Media Review for November 23, 2015

Extremism: Root Causes, Drivers, and Responses
Four of the eight ‘provinces’ or wilayat of the group’s self-declared caliphate are located in Africa – Algeria, Libya, Egypt and Nigeria. While there are questions about the group’s ability to direct affiliates in a unified and coordinated campaign, those who have declared loyalty to ISIS have adopted its signature brutality. Efforts to counter violent extremism (CVE) in Africa long predate ISIS, however. Drawing on its CVE work over the years, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies highlights some of the recurring themes. In parts of the Sahel and the Horn of Africa the appeal of extremist ideologies stems from the ability of terrorist organizations to tap into social and economic grievances of marginalized groups, particularly youth, and to persuade them that these grievances can be rectified by the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, explains Dr. Terje Østebø in an Africa Center report on Islamic Militancy in Africa. “While international ideological links with the Salafi Jihadi movements are important, the drivers of extremism in Africa are largely homegrown. The Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Third Islamist Militant Group Claims Mali Hotel Attack: RFI
The Massina Liberation Front (MLF) has claimed responsibility for an attack on a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital that killed 19 people, according to a statement sent to French broadcaster Radio France International late on Sunday. MLF, a relatively new group associated with a new wave of attacks in the central and southern parts of the African nation, is the third organization to claim responsibility for Friday’s attack, after al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Al Mourabitoun. Reuters

Mali on State of Emergency as Three Bamako Hotel Attackers Sought
Malian security forces are searching for three suspects in the hostage-taking in Friday’s Bamako hotel that cost at least 19 lives. A state of emergency hs been declared and three days of national mourning will start on Monday. Although military sources had put the death toll of the Radisson Blu hotel as high as 27, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita put it at 19, with seven wounded, in a speech to the nation broadcast on national television on Saturday. “Our forces have courageously managed to limit and neutralise the threat from these fanatics who were fiercely determined to carry out a complete and utter massacre of everything that showed signs of life at the hotel,” he said. “Forces from friendly countries, including France, the US and Minusma, contributed to bringing a speedy end to this tragedy, which could have been even bigger.” RFI

Hotel Attack in Mali Reverses Gains in Fight Against Extremism
The terrorists chose carefully: There are nearly always French, Russian and even a few American visitors to be found in the hotel restaurant, around the pool, in the health club or on the thin black-leather sofas of the glass-fronted lobby, now shattered by gunfire. With its marble floors, open atrium and lipstick-red lounge, the Radisson Blu Hotel served as a lifeline to the world, a gathering place where diplomats, contractors and others doing business in Mali, one of the poorest countries on earth, could all be found. Now, bullet holes pockmark the walls and blood is pooled on stairs. The hotel, once a symbol of the international presence in a country trying to emerge from years of upheaval, is the site of a massacre in which terrorists killed 19 people, storming in at breakfast on Friday as terrified diners sprinted into an elevator whose doors did not close in time to save them. “For those people who did this, they have no sense of the value of life,” President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta said at the foot of the ransacked hotel on Saturday afternoon. The New York Times

Well Planned Mali Attack Took Advantage of Security Lapses
The heavily armed Islamic extremists who shot up a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital, killing 19 people, timed their assault for the moment when guards would be the most lax, allowing them to easily blast their way past a five-man security team before turning their weapons on terrified guests, a security guard and witnesses said Saturday. The timing suggested a well-planned operation that analysts say could be an attempt by al-Qaida to assert its relevance amid high-profile attacks by the rival Islamic State group. The attack on the Radisson Blu hotel in Bamako began at around 7 a.m. Friday morning when two gunmen, approaching on foot, reached the entrance where five guards who had worked the night shift were waiting to be replaced by a new team, said Cheick Dabo, one of the guards. The guards had just finished the morning prayer and had put their weapons — a shotgun and two pistols — away in their vehicle when the militants struck. AP

Separatists: Mali Hotel Attack Tageted Peace Talks
The assault on a luxury hotel in Mali’s capital that killed 19 people was a clear attempt to derail a fragile peace process meant to stabilize the country’s volatile north, a representative of northern separatist groups said on Sunday. A peace accord between the Bamako-based government and separatist groups was signed in June, and local agreements in the north were signed in October. But Islamic extremist groups such as Ansar Dine had spoken out against the accord, accusing separatists who’d signed it of betraying the local population. Friday’s assault on the Radisson Blu hotel came as the hotel was preparing to host the latest meeting of a committee working toward the accord’s implementation.  News 24

Jihadis’ Long-term Goal in Mali is to Make France Back Off
The presence of jihadi groups in Mali prompted the French to intervene in January 2013, when the mostly al-Qaida affiliated militants were making their way towards Bamako. Following the intervention, the militant groups withdrew and “set up shop” in other countries in the region, particularly in Libya, which has remained a crucial destabilising factor. Thus, although the operation was deemed a success for having caused the militants to flee, this in fact caused a regionalisation of the threat by prompting them to operate from other areas. As a result, last year the French launched Operation Barkhane, with the aim of insulating the chaos in Libya. In this context, the significant expansion of militant activity beyond the core theatre of operation in the north of Mali, which included an attack against the Byblos Hotel in Sevare, as well as smaller-scale incidents along the Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast and Mauritanian borders, underscores continued attempts by militant groups to challenge the French, UN and local counter-terrorism efforts. The Guardian

Putin Says Seeks Global Anti-Terrorism Fight after 19 Killed in Mali Attack
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday he wanted global cooperation to combat terrorism after Islamist militants killed 19 people, including six Russians, in an attack on a luxury hotel in Mali Friday’s assault came a week after militants killed 130 people in gun and bomb attacks in Paris claimed by Islamic State, and three weeks after a Russian airliner was downed over Egypt by what Moscow and Western governments say was a bomb, killing all 224 people aboard. The bloodshed at the Radisson Blu hotel in Mali, a former French colony, evoked the problems French troops and U.N. peacekeepers face in restoring security and order in a West African state that has battled rebels and militants in its weakly-governed desert north for years. Reuters

Can We Compare the Recent Terrorist Attacks in Paris and Bamako?
[…] What happened in Bamako is not merely a sideshow to what happened in Paris. Whether in Mali or in France, such events occur in a global context of mounting violence and asymmetrical attacks in which civilians — more often than not Muslims — are the principal victims. That said, we cannot understand what happened in Mali if we see it as just another chapter in a “long war” narrative. The Bamako attack may yet prove to be linked to that in Paris, but it takes place against the backdrop of a history of increasingly bitter political contestation, growing corruption and degradation of state structures in Mali, and the rise of political militancy (both separatist and jihadist) in the country’s north. Mali’s internal conflicts may, in fact, be part of the reason behind the Bamako attack. Always popular with foreign officials, the Radisson Blu was particularly full this week because of an upcoming meeting of the committee charged with overseeing the implementation of a peace accord between northern rebel groups, the national government, and its allies.  The Washington Post

Suspected Drone Strike Kills al Shabaab Fighters in Somalia -Police
A suspected drone targeted a base belonging to al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab insurgents in southern Somalia, killing at least five fighters, police and residents said on Sunday. Al Shabaab was not immediately reachable for comment. It was not known who was behind the aerial strike but the United States has in the past targeted al Shabaab fighters. Al Shabaab have staged many bomb and gun attacks in the capital Mogadishu in its bid to topple Somalia’s Western-backed government and have also hit targets in neighbouring Kenya since Nairobi joined African Union peacekeeping forces in Somalia. Police and residents said that what appeared to be a drone attack took place at Balad Amin, about 30 km to the east of Wanlaweyn in the lower Shabelle region on Saturday night. “We heard three big crashes at an al Shabaab base in Balad Amin last night. It looked like a drone but we have no news of casualties,” Adan Ahmed, a resident of the area, told Reuters. Reuters

Suspected Leader of Pro-IS Al-Shabab Faction Reported Killed
A top al-Shabab official believed to be the leader of a pro-Islamic State faction has been shot dead in an ambush in southern Somalia according to local residents Sources told VOA’s Somali Service Sunday that Sheikh Hussein Abdi Gedi and four others were ambushed by rival al-Shabab fighters near Gududley village in Middle Jubba region. Gedi was one of the top al-Shabab scholars and the group’s Deputy Governor of the Jubba region until recently, when he reportedly left the al-Qaida linked group and attempted to persuade al-Shabab fighters to support the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria instead. It’s the third attack by al-Shabab against fighters thought to be supporters of the Islamic State. Earlier this month the al-Shabab leadership has made it clear in a speech through their spokesman that they will not accept divisions and vowed fight to stop those “dividing the Muslims.”  VOA

Pentagon has Increased Military Operations in Africa
The Pentagon has stepped up operations in Africa in recent years, insisting that a greater U.S. military presence is necessary to help counter threats from militants such as those who took hostages at a hotel in Mali. But U.S. Africa Command, which oversees the operations, has only a handful of permanent bases and fewer than 5,000 U.S. troops on the continent. Most are sent on short-term deployments to help train African military forces or to conduct targeted drone strikes against militants from mostly Islamist groups linked to Al Qaeda or Islamic State. Most U.S. forces that operate in Africa are based in Europe or back in the United States. Only 22 Defense Department personnel, including civilians, were in Bamako, Mali’s capital, during the hostage crisis Friday, according to the Pentagon. LA Time

Libyans Need to Fight Islamic State, Not Each Other – French Defence Minister
Libya’s main armed factions will be committing suicide unless they stop fighting each other and take on Islamic State’s growing presence in the North African country, France’s defence minister said on Sunday. Islamic State militants have tightened their grip on central Libya and carried out summary executions, beheadings and amputations, the United Nations said last week, in a further illustration of the country’s descent into anarchy. “Libya preoccupies me very much,” French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio, nine days after Islamic State gunmen and suicide bombers killed 130 people in Paris. Libya has slipped deeper into chaos with two rival governments, each backed by a multitude of armed factions, which has allowed Islamic State jihadists to gain a foothold. They also control larger areas of Iraq and Syria. Reuters

Gunfire, Explosions in Burundi Kill at Least Five – Officials, Residents
At least five people were killed in overnight clashes in Burundi, police said on Sunday, and residents reported a battle at the president’s office in the capital Bujumbura which has been plagued by violence since a disputed presidential election. Burundi has been in crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced in April he planned to run for a third term – a move opponents said violated the constitution and a peace treaty that ended a 12-year civil war in 2005. Hundreds have been killed in related violence since April and 217,000 people have fled to surrounding countries, raising fears of a slide into ethnic conflict in a region where memories of the 1994 genocide in neighbour Rwanda are still raw. Nkurunziza said a court ruling allowed his bid and went on to win a disputed election in July. Residents in Bujumbura’s Rohero neighbourhood, close to the president’s office, said they heard shooting and explosions overnight. Reuters

AU to Send Observers to Bujumbura, Deployment of Peacekeepers Halted
The African Union Peace and Security Council has temporarily stayed the deployment of peacekeepers to Burundi and instead voted to increase the number of specialised observers.  The Council has authorised the deployment of 100 military experts, police and human rights observers to Burundi by December 15, after the AU Commission signs a memorandum of understanding that will govern the activities and movement of experts. AU assessors on the ground had recommended that a combination of international pressure on the government to embrace inter-Burundi dialogue led by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, increased military monitoring and targeted sanctions would suffice for the time being. Last week, the AU had indicated that it was ready to quickly deploy the Eastern African Standby Force should the situation deteriorate. However, the Council voted to impose targeted sanctions — including travel bans and asset freezes —against listed individuals who are impeding the negotiation process, committing acts of violence and violations of human rights, as well as making inflammatory statements that could push the country into all-out civil war.  The East African

Ebola Crisis: Liberia Confirms Fresh Cases
Three new cases of Ebola have been confirmed in Liberia less than three months after the country was declared free of the virus, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said. The three patients include a 10-year-old boy from Paynesville, a suburb of the capital Monrovia. All people with the symptom have been isolated, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told the BBC. Liberia has seen more than 10,000 Ebola cases and more than 4,000 deaths. The country’s Health Minister Bernice Dahn said six of the boy’s relatives and other high-risk contacts have been taken to an Ebola Treatment Unit in Paynesville.  BBC

Kenyan Forces Deploy to Border with Ethiopia After Gun Battle
The Kenya Defence Force (KDF) has moved its armoured vehicles and tanks from the Odha Military Camp in Moyale to Sololo following an invasion by Ethiopian forces who killed three police officers. The development last evening follows a fierce gun battle earlier in the day between Kenya police and Ethiopian forces at Anona and parts of Sololo Township in Kenyan territory.  Marsabit County Police Commander Bernard Kogo said three Kenyan security officers were killed but declined to reveal the casualty on the Ethiopian side.  “We lost three officers at the border (Sololo) and I do not know what happened on their (Ethiopian) side,” said Mr Kogo. On Thursday, a senior provincial administrator identified a senior chief   who was gunned down by allegedly rebels from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). Ethiopia is fighting the rag-tag OLF rebels in Ethiopia and parts of Marsabit County that it claims hosts their rivals. OLF is opposed to Ethiopia’s ruling regime and claims it has marginalised the majority of Oromia-speaking people who include the Borana, also found in Kenya. African Defense

Can Ethiopia’s Railway Bring Peace to Somalia?
“We decided to open the railway early because of the drought, the worst in decades,” says Getachew Betru, chief executive of the Ethiopian Railways Corporation (ERC). It is a Saturday, but this thoughtful, intelligent man is busy working. Except for the guards at the gate, nobody else is at the office. Across the road, a white and green train whisks up to a station platform. It is part of Addis Ababa’s newly opened light rail (or tram) system, the first in sub-Saharan Africa. Mr Getachew shows me diagrams of a vast planned railway network, snaking its way across landlocked Ethiopia, linking Africa’s second most populous country to Djibouti, Sudan, South Sudan and Kenya. The railway is his baby. Like many Ethiopians, he left the country during the harsh years of dictatorship, but returned with a doctorate in engineering and a vision. BBC

Sudan’s Rebels Say Ready to Reach Cessation of Hostilities Deal with Gov’t
Rebels of Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM)/northern sector on Sunday reiterated readiness to reach a deal with Sudanese government on cessation of hostilities and delivery of humanitarian assistance to needy in South Kordofan and Blue Nile areas. “The delegation of the movement will be ready for cessation of hostilities, delivery of humanitarian aid and reaching a comprehensive political settlement that respects the international humanitarian law and achieves democracy in the country,” Yassir Arman, Secretary General of the SPLM/northern sector and head of its delegation to the peace talks, said in a statement Sunday. He said the 10th round of talks between the movement and the Sudanese government would discuss cessation of hostilities and delivery of humanitarian assistance. Xinhua

Deadly Suicide Attack Rocks Northern Cameroon
At least four civilians and four suicide bombers have been killed in two separate explosions near the Nigerian border in Cameroon’s Far North Region, security sources have said. Dozens more were wounded in Saturday’s bombing in the village of Nigue, a suburb of Fotokol town, in an attack carried out by suspected members of Nigeria’s armed group, Boko Haram. “The first [suicide attacker] detonated his bomb in the house of the traditional chief of Leymarie. Five people died including the bomber,” a senior Cameroonian military official who declined to be named told Reuters. Leymarie forms part of Nigue. “Several minutes later, three female bombers exploded their bombs close to the initial site but they didn’t kill anyone else because they acted too quickly,” the official said. Al Jazeera

Tense Christian-Muslim Relations Provide Backdrop to Pope’s Africa Trip
Pope Francis’ first Africa trip will highlight the problems of building dialogue between Christianity and Islam as both religions grow fast on the continent, threatening to widen an already volatile fault line there between them. The three countries on the pope’s Nov. 25-30 itinerary – Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic – have been scarred by radical Islamist attacks or Muslim-Christian sectarian strife and security concerns have meant the trip has been kept relatively short. With the backdrop, too, of the bloody attacks by Islamist militants in France and Mali, the pope’s top advisers readily acknowledge the difficulties of conducting dialogue between Catholics and other Christian churches and Muslims. Reuters

A Depressed Egypt Heads to the Polls
In stark contrast to the turmoil and heated political contests of years past, Egypt launched a second round of legislative elections on Sunday in an atmosphere of repression and apathy. The election takes place in a context of restricted freedom of expression and a narrowing of the world of politics in Egypt more than two years after the country’s previous elected president, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Morsi, was overthrown in a military takeover. Most of Egypt’s key opposition parties are boycotting the vote, saying they cannot freely participate in an election in the midst of a political crackdown that resulted in the jailing of tens of thousands of people. The group that used to be the country’s largest grassroots political force, the Muslim Brotherhood, is now outlawed. Time

Near 100 Migrants Try to Jump Moocco-Spain Fence
Close to 100 migrants tried to storm the border fence from Morocco into the Spanish enclave of Melilla Saturday in a scramble that left one man seriously injured, authorities said. Moroccan security forces managed to stop some of the migrants from reaching the fence that seals off Melilla — one of only two land borders between Africa and the European Union — but around 30 people still reached it and clambered onto the railings, they said. Two of these managed to get across into the Spanish territory, while one man was seriously injured when he fell from the metres-high fence near the Barrio Chino crossing, authorities in Melilla added in a statement. The man was taken to hospital in Melilla with severe head injuries — along with three others who were slightly hurt as they too fell from the fence. AFP on Yahoo News



Photo: Adam Jones