Media Review for March 10, 2016

US Special Forces Kill ‘High-profile Target’ During al-Shabaab Gun Battle
A night-time raid by US special forces in Somalia led to a fierce gun battle with fighters from the al Qaida-linked Islamist group al-Shabaab, in which more than 10 insurgents were killed. A Somali intelligence official told the Associated Press that the casualties included a “high-profile target” who the raiders had hoped to capture. “It was a high-profile target, and chances of capture were challenged by a stiff resistance by militants guarding the house targeted by the special forces, which forced the commando to resort to the kill or capture method,” the official said. He spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press on the matter. Another Somali intelligence official provided a similar account to AP. The exact target of the raid, if any, remains unclear. US officials said American special operations forces partnered with Somali soldiers in the raid. The US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an operation that has not been announced publicly, said Wednesday that more than 10 militants were killed. The Guardian

U.S. Attacks Reveal Al-Shabab’s Strength, Not Weakness
The good news is that the Pentagon is wiping out Somali insurgents on the ground and from the air. The bad news is that al-Shabab keeps coming back stronger. The U.S. Defense Department notched major tactical victories against the Somali militant group al-Shabab over the past week. It claims to have killed more insurgents in a single aerial assault last weekend than in the previous eight years of air- and drone strikes in the troubled East African nation; that attack was followed by a joint operation on Wednesday between Somali and U.S. special operations forces that killed 15 more extremists. But it would be a mistake to conclude that the al Qaeda-linked group was on the ropes before the attack or that it’s significantly more so now. More than anything, regional analysts and Somali diplomats say the attack on a terrorist training facility roughly 120 miles north of the capital, Mogadishu, illustrates just how dramatically the group has rebounded in recent years.“The good news is that someone in the United States was keeping an eye on the ball,” J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, said in an interview posted on the Washington-based think tank’s website.  Foreign Policy

Analysts See Long Fight Ahead Against al-Shabab
The Pentagon says a U.S. airstrike against al-Shabab in Somalia last Saturday killed more than 150 militants. Analysts say the strike was a major coup but that African Union troops in Somalia still have a long fight ahead of them. In an interview with VOA, Somali presidential spokesman Daud Aweys applauded the airstrike. He said Somalia was aware of the operation and contributed intelligence. “We think that this was a significant victory not only for Somalia but also for the entire region as we face the same challenges on the war against terror. This was a coordinated attack in which Somali forces shared (intelligence) with their U.S. counterpart. These areas have been under a close surveillance,” Aweys said. The training camp targeted is located 190 kilometers north of Mogadishu. Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said the U.S. had learned the fighters were set to depart the camp, and “posed an imminent threat” to African Union forces and U.S. military advisers in Somalia. VOA

Soft Power Against al-Shabab in Somalia
A recent attack in the Somali capital Mogadishu carried out by the Islamist militia al-Shabab killed at least five people. “The general mood here in the capital is generally very, very bad,” DW correspondent Mohammed Odowa said. “The people of Mogadishu are seeing a growing number of attacks everyday, which are taking innocent lives.” These attacks could be in response to a new military campaign against the terror group. On Tuesday night, international troops using helicopters pounded an al-Shabab base close to Mogadishu, killing several of its fighters. Al-Shabab has suffered a number of setbacks recently. On Monday, officers on board an Australian naval vessel made an explosive discovery on a fishing boat. They seized about 2,000 AK-47 machine guns, 100 grenade launchers and other heavy weapons worth $2 million (1.8 million euros). Australia claimed the boat was on its way to Somalia. It is not clear who the recipient of the weapons was but Somali authorities point fingers at al-Shabab. Deutsche Welle

Nigerian Senator Warns of Boko Haram’s Gains in Northeast
Boko Haram militants are regrouping in northeastern Nigeria’s Taraba state, where up to 2,000 people have been killed between December 2015 and now, a Nigerian senator said Wednesday. Senator Emmanuel Bwacha from northeastern Taraba highlighted the precarious situation in the region at the parliament where a motion over the killings had been tabled. “There is a change of tactics by these insurgents who now parade as herdsmen to make it more difficult for the unsuspecting public to identify them,” Bwacha warned. “We are worried that these attackers are masquerading themselves as Fulani herdsmen who have killed over 2,000 since December 2015,” he added. Anadolu Agency

On Patrol with the Niger Army Against Boko Haram
A few miles east of Diffa, the regional capital, the national guard of Niger patrols in the sand, aiming to secure the border with Nigeria and prevent militants from striking on Niger soil. Ready to open fire with their rifles, the soldiers are looking for any potential threat. Boko Haram militants from Nigeria could be anywhere. The jihadist group has been damaged, but still has the ability to attack by suicide mission or with improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Lieutenant Moussa Daouda Rabiou, the commander of the village of Assaga position, is “extremely cautious with mines,” he tells VOA. “We trained our men and with our vehicles, we don’t follow the road if there is any suspicious footprint.” The patrol is advancing toward the Nigerian border, with soldiers on foot and jeeps, carrying cannons, progressing slowly. VOA

Cameroon Pins Hopes on Vigilantes to Defeat Boko Haram
About 50 vigilantes sing and dance to local war songs as they prepare to venture into Cameroon’s northern frontline with Boko Haram. They know the terrain to their finger tips and are capable of outmaneuvering the insurgents. They wield different versions of handmade machetes, a few Kalashnikovs and anything they could use to scare off the Islamists. Since their inception, they have had some amount of success fending off an already weakened Boko Haram. By giving the vigilantes motorbikes and bicycles, Midjiyawa Bakari, who is the Governor of Cameroon’s Far North region, told DW that he hopes they can “track down unwanted visitors.” Deutsche Welle

Lagos Building Collapse Toll Hits 30
Thirty people have now died in the collapse of a five-storey building under construction in an upmarket area of Nigeria’s biggest city Lagos, a rescue official said on Wednesday. “We have so far recovered 30 corpses and the number of those rescued alive still stands at 13,” Ibrahim Farinloye, from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), told AFP. A total of 12 bodies were recovered since rescuers resumed work on Wednesday morning, he added. The fatal collapse happened after heavy rains in the early hours of Tuesday in the southeastern district of Lekki, which is home to some of the most expensive real estate in the city. Lekki, made up of sprawling estates of gated communities of US-style suburban homes, has developed rapidly in recent years into a preferred location for wealthier Nigerians and expatriates. News 24

Nigeria in Push to Freeze Oil Production Levels
OPEC member Nigeria is “at the forefront” of the push for a global agreement to freeze the level of oil production, Energy Minister Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu said on Tuesday. Discussions on freezing production levels were ongoing ahead of an extraordinary summit of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to be held later this month, he told reporters in Abuja. “I have been in the forefront of driving that change and I’m glad that we are making progress,” Kachikwu said in response to a question on what he thinks of the call for a production freeze by OPEC to drive up crude prices. “If we do get a consensus… I think it will be very dramatic in terms of its impact on the price of crude,” Kachikwu said. News 24

US Trying to Forge Second Coalition to Stop IS Growth in Africa
U.S. officials are pushing a select group of allies to expand their sights beyond Iraq and Syria in the global effort to destroy the Islamic State (IS) terror group. Spurred on by IS’s growing strength in Libya as well as the deadly terror attacks in Paris this past November, U.S. officials see a clear need for a broader, more comprehensive approach. “They have talked about it,” a Western diplomat told VOA on condition of anonymity. “There are discussions on their side.” Those discussions have become more urgent as intelligence shows an increasing number of IS fighters and recruits making their way to Libya from across North Africa, parts of east Africa and the Sahel. VOA

Tunisia Forces Clash with Militants, 10 killed in Border Town
Tunisian troops have killed 10 Islamist militants around Ben Guerdan in an operation to clear the town on the Libyan border after at least 55 people died in an Islamic State attack on Monday. During military raids late on Tuesday and into Wednesday morning around Ben Guerdan, one soldier was also killed. Two militants were tracked to a construction site before they were also killed, the defence and interior ministries said. Tunisia’s government said around 50 militants launched a dawn attack on army and police posts in Ben Guerdan on Monday, in one of their largest assaults on Tunisia. The army killed 36 attackers and 12 troops and seven civilians also died on Monday. Prime Minister Habib Essid blamed the attack on Islamic State, which has grown in strength just over the border in Libya, taking advantage of the security chaos there to expand its presence and draw foreign recruits. Reuters

Islamic State Threat Rising in Morocco, Analysts Say
As Islamic State militants gain territory in Libya, Morocco is facing a growing threat from IS, government intelligence reports and analysts say. Moroccan authorities said Monday that an IS cell was broken up as it planned to unleash explosives in public places. The news followed the arrest in February of suspected IS militants who were allegedly plotting biological attacks. According to recent reports, jihadist Moroccans are joining IS in Libya and are increasing communication and coordination with sympathizers back home. “In 2015, reports indicated that up to 300 Moroccans were training in Libya. So it stands to reason that these militants will one day seek to return home and plan attacks when they do,” said Sarah Feuer, a North Africa analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. VOA

Italy Says ISIS Has 5,000 Fighters in Libya
The ISIS group has around 5,000 fighters in Libya with the capacity to carry out deadly raids into neighboring countries, Italy’s foreign minister told parliament on Wednesday. The figure is at the top end of recent Western estimates of the number of ISIS fighters in Libya and is likely to further fuel concern over the threat posed by the group’s establishment of a base in the troubled north African state. “According to our analyses, there are today around 5,000 Daesh fighters in Libya,” Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told the Italian Senate, using an Arabic name for ISIS. “They are concentrated particularly in the area of (the city of) Sirte but from there they have the capacity to carry out dangerous incursions (into neighboring states).” Authorities in neighboring Tunisia have accused ISIS of being behind Monday’s attack on an army barracks and police and national guard posts in the border town of Ben Guerdane. AFP on Al Arabiya

Are ISIL Fighters Making Inroads in North Africa?
For more than a year, fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) have exploited civil war chaos in Libya to establish control over large stretches of the coastline and pockets of territory elsewhere. Now there are fears ISIL fighters are eyeing up neighbouring Tunisia to expand what they describe as the ISIL caliphate. Gunmen stormed the Tunisian border town of Ben Gardane on Monday, attacking an army barracks and police posts. At least 55 people were killed, including attackers, civilians and security forces. Tunisian forces chased the remaining assailants out of the town but the shooting continued on Tuesday. A large stash of weapons was also found. Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi called it an unprecedented attack designed to establish new ISIL territory on Tunisian soil. So, is North Africa an easy target for ISIL? And could international intervention deter the armed group’s expansion in the region? Al Jazeera

Burundi Opposition Leader Arrested
Police in Burundi have arrested one of the last opposition leaders not to have fled the troubled country, his family and supporters said Wednesday. Hugo Haramategeko, 47, president of the small Nadebu party, the New Alliance for the Development of Burundi, was arrested as he took a shower at home in the capital Bujumbura in a dawn raid by police, a family member said. The police could not be immediately contacted for comment. “The police arrested him shortly after 6:00 am as he was taking a shower, and did not even give him time to get dressed properly,” said Charles Nditije from the opposition UPRONA party, criticising his “arbitrary arrest.” AFP on New Vision

South Africa: Anti-Corruption Report Highlights Public Outcry Against Abuse of Power
The abuse of power by those who took oaths to protect the public has been highlighted as a major issue for South Africans by graft watchdog, Corruption Watch. The lobby group released its annual corruption report and it showed 2,382 cases were registered during 2015. More than 10,000 people have reported corruption since the organisation’s inception in 2012. The report’s authors say the nature of the reports received suggest a more informed public better able to understand their own role in taking a stand against corruption.  The Africa Report

Go Home, Nigerian Government Tells Boko Haram Victims
The Nigerian government is encouraging people in the northeast who have fled Boko Haram attacks to return to their homes, despite concerns over the safety of some of the more remote rural areas. The army has proclaimed the jihadist insurgency “technically defeated”. Late last month it announced the re-opening of major roads in Borno State – closed for three years – linking the capital, Maiduguri, with Damboa to the southwest, Bama and Mafa in the southeast, and the eastern town of Gamboru Ngala. “The roads are safe and those who left can return,” army chief-of-staff, General Buratai Tukur, was quoted as saying. IRIN

From Africa, an Unexpected Lesson in How to Topple Terrorists
After the self-proclaimed Islamic State swept in from Syria in 2014 and grabbed huge swaths of Iraq, counterterrorism experts said the group’s control of significant territory would make it considerably more difficult to defeat. Now switch continents. In Africa, the Nigerian Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has been losing control of a growing slice of the territory it held just a year ago. The Nigerian military is pushing the group out of towns and villages it once controlled, and the impact of drought and the group’s own scorched-earth strategy is forcing uprooted Boko Haram militants to surrender. If Islamic State’s land grab made it more difficult to dislodge, does it follow that Boko Haram’s loss of territory in northeastern Nigeria is weakening the terrorist group – and potentially putting it on the road to defeat? CS Monitor

Zim: Payback for White Farmers
Farmers may be compensated for “both land and improvements”, as well as for equipment taken by the state during the often violent seizure of property, according to the document that was submitted to parliament on Tuesday. If approved by the government, it would mark a major policy shift. President Robert Mugabe previously said payments would be made only for infrastructure investment such as dams, roads and buildings on seized farms. The ministry’s plan to set up a lands compensation fund comes as the government seeks to mend ties with the IMF and Western donors, and kick-start growth in an economy half the size it was in 2000. Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa has said Zimbabwe will pay lenders such as the IMF, World Bank and the African Development Bank about $1.8-billion in debt in the hope that the IMF will resume lending this year.  Times Live

Morocco Slams UN Chief’s W Sahara Comments
Morocco’s government has accused UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of no longer being neutral in the Western Sahara conflict, saying he used the word “occupation” to describe Morocco’s presence in the region. The long-running dispute over the desert region in the northwest corner of Africa has festered since Morocco took control over most of it in 1975 following the withdrawal of former colonial power Spain. The Polisario Front, which says the territory belongs to ethnic Sahrawis, waged a guerrilla war until a UN-brokered ceasefire in 1991, but the two sides have been deadlocked since particularly over a referendum on its future. Ban said last week he would restart UN efforts to reach a solution after visiting camps in southern Algeria for the Polasario Front leadership and refugees who fled the conflict. Reuters on IOL News

Africa: New UN Initiative Aims to Protect Millions of Girls From Child Marriage
The United Nations announced a new initiative today to advance efforts to end child marriage by 2030 and protect the rights of millions of the most vulnerable girls around the world. The initiative by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), announced on International Women’s Day, is part of a global effort to prevent girls from marrying too young and to support those already married as girls in 12 countries across Africa, Asia and the Middle East where child marriage rates are high. “Choosing when and whom to marry is one of life’s most important decisions. Child marriage denies millions of girls this choice each year,” UNFPA’s Executive Director, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, said in a news release. “As part of this global programme, we will work with governments of countries with a high prevalence of child marriage to uphold the rights of adolescent girls, so that girls can reach their potential and countries can attain their social and economic development goals.”  UN

Rhino Poaching: Another Year, Another Grim Record
The mass slaughter of rhinos has increased for the sixth year in a row, according to grim new figures from international researchers. At least 1,338 of the iconic animals were killed for their horns in Africa last year. This is the greatest loss in a single year since an intense wave of poaching began recently. Since 2008, as many as 5,940 rhinos have been killed although scientists fear that could be an underestimate. The findings were compiled by researchers from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The losses come despite a drive to fight poaching gangs by strengthening patrols, harnessing satellite technology and boosting intelligence-gathering. BBC

One Of America’s Largest Ivory Markets May Finally Ban Sales
Senate Bill 2467 and House Bill 2502, although slightly different, would both prohibit the sale, purchase and trade of animal parts from a variety of species, including elephants, rhinos, tigers and whales. Exempt from the proposed laws would be the sale of antiques at least 100 years old, products used for educational and scientific purposes, items used in traditional cultural practices, guns and knives with less than 20 percent ivory, and musical instruments manufactured before 1976 that contain less than 20 percent ivory or other animal parts. The bills would also not impact a person’s ability to possess ivory or other animal products. Animal advocacy groups say the ban would help discourage poaching that is driven by the global demand for elephant tusks and other materials. “The legislature finds that the most effective way to discourage illegal trafficking in animal species threatened with extinction is to eliminate markets and profits,” reads HB2502. “As other countries and states adopt laws to protect endangered species, Hawaii needs to ensure that it is not an attractive market for illegal wildlife trafficking.” So just how rampant is Hawaii’s ivory trade? The Huffington Post

Swazi elephants sedated and flown to US Zoos in Dramatic ‘Rescue’ Mission
Eighteen elephants are on their way to the United States from Swaziland after three American zoos ordered them sedated and sent an aeroplane to collect them. The dramatic relocation of the pachyderms took place after a long legal battle over their controversial sale which culminated in tense last-minute negotiations with a judge in Washington who was told that the elephants risked being culled if they stayed. The three male and 15 female elephants had been living in the tiny kingdom’s Hlane National Park but had been moved because they were said to be crowding out other wildlife and creating intense pressure on vegetation as the region suffers its worst drought in 30 years. The US zoos, operating under an umbrella group named Room for Rhinos, applied for permits to import the elephants, arguing that their removal would prevent further environmental damage and free up resources for critically endangered rhinos also living locally. They offered to pay the Swazi wildlife authority $450,000 (£316,000) in return. The Telegraph



Photo: Adam Jones