Follow Tough Talk?
The African Union (AU) has threatened sanctions against those Burundians who thwart peace efforts and the UN Security Council is contemplating sending in a peacekeeping force. These moves follow more threatening rhetoric from the Burundian government against its opponents and increased violence from both sides. Five more dead bodies were discovered in the capital Bujumbura early on Monday and the house of the city’s mayor – who backs President Pierre Nkurunziza – was shot at, according to activists and agencies. The increased international attention appears to have been prompted mainly by dire threats of retribution by Nkurunziza’s henchmen against opposition members who refused to disarm. Some of the government statements have ominously echoed those made by neighbouring Rwanda’s Hutu government just before the genocide there in 1994. IOL News

Rwandan Senate Clears Kagame for Third Term
Rwanda’s upper house of parliament passed Tuesday a constitutional amendment allowing President Paul Kagame to run for a third consecutive term in 2017, and potentially remain in power for the next two decades. The vote was unanimously passed, an AFP reporter in the senate said. The changes to the constitution will now be put to a national referendum, widely expected to be passed with little outspoken opposition. “If I ran again, I would do more of what I am doing to improve the well being of the citizens of Rwanda,” Kagame said Tuesday, in a message posted on the presidential Twitter account. The lower house passed the amendments earlier this month. AFP on Yahoo News

Egypt Kills 24 Militants in Central Sinai Near Russian Plane Crash Site: Security Sources
Egyptian security forces shot dead 24 militants belonging to the country’s Islamic State affiliate in central Sinai, 70 kilometres from the crash site of a Russian passenger plane the group claimed it brought down, security sources said on Monday. Security sources said they killed the militants as they hid in a mountainous cave and that they arrested eight of them. Sinai Province, Islamic State’s Egypt branch, is active in North Sinai where two years ago it launched an insurgency and has since killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen. It is rarely active outside that area.  Reuters

Nigerian Army Foils Latest Boko Haram Attack
Nigeria’s army on Monday said it had foiled a planned Boko Haram attack on the northeastern city of Maiduguri using powerful assault rifles and home-made bombs. Army spokesperson Colonel Sani Usman said in a statement that “nine terrorists sneaked into Maiduguri armed with AK-47 assault rifles and [a] Hilux vehicle laden with 20 improvised explosive devices”. The IEDs were “meant to be detonated at some selected targets in the city”, he added. Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, was where Boko Haram was founded in 2002 and has been repeatedly targeted during the Islamist militants’ bloody, six-year insurgency. At least 265 people have been killed in a wave of suicide and bomb attacks in the city since President Muhammadu Buhari came to power on May 29, vowing the crush the militants. News 24

Boko Haram Destroyed More than 1,000 Schools this Year, UN Says
Boko Haram members have destroyed an estimated 1,100 schools this year in their stronghold region surrounding Lake Chad, the United Nations envoy to the area said Monday. The targeted schools were in Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, the four countries most affected by the armed uprising, said Toby Lanzer, who became U.N. envoy to central Africa’s restive Sahel region in July. Boko Haram has been blamed for scores of attacks on schools and universities in an insurgency that has killed at least 17,000 people since 2009. The armed group made international headlines in April 2014 when its members kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a school in Chibok, a town in Borno State, Nigeria. Fifty-three of the school girls escaped but the rest remain missing. Lanzer also provided updated figures for the number of people displaced by the conflict. Al Jazeera America

Widen Fight Against Boko Haram to Tackle Climate Change, Migration: U.N.
The four countries fighting the Boko Haram insurgency in West Africa’s Lake Chad region should unite behind a broader strategy to ease the poverty and climate change that are spurring millions to migrate to Europe, a U.N. official said on Monday. Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon have joined forces in the past four months to recapture some territory from the radical Islamist Boko Haram, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Toby Lanzer told a news conference in Geneva. But all four states should also invest more in health, education, and social services and attract more foreign investment to expand regional trade and encourage development, which would undercut the appeal of migration, Lanzer said. Reuters on Yahoo News

Young Angolans Accused of Planning Coup Go on Trial
Seventeen Angolans accused of planning a rebellion and coup have gone on trial in Luanda, in a case that rights groups say shows the government’s intolerance of dissent. Authorities arrested the young activists in June after they met at a book shop to discuss a book called “From Dictatorship to Democracy.” Their defense lawyer told the court Monday that charges should be dropped because they broke no laws and have a constitutional right to freedom of speech. Amnesty International calls the trial a “travesty of justice,” while Zenaida Machado, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in Angola and Mozambique, says it is a moment for Angola’s judiciary to show it will respect fair trial standards. VOA

7 Killed in Shootout at Mogadishu IDP Camp
At least seven people were killed in Somalia’s capital in a shootout between soldiers at a displaced persons camp. Witnesses said the shooting occurred Monday as people at the camp lined up to obtain food cards. Camp resident Habiba Abdirahman told VOA Somali that a soldier tried to move people into the line, setting off a dispute that escalated into gunfire. A worker at Mogadishu’s Media Hospital said the dead included a nine-month-old child and an 85-year-old man. At least 10 people were injured in the shooting. Recurrent drought and chronic violence have left millions of Somalis dependent on food aid in recent years.  VOA

Thousands Displaced in Sudan’s Darfur
As many as 166 000 people have been displaced by conflict and tribal violence in Sudan’s strife-hit Darfur region since January, the United Nations said on Monday, fewer than in 2014. The western region has been mired in conflict since 2003, when ethnic insurgents rebelled against President Omar al-Bashir’s Arab-dominated regime, complaining of marginalisation. “The net displacement figure for Darfur since January 2015 is up to 166 000, nearly 100 000 confirmed and around 66 000 reported to have been displaced,” said Ivo Freijsen, head of the UN’s Khartoum Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Freijsen said the UN had been unable to fully verify the figure of 66 000, but was trying to check the number. News 24

Vatican Hints Pope’s Africa Itinerary May Change
The Vatican secretary of state has hinted that Pope Francis’ security team will decide at the last minute whether to change his Africa itinerary amid continued unrest in the Central African Republic. Francis is due to visit Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic November 25-30. Cardinal Pietro Parolin said on Monday that: “The three stops remain, but we’ll see depending on the situation on the ground,” according to the ANSA news agency. Even with more than 11 000 UN troops and police in the Central African Republic, protecting the pope will be a major security challenge as violence between Christians and Muslims continues in the capital, Bangui, and elsewhere ahead of December elections. News 24

UN to Send 300 Senegalese Troops to Central African Republic
The United Nations will soon send 300 Senegalese troops from a UN rapid-reaction force to the Central African Republic to beef up security ahead of elections next month. The Security Council on Monday approved the two-month redeployment ahead of Pope Francis’s visit to the troubled CAR on November 29-30 and the nationwide vote scheduled for December 27. The Senegalese soldiers are serving in the UN mission in Ivory Coast, but will be sent to CAR in the coming days, said UN peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous. “By providing more peacekeepers … including to assist with security for the pope’s visit at the end of November, this will help protect civilians and, with the pope, further encourage dialogue and reconciliation ahead of elections,” said British Deputy UN Ambassador Peter Wilson, whose country chairs the council this month. AFP on Yahoo News

Kenyatta Says Kenyans are Tired of ICC’s Meddling
Kenya’s president Uhuru Kenyatta has told the International Criminal Court (ICC) to stop meddling in the country’s internal affairs. He said Kenyans had resolved to live together in harmony and that the court should give them room to run their own affairs, rather than disturb the peace in the country. “That is why we are telling those people who are trying to incite Kenyans on issues that are long forgotten that we are tired of their interference. Instead of disturbing us, they should go to resolve the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and give us room to move our country forward,” said Mr Kenyatta. He added: “We are appealing to friendly countries to support us in our agenda of consolidating peace and unity in Kenya.” The Head of State was addressing residents in Eldoret town Sunday during his development tour. Judges at the Hague-based court earlier this year withdrew charges against Mr Kenyatta. He was accused of stoking ethnic violence after the 2007 presidential election. The East African

Eritrea: What Has Eritrea Got to Do With the Crisis in Yemen?
Recent reports show that Eritrea is officially involved in the Yemeni crisis allowing the Saudi-led Arab coalition to use its Assab port, airspace and territorial waters in fighting the Houthi rebels. A high official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia, who wants to remain anonymous, told The Reporter that the move could easily be manipulated to jeopardize the security situation in the Horn of Africa. “The Ethiopian government has been closely following the developments in Yemen and Eritrea’s recent involvement,” he stressed. The news comes after the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea reported that Saudi Arabia and the UAE made the deal with Eritrea after neighboring Djibouti rejected the proposal. The arrangement would allow the coalition to use Eritrea’s land to establish a military base instead of fighting on Yemeni soil. Eritrea’s support also includes sending over 400 soldiers to join the Emirati contingent forces in fighting against the strong Houthi forces. The Reporter on allAfrica

Stuck in Limbo in Ethiopia, Africa’s Biggest Refugee Camp
While European countries bemoan the refugee influx, developing countries like Ethiopia have hosted hundreds of thousands of refugees for years. But without a future, the refugees’ sense of relief gives way to despair.  Deutsche Welle

African Catholics Point to Different, Deeper Reasons for Religious Boom
The Catholic Church may be losing members in parts of the world, but you wouldn’t know it by attending a packed service at Soweto’s Regina Mundi church. The cavernous interior of South Africa’s largest Catholic church can accommodate up to 7,000 people — and many Sundays, it makes good on that space. The crowd is a mix — from sleeping babies and excited teenagers to tired mothers and beatific, smiling grandmothers. As Pope Francis prepares for a historic visit to Africa, he is sure to be warmly welcomed on the continent where the ranks of Catholicism have swelled dramatically. VOA

Kenya to Destroy Vast Ivory Stockpile from Thousands of Elephants
Kenya’s wildlife authority on Monday vowed to destroy the east African country’s vast ivory stockpile from several thousand elephants, nine times more than the largest pile torched so far. President Uhuru Kenyatta set fire in March to a giant pile of 15 tonnes of elephant ivory, which conservationists said then was the largest ever burned in Africa. The promised destruction of the remaining stockpile of 137 tonnes of ivory would dwarf that.  Daily Mail

Telecoms: 1 Million Mobile Phones Disconnected in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s largest mobile operator, Econet Wireless in one week disconnected at least 1 million mobile subscribers with unregistered SIM cards. The company insists this aimed at encouraging customers register their SIM cards, in what authorities say is a measure meant to curb criminal activities. Those with unregistered SIM cards had been given an ultimatum of November 23, 2015 to register their mobile numbers. The country’s telecoms regulator, Post and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) regularly issues directives on unregistered SIM cards. The Africa Report



Photo: Adam Jones